Media Receives First Google Certifications

Some members of the Media team have made a huge accomplishment in earning their first Google Display and Video certifications last month.

Elizabeth Rodriguez, Jessica Middleton, Katie Reeves, and Michele Alfano all received their certifications to better assist our clients in setting up digital ads that are managed by Media.

“It’s always good to learn new things! I had some excellent training from my Media coworkers that was helpful in obtaining the Google Display and Video Certifications. I am excited for the opportunity to enhance my skill set and build on my Digital Buying.” – Michele

 

“Being new to advertising in general, these Google certifications helped me finally see exactly how our digital ads work. I never quite understood what went into creating our digital and video ads, I only knew my small piece in the puzzle, but after going through these courses, I now see the big picture! I am now able to confidently help in almost any digital task and that is a great feeling to have, especially when still being ‘new’ to our department.” – Elizabeth

 

Hats off to these team members for Improving Every Day and helping our clients drive more traffic!

A SAM Love Story

More than two decades ago, SAM celebrated its first love story. Connie and Bill Marefka met while working at the agency and are now celebrating their 24th year of marriage.

This year, we welcome our second SAM marriage of Emily Quintana and Jonathan Hubauer. Here is the story of how the young couple met and how their family is growing in the future.

Serendipity at Strong

Summer was in its final hour. The weeks of endless heatwaves would soon give way to cooler days and all that autumn promises. A few members of Team SAM decide to seize these waning estival moments and meet up after work for a social event.

Out of chance, Emily and Jonathan ended up at the same event. Their first conversations centered around the commonplace – work experiences, agency life, stories from the office. But soon, they found themselves connecting on a deeper level. The two began seeing one another, and three months later they had moved into an apartment together at the Thomas Jefferson Tower.

“I didn’t think too much of it when we started telling people at work,” Emily recounted. “It was pretty random; our departments rarely work together, and even to this day I’ve never interacted with Jonathan’s role. So it came as a surprise to a lot of people.”

As time wore on, the two decided to rent a house together in the Crestline neighborhood of Birmingham. Their first day in the new home, between unpacking boxes and checking lightbulbs, Emily had an intuitive feeling in the back of her mind. She decided it was time to find out the facts. Her suspicions turned out to be true: Emily and Jonathan were having a baby.

“I told Jonathan once I knew,” Emily said. “Naturally, he had a small freakout moment at first, but we knew it was meant to be and we would eventually get married. It was a surprise, but it kind of fit the rest of our relationship – moving at lightspeed.”

Emily is due to give birth on July 14 to Holden Patrick Hubauer. Their son’s middle name is a tribute to Jonathan’s twin brother’s first name.

Emily expressed gratitude for having a house before the baby arrives.

“Pushing a stroller down 2nd avenue isn’t something I wanted to do,” Emily said in reference to the couple’s TJ Tower apartment. “I’m very glad we’re already moved into our house.”

The nursery is nearly ready according to Emily, only lacking a few finishing touches before the all-important day arrives. The hospital now allows two guests in addition to Jonathan, so the couple is excited to have more of their family present for Holden’s arrival.

Emily’s engagement ring, a reset of Jonathan’s grandmother’s ring.

Emily and Jonathan are set to wed this weekend at Jonathan’s family home. It will be a courtyard ceremony with family present. The same pastor who married Jonathan’s older brother will preside over the ceremony, and afterward the group will have dinner, cake, and fellowship.

“We plan to do a larger reception for friends and family sometime next year,” Emily said. “We wanted to wait for that so Holden can be a part of it, too.”

Team SAM is happy to celebrate our second agency wedding, and we send many good wishes to Emily, Jonathan, and baby Holden.

Madeline Masters a Pandemic

March 2020

Fifteen minutes.

That was all Account Coordinator Madeline Gammill had to pack her dorm, look around, and say goodbye to her undergraduate career.

Madeline spent spring break in Florida, and that’s where she was when America realized the severity of the novel coronavirus. Samford University instructed its on-campus students to return, giving them a mere quarter of an hour to collect their effects before transitioning completely online.

As seniors preparing to take final exams, the news was anxiety-provoking for many.

“Our professors went easy on us, luckily,” Madeline said. “On my last day, I only had one final to take. One final out of five classes. I remember shutting my laptop when I was finished and thinking, I guess that’s it.

It was an anticlimactic ending to a milestone moment. While Samford tried its best to reschedule graduation, the university was eventually forced to switch to a virtual ceremony.

“I had to work the day they aired the ceremony,” Madeline said. “It felt like it never actually happened.”

Before the pandemic emerged, Madeline always had the idea of pursuing her MBA. But she planned to work in the industry for about five years before returning to school. After completing her undergraduate program in marketing with a sales minor, Madeline struggled to find work in an abysmal job market. She eventually took a retail position, feeling she was more drawn to a career in sales.

“I needed a little bit of work experience to figure out what I wanted to do,” Madeline said. “I realized I hated working on commission, and I wanted a better work culture fit than the one I had at my retail position.”

She talked with her parents and decided to make the most of this bizarre time in the world. That June, she enrolled in the MBA program at Samford.

Recognizing the unique constraints placed on students in 2020, Samford waived the GRE requirements for both semesters. Classes were entirely virtual until spring 2021. The unexpected change in format taught Madeline skills she has been able to apply to real-life business.

“Figuring out how to collaborate virtually is a skill that will become way more common,” Madeline said. “I had a lot of practice with things like gathering people virtually for a group project and learning to present over Zoom. I remember my professor’s biggest critique was that we weren’t engaging enough when presenting. I learned that you have to put extra effort into emoting to come across animated over video. Those skills have prepared me for the future of business.”

Madeline’s courses continued in virtual format until the spring semester, where they transitioned to two virtual, and two in-person. At the same time, she learned to balance the demands of being a full-time student with those of being a full-time employee at SAM.

“My mom got the brunt of my stress,” Madeline said. “I called her daily on lunch to vent. It was tough to balance. My finals week lined up with Fact Week here.”

Balancing the two required Madeline to improve her organization skills and to use her free time wisely.

“I had to make sacrifices knowing that my grades probably wouldn’t be exactly where I wanted them, but there was a lot on my plate,” Madeline said. “I didn’t have all day to study for an accounting exam like other students did.”

Despite the challenges, she did it. Madeline graduated with her MBA on May 8, 2021. This time, she was able to celebrate in person with her family, friends, and peers. Looking back, Madeline sees the serendipity of the situation.

“I think if I waited five years like I planned, I don’t know if I would have done it,” Madeline said. “It would’ve been way harder to go back, especially if I had to take the GRE.”

Now, Madeline has accomplished her goal and can take a moment to enjoy the fruits of her labor.

“I don’t think I’ll realize how bad it was until later,” Madeline said. “Monday was my first day getting off at 5 p.m. and having nothing I had to do. I could just do my laundry and turn my brain off.”

Congratulations, Madeline from all your SAM family for persevering and Improving Every Day.

Brad Bieber

Sixth-grader Brad Price strolled through the halls of the Riverchase Galleria, idly gazing into storefronts when something caught his eye. A lady was approaching him with a look of excitement on her face.

“Have you ever heard that you look just like Justin Bieber?” the lady asked.

A few moments later, Brad had his first paid Bieber appearance. And after successfully impersonating the Biebs at the mallgoer’s daughter’s birthday party, he realized he could take his uncanny resemblance further.

 

Making Bieber a Business

Brad got in touch with a local dance studio in Hoover, where he emulated a video of Justin Bieber’s song Baby. After learning the dance, he made a Facebook page and a website. Before long, the bookings started flowing in.

“When I first started, I was the talk of the town,” Brad said. “Being on the news was pretty cool, too.”

Brad’s Bieber career included birthday parties, dance competitions, and publicity events for the dance studio he worked with. His biggest success came when Macy’s Corporate hired him to appear at the Riverchase Galleria location for the launch of Justin Bieber’s perfume.

When Justin Bieber came to Birmingham in 2013, he received a call from Scooter Braun, Justin Bieber’s manager.

“It was crazy talking to a guy that famous when I was just a teenager,” Brad said of the two-minute phone call.

While the Macy’s event was his biggest appearance, it wasn’t his most cherished. Brad’s favorite Bieber moment was when he attended a special needs event and saw the impact it made on the kids there.

 

Retiring and Revisiting

Brad’s stint lasted from early middle school until his freshman year of high school. Several factors including Bieber’s shorter haircut, lessened demand for birthday parties, and Brad’s desire for a rebrand led him to shutter the business.

Brad Bieber lay dormant until team members at SAM found out about his past. When the March squad challenge came around, S3 knew exactly who they needed. 

“Bringing back Bieber was nothing new,” Brad said. “I’ve never been camera shy. When I was younger, my grandmother and mom were always taking photos and home videos of me. I did theatre growing up. I’ve just always been comfortable in front of the camera.”

If you missed Brad’s performance, you can watch the S3 squad video here.

Amanda’s Adoption Journey

Amanda Dunn Adoption Photo

For as long as she can remember, Sr. Social Media Coordinator Amanda Dunn has wanted a big family. The lively holiday celebrations, packed family photos, and joyful chaos that come with a house full of kids were always part of her plan. With a mix of fate, faith, and determination, that dream is becoming a reality for Amanda and her husband, Josh. The two recently announced the beginning of their Domestic Infant Adoption journey, and Amanda shared what led them to this momentous decision.

“As far back as my mission trip in college, I had always talked about adoption,” Amanda said. “It’s always something that has been on my heart.”

When the Dunns decided this might be their path to parenthood, Amanda’s father mentioned an old high school friend who works in the adoption field. After connecting with her, the couple realized adoption was meant to be. They began reaching out to agencies and starting the first steps.

The Dunns have an adoption consultant to help them through the sometimes overwhelming process. Currently, they are in the consultation stage, which involves plentiful paperwork, training videos, and building an adoption book.

The next step will be a home study. Here, the state comes in to inspect and interview to ensure the adoption-hopefuls will provide an environment fit for a child. Once they are approved and active in the network, the couple can begin submitting their adoption book to be placed in front of birth mothers.

Once a birth mother selects the Dunns, they will have a chance to learn about her history, health, and background. If both parties accept, they could be anywhere from days to months away from adopting a new baby.

“You really have to be prepared to have a baby at any moment,” Amanda said. “The potential timeframe is big, so you have no idea until a match is made when the baby will be born. We’ve already begun buying nursery furniture and supplies.”

The adoption won’t necessarily be local, either. The Dunns might have to travel and stay in another state anywhere from 48 hours to two weeks, depending on varying state laws.

When asked about open versus closed adoptions, Amanda said she and Josh prefer an open adoption, but they are open to a closed one if the birth mother decides that.

“We see open adoption as a blessing on both ends,” Amanda said. “We’re adopting a family, not just a baby. When I was on my mission trip, people expected that our work would be a huge blessing to the people we were helping. In reality, I feel like I gained more than I gave. We think we will be blessed by this adoption more than we could bless anyone else, so we’re going into it with a very open mindset.”

Throughout the process, Amanda said her faith has been the biggest encouraging factor.

“We were trying to decide if adoption was God’s decision or just ours, but so many signs and things fell into place as soon as we chose to adopt that it confirmed it’s the path we’re supposed to be on.”

At the end of the day, there is always more research and deliberation that can be done, but Amanda said she must simply trust that all will work out, her family will be united soon, and what needs to happen will happen.

 

You can follow along for updates on the Dunn’s adoption journey by visiting https://alsmith3916.wixsite.com/dunnfamilyadoption.

Manly Honda Gains #1 Spot with SAM’s Help

2,300 years ago, Aristotle defined the three pillars of persuasion – ethos, logos, and pathos. Now, two millennia later, these principles remain indispensable to a successful marketing strategy. Ethos, which represents credibility, is especially important for dealerships looking to gain market share and retain their customer base.

Manly Honda in Santa Rosa, California, holds one of the most credible titles a store could wish for. This dealership was the first in history to sell a Honda vehicle in the United States. Today, you can still see the retired model displayed on the showroom floor.

Even greater than the historical claims Manly Honda can make are its modern-day accolades. Since becoming a SAM client, the dealership has secured the number one spot in its district for two months in a row – a first for the store.

It’s easy to assume that a top-level spot requires an enormous amount of ad spend. The catch, however, is that Manly Honda’s budget is shockingly smaller than that of most SAM clients. In February, the dealership had a Facebook ads budget of just $2,100 and was one of the agency’s top-performing accounts in terms of sales and traffic.

One of the dealership’s secrets to success is its highly targeted approach. The goal was to penetrate the local Hispanic market, as it represents a significant opportunity for expansion. In January, SAM launched the store’s first Spanish-language ads. Shortly thereafter, a customer came in and referenced the ad’s offer. This was the first time a member of the Hispanic community had referenced any marketing from the dealership, and our client was overwhelmingly pleased.

Manly Honda also has a secret weapon up its sleeve – Adolfo Salazar. In Santa Rosa, Adolfo is somewhat of a local celebrity. At the dealership, he works as the Hispanic Marketing Manager. Originally, the company’s outreach to this market consisted of Adolfo posting organically to his own network of contacts. After SAM launched paid Facebook ads for the dealership, results only amplified.

Manly Honda is different from many SAM clients in that it prefers to invest in SEO more than PPC. The store runs double the amount for its SEO budget, believing that is where Manly Honda will see its greatest return. Mail is also a high performer for this dealership, with one recent mailer generating 21 calls in its first day. Previous mail campaigns have scored more than 30 sales matches.

To reach the level of success that Manly Honda has been able to achieve, it takes a mix of smart strategies and refined internal processes. This dealership has both, and with SAM’s help, plans to continue achieving many more number one feats.

Recent Promotions

In case you missed it, we’ve had several team members get recognized for their hard work lately. These employees are ready to take on higher-level responsibilities and contribute more to SAM in their expanded roles. Nice!

Kristen Callahan

  • Promoted to Accounting Specialist

Hayley Grisham

  • Promoted to Account Executive

Tom Little

  • Promoted to Senior Copywriter

Zack Johnson

  • Promoted to Digital Services Specialist

Savanna Gray

  • Promoted to SEO Coordinator

Anne Heaney

  • Promoted to Content Marketing Coordinator

Around the Agency: News Roundup

Check out December’s latest updates from around Team SAM! If you have updates you’d like included, make sure to submit them to your department’s story collector or manager.

 

Production

  • Andrea Kring and her husband, Tim, put the SAM Green Egg to good use this Thanksgiving. Smoked turkey was DEEEE-licious. #ThanksJP #TurkeyStrong

 

Graphics

  • Art is creating new Google ad banners with hidden disclaimers
  • Art is updating the hub pages with a new look, thanks to the competition we held a few months back

 

Digital

  • We are excited to begin working with Corbitt Chandler, Digital Marketing Consultant. Corbitt is helping us improve and rethink our arsenal of digital products

 

Direct Contact

  • We are rolling off of a record November for direct mail and eCampaigns and expect December to set new records as well!
  • Very excited to have Mimi back from maternity leave this month!

Sheila’s No-Travel 2020

If there’s one thing that’s synonymous with Sheila Grandy, it’s travel. But like many of us in 2020, she has had to take a different approach to leisure. So, how has Sheila spent her time when cruises and weekend excursions are off the table?

That’s what we’re here to find out.

Squeezing in a Little Sight-Seeing

Sheila and her best friend, Kim, got to enjoy one pre-pandemic trip this year.

“I did make it to Houston before everything shut down,” Sheila said. “We were dying to go to the rodeo, so we flew there at the beginning of March, right before everything really hit. We brought scarves to keep our faces covered, but that was before anyone was even wearing masks. Once we got back, the rest of my travel plans were off the books.”

Some of Sheila’s 2020 plans included Chicago in May, the New Orleans Essence Festival in July, Major League Baseball in August, and San Fransisco for New Year’s Eve.

After being forced to shift gears, Sheila said the memories of past trips helped keep her spirits high.

“My friends would always laugh because I took so many photos on our trips,” Sheila said. “Now, I’ve been sending and sharing those to help us remember the good times.”

Sheila recounted how, on a girls’ trip in 2018, the group went to New York City. On the last night, she insisted they walk the Brooklyn Bridge (they had already walked 12 miles that day). Her friends grudgingly agreed, but it turned out to be one of the best travel photos Sheila has ever captured. Now, the friends look back on that photo with nostalgia.

To fill her time this year, Sheila has enjoyed spending more time outdoors.

“I’ve always walked about 5 miles every morning, but typically I would go to the YMCA to do that,” Sheila said. “I’ve switched to outdoor walking since it’s safer, and I’ve really enjoyed the fresh air.”

Sheila has also enjoyed watching new church services online. There is one that particularly speaks to her in Chicago, and she plans to visit in person once travel is safer.

“After Chicago, I’m planning to take a girls’ trip to Savannah and Charleston,” Sheila said. “Everyone knows I love cruises, and this year was supposed to be my ninth. But land travel will come first.”

Despite the difficulty of traveling this year, Sheila has managed to tuck a few excursions under her belt. Her list includes an outdoor concert in Biloxi for the Fourth of July, a couple of trips to Memphis, and a recent visit to the Stardome Comedy Club in Hoover, AL.

Sheila has definitley found ways to make a challenging year interesting. Like the rest of us, she’s hoping for a speedy return to normalcy as we make our way into 2021.

Charlene Gets Hitched!

It was more than 40 years ago that Charlene Meeks Barnett first met her husband-to-be. In the halls of their shared high school, it was Ricky’s cerulean eyes and peppy demeanor that drew in Charlene. However, their destiny was not to become high school sweethearts. Twenty-five years would pass before the two ultimately reconnected.

Charlene and Ricky went on their first date nine and a half years ago and have been together ever since.

“The timing wasn’t right to get married any sooner,” Charlene said. “With our families now more settled, we decided this summer that it was our chance to tie the knot.”

On Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving, the couple was wed at an intimate ceremony at a friend’s lakehouse. Originally, they had planned to marry in relative secrecy and surprise their families on Thanksgiving but decided it was better to share the moment with their loved ones.

“All of the people at our wedding have been there for me throughout the past 20 years,” Charlene said. “You could just feel the love pouring out of the moment.”

Luckily, the weather held out and let the love pour rather than the sky. The storm clouds from earlier in the day parted to reveal a picturesque sunset under which the couple took their vows.

Charlene stated that she felt lucky the pandemic didn’t alter her plans by much. She was wanting an intimate ceremony from the beginning without too many bells and whistles.

“My daughter is getting married this April, and I didn’t want to detract from that,” Charlene said. “It’s her time to shine.”

After the wedding, Charlene and Ricky enjoyed a honeymoon built around spontaneity. Their roadtrip spanned northern Georgia and parts of North Carolina. Charlene insisted that the couple make no reservations and have no itinerary. They would simply land wherever the wind blew them.

“My life at work and even at home is so structured all of the time,” Charlene said. “It was so nice to go on this honeymoon roadtrip with nothing we had to do. If we saw somewhere we wanted to stop, we stopped. We stayed at this quaint little inn off the city block in Elijay, GA, and walked to dinner that evening. They had rooms, so that’s where we landed.”

The Barnetts visited Blue Ridge, Amicalola Falls, Elijay, and Cherokee as part of their trip. A wine tasting session at Frogtown Winery in Dahlonega, GA, was one of the highlights for Charlene.

Back in Alabama, the Barnetts are establishing a new life together as a married couple.

“Ricky is great with my grandkids,” Charlene said. “They’ve known him most of their lives. I’m just having to get used to living with a grown man again!”

We at SAM wish the best to the new Mr. and Mrs. Barnett, and a hearty congratulations from us all!