Adam Kleinberg
Summit Alumni

Adam Kleinberg

CEO, Traction

Adam Kleinberg is the CEO of Traction, an interactive agency in San Francisco that believes everything is interactive. We've broadly been recognized as one of the top small agencies in the US: 2013 iMedia Small Agency of the Year finalist Won silver for 2013 Small Agency of the Year, Western Region, in the Ad Age Small Agency Awards In 2013, n... more

Adam's Comments

The 5 strangest Star Wars marketing partnerships

Mike, I cannot believe the Crap-o-Matic Star Wars edition didn't get an honorable mention in this piece. Sniff.


The 7 essentials of a successful agency pitch

Lots of sound advice here. Thanks for your shout-out for Traction, Jim!


5 ways for brands to figure out what women want

great advice for husbands too.

Unique company policies employees love

Brant... thanks for your POV. Makes sense since I run a US-based agency. I tried to include examples from companies like Starbucks and Netflix to show the universal effectiveness of such policies on company culture. Love the 3M example. Thanks!

Ken, there were so many great examples to choose from—decided to stick with these categories—but maybe a follow-up blog post would be a great idea listing many of the policies out there.


The 5 biggest agency turf wars


Totally agree with you. When we partnered with a PR agency on one of our clients, they had already done "positioning" work which was all about understanding what conversations were already happening and how the brand could fit into them in a slightly differentiated way. It was useless for connecting with consumers though. Our approach was totally different, all about understanding the unique way we could convey value to people, not publications. I think you're right though. Complete positioning accomplishes both.


This week's top tweets (for marketers)

Bethany Simpson, you are just so damn Hollywood!


Big data: What's helpful, what's hype

I think Joe hits the nail on the head. It's not about data so much as insight.

That Kleinberg fella, on the other hand.

Seriously though, data definitely has a role in helping derive insight — and insight is what smart creative is based upon. But creativity is what makes great creative great.


4 signs it's time to fire your client

I've fired several clients over the years. I take my cues from David Ogilvy. I believe the quote in his book was "I've fired 10 times the number of clients that have fired our agency and every time for the same reason—degradation of employee morale. It's unacceptable in this business."

Never a pleasant point to get to, but when the writing is on the wall you gotta do what you've gotta do.

Great article, Drew.

10 epic marketing fails of 2012

Wow. Surprised by the Nike ad. I thought it was brilliant. Saw it live during the Olympics and remember how moved I was that Nike would come out and say: greatness isn't just about being an Olympian, greatness is about just doing it.

Loved the piece though, Mike.

7 reasons people hate being in meetings with you

Thanks Augie, Diane. They are such a big part of our day—it's worth thinking about the little things to make them more valuable. Cheers.


Stupid things that job candidates do

Great piece, Julie!

I recently had someone send me a resume with "The Grateful Dead" listed under "Skills and Interests." Seriously. Add that to the what-not-to-do list.


The most meaningless (and hilarious) job titles on LinkedIn


I got a resume the other day that listed "The Grateful Dead" under "Skills & Interests." Wonder how that plays out on LinkedIn.


Brands that failed with gamification

Thanks, Brant. I'm sure I missed a lot, but I'm glad you agree. The point isn't that gamification is bad. It's that it's hard and needs to considered carefully.


Is gamification a solution for social businesses?

"Businesses that integrate gaming into their campaigns see an increase in user behavior."

Wow. That's quite the blanket statement. Is this an article or a paid advertisement?

10 painfully common mistakes that salespeople make

"I am not saying this [sellers buying clothing for buyers] is ethically wrong"

Then what is? I'm sure the client who just paid for a media plan that was influenced by what kind of jeans their agency planner gets to wear for free would call it ethically wrong.



Why the QR code is failing


What was the free gift?


4 new reasons to redesign your website

Thanks for the clarification, Jo. According to Wikipedia 28.73 million have been sold as of June 25, 2011. Not sure where they got that number from, but needless to say, it's a lot. Another interesting statistic someone just emailed me is that 88% of mobile web users reported using the web on their mobile device at home. Just more reason for brands to rethink the status quo.


5 mid-year digital trends to watch

Michelle, I think we're going to (slowly) see a shift in how we segment the entire agency ecosystem. Now, the industry tends to segment in terms of vertical silos: creative, media, mobile, social, now publishers trying to be agencies giving away free stuff (need an acronym for that last one). I believe we're going to be moving toward segmenting our services in a more horizontal manner where companies that supply strategy, analytics, ideation and innovation on one tier, and ones that provide commoditized services on another. Jeff, I hope you're right about that awakening. I think this trend toward agencies RFPing publishers to come up with creative concepts is part of that trend. Ironic, because publishers are not equipped to deliver great creative. However, they are equipped to come up with ideas that integrate brands into content and functionality of their sites—which is part of what makes a great idea great nowadays. I see an opportunity for strategic partnerships between creative agencies and publishers—we're starting to make some. This makes sense because it could enable the best of both world's in terms of ideas, but keep media agencies from being swayed toward recommending their partners instead of what's best for the client.

The decline of online reviews

"...found that one-fifth of adults now choose to "like" a local business they enjoy compared with 13 percent who take the time to write a review." How does this support your premise that online reviews are in decline? Of course, more people will click a like button than take the time to write a review, but 13% of people actually taking that time is one hell of a lot of people. And while I don't have data to back it up, I use online reviews to inform just about every new restaurant choice I make. If anything, I'd say that the deluge of people who "like" businesses on Facebook are only indicative of the rise of online reviews. My two cents.

The 10-minute guide to digital out-of-home

Thanks, Jim. I'm speaking on a panel at CET World today. This will make me look like I know what I'm talking about.


6 companies we don't want to see fail

Jennifer, thanks for your comment. Like I said, I'm not clear on the veracity of this. I'm not a professional journalist. I'm just a guy with an opinion trying to be thoughtful, transparent and honest.

6 companies we don't want to see fail

I'm not clear on the veracity of this, but someone has informed me that:

"Double Verify does not have a compliance solution. All they do is serve the icon. They are giving this away to existing clients to try to keep business from Evidon until DV can develop their solution. Right now, Double Verify doesn't have one. They didn't even make the finals of the RFP that NARC putout last year. Both they and TRUSTe got nuked in the first round." Also, I seem to have left out two other companies that are selling compliance solutions, Ad Safe or Privacy Choice.

Regardless of the players in the space and whose selling what, I hope we as an industry can get our act together and not fail at self-regulating in the coming months. My two cents.


5 agency blogs you should be reading

Also, I highly recommend the garlic mashed potatoes. Just sayin'.

5 agency blogs you should be reading

Thanks for the mention, Michael. I think you nailed on the head what we're trying to do with our blog—which is provide value—whether that value comes in the form content that makes you better at your job or content that makes you laugh so hard milk comes out your nose. Both of those things are part of our culture and we see the blog as a window in to that. Cheers,


It's time to do something about privacy


Great article. Also, you look terrific in that police officer uniform.


6 ways to kill your marketing career

Thanks for all the enthusiastic comments. If you enjoyed this post, also check out a follow-up post I did called "What is innovation?" at


The 5 components of a complete social media program

A number of people have asked me for a higher quality version of the Social Experience Design info-graphic. If you'd like one, reach out to me on twitter @adamkleinberg


5 ways you will be defeated by the pitch process (page 2 of 3)

You're right on point. If a client really wants you, they'll often even change the parameters of the pitch process to keep you in. I've told potential clients we wouldn't participate because we wouldn't do spec creative and gotten a call back an hour later saying "we've changed the rules."

Beware though. Even if the rules are changed and spec creative isn't required, as Sean points out, it comes down to ideas and chemistry. If you don't bring ideas to the table, you might as well not show up.

8 marketing blunders to avoid

I love this, Jim. The chart on MySpace says it all.

I'd add "jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge." As in my mother screaming, "If your friends jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you do that too???" whenever I did something moronic as a child.

How many brands have invested in building out cookie cutter websites with the exact same content and architecture as their competitors that have become digital ghost towns? Lots.


How to start your own agency

I think this is a good piece. One thing I'd add is that you need to have an unbridled sense of optimism. The truth is that starting an agency is not necessarily the hard part. It's keeping it going.

When you start an agency, you've got nothing to feed but yourself. You resign yourself to taking a hit in the pocketbook for a while. You use an old door and some milk crates for a desk. It's fine.

Then you work your ass off, do great work, hire great people, get an office and have bills to pay. That's right about the time that you realize business is is cyclical and there are going to be months when there's no revenue coming in.

It took me years of stress to understand that and it was liberating when I did. That's because cycles come back up, so I was able to embrace the slowdowns as my business got more and more established, knowing there would be an upswing a month or two down the road.

So, that's my advice to add to the article. Keep your eye on the big picture. You can't ignore the day-to-day of course, but there's some challenges you'll face no matter what. Be ready for them.

Oh, and be prepared to work your ass off.

6 ways to kill your marketing career

Thanks, Chas (and the rest of you),

You're right. Five years ago, no one knew what to do with interactive, so agencies built silos. Today, it's obvious that EVERYTHING is interactive and digital needs to be thought of holistically.

Now, no one knows what to do with social media, so they're creating silos again. It still boils down to understanding human motivations and creating communications that appeal to them. The only thing that has changed are the tools we use to accomplish that.



Social media: The next generation

"If you said "social media" to a marketer 18 months ago, chances are they'd have thought exclusively of social networks. No more."

Absolutely agree with this. The term "social media" means everything and nothing these days, akin to the term "Web 2.0" a few years ago.

Why it's time for new marketing optimism

Great article, Lisa. It's definitely true that we're being challenged to do more with less and that change can be uncomfortable while we adjust as an industry, but that will only make us stronger. We're seeing more and more demand for innovation, creativity and strategy and we're figuring out how to deliver tactically in a more efficient manner. The landscape has and will continue to change, but for those left standing there will be a whole new era of opportunity.

I'm excited.

Meet the agency of the future

The future is right now. Agencies need to be creating business building ideas, not just advertising ideas. They need to be developing brand experiences, not just producing ads.

Your contention that agencies of the future need clients of the future is right on. Clients should realize that we live in a collaborative economy. They should look to innovation partners (maybe we shouldn't call them agencies) to help them continue to differentiate and thrive.

Too much focus is on "measurable" roi today creating a environment where procurement departments squeeze the value great agencies can provide and driving them toward commoditized status.

6 digital agency survival tips for 2010

Great article, Liz. I appreciate that not only do you advise us to tell stories, you tell us stories to illustrate your point.

I appreciate your comment that "the very idea of a digital agency is irrelevant." I find it just silly to read articles about how interactive agencies are "finally ready" to take the lead for brands. At this point, if you're agency isn't "interactive" you're probably on your way out of business.

7 reasons your employees hate you

I agree with that Robert. At Traction, managers have regular one-on-ones each week with our direct reports. Great way to ensure you have some focused time to give people the attention they need.

More expert marketing predictions for 2010

I agree with the other Adam's comment (Broitman, that is) that "Campaigns that begin and end on a single platform" will fall by the wayside.

Distributed consumption of content is the biggest trend to hit the digital space and focusing on one channel to reach a brand community is missing the point entirely.

Smart fella that Broitman is. He should run a circus or something.

8 experts' predictions for 2010

I'm amazed that someone who works for a digital out-of-home signage company would make a snide comment about this panel because we didn't mention digital out-of-home signage.

5 marketing megatrends you can't ignore

Thanks for all the comments, everybody. Overwhelmed by the response I'm getting from this piece.

I've created a list on my personal blog of posts that this article has spawned. Some interesting takes on how these megatrends apply to parallel worlds like crisis communications and venture capital.

Check it out:

6 PR facts every marketer must know (page 2 of 2)


Great article. You say the press release is dead. I'd be interested to hear your view on the SEO benefits of press releases that are being touted by PR Newswire and other press release distribution services.


How to avoid wasting agency fees

The flip-side of transparency is integrity, something not many corporations have built into their DNA. But I firmly believe the successful company of the future is an honest company. That means transparency. That means integrity. Great article.

A CMO's guide to hiring a digital agency


Smart article. At the end of the day, agencies are groups of people, so I like that you mentioned chemistry as the most important thing.

I also appreciate the advice from David Wiggs: "Start by asking, 'why do we need a new agency?'" This is smart. Many agencies have grown up providing commodity type services—"DR chop shops" for instance. Others provide great value strategic partners who can consistently deliver innovation and creativity. Being honest with yourself about what you need is the best way to find an agency partner that actually meets your needs.

7 reasons your employees hate you

oops, typo.

7 reasons your employees hate you

Fine by me, Reynolds. If you want to give credits, my company site is

7 reasons your employees hate you

Thanks for the comments.

Yashod, I don't think it's as hard as finding an elusive "perfect equilibrium" if people have a clear framework of what's expected of them.

At Traction we have a company value system: candor, communication, great work, empathy and integrity. It gives people a compass for just about any decision they have to make. It makes being a manager easier because you can just give people feedback (positive mostly, negative if you need to) to keep them in the framework.


7 reasons your employees hate you

This is Adam (the author of this). Wanted to give some props to the guys over at Their podcast have been a big influence on me. I recommend readers check them out.

How to avoid a brand overdose

I distinctly remember this very same Marketer on the Street reporter interviewing me at the last iMedia Agency Summit. I remember so clearly because he concluded the interview by telling me I had the most beautiful eyes of any man he had ever seen. It was awkward, yet touching.

Ironically, that video was never published on

IBM concludes money dance with Sun Microsystems

This is a great move for both companies. Sun is a company with some of the best technology out there, but suffers from very low awareness and inaccurate perceptions of its brand. IBM is going to gain this technology which includes ownership of MySQL, the open-source database that most startups are run on and the most powerful cloud computing offering out there—incredibly valuable, because while the cloud is not yet arrived to most enterprise businesses, it is absolutely inevitable that it will. If I were Oracle or SAP, I'd be worried.

Which social media ads are right for you?

Was disappointed this article didn't address many of the unique opportunities available in social networks—sponsored questions in LinkedIn, Social Ads and Sponsored Stories in Facebook—and dig into what works and what doesn't.

Putting your content where it matters (page 5 of 5)

Thanks, Kip. I have to give credit to Traction's General Manager, Russell Quinan, for the ATM reference. He's been using that for years.

Also, think the Gold's Gym effort that Kevin pointed out is a great example of relevant value.

Razorfish issues last rites for Web 2.0

Rich, you undermine this whole article by using the term "Web 3.0." You're essentially allowing Mr. Kokich to use you as an advertising vehicle for the integration technology Razorfish is selling. The reality is that "Web 3.0" (if there ever is one) is going to be whatever wave of innovation drives the economic growth that gets us out of this financial crisis. No one knows what that is.

That said, I do believe that there is a great deal of innovation to come around the integration of marketing and business processes—and the integration of marketing across platform. I'd add to this integrated communications planning as a more structured discipline. An indicator of this is that all of the major agency holding companies have picked up dedicated communications planning agencies in the last few years. There's a dire need to effectively plan communication flows across and through media channels in a unified manner with effective analytics and optimization built in.

But Web 3.0? Come on.

The X Factor: Diary of an anonymous AE (page 3 of 3)

Lara, what company do you work for? I want to make sure my agency never works for you.

The X Factor: If the Pope gets social media, why can't we? (page 2 of 2)

I don't know if that's fair to all those brands, Sean. The pope works for an organization that's got more experience converting their best customers into brand evangelists than just about anyone.

The X Factor: The risky business of ad banners

I get where you're coming from, Sean, but don't agree with you in all cases. Traditionally (remember those 45 minutes when we established tradition?), where "just banners" sat in the marketing funnel was obvious—TV, print and outdoors were used to generate awareness, banners were used for direct response.

But, the world has changed. That funnel doesn't exist anymore. Young people don't watch TV. They don't read magazines. So, banners do have to do more than just pull clicks.

And they work for more than just clicks. I mean, this is totally anecdotal, but I was at a party Saturday night and mentioned we just did a campaign to launch Camelbak's BPA-free water bottles. The guy says to me "the one with the spinning bottles? I loved when the scratched up metal bottle comes in and it says 'aftertaste?'"

Yes, we followed that precise process you mentioned, but we put the ad in very relevant places — and when have you ever heard of someone remembering copy from a banner ad? Plus, the ads are doubling industry norms for CTR.

A typical online media buy is in the six figure range (at least), so potentially doubling your ROI seems to warrant a more rigorous creative process.

That said, the creative process starts with a good brief and a good brief should specify what objectives are. For the most part, you're right, no one really does read banner ads. If you're running a network buy on, you may be better of with a giant red flashing button that says "Save $100! One Day Only!" I thought the simple blinking logo execution had running was a great banner (enough for me to notice and remember anyhow).

At the same time, I've seen "interactive" banner units (like a simple game-in-a-banner) outperform the rest of a campaign by 7X. Those kinds of ideas, don't come (at least not consistently) without a full creative process.

I agree that there are too many banners out there that try to tell a linear story. That doesn't take demonstrate an understanding of the interactive medium at all.

I also really like (and may adopt) your point about presenting banners in actual environments. And the idea about weekly banner concepts is terrific. Really appreciate the client-side view of a smart solution.

We often present first-round banner concepts in pencil (when that works) to stay efficient. Only works for clients with "vision" but it works to get ideas on the table quickly and cost-effectively.

My two cents, anyway.

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