January 2011

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Pepsi Give Away.

I wrote recently about Pepsi’s 2010 decision to not run Super Bowl ads in favor the “Pepsi Refresh” project — a corporate effort to take the $20 million it usually spends and fund social projects like new playgrounds, high school band uniforms, etc.  The money would be distributed via a social media circus taking place on Facebook and Twitter.  

Apparently there were over 77 million votes registered in the ether, 120,000 idea submissions and 400 winners to date. The only losers seem to be TBWA/Chiat Day who helped come up with the dog of an idea and Pepsi itself, who saw sales drop 6% in a category that slipped 4.3%.  That’s a delta of 1.7% for those who are counting.    

“True that” I’m all about companies doing go.  But in order to do good, one must be a thriving brand.  Pepsi is not. Colorful, yes. Stylish, yes.  Happy and friendly, dittos. It’s not even holding its own in a tough sugar water market.

Pepsi Refresh was a bold step. Stealing refresh from Coke was an interesting notion. But marketing is about selling. Head of Pepsi Digital, Shiv Singh, says the project was “an investment to build brand awareness and cultivate a long term relationship with consumers. It was designed to drive brand health.”  Let’s get back to brand strategy Pepsi. That’s where health is…not in media strategy. Peace!

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I read in the paper paper today of a hypotheses on the ascent of man.  It suggested modern humans were able to leave the African continent and move to Asia —  getting past those pesky Neanderthals –due to…

“the emergence of some social or behavioral advantage — like the perfection of the faculty for language” (source: NYT 1/28/11)

If you think about it, it’s quite logical.  If spoken language (beyond signing and guttural grunts) might be responsible for the “out of Africa” movement and huge evolutionary change, then what might the Internet bring in terms of geopolitical evolution?  A global language, a global governance, peace in the Middle East?  I’m not talking tomorrow, I’m thinking 1,000 – 10,000 years out.

Help me here, comment with your thoughts? Peace!

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Yah-Why!

Back in the 90s when Yahoo! owned the airways (okay, the cables and pipes), my favorite thing to do was log on and scour the list of new sites that joined the Internet that day – all available on Yahoo!.  New sites were organized by topic and type and the growth the wild west was so young, it was manageable.  I loved Yahoo! for that.  Indexing new sites, organizing and sharing them and providing links so one could explore the growing medium. Tres cool. 

According to Alexa, “What’s the Idea?” is the 586,688 most trafficked website in the world.  And holding.  It used to be moving down but the number of new websites turning up every day is startling. That growth has caused Yahoo! to cease publishing all the new sites.  But if Yahoo’s strategy is about content, they might want more and newer ways to make me stop by the site.  Fantasy Football is over and I probably won’t be back until August.

Yahoo needs a focused brand strategy, an idea, and some tight execution to turn this thing around quickly. They’ve got a smart ad agency, lots of people who know and love the brand, but for all the billions in ad revenue they don’t know how to package what webizens want.  The Yaaaah-hooooooo is gone!  Now it’s more like Yah-Who? Or Yah-Why?  Come on Ms. Bartz; you have two more quarters (is my guess). Bust a nut.

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I love bloggers.  I’m not talking about the ones who post every two weeks, I’m talking about those daily posters.  Very few do it for income. They do it because they have a passion for a topic.  It’s the passion keeps them in the game.  The commercially minded talk about building a community or an ecosystem, but they are often really just putting dollars before sense.  The bloggers Ienjoy are those who have “the love” of the topic and seek out other with the love.

Blogs were the first form of social media  — and the engine of social media, but Facebook and Twitter get the headlines.  Facebook is great for stream of life. Twitter is great for topical, staccato bursts.  They are both important social communes. But the blog – that’s where the heartistic stuff happens.

Who is your favorite blogger. Do you know him or her? Can you describe that person?  You bet.  Now look at their Facebook page.  Is your picture better or worse? I suspect the latter. Not focused.  And for brands? Facebook pages are the rage, but really, they are little more than a hodgepodge of selling disguised as community.  The blog is the engine. Businesses need to dial up the blog. Peace!

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My old  TV gave out this week so I went off to Best Buy to get a flatty.  Nice deal but I have to wait until Wednesday – post NY Jets. 1080 something, twice the inches (size queen), 120hz.  Anyway, lots of friends have hi-def and large screens and I’ve always been impressed by the quality of the picture for sports, but last night for the first time I was impressed (watching at my friend Ed’s)by a large format, hi-definition ad.  An ad for New York Presbyterian. This ad would be good on a 4 year old iPhone with a broken screen, but with awesome audio and huge video it made my world stop.

You’ve probably seen Munn Rabot’s first ad in the campaign a while ago with Ed Koch.  Well, this spot could win Sundance. As a movie.  Check it out.

What an “amazing” use of the medium.  The size of the little girl in the screen. Black and white format. The script. I’ve done and seen a lot of good work in the healthcare space – as has Devito/Verdi – but Munn Rabot has pretty much perfected the practice of selling healthcare. Are any of you pharmaceutical advertisers listening?  These guys are surgeons.  Peace.

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Here I sit this morning, in a winter wonderland of snow — on this glacial moraine we call Long Island.  And tres beautiful it is.  The storm has cleared, the sun is low casting long sharp shadows. Is there anything prettier than a holly tree branches heavy with freshies? And in the paper paper today, Google has announced Eric Schmidt will step aside come April to be replaced as leader by co-founder Larry Page.

Talk about freshies?

The spin in the papers is that Google feels it has lost a step, becoming a bit too corporate and in need of a return to its entrepreneurial roots.  Google longs to move at the speed of Facebook. Mr. Page is thought to be adult enough now to manage Google – being steeped in the fast and furious start-up culture.

No matter how you spin this thing, it suggests a management problem.  Earnings, announced yesterday, were terrific but the narrative behind the move, not so much.  Something is amiss. I can smell it and it doesn’t waft well. Stay tuned. Peace!

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Altimeter Group’s Jeremiah Owyang conducted a webinar a couple of days ago, along with Michal Della Penna of StrongMail, on social media today and tomorrow.  He made two very key important points.  Don’t market your ass off (my words) only to give your traffic over to Mark Zuckerberg.  And don’t use “engagement” as a key metric when trying to prove social media ROI to your executive committee. 

Point 1.  I’ve heard on a number of occasions, from some pretty smart, that many companies are considering reducing the scope and scale of their corporate websites in favor of bulked up their Facebook efforts.  Mistake.  Overblown company and brand websites can be a blight, but they don’t really hurt anybody.  Letting all your customers and prospects learn about your product on Fotchbook on the other hand, can dilute your control and funded sales efforts.

Point 2.  Consumer engagement, often defined on the dashboard as clicks, time on site, members, views, likes, check-ins are not sales.  Certainly they can lead to sales, but until tied to money changing hands, its engagement not a wedding ring.  It’s like dating without the you know. We all know dating leads to you know, so I’m not pooh-poohing engagement, I’m just suggesting as did Mr. Owyang that executives care about da monies.  When was the last time you read a financial article the headline for which was “Goldman’s Engagement Slid 53% In Quarter.”  Peace!

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Apple’s earning (just reported) were crazy off the charts.  They are selling more, to more, more often and at higher price.  What’s that, the quad-fecta?  Anyway, it got me to thinking about China and Taiwan and all the other places I suspect Apple products are manufactured and it made me wonder if we Americans were ready to purchase an Apple product with a little made in America sticker on it. 

I read someone once that the most expensive part in an iPhone is the housing, the case that all the parts are contained it.  The part cost something like $7 or $16.   So let’s just ask the question, If there was an Apple US-based manufacturing group that made product solely with American parts, and the prices were 3 times higher, would people buy them?  And what would that do to the aura of Apple? As a marketer, I suspect it would cause some consumer consternation. Okay lots of consumer consternation.  But would it be so wrong?  I’m no xenophobe, trust me, but this approach might help American manufacturing learn a thing.  Then, of course, the products don’t have to be labeled “Made in America,” maybe they are quietly American.

Daring? Yes.  Jobsian?  Yes.  Think different.  (Can you say renminbi?)

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As we jet (oops Dr. Freud) closer to the Super Bowl, I realize what an exciting time it is to be in  advertising.  The Super Bowl is our Fashion Week.  It’s when agency people get to lay some wood.  The best commercials of the year are put on display, much the way at Fashion Week the best designs are showcased.     

I wrote a brief once for an online music property in which I stated “an artist is never more in touch with his/her art than when looking into the eyes of the audience.”  Well, that’s sort of what we do in the ad business during the Super Bowl, we display our work and sit with people we care about, watching their reactions. The ad meters and USA Today polls are nice, but real time reactions from those around the chips and dip is most important.  Real consumers.  Our friends.  Our family.  And if you tell people it’s your spot it is cheating.

Granted, the best spots don’t always sell the most, just as the best fashion designs don’t…but the Super Bowl allows agencies and the builders of ads to represent (and learn a wee bit about their craft from the people).  Good times. Peace!

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Pepsi ReFunk

Okay I could be tripping and correct me if I ‘m wrong, but wasn’t the Pepsi Refresh Project going to be funded by taking money normally put into Super Bowl ads and reallocated to well-meaning projects around the world.  You know – “Come on world, tell us how you want us to spend our money and we’ll refresh the planet!!!”

I’m all for doing good, or as I wrote in a strategy for Bailey’s Café in Bed-Stuy “doing good’s work”, but the whole Pepsi Refresh thing seems a little off.  Like a big advertising application in search of a product.  Anyway, I read today that Pepsi has a number of spots on the Super Bowl.  And the two most recent posts on the Pepsi Refresh Facebook page are from 17 hours ago and Tuesday.   

I “like” Pepsi’s refresh advertising, its intent and its lovely imagery, I’m just not so sure I want to vote for Pepis with my mouth.  (Drink it, that is.) Isn’t that the point?  And please, don’t tell me the category is mature and everyone knows what Pepsi is  – a similarly expressed sentiment, from earlier this week in a Tostitos article. 

Refresh should be moved to the corporate side of the business – kept alive and funded – but let’s refresh the strategy and move some cases. (The Coke people probably don’t agree.) Peace.

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