March 2007

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Two rock and roll brands are merging: The Fillmore and Irving Plaza. Next to CBGB’s, these two rock venues hold some seriously strong rock memories for me and I’m sure many others. My first concert at the Fillmore East included the Pointer Sisters singing with the Elvin Bishop Group, The Allman Brothers Band (Yes, that show.), and Johnny Winter And with Rick Derringer.  Irving Plaza was also a favorite haunt during the punk rock and new wave years. Where else could you watch a show with bigger rockers in the audience than on the stage?

 

By bringing back the Fillmore name the owner of the brand, Live Nation, is walking on some exciting ice. It’s a powerful rock brand but needs to be managed properly. It’s not Hardees. You can’t open one in every town. There is only so much “good” rock to go around. And if you start showing too much pop, you’ll dilute the brand’s power. 

 

Preserving the Irving Plaze name (the NY venue will be called “Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza”) is a good idea. New generations of rockers have spilled lots of brew on the floorboards of Irving Plaza, without ever having stepped foot in a Billy Graham venue. Can’t wait to see how it all works out.

 
 

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We’re here.

What does a page go for in the Wall Street Journal. Michael Dell do you know? 
 
Dell has started what appears to me to be a new campaign about its business services. The first ad up is one highlighting the DaimlerChrysler Corporation. Here’s what I learned: Dell is working with Daimler (that’s news I guess). Dell helped them work in a more efficient way (benefit). They are in direct dialogue with Daimler (I would hope so). And they offer managed service (outsourcing), server solutions (duh), and 24/7 support (they probably have pagers).
 
Though one could say the ad contains some information, I would place this ad in the “we’re here” category, which does little more than tell consumers what you sell.
 
My guess is the copywriter had no clue as to the crux of the Dell/Daimler relationship and, frankly, it smells like he or she never left the copy department to find out. Worse, this may even be an ad developed by Dell in-house. Either way it is lazy work. How many laptops do you think Mr. Dell has to sell to pay for a 4-color page in the journal?
 

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My Calvins

Calvin Klein. When I say the words what image comes to mind?  Well-defined, well-proportioned bodies, whose clothes — if they are wearing any – adorn almost as skin?  Perhaps a bronze patina to the photo?  The focus is always on the form of the body and the beauty of the subject and setting.
 
Calvin Klein broke a few rules — selling jeans, then underwear, then fragrances.  How can one brand do so well and stand for so many different items? The answer: Calvin Klein was more about the brand, less about the product. That’s why it transferred so easily.  The marketing and advertising focus was always, always consumer-centric. The brand management was true, focused and arrow straight. 
 
But there are plans today to add to the Klein portfolio: mattresses, gold apparel, watches, cosmetics, cologne. Did I say mattresses?  It will be hard to manage the visual communications in such a way that all these products can take up clear brand space in the mind of the consumer.  It will get muddled. This expanding of the portfolio will dilute Calvin Klein’s branding idea, brand, and consumer franchise. Is it a harvest play?

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The data is in, digital music single sales (single song purchases) are outpacing albums by 19:1.   Buying music a la carte is killing the music business. Piracy is what the record industry is concerned with but they haven’t been paying close attention to one of the other big issues: how single song sales are diminishing artist loyalty. 
 
“Only true fans are buying full albums,” is a smart quote by Vatana Shaw of the R&B Group Cherry Hill in the March 26 issue of the New York Times, which gets to the heart of the problem.  Most albums have an array of work — some of it more commercial than the rest. Only after listening a number of times to an album are consumers able to get a full understanding of the artist and their art. That fuller appreciation turns into loyalty.
 
Single song sales create burn-out.  There is only so long you can listen to a favorite song.  (I ODed on strawberry shortcake as a kid and have rarely been back. The food, not the group. Please.)  The record industry has to get listeners to experience the whole package or artist loyalty will tank. If that happens one and two hit wonders will abound.  

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Good call.

Oh, I hope not to end up being one of those self-aggrandizing bloggers who pat themselves on the back for being right all the time.  I find that so cumbersome. But I had to smile this morning upon learning that Crispin Porter Bogusky resigned the Miller account. A few days ago I indelicately suggested that Alex Bogusky fire Miller, which he and Chuck Porter did. Congratulations.  Good call.    
 
What caused the rift? Miller Lite’s decision to create and produce an ad in-house. I saw that ad last night and it had all the markings of a client-produced spot: it was an “awards” ad. Clients’ love awards ads. They love ads about themselves. Agencies love ads about consumers.
 
I don’t for a minute believe Miller Lite will remain in-house, it won’t. They are too smart for that. And, the “unfurl the award banner” spot may actually sell a few extra kegs of beer near term. But next agency beware. Miller needs a big strategic idea, but more importantly they need to believe in it.  

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If you get a chance today, please click on over to WSJ online and take a look at a few of Unilever’s international TV commercials. They are brilliant! Simple and heartfelt, they connect with the human spirit. The casting is brilliant. The performances Academy Award-like. And the scripts spare and meaningful. Why can’t US agencies do this type of TV work? Have we forgotten how to connect with consumers? Are we in such a hurry, that we can’t tell a nice selling story. Don’t we have time to really improve our craft. Apparently they have time in some of the emerging countries. Take a look. They are wonderful.
 

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Is it us?

When I was in college, my elderly psych professor told me a la The Graduate “plastics” speech, that leisure time counseling was the career to pursue. With the aging of  Baby Boomers and advancements in medicine, people were going to be living a long time and need counseling on keeping busy.
 
How prescient.
 
But it’s not just Babyboomers.  Kids need it too. They are playing video games every minute they’re not engaged with TV, the computer, or sports. Some of these pastimes they do simultaneously. Like a shark that dies if it is not swimming, kids today can’t sit down without some sort of stimulus. God forbit, they should talk to a parent.
 
Soduko is a new craze among adults, who also cannot sit for a minute without stimulus. Maybe it’s because book, newspaper and magazine content is so poor and predictable. I’m no better, I can’t drive in my car without the radio on, flipping channels and programs. I have to force myself to drive and think. It’s not a reflex.  
 
What were we like before we left the savannah?
 
Why do we hate to be alone and unoccupied? Can’t we just sit and think, or sit and talk?

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Have we as a society gotten so besotted with ad messages that we can’t even make a good beer commercial? ( don’t include Corona in this assessment, whose simple work I still find to be splendid.)  Now I admit to getting a chuckle every so often hearing the “real men of genius” radio, but it certainly doesn’t make me want to quaff down a Bud Light. But could the Coor’s Light frozen silver bullet train be any more inane? 
 
Coors Light advertising, according to a senior marketing executive, gets back to the brands roots of “refreshing and cold.” Refreshing and fun are Coke’s core attributes; so is it any wonder when I see a Coors Light commercial I get thirsty for a Coke?
 
I’m a beer guy. There are a lot of things that might induce me to drink a frosty one, but a frozen train darting between a bunch of smiling blonde women isn’t one of them. Hmmmm, or is it? Sigmund?      
 

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…agencies need to worry about marketer generated content. Check out this Ad Age quote from the CMO of Miller Randy Ransom regarding its new in-house effort for Miller Lite:
 
“We are taking a ‘hard right turn’ back to the core essence of Miller Lite, which has always been about differentiating Miller Lite from competitors as a better beer.  The new ads (in-house) demonstrate our ability to move with speed and conviction. And we like the flexibility that these simple formats provide to quickly customize our messaging for a variety of mediums.” 

The implication in Mr. Ransom’s quote is that agency’s cannot move with speed and conviction, are not flexible, and can’t quickly customize messages to a variety of mediums. That’s a problem. It’s a bigger problem than the work that got Miller Lite into this mess, which I’m sure was collaborative.
 
(Oh, and Alex Bogusky, strap on a pair and fire these bozos.)

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Ding Dong

One of my favorite sayings about advertising is “Just when you think you know something about this business, someone comes along to prove you wrong.” Well, I’m going to go out on a limb here after reading about Avon’s new campaign and say it’s not going to be very successful. It will have some success because they are pumping $340 million into the marketplace.
 
When the president of global marketing goes on record as saying “Avon is the company that best understands and empowers women” I immediately cringe and anticipate failure. That’s marko-babble. When I read further that the objectives of the ads are to improve their sales channel by recruiting doorbell ringers AND at the same time communicating that the Avon family of products prepares women for the aging process (the line is “Hello Tomorrow”) I know they are soon to be in deep doo-doo. What’s the idea?  What will consumers say about the advertising, product, and brand the day after they see the work?
 
And the last premise – slowing the aging process – by itself is questionable.  First of all, it targets older women and doesn’t address today’s newer buyers. Second, aging is more about genetics and lifestyle than about creams (with the exception of SPF). And third, women want to look healthy and beautiful now, not in the future. That’s why all the pictures in the ads are going to be of youngish women.  Ding dong, hello?
 

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