Blog Archives

Penna Powers took home some serious hardware at the 30th annual Golden Spike Awards Gala on Nov. 16. We earned six Golden Spike awards and one finalist award at the 2017 Golden Spikes in categories ranging from research for governments/non-profits to community relations.

2017 Golden Spikes

Golden Spike Awards

Harmons Grocery Local Print Ads

Category: Print display advertising
Harmons Grocery has been operating in Utah since 1932. What started out as a farmstand has blossomed into a progressive chain of grocery stores committed to quality food, unsurpassed service and community wellbeing. Supporting local vendors has always been at the forefront of Harmons mission, in fact, Harmons has been an integral cog in helping many local businesses get started. Over 2,300 products sold in Harmons are local items. With this in mind, Harmons asked Penna Powers to develop print ads with an emphasis on local. The ads featuring local products and produce were placed in various local Utah publications reaching more than 250,000 in readers.


UCAIR & Penna Powers: Show Them UCAIR

Category: Community relations
UCAIR and Penna Powers have conducted fully-integrated educational campaigns for the past several winters, when Utah’s air quality suffers most. Research in early 2016 showed that Utahns are concerned about air quality, but many believe air quality challenges are beyond their control. However, research participants activated around the issue when presented with the health impacts poor air can have on those they love. Building on this insight, UCAIR and Penna Powers created the “Kidult” campaign, inviting Utahns to “Show Them UCAIR” by changing behaviors to reduce emissions.


UDOT & Penna Powers: UDOT 1-15 Tech Corridor

Category: External audience videos
Utah County is growing rapidly, resulting in commute-time traffic jams. The Utah Department of Transportation planned to expand I-15, but funding wouldn’t arrive until 2020. In 2017, the State Legislature approved a bond to accelerate construction.
A public awareness survey showed that only 24 percent of locals knew a project was coming. UDOT developed a video to educate stakeholders on the project and announce the accelerated timeline. The video link was emailed to government and business leaders and promoted on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to area residents and commuters.


UDOT & Penna Powers: UDOT TravelWise

Category: Research for government/non-profits
In order to establish a baseline around the TravelWise Program, UDOT conducted a general public telephone survey of Wasatch Front residents through Lighthouse Research & Development, Inc. The research included a total of 810 interviews. It was the first time that research of this scale had been done on the TravelWise campaign. It substantiated our belief that the campaign is necessary, surprised us in the level of program awareness, and provided actionable insights that are currently being pursued by the team.


IDOT & Penna Powers: Iowa Zero Fatalities “Impaired Sports”

Category: Social media for government/non-profits

With 32 percent of all traffic fatalities caused by alcohol related crashes, Zero Fatalities Iowa identified a need to address impaired driving with residents. In an effort to reduce fatalities, Iowa Zero Fatalities implemented a social awareness campaign during NFL and NCAA sporting seasons targeting men ages 18-49. Event targeting reminded spectators to get a sober ride home after the game. The campaign successfully, reached 59.8 percent of the target audience and helped lift overall Zero Fatalities awareness by two percentage points.


UCAIR & Penna Powers: UCAIR Illustrated Inversion Education Video

Category: Photography and illustration
The Utah Clean Air Partnership (UCAIR) is a non-profit dedicated to clean air. UCAIR and Penna Powers have conducted fully-integrated educational campaigns for the past several winters, when Utah’s air quality suffers most. Part of the challenge of getting Utahns to engage around air quality is overcoming their general low awareness that what they do does, in fact, make a difference in pollution levels. Many believe nothing can be done about Utah’s poor winter air episodes due to the meteorology and geography of the local airshed. During the 2016-17 winter campaign, we produced an illustrated educational video to attack this issue head-on.


Gold Spike Finalist Award

UDOT & Penna Powers: Zero Fatalities

Category: Community relations
To reduce traffic-related deaths between Memorial and Labor Day, Zero Fatalities implemented a multifaceted campaign called the “100 Deadliest Days.” As titled, the campaign focused on educating Utahns about (1) the 100 DD of summer when roadway deaths nearly double in Utah and (2) how to best prevent a traffic-related tragedy during the summer. Not only has the campaign performed exceptionally well in reach, frequency and engagement – As of August 23, there have been 12 less roadway related deaths this summer when compared to this same time last year.


The Golden Spike Awards measure effectiveness regarding research, planning, execution, evaluation and project content. A Golden Spike Finalist is awarded to entries that earn at least 80 out of 100 points; the highest scoring entry earns a Golden Spike. The annual competition is sponsored by the Utah Chapters of the Public Relations Society of America, the International Association of Business Communicator and the Utah Society for Healthcare Communication and Marketing.

Additionally, President and Managing Partner Dave Smith, APR received the Professional of the Year award.

Thank you to our clients for your continued partnership. While we are proud to produce award-winning campaigns, what matters the most is driving meaningful change together.

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Brand Hijacking

Brand hijacking could be one of the most effective ways to get your brand noticed. In the example to your left, a boutique kitchen supply company named Gygi in Salt Lake City designed its billboards to match that of Cavalia, arguably the largest billboard advertiser Salt Lake City has ever seen. This year, there was a Cavalia billboard on nearly every mile of the freeway and dotting every neighborhood.

This marketing tactic, brand hijacking, works because of the media phenomenon of frequency. When one sees an ad, one does not actually “see” it the first time. Your eyes looked, but the connection to your brain about the message just isn’t usually made in the first impression. In the case of billboards, it usually takes up to 10 ad impressions (times seeing the billboard) to actually recognize it. Between 10-20 impressions in a month is the sweet spot, because when one sees the billboard one understands the message.

Now here’s where brand hijacking comes in.

A brand, such as Cavalia, has spent a lot of money to get its audience up to a 10 frequency to really start understanding their message. Now when Gygi, runs it doesn’t need to spend the money to get up to a 10 frequency, the audience has already seen it. But with the subtle differences the audience recognizes it immediately. Their brains start comparing it to the boards they’re familiar with. And all of a sudden, when it’s time to buy kitchen supplies, they find themselves at Gygi.

Brand hijacking is used in every media channel. Probably one of the most common examples is where a commercial is shot with the same look and feel of the television show it’s running on. For example, you’re watching The Walking Dead and fast-forwarding through the commercials, when all of a sudden you see zombies so you unpause. You then realize it’s not The Walking Dead at all, but just an Audi commercial. Clever, huh?

Hopefully the next time you see a familiar ad you’ll think twice.

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Writing a request for proposal (RFP) for your company’s marketing needs can be daunting. You want the best firms to respond, and you want to really get a sample of what their work is like. But having to summarize the entirety of your organizational goals, target audience, invoicing process and a million other considerations into a succinct document is nearly impossible. Here are some tips when writing your next RFP:

  1. State your expected budget. Too often, RFPs leave off a budget, usually on purpose to see what the agency proposes. But, there is a big difference between a $100,000 marketing budget and $1,000,000 marketing budget. If you want to see what the agency proposes at different cost levels, then tell them the different cost levels. The best RFPs say “for the sake of this RFP, our expected marketing budget next year is ____.” Personally, I review a lot of RFP submissions for digital media, and it’s impossible to compare them if they’re all different budget amounts.
  1. Only include references if you’ll use them. Obviously, the references a marketing firm will give will all be positive and won’t really help you in the evaluation process. Consider alternate ways to get references – ask around, have them list a client they no longer do business with, or just consider having specific letters of recommendation in the proposal (e.g. how often do they provide proactive recommendations?). Just like when you’re interviewing someone for a job, you need to be able to get useful information from the references.
  1. Don’t ask “yes” and “no” questions. If you’re asking the question, it must be important. Instead of asking “Does your agency use do video in-house?” you could ask “Please describe your video capabilities and the expected cost of a 30-second spot.” This will yield superior answers and help you to better compare the submissions .
  1. Steps to writing a marketing RFPInclude target audience information. If your target audience is residents who live five miles from your store, then say it! Too often, RFPs keep this hidden or say they want submitters to define the target audience. Wouldn’t you rather have proposals that outline what media channels your target audience uses, what drives them and what messaging would resonate better with them?
  1. Proof your RFP. We’ve all seen a Powerpoint presentation that was obviously put together by more than one person. It has different font sizes, a different layout and just doesn’t look professional. It reflects poorly on those presenters. The same goes for a marketing RFP – even though it’s easy to change your fonts, is the message consistent? As a firm that submits many marketing proposals, usually the questions we ask after reading it have to do with this: Do you want the target audience as you stated in the background section or the scope of work section? You’ll get better proposals if your RFP is consistent and error-free.

A good way to gauge how well-written your RFP is would be to see how many questions you get. If there’s few questions from submitting firms then it was a success, but if you get lots of questions then you missed some crucial pieces. Oftentimes good firms will read over an RFP and choose not to submit based on the quality of it. You don’t want that to happen to you.

As a bonus, most marketing RFPs follow this format.

Marketing RFP Format

Purpose of RFP – Why it’s being issued (usually contract expiring).

Background – What your company or organization does and the challenge or opportunity faced.

Question & Answer Period – Details how to ask questions and the deadline to submit questions.

Restrictions on Communications – Don’t allow firms to communicate or wine and dine your employees.

Submitting a Proposal – How to submit a proposal with the deadline.

Length of Contract & Terms & Conditions – All the legalities.

Interviews – If you want to interview the top submitting companies, this is where you put that.

Qualifications – Ask for proposals to include related work, business license and bios of employees.

Scope of Work – This is the most important part. It outlines what you want done (e.g. PR, media buying, a website, etc.) and gives details about your target audience and your goals for each.

Technical Response – Details how you’ll evaluate the response. Most firms use a point value, for example: references are worth 100 points.

Proposal Format – Outlines exactly how you want proposals laid out (e.g. page 1 is the title page, page 2 is the executive summary, etc.).

Proposal Evaluation – Shows who will evaluate the proposal and the expected timeline.

Obviously, this format would change based on the scope of the RFP, but these items are typically included. We hope you will consider these guidelines for your next marketing RFP to get the best responses. Now that we’ve helped you make your next RFP easier, please make sure to invite us.

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Digital analytics is booming, but it’s still so new and everchanging that there aren’t any textbooks yet. Sure, there are online certifications like Google Analytics, but those are really specific to a channel. And those keep changing too! After teaching a course on digital analytics and interacting with students every day, here’s what I have learned:

You don’t need to have technical skills to be an excellent analyst. You need to be curious. Ask questions. Be unafraid to shake the boat. Oftentimes, the big insight isn’t in the raw data – it’s in the patterns.

I’ll walk you through an example.

After running a digital campaign with interactive banner ads (the user could draw on them), we had a standard summary report which included impressions, placements, clicks, actions, interactivity with the units, time of day, and all the normal stats that come with a summary report. But then we were curious – did the interactive units really move the needle? Would it have been better to have just run static ads with more impressions? Here’s the data:

Type Impressions Clicks CTR Submissions Submission Rate
Rich Media 5,135,652 1,326 0.03% 121 0.00236%
Static Images 477,143 1,110 0.23% 11 0.00231%
Total 5,612,795 2,436 0.04% 132 0.00235%

Rich Media additional stats:

  • Display time – 322,395,407 seconds (613.39 years)
  • Interaction time – 970,907 seconds (1.75 years)
  • Average interaction time – 5.0 seconds
  • Interaction rate – 3.6%
  • Total interactions – 184,702


If we would have just looked at CTR, then the static images were far better (0.23% compared to .03%). If we were to just look at the submission rate, then the rich media units barely beat out the static ones (.236% compared to .231%). But then we started to weigh interactions. On a static banner, one can just see it and click. On a rich media unit, one can interact with it. The rich media units had a 3.6% interaction rate, with each user spending five seconds in the unit, spending a cumulative time of 920,907 seconds (1.75 years) interacting with the units.

So to take it the next step further, does 1.75 years of interactivity outweigh a lower click through rate? Does it justify a higher ad serving cost? We did the math and found the cost-per-click to be 9x higher with the rich media units. However, if you looked at cost-per-action (interaction or click) the cost was actually 2x lower with the rich media units. The end goal was awareness and submissions, and the rich media units played a vital part in the success of the campaign.

Lastly, if you’re asking yourself why the conversion rate was so low – first please apply for a job at Penna Powers, but then rest assured that we dove into this as well. We looked at the conversion funnel and identified an area where most users were dropping off and were able to correct it.

Obviously every campaign is different. If one learned to always look at CTR, then one would miss the impact of the rich media units.

Curiosity helps in the approach. None of these calculations required more math than division or multiplication.

When teaching my students how to approach problems analytically, we start with creativity exercises, such as writing down 20 uses for a thumbtack. We then do a mountain of case studies. Even though every problem is different in the real world, the case studies help students become familiar looking at patterns. Lastly, we just do a lot of analysis on real companies. Again, every analytical problem is a little different, but for example it helps to see a few ecommerce problems along the way.

Teaching students entering the workforce has so many parallels to our self-learning at work. I’m amazed at how few professionals develop the analytical skills necessary to excel in their jobs. Whenever someone tells me that they’re “not a numbers person” I just think to myself that few people are. We’re humans and all like pretty pictures over an Excel spreadsheet. But we all are curious. So take an hour out of your day and go hunting for some patterns. You might be surprised what insights you find.

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Is the student ‘very interested’ or ‘fascinated’?iStock_000068846113_Medium

Do you prefer being described as ‘very smart’ or ‘brilliant’?

Is the celebrity ‘very attractive’ or ‘pulchritudinous?

Don’t worry, I had to look it up too. But I wanted to prove a point. This point: The English language holds a flood of wildy descriptive words, ripe for the choosing. Nothing should be ‘very scary’ when there’s ‘alarming’, ‘chilling’, ‘horrifying’, ‘spine-curling’, ‘hair raising’, ‘bloodcurdling’ … the list goes on.

‘Very’ does nothing to support your writing, rather, ‘very’ subverts it. None of us are perfect. I’m the first to admit ‘very’ sometimes feels right. When that happens, let’s apply the following:

“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very’; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” — Mark Twain

Got it? ‘Damn’ good.

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#1 Ad Agency in Utah Web Traffic Last 12 Months. Source:

We wanted to thank our website visitors for making us the #1 agency website in Utah in terms of unique visitors and pageviews. (source: is currently ranked as the 180,589th site in the world, averaging over 50,000 visitors per month. Our website visitors love our blog and capabilities pages, and we actively work to optimize our site and provide meaningful content.

Penna Powers applies the same principles of success for its clients. If your company is looking for help with your search engine optimization or marketing strategy, please contact us today!

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Working as a media planner gives me the opportunity to interface with a lot of sales reps. Their titles vary from account managers, business development executives, marketing specialists, or sales managers, but they all share the same central role – to get people to use their company’s services.

Media planners act as giant filters. They are tasked with analyzing all of the opportunities available and fitting them into a client’s media plan that helps achieve specific goals.

Sales reps and media planners have a symbiotic relationship. One thrives along with the other. A good media planner is always looking for new opportunities, and a good sales rep provides those opportunities.

What creates the most value for a media planner (and their client) is for a sales rep to provide relevant information for their product. This is the best form of selling. My favorite reps send regular updates, for example:

  • Showing what’s new in their platform
  • A recent success
  • A new product
  • An idea they’ve had for one of my clients

That keeps them top-of-mind, and I make updates to a spreadsheet of all the companies and their product offerings that I work with. I’ll oftentimes pass along this list to my colleagues and clients, which creates long-term value.

Bad salesmanship usually falls into one of four categories, with all being related to selling blindly without an objective in mind. Some of the worst things sales reps can can do are:

  • Wildly ask to get on the next proposal
  • Just follow up casually
  • State that they’ve seen our client advertising and asking why it’s not with them
  • Do the above mentioned items through email

A good salesperson cultivates relationships with their clients. Because those relationships typically aren’t built through email, neither should their sales pitches. I’ve compiled a few emails my colleagues and I have received that showcase this form of poor salesmanship.

Example 1 – Overselling

I wanted to reach out to you to get the specs for the upcoming digital campaign for client X. Are we looking at $3,500 -5,000 for this campaign? Please let me know so that I can reserve the impressions for you. It’s a hot commodity because of its efficiency and I want to ensure that we can fulfill your request.

Example 2 – Blind Selling

I want to gain your endorsement as a visionary in the digital space. There have been features integrated into our platform which I believe you’ll find impressive. I implore you to get on board, grab the future by the lapels and run a native advertising campaign to amplify your branded content. May we count on your support?

Example 3 – Why Isn’t It Me?

We noticed that you guys have a billboard on the I-15 talking about this and that. We can take this to the next level for you guys. We can run banners on the site. Press releases. You could even sponsor our X show that goes out through the FB feed, on the website, etc. Seriously, Jennifer, you guys are not taking advantage of our services. We even have the coupon of the week that goes out to X email subscribers that KILLS it. Let’s do something. How do we get started?

Example 4 – Casual Follow Up / Passive Stalking / WTF?

Just popping by and checking in on your current planning at Penna Powers. Below are two photos of what I would look like if I were a caterpillar of sorts just checking in, or a dolphin just popping by. Let me know the scoop when you’re able.

Bad Sales Emails

Bad Sales Emails





These images were actually embedded into the email.

We hope our clients appreciate the work we do to filter these, and that anyone selling can learn what is most valuable to provide to media planners.

What’s your worst sales email? Let us know in the comments.

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Have you ever wondered what the largest sporting events in Utah are? We’ve compiled two lists – one for the most attended sporting events in Utah and another for the most watched TV sports programs in Utah. We use these lists to evaluate sports sponsorships and to buy TV packages in general.

7 Most Attended Sporting Events in Utah

  1. Utah Jazz – 19.8% of all Utahns reported attending a game in the last year.
  2. Salt Lake Bees – 15.7%
  3. BYU Football – 11.0%
  4. Real Salt Lake Soccer – 10.3%
  5. University of Utah Football – 8.3%
  6. Utah Grizzlies Hockey – 7.1%
  7. BYU Basketball – 6.4%

7 Most Watched TV Sports Programs in Utah

  1. Super Bowl – 45.8% of all Utahns reported watching this in the past year.
  2. Olympics – 40.2%
  3. NFL Playoffs – 31.9%
  4. NBA Finals – 24.7%
  5. Utah Jazz – 24.0%
  6. Bowl Games – 23.5%
  7. BYU Football – 20.7%

Data Source: Scarborough Salt Lake City Feb14-Jan15 release

Were you surprised by any of these? Dismayed that the University of Utah has less attendance and viewership than Brigham Young University? Let us know in the comments!

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Let’s face it, like any company we see people come and go. But unlike most agencies, we see people come… go… and come back again. And we lovingly title such individuals as members of the “boomerang club.”

Penna Powers has been awarded the Utah Business “Best Company to Work For” three years in a row. But more than awards, “the proof is in the puddin’,” as Penna Powers attracts talented individuals dedicated to the company culture. However, with many talented professionals, outside opportunities come a knockin’ and some P2ers may leave the fold…but it rarely lasts. For example, Bobby Brinton left for 8 days before realizing his mistake and Christine Menges lasted 16 days. Stacy Johnson took what she now refers to as her “summer vacation.”

It was such an epidemic that the office has commemorated the group with a plaque.


I remember sitting in my interview for Zero Fatalities PR Manager eight months ago. At the start, the questions were to be expected: “Tell us about your work experience,” “why are you interested in the position,” “why would you be a good fit”…etc. etc. etc. And then the questions changed: “What three word slogan would you put on a billboard promoting yourself?” and “what’s your spirit animal?” I laughed initially thinking it was a joke, but based on the expressions in the room I realized they were truly waiting for my answers.

As bizarre as the interview may have seemed, I walked out knowing Penna Powers was where I wanted to be, where I could work hard and succeed. Not because they asked ridiculous questions, but because they cared to find a good fit, and as a result, I love my job every day.

The long and the short of it: You’d be crazy to work with any other firm, in my VERY unbiased opinion. If you don’t believe me, come spend some time at 1706 Major Street, walk the halls and see for yourself. #dareya

[SIDE NOTE: I believe I said my spirit animal was a jaguar, and there’s no way I remember what my three word slogan was but I remember it wasn’t half bad. Before the interview was over I did ask my interviewers to divulge THEIR spirit animals. I won’t say exactly who was who. Just know I was being interviewed by Justin Smart, Dave Smith and Brent Wilhite – and the animals listed: a duck, a horse and a meerkat. I’ll let you determine the rest.]


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Relay Utah is an organization that helps the hard of hearing stay connected with the ones they love. Recently Penna Powers and Relay Utah decided to add a new TV spot to freshen up the existing mix. By showing the smiling faces of loved ones, we were able create a fun and relatable ad that encourages those with hearing loss to apply for a free phone from Relay Utah.


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