Bar Crawling: Shifting Standards in Video Production

Seen any good videos lately? No, not Peaky Blinders, The Handmaid’s Tale or The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel – they’re good, but they’re TV shows. Rather, what have you seen on social media (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) that’s caught your eye?

There’s plenty to see, for sure. According to the website

  • 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.
  • 5 billion videos are viewed every single day.
  • YouTube has more than 30 million visitors per day.

And in September 2018, reported that Facebook video posts had increased by 94% within the past year.

Hobbyists post instructional videos on every conceivable topic. Businesses use video to reach customers with information and advertising. YouTubers have even made lucrative careers out of monetizing their content and are paid as “influencers” by cosmetic companies to automobile manufacturers to everything in between.

Some of this content looks pretty slick, too, and not just the videos made by Acura or Taylor Swift. Anybody with a camera smaller than a Twinkie can shoot amazing footage, load it onto their laptop and edit it together. You can even shoot with your phone, then edit on the phone and upload from the phone, and the technical quality can be very good. It’s a far cry from “back in the day,” when it took big crews with costly cameras to shoot, then hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment in a room like this just to edit a video:

This commoditization of video hardware and software means average people and companies (and less-savvy agency clients) can buy some gear and make some videos, and let’s face it, this can result in some downright mediocre content. But it gets posted anyway, because it didn’t cost very much and hey, it’s “good enough.”

Put out videos that fit your standards.

The bar has definitely moved. I blame “American’s Funniest Home Videos” (now in its 31st season, by the way), which brought VHS video to network television. People are now used to watching awful video, and while there’s definitely a place for it in the universe, that doesn’t mean it belongs in your company’s content stream.

Shameless plug: o2 has been producing video content for our clients since the days of “big iron” editing suites way back in 1994 (probably longer, but my database starts there), and we’re still at it today. While technical quality has gone through the roof, the cost has dropped significantly. And most importantly, the content is still king. That’s one bar we have definitely not moved.

Get the right people to produce your videos. Not every project is huge, but it doesn’t have to look small, either. Some things are worth putting resources into.

Continue reading “Bar Crawling: Shifting Standards in Video Production”

Meet Patrick Talley, Account Executive Extraordinaire

Take a moment to think about all the characteristics that make a stellar Account Executive. Someone who thinks big-picture? Someone who advocates for growth of the client and the agency? Someone who responds to emails quickly and thoroughly, with a natural intuition for scheduling meetings at just the right time and with just the right briefing?

Someone who looks like this guy?



Patrick Talley is, indeed, a stellar Account Executive. With only a year at o2 under his belt, he’s been an outstanding liaison between our Honda clients and o2, not to mention other clients like Louisiana-Pacific and Protective Life. You see the phrase “detail-oriented” used a lot in marketing, but Patrick brings it to life in the level of care he puts into all his client relationships.

Patrick is a Birmingham native and a graduate of the University of Montevallo, and he landed at o2 with seven years of marketing experience. He’s a crucial member of the o2 crew, and we’re proud to share this recent conversation with him.

What’s your favorite thing about being an account executive?

The variety of projects that I get to work on. I can work with lots of different people at multiple companies and learn something new from each person and be able to practice various marketing skill sets with a wide range of clients. I may be on a video shoot today, working on websites tomorrow, doing photography the next day. It just gives me a lot of variety with what I can actually do, so it’s pretty cool.

What are some things you think a client should know before hiring a creative agency?

I think clients need to think long term about the relationship with the agency. They should look at where the agency’s business is going. If an agency is technical or digitally focused, that’s really important as well. So you want to know if your agency is able to sustain the work. Not just if they can do it today, but what’s the track record in the past and are they moving forward? You also want to make sure that the client’s business is important to the agency. You don’t want an agency that has so many other clients that they can’t really focus on you and your business. You want the sort of agency that you can call and be able to get what you need. Even if it’s last minute or a rushed timeline, they can provide the services to you and actually be partners to your business.

What have you been up to when you’re not busy with client work?

Well, I’m currently getting my MBA. I’m in my third semester of the Executive MBA program at The University of Alabama, so that’s pretty much my free time these days! I just rolled off of my board position at Rotaract Club of Birmingham, where I served as Vice President of Public Relations in the last Rotary year.

How do you stay up to date and involved with everything that’s going on in Birmingham?

I think that being connected to networking opportunities is really important. I mentioned being involved with Rotaract, a professional organization that cultivates service and leadership development. As far as the industry, it’s really good to read about different news that may affect your industry. For instance, I work a lot in automotive manufacturing, so tariffs and other industry news will affect our client’s bottom line, and being up to date with current events is important and having a strategic mindset of what may be coming down the line. I work a lot in new business as well – what industries are good to look into or what industries are growing or expanding or have an area that o2ideas can be a part of or add value to. So it’s a matter of staying connected in the community and also reading to know what’s going on in the industries that you work with or industries that are new opportunities for o2.

What are your favorite places to eat in Birmingham?

I’m not horribly picky with food. I like the new Mile End, which is by Railroad Park, it’s pretty cool. I like Southern Kitchen, it’s a good one, and I would probably say Surin West … but I’m very diversified when it comes to my taste in eating … and I can’t cook, so pretty much whatever someone’s cooking is probably a better option than what I can do myself.

What’s your guilty-pleasure song?

I have a pretty diverse taste in music and will listen to everything from classical to ‘90s hip-hop. I was listening to Mob Deep actually the other day before work. I have a record player, so I usually listen to music at home. I don’t listen to music in the car or at work generally. I’m weird in that way.

What’s it like working with Bill?

Bill’s great. He’s very generous in giving his knowledge to young talent. He’s someone who’s very involved and someone who prioritizes the client. If you were to have a model of client relationships, I think Bill would be that person, someone who really exemplifies how to treat clients and how to definitely have a sense of urgency toward their problems and their concerns.

Continue reading “Meet Patrick Talley, Account Executive Extraordinaire”

Rob Hardison: Healer, Shaman, Senior Art Director

We’re about ideas. They’re part of our name, and they’re what drive our business forward and, ultimately, make our clients happy.

There are few people at o2 who embody this core value more than Rob Hardison, our Senior Art Director. When it comes to creative work that captures audiences and wins awards, Rob is generally the guy who starts with a blank canvas and brings the idea to life.

Rob has worked with a wide variety of brands, such as Honda, Grapico, Food Lion, Mitsubishi, Ford, Pinehurst Golf Resort, Husqvarna and The Ritz-Carlton. In-house, Rob’s shared countless lightbulb moments that have become staples of the o2 brand. Things like:

Megalodon Draper:




Some elite chalkboard art:


Teammate Tuesday:


Rob is a native of Virginia Beach, where, legend has it, “At age five he was abandoned in a Virginia Beach department store and raised by a family of mannequins as one of their own. This unusual situation helped Rob develop the unique skills for quietly observing consumer behavior and hone this insight into solving all his clients’ advertising challenges.”

Regardless of where he came from, he’s with us now. This is a busy time for Rob and his wife, Sara, who are expecting a baby within just weeks of this blog’s publishing. Before he gets too busy with parenthood, we wanted to ask him a few questions about what he does, who he is and how he comes up with all his ideas.

Last week you told me that you get paid to daydream. Could you elaborate on that?

Yeah, I didn’t mean that to sound flippant. But it is a crucial aspect about being a creative. I like to think of us as village shamans or healers. They were the quirky, enigmatic members of a tribe that the other tribesmen would consult or confide in about various situations… “Our crops haven’t seen rain in weeks” or “The buffalo herd is scarce.” They would disappear for hours or days in a smoke-filled kiva and meditate or hallucinate, and basically brainstorm solutions for the clan. They would emerge and say, “This is what we’re going to do on the next hunting expedition….” So, essentially all that “daydreaming” is actually a value-based service whereby we can offer our clients unique and strategic options for their marketing situations.

What’s your favorite thing about being an art director?

Ugh, that word again … art director. Sorry. It just seems like an arcane reference to an old-fashioned system. In recent years, I feel that word has morphed into describing a creative skill rather than an actual job title. One day I’m art directing or designing on a project, another I’m illustrating. Some days I’m the photographer or even, dare I say, a copywriter! Computers and technology are part of it, but I’m also witnessing a few agencies letting go of the traditional corporate structures and implementing a sort of free-range environment to nurture and breed creative polymaths. I think o2 is somewhere in the middle of that. Since my time here we’ve been tasked with being interior designers, set designers, costume designers, architects, structural engineers, stop-motion animators and even puppeteers. So, to get back to your original question … what’s my favorite thing about being a creative at o2? I would say it’s the opportunity and the ability to explore and create in any of the aforementioned areas and whatever else comes up.

What’s the craziest situation you’ve found yourself in for work?

It wasn’t at o2 … it was at another agency. We were on a two-day location shoot in Texas. It was the second day of filming and the bulk of the spot was pretty much in the can. We just broke for lunch and, in the middle of stuffing our faces full of craft service comestibles, the producer came in with a pale expression on his face. He said, “The marketing director hates the script and he wants a different concept!” It was a tense situation. Shutting down the shoot would incur a cancellation fee and other logistical headaches, so that was off the table. On top of that, the new concepts had to be typed up, faxed and approved ASAP, because the sun was already starting its descent. We were forced to use what we had already and finish the day with something cohesive. So, after a string of cathartic expletives, the Creative Director, Producer and I were literally sitting on the asphalt of the parking lot, frantically typing up a new script with rough storyboard sketches to an entirely new concept. It got approved and we resumed the shoot. What started out as a nice 30-second story with a narrative arc ended up as a b-roll montage with supers and overlaid motion graphic effects. We were firemen that day … we may have lost the house, but I’d like to think we saved the neighborhood.

What’s been your favorite experience in your time at o2?

Wow, that’s tough because there are many little different ones that have their own sentimental attachment. I guess the one that sticks out the most was the Grapico rebranding. That was fun. I say that like a guy who just finished a marathon … who’s deliriously giddy now, yet forgets that just 30 minutes ago his lungs and thighs were on fire and he was praying to be euthanized. But seriously, it felt like one of those dream projects. We took a grape soda that’s been a staple in the Southeast for more than 100 years and gave it a makeover to feel new and fresh, while not losing its Southern authenticity. We started with the logo, then developed a top-to-bottom rebrand, touting Grapico as “A Southern Thing.” This position would bring to life its heritage and storied past through whimsical “Southernisms” that really spoke to its audience and stood out on store shelves. Best of all, it brought together all our departments because there were so many elements to it. There was package design for all the cans, bottles and their cartons; there were window clings, shelf-talkers and point-of-purchase. We did print ads, out-of-home, a brand-new website and social media. We even had the logo painted on a vintage plane. The next year we picked up a Best In Show award for it. I’d like to think because of all that hard work together, it’s just not the creative team, but everyone here feels that they have a bit of ownership in that campaign.

How ready are you to be a father, based on your dad jokes?

(Laughing) My repertoire of dad jokes? Yikes. Are they really that bad? But I suppose you’re asking me if my kid refuses to sleep during nap time, am I going to charge him with resisting a rest?

How have you seen the industry change throughout your career?

Let’s see … without dating myself, when I started my first job, it was all analog. More hands-on than today. There were paste-up boards and we were using things called amberlith overlays, stat cameras, waxers, SprayMount and X-Acto knives. I would get the copy fresh off a typewriter; I would do a character count and then spec which fonts, point size, leading and alignment to use. Then I would overnight it to a typesetter who would send it back on a slick that I would paste up and pray my math was right. Back then we would expect about two weeks at the very least to put an ad together. And the funny part is that it seemed just as rushed then as it does today. Now, it’s kind of bittersweet to me … I mean, there’s so much more we can do today than we could even just a few years ago; and it’s fun and exciting and a bit overwhelming. The technology has been the bulk of change, both in our industry and what the consumer faces day to day. I’ll admit that it’s been a challenge trying to stay on top of it. And whatever it is that we are used to now will soon be shipped off to the archives to join the amberliths and stat cameras. The one thing, though … the thing that will always be around no matter what waits for us up the road … it’s the idea. Whether I am doing an old paste-up board or the latest Instagram story, it’s the idea that’s going to get the attention. The idea will always be king. And when that new thing lurking in the wings finally gets here, come get me … I’ll be in my kiva.

Continue reading “Rob Hardison: Healer, Shaman, Senior Art Director”

A Conversation with Bill Todd, President of o2ideas

By the time you read this, there’s no telling where Bill Todd might be. He could be in another state leading a team on a workforce development project, or he might be down the street getting coffee with a recent grad looking to build a network. He could be at home with his family, and there’s a decent chance he’s in the conference room playing guitar through the PA system.

Continue reading “A Conversation with Bill Todd, President of o2ideas”

Rookie Observations: Empathy at the Core of PR

When I was fresh out of college and on the job hunt, I had a few hurdles to jump before I could start a career. I wanted to go into communications, but I didn’t have any real-world experience outside of an internship writing stories for my college’s alumni newsletter.

Continue reading “Rookie Observations: Empathy at the Core of PR”

The Business of Social Media: Best Practices to Keep Brands Relevant

In the digital age, social media continues to grow by leaps and bounds. Today, it’s booming like never before, with more and more people joining social media sites and using them regularly and efficiently. To date, 3.2 billion people around the world use social media. Of these active users, 90.4% are Millennials, 77.5% are Gen Xers and 48.2% are Baby Boomers. The popularity of social media won’t be ending anytime soon, if ever, so businesses should take advantage of it if they want to thrive.

Leveraging social media channels is a great way for businesses to better connect with their customers and serve them at a higher level. According to GlobalWebIndex, 54% of social browsers are using social media to research products, and Ambassador says that 71% of consumers are more likely to recommend a brand to others if they have a positive experience with it on social media.

But not all industries are created equally when it comes to social media. The financial industry inspires less social engagement as a general rule. This may be one reason why only 34% of financial institutions consider themselves “very active” in social media channels. But for our banking client, BBVA, we see this as an opportunity to competitively embrace social media and use it as a means of connecting the brand to the daily lives of BBVA clients.

No matter what business you’re in, it’s ideal, even necessary, to have a system of best practices in place to maximize your social media efforts and campaigns. The goal is to be seen and trusted by your audience and to make genuine connections that endear your followers to your brand.

The following are some that we swear by …


Consistency is key when it comes to posting to social media. Build a structured calendar of posts that publish during the times you know that you’ll receive optimal engagement. Setting a regular, easy-to-follow cadence is how you rise above social media clutter.


With so much noise inundating the social media landscape, grabbing and keeping the attention of your audience is easier said than done. HubSpot found that visual content is more than 40 times more likely to get shared on social media than other types of content. Tweets with images get 18% more clicks, 89% more favorites and 150% more retweets.


Asking your audience questions is a great way to keep them engaged. Questions spark interest in your followers and invite them to share opinions, experiences and advice. It keeps them actively involved in the conversation, which is the beauty of social media.

  • Example: After sharing a post such as “5 Ways to Save Money for the Future,” consider asking, “How do you plan to save for your future?”


For the casual user, social media’s primary function is to provide bite-sized diversions from the more mundane moments in life. We understand the importance of businesses staying on brand and keeping a consistent tone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t entertain your audience at the same time. Quizzes and contests that are relevant to the products and services you offer are great interactive ways to connect with consumers on social media.


The worth of a social media post is determined in seconds. In a study by Columbia University, it found that 59% of all links shared on social networks aren’t clicked at all, which implies that many shared articles are never read. A compelling headline might be the difference to get users to interact with content.

  • Example: Instead of sharing “Homeownership Tips,” make “Rent or Buy: 5 Tips to Make This Decision Today” your headline. The latter’s “click-bait” tone creates urgency, giving the post more enticing appeal.


It takes two to engage. When you engage with your followers, they’ll likely engage with your brand. Fill your followers’ timelines with retweets, comments, likes and shares. Also, be sure to contribute to conversations related to your industry to present your brand as a bona fide thought leader.


Staying on top of trends is one of the most important things a business can do to be successful with social media. Adding to the conversation with content that informs or entertains will make your business seem relevant and in-the-know. The best part, you’ll be rewarded with increased audience engagement.

  • Example: Whole Foods noticed #FoodieBandNames was trending and immediately contributed to the conversation in a clever, brand-appropriate way that caught the attention of their social fans (they posted “The Rolling Scones”).




But engaging in real time isn’t always something that is born in the moment. Sometimes it takes careful planning and keen foresight. Read how we created a strategy in advance to help keep BBVA’s brand relevant during the 2017 NBA Playoffs.


The most powerful weapon in your digital marketing arsenal is the voice of your customer. People are much more likely to like, follow or buy a product if they see that their friends have good things to say about it. There are public social conversations going on 24/7 in every social channel. Harvest the good things people are saying about your brand and integrate them into your brand website or other owned media experiences.


Social media is well suited to show the human face of a brand. And it’s one of the best places that we can establish authenticity, transparency and trust with our audience and customers. Communication needs to come off as authentic and genuine, and not that of a corporate robot. Sounding like a real person who “gets it” is the best way to inspire interest and loyalty from your audience.


The best way to instill trust and respect in your audience is to be seen as an expert in your industry. Sharing valuable research and other relevant content from your industry category will do just that. Some things you might share:

  • Pertinent articles, best practice guides, as well as third-party materials your audience might find valuable.
  • Tips or creative ideas about how to use products and services.
  • Outside studies on industry trends.
  • Videos with key researchers, product designers and other subject matter experts.
  • Industry-related infographics.
  • Blogging.

There are myriad ways to be successful on social media, and every social media channel is unique, but by following and implementing these few simple practices, you can make your brand seen across them all. And before you know it, the likes, follows and shares will come rolling in.

Good luck, and happy communicating!

Continue reading “The Business of Social Media: Best Practices to Keep Brands Relevant”

Three Ways to Make Your Videos Pop in 2019

The other day I did something I’d never done before: I watched a pre-roll ad on YouTube in its entirety. I watched it voluntarily, without hovering the mouse in the bottom corner waiting for the “Skip Ad” option to appear. And I enjoyed all 96 seconds of it.

Continue reading “Three Ways to Make Your Videos Pop in 2019”

Agency Highlights, Office Escapades and Reflections at the Halfway Point

After a long Independence Day weekend spent powering through the Alabama heat to celebrate with fireworks, cookouts and Season 3 of Stranger Things, it’s nice to be back in a climate-controlled office with an energized team. In the air conditioning.

The events of the weekend – the controlled chaos of Vulcan’s spectacular pyrotechnics, time spent with loved ones under the light of the blaze – come together as a perennial commencement ceremony for the second half of the year.

As we go full steam ahead into the rest of 2019, it’s also a good opportunity to look back at some of our favorite office highlights from the first half.

Mayor Woodfin Visits o2

Back in January, o2 had the honor of hosting Mayor Randall Woodfin and members of his administration for a cocktail hour at o2 HQ. The evening took shape as a mingling of ideas and opportunities. Mayor Woodfin shared his goals and plans for the year, and our own Bill Todd and Shelley Stewart spoke to the group of o2 family, friends and clients.

It was a special opportunity for Birmingham communicators to come together and share in the promise of a new year.




Alabama and Auburn Pro Days

Among the many perks of having awesome clients are the equally awesome events we get to take part in. In April, we sent teams to Auburn and Alabama for each university’s Pro Day. Since our client, BBVA, sponsored the event, o2 was right there on the sidelines to capture footage for social content and interview players like Quinnen Williams, the recent #3 overall draft pick for the New York Jets. (Unfortunately, we weren’t lucky enough to capture a Quinnen Williams sneeze on camera.)

One highlight from Abby Zajac, account coordinator and noted Auburn fan: “While I was taking shots with the GoPro I looked to my right and Nick Saban was standing next to me, which was pretty cool. But I’m an Auburn fan, so War Eagle.”

Cheez-It Day

It started as an innocent discussion between two people about whether the “Extra Toasty” variety of Cheez-Its is better than the original (it is). The conversation turned into an office-wide debate, emotions flared and the general escalation of the matter resulted in a flavor sign-up sheet for the showdown. Together, we brought in one of every Cheez-It variety, and we settled the debate with a vote. Although we were hoping for a more dramatic ending than a tie between “Extra Toasty” and “Hot & Spicy,” everybody was a winner when we used leftover beers from Mayor Woodfin’s visit as palate cleansers.

o2University Roll-Out

Beginning in May, we launched o2University, an in-house, employee-led series of training sessions with only one goal in mind: growth. With all that we do to help our clients grow, we wanted to make the same kind of investment in our own people. The curriculum is ever-changing and based on our professional growth goals, and each session is a wonderful opportunity to share ideas and collaborate in making them real. It’s the start of a new chapter in o2 history, which brings us to the next highlight…

Two Recent College Grads Join the o2 Family

Speaking of growth, o2 added two new rising stars to the team in the last six months. Abby Zajac, a 2018 graduate of Samford University, joined o2 in January and has long since proved her unmatched skills in account coordination. From organization to social media, Abby could write the book on keeping an office running smoothly while excelling in client services, account management and Netflix recommendations.

Aaron Kurz is a 2018 graduate of Hampden-Sydney College, and since joining us in May he has demonstrated some strong writing skills and some stronger opinions on Cheez-It flavors (Extra Toasty, always). He has been a key player in executing social media campaigns, and his background in English and rhetoric are manifested through his capacity for strategic storytelling.




Honda Live Build Factory Pop-Up

Seeing an SUV get built live on-stage is something you didn’t know you needed to see until you see it. We were lucky enough to see the action at the Honda Factory Pop-Up that our clients at Honda Manufacturing of Alabama hosted during the Honda Indy Grand Prix in April. The three-day event showcased the rewards of a career in manufacturing, and o2 was responsible for concepting, designing and producing the logo, signage, pre-recorded and live videos for the event.

Two New Dads of o2!

Nothing makes happy happen like a baby announcement. Except, of course, two October baby announcements! Our own Rob Hardison and his wife, Sara, as well as Cleve Smith and his wife, Brooke, will both be adding a new member to their families this October. We can’t wait to meet the little ones, and we’re already looking forward to the party.

Whether you’re revisiting goals you set at the beginning of the year or you just need to take a minute to reflect on the good things that have happened this year, there’s real value in taking a moment to appreciate the wins.

Take a look back to January (which feels way too long ago) and choose some of your greatest victories, both professional and personal. How did you achieve them? What can you do in the latter half of the year to improve upon them?

We’re just grateful to keep on doing what we love, which is helping people be better at doing what they love. Here’s to a great second half!


Continue reading “Agency Highlights, Office Escapades and Reflections at the Halfway Point”

o2 Initiation: A Story Worth Sharing

As a recent addition to the o2 team and a young man still in the early years of his career, I’m reminded each day that I have a lot to learn. It’s a fast-paced industry, and it’s both daunting and thrilling to realize that there’s no telling what might happen in a day at the agency; all I can do is my best impression of a sponge.

Continue reading “o2 Initiation: A Story Worth Sharing”

Take Our Quiz

Is your brand ambitious?

Free Consultation

Take your brand to the next level.