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Tag: digital media

November 22nd, 2017

Spark-O-Matic Births Command Z Productions

Command Z Founders, Left to Right: Emmanuel McDougal, Kelvin Walton, and Zale Smith. Far right, Spark-O-Matic founder Marc Leffler.

About a year or so ago, MWB creative director launched a new program aimed at digital media skills education for youth. Marc partnered with a local library system to host the program, which consists of about a dozen youth from Jackson, Mississippi. A trio of Marc’s older students have formed their own production company Emmanuel McDougal, Kelvin Walton, and Zale Smith have launched “Command Z Productions.”

Why “Command Z”? Because one of the most valuable lessons these students have learned is that “you can always un-do” (referring to the common keyboard command to step backwards through recent actions).

Marc’s philosophy with his Spark-O-Matic students has been to encourage creativity and especially experimentation.

“You can always un-do.”

“It has been amazing to watch these young people build their own creative products,” says Marc. “They began the program with an incredible set of creative skills – writing, music, storytelling – but with limited exposure to the tools that one can actually use to create a consumable, marketable media project. Once this skill gap was closed, it was off to the races.”

Command Z is nearing completion on their first bona fide project, a film honoring civil rights hero Medgar Evers. In making the short film, Command Z founders travelled to various historical places around Jackson to gather applicable content. They also interviewed citizens and civil rights historians, some actual contemporaries of Evers, about the legacy of the martyred civil rights leader.

Command Z will premiere the Medgar Evers tribute on December 8, 2017. Stay tuned to our media platforms for viewing information.

Command Z Founders discuss their Medgar Evers film project. 

May 26th, 2017

MWB’s Spark-O-Matic: The great digital arts melting pot

Well, a whole school year’s gone by since we started the marvelous mayhem that is Spark-O-Matic in early September of¬†2016 at Medgar Evers Library. And fittingly enough, it’s been most educational, both for mentors and for students, in the exciting months¬†since.

Together, even without a bright, shiny¬†digital creativity lab, we’re exploring how to design websites, make videos, produce soup commercials, delve into logo development (see this post’s featured image), create captivating personal stories with Lida Burris¬†that get seen up on the big screen, and much more.

We’re also learning¬†that sometimes, it’s important to put away your digital devices, even during a digital arts class (maybe especially during digital arts class).¬†And that it’s good to unplug for a while — perhaps do some letterpress at the Mississippi Ag Museum and¬†regain your connection to the real world. After all, one essential key to achieving digital literacy is knowing how to strike¬†a healthy balance between time online and off.

Most importantly, though, the students are discovering how to collaborate together, make connections, share ideas, find their voices and freely express themselves in an increasingly loud, noisy world that can all too often drown them out and mute their creativity. In fact, my favorite times at Spark-O-Matic are when a few students who are inspired and passionate about something—like transforming their own illustrated sketches into digital art—take the lead and share their skills with others. There is such talent in this group, such incredible potential.

These are the times, too, when the class becomes a true melting pot, simmering with ideas that are made better with each new insight offered up by the students themselves. This is peer-to-peer education at its finest. The way the kids guide each other in solving problems, overcoming technical issues, troubleshooting, and tackling details like shading and perspective is amazing.

And now we’re embarking on two new projects that could top them all: One, a cool music video project¬†propelled by the theme, “What Medgar Evers Library means to me‚Ķ”¬†Kicking things off a couple weeks ago, we discussed what form such a¬†music video would take. Together, we made a list of what we like best about this library, which included:¬†Talent shows,¬†Game day,¬†Movie Flick Saturday,¬†Spark-O-Matic,¬†Creativity,¬†Community,¬†A place of peace,¬†A place to speak your mind,¬†Family,¬†Superheroes (drawings and people),¬†Voting,¬†Babysitting,¬†Volunteer, Conversation, Escape, Family… and so on.

Angel, a rising 9th grader at Callaway High School, ¬†came up with a winning idea: Have the words and phrases from our list illustrated on handmade cards that students, in groups or individually, hold as they pop up¬†around the library. The plan is to get those action-word pop-ups on camera, then create a soundtrack with¬†masterful music assistance from Will Jolly over at Brown River Sound. Will’s already stopped by to scratch beats and get us going on the music track.

Another big project underway is something in partnership with James Bridgeforth from the Mississippi Heritage Trust (mississippiheritage.com).

The Heritage Trust is about preserving Mississippi’s historic places. One of those places is Medgar Evers’ home. So, this summer we are embarking on a Spark-O-Matic documentary about Medgar Evers‚Äô home that will created by our students.

Medgar Evers: Where he lived then. Where he lives today: In the hearts and minds—and lives—of the children and families served by the Medgar Evers library.

We will tell that story through: 1) A visit to Medgar Evers’ house where we will gather video footage, and 2) Interviews with the families and kids who come to the library, talking with them about Mississippi civil rights leader Medgar Evers.

Starter questions for our patron interviews:

Who is Medgar Evers?

What did he do?

How does what he did live on today?

In our first lively discussion about Medgar Evers, his family and his home, the students added the question, “What is civil rights?” to the mix. That’s a huge question we’ll continue to explore through the project. Once complete, the students’ documentary will be shown at a¬†Mississippi Heritage Trust gala event in December of this year.


We’re going to keep the creative sparks flying over the summer at Spark-O-Matic. While the school doors are closed, the library’s will be wide open. Big things are happening. And you’re invited join this crazy, creative melting pot, Tuesday nights from 5:30 to 6:45.


“You can kill a man but you can’t kill an idea.”¬†‚ÄMedgar Evers

January 27th, 2014

MWB Launches Digital Magazine

We’ve launched a new digital magazine focusing on creativity and innovation in the world of marketing. MWB staff Tim Mask, Randy Lynn, and Marc Leffler are the magazine’s primary content wranglers. The magazine is created via a platform allowing for optimized viewing via tablet or smart phone. New editions will be available every 7 – 10 days, and will chronicle the innovation happens that make advertising one of the world’s most rapidly evolving industries. The publication, called INNOVATIONS is available by subscription or can be viewed by clicking here. MWB’s Twitter feed will also note when a new issue has been posted. We all hope you enjoy!

June 14th, 2013

News in the New Media

MWB’s Tim Mask has some really good insight into the future of newspapers that he put together while preparing a presentation for the Mississippi Press Association’s annual convention. Here’s a link to his post, News in the New Media.

Chances are you’ve seen the dire headlines about the demise of newspaper media. It’s certainly taken a hit over the past few years. But, remember, people have been predicting the death of various media for years. Radio, alone, was supposed to die with the invention of the television, the Sony Walkman, the iPod, Internet radio, the iTunes store and several other technologies. The point is, newspaper is not dying. It’s adapting and changing with the times. And, while that is happening, good old fashioned newsprint is still relevant and it’s a viable medium for both publishing news and advertising to particular audiences.

All that said, Tim had some good advice for the newspaper industry here in Mississippi. His three points:

#1 Your audience isn’t made up of readers. They’re USERS.

In 2013, we’ve moved passed interactivity being a unique selling point, to it now being an expectation. People use, engage, and interact both with their media, and through their media. Even for print assets, you’ll find that changing your mindset to reflect usability and user experience will result in identifying new features or platforms that will help boost user levels and advertiser value.

This observation makes perfect sense. When technologies evolve, so do expectations. You do see newspapers incorporating social media comments, Twitter handles and email addresses. But, for most newspapers, the basic design and functionality has changed little. It would be interesting to apply the Web concept of “user experience” to print newspapers.

#2 New platforms can kill you or SAVE you.

… position yourself, large or small, as a leader in your region’s Knowledge Economy. Host local seminars, conferences, and events. Shift more of your marketing budget into promoting white papers and hosting/promoting online forums. This builds brand equity, reinforces your value to the community, and positions you well against other news outlet competition that don’t offer the value…¬†The digital media channels become part of this equation as a means of promotion, discussion, and dialogue. ¬†They become a tool for you to promote your events, rather than competition fighting over a commodity.

Interesting idea here. Newspapers should never lose site that it’s the quality of their reporting that distinguishes their content from bloggers and other online news sources. While local papers may not have the payroll or credentials of large city papers, local and regional papers are experts in their respective regions, and they should leverage and promote their expertise through both online and online channels.

#3 Digital and print should be neither separate nor redundant. Each should be “migratory.”

…The ¬†more integrated your approach to the traditional and digital spaces, the more successful you will be. But I stress that “integrated” does not mean “redundant.” Don’t expect to attract new print users if you’re publishing the same information online, and vice versa. Content should be related and complimentary, but not the same. In fact, ideally, content from one asset would be used to drive users to the other – the concept of asset migration. All your news assets are working toward a common goal, so there’s no reason that they have to cannibalize ¬†each other when they can, in fact, be the primary source for driving crossover readership.

I like this point a lot. The New York Times is a great example of using online media to complement the story synergistically. Their data visualizations, in particular, adds helpful dimension to their stories. The fact that the NYT has a Data Artist in Residence says much about the newspaper’s vision in this area.

November 8th, 2012

Augmented Reality Webinar • 12/06/12 • by MWB

Maris, West & Baker will be hosting a free webinar on Augmented Reality – Thursday, December 6th. Mobile marketing has been a tough nut for advertisers to crack. However, as mobile device usage proliferates our society, it is absolutely necessary to include mobile in our marketing plans. Augmented Reality is an interesting (and really cool) technology that can potentially make mobile a viable advertising platform.

If you’re interested in participating in this webinar on 12/06/12, please email Tim Mask at Maris, West & Baker. Include “AR Webinar” in the subject line.

September 26th, 2012

MWB to Host DigMe Digital Media Conference

Maris, West & Baker is hosting a brand new conference designed to help Mississippi companies learn new ways to market their companies using advanced website technologies, online advertising and popular social media platforms. DigMe, which gets its name from the conference’s focus on Digital Media, will be held October 25, 2012, starting at 8:30 a.m., at Table 100 Banquet & Event Center in Flowood, Mississippi.

According to MWB’s Tim Mask, “The Internet has revolutionized the way companies market themselves. It has really leveled the playing field for companies, but you have to know what to do and how to do it. We created DigMe as a way to help Mississippi businesses get up to speed with the most promising new technologies and tactics that are out there.”

Conference topics include topics including search engine optimization, website content optimization, online advertising, inbound marketing and social media marketing. Guest presenters will include Tucker Marks from ReachLocal and Jim Eustace the founder of Get Smart Content. Details are available on the DigMe Digital Media Conference website.