Who’s on your short list of marketing influencers for thought leadership and mentorship? Which company brands do you gravitate toward because of their unique value propositions and authentic connection with customers?
Today, my guest is Ken Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Ad Zombies. Ken shares insights on brand creation and challenges marketers to bring entertainment, humor, and storytelling into their content.
Some of the highlights of the show include:
- Passion for Production: From creating commercials as a child and dreaming of being the best disc jockey to turning into a zombie
- Conversions and Reconstruction: Ad Zombies came to life by accident after discovering need to rewrite ad copy to connect with specific customers
- Origin and Evolution: Ad Zombies’ brand positioning of world’s best flat-fee ad copywriting service changes to writing words that sell anything
- More than 103,000 Ad Zombies followers on Facebook attributed to mix of wordsmithing skills and engaging audience to evoke emotional responses
- Missing mark to make memorable ads: Stories and visual noise connect and convert consumers through brand awareness
- Where to start: Consistent messaging peppered through channels; view consumer’s perspective, and take the plunge to try something new
Eric: I think as humans, it’s just in our nature that we find people that we look up to. We seek out individuals that we aspire to be like or that motivate us. When I was a kid, I wanted to be like my older brother. When I was a varsity tennis player, I looked up to Andre Agassi because he was the tennis god back in the day. Now, as a professional marketer, you betcha, I have my short list of marketing influencers that I go to for thought leadership and for mentorship.
I think the same can be said of company brands. We naturally are drawn and gravitate towards brands that do a phenomenal job of telling their key storylines and unique value proposition, but at the same time can authentically connect with their audience. We aspire, we all have that short list, I know you do, of brands that you look up to. Maybe I’m biased because I’m the brand and buzz manager here at CoSchedule, but I marvel at the way certain brands are able to do that, and that’s the topic of today’s episode.
I’ve got just the person to talk all about this. His name is Ken Moskowitz, he is the founder and CEO at Ad Zombies. They have done such a fun and unique way of connecting with their audience and telling their brand story. They have over 1300 followers on Facebook. Ken has some great insights around brand creation. He really challenges us as marketers and questions the things that were doing when we tell our brand.
He gives us suggestions on, how can we potentially bring entertainment and humor and true brand storytelling into our copy and our visuals and the way that we tell our story regardless of what industry you’re in and regardless if you’re B2B or B2C. It’s such good stuff. Thank you so much for tuning into the episode of the Actionable Marketing Podcast, I am your host, my name is Eric Piela. I can’t wait to introduce you to Ken. Buckle up because it’s time to get amped.
Alright ladies and gentlemen, welcome to another fun episode of the Actionable Marketing Podcast. I’ve got a fun guest, his name is Ken Moskowitz. He is the CEO at Ad Zombie. Ken, welcome to the show.
Ken: Thank you so much for having me, Eric. I am stoked to be here today.
Eric: I am stoked you’re on the call, this is fun. I did some research, obviously, trying to get to know my guests. I love Ad Zombies, I think it’s such a fun brand. We’ll dive so much into that, Ken. I got to ask you, where are you calling in from today?
Ken: Phoenix, Arizona where our headquarters are.
Eric: Sunny Phoenix. I’m in Sunny Fargo, North Dakota.
Ken: Very similar weather patterns.
Eric: It is, we’re going to hit us a balmy 67 degrees, which I love, it’s very spring here. I’m so glad that you’re on the show today. I think we’re going to have some fun talking about branding. I’d love to hear a little bit more about what Ad Zombie does. I think it’s just good for us if we could, I want our listeners to know a little bit about you, Ken. Maybe just give them the 10,000 foot view of your career, where did Ad Zombie come to be, and what you’re really passionate about when it comes to marketing?
Ken: Before Ad Zombies was even a concept, before Ad Zombies took its first breath and crawled out of the grave because we’re zombies, we reanimate, my career goes back to the days of broadcasting and radio. I started in the late ‘80s. I thought I was going to be the world’s best DJ, I thought like I was going to be the next Howard Stern. It turns out that after a couple of years in the on air studio, I really found my love was in the production room.
It’s funny, if I look back now, I realized that I should’ve known that inherently because when I was 12 years old, I had a makeshift production studio in my bedroom. When I was 13 and I was bar mitzvahed, yes I’m a JFNY that’s Jew from New York. When I was bar mitzvahed, I took as much money as my parents will allow me, and I bought all the equipment I could get to make a production studio, an official studio. I had real to reel tape decks. Instead of making mix tapes of music from the ‘80s because that’s what every cool kid did, I would spend my time there creating commercials.
There was something definitely off, I was probably the AV squad king. I was definitely a nerd, and that’s okay, I like that, it worked out well for me. I spent my free time making my own commercials and storytelling and it was fun for me. Go back to when I got into radio thinking I was going to be the best DJ in the world, I had the opportunity to fill in for someone in the production studio, they were going on vacation. Since I was intimately familiar with the production room, I said, “I’ll cover for you.” That was it, I was hooked.
It was like mainlining a drug into me and it was the drug that had been missing from the time I was a teenager until then. I’m like, “That’s it, I’m in.” I never looked back. I stayed in the production studio for years and years after that and just rose through the creative ranks in the corporate world, in the broadcast world. Then in 2011, went out of my own and started my own creative firm and got into diversified side. I did some television and video production and then Ad Zombies happened by accident.
We all do things by mistake. Remember Bob Ross on PBS, the artist with the afro? He would start off and then the ink would slip and there would be a blob on the screen, he would turn that happy accident into a tree or a bird or something. Ad Zombies was a happy accident. I was in a Facebook group, someone had written an ad and it was a horrible ad for plastic surgeon who was doing breast reconstruction. The problem with the ad was it was written from a guy’s perspective.
Of course, it wasn’t converting and working well for women because it was written from a guy’s perspective. Guys are fascinated with boobs and don’t think about the emotional part of what would have a woman want to go and have reconstruction. Whether it’s body image or survivor of cancer and mastectomy, there’s all these things. I went into the comment section of that Facebook post and I rewrote the ad. I said, “Here is why I believe the ad isn’t converting. Here’s the way I would rewrite it.” That started a small group of people saying, “Wow, I wish I could write like that,” 10 or 15 people.
All I did was offered to help anyone who needed help with their copy. That weekend, I had between Facebook messages and emails over a hundred requests for copywriting help. I knew there was a need, that is how Ad Zombies came to life.
Eric: What a cool story. I’m here with DJ Moskowitz. What a cool background and what a cool journey. Do you remember, because I’m still hanging back to you as this kid in your makeshift studio, do you remember some of the products or ads that you created way back in the day?
Ken: What I used to do was a lot of jingles. In fact, I have a jingle right now. We’re working on a music video, the music video is for Ad Zombies. You know, the Lion King is coming back out this summer. This is the way my mind works, Eric, you have to understand, there’s something definitely broken, I don’t know if I had the cord wrapped around my neck when I was born or if my parents just held me underwater for too long, I don’t know. Something is broken in my brain, but it’s broken in a good way.
I would spend all of this time creating jingles. I would write these parodies and jingles and songs. I spent a lot of time creating commercials, not for specific products or services, but I would create them by taking popular songs or other things that were of high influence back then, and turn them into jingles for those products or services that I would hear a regular or boring ads for.
I’ve never given anyone a preview of this yet. Depending on when they’re listening to this, it’s either going to be pre-Lion King release or post-Lion King release because once this stuff is out there, it’s out there forever. This is just to give you some insight as to how broken my brain is. I’m sitting there one night, I think we were in the theatre and the preview trailer comes on for the new Lion King live action movie that’s coming out this summer, and I’m like, “I remember the music from that.”
That was the first movie my wife and I saw when we were dating, that was the one we went to together was the Lion King. I’m like, “This is cool. My wife is a huge Disney fan.” In my head I’m hearing, “Da, da, da, da da, da, da, da,” when Simba’s singing, “I’m going to be the Lion King.” In my head I’m like, “For Facebook I’m the copy king so adjectives beware. We use bad words like fat and you with so much as it care.” In my head, I started working on The Copy King as a jingle which is turning into a music video which will turn into an ad for the business.
Eric: I love that. You’re like Charlie Sheen from Two and a Half Men, just writing jingles.
Ken: My friends call me Draper. It’s weird.
Eric: I love this. That is fun, this is some of the stuff, this creativity. Ken, I think however your brain is broken, it’s absolutely doing well for you with the success of Ad Zombies. I think everyone is starving because we know it’s those type of ideas and that type of stuff that’s breaking through the noise, that’s really getting the attention. I think that goes back to the theme for today’s call which is just around creating really memorable, authentic brands. I think that’s a big challenge for some organizations, and I think you’ve done it in your own unique way.
Maybe start by talking about best by experience, you start in this ad copy company because you’ve got a skills set there. Where did the idea for Ad Zombie come from and what are that brand inception look like and maybe how can other companies that are listening figure out a similar journey?
Ken: I love this because now I get to share the origin story. The origin story, yes, it began in this Facebook group by helping this guy rewrite the ad. The part that I love to share is the pull behind the curtain of how the name came into existence and how the brand evolved. Imagine it’s a Sunday night and my DVR is ready to play The Walking Dead. That’s right, I am a Walking Dead fan, not Fear The Walking Dead, that’s a lame spinoff, but the original Walking Dead.
It’s a Sunday night, this first ad was written by me in the comment section. I am text messaging Sean Hughes, who’s now our head copywriter. He’s a good friend of mine, known him for years, second best man in his wedding. I couldn’t be the first best man because that was his brother’s job, I’m still bitter about that a little bit, but that’s okay, I forgive him. I was texting him back and forth because we knew that there was a need at this point. The text message chain, Eric, was 45-minutes long while I’m watching The Walking Dead.
Instead of fast forwarding through the commercials, I would leave the commercials running. That’s when we’re having the conversation, was during the commercial breaks. I’m on the DVR, I started The Walking Dead, Sean and I are texting back and forth. What are we going to call this thing? We don’t even know what this is or if it’s going to be anything, it’s just me helping people rewrite some ads. The conversation started and we’re watching The Walking Dead. I said, “I wonder if we could do something with reanimation or bringing copy back to life or whatever.”
The name evolved out of us being fans of The Walking Dead, watching the zombie show, and Ad Zombies because we’re in the ad space, kind of made sense. As we started texting back our brand positioning ideas, it was, “We bring ad copy back to life. No, we bring ads back to life. What if they don’t have an ad that’s broken, but they want us to write an ad from scratch? Then that doesn’t apply.” It went back and forth over a 45-minute period of time to where we came up with the name.
The initial brand concept or the brand positioning which was, “The world’s best flat fee ad copy writing service.” It has since evolved because, again, you evolve and you always want to grow. Strategically, you want to always think about what your business is. What do you do for a living? What does your business really do? What business should you be in to future-proof your business? As we started working through this, we realized that what we really do is we write words that sell anything. That’s where we moved our brand positioning to, “It’s an evolutionary process,” but the name, the foundational elements of the Ad Zombies came to be in a 45-minute text/chat between me and our now head copywriter, Sean, while watching The Walking Dead on our DVRs.
Eric: That’s awesome. It’s a really good example of ideating, watching something, talking through your customers, what you want to do, what you want to accomplish for them. You’ve got 100,000 plus followers on Facebook, which is pretty damn remarkable.
Ken: It’s silly.
Eric: It’s silly. What do you attribute that? Is it a mix of your wordsmith that no one else can parallel your skills out there? Is it because you developed this brand? Why are people gravitating towards Ad Zombies? Because I think that’s an extension of your brand and everyone wants to have that success, Ken. What do you feel like you’re doing to create that connection to your prospects and customers?
Ken: Sure. Eric, I think the big thing is that we are not afraid, and I certainly am never afraid to take chances and to put stuff out there. Ad Zombies is a brand that, at its core, yes, we are a copywriting service, we write ads. However, what we really do is we entertain and we engage our audience. We don’t come into the, “Hey, we’re going to sell you ad copy as an ad.” We come in with ads that really engage the audience, that make you laugh, that have nothing to do with ad copy.
Here’s a great example, we have in our customer chat one of our most frequently asked questions by people who are looking to order an ad with a video is, “Well, how do I show my product?” Our team will always coach, “You don’t necessarily need to show your product in the video assets.” “What do you mean? I want people to buy my product.” Yes, but look at what we do as a brand. If we were to show you videos of copywriters sitting in front of computers, banging out words on the screen all day, that would be a pretty freaking boring ad.
We have an ad, I don’t know if you’ve seen it, we call it the eyeball ad which has thousands of eyeballs staring and blinking at you and they’re looking all over the place, it’s talking about getting more eyeballs on your business. We have an ad with a clown in it, and it’s a pretty scary clown and he’s a little bloody, and he’s sneaking up on this little kid in a field. That ad has been seen like 1.5 million times and has been shared hundreds, I think the last count was almost 400, and has hundreds and hundreds of comments worldwide because people have an inherent fear or dislike or whatever of clowns, but that ad starts the conversation, it builds the engagement with our audience. Then we start serving them ads about how we benefit them, how we make their lives easier, why using us is the right thing for their business because it takes the effort and pain away.
Eric: Is that what you’re seeing in that question of, “When do I get to show my products?” Where do you feel, Ken, that most companies are missing the mark when it comes to creating a memorable brand? There’s all this research around connection and consumers want to have these relationships with the brands now. Where do you think we’re missing the mark?
I hope you’re enjoying the conversion with Ken Moskowitz at Ad Zombies, just a really good brand stuff. Again, I’m a nerd when it comes to these topics. I hope you’re enjoying it as much as I am and are able to glean some good stuff. While we have you on a quick break, I have one simple favor, maybe this is your first time listening to the Actionable Marketing Podcast, maybe you jumped in here and there in an episode or two. I would love for you to subscribe to the show, I would love to come to you each and every week on a Tuesday. We have tons of great episodes on deck and already in the hopper. If you can subscribe on iTunes, on Stitcher, on Spotify or whatever your preferred platform is, I would love that. Okay, easy ask. Let’s get back to my great conversation with Ken.
Ken: Eric, are you a fan of Game of Thrones?
Eric: I am. I am a fan.
Ken: Did you see the season finale when it happened, the series finale when it happened?
Eric: I have not, so no spoilers, man.
Ken: Oh my gosh, you’re behind. There is a line there where the Imp is speaking, I’m trying to not give away any of it because you haven’t seen the finale, but he’s speaking about what are they going to be remembered for? Is it the battles? Is it this? No, it’s stories. That’s the thing that most businesses forget, is that there’s an interesting story that connects your consumer with your brand. A lot of times, people are going right for the sale, right for the jugular before they engage, before they entertain, before they endear themselves to the audience with storytelling. That’s what we do.
All of the messages that you see from us, not all of them, that’s a broad brush stroke, most of the messages you see from us, the majority of them are not hardcore, “Buy this, buy now, click here.” No. What we do is we tell a story. We talk to the consumer, our target audience about what they experience, their pain. The challenges of getting ads approved that have the word fat, you, suck, all of the words that Facebook seems to not like, but we have an ad that runs that has every single taboo word in the ad.
We get to talk to the audience and tell a story in an engaging, fun, entertaining way. I think if more business owners stepped back from the, “I just want to drive sales and bottom line,” and looked at, “How do I engage and entertain someone so that they care enough to even consider doing business with me?” They would have a lot more business.
Eric: You used an interesting word there, you talked about entertain. I think, as marketers that are listening right now, we wrestle with, “What is our value proposition?” We’re very smart, we try to be meticulous on the words that we choose, but I think entertaining is maybe a, well, I guess if it does, that’s an okay thing, but I definitely don’t think it’s maybe top five requirement when it comes to creating our stories. How important is it, in this day and age, to have entertaining whether it’d be brand copy or video or any content, blog, where do you rank that in terms of importance to keep audience attention or to get audience attention?
Ken: Eric, do you remember the vanilla ice cream that would come out of a soft serve machine? You still like it? Vanilla ice cream?
Eric: Not as much as I used to.
Ken: What’s more memorable, a scoop of vanilla coming out of the soft serve ice cream or rainbow ice cream poop coming out of a unicorn’s butt? There’s a reason that poopery ads and things like that are super memorable and have a high conversion factor because they’re entertaining. If you’re going to just bombard your audience with the same old boring crap over and over again, your ads become noise, they don’t stand out in the newsfeed especially if you’re focused on digital.
There are so many different paths, there’s digital, there are billboards, there are televisions still that people buy. The reality is, if you want to get the attention of today’s consumer, you have to make noise. That noise doesn’t mean like standing in the back of the room and screaming, it means creating a visual distraction that grabs their attention long enough to get them to read the headline. If they read the headline, and that headline grabs them, you maybe have a chance of moving them into your ad copy, the body copy.
All of these things together, form this beautiful harmony, this symphony of moving your customer from casual viewer to a click, to a conversion. We, in Ad Zombies, because it’s my company, and I get to call the shots, always start by entertaining the audience because if you can entertain them and engage them, it’s way easier to ask them for the sale because they love us at that point.
Eric: That’s a really interesting perspective. I have to ask because I know there’s a big constituent of our listenership are going, “Yeah, yeah. I guess that certainly makes sense, Ken, in a B2C consumer focus, but I’m a B2B. Maybe I sell something that’s a bit stuffier or that’s more essensual or not as sexy.” Does it still work in a B2B setting, that entertainment value, is it still as important?
Ken: Think about these numbers. I’m going to lay some numbers at your feet right now. We service hundreds and hundreds of e-commerce businesses around the world that are B2C, but we service over 300 ad agencies globally and 5000 SMBs. The ad agencies, they serve a B2C or a B2B rather not a B2C, and those messages do apply. It doesn’t matter what the industry is. Look, we have several agencies that specialize in the funeral niche.
I’m going to tell you right now, we have some of the best results for those agencies in our funeral space because we can create ads that are entertaining and engaging. Yes, even in the death industry, you can have some fun with your ads. They’re targeting funeral homes to help them increase their lead gen. You can’t make people die faster, but you can create that top of mind awareness that brand piece, so that when something goes wrong, when the unthinkable happens, that’s the funeral home of choice. But we create messages not for the consumer, we create messages to help the agency get their customer, the funeral home, more leads. What we’re doing is we’re creating a high level of brand awareness that’s fun. In fact, one of our ads says, “We put the ‘fun’ back in the funeral business.”
Eric: Let’s say, “Okay. Ken, I like your advice. I’m going to try and think about an opportunity for my brand to embrace some of these entertainment value to understand, I got to get their attention somehow.” Are we talking old fashion do a brand audit, look at what you’re doing? Where do you recommend our listeners to start if their looking at making some modifications to their existing brand? Is this something that they can say, “Can I just simply interject entertainment into my existing brand or do I need to step back into how am I going to be consistent throughout all the different mediums that I’ve got marketing messages in?” Or, “Can entertainment live in one medium like Facebook Ads?” Are you able to pick and choose where you want to add that into your flavor?
Ken: I like to have it peppered throughout the brand in different platforms. Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, it doesn’t matter, and there’s the consistency to it. What I would do is, whether you’re a sole entrepreneur, a small brand, maybe a 10-person company or even a larger brand, as you get into larger companies, there are more layers of bureaucracy and that tends to slow the ship down.
What I like to do is, if you’re a solopreneur or if you’re a decision maker for the brand, take a step back and look at the brand through the consumer’s eyes, and try to separate yourself from the day to day grind, and look at how the consumer might perceive you. Maybe position yourself mentally, as the consumer and then take your step out and look at it from a third person perspective. There’s a couple of different ways to look at it because then you can get an objective, opinion, and view of what you’re putting out there.
You don’t have to do an entire brand audit, that’s if you’re starting to turn the ship in a whole new direction, yes, absolutely you do that. What you can do is start with, “What do we […] business or vertical? What do we do that would allow us to inject some entertainment, some engagement into our ads?” Because as soon as you step back from what you’re doing in a day to day, you should be able to gain some clarity. Don’t be afraid to try stuff. Eric, we test and test and test all the time.
There are some ads that my business partner will say, “That’s never going to work.” Then they turn into these crazy high converting ads. There are some things that we don’t even run with calls to action on them, they’re converting it like a ROAS of 22. Play with things. Test things. Don’t be afraid. Don’t just dip your toe in the testing water. Put your body in the plunge. Take a nice bath, and figure stuff out. Because if you’re never going to take the chance on testing new creative vision, you’re never going to take the chance on trying different strategies. You may never unlock the secret sauce that changes your conversion rate, that changes your conversion rates, that changes your ROAS, that changes the KPIs of that vertical in incredible ways.
Eric: I can definitely see the need for experimentation when it comes to testing. You got to be able to test the measure. I love to hear that that’s a part of what you do. It’s a part of our mix here at CoSchedule. We’ve talked about the importance of that I think on previous episodes. What I’m curious about also, Ken is you must get some pushbacks. Let’s say our listeners are like, “I want to try some of these things.” You probably get pushback potentially, with some of maybe—I’m going to make a wild guess here—that you maybe come back with some zany ideas. Do they give you free rein and say, “Yeah. You know what, I’m going to trust you 100%, and your team at Ad Zombies. You guys just go for it. As long as I see that conversion is coming through, we’re all gold.” Or, do you have to do a lot of convincing? If you do, what’s the pushback do you get? How do you get them to agree? I can see maybe our listeners saying, “I want to try this, but I got to get the rest of the team onboard.” What have you found as a good way to help them see this vision?
Ken: Let’s start with, do we get pushback, yes, we get pushback. There are times wherein clients will say, “This is the type of ad I need.” I don’t want you guys to go into that crazy creative space, do this, this or this. They’ll give us the direction because our creative brief gives them the ability to direct the conversation or the direction that we take the ad. Now, there are clients who know our work and trust us enough to let us come up with everything. They’ll just say, “Here’s the target audience. Here’s what we’re selling. We want a storytelling ad for the top of the funnel, but you guys go nuts. Just do your thing.”
I love this because this is really indicative of what happens when people just let it go. Do you remember that? That Disney movie, “Let it go, let it go.” About a year ago, a guy by the name of Mike Fowler, I can use his name because he’s super cool, and I’ve connected with him on multiple occasions now. Mike Fowler is an Ad Zombies client. In fact, we have him featured I think in the first section of our website. He wrote this amazing Facebook review after receiving an ad from us. I’ll just give you the overview of it because this might help with the mindset of the person who’s struggling with, “Okay, how do I do this?”
This guy ordered a Facebook ad and an image from us, and he wasn’t super happy when we delivered it. In fact, he hated it. But because we have a guarantee, “We want you happy. If you’re not happy, we’re not happy,” we rewrote the ad and said to him, “Look, no problem. We’ll rewrite the ad, but we have a request.” Our request was, “Could you split test the new ad that we’re writing you with the original ad?” What he did is, he not only ran the ad that he hated, he ran the rewrite of the ad against his own ads, so three different ads. Of course, he thought his would do much better than ours, and that’s really cool.
What he said to us in his email was, “I ran all three ads. The first ad beat the one you rewrote with my requested changes by four to one and beat both of my ads by about five to one. I’ve been schooled.” The guy is just an avid fan now. That is what happens when you get creative. I’m not saying it’s because we did the ad because you, as a business owner or you as a CMO, can create the same type of change in your ad stories. All you have to do is be willing to take a chance and test something.
Just because you don’t like the ad flavor, just because you don’t like vanilla or you don’t like strawberry, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it. A lot of business owners and a lot of CMOs are afraid to try something that they themselves may not like, and that’s wrong because just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean your audience won’t. Just as if somebody likes an ad or somebody likes a message doesn’t mean everybody will, but you only have to resonate with that particular audience to get conversion for that ad and then another ad might speak to another audience. That’s why don’t ever be afraid to try new things and don’t go with, “I don’t like this ad.” But how do you know 100 million people won’t?
Eric: What a natural way to wrap up our conversation, I love that advice. I hope that all the listeners were taking meticulous notes there. Good stuff, Ken. If people want to hear more from you, if they want to learn more about Ad Zombies, if they’re interested in Facebook Ads or a fun personality wants to follow you, what’s the best way for them to connect with you or with Ad Zombies?
Ken: You can always connect with me on social, I’m easy to find, I’m pretty public, I’m out there a lot, facebook.com/adzombies for the brand. If you want to get retargeted by us like mad and see some of the crazy creative that we do, you don’t have to ever buy from us, but we’re going to retarget you because I want you to see what I mean by brand messaging. Just hit our website, hit our Facebook page, you’ll get retargeted. Don’t think about what we’re doing, but think about how you can take that same approach in your business or your brand to create messages that are very unique, very different that engage and entertain your audience because that is going to drive your conversion rate sky high.
Eric: Love it. It’s been fun to see that little kid writing jingles turn into a really successful entrepreneur and a really successful company. Ken, thanks so much for coming on the show. It’s been our absolute pleasure having you on.