Category Archives: Money

The Evolution of Thanksgiving Advertising

In attempting to write a blog post about the best thanksgiving ads of 2014 I quickly realized there are no ads worth talking about this year, or for that matter, the last few years. A quick Google search reveals every big brand out there is focusing all of their efforts on pushing their sales. It seems that Black Friday and Thanksgiving sales have taken over the Thanksgiving advertising space.

It was not always this way. Take a look at these ads from the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s. There was a level of charming festivity to their calls to action. They have smiling people enjoying family time and eating turkey.

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By the late 80’s and 90’s, the print ads are still quite festive and cheerful. The main message seems to be “enjoy our product with your friends and family this holiday.”

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Fast forward again to 2010 and beyond and the holiday of Thanksgiving is all but an afterthought in advertisements. Black Friday and Doorbuster deals have taken over the holiday advertising sphere and it is evident in every large brand’s communication. Take a look at the holiday advertising from 2013 around Thanksgiving.

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No one is talking about family time, or cheer or anything about being thankful. It’s purely about the specials, and which store can be open earliest in the morning and offer the best deal on an iPad. The entire thing has spun out of control a bit with us trampling each other down to get the most savings possible.

Last year, 2013, brands took it up a notch in the United States as they were allowed to open their doors on the holiday Monday. The weekend sales records hit the 2 billion dollar mark as people flooded into big box stores across the United States to gobble up the endless deals.

As an advertiser, it saddens me that all creativity and brand voice is lost at this time of the year, not only are brands encouraging people to buy, buy, buy instead of hang out with their families, they are doing it in such an uninteresting way. If the brands are going to steal Thanksgiving at least make us laugh while you do it!

On Getting Out of Your Own Way

So you need to amp up your marketing? And how do you plan to do that? You know we can help, and maybe you have an inkling as to how we do that. But what else do you know about getting the project under way?

We have plenty of clients whose main work is not the Internet, it’s not marketing and it’s not what we do. They run companies or departments, and often have facilities with numerous staff to manage. They don’t have time to sit down and babysit a marketing project and neither do you.

And yet – how can you ensure that you won’t get in your own way?

Determine your goal

Yes, marketing can be a panacea to all sorts of business ailments, but let’s get real. What do you really need? What are you actually trying to achieve? More people in the door? Supporting your customers? Sell more products? Sell new products? These are all goals that we can help you achieve – you just need to vocalize them.

TrippingDetermine your timing and budget

Yes, there is affordability to consider, but there’s also the consideration of ROI. What return on your investment are you expecting? This should directly correlate to your primary goal. Your timeline should also be contingent on your goals and budget. Think carefully: are there important events we should be notified about? Is there a product launch or event happening? Sure, we all want everything yesterday, but be honest, will it make a big difference if you have it today or in three weeks?

Another really important consideration is your contribution to the project. It’s important to start a project with your eyes open and see what you’re getting into. What are your constraints? Whether it’s time, budget or ability, there are ways to customize the work done to accommodate your needs. We want to support you, but you need to know what you are capable of in terms of contribution, approval timing, and so on. It’s much harder to embark on a new project with set deadlines if you can’t provide required items like logos, images, text, and important information within a predetermined “reasonable” period of time. It might cost more to have us do it for you, but then all you need to do is place your confidence in us that we will get the job done (and say YES)!

Most importantly – when your priorities change – get in touch! The sooner the better, when circumstances change, opportunities arise, or tasks and projects need to be rearranged, don’t feel bad about calling us. We want to know as much as you do how to move forward together.

The point is: when we sign a contract, we’re working together. When one or the other lags behind, we’re not working together, someone is playing catch-up.

What Do Interns Really Want?

internsHaving interns is pretty lovely – they’re smart, eager and always want to do more.Having them around allows us to concentrate on providing better service to our clients and fulfill their needs more than ever.

Lately there has been a lot of media attention concerning the ethics of having interns, paid vs. unpaid internships, etc. so we decided to ask a couple of our interns to be honest with us about their expectations and here is what we learned:

Relevant work:
As Stephen pointed out, the old trope of interns being relegated to fetching coffee, photocopying and acting as general assistant to anyone in the department is played out and irrelevant to interns seeking real work experience. At Brendan & Brendan, we make sure that we assign relevant work to our interns’ interests, skill sets and skill levels. We like to challenge our crew, but we don’t like to give them impossible things to do either. It doesn’t hurt that they feel their work matters. I find it results in better quality work and shows that they take responsibility for the work they submit.

Hard work:
For the interns, it was explained that it was important to have enough work to be busy to feel needed. But also not to be worked so hard that you’re taken advantage of.

Feel appreciated:
At Brendan & Brendan, we’re a small nucleus of full-time workers, so the interns and contractors we hire have to be people we trust and find responsible. As a result, Megan pointed out that we definitely appreciate them and it shows.

Mentorship, networking and building connections:
These three go hand-in-hand. According to Linnea, a lot of internships are unpaid, and so part of the expected results are a close relationship with someone already working and established in the industry. Ideally, this is a person who you can trust to guide you career-wise as well as in terms of quality of work. It’s also handy to have someone who can introduce you to relevant people, help you get into useful networking situations and help you hone your skills.

Building a portfolio:
This one is particularly important to most interns. Although they work for us at Brendan & Brendan, the work they produce needs to be relevant and transferable to the jobs they seek whether within our company or outside.

As an intern or someone looking for interns, what else should be on this list?

Starting a startup is the new writing a novel

Have you got a startup on the side and you think you’re disrupting whole industries? Think that you’re unique? I’m here to say you’re not. Let’s face some hard truths together, I’ll hold your hand through it.

Starting a startup is the new writing a novel.

Writer Once, twenty-somethings, usually men, felt they had enough life experience and good ideas to fill pages, inspire a generation, and write the next great American novel while selling millions of copies. Now, they quit school, learn to code and think they have the ideas that will retain millions of users and sell for billions of dollars.

But how can this be? Anyone can write a novel, right? Well now anyone can also start their own startup. With advances in tech and the democratization of the internet, owning a computer, a smartphone and/or a tablet has become commonplace within the same demographics that yearned to pen the so-called “unique” stories that lived within their souls. The same demographics who would have once been prime candidates for pulling out their hair while staring at a blank page are now pulling out their hair learning to code instead.

bug-featureThink about it: aside from coding (which isn’t always necessary anymore – there are plenty of non-technical founders), writing a novel and starting a startup are almost one and the same. They require tenacity, determination, and a beautiful cross between self-delusion and self-confidence that the founder will be part of the minute percentage that makes it. It also requires a lot of self-motivation, selling to get the novel/startup off the ground, and both types to get involved in these types of projects are usually quite clever and intelligent.

Often, a novel or a startup begins on the side while trying to turn becoming an author or becoming an entrepreneur into a full-time gig. Both types commonly require large cash advances and require large amounts of time, energy and concentration to make it. They also require a huge amount of focus, sophistication and expertise – more than most people posses or expect. Both dream of being able to quit their day jobs to pursue their dreams full-time (oh wait – who doesn’t?).

And the failure rates are quite similar too, most people fail in both cases – most writers never finish writing their first manuscript, and if they do, the majority won’t get book deals, while approximately 90% of startups fail within the first year.

So if young people writing semi-autobiographical novels is considered frivolous navel-gazing, how would you categorize the current slew of cute, cool startups? Because let’s face it, the vast majority of startups aren’t changing the world.

SR&ED 101

Guest post by Mark Maclean

Do I qualify?
The best place to start is with the basic question “Do I qualify?”. For most companies I meet, in any industry, the short answer is “Yes!” Don’t be scared by the name of the program. The title can actually be broken down into two separate parts, Scientific Research and Experimental Development. Most companies will qualify for the experimental development aspect. Experimental development is essentially attempting to better your business or product(s) through a technical means. Bottom line is that if you are trying to develop or improve a part of your business process or one of your products then you should be taking a closer look at the SR&ED program.

What’s the value to me?
Once you’ve determined that you have projects in your business that might be eligible, the next question is, inevitably, what can be claimed for a credit? You can claim a tax credit on salaries, subcontractors and materials related to the SR&ED performed by your business. An amount for overhead cost is also included, but that is calculated through the use of the salaries. For the purpose of these numbers, I’ll use an example of a small private company that is eligible for the maximum credit rates in Quebec. These percentages vary across Canada, but if you are operating in Quebec you can get a tax credit of up to 80% of eligible salaries, 40% of eligible subcontractors and 35% of eligible materials. The bottom line on what qualifies is that you can get a refund of up to 80% of the costs associated to an eligible project. You should be aware that as your company grows the tax credit rates can be reduced, however if you are operating in Quebec you will always be entitled to at least a 17.5% cash credit.

How long does it take to get the cash?
When I get asked this question I tell people not to expect their money before 6 months of submitting the claim. For example, if you have December year end, your accountant has up to 6 months to submit your taxes. Let’s say he submits them at the deadline at the end of June. In my experience, the federal government will give you an answer in 3 to 4 months whether it’s accepted or under audit. If accepted, you should receive a check from the federal government within the next month and a check for the provincial amount in the following month. These timeframes can vary significantly but as a first time claimant I wouldn’t count on getting your money any sooner than this. We have seen claims accepted within two weeks, but this is more the exception than the rule.

You mentioned the possibility of an audit. I’m scared!
Don’t be! An audit is not a bad thing. As long as you make sure your projects are documented and are eligible under the criteria of the program, you should not be worried. Normally the same auditor is assigned to your file for every year it is submitted, so if they think you don’t know what you are doing or trying to claim projects that are not eligible, they may have to come back year after year to verify your claim. On the other hand, if you are able to defend your claim to the government and justify your SR&ED costs you will be in good standing for future claims.

SR&ED sounds great, where else can I get money?
It’s true; the SR&ED program is a great program. There are also a number of other programs for which you could be eligible depending on your industry. For example, another program that many IT companies apply for is the E-Business program administered by Investissement Quebec. The goal when combining different tax credits is to claim them in the most efficient manner so that you are maximizing the total amounts you could possibly get.

Overall, the SR&ED program is a great program to help support your development activity. There is no limit on how small or how big of a company you need to be. The only restriction to getting any money back is that you have to spend money on eligible work. If you are not claiming yet I would suggest you at take a close look to ensure you are not missing cash refunds. Any good business should be attempting to get better every day, and many times these activities can be eligible for some money from the government. Imagine what you could do with an extra 80% of your development costs each year.


MacleanMarkAbout Mark Maclean

Mark works in the Business Tax Incentive and SR&ED department for EY in the Montreal office. As a Manager at Ernst & Young, Mark is responsible for working with companies of all sizes to identify and prepare any business tax incentives that they would be eligible for.