Ben Barnes Lenz Marketing

LENZ views leadership broadly and encourages leadership development among everyone on our team. In this series of interviews, several of our leaders reflect on their principles and practices, and on the lessons in leadership they’ve learned along the way.

Ben Barnes is the Creative Director at LENZ, where he manages the creative department and a network of freelancers and production vendors. He has been in the design industry for over 10 years and has developed successful campaigns for Coca-Cola, Allstate, P&G, and many others. Prior to joining LENZ in 2013, Ben worked in several roles in the agency environment. His personal work has been displayed in museums and published worldwide. Ben earned his BFA in graphic design from the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2004.

Excluding colleagues at LENZ, who taught you the most important lesson that guides your leadership at LENZ today? What did you learn from them?

The first job I had out of school was at Momentum, where I worked for Ryan Mulqueen, their creative director at the time. He was a “get your hands dirty” kind of guy. He didn’t lead from afar; he was right down there with us.

Ryan put a high value on good ideas and good thinking. And he stressed the importance of pushing the client: selling them on the good ideas and the good thinking instead of giving them what they expected.

He was always passionate about the work. You could tell. And it helped everybody else bring their own passion to the job. He inspired us to give each project our all and do our very best.

His example did a lot to shape my ideas about leadership. I get down there in the trenches with the people I work with, and I try to inspire them with my own passion for the work.

What is an important lesson about leadership that you learned from a client?

I’ve learned from clients the value of relationships. Going back to that idea of pushing the client and selling them on your ideas: If you have a good relationship with the client, if they trust you, if they believe in you, then they’re going to allow you to do what you think is best because they know you have their best interest at heart.

Building that relationship takes time, but then the conversations become easier. It becomes less about selling the client on your work and more about them believing in your abilities and your expertise.

My own role at LENZ is not as client-facing. Here, clients know me more by my work than my face. The people in account services take my work and sell it on my behalf, and they’re very good at building those relationships.

That’s why I make sure to explain my thinking to the people who will explain it to the client: all the ideas that went into it, the best practices we used, why we put a button where we did. It’s a team effort. It’s the beauty again of relationships.

What is a belief or opinion you have in your field that most people in your field don’t share?

Design isn’t going to change the world.

You come out of college with this head full of ideas about how you’re going to design this poster and change the world. It doesn’t work like that.

The ideas behind design do have the potential to change the world. The design itself is just the medium to spread that message.

Early in my career, I designed a poster that was picked up for the Green Patriot Posters series, a climate change initiative of The Canary Project. The project was inspired by World War II posters, and I created a modern take on the victory gardens idea.

The posters went on a tour of all these design museums, far and wide. They were put into a calendar produced in Germany. They were collected in a book that was written up in Wired.com, which included my poster in the article.

But at the end of the day, what impact did it really have? Did the posters influence someone to ride their bike rather than drive their car? I don’t know.

It was aspirational. I like to think, yes, it did make a difference. It was relevant and important. But as a designer, I struggle with that question.

Design is problem-solving: finding ways to communicate a message. Ultimately, it’s the message that really matters.

Fast forward as many years as necessary. You’re leaving your present role, whether for a promotion or a job change or retirement. What advice would you give to the next person who fills your position?

Don’t take yourself or the position too seriously.

At LENZ we do mostly healthcare marketing. It’s a very serious industry, and sometimes people’s lives are at stake.

But at the end of the day, what you’re really trying to promote is the relationship between the doctor and the patient. You’re expressing this very human connection that people have with their doctors. It’s a very special and unique relationship of trust.

And it’s about people getting back to their lives, back to the best quality of life they can have. Back to playing with their kids, or taking their dogs to the park, or riding their bikes. It’s about these everyday moments of life.

If you could send a message back to yourself during your first year working at LENZ, what advice would you give?

BookletI was recently digging through some things in my in-laws’ attic. And I found this booklet , “A Message to Garcia.” Someone had given it to my father-in-law. It’s an essay written in 1899 by Elbert Hubbard.

Hubbard tells an [apocryphal] story from just before the Spanish-American War. President McKinley wanted to get a message to General Garcia, the head of the Cuban liberation movement. He wanted to tell Garcia that we were going to send in American troops and help him. But Garcia was in the middle of a war, deep in the jungle, with no satellites to locate him.

So McKinley gave a letter to an American soldier, Lieutenant Rowan, and told him to get it to Garcia. Rowan didn’t ask him where Garcia was or how he was supposed to find him. He took the letter and got behind enemy lines. He asked around, found Garcia, and delivered the letter.

The story was relevant 100 years ago and still is today.

If somebody asks you to do something, even if you don’t know how, take it upon yourself to figure it out. Take on the responsibility of getting it done.

In my younger days, I questioned everything. That’s not a bad approach to life, but I think I would have found success much more quickly if I had had Rowan’s mindset. I would have learned a lot about what I was working on, but also a lot about myself, about what I’m capable of. Can you figure it out? There’s confidence that comes with learning that you can.

The Georgia Social Impact Collaborative (GSIC) was formed by a group of community leaders committed to developing a stronger ecosystem around impact investing in Georgia, and Lenz had the pleasure of designing and launching their website.

The Lenz interactive team worked closely with GSIC’s innovation team to develop a site that would allow investors, enterprises, and intermediaries to be listed in a searchable database, while being easy to navigate and aesthetically pleasing.

Check out GSIC’s site design by seeing below or visiting their website!

Georgia Social Impact

Interested in learning more about how Lenz could help elevate your brand and business? Contact us here or give us a call today at 404-373-2021.

John Lenz

LENZ views leadership broadly and encourages leadership development among everyone on our team. In this series of interviews, several of our leaders reflect on their principles and practices, and on the lessons in leadership they’ve learned along the way.

John Lenz is a vice president and managing partner at LENZ. He is also president of Georgia Smoke BBQ. Before joining Lenz, John attended Oglethorpe University, where he was a starting pitcher on the baseball team. He joined LENZ in 1992.

Excluding colleagues at LENZ, who taught you the most important lesson that guides your leadership at LENZ today? What did you learn from them?

Jerry McCollum, then CEO of the Georgia Wildlife Federation, once told me a version of that old story about a “post turtle.” When you see a turtle balanced on top of a fence post, you know he didn’t get up there by himself.

I think his version of the story was a little kinder than how it’s usually told. But I liked the way he told it. He was very successful and had done a lot of good for the Georgia environment. A man at the top of his field. But he always remembered the post turtle, and he told me, “People helped me get to where I am.”

That has always stuck with me. To get somewhere, yeah, you need your own initiative. But there are a lot of other people who have worked to get you to whatever position you’re in. I always remember that as a lesson to never forget that I’m not all by myself in this thing. There’s no way I could be where I am without the help of a lot of others.

What is an important lesson about leadership that you learned from a client?

The best leaders I’ve worked with aren’t kings or queens of their companies. They might have more experience than everybody else, but they surround themselves with smart people. They ask for feedback and listen to it for a diversity of thought before they make a call.

I’ve made many mistakes where I was handling something I’d seen before, so I thought I already knew exactly what to do. And often I made the wrong call because I wasn’t listening to something someone else was trying to tell me. Giving too much weight to my own experience and not enough to others.

As a leader, if you can open up enough to listen and really process other people’s perspectives, if you can meld it with your experience… that’s when you make your best decisions.

What impact that you’ve made on the world through your leadership at LENZ feels most meaningful to you?

I think it would have to be our impact on the people who have worked here and who work here now, and their families.

LENZ is a place where people can really grow in their careers and not have a ceiling. I’ve done so many different things here. We give people that flexibility. You can say, “I’m interested in photography.” Well, we’ll get you a camera and some classes.

We support people and help them support their families.

It’s the people… the people who have benefited from working here. And I’ve benefited from working with them.

What is a belief or opinion you have in your field that most people in your field don’t share?

A lot of people in our field fall in love with tools, with data and other statistics before considering the first thing that should be checked off the list: creativity.

They start thinking you need a Facebook campaign, you need a Snapchat whatever. They think you need a billboard, a TV campaign. All without first coming up with great creative that makes the client’s investment really pay off.

They waste clients’ money and produce some really bad creative.

Creative that makes sense for the client should come first.

Is all my creative like Garrison Keillor’s? All the kids are above average? No, there is a bell curve of what everybody produces. But you always have to strive for that appropriate creative idea before you start talking about anything tactical.

Oftentimes in this world, when there’s something bright and shiny and new, people go for that, just to do that without thinking. You always have to ask first, “Does this really make sense for the client?”

Fast forward as many years as necessary. You’re leaving your present role, whether for a promotion or a job change or retirement. What advice would you give to the next person who fills your position?

I would not have been able to retire if it weren’t for years and years of working with talented people, and smart clients who had the vision to hire us and trust what we were trying to achieve.

Make sure you surround yourself with the best people, and make sure they have the freedom to blossom into whatever it is they should blossom into. Help them in the best ways you can. Help them get to wherever they want to go.

Lenz appreciates a clean and comprehensive website design, and had a blast revamping All Exterminating’s home on the web. All Exterminating is a family owned and operated termite and pest control company in Cumming.

Check out the newly designed site below along with a snapshot of what it looked like previously:

New design:

Old design:

Interested in learning more about how Lenz could help elevate your brand and business? Contact us here or give us a call today at 404-373-2021.

Mike Killeen Lenz MarketingLENZ views leadership broadly and encourages leadership development among everyone on our team. In this series of interviews, several of our leaders reflect on their principles and practices, and on the lessons in leadership they’ve learned along the way.

Mike Killeen is the vice president of marketing at LENZ and an adjunct professor of healthcare marketing at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health. He has worked for LENZ since 2002.

Excluding colleagues at LENZ, who taught you the most important lesson that guides your work at LENZ today? What did you learn from them?

My father is a great leader. He carries himself with humility and without a lot of pomp and circumstance. If I’m doing what I aspire to do, that’s the model for me. You can be very effective as a leader without all the bravado, without seeking attention.

People are smart. You don’t have to tell them everything. They learn a lot from watching what their leaders do. Good leaders do what they say they’ll do. They admit when they make mistakes. They bounce back from failure.

You don’t need grandiose speeches to teach these values. There is a time to stand in front of a room and give a pep talk, but I don’t think it replaces showing up every day and doing your job, and showing rather than telling what the team is there to achieve.

My dad quietly embodies what he needs to do, and people understand.

What is an important lesson about leadership that you learned from a client?

You don’t have to be a jerk to get what you want. We work the hardest for the clients that we care about. We believe in them and in their mission. We believe in the work they do and their character.

I’ve learned from some clients that you can build a world where people working with and for you are invested in you and give you their best work. You can get a lot of great performance without bossing people around.

What impact that you’ve made through your leadership at LENZ feels most meaningful to you?

I hope that I’ve helped people enjoy their job. I do think that you spend so much time at work, so much time with the people you work with, you might as well enjoy it. “Fulfill” is a better word. You might as well find it fulfilling. What a drag it would be to have to come to work every day and just count the minutes until you’re done.

Good leaders help those hours that you’re working be enjoyable and have meaning. They listen to people and care what they have to say. They try to act on their wants, spoken or unspoken.

Tom Coughlin once said, “Coaching is making players do what they don’t want to do so that they can become what they want to become.”[1]

And while I hope I’m not too often making the people of LENZ do things they don’t want to do, I try my best to help them become what they want to become.

What’s a mistake that you made as a leader at LENZ? What did you learn from it?

How much time do you have?

Here’s an analogy. Sometimes when you’re coaching a basketball team, you have to tell one player to pass less and shoot more, and the other to shoot less and pass more.

I have learned that, at times, I need to be more hands on. I am still working on trying to figure out when it’s time to be assertive.

We have a great team at LENZ. We trust them with everything. We’ve had all kinds of success through leaders getting out of the way. We let people be themselves and do what they need to do.

But there’s also a time as a leader to see what’s going on, then recognize and act on an instinct, because you have a different perspective. You have to assert yourself and say, “Actually, we need to do this right now.” Or, “I don’t know a lot, but I know this.”

I try to live by the rule of staying out of the way and letting great people do their jobs. But I’m also trying to listen more often to my own instincts.

What’s a belief or opinion you have in your field that most people in your field don’t share?

I believe in marketing. I think marketing is powerful. I think marketing is very often the missing ingredient. But a lot of people in my industry think that if you have a great commercial, or a great logo and website, that’s all that matters. Good marketing can sell anything.

I think what really matters is product design. The product is the thing. Our role is to help tell the story, but success depends on the product.

I was at the Rolling Stones exhibit in Nashville recently. I saw a video interview there of Don Was, who produced several of the Rolling Stones’ albums. He said something like, “They make the music. My job is to turn a knob or help them decide the song order. That’s important, but at the end of the day, they’re the Rolling Stones.”

In marketing, you need to have some humility to do your job well. You play an important role, but it’s just one role. It’s all about the client and their product.

Fast forward as many years as necessary. You’re leaving your present role, whether for a promotion or a job change or retirement. What advice would you give to the next person who fills your position?

Close the blinds in summer because it gets so hot in my office.

More importantly, try to set people up for success, then let them do their things. Trust them.

If you get the right people, they will care a lot, and they’ll probably be better at what they’re doing than you are. Ask them what they need to do their job as well as they can, and then give it to them.


[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/24/sports/football/24combine.html

How Creativity Beats Brute Force in Marketing

By Mike Killeen

If you’re old enough to have witnessed the introduction of the first Macintosh computer, you probably remember the electrifying ad[1] that announced its release.

It was 1984, the year of Big Brother, and the thought police might be compelling conformity with IBM computers: dulling our imagination, assimilating us all into automata. And it was Super Bowl XVIII: Raiders versus Redskins, at time out and commercial break during the third-quarter.

An athletic woman in bright red shorts and a white tank top, carrying a sledgehammer, runs between rows of seated compliants who are staring up at a giant screen where a man speaks of information purification. She spins three times and hurls the hammer. The screen explodes. A voiceover announces that, in two days, Apple will release the Macintosh. He promises that 1984 will not be like 1984.

The ad, which was directed by Ridley Scott, was all over the news the next day, and Apple had, to say the least, a very successful product launch. The Super Bowl spot was the one and only airing of the commercial to a national audience. One was all it needed.

Counting the Quickening of Our Hearts

There’s an old adage that says it takes seven impressions for people to remember a marketing message and consider taking action. Or maybe it’s eleven impressions. Or three. Or, as claimed in 1885 by Thomas Smith in Successful Advertising[2], twenty. The number changes depending on who’s asserting it, usually without any evidence or citation. Attempts to study the matter with scientific rigor give more complicated and disputed results for a quantity that has been formalized as “effective frequency.”[3][4]

But whatever the number, the underlying idea is the same. Our brains are PCs running rigid procedural languages. If we enter the data, call the subroutine, and complete the required loops, then the action we want will be triggered. Over the decades, many billions of advertising dollars have been budgeted based upon this belief.

Perhaps that entire paradigm needs a sledgehammer through its screen. Memory, impressions, motivation to action: surely these arise from more than math. In the real world, we remember best that which resonates with our heart and understanding.

That time in third grade when Kristi S. looked at me in a way no girl had looked at me before. The first time I saw and heard Nirvana’s “Lithium” on MTV. The birth of my three children.

No repetition is needed for the moments that truly move us or the memories that can change us forever.

The Spark Not Carried by Semiconductors

We’re losing something important in this era of algorithms and analytics, of impressions, click-throughs, and conversions. We’re losing sight of the importance of creativity, the significance of talent, and the value of art. What is the worth of a great designer? A great writer? A talented actor? How many banner ad impressions can one gifted photographer replace?

College courses, museums, centers for performing arts: these still elevate in our culture the importance of creativity, talent, and art. But in business, we’re slipping under the sway of synthesized sirens who sing of machine learning-driven search marketing[5] and AI-managed email campaigns[6].

This is not to take away from the machines’ miracles. What digital data can do today is truly remarkable. We know so much more about our audiences. We can customize our messages and target delivery with a precision unimaginable even a decade ago. We can follow audiences wherever they may go, placing optimized impressions on every screen they may encounter.

Bending the Curve

So why do we bother to look for the creative spark, the light that resonates with a human heart? Why do we value human creators who know the mysteries of shaping fire into art?

Across the human experience, there are many reasons. But in the realm of marketing, we do the hard work of creating because it helps us bend the curve of needed impressions.

Multiple studies reported on in the Harvard Business Review found that ad campaigns with originality and high artistic merit delivered double the impact on sales.[7] They calculated that advertisers in most categories of industry could redirect a significant portion of their budget to develop more creative campaigns, spend less on buying impressions, and come out ahead on sales.

If we’re marketing a hospital birth center, we can serve up thousands of impressions that ours is “the best birth center.” And perhaps, with sufficient saturation, we’ll sway some people to suspect it is so. Or we can tell a moving story: a sacred passage, a new life entered in distress and then saved, two become three become one.

When a message is truly compelling, when it grips the imagination and quickens the heart, when it opens the poetic places within us… then we get more for so much less. We don’t have to run the ad as many times. We don’t have to follow our audience across all their screens. They may even come to us, asking us, please, tell me that story again.

This is the value of creativity, of talent, of unique physiques and voices, of ineffable humanity. When we create a message that moves people, the math matters less and the meaning matters more.

There’s an old adage that says you never get a second chance to make a first impression. But if that first impression inspires enough hearts to sing, one may be all you ever need.


[1] Apple (1984). 1984. Viewed March 5, 2018 at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VtvjbmoDx-I

[2] As reprinted in Kimmel, A.J. (2018). Psychological Foundations of Marketing: The Keys to Consumer Behavior. Routledge.

[3] Naples, Michael J. (1979). Effective Frequency: The Relationship Between Frequency and Advertising Effectiveness. Association of National Advertisers.

[4] Jones, John Philip (1997). “What does effective frequency mean in 1997?” Journal of Advertising Research, July-Aug. 1997, p. 14+. Academic OneFile, Accessed 30 Mar. 2018.

[5] Acquisio (2017, September). Acquisio Turing™ Machine Learning Performance Report. Retrieved March 30, 2018 from http://www.acquisio.com/sites/default/files/acquisio-turing-ml-performance-report.pdf

[6] Rathi, Nandini (2017, April 19). “4 ways AI can improve email marketing,” VentureBeat. Retrieved March 30, 2018 from https://venturebeat.com/2017/04/19/4-ways-ai-can-improve-email-marketing/

[7] Reinartz, Werner, and Peter Saffert. “Creativity in Advertising: When It Works and When It Doesn’t.” Harvard Business Review, Harvard Business Review, 31 July 2014, hbr.org/2013/06/creativity-in-advertising-when-it-works-and-when-it-doesnt.

Lenz proudly sponsored the 2018 Top Doctors Reception, presented by Atlanta magazine. The reception was help June 21 at the Atlanta History Center in Buckhead, and celebrated the physicians in the “Top Doctors” issue. Lenz had an on-site presence at the reception, and had a great time celebrating the doctors being honored, including many of our clients.

Congratulations to all the top doctors. We’re already looking forward to next year!

Check out a few more snapshots of the night below.

Lenz recently helped the 2018 Amplify Decatur Concert Series, raise $40,000 for its beneficiary, Decatur Cooperative Ministry (DCM), a Decatur-based, nonprofit organization that works to prevent and alleviate poverty and homelessness in Decatur and DeKalb County.

The April 13-15 concert series was presented and marketed by Lenz and produced in partnership with Eddie’s Attic, the Southeast’s premier music listening room.

Since the first Amplify event (formerly known as Poverty Is Real) in 2011, Amplify has raised more than $190,000 for DCM. Each year, Lenz has served as the presenting sponsor and marketing agency for the event. Amplify was founded by Lenz partner and Vice President of Marketing Mike Killeen, who remains an Amplify board member. Christine Mahin, Lenz Marketing’s Accounts Supervisor, who has helped produce the Amplify Decatur Music Festival since 2016, served as festival director for the second consecutive year. Lenz President and CEO Richard J. Lenz serves as the Chair of the Amplify Advisory Board. And the entire Lenz team contributed to the marketing and production of the event.

On April 14, thousands gathered on the Downtown Decatur Square for the Amplify Decatur Musical Festival, the centerpiece of the concert series. The festival featured performances by an all-star Americana line-up, including The Lone Bellow, The Jayhawks, Amanda Shires, and Parker Millsap. Atlanta-based folk duo Dwayne Shivers also performed.

Richard Lenz said the event “checks a lot of boxes” for him. “Lenz has supported many causes, organizations, and events in Decatur since 1992, and what we look for locally is something that adds to the culture of Decatur, has a philanthropic purpose, and allows our company to make an impact using our talent, energy, and resources. My goal of building a successful music festival in Decatur is being achieved, thanks to so many.”

Amplify Decatur also featured a three-night stand at historic Eddie’s Attic, with performances by Jared and Amber, The Weather Station, Sirens of South Austin, and Antigone Rising. On April 15, the concert series culminated with a Steve Earle vs. Townes Van Zandt tribute night featuring eight local and regional acts.

Platinum sponsors included: Leafmore Group, Four Roses Bourbon, Natalie Gregory Sold, The Pinewood, Iris and Bruce Feinberg, WABE 90.1, Decatur Package Store, and Savannah Distributing Company. Gold sponsors included: Georgia Urology, Hall Booth Smith, Oakhurst Realty Partners, Topo Chico, Cox Media Group, Midwood Entertainment, Essentia Water, and ATL PBS.

Lenz is extremely proud to have worked alongside the Amplify My Community team to make this event as successful as it was.

Scroll down to view some of the photos from this amazing event!

Lenz was a proud sponsor of the Second Annual Georgia Smoke Mexican Crawfish Derby, which raised $4,100 for Friends of Disabled Adults and Children (FODAC), a non-profit committed to providing durable medical equipment at little or no cost to adults and children with injuries and disabilities.

On May 5, hundreds gathered at the Briarcliff Woods Beach Club and went through 350 pounds of authentic Cajun-cooked crawfish and Mexican food! The event proved to be a great success and Lenz is thrilled to have been a part of it.

John Lenz, Vice President of Lenz Marketing, is also the founder and co-owner of Georgia Smoke BBQ, the best BBQ catering in Atlanta.

Check out more pictures of the event below!

Lenz Marketing helped develop and successfully execute an integrated marketing campaign for the Emory University School of Law’s Juris Master degree. The Juris Master (JM) degree offers the opportunity for professionals to advance in their careers by gaining a better grounding in law and regulation. Already having been an established on-campus degree, Emory Law launched an online option for the program, and partnered with Lenz to help market this new opportunity.

The campaign Lenz created with Emory Law included print, radio, video, PR, and digital advertising that ran from January – June 2017, to match the school’s matriculation trends and needs. With the help of Emory Law’s team, Lenz designed a campaign that was visually integrated through every arm of the campaign. Lenz made sure online ads looked like the print ads, which would look like the landing page, and so on. Additionally, the copy we generated for radio ads which ran on NPR and WSB was echoed in all other campaign materials.

Partnering with a digital vendor to build and launch the SEM campaign, the Lenz team was very hands-on with the strategy of audience targeting and segmenting, building keywords, creating creative units, and implementing, analyzing, and reporting on campaign performance. Lenz and its digital partner, Cox Media Group, tracked leads from every source, not just the initial conversion (defined as website inquiries), but through the entire matriculation funnel to learn which leads were turning into accepted students. Throughout the course of the campaign, we continually optimized bid strategies, creative units, key terms, and targeting.

The campaign performed extremely well, driving the leads needed to fill the classes for the new online program. Due to the success of the campaign, we relaunched in the Fall of 2017 and again in January 2018. We have also begun marketing new degrees for Emory Law, based on the success of this one. Lenz is thrilled to see such a well-planned campaign yield such impressive results we’re excited to see what more we can achieve.