Pittsburgh is home to a number of marketing agencies. Some offer a full-service experience, while others specialize in a distinct area of expertise.
There are two distinct issues with full-service agencies.
First, outside of the largest brands, most companies cannot afford to pay a full-time agency of record. The cost of the ongoing retainer is significantly less efficient than hiring a great marketer in-house.
Second, lots of firms hide their mediocrity behind the ‘full-service’ moniker. A lot of the services they list on their website get contracted out to subs or are done after Googling “how-tos” for a few hours.
If you’re a marketing manager with a limited budget, you need to know that your dollars are well spent. Below, I’ve listed a number of specialists in different areas of marketing that you can partner with to get real results.
Marketing Firms In Pittsburgh
Specialty: Beautiful Videos
Covalent is a corporate video production agency for some of the biggest and best brands in the country.
Whether you need animations, want to experiment with AR/VR, or want a gorgeous video capable of winning some awards, they can help make it happen.
They produce video for a wide variety of industries, both B2B and B2C, and have a large portfolio of work to reference.
Specialty: Experiential Marketing
Deeplocal is the crown jewel of the Pittsburgh marketing landscape. They work with some of the biggest brands on the planet (Google, Netflix, Airbnb, Lyft) and design some insanely cool experiential marketing projects.
CEO Nathan Martin founded the company back 2006 after spinning it out of Carnegie Mellon University.
If you want to stand out at a conference, pop-up shop, or viral marketing event, this is the company to work with. Just be ready to shell out a pretty penny.
Think Big SEO
If you want to make sure you have the basics of SEO done correctly, then Think Big SEO is a great partner.
Think Big specializes in helping small to mid-sized businesses keep up with their competitors through creative, customized SEO services.
The Driscoll brothers, who founded the agency, are exceptionally kind and easy to work with. Even better, they have a track record of ranking websites in a variety of niches and improving performances through both technical optimization and on page strategy.
Lots of people claim to get SEO results, they back it up.
Direct Online Marketing
Specialty: PPC, SEM, Digital Ad Spend
Direct Online Marketing was founded in 2006 by Justin Seibert. DOM’s specialty is stewarding ad spend for customers and helping them sell their goods and services across the globe.
They’ve been named a top 200 Premier Google Partner and manage ad spend for a wide variety of industries.
One of their best case studies involves helping a small auto parts store in West Virginia start selling products internationally and drastically increasing their business. Partner with DOM to spend money better online.
Specialty: YouTube, Podcasts
Piper Creative was founded in 2018 by Hannah Phillips and Aaron Watson. The firm specializes in producing a high quantity of content at a fair price.
Everything Piper creates is optimized for digital platforms like YouTube, Linkedin, and podcasts.
There is no other marketing company in Pittsburgh that has published more content to these platforms. Period.
If those are the platforms that you care about growing on, then there is no other firm worth hiring.
2018 was great. I did not read as many books as I did in the previous two years, but that’s ok.
I learned a lot more from starting a company and running my first big event.
Here’s a review of the book i read this year.
I publish this list to elicit suggestions and hopefully inspire you to read more. It is in no way meant to boast or show off. Reading is not a competition.
Frankly, these posts are also
Here's a list of all the books I read in 2018;
(1) Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne
Where do you want to compete? In red oceans with lots of competitors, but proven demand? Or, in the blue oceans of unproven, low competition markets?
(2) The New New Thing by Michael Lewis
I think that this is a must read. If you are over the age of 50, then you remember the dotcom crash and hype around “the internet” changing everything. Everyone else has heard about it secondhand and is missing the details.
Blockchain technology, not necessarily Bitcoin or Ethereum, represents similar promise. We are in the equivalent of the mid-90s for this new technology, so you’d be well served reading Michael Lewis’ chronicling of one of that era’s most influential entrepreneurs and the climate he existed in.
(3) The End of Advertising by Andrew Essex
Former Droga5 President talks about how the industry is changing and why large and small companies will have to rethink how they get their brand out.
(4) Hello My Name is Awesome by Alexandra Watkins
This book had a significant on the naming of Piper Creative.
(5) The Everything Store by Brad Stone
Amazon’s cultural relevance grows by the day. Pittsburgh is particularly gripped by #HQ2 fever and this book covers the companies birth, growth, and rise to dominance. The depth of each line is reinforced by Stone’s diligent interviewing of hundreds of people in order to paint as complete of a picture as possible.
(6) The Internet of Money by Andreas Antonopoulos
Great starting point for wrapping your mind around cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, and the future of money.
(7) Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble by Dan Lyons
We live in the age of glorifying startups and entrepreneurs. A class & community that used to be comprised of exclusively outcasts and nerds has slowly moved into the mainstream.
However, the glamour and prestige covers up an underbelly that is not always pretty. A former Newsweek journalist outlines how his time at HubSpot made him significantly more skeptical of startup culture. Lyons take is not representative of all startup, but his captivating story kept me hooked all the way through.
(8) Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss
This is a fantastic guide to improving your skills as a negotiator. Also includes entertaining stories from Voss’ time in the field as a hostage negotiator.
(9) Zero to One by Peter Thiel
This is a must read for any aspiring entrepreneur. The basic philosophy of a startup is getting from nothing to something.
(10) American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road by Nick Bilton
I never used the Silk Road. I didn’t know how big it was. This book did a really compelling job of introducing the complex web of characters that ran the massive website that served as the internet’s Black Market.
The libertarian programmer behind the project, Ross Ulbricht, is a fascinating case study on the corrupting nature of power & wealth, while simultaneously representing the entrepreneurial spirit behind all the best companies ever built.
(11) The Creative Curve by Allen Gannett
Allen will be speaking at the Going Deep Summit about how anyone can become more creative. His book is worth reading.
(12) Finite and Infinite Games by James Carse
(13) Skin in the Game by Nassim Taleb
(14) Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue by Ryan Holiday
Conspiracy theories are one of the most dangerous rabbit holes on the internet. The inability for closure or confirmation creates an addictive “open loop” that can’t be let go.
I take these book recommendations very seriously, so I’d be hesitant to recommend such a piece of media. Ryan Holiday’s book about the takedown of Gawker features all the cunning and drama of a great conspiracy, while ending with a degree of closure that most theories can’t muster.
(15) The Lessons of History by Will Durant & Ariel Durant
I’m obsessed with meta-narratives. Patterns that are repeated over and over in subtly different forms. When you learn to recognize consistent patterns, you start to anticipate opportunities and position yourself for success.
In this short (less than 110 pages) book, Will & Ariel lay out the consistent themes of history that tend to repeat themselves. How has Race influenced History? How about Economics? Or Biology? This book has concise, context-dense answers.
(16) Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don't Matter by Scott Adams
How’d the creator of Dilbert predict Trump would win the 2016 election? By viewing the world through his Persuasion Filter. This reframing of how humans interact, the world works, and why Trump won was fascinating. It’s already starting to influence the way that I write.
(17) Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford
(18) Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built by Duncan Clark
In the US, we’re freaked out about Amazon and it’s potential to participate in every aspect of the economy. Actually, that’s not true. It’s the 4th Most Loved Brand in America.
Similarly, Jack Ma’s Chinese behemoth Alibaba is beloved in the East and steadily growing in power and size. It’s financial services arm runs the world’s largest money-market fund. It’s large-scale shopping holiday, Singles' Day, is much, much bigger than Amazon’s. In 2017, Alibaba passed $25.3 billion in sales, while Amazon hit $2.4 billion.
Learning how a disciplined, ambitious former English teacher made it happen was fascinating.
(19) The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert A. Caro
After reading about Robert Moses, I cannot look at cities the same way. Moses completely reshaped New York City through guile, will, and brute force. He amassed massive amounts of power in the process and made his fair share of allies and enemies.
This book is a case study on how Moses’ skill at writing bills, immense vision, and the political power of building parks gave him an irreplicable edge. Anyone interested in power, politics, and history will enjoy this one.
(20) 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson
Jordan Peterson is a force of nature. In his bestselling book, he lays out practical advice for organizing your life and your relationships. Peterson’s ability to contextualize Biblical stories through the lens of clinical psychology is powerful.
There’s a good reason Peterson sells a ton of books and commands stages around the continent.
(21) Frenemies: The Epic Disruption of the Ad Business (and Everything Else) by Ken Auletta
Like (3) The End of Advertising, this book explains how an entire industry is being disrupted and trying to make sense of itself.
(22) This Is Marketing: You Can't Be Seen Until You Learn to See by Seth Godin
If you are “in marketing” and have not read this book, you are making a mistake. Plain and simple. Godin touches on all his core
(23) Frenemies: The Epic Disruption of the Ad Business (and Everything Else) by Ken Auletta
(24) Stubborn Attachments: A Vision for a Society of Free, Prosperous, and Responsible Individuals by Tyler Cowen
(25) The Messy Marketplace: Selling Your Business in a World of Imperfect Buyers by Brent Beshore
2017 was great. I traveled a lot and that lead to a lot of reading on planes, buses, and boats.
I set the goal of reading 40 books at the beginning of the year and fell short. Not a big deal. The high number was a way to be competitive with myself. I still bested last year’s total by four.
I publish this list to elicit suggestions and hopefully inspire you to read more. It is in no way meant to boast or show off. Reading is not a competition. ← I’m still working on learning that lesson.
Here's a list of all the books I read in 2017;
(1) Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
I’ve done a ton of interviews discussing cognitive biases, so I figured it was time to go straight to the source. Kahneman, and his partner Amos Tversky, created the field of behavioral economics and uncovered the shortcuts all our minds take to problem solve. You’ll never master them all, but understanding your blind spots is the first step towards improvement.
(2) The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds by Michael Lewis
Michael Lewis’ unparalleled ability to storytell and make big ideas accessible to average minds is on full display in his 16th book. He chronicles Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky’s exploration of cognitive biases and the idiosyncrasies of a powerful intellectual partnership.
(3) Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
The host of The Daily Show grew up right as apartheid was ending in South Africa. Embedded in his story is a history lesson in history and analysis of race relations, poverty, and family dynamics.
(4) On the Road by Jack Kerouac
A classic traveler’s tomb, as Sal follows Dean around North America. Themes of freedom and the open road are intertwined within this winding tale.
(5) The Social Organism by Oliver Luckett
Luckett has been influencing pop culture from behind the scenes for over a decade. In his first book, Luckett shares his thesis for how social media really works, drawing on his study of biology.
(6) Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
If you are ready for a chef to pull the wool from over your eyes, then read Bourdain. He exposes the reality of what goes on in our restaurant’s kitchens and share his secrets from a multi-decade career. Never eat fish on a Monday.
(7) Write Your Book on the Side by Hassan Osman
A concise, focused book on how to complete and publish a book.
(8) The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
This book is a significant breakthrough, sitting squarely between minimalism, stoicism, and personal psychology. Kondo’s lifelong obsession with clean spaces has led to breakthroughs in technique and philosophical insight.
(9) Getting Things Done by David Allen
I recommended this aggressively in my February newsletter. Like most skills, productivity can be boiled down to solid fundamentals and consistent habits.
(10) The Essays of Warren Buffett
The greatest investor of a generation has laid out a comprehensive business education through decades of letters to his shareholders.
(11) Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Some members of society are invisible. How does that change? Ellison meditates on the bitter reality.
(12) Hitch-22: A Memoir by Christopher Hitchens
Hitchens autobiography chronicles his formative years and evolution of political thought. Fascinating insight on a man who fought to think independently.
(13) Born Standing Up by Steve Martin
One of the biggest comedians of the 20th century chronicles his rise and departure from the world of stand-up.
(14) Games People Play: The Basic Handbook of Transactional Analysis by Eric Berne
One of my favorite concepts, stolen from my friend Mike Dariano, is the concept of a “lightbulb book”. As he described in our 2016 book review, lightbulb books seemingly illuminate a whole new part of your brain that you didn’t previously know was there.
Games People Play is firmly in that camp for me. There is a risk with any psycho-analysis book to play ametuer therapist with your newly minted information. Despite falling prey to this, there are still a laundry list of actionable takeaways from just one reading. Appreciating how your past influences your present is crucial to success and GPP services this endeavor.
(15) Nudge by Richard Thaler & Cass Sunstein
This pairs with Thinking Fast & Slow perfectly, as Thaler spent time researching with Kahneman and Tversky. The biggest term Thaler introduces is Libertarian Paternalism. While it seems contradictory, Thaler explains that small nudges and suggestions, without making explicit rules or laws, maximizes health and outcomes for everyone. A perfect example is auto-enrolling employees in retirement accounts.
(16) You're It!: On Hiding, Seeking, and Being Found by Alan Watts
This one is a collection of public addresses in audiobook form. Alan Watts talks religion, spirituality, and how to be human.
(17) On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder
Yale professor Timothy Snyder wrote this in reaction to Trump’s election. He calls on historical precedent for signs that things in the US politics could get dangerous.
(18) Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis
Wall Street is oft-maligned for sins of greed and deception. However, the details, perhaps the banality of evil, are lost beneath the headlines. In Michael Lewis’ first book, he outlines the ascent from lowly trainee to geek to Big Swingin’ Dick at the hottest firm of the moment, Salomon Brothers. Amazing interviews, interwoven with personal narrative and vivid storytelling.
(19) The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America's Banana King by Rich Cohen
Sam “the Banana King” Zemurray’s biography belongs right next to American tycoons like Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Ford. Zemurray’s tactics would fit perfectly in a 48 Laws of Power vignette and offer keen insight into disrupting existing businesses.
(20) Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World by Bruce Schneier
Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras got the most acclaim for facilitating Edward Snowden’s revelations about the obscene amount of data that the government collects on its citizens. Schneier was also involved and builds a compelling case for why we should be concerned with this massive invasion of privacy and how to protect yourself.
(21) The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream by Tyler Cowen
Tyler Cowen is one of my favorite modern thinkers on a broad range of topics. His newest book offers in-depth analysis of the trends of stagnation and complacency within America.
Why don’t Americans riot anymore? How come less people move or travel internationally? Cowen identifies the problem, supports his views with evidence, and makes balanced prognostications on how things could play out.
(22) Ca$hvertising by Drew Eric Whitman
Exploring the secret techniques advertising agencies use to influence consumers and sell their clients’ products.
(23) Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink
True leaders are defined by their responses and actions in the highest intensity situations. Willinck translates his lessons from the battlefields of Iraq for those in the boardroom.
(24) Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Scott
Scott has worked at Apple and Google and personally learned from Steve Jobs, Sheryl Sandberg, Sergey Brin, and Eric Schmidt. Basic fundamentals of communication make all the difference.
(25) Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Decided to mix things up with some heavy fiction. The content was creepy and not sure I’ll be coming back to Nabokov anytime soon, but certainly written in vivid, precise prose.
(26) The Underground History of American Education: A School Teacher's Intimate Investigation Into the Problem of Modern Schooling by John Taylor Gatto
John Taylor Gatto was named New York City Teacher of the Year in 1989, 1990, and 1991, and New York State Teacher of the Year in 1991 (Check Out My Interview with National Teacher of the Year, Sean McComb). This book is considered his Magnum Opus.
A book like this could easily drift into the overtly conspiratorial. However, Gatto masterfully balances analysis of the incentives that drove the rise of mass schooling with the realities he has witnessed over decades in the classroom. This book fundamentally changed how I will approach parenting when I have a family of my own.
(27) Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz
I interviewed Seth about this book and found it to be a really fun read. Seth has used Google searches to measure racism, self-induced abortion, depression, child abuse, hateful mobs, the science of humor, sexual preference, anxiety, son preference, and sexual insecurity, among many other topics.
(28) Casino Healthcare: The Health of a Nation: America's Biggest Gamble by Dan Munro
The American healthcare system is confusing, complex, and bloated. I didn’t know the extent until I read this book and spoke with Dan.
(29) King, Warrior, Magician, Lover by Robert Moore & Douglas Gillette
Do you have a strong male role model? Many don’t. This book can help with understanding what it means to be a mature male adult. Really good.
(30) A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger
Questions are really important. Having a deep reserve of questions ensures that you will stay creative and find opportunity for yourself.
(31) Elephant in the Brain by Kevin Simler & Robin Hanson
Two incredibly smart dudes break down why evolution has taught us to overlook the selfish motivations driving a lot of our actions and traditions.
(32) Black Privilege by Charlamagne tha God
Charlamagne the God is hilarious and I highly recommend the interviews he conducts on The Breakfast Club to learn about effective interviewing. His life story is equally candid and entertaining.
(33) Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
I’m a white guy. I want to better empathize and understand what it means to be a minority. Coates taught me a lot in a short, poignant read.
(34) Open by Andre Agassi
Can you become one of the best in the world at something you hate? Apparently yes. Agassi chronicles his internal dialogue over the course of a transcendent career.
The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America's Banana King by Rich Cohen
Best Book to Take with You on Vacation
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Safest Bet for a Breakthrough
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
I'm always looking for suggestions for future reading, drop me a line if you have any recommendations. Here are my starting five for the beginning of 2017.
Internet of Money by Andreas Antonopoulos
Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne
The New New Thing by Michael Lewis
The Information by James Gleick
The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac
I set a goal of reading 40 books in 2016 at the beginning of the year. I ended up at 34, and I’m pushing for 45 next year.
What will you be reading in 2018?
"An expert is an expert in what WAS."
Don't go to an expert for predictions about the future.
Also, set aside 40 minutes to watch this video. Recommended by Mike Dariano.
The last links of the year. Enjoy;
Why Amazon has no profits (Andreessen Horowitz)
Even when Buffett loses, he still wins (ZeroHedge)
Private vs Public healthcare in India (Marginal Revolution)
Hedge fund building a model of the (WSJ)
Support the podcast and blog by doing your holiday shopping through this Amazon link.
Continuing to provide thoughtful content through the holidays.
What happens when you quit watching the news (Raptitude)
China is ready to take American teachers (Bloomberg)
Life is getting better (Vox)
Fastest internet by country (Big Picture)
Jerry Seinfeld (HBR)
Support the podcast and blog by doing your holiday shopping through this Amazon link.
As 2016 draws to a close, I’m taking a moment to review the goals I set at the beginning of the year. I’m sharing because I think it’s super important to keep it real about
1. Podcast - Produce 100 episodes
This was very intentionally my primary goal since the podcast is my central personal project. Hitting 100 episodes was more than a goal, it was an expectation on which I would not allow myself compromise.
I ended up producing 119 episodes, and, in the process, learning that I am capable of a work rate greatly superior than anything I’d previously done.
As podcasts continue to grow in popularity (we are approaching 100,000 active podcasts on iTunes), differentiation simultaneously increases in difficulty.
Consistency provides the foundation for differentiation in a couple of ways;
2. Frisbee - AUDL All-Midwest Team
Total fail. As I acknowledged in my analysis of the goal at the beginning of the year, health would be the primary variable to success;
A hip injury in my fourth game of the season put the kibosh on this pretty firmly. I also did not anticipate missing the first two weeks of the season traveling to Asia. This completely disrupted my training, which I had been building all winter. Another two weeks off after my hip injury left me a step behind for the remainder of the season.
Interestingly, this was also the only goal I set that was tied directly to external validation. Lesson learned. Only process goals from now on, still had a lot of fun this year.
3. Video - Produce 6 Videos for YouTube
I’d say this was the biggest success after hitting 100 podcast episodes. A brief recap;
3 Ultimate Videos - Including 2016 Callahan winner Trent Dillon
4 Live Podcast Recordings - Including Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto
3 Asia Vlogs - South Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong
1 Trailer - Filmed at StudioMe
As I travel through Asia in 2017, I’ll be doing more travel vlogging. 2016 was great practice for sharpening my skills.
4. Email List - 500 email addresses
Failed, but found a silver lining.
I did not quite hit 500 email addresses on my email list, but I did get all the basics down. I’m approaching a 2% conversion rate on people who are visiting my site for the first time.
Additionally, I’m averaging over a 50% open rate and 10% clickthrough rate on my monthly newsletter. Both are well above average. Definitely making this a bigger focus in 2017.
Let me know if you want to get in on the action.
5. Read 30 Books
Nailed it- right on the nose. Read my full 2016 reading review.
On a more personal note, this year has been amazing and unlike anything I've experienced in my life. Getting to meet so many amazing people and connect around the globe is simaultaneously humbling and thrilling.
Thank you so much for checking out the stuff I do and for being involved some way or another. I had a few people connect with me this past year to check in on goals and hold each other accountable. If you'd be interested in doing that in 2017, drop me a line.
And from my family to yours, I hope you have a happy, healthy, and successful 2017.
Continuing to provide thoughtful content through the holidays.
Amazon disrupts everything (Bloomberg)
Tangled up spacetime (Scientific American)
Trump conservatism (National Review)
Deep sea fisherman’s Twitter account is amazing (Gizmodo)
Support the podcast and blog by doing your holiday shopping through this Amazon link.
If you want to support this blog, buy your Amazon products through this link.