All posts by Anthony Del Monte

Blue Buffalo sold for 8 Billion

An $8 billion brand started in a small barn with a bunch of good people

Those who know the story of Squeaky know that one of our very first clients was SoBe Beverages. We worked closely with the creative forces behind SoBe, including the Bishop Family, John Bello and a slew of brand all-stars that included Mike Joyce, Tom Small Horn, Dave Spinato and Scott Moffit.

This team, along with so many others, created a new beverage category that paved the way for the “Red Bulls of the world” and planted the seeds of engagement for a conscious-consumer populous. At SoBe, product innovation was as important as consumer acceptance and meeting the expectations of a new market. Squeaky’s work was to utilize emerging digital technologies to foster engagement and real relationships between the brand and its audience.

After the acquisition of SoBe beverage by PepsiCo, the Bishops set their talents on an all-new mission, and Squeaky was fortunate enough to continue as their digital agency.  They recognized that there was no human-grade dog food on the market and thus set out to develop a product that was centered on great nutrition for pets and celebrated the passion of pet owners.

Driving up to their office for the first time (which was actually a barn), we had no idea those initial conversations would manifest into the Blue Buffalo brand. The focus in those early days was rooted in a commitment to making the lives of pets better and thus challenging the biggest pet food brands in the market. Their passion was to produce and bring to market better food for pets and to engage the owners who wanted more for their four-footed family members.

Squeaky worked closely with the Blue Buffalo team to identify the attributes of both the product and the audience, which manifested into Blue Buffalo’s digital strategy.  We designed and developed their very first website and community engagement initiatives, including the now-vintage Blue Buffalo Trading Cards (two of our own pets were part of the early series). We also developed an interactive matrix “True Blue Test” that provided health information about pets and animal cancer to better educate pet-owners about the well-being of their pets.

It goes without saying that the headlines of Blue Buffalo’s sale to General Mills for $8 Billion brought the biggest smile to our faces. (No – we didn’t reap any financial rewards, just pride points).

We are proud and fortunate to have worked together during the brand’s formative years; proud of the success they achieved in working on a vision tirelessly and for its impact on pet nutrition and cancer awareness; and proud of the trusted relationship we built with Blue Buffalo, as we continue to build with all of our clients. Relationships centered on innovation, good work and progression.

The phenomenal success of one of our very first clients is inspiring, as it reminds us that vision, focus and perseverance can manifest itself into a brand that becomes a market leader.

We want to send big congratulations to our friend Billy Bishop and the rest of the team at Blue Buffalo. Bravo.

Squeaky’s Friends in El Salvador: Visit to Remar Orphanage

Squeaky’s Friends in El Salvador: Visit to Remar Orphanage

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” – Winston S. Churchill

The first time I went to El Salvador, I fell in love with the beauty of the country and its people. For those of you who have been to El Sal, you know that both the people and the country are so much more than the sinister headlines we read or political cheap shots echoed by talking heads.

On my second visit, I shared a coffee in the capital with a stranger who was here for work but disclosed that he was going to spend the day with his coworkers at an orphanage, in the surfing village of El Tunco, called ‘Remar’.

I gave the stranger what money I had on me ($100) and hoped he’d put it toward his supply run. A month later, he sent me a thank you email with a photo of the children, which moved me to find out more.

I started to do some digging and eventually found a contact at the orphanage. Fast forward almost a year after that shared cup of coffee, and I set up my first visit. Within just a few minutes, I knew that these kids – and their smiles – would be impossible to forget.

Behind a nondescript black steel door lies an orphanage that is home to more than 120 children, many of whom are escaping abuse and gang violence, and who are survivors of neglected communities. Newborns to teenagers attend the orphanage and are given an opportunity to reclaim their lives. The orphanage also serves as a place for care and protection to young adolescent mothers, babies, and children that have suffered abandonment and abuse.

A variety of small buildings make up a village of sorts that meet certain needs and host different workshops. It is an uplifting environment that encourages the children to reclaim the normalcy of life through structure, safety and community.

The engine behind the orphanage, and what makes any of this possible, is the heart, strength and perseverance of the Director, Mary. This woman has an undeniable spirit and once meeting her, you are awed. If saints are walking the earth, she is undoubtedly one.

There is a school on the grounds, which was established from the need to bring comprehensive education to children and young adults of the Remar Children’s Homes after having suffered discrimination in the public education system. It has expanded to include children from nearby communities with a current enrollment of 300 students.

In an effort to raise funds, the orphanage has opened a Café and Bakery that serves the tourist community with hope that any/all profits will help fund the work that the orphanage is doing.

The Squeaky NYC staff has just returned from a trip to Remar. We raised $10,000 through hundreds of personal donors. Mary will be putting these funds towards electricity, school uniforms, and a washing machine. We spent the day taking photos with the kids, playing games, and being attacked with water balloons – it is a day we won’t soon forget. Our hope is that these kids know that people care about them all over the world.

If I hadn’t sat next to that man during breakfast, there’s a chance I never would have found Mary and the kids of Remar, and been able to provide this opportunity for the team. There is always an opportunity to do something nice for others – sometimes you just need someone else to remind you of it.

To all those who donated, thank you for your kindness. You make the world a better place.

– Anthony

Diversity: Talk It Together, Walk It Together – At ADCOLOR 2017

Diversity: Talk It Together, Walk It Together – At ADCOLOR 2017

As the agencies who define the messaging and communications for our clients, we are given enormous responsibility. We are entrusted to craft the right message that moves the needle to sell products and, just as importantly, enables brands to speak to each consumer in a way that actually means something. The responsibility to move the conversation toward inclusion and acceptance is necessary. And it is possible. But we need to have the hard conversations first, and, we need to have them now.

That’s why I’ll be at the ADCOLOR Conference & Awards next week. It’s one of the most important conferences that our industry has to offer, and considering what’s going on in our country today, it’s one that has the best chance to make the biggest societal impact. It’s also one that was void of many of the same brands who tout their public commitment to diversity last year.

But this year, it’s sold out.  Tiffany R. Warren, the founder and president of ADCOLOR, is someone that we all have admired for quite some time now. When she called me last week to inform me that this year’s conference is completely sold out, she mentioned that there were many people who referenced an article I wrote after returning from last year’s ADCOLOR as the impetus behind wanting to join in the conversation. In the article, I challenged all the agencies and brands that didn’t show up – the ones who talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk. I am overjoyed that in some small part my excitement about last year’s event might have helped nudge a few new attendees, but saddened by the reality that the real credit likely goes to the tumultuous year that we’ve all experienced – whether you subscribe to real news, fake news, or any news for that matter. People are either fighting to hold on to an America driven by fear and exclusion, or simply angry and confused as they strive for hope and inclusion.

ADCOLOR has the ability to remind us that our industry, along with technology, is one of the few that can ensure that every voice is not only heard, but is accounted for. I’ve said it once and I’ll stay it again: the bottom line is that diversity is not a Black thing, a Latino thing, an Asian thing, an LGBTQ+ thing, or a white thing. It’s an American thing. Diversity is the fabric of our country and it should be the fabric of your brand or agency.

So, that’s what I’ll be doing next week – in a room full of people who come from a wide range of backgrounds, experiences, religions, sexual orientations, and even New Jersey.  I hope you’ll be joining me.

See you in LA, or on the interwebs.