Getting Comfortable with Shameless Self-promotion [Plus an Ad Teardown]

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hamyaw podcast graphic titled shameless self-promotion.

It probably won’t surprise you to know that as a kid, I loved to perform.

Chorus and dance recitals. Fall festivals. Spring musicals. Variety shows. Christmas pageants.

You name it — if it meant being onstage under the spotlight, I was first in line to audition.

(Granted, I was never very good.

But rest assured: if there was a chance to stand in front of an audience, I could usually be found in the background somewhere, beaming as hard as I could and giving it my all.)

I Was Born Knowing How to “Sell It”

My early on-stage days were also the first time I was introduced to the idea of “selling it”.

As in — making expressions that exuded only joy, ease, or whatever emotional moment the script or music demanded.

“Smile!” the teachers and pageant directors would tell us. “Let the audience know you’re having fun!”

“The bigger your expression, the better!”

“We’re here to make it look easy!”

I found this part of the process fascinating, but I didn’t really understand it.

I just obeyed, smiled, and acted as excited as I possibly could. And it wasn’t hard to do, as I loved every minute I was up there.

Until, as I grew older, something changed.

Learning How to “Cool It”

As my tween years hit me like a bucket of adolescent ice water, all of a sudden, the constant all-teeth-showing smiling and acting as jazzed as I could from the back row of the risers felt…stupid.

I went from practically vibrating with joy every time the curtain rose and the lights went up, to a constant dialogue in my head about what other people might think.

Stop smiling so much. It’s weird. You’re in the chorus, at the back of the stage. Why are you trying so hard?

Don’t enjoy the music and dancing too much, nerd…

… Or else the girls who shave their legs and wear ribbons in their hair and diamond studs in their ears whose moms let them hem their uniform skirts will make fun of you mercilessly until you die.

So I made a conscious decision to stop “selling it”.


Unfortunately, as you might expect, “cool detachment” has never come easily to me.

So instead of looking like a wantonly expressionless Abercrombie and Fitch model, without my usual smile I just looked… cranky.

For a few months, no one said anything much about it.

(After all, I wasn’t the lead on display. I was the window dressing.)

Until, one fateful late summer afternoon for our last chorus performance before the school year ended… I got busted.

By my mom.

She found me in the crowd after the recital with a look of concern on her face.

“What were you doing up there?!” she asked, a sharp rock of discontent among the swirling stream of other parents around us, laying fragrant bouquets of Publix flowers into their superstars’ arms.

“Singing.” I grunted, shrugging with measured disdain.

So cool. So aloof. So above it all.

Were the ribbon hair girls watching???

When Being Cool Isn’t…

But Mama Bear was having none of it.

“Normally you’re a joy to watch, but this time… I’ve never seen you look more bored in my life.”

Omg. I’d succeeded.

Perfect. I thought.

Until I watched the tape back.

And I watched my emotionless face stick out like a sore thumb among the nervous, still-uncool-enough-to-smile kids around me.

I didn’t just look bored.

I looked joyless.

And, frankly, a little dead.

And it even made me say “That girl doesn’t want to be here.”

But I did. More than anything.

My heart started pounding and my face burned hot with shame.

Passion Shows You Care

And it was in that moment that I really absorbed a truth: A life spent trying desperately not to be too passionate or too joyful, lest someone disapprove, is no life at all.

The ones laughing about those who care “too much” are laughing from the audience because they don’t have the guts to be on the stage.

The ones who look down on you for giving something your all are doing so because they’re too chicken to put themselves out there in the way you do.

The same principle is true for selling yourself and what you offer.

If you’re more concerned with…

  • Looking cool.
  • Not looking “too desperate”.
  • Or not appearing to try to sell, or make money.

… Than you are with the excitement about what you’re bringing to the table, and who you can help?

People aren’t going to be more convinced by your attempt to be cool, or “above it all”. They’re going to leave, and go find someone they believe actually cares.

The Right Kind of Self-promotion…

That’s why it’s our JOB to become shameless about self promotion, and get ridiculously stoked to sell ourselves and our offers.

It’s also why we need to unhook ourselves from that middle school validation craving, and the need to be “cool” — and lean IN to the excitement and joy around what we’ve created, the problems we solve, and the people we serve.

Because THAT is what draws positive attention.

THAT is what makes a person say “I need to know more.”

And, most importantly, THAT is what makes us braver, and more willing to make mistakes and look silly along our roads to success, too.

A HAMYAW Double Feature!

Which is why I’m so thrilled to be bringing you today’s #HAMYAW MAGICAL DOUBLE-FEATURE.

This tasty #HAMYAW meal is intended to be consumed in two parts.


For your first course, may I present:

#HAMYAW’s Shameless Self Promotion episode.

(Coincidentally, one of my favorite episodes we’ve ever made.)

Inside, we dig into the importance of owning who you are and what you’re selling — and the vital ingredient of learning to enjoy the sales process in order to make it easier, and infinitely more fun. Tune in now for our thoughts on: • The reasons self-promotion feels weird • Why depersonalizing self-promotion is the key to nailing it • What you should emphasize when you’re self-promoting • How to stop obsessing over your qualifications (and what to talk about instead) • The antidote to “turning people off” or “annoying them” • AND MORE!

And while you’re over there – let us know in the comments:

How do YOU feel about sales conversations?

Awkward? Awesome? Somewhere in between?

When you’re feeling resistant, how do you overcome that?

WE’RE VERY NOSY. So come spill the beans and SELL US, honey!

But Wait — There’s More HAMYAW!

And then, for dessert…A short, 13-minute teardown of a Volkswagen ad that… didn’t quite work.

hamyaw podcast graphic titled volkswagen ad teardown.

Because sometimes on your road to the sale, and as you continue to shamelessly promote, launch, pitch, and create?

Not everything’s gonna hit home perfectly.

But those types of mistakes won’t kill ya — and learning how to analyze what works and what doesn’t makes you a better marketer AND creative.

So, on this episode, we tear down:

  • Everything wrong with the latest Volkswagen Ad
  • Why an entertaining story — featuring Paul Giamatti no less — IS A HIGH BUDGET BAD AD
  • What works and what doesn’t in the world of strategies around sales, ads, and storytelling… and what we would have done instead.

And, as always –


What would you change about the story, or the ad?

Did it work for you? How would you have done things differently?

So click above to start the episode that interests YOU most — and I’ll see you over there.

Bon appetit!

And before I go, remember:

Those middle school bullies were never as cool as you thought they were.

Write on,


Episode Transcript

What? What’s wrong?  

I just want to be in the background.  

You can’t be in the background.  

It’s like a no context guy in the background.  

Get off the screen. Who is this guy?  

What are you doing? (upbeat music)  

Welcome back marketing nerds of the world, it’s time for another episode of HAMYAW, and today, we’re talking about shameless self promotion, A.K.A. what it requires to sell anything on the internet.

Now, shameless self promotion can be an awkward sticking point for a lot of us because sometimes putting ourselves out there, selling ourselves, talking up what we do and what we make doesn’t always come naturally. Even if you’re a loud mouth like me and Margo.

But today we wanna kinda talk about what the elements are of good shameless self promotion and when it works, and talking about how you can apply some of these principles and think differently about selling in a way that’s gonna make you excited to show up and excited to sell more things on the internet. Before we get into that, Margo, how shameless are you?  

Oh, I love shameless self promotion. It’s like when my friends…

I love to shamelessly self promote them or promote that. I guess it’s not self promotion. It’s really fun for me to hawk my friend’s goods, especially when they’re really really really good. And so when I feel that way about my own product, like think that your people want to hear what you’re working on. So, self promotion can be fun, but you get in your head about it.  

Yeah, massively.  

Oh my god.  


I definitely wanna yell today about why we should get out of our heads and I wanna encourage people to lean into the shameless piece because I think what we end up with it, I don’t know if you see this, but like, it drives me nuts with like these half hearted failed attempts, where it’s like, “this is not a pitch. I don’t wanna be annoying, but it would be nice if maybe if you wanted, no pressure.” It’s like Jesus Christ! (laughing) Sell it or don’t pick a team.  

What is the reason?  

Pick a team.  

Yeah, you’re either selling or you’re not. And Margo you had this great example of some recent self promotion you found in the wild that we’d love to take a look at.  

Yes. So this guy who we’re about to show you is an internet celebrity. He’s a professional dancer who’s sort of become Insta famous. And one of the ways he’s supporting himself is through Patreon and through this new offering, which you just find out about on his Instagram stories, and I want you too guys to see how he tells you about it.  


Oh my god. Have you heard? I’m officially on Cameo. That’s right. Have a special occasion coming up? Let me help you celebrate it. Does your best friend have birthday coming up? I could help you with that. (Margo laughs) Have some bad news but don’t wanna deliver it? Let me do that for you. Whatever the occasion is, I’m here for you. So book today for your special one of a kind video personalized just for you.  

Yes, amazing.  

I promise you’ll love it.  

I believe you.  

Book me on Cameo. (laughing) Yes, I love it. I love… Can we talk about why this works? It’s not just his personality, which I’ll see, like most people will feel really intimidated by like, I’m not like this. But let’s talk about what he’s doing here.  

Every single thing he mentioned is a benefit to the end user.  


So like literally as I was watching that, I was like, I have a birthday coming up. I would love a message from you and like he gave me ways in which I could use this service and get deployed and then was not ambiguous at all about what he wanted you to do.  


Book me on Cameo. It was beautiful.  

It was fun. It was funny and I think that yeah, you were right, he was creating and this is like sales 101: make sure your customer can visualize themselves using your product or service and this is such a great example of that. And also just the fun, the confidence.  


He could have just as easily like, held up his phone and been like, Hey guys, I’m on Cameo now so you can book me bye. And that’s what some people do. It’s just that also if my legs looked like that I would spend the entirety of my life in those shorts upside down.  

That’s a really good point, though. I think you also in terms of self promotion, need to know where you stand on the scale of like, in this case, fame.  


So if he was Robert Downey Jr. He absolutely could be like, Hey, I’m on Cameo now, like, book me, I’ll say happy birthday.  


Later. And you’d be like, daaah. But like, this is just some, just someone with 300,000 followers on Instagram. And this is his brand, though. He’s a dancer. He’s a performer and he is dancing and performing for you.

So you’re getting like an idea of what you would get out of this. And so it’s entertaining while also being informative. I think one of the things people really get wrong about self promotion is they think it’s self involved.

They think that, oh, I’m just talking about myself and nobody wants to hear this, it’s annoying. And like, I want you to think of it more like your buyers and your customers and your audience are fans. And if you’ve ever been a fan like, I don’t know if you guys were ever 13 when I was 13 I was really

I was never 13, I actually came out of the womb 31 years old.  

I believe that actually. (laughing)  

I kind did though. Anyway go on.  

But like, Backstreet Boys was like my life, they couldn’t have promoted enough like, they couldn’t have targeted me with more stickers, and posters. It didn’t matter how many I had, I was like, there need to be more, there need to be more. I need those pencils, all of the things.

And it was like not only do you have this shirt, but do you have the shirt with this angle of photo? You have to think about it as you are advocating sharing information. Like, you guys might want to know about this.  

And yes, we do, we do.  

Yeah, and I think also like the self doubt and the awkwardness and the like, oh, no one’s gonna wanna see this. It takes the joy out of the sales process. And selling can actually be a fun, enjoyable hype experience.

I did an Instagram story on this recently where it was like a matter of, you can’t really intellectualize yourself out of imposter syndrome. You can’t really be like, okay, well, I’m gonna convince my brain this time that it’s wrong. 

But if you instead focus on what you really love about what you’re selling what you really love about the experience, what you really love about the results, what you really love about why you created it, and how, like what triggered that I’ve gotta build this, I wanna sell it so people can buy it, like what was that desire?

And if we’re talking about ourselves as service based business owners and servant leaders, I mean you gotta have that connection. It’s somewhere in there. 

So digging down and getting hype on yourself and being like, yes, what is up? Today we’re talking about this!

And I have really needed to live in that zone recently ‘cause I’ve been adding in Instagram lives and Instagram stories to a lot of my sales processes, which is way different than writing an email where you can kind of like be hyped in the moment two weeks earlier, and then upload that and be fine and not have to think about it again.

For video which is such an effective medium for sales as we can see from this Cameo example. It is really, really important that what you’re bringing to the table is genuine and real.  


Because I can get on the Instagram with you and shout at you like Billy Mays, and that certainly worked. But if you’re a personal brand and you wanna create that connection.  


Like getting excited about yourself, getting excited about what you’re offering is essential to bring that energy which makes the sales experience a pleasure for both you and the audience.  

I love what you’re saying about getting excited also about the offer and like what it gets for people, because I think that point you made about connection is key. Cause if you noticed, the reason we chose Connors’ example is it actually wasn’t about Connor at all.

He wasn’t sitting there going, here’s why I’m qualified to talk about this. He wasn’t sitting there spending time as to why he is qualified to be on Cameo talking to you.  


Or all the Cameos that he’s done in the past. I had recently an experience I was telling Hillary about where we spent a lot of time explaining too much about our processes and boring our audience. So it’s not just that you should be hyped on your own, like drinking your own Kool-Aid. And being like, Guys, I’m so excited I created this thing, it’s this framework…

Frame it in terms of why anyone should care. If this is gonna be the self promotion piece. It’s not the whole campaign. But like for that piece, you can simply focus on what does the person on the other end of this need? Why is this relevant to them?

Just list out benefits and that way it’s not really spotlighting you. You are the vehicle for the information. And you were excited.

So like, what’s unique about Connor and the way that he delivers this information is that he does it as a dancer. But you could just as easily have done it in a different way with the same information that would have been just as engaging.  

Yeah, absolutely, and I think also there’s a stage of customer awareness with this as well. Because people, you know, seeing Connor McKenzie on Cameo it’s not like, “I’m Connor McKenzie, and I’m a Instagram famous dancer, book me on Cameo.”

It’s for people who know him, are obsessed with him, and like want to send their friend Margo a video of him for her birthday. That’s something to keep in mind as well. Because I think sometimes we get caught up being like, “No one knows who I am. Why am I selling?” Like if you’re selling to people who’ve already met you, you can skip that part.  

Yep. Yes. Permission granted, done.  

Yep. You and I have had, you know, been selling for a long time on the internet. I wanna talk about hang ups for a minute because I wanna talk about where people kind of get stuck. And even for me, you know, I came out of the womb with a Godzilla of a personality, it doesn’t necessarily mean that selling comes easily.

We’ve done a few episodes on this. And then there was that myth of selling by serving where when you’re not actively trying to sell products or programs or anything that is not like

But you are.  

Service, yeah, exactly. You’re like, oh, you just serve and then it’s organic when you sell. It’s like that’s not how it works.  

Pitch later.  

Not how it works at all. But go ahead and watch that episode.  

Watch that episode. Click here.  

Click wherever! Because there’s a lot more context than in just one line. So if anyone wants to come at me for that, just watch the full episode first. Anyway. But I think for me, the biggest hang up was also I have people who are not buyers who are friends and family on my Instagram.


Which is one of the place I sell a lot. Like super derailing. I’ve had people come up to me at like family events and be like you post too much. From both sides of my family, by the way. My in laws

Why are there so many pictures of your face? That’s what I got.  

I would be like, you wanna see my analytics? ‘Cause people love pictures of my face. They’re my highest performing posts, I will have you know. It’s from people who don’t understand, and it’s so easy, like one little push can send you spiraling in the sales process.

So it is difficult. And we wanna acknowledge that. This is, as anything, like doing the reps. But I don’t wanna harp too much on my own hang ups. Margo, what were some of yours?  

That’s definitely one for me, that’s why I tell people to focus on your customers, not your colleagues, because we get really derailed. It’s hard, especially in public places where you do have that mixed audience. I’ve told people before, actually, that they should segment their family out. So if you have a tag on your email list.  

Yeah, smart.  

I like to tag friends and family so I can just take you off of the sales sequence.  

So smart.  

The hang ups that I hear the most, and I have this one too, is turning people off, right? Like worried that people are gonna be like, “Ugh, this is the worst” or “Oh, they’re doing that.”  


Like fear of that judgment. Also that fear in terms of turning people off. That like you think a person is at a certain point in their career and then they make a pivot. There’s people in one service space industry who launch a physical product that I think has nothing to do with their brand. And I start going, “why are they doing that?”

And like, I have the “ugh”, and then I get nervous that my audience is gonna do that when I sell them something, that they’re gonna be like, “why is she doing that?” And the answer is it doesn’t fucking matter. (laughing)  


No, I don’t mean to be flippant… 

I do.  

No it doesn’t matter, you’re correct. It doesn’t matter at all.  

It doesn’t matter ‘cause you know that you have a service that can help someone. And that is the only person you’re talking to. I need you to have tunnel vision on that person and everyone else, here’s what they’ll do. It’s going to blow your mind. Blows my mind every time. They’ll just ignore your email.  

They are actually gonna move on with their lives immediately.  

Yeah immediately.  

Like who knew? That’s so important. You’re so right because I’m always like, “They’re gonna send mean hate mail and they’re gonna talk about me behind my back and they’re gonna like tell people who I wanna work with eventually that I’m a joke and then I’m gonna be sad and no one’s gonna hire…”

And It’s like, “Jesus!” People don’t care about me that much. People don’t care about you that much. And that’s okay. But what matters is the buyers, right? What matters is the people who are interested.

I have this coach, one of my first ever coaches is Erika Lyremark. She’s a former stripper and she has this book literally called, “Think Like a Stripper” it’s somewhere in my house. I read excerpts of it, not the full thing yet.  

I have it.  

But I do recommend it. And she talks a lot about her life as a stripper. And imagine that you didn’t have the protection of Instagram. And you were a woman in lingerie going up to men with money in their pockets.

That’s 10 x-ing the vulnerability, folks. And she talks about this in the sense that she really had to get used to it ‘cause her feelings couldn’t be hurt if a customer didn’t wanna dance or didn’t wanna talk to her or was more interested in something else.

She had to be like, okay, they’re not gonna pay, me move on to the next one. They’ve got no money to spend, move on to the next one. And it becomes more of a game, it becomes less of a oh, no, I’m being rejected and more like, got it okay you’re not interested, that’s fine. I’m moving on.

And I think that mindset is so important for entrepreneurs to cultivate because it takes the shame…that’s why we call this shameless self promotion.


It takes the shame out of the sales process and out of that fear. If somebody doesn’t wanna buy from you, it doesn’t actually mean that much about you as a person.  

That’s right.  

It can mean a lot, a million different things. It’s not the right time for this offer. They are just not your market. They are a family member who has no idea what’s going on.

Like there are a million possibilities beyond they hate you and you’re worthless, and you should never do this again. Why do you think our minds always go there automatically?  

That’s a great question. I mean, like, cause we’re women.  

As women. (laughing)  

Personal joke of people who watch the show, I do think it has to do truly with being conscientious.  


I think that when you’re a person who cares, you are hyper conscious of duping people or feeling like you’re out of integrity and in the beginning it feels really strange. And this is especially true if it’s a new product or service or if you haven’t done this before, so like I can even tell the difference.

I don’t know if you can, in when I sell a product that’s been on the market for a while. I don’t have as much trouble like, I can tell you all why you should go to my Skillshare course right now to learn about sales, but like selling my coaching services is a lot harder ‘cause I don’t have as many reps. 

It’s also, it feels more… more like that stripper example where it’s like me personally versus the product. So I do think we conflate the products and service we’re selling with us personally. I think we do a lot. I think that’s why the like, “you’re worth more than that” conversation around money is really fucking dangerous.

Watch our show on pricing. It’s not about what you’re worth.

No but truly, I think we have to divorce these things and understand that you’re promoting a product and service that is separate from you.

You are the vehicle for distribution for that and you are the tone. You are the messaging you are part of this, but it’s not you personally, and I think the more you can depersonalize the experience, the more you can lean into the hype and the fun and the stuff we were talking about before.

So like, I love telling you to watch HAMYAW. I don’t feel any remorse about that. I’m really proud of it. I think we’ve done a great job. I find it very entertaining and the people who don’t like the show.  

I love it.  

Don’t watch the show. I want to share one last thing, I teach this in headline school, it’s called the bifurcating effect. So the mark of a great headline is that it creates two categories of people, people who wanna buy from you and people who don’t.

And the problem with a lot of headlines is they’re non committal because you’re like, I want everyone. My coaching services can change everyone’s life. And when you do that, you get these headlines that try and be a catch all. And the really good ones actually actively turn people off.  


So the example we always use is my website headline. If you don’t get the joke, it’s not because you don’t like me, right? It’s because you don’t get the joke because it wasn’t written for you.  

So I think we have to think about the same stuff with self promotion is that like, if someone is rejecting your service, it has nothing to do with you.  

Yeah, remarkably little. That headline was how I first fell in love with you and how we met actually. So big underline and emphasis on that. Two things I wanna say before we wrap this up, as well, is first of all if you’re a quiet person.  


We have done a whole episode by the way on, “Can quiet people build big brands?” The answer is absolutely yes, no question.

But I find that excitement for you and being thrilled for you is not always like, “Hello, we’ve got a Cameo. We’re doing this.” It can be whatever that looks like to you.

It’s about the energy you’re bringing, which is not necessarily shouting and screaming and yelling, it can be just really intense excitement, really powerful statements just looking into the camera or whatever, using whatever sales tool you’re using and saying, “I have been working on this just for you. I’m so excited to finally release it.

Here’s exactly what this does. Here’s exactly who this is for. Here’s exactly why it’s awesome. And you should check it out.” Here’s exactly how you can use it, too, if we’re creating real world experiences. There are so many different ways to kind of come at this.  

Yes. I love that. I was gonna say if you’re looking for examples of people doing that well check out Paul Jarvis’s stuff.  

Oh, yes.  

He’s a weirdo introvert friend of the show. These are his words not mine all right. His people are his rat people. Like he really, really leans into the fact that he hates media. He is in not a high energy person, Paul knows this. When we get on Zoom I always am like, “Hi Paul!” And I’m like okay. I’ll take it down.  

Yeah I know. I was like I’ll eat you alive but yeah, you have to be respectful of that. Some people want the quieter…  

Absolutely, I love when he sells. It’s so respectful, it’s very clear, like y’all should go and look at his Twitter feeds, go look at his sales pages, and his old emails. He’s not shy about selling and he does it in a really respectful way that is consistent with his brand. So definitely check him out. And then also I think Elizabeth Gilbert does a good job.  

Ah, yes.  

She’s very chill, and she’s pretty much promoting something in every single Instagram post, whether it’s her own work, or if it’s someone else’s. She does a lot of promoting books and she does so in a way that fully explains what’s in it for you and why you should care. And she does so with the like, chillest zen energy, like

Yeah, right.  

I always wanna take a little nap after.  

I know. Just hang out with her.  

Yeah, what’s up? We’re gonna sit down and watch the sunset.  

Warm hug.  

Loveless. Yeah, exactly for that reason, and I think that if you need another archetype to embody, folks, when you’re thinking about self promotion one place where I’ve been drawing a lot of inspiration recently, cause I’ve been checking out a lot of content related to this, and everyone from the LGBTQIA++ community is going to roll their eyes.

‘Cause a Cis, Het, white woman is about to tell you, I’ve been watching a lot of videos and shows about ballroom lately, and not like ballroom like Tango or Salsa, but ballroom fashion shows and runways that originated in the 80s and clubs where people would come and there are different categories and houses compete for categories.

Like, for example, Executive Realness, you’re putting on the suit, you’re looking like you could be an executive walking down Fifth Avenue.

By the way, great documentary about ballroom culture is “Paris Is Burning”. I think it’s still on Netflix. I watched it years ago. Also the show “Pose”. Also the show “Legendary” on Hulu. Iconic. 

But they come out in these ballroom sessions and they have 30 seconds to, I’ll use “Legendary” as an example, but they come out and they have like 30 seconds or three minutes to really impress the judges with whatever the category is and then they roll out and they are selling it, honey.

If we’re doing face as a category, they’re getting in front of the judges and they’re like, “Yes, look at all this, honey to touch this skin.” And it’s just so amazing to see this kind of confidence, this like, “you wish you were me in this moment”.

And while you may not want to exude that kind of bravado, I think that’s a little far, especially for my line of work, but it is a really fascinating thing to watch. Especially if, in the public eye you are prone to recoil watching people who fully embrace it, who are fully selling themselves, whether it’s their body, or whether it’s their product.

There’s so much you can learn by watching people in the arts in this category. So be sure to check that out.  

Oh, I love that. I love that recommendation. All right, well, y’all if this hasn’t convinced you that you need to be shamelessly self promoting. I don’t know what will.  


Listen, we would love to hear from you. Tell us all the ways in which you get hung up on self promotion or where you’ve busted through some blocks on self promotion and what’s working for you, what’s helping.

We would love to hear it, also, Shamelessly self promote, we wanna hear. What are you up to? What are you working on? See if you can test it out. Below.

This was awesome. I love this. Watch more HAMYAW. Look. We’re self promoting.  

We are promoting ourselves here.  

If you like this episode, please like below, subscribe to our channel and tell your friends. 

I’m Margo Aaron.

And I’m Hillary Weiss.  

And we will see you in two weeks. (laughing) All right. Bye everyone.  

Bye for now, guys. 

Part 2: Volkswagen Ad

I’m checking my teeth and you’re just…  

Whatever, don’t you question me. (bright upbeat music)  

Welcome back marketing nerds of the world. It is HAMYAW, and we are here today, to talk about ads.

Today, we have a special kind of rearrange. I am going to show Hillary an ad that she is seeing for the first time, live on HAMYAW. We’re gonna get her reactions to it, you’re gonna have my reactions to it, and we’re gonna explain to you, what works, what doesn’t and what you should be thinking about, when you are putting together brand pieces.



Shall we dig in?  

Yeah, that was really weird not doing the intro.  

That’s all the context I’m gonna give you.  

Let’s do it, I’m ready.  

“No, a solid gold jet ski is not deductible. And a silly question won’t it sink? Alright, I’m gonna get back to you, I’m gonna get back.” 

“People ask me what sort of a person should become a celebrity accountant, and I tell them nobody, nobody should. There’s nothing wrong with liking privacy, but I just don’t think you need a separate private plane.”  

“But I want it.”  

“You can’t claim that as a dependent! Because it’s inanimate. That’s what they pay me for. Not enough though, not nearly enough. Hey buddy, what’s the damage?”  

“I bought it.”  

“The waterfall?”  

“Nope, a new Volkswagen.”  

“Volkswagen? Wow. (chuckles) I think we’re having a breakthrough here.”  

“Welcome to Caesars Palace.”  

“Wait, you’re in Vegas?”  

“Sure looks like it.”  


“Thank you.”  

“What are you doing back there?”  

Awesome, okay.  


Let’s talk about that.  

Let’s talk about it. First reactions.

I was surprised it wasn’t for accounting software, one.

Two, Paul Giamatti is great and it was fun to see him like outside of the ‘Billions’ zone.

Three, I don’t know if a gold jet ski would sink, but I really want one.

And four, I don’t know if the line’s drawn between celebrities who buy expensive things and a Volkswagen? It’s like the story’s not quite there for me in terms of the narrative thread.

So it’s like, stressed out accountant, celebrities buying ridiculous things except this one guy who buys a Volkswagen?  

Yeah, alright. So basically I didn’t have to do anything y’all I didn’t tell her any of this. She made every point I wanted to make.

No, that was, I was shocked. I was shocked that it was a Volkswagen ad and no joke when I went back to go look it up. I couldn’t remember what the ad was for.

I was like, “Paul Giamatti car commercial”. So yeah, I think having been inside of the agency conversations. I see where they reverse engineered having had Paul Giamatti going like, “What are we gonna do here?”

Or there was some constraint where this was placed. But I think the question I want to pose to the viewers and to everyone else is, there can be really wonderful… Like this was a delightfully entertaining ad.  


Absolutely did not work. And I think that’s where we have to start having these conversations about what is effective and what is consistent and resonant and relevant.

Why was there no executive inside of this team going, this doesn’t make any sense, like this… They need to go take the beginning of that ad and sell it to TurboTax.  

Yeah, yeah. That’s the thing, I thought it might’ve been a TurboTax commercial or an accounting software commercial. I think that also, and this is part of the series of commercials from Volkswagen we’ve been seeing and it’s trying to elevate Volkswagen as less of like the mom car brand, you know, the parent car brand and more as like a luxury car brand or car manufacturer or whatever they call themselves over there in car world.

I don’t have one of those. I think that this was definitely trying to be in this world by trying to draw the connection between like celebrities have money and expensive things, celebrities drive Volkswagens. And like, frankly, they don’t. What I think they were trying to do is kind of draw that line but there were so many better ways to do that.  

But it was a confusing line too cause it was like rewarding them for making a good, responsible choice with the Volkswagen.  


That’s not premium.  

Yeah, right. What is the answer here? This reminds me of when you think you have a really good story for a sales email.  


And start it at the top of the sales email and you’re like, wait a second. Where was I going with this?  

Yes, this is where the phrase ‘Kill Your Darlings’ actually came from.  


Which is, they would have been better off making this more like a Lincoln ad with the Matthew McConaughey approach or even doing like a Chris Hemsworth character where like, you are elevating the brand for the aspirational user. You know who, the only company I’ve ever seen be able to use what I’m calling the non-sequitur approach well is Geico.

Geico, has the most brilliant way of running seven ads at a time.

All of which have nothing to do with Geico.

And it works because they have developed a brand for themselves and they make it very clear. Like there really is always one storyline, which is like, save more with Geico, strange circumstance.  

You can save 15% or more by switching to Geico.  

See, it works.  

Is this the Geico, commercial? You don’t know. And that’s, what’s so interesting is like Geico has this really unique position in the market where people who are excited to see a Geico commercial ‘cause they know they’re gonna see something weird. But the message is always the same.

That’s a never ending brand awareness campaign to keep themselves top of mind in terms of insurance providers. I think that’s a really powerful tool, but it’s not necessarily trying to change minds in the way that Volkswagen does, so it’s not so complicated. 

‘Cause I’ve seen lots of good Volkswagen commercials. I think one that you see a lot in the car world for car brands trying to be more aspirational is the, like, people watching the car go by and they’re like, you see them staring at something in slow motion, and then it turns out it’s like a Toyota.

And you’re like oh okay, that looks cool I guess, it’s a nice car. But I think there’s only so many ways you can do that. So I get that they’re trying to sort of come at it from a different angle, but that commercial looks to me like something that went through so many phases of approval, like the actual thread got lost.  

That’s right, that’s exactly right. And that’s what I want people to take away. And I can hear the criticism. I can hear like my mother going, “But you’re talking about it. So doesn’t it mean it worked?” 


No (Margo and Hillary laugh)  

‘Cause it’s not going viral, it’s not trending on Twitter, there’s no Buzzfeed articles like this iconic commercial with Paul Giamatti.  

Honestly, even if it was, who’s the conversation about?  


It’s about Paul. It’s about Billions. I was reading some of the posts about what’s happening. No one is talking about Volkswagen.  


I think that this is a reminder. I really like the example. This will be unique to our, our audience on Fashion Police, where they always talk about whether a dress wears you or you wear the dress.  

Oh yeah, yes.  

And I think that that is directly relevant to advertising. That like, the ad should not be wearing you, you should be wearing the ad.  

Yes a 100%.

And I think this is what was interesting here too, is about, we touched briefly on like writing a story in an email and then realizing the story is actually different. Like significantly longer than the sales pitch. And I have dug myself into that hole so many times because I get so excited to tell the story. I’m like, I’ll tie it in.

And I forget where I’m actually going.

And just for the uninitiated, if you do email strategy, a great way to create a tie in between a seemingly unrelated story and a sales pitch, which is one of the most effective email strategies out there, by the way, telling a seemingly unrelated story.

They can be tied to the emotional experience of whatever it is you’re offering based on like the excitement levels or the breakthroughs people are gonna have drawing parallels between that and something else. And also the experience telling stories that are similar to the experience that customers are having in everyday life.

 So those are kind of ways to create the tie in.

So it’s like, if you feel this way, if you know what this is like, that’s why I built this. If you have ever experienced this, that’s why I created this for you.

Because in the marketing world, something similar happens. So that’s sort of the way you create that intentional tie in.

But for a long time, before I had like more proper training around sales emails, I would spend so long on the story, and then would be like this long on a sales pitch. Being like, oh and by the way, this is this, but also… wasn’t this a great story? And I’d get, “great email” and no sales.  

We’ve talked about this before, the difference between content and copy. We have to distinguish like, sometimes a good story can live on its own because it’s a good fricking story.  


And that should be a separate piece.  

That will live somewhere in the ether. But if you are distinctly trying to promote something, if you are trying to tell a narrative arc or make a case for why someone should care, or if you have an intention or an action, you want someone to take at the end.

You do need to be more strategic with what you’re doing. And it’s not that this lacked strategy, it just wasn’t the right one. It’s not the first time this has happened. I’m actually reading a few old copy books. I love reading old copy books by the way.  

She does, she’s read like all of them.  

The input is so phenomenal and what they showed here has happened throughout history. I mean, there are ads upon ads upon ads where you’re like, “Why does this picture have nothing to do with the copy?” (Margo and Hillary laugh) It’s like, “Hate gorillas? We can help you with paint brushes” And you’re just like, what?  

It’s so tricky when you get into that category. ‘Cause that’s like actually super advanced trying to tie in something unrelated to, in a way that’s going to make it click and have that aha moment. You’re gonna take a lot of swings.

That’s the thing, like this is probably from an agency who has done a bazillion commercials like this and this one just happened to be a swing and a miss. And I think that that’s something that you’re going to learn as you go through the sales process, as you continue to you know, have stories in your promotion and learn how to be a strategic storyteller.

You’re just gonna take these swings and things aren’t gonna tie in. 

But the further you get, the more you’re gonna realize why and how to fix that and anticipate it before it happens. So it’s actually a good thing.

I don’t wanna send you into a hole of shame if you have, you know, you’ve ever told a story that didn’t quite connect to you know, the call to action. But it is just part of the process, and whereas I think for a Volkswagen commercial with a budget like that, there’s a little more at stake.

But you gotta give yourself room to tell the story and figure out how to pace it and how to figure out how to create those perfect tie in so it comes easily to you.  

I do it differently. I don’t actually ever think you should try and tie in something irrelevant. I think that the story is almost always relevant. And then you change how you tell the story.  

Oh, I meant unrelated, not irrelevant, unrelated.  

Ooh okay.  

So we’re talking about gorillas and paint brushes kind of.  

Yeah, ‘cause like, I think it’s more a matter of framing the story to tie in somewhere in a different place than people expect. That’s where it gets interesting. So maybe I’m trying to think if we could brainstorm like a way this could have worked. If the guy got in trouble for buying a Volkswagen.  


And Paul Giamatti was mad at it.  



Yeah, but it’s like, is too lux man, you’re on a budget. You want a Volkswagen?  

It seems like a missed Billions opportunity.  

Yeah. It seems like a missed Billions opportunity. But they could’ve just told a totally different story where he was working with celebrities all day, people who spend way too much money. And then he got into his Volkswagen at the end of the day.  


Like leaned back his leather seat.  

Turned on like his seat warmer, air conditioning or whatever. And cruised off into the sunset, you know, like with his cool sunglasses.  

That could have been something.  

The car your accountant drives.  

Which is still not very sexy, but like, it makes a more sense maybe, I don’t know. That’s a tie in, too. It’s like if you’re trying to position as a luxury brand, you know, where does that sort of come in?

Because in the commercial he’s like, “Oh, you got a Volkswagen now, that was a great choice. I’m so surprised.” And then it sort of trails off.

But I feel like we could also frame Volkswagen as sensible luxury, which also isn’t actually luxury. So we’re kind of a rock and hard place here. And maybe we’re experiencing the problem in the writer’s room.  

I get the sensible luxury argument and where that overlaps with accounting. But I think your ending would have been right.  

Yeah, it would have been less confusing that’s for sure. And we could have had a moment to like watch him lean back and enjoy his life.  

Or simply like driving. I think this could be solved by driving up to a party with a ton of celebrities,  


and they’re all driving Volkswagens in the parking lot.  

Yes, and they’re like “nice ride” and Paul Giamatti is like, “Yeah, also the IRS is coming for you.”  

Or like the valet is super excited like, ” Oh, I get to drive in this car.”  

Yeah, exactly.  

There were such better ways to do this. So anyway Hillary thank you for being my guinea pig. Is there anything else about the ad that stood out to you?  

No, I think we can wrap it up here.

So, all right guys, that’s it for today. If you liked this episode, please like, comment, and subscribe and don’t forget we wanna hear from you.

How would you have improved this commercial? What would you have changed? What was resonating? What was not? We wanna hear all about it. So we will see you in two weeks. I’m Margo Aaron. (Margo laughs)  

And I’m Hillary Weiss.  

This was HAMYAW. We’ll see you in a couple of weeks guys.  

Bye for now.  

Bye for now. 

Photo by Juliet Clare Warren

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