Episode 240: John Penney talks about staying on the edge, bringing marketing to the table and exceeding goals

Marketing, Podcast


John Penney is the Founder and CEO of BlackDog Advertising, a full-service advertising firm based in Miami, FL.  BlackDog was founded in 1989 after John began to automate work from his previous employer that was historically done manually.  Within a couple of years, BlackDog began working with tourism operators in Key West, which launched BlackDog into the attractions and tourism industry.  Today, BlackDog works with tourism businesses from coast to coast and has found a niche in managing the unique challenges that go alongside working in the industry.  In this interview, John discusses the importance of staying on the edge, bringing marketing to the table, and exceeding goals.

Staying on the edge

“You don’t know what’s trending until you find it.”

BlackDog prides itself on hiring diverse talent, which enables the company to bring in fresh ideas that may benefit their clients that might be unique and innovative.  To encourage creativity, BlackDog invests in employees to spend time seeking ideas that might be out of the box, and bring them back either to offer to clients or at least test.

Using an experimental fashion, BlackDog tests new ideas in-house before implementing them with clients, and when they are offered, some are eager to implement them immediately while others want to see the results from other businesses.

Bringing marketing to the table

“Marketing needs a seat at the table.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, many attractions halted all marketing and advertising.  However, this did not prove to be the best practice when there are still ways to continue engaging with your audience, even though the messaging and structure of advertising needed to be different.  Similarly, John stresses the importance of marketing representatives being at the table with all other departments, including operations, so that operational practices can be properly broadcast.  During pandemic-related restrictions that were regularly fluctuating, the importance of marketing cannot be understated.

During difficult times, whether it is a pandemic or a natural disaster such as a hurricane, John recommends that you have a communication plan around how you are managing difficult situations.  When an attraction encounters a hurricane, for instance, there is critical information that needs to be communicated, such as whether the venue is open or closed, but also hurricane-related initiatives that allow their audience to better connect with the brand from an emotional standpoint.

Exceeding goals

“A lot of people know what their issues are, they just need someone to confirm that for them.”

Before even having the first meeting, BlackDog conducts the research to gain an outsider’s opinion of what their goals might be and then listen to the client for areas of opportunity that they can help resolve.  BlackDog then presents its marketing plan outline which includes all of its goals combined with BlackDog’s goals for what they see will make the program successful.

While some attractions may have their own goals, many may need guidance in determining what their goals should be to achieve optimal success.  Some venues may also not be leveraging their technology to the best of their ability to understand sales coming in from all of their channels.


When asked about the difference between marketing and advertising, many people either confuse the two or use the terms interchangeably.  John summarizes that marketing is the science of where to put advertising.  In the history of advertising, it was simply about media placement without the strategy that goes into its planning today.

To learn more about BlackDog, visit www.blackdogad.com.


This podcast wouldn’t be possible without the incredible work of our amazing team:

  • Scheduling and correspondence by Kristen Karaliunas
  • Branding and design by Fabiana Fonseca

To connect with AttractionPros: attractionpros@gmail.com

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