“A Season of Giving” Weekly Recap

Giving a Shout-Out to Thankful Families, Responsible Retailers, Four-Legged Friends and More.



NDG’s “Season of Giving” is just getting started, and members of our team have been performing simple acts of kindness each day to help brighten the days of others. Starting with Thanksgiving and continuing through Christmas, this Season of Giving will be shared through NDGholiday.com and on social media using #NDGiving. Be sure to visit and follow along with us, as well as share your own daily acts of giving!

Day 1 – Give Thanks – November 26

Office Manager Kathy Albrecht’s family tradition is all about giving thanks for the people and things that are important in life.

Day 2 – Give Twice – November 27

Buying from a responsible retailer makes holiday shopping feel that much better for Senior Art Director Beverly Kitchens.

Day 3 – Give Companionship – November 28

Amanda Webb, our director of digital marketing, has always been grateful for her family’s rescue dog, so she gives back by paying it forward.

Day 4 – Give Sight – November 29

The gift of sight is something that Web Developer Rosita Calderon doesn’t take for granted, and she’s making sure that others in need can share in that blessing.

Day 5 – Give Your Spot – November 30

Holiday shopping horror stories compelled Creative Director Mike Metz to give up his spot in line, but he likes to be sneaky about it.

Day 6 – Give an Ear – December 1

Opportunities to chat with his mother are something that Vice President of Operations Dax Eckel will always make time for.

We’re just six days into our Season of Giving, and we’ll be providing weekly recaps of our daily acts every Tuesday until the end of the month. Want to follow along every day? Be sure to visit NDGholiday.com and keep an eye on #NDGiving on social media!

Can Typeface Make or Break Your User Engagement?

When It Comes to Clicks, Times New Roman Still Reigns Supreme.


“Do serifs make you tap?”

That’s the question posed in a recent exploratory blog post by Yieldmo. As an attempt to answer this question, the mobile advertising company conducted a test as an expansion of a previous experiment by the New York Times. Unlike its inspiration, which aimed to test believability of the written word based on typeface, this experiment aimed to determine what kind of typeface was not only the most believable but the most engaging to the user.

The experiment tested three serif typefaces, including:




Against three sans serif typefaces:




What they found, based on click-through rates (CTR) measured for online display advertisements, was that Times New Roman was by far the most effective typeface that they tested, netting a +15% change in CTR. Arial came in a distant second with just a +4.3% CTR change. But most notably, Garamond, a fairly similar serif font in comparison with Times New Roman, saw a CTR change of -15%.

What could have caused the dissonance between these typefaces?

“Times New Roman really is a very legible font,” said NDG Creative Director Mike Metz. “The thickness and weight of fonts is very important when it comes to readability, and Times New Roman maintains a very consistent weight throughout. Its x-height makes it especially legible as well.”

In layman’s terms, a font’s x-height determines how high lower-case letters are compared to upper-case letters. And in comparison to Times New Roman’s generous x-height, Garamond, even when it occupies the same number of pixels, looks small.

Yes, readability might’ve been the culprit, but maybe the answer behind the contrasting CTRs isn’t even that scientific and may just boil down to the fact that we’re creatures of habit who gravitate to what we’re familiar with.

“I think we wanted to be able to point to some subtle psychological reasoning behind why click-through rates were so much higher for Times New Roman,” said Metz. “But I think it really just comes down to the fact that people are so used to seeing Times New Roman, so they’re just more comfortable with it.”

Consider: Times New Roman has been everywhere since 1932. Books, newspapers, reports, office documents and an infinite number of other published works all live by the old standard.

Moreover, Times New Roman is a font that’s installed on virtually every modern device with a display. In the same vein, that would explain why the user engagement experiment showed positive CTR response on ads displayed with the Arial font, which comes pre-installed on both Microsoft and Apple platforms.

“The important takeaway from an experiment like this is to aim for engagement over what font you might think looks best when developing your design strategy,” said Metz. “If it doesn’t get them to ‘tap,’ then you’re not going to get the results you want, so it’s not really an effective typeface, even if it seems more aesthetically pleasing at first glance.”

Introducing NDG’s ‘Season of Giving’

Join Us in One Simple Act of Kindness Each Day This Holiday Season


The holidays get more hectic every year. At times, we could all use a little reminder to enjoy this special season and to rediscover the joy that comes from putting others first.

This year, NDG is launching an initiative that we call “A Season of Giving,” and we invite you to join us. Starting on Thanksgiving and running through Christmas, we’ll reveal one simple, daily act that you can do to brighten someone’s day. Follow along on social media. We’ll be using the hashtag #NDGiving. Feel free to use it, too.

You can also keep up on our “Season of Giving” homepage at NDGholiday.com. Each day, in addition to sharing that day’s act, you’ll find the story of one NDG team member who has completed that act of kindness. We’ll reveal why we did it and what the act meant to us. We’d love to hear your stories, too.

All of us at NDG are really looking forward to the coming weeks and the opportunity to share this “Season of Giving” with all of you.

Thanks and Happy Holidays.

Behind the Scenes: A Sneak Peek at a Video Shoot for The Villages of SteepleChase

How NDG Captures the Spirit of a Community for the Small Screen


It wasn’t a bird or a plane. It wasn’t even Superman. It was a drone flying high above The Villages of SteepleChase on a beautiful fall day not far from the NDG offices in La Plata, MD.

Piloted by our great friend and video production partner Jason Adams, of Adams Film, the drone provided some impressive footage of this truly unique neighborhood. The shots will be integral in the community video we filmed to anchor a complete website redesign that we’re doing for the community, developed by Berkshire Homes.

The Villages of SteepleChase is unlike any community in Southern Maryland. It blends single-family homes, townhomes and villa homes in a village-style atmosphere, filled with fun neighborhood amenities. It really is a place that home shoppers need to see to fully appreciate. That’s why the video will be so important to their marketing strategy.

Adams worked closely with a team from NDG that included Creative Director Mike Metz, Senior Art Director Brad Flaherty and Senior Copywriter Derek Turner, not to mention other NDG team members who provided on-screen cameos. Over two days at the community, we did our best to capture the essence of life at The Villages of SteepleChase.

We shot high, sweeping shots of the community, the homes and amenities. The drone swooped down for intimate streetscape views. We also included plenty of shots of the beautiful model homes and lifestyle scenes to reflect the fun and social experience.

We hope you enjoy these behind-the-scenes images of the video shoot, and we can’t wait to share the full video and redesigned website when the project is complete. Stay tuned.

Speak Directly to Your Audience with Email Marketing Automation

Drive Customers to Take Action with Personalized Content in Their Inbox


People are infinitely unique. They have their own behaviors and interests, their own likes, dislikes and desires. Shouldn’t an email marketing strategy should reflect that?

Much like how programmatic advertising delivers highly relevant content while a user browses the Web, email marketing automation leverages a wide array of demographic and behavioral data to send the most effective content to the inbox of the most qualified user.

While developing an effective email starts with strong design and copy, taking the extra step to deliver highly personal, relevant material, known as “dynamic content,” can compel prospects to act at just the right time.

For example, imagine one of our homebuilder clients is planning a grand opening event for a new community Northern Virginia, and they want to target prospective customers from Maryland and Virginia. Rather than creating separate email blasts, dynamic content can tailor information depending on where the recipient lives (e.g. directions to the event from Maryland, rather than from Virginia, for a prospect who lives in Silver Spring).

Gender, age, interests, browser history, shopping cart contents, form data and more can be utilized in crafting dynamic content, depending on what the marketer knows about their prospects.

“Being able to target exactly who you want in an email is invaluable,” said Web Developer Rosita Calderon, who programs email blasts for our clients.

Personalized emails deliver six times more revenue and transaction rates than non-personalized emails, according to a report compiled by the email marketing service Emma. It notes that 82% of consumers admitted that they would purchase more items through emails that were more personalized and that they would be open to receiving more emails if they were relevant.

“Creating an email with dynamic content isn’t difficult to execute compared to a standard broadcast email,” said Calderon. “And because you only have to schedule one email that will reach specific audiences, it’s a more efficient use of your marketing resources.”

We’re already using email marketing automation for our clients, and we’re excited to see what else we can do with this approach.

“This is an important tool that we use to meet the needs of our clients,” said Calderon. “And we’re constantly looking for new ways to implement dynamic content going forward, including event-triggered emails to specific groups or follow-up emails that are sent days or weeks down the road—and that’s all just the start of what we can do with dynamic content.”

That doesn’t mean that traditional broadcast emails are on their way out. There will always be a need to target large amounts of people with singular messaging. Choosing to develop dynamic or static content depends on who the audience is and the purpose of the email. Regardless of the approach, following email marketing best practices and buying into a stellar strategy is the key to extraordinary emails that subscribers can’t wait to open.

#LifeOfAHome: Concept to Campaign

Winchester Goes from Blueprints to Beautiful Homes in Ongoing Social Media Campaign


How does a new home come to life?

Our latest Winchester Homes social media campaign puts that process on display for homebuyers, revealing the attention to detail and commitment to quality that the homebuilder puts into all of its communities as it continues work on stylish, urban townhomes at its highly anticipated Glenmont MetroCentre.

“The concept really came from an idea that we had in one of our meetings about how we should approach a campaign for this new Winchester community,” said NDG Creative Director Mike Metz. “We all thought the idea of following the life of a home from start to finish was an interesting starting point, so we just took it and ran with it. We felt that it offered a homebuyer a unique perspective of the entire process.”

#LifeOfAHome became a full-fledged social media and PR campaign that will provide updates at the progress of Glenmont MetroCentre, giving home shoppers a chance to see the work that’s going into these new homes. From foundation to finished product, this campaign will provide an inside look into the world of homebuilding and, generate excitement about these new homes in Silver Spring, MD.

After we settled on the concept, a team comprised of our creative director, VP of account services, art director, social media manager, senior copywriter and senior marketing manager worked collaboratively to ensure that every part of this strategy was accounted for and that the campaign would help the client accomplish its goals of exposing this community to a qualified audience.

To begin, we created numerous sample Facebook posts, conducted hashtag and prospective buyer research, and developed a graphic to tie the campaign together with the overall Winchester Homes brand.

“Winchester Homes was already very active on social media when we pitched the idea,” said NDG Social Media Manager Brittany Darr. “They’ve always been excited about trying new things, so we knew that this campaign idea was a perfect fit.”

Launching a campaign for a new community often requires a different approach than advertising an established location, and we knew that the launch of Glenmont MetroCentre would benefit from a unique approach. Additionally, one of the primary buyer segments for a home at this community is a “hip” young professional who wants walkable urban living. So a social media-intensive campaign was perfect to engage the target audience.

Through regular Facebook posts, Facebook ad placements and consistent use of the #LifeOfAHome hashtag, we’re building recognition and interest in this new product in a way that is fun, informal and invites users to check back regularly as the building continues.

“A campaign like this can only be successful with a client that has bought into the idea,” said Darr. “But equally important is the buy-in by everyone who’s working on the project, and we have that at every level. We’re really excited to see where this is going!”

Construction has already begun, and we invite you to follow along with the #LifeOfAHome on Winchester Homes’ Facebook page!

Engage Who You Want, Where You Want with Programmatic Media Buying

How Brands Can Maximize Data to Compel Users to Act


In a world where consumers make decisions and purchases with just a few taps on a screen, advertisers now can leverage a seemingly limitless amount of data about key market segments. But with all of this invaluable information about the people who matter most, how can brands connect with their target audience when and where it matters most?

That’s where programmatic media buying comes in.

Programmatic media buying allows advertisers not only to target the where but also target the who by reaching specific audiences.

Who vs. Where

It has always been a challenge for brands to come up with the right media mix and strategy to ensure their message is being seen by the right consumer at the right time. With programmatic media buying and the evolution of advertising networks and exchanges, much of the guesswork has been eliminated.

A technique known as “retargeting” is one of the most well-known forms of programmatic advertising. This is where an advertiser can leverage technology to deliver highly targeted ads to previous site visitors, even as they browse other websites. Looking beyond website retargeting, brands can display relevant ads based on a variety of user variables and activities, regardless of what site they visit. And thanks to the extensive data sets that advertisers now have at their disposal, brands can get even more specific about targeting audiences based on a user’s behavior, demographic, intent, device usage, etc.

“In a programmatic media buy, an ad may only show on a specific website if the correct person is browsing that site rather than displaying an ad to every single user,” said NDG’s Director of Digital Marketing Amanda Webb. “By tapping into first-, second- or third-party data to figure out who’s viewing a website, you’ve gone from focusing on just the ‘where’ to utilizing what you know about the ‘who.’”

What are the Benefits?

Why should a brand include programmatic media buying in its strategy?

  • It’s Efficient – Because the buying process is mostly automated, programmatic advertising requires less manpower to complete an ad buy—giving the advertiser more time to focus on creative, targeting and testing strategies.
  • It’s Flexible – Changes in targeting, budget and placement can be made instantly based on performance.
  • It’s Smart – Marketers can make more informed decisions based on key performance indicators and audience behavior.
  • It’s Done in Real Time – Ad buys, bidding and optimization can be done almost instantly.
  • It’s Relevant – Audience insights and data help customize messages to the right person at the right time.
  • It’s Direct – Advertisers can leverage first-, second- or third-party data to reach highly targeted audiences.

How Can You Include This in Your Marketing Strategy?

But with all the buzz about programmatic media buying, does that mean that you should abandon publisher direct ad buys?

“Programmatic media buying should complement to your online marketing strategy, but it shouldn’t be the only approach you use. There are very valuable placements online that are only available through a direct publisher relationship,” said Webb. “Both programmatic and publisher-direct approaches have value and merit in your strategy.”

Regardless of how your online marketing budget shapes up, a balanced, smarter approach to your digital strategy is the key to telling your brand’s story through digital media.

Thumbs Up to Web Developer Rosita Calderon

We Celebrate a Willingness to Learn New Things Every Day

Everyone deserves to be recognized for a job well done. Television has the Emmys, movies have the Oscars, and NDG Communications has The Thumb Award. An oversized statue that definitely does its namesake justice, The Thumb Award is a staple at NDG and a monthly ritual for employees to recognize one another for a job well done.

Earlier this month, Digital Development Manager Julia Tate was recognized for her collaborative spirit and extensive behind-the-scenes work for our clients, so she was responsible for selecting October’s recipient.

The Thumb Award will stay in the Digital Development team this month as it goes to Web Developer Rosita Calderon. Julia cited Rosita for her ability to take on new projects, including HTML email programming, conducting web edits and developing a touchscreen-friendly website for one of our homebuilding clients.

“It’s not just the fact that she’s a quick learner—she’s willing to learn new things and take on new projects,” said Julia. “She pays attention, asks questions and then applies the things she’s learned.”

Rosita expressed her appreciation for the recognition that she received from her team manager as well as the rest of her co-workers.

“I was surprised but definitely excited about getting named for this month’s Thumb Award,” said Rosita. “It’s an incredible feeling when clients appreciate the work we do, but it’s also nice when your co-workers show their appreciation for it as well.”

As with many co-worker relationships at NDG, the time that Rosita and Julia have spent working together on various projects has also revealed a common interest that has only helped in strengthening their bond both on and off the clock.

“We also recently found out that we share a hobby—sewing,” said Julia. “When we’re not talking about websites, we’re sharing sewing tips or pictures of the things we’re working on. I think that really embodies the kind of relationship we have at work and outside of work. We both have things we can learn from each other and things we can teach each other. I look forward to seeing her here every day.”

As for what she’ll be looking for when deciding on the next Thumb Award winner, Rosita had at least one idea in mind.

“Lunch would be a good start!” said Rosita. “But seriously, I’ll just be looking for someone who’s not only motivating themselves to get things done but working to motivate their peers as well.”

Campaign Spotlight: Conveying a Waterfront Wonderful Lifestyle at Easton Village

Setting this Eastern Shore Community Apart with Creative Messaging and Imagery


When we were approached by Elm Street Development to come up with a campaign that would increase awareness and drive traffic to their
Easton Village community, we knew this was an opportunity to take all the great things about the Eastern Shore community and run with them.

Because Easton Village is one of many Eastern Shore communities that attracts established buyers looking for their waterfront escape, we wanted to develop messaging that captures the essence of the life someone can expect to find at the community. So we came up with three short phrases, each highlighting an important trait of the lifestyle available there:

Waterfront Wonderful

Eastern Shore Escape

Chesapeake Charm

Spread across billboards, web banners, print ads, community signage, direct mailers and more, the messaging conveys a feeling of escape as well as relaxation. This is a vibrant waterfront community, but it also offers the small-town charm and peaceful lifestyle Eastern Shore home shoppers are looking for.

While there’s no question that the headlines are poignant and prominently displayed, this campaign is highly visual. The imagery conveys the essence of life by the water without duplicating the “beachy” theme that many other waterfront communities convey.

“We wanted to give this campaign a nautical and charming feeling,” said Senior Art Director Brad Flaherty. “By borrowing existing colors from original branding and mixing them with sunset tones, we were able to effectively highlight the natural beauty of the area. Accenting the images with rope and wave textures, together with canvas or burlap backgrounds, really underscored the waterfront location of the community while still promoting the feeling that this really is a charming, peaceful place to call home.”

The waterfront is an exciting place to live, and it offers everything someone could ever want if they are looking for a destination to escape to, but we also wanted to highlight the fact that life moves a little bit slower here. Life is just better at Easton Village.

I think this campaign was so effective because it conveyed the relaxed, natural setting people search for in waterfront properties,” said Vice President of Account Services Sarah Eckel. “By creating a campaign that highlights the most attractive qualities of the community in such a compelling way, Easton Village generated extra traffic to both their community and their website.”

For a closer look at the work we’ve done for Easton Village as well as our other clients, be sure to check out our collection of projects on our website.