Blog - Apple Box Studios a Pittsburg Advertising Agency


Ready for Game Day

At Apple Box Studios, we embrace video as a means of storytelling.  In the digital age, it’s as vital as ever.  And one of the most interesting elements is the many shapes and forms it can take.  Aspects like production value, budget and creative execution can all play a heavy hand in the end product.  An incredible representation of this was on full display by the NFL, as all 32 teams were tasked with creating a social media video to promote their 2019 schedule.  There is something for every imagination here and it’s a great exercise in creativity to see the various executions.  If you have some time, sit back and enjoy.

(Obviously the Steelers are listed first)



2018 in Review: A Busy, Challenging & Well-traveled Year

2018 was another whirlwind year for us here at Apple Box Studios.  We continued to strengthen our relationships with many of our existing clients and forged new partnerships with some exciting companies along the way.  One constant theme remained – our relentless effort to provide our clients with bold, compelling and creative solutions.  From planning, writing, designing, programming and measuring on both external and internal communication initiatives, we remain a full-service agency with top-tier branding, writing and design as our core competency.  Looking to the future, we will be placing a new and robust emphasis on video marketing as it continues to grow rapidly. So with 2019 in full swing, here’s a fun look back at 2018 (cue the sentimental music…)

January February March April May June July August September October November December


We recently came across an article in Ad Age about the future of small advertising agencies and we’re happy to report—the future looks bright. The article’s key take-away: “small agencies are at an advantage due to three major innovations that are increasingly changing the future of advertising—speed, specialization and the rise of the creative.” Let’s take them one at a time.

Speed. Responsiveness. Service—call it what you wish—time is everything in business and smaller ad agencies are better equipped to ramp up a project, react to market opportunities and provide hands-on service to their clients.  Smaller ad agencies are usually hungrier and out to prove themselves.


Many smaller advertising agencies specialize in niche verticals or delivery channels, so it only makes sense to go small. Our specialties here at Apple Box Studios—healthcare marketing, tech start-up and employee communication. And let’s not forget about video production.

Finally, we come to creative—the great equalizer. A huge, game-changing idea can come from anywhere, not just a larger ad agency. We’ve always believed our creative stands up against any size agency. Ad Age makes it clear that advertisers are going where the ideas are. In other words—it’s the creative that counts.

If you’re thinking about going with a smaller advertising firm or already working with one, this is an article for you.  Enjoy.

You can read the full article here. 

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Templates < > Cookie Cutters

More and more template websites are out there to help the busy creative artist. To most people they symbolize a sort of short-cut to getting a project done. To the lazy, they are an easy path to not having to use the right half of your brain. But when it comes to Motion Graphic Templates (typically in After Effects), this could possibly cause more work for you than you think.

The best looking templates are not always the best assembled templates. The problem is, some templates are put together by 1 or 2 people, and those are usually the ones that have the least problems with the assembly. However, some are put together by teams of people working for companies that just crank these suckers out. And in many cases, several people could be assigned to one project. One composition could have as many as 5 or 6 sub-comps, making it difficult to navigate through the tangled mess, as well as make specific modifications. Usually, those type of templates are best used “out of the box”. In other words, if you want your video to look exactly like the demo (with the exception of the images and logos used), then they might work just fine. But don’t expect to modify them very easily. Others will work just fine if you want to customize it and kind of use it as a base starting point.

So how can you tell before you buy them? Well, unless you get familiar with the developer and their style of creating the templates, the answer is – you can’t. And usually you will end up $50-$60 in the hole before you find out. Not very practical.

If you are a motion graphics artist and you are reading this, you are either shaking your head in agreement or asking yourself “Well, what am I supposed to do then? How can I take advantage of using templates that look so appealing?” I’ll give you my advice, but it’s not something you are going to like. Are you ready? Here goes… Get better at using After Effects (or Motion). “What?” (you say). What I mean is, when you go to choose a template, never expect to use that template 100%. And if you need an element from that video (like an effect or a custom camera movement or look and feel), then great. By all means get the template. But again I warn you, after you buy the template, it’s very possible that in order to get the achieved look and feel you are after (based on the preview), you may have to do even MORE customizing than you planned. So… get better at the software so if and when that happens, you will know exactly what to do. And as an added bonus, you might start to rely less and less on the templates in the first place.

Now there’s some solid advice. Hey, I did warn you that you were probably NOT going to like it. Please don’t take this to mean that you should stay away from templates altogether, I just wanted you to know what you were getting into before you make the investment to begin with.

There is a happy ending to this. Any company or person who needs a video produced who thinks they can just buy a copy of After Effects and then buy a template to get the finished product they want in order to save a whole lot of money is probably going to get very frustrated very quickly and soon call in an expert to do the job. So in the end, having the templates out there to begin with is not necessarily taking money out of your pockets. And if you get good enough at working with them, it could actually put more money IN your pockets!

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Internal Communications v/s Human Resources: Are they the same?

The lines between Human Resource Management and Internal Communications is often blurred. Many companies see these as one in the same, while others have separate departments and/or employees for these functions. Both functions are engaging with the same audience (employees), so it makes sense that they work closely together.

Definition of Human Resources (HR) – The division of a company that is focused on activities relating to employees. These activities normally include recruiting and hiring new employees, orientation and training of current employees, employee benefits and retention.

Definition of Internal Communications (IC) – The way a company interacts/communicates with it’s people/employees and how they interact in return.

It’s critical that both departments be on the same page when it comes to policy, messaging, expectations and internal tactics. Communication is the KEY factor.  Internal Communications wants to communicate with every employee, and HR has access to a great deal of their vital information. Collaboration is a must.

In the end, when IC provides employees with ongoing vision, purpose and encouragement, HR is better equipped to support their employees and maintain a happy and healthy team! This in turn provides stability and success! All is right in the world.

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Brand Recognition and Success

Have you ever been in a conversation with a group of friends and someone says “that sounds like something Rachel would say”? Or maybe you’re driving in your car and hear a song come on and say to yourself “this sounds an awful lot like Taylor Swift”?

Well, effective branding and advertising work the same way. A brand should have its own voice—its own personality—and should be instantly recognizable. It is a strategically curated emotional expression of your value that lives in people’s hearts and minds. When done right, branding becomes a beautiful collaboration of design, writing and experience, all combining to produce a very specific feeling.

Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, once said, “a brand isn’t a logo or a website, it’s what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” It’s that emotional “gut feeling” reaction a company can elicit from its customers. Photography, graphic design and copywriting are all elements that help support and build a brand, but in a nutshell, your brand is the set of perceptions people have about your company.

At the end of the day, marketing is the process that brings you the leads and sales but branding is the foundation upon which you build your reputation and customer loyalty.

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The Axial Age of Media

When 14 year old Philo Farnsworth looked out on his Idaho farm in 1921, he saw plows moving across the fields, back and forth. In his imagination, he saw an electron gun drawing an image much in the same way. By the time he was 21 he had built the first television, or image dissector as he called it and the way we consume media was forever changed.

That time could be considered an axial age, or a pivot point in history where the changes that follow are of significance.  History has pivoted once again and we are living in an age where your phone makes higher resolution images than broadcast cameras did 10 years ago. Multiple technologies like LED displays, CMOS sensors and high-speed connectivity are changing the way we consume media once again.

The professional side of media creation is also at a turning point. Cameras like the Alexa from Arri and the RED product line are creating cinematic imagery on par with film. Some may say even surpassing it. 5 years ago when you’d visit RED’s website they would brag about films that were shot on RED, a small percentage compared to film. Now, things are the other way around. There’s even a lower end market with DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) and DSLM (Digital Single Lens Mirrorless) cameras that are worlds better than the best digital cameras were 10 years ago. Then there’s the high-definition camera we carry in our pocket.

There is a great spectrum of technological change upon us, for the high-end filmmaker to the teenager with the latest phone. Now everyone has access to content creation. But the biggest part of the uprising is that now everyone has somewhere to put it. Social media and high-speed connectivity give everyone an outlet for their thoughts and ideas to be recorded for posterity. We are now using video (and images) to communicate ideas to one another at an unprecedented rate across unprecedented distances. As an image is worth a thousand words, we now have a higher bandwidth of communication, using Instagram, YouTube, Facebook , Twitter, etc. to communicate our experiences to a personalized audience. Humans are doing what they’ve been doing for tens of thousands of years as far as communicating thoughts goes, but now we can do it faster. Unbelievably faster. So the question really is: what 14 year old is out there visualizing something profound? Are we living in an axial age of tech or is the real pivot point coming when that 14 year old turns 21 and changes the world as we know it. Let’s just hope it’s for the good.

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FIGHTING COMPLACENCY with a Powerful Employee Communications Plan

Complacency is one of the most pervasive problems facing American companies today, especially larger corporations where accountability can easily fall through the cracks.

But how can organizations encourage accountability? How can you incentivize a culture of ownership? How can companies not only communicate with their employees, but truly inspire and motivate them? This is the root mission of every HR department tasked with optimizing the productivity and value of society’s most formidable resource: its people.

To do this, most successful businesses provide two simple things: the direction forward and the motivation to move ahead. They also maintain a strong brand identity closely associated with their mission and purpose. This internal branding acts as a central rallying point encouraging employees to deliver on the promise of their chosen profession.

With this goal in mind, a powerful and consistent communications campaign should be integrated into every moving part of the company—every possible touch point, every meeting and elevator ride. Imagine this messaging in countless derivative forms—as a screen saver, in every leadership speech, at the bottom of every email, on the stub of your paycheck, on lobby posters, integrated into an incentive program, echoed in your weekly sales meetings or the driving theme of a new community relations program.

A persuasive employee communications campaign becomes the energy source that fuels leadership and makes a company tick. Without robust, ongoing and well branded employee communications, your workforce will lack a sense of purpose. With a strong, omnipresent plan, every employee knows the way forward.

This is how you fight the never-ending battle of complacency. You inspire employees to care with bold words and a clear vision. Only then will your communication efforts become more than messaging—it will become a movement.

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Facebook—A Powerful Tool in the world of Advertising

Social media is constantly changing before our eyes.  The new features and tools delivered through each platform make it a valuable tool for us to take advantage of in advertising. When developing marketing campaigns, social media is not something we can ignore or view as optional anymore. It’s absolutely necessary for a successful digital marketing campaign.

While some may say that Facebook has lost its popularity among it’s younger users, those of us working in advertising have a different view.  We see the platform as a very useful tool. To get the most out of Facebook when building digital campaigns, we must keep up with the updates of Facebook Business Manager.

You can learn more about the emerging features of this tool in this helpful article that serves as a guide: 

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Track & React

Urgency. Detail. Optimization. Creativity. Today’s marketing and communications industry calls for it all- and then some. At Apple Box Studios, we view project work through a lens of how to refine an audience, how to make a campaign more interesting, how to make a message grow. With that comes the requirement to be able to juggle multiple client projects and to never fall short on service.

To manage effectively and efficiently, I tell myself two things every day. Track and react.


As a project manager, one of my key responsibilities is to keep track of all moving project parts. Project milestones, team progress, client communications and of course industry news. At the start of each week I set priorities for every project phase, reorganize those priorities, and follow-up. Let’s just say my calendar is one of my best friends.


Working in an ad agency has taught me how to react, quickly. As an extension of our client’s team, we must be able to lend support. Whether it takes the form of video production or media planning, there always seems to be a race for time. So quick reactions are key to keep moving. Also, as an ad agency, it is important that we react to what’s going on in the market space today. Whether that be utilizing the latest trends on social media or creating innovative communication tools on behalf of our clients.

Tracking and reacting provides a proactive work balance in my department- leaving everything else to fall into place.

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