Could your marketing message work harder?

What makes messages work a little, a lot or not at all? That’s what this blog is about. I’ve stressed over it, studied it and experimented with it since my early years as an agency copywriter in the 1980s.

I find it amazing that today’s influential marketing books, like Teressa Iezzi’s excellent The Idea Writers, give writers and marketers the same advice that my mentors gave long before the digital age:

… perhaps one of the essential messages to take away from this book is that your job isn’t to create “an ad.” It’s to create something useful, entertaining or beautiful (or all of the above) on behalf of a brand.

– Teressa Iezzi, The Idea Writers

30 years ago Harry Jacobs said, “Say something important, and say it in an interesting way.”  25 years ago David Kennedy said, “We’re really not in the business of making ads; we’re in the business of making a connection.”

Barrett Rossie

I was extraordinarily lucky to work for and with some of advertising’s greatest: Dan Wieden and David Kennedy, Mike Hughes and Harry Jacobs, Hal Riney and Jerry Andelin, Chick McKinney and Michael Winslow. What I learned helped me develop processes for brand analysis and message development. Refined over the course of 20 years, these processes help my clients understand their brand’s environment, their customers’ motivations and their own opportunities. From understanding comes insight. From insight come ideas for strategies and messages. 

So while the media landscape and the public’s media habits change almost daily, some things hold constant: If your message doesn’t connect with the customer, and if it doesn’t support your business objectives, it’s hard to make your marketing work.

I’ve helped develop marketing campaigns for consumer, B2B and technology clients. These include famous brands such as Nike, See’s Candies, Chevron, Pacific Bell and Piedmont Airlines, as well as many small clients and start-ups. One constant: Systematic discovery and analysis always give you an advantage. It shows up in websites, social media, advertising, email, applications, trade shows, and in the way a product is packaged or designed. Discovery and analysis, when coupled with insightful creativity, are key to your success.

See how this approach influenced the work in my portfolio pages.


RÉSUMÉ updated June 27, 2012



Since 1982, I have developed strategic messages and marketing campaigns for clients including consumer goods, B2B, technology and professional services companies, at some of the world’s leading ad agencies and as a partner in my own agency. I have worked with business owners and CEOs, led client/agency teams, collaborated with and supervised designers and programmers, and managed vendors.


Strategic message development: Includes company and product positioning, value propositions and other key strategic messages, for consistent use through the complete range of marketing communications.

Marketing campaign planning and management: Includes web strategy and content development, ad campaigns, PR, email advertising, direct mail, collateral, and social media.

Copywriting: Print, broadcast, collateral, interactive and PR. Work has been selected for Communication Arts Magazine, The One Show Gold Pencil and other copywriting awards.

Qualitative research: Developing marketing insight through interviews of stakeholders and customers.

Vendor management: Includes interactive developers, designers, suppliers, media sales.

Delivering technical messages in everyday language: For technical and non-technical audiences.

Collaboration with designers and other creatives:  Mentoring, coaching and maximizing their talents.

Employment History

May 2010 – June 2012: Marketing consultant. Clients included Magner Sanborn, Crux Subsurface

At Crux, trained new marketing director in basics of marketing strategies and tactics, including SEO, social media, web development and development of other marketing materials.

Dec. 2008 – April 2010: Vice President of Marketing, The Washington Network, Inc., Alexandria, Virginia

Responsibilities: Develop long-term marketing infrastructure and short-term sales support; develop and write new web site, collateral materials, email campaigns, press releases, client presentations.

1994 – 2007: Partner, Rossie/Davis Advertising, San Francisco (dba Clarity05 Partners and Square 1 Strategy Building)

Responsibilities: Develop strategic messages for clients; develop creative concepts; present and sell work to clients (marketing directors, executive committees and boards); manage development of websites and marketing materials; write copy; develop new business; manage agency books. Clients included:

–  See’s Candies: Developed print and radio concepts, wrote scripts, directed actors and production engineers in studio. Campaigns contributed to steady sales growth for seven years.

– Chevron Lummus Global: Developed and wrote ad campaign that increased inquiries from international markets; campaign helped lead to large new accounts in Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

–  Syntex Management Systems: Developed strategic messages; created framework for ongoing strategic messaging; managed development of new web site; web traffic rose 463% in first quarter after launch; qualified email inquiries rose from 2 to 63 per month.

–  Kabira Technologies: Created ads, websites and direct mail. Collaborated on complete rebranding. Campaign generated more than 25,000 sales leads; helped sales rise from $100,000 to $24 million per year; client landed major contracts including VISA, AT&T, Lucent, EDS, Alcatel and US Dept. of Defense.

–  Burton-Ching Ltd: Established luxury brand for new furniture maker; developed strategic messages, ad campaign, brochure, direct mail. Campaign helped achieve nationwide distribution and extremely high awareness within 18 months; increased showroom distributors from one to 15.

–  Staffing Industry Analysts Inc: Helped client transition from print to online publishing model; creative direction for new publishing website, new brand identity package and modular design system allowed client to create its own ads and collateral easily; key conferences broke attendance records by 30%.

1990 – 1993:  Senior Copywriter, Hal Riney & Partners, San Francisco
Responsibilities: Develop ad concepts based on business and brand objectives, present and sell to clients, copywriting, studio production. Clients included:

–  See’s Candies: Helped maintain $5 million account; generated campaigns that lasted multiple cycles; copywriting for radio and print ads; client sought my services after I left the agency.

–  Stroh’s Brewery: For aging brand, helped develop campaigns that appealed to younger, hipper audience; copywriter for TV spots.

1988 – 1990: Copywriter, Foote Cone & Belding, San Francisco
Responsibilities: Develop advertising concepts, write copy. Clients included:

–  Holland America Cruise Lines: Responsible for development and copywriting of retail print campaign.

–  Pacific Bell Centrex:  Developed and wrote print advertising that helped delay the demise of aging tech product with many competitive disadvantages.

1985 – 1988: Copywriter, Wieden & Kennedy, Portland OR
Responsibilities: Develop print, broadcast and collateral; present work to clients; write copy. Clients included:

–  Nike: Created first Nike ads featuring Charles Barkley, Andre Agassi and Bo Jackson; reintroduced Nike Air; created co-op campaigns for major accounts such as Macy’s.

–  KINK-FM: Created slogan and award-winning ad campaign that lasted 20 years, solidified brand and drove KINK to #1 ratings in the Portland, OR market.

–  Oregon Tourism: Initiated long-standing “Oregon: Things Look Different Here” campaign in local and national publications.


Bachelor of Arts, University of Virginia, 1979

• Samples of creative work: http://www.barrettrossie.com/portfolio/
• References available upon request 

Barrett Rossie’s portfolio samples

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