Advertising

    Advertising and the commodity slurry.

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    Advertising agencies have allowed themselves to become commoditized.  In product marketing there are luxury goods, mid-priced challengers and bargain goods, but in the agency business everyone is more or less priced the same. 

    Sure, if you hire BBDO or Ogilvy your top line creative people will be more expensive than someone from the no-name middle tier but you get what you pay for and after a year or so the profitability equation seeps in and both type of shops meet in the middle. The commoditized middle.

    This is because ad agencies sell labor and stuff (pictures, video, writing, music and coding).  The valuable part – strategy – more often than not is given away.  Strategy and creative win new business but brand strategy often disappears after the contract is signed leaving creative to carry the day.  At that point middle-managers-on-the-rise start to take control.  And tactics take over. That’s when air starts seeping out of the balloon.  Tactics are commodities in the ad business. Apple wouldn’t put up with this. 

    What’s the way out?

    Ad agencies need to strengthen their commitment to strategy over tactics. They need to build incentives into their contracts tied to the strategic product.  If a client approves work that is off strategy, the client should have to fund a kicker to the fee. A – because it will cause more work.  And B – because the work will be off-piste.  Campaigns come and go…and that’s okay.  But brand strategy should not. Agencies known for their strategic work will emerge from the commodity slurry. Peace!   

    The Idea. The Performance.

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    Anything Elizabeth Hurley does I like. No really, anything. In this Droga5 ditty for Newcastle Ale, there was an idea, great copywriting and a compelling performance. It made me thirsty.

    elizabeth hurley

    Great work contains 3 things: an idea, proof of idea and performance. Ideas without proof may take hold but don’t really impact sales. Ironically, ideas without proof are called selling. Claim, claim, claim. When someone is claiming or selling we shut down. Ideas supported by proof have the most sales impact.

    In the Droga5 spot, there is an idea: America would be quite different if Britain won the Revolutionary War (#ifwewon). There is proof: the funny examples of what would be different in America today — which makes us smile, nod and even empathize. But the performance of Elizabeth Hurley takes the work to a higher level.  The performance of the idea is what brings it to life.

    Smart ad agency people understand this — they are paid to excel at it. Performance is a little lacking in the digital agency space, but there, it has more upside. More breadth. And I’m not talking acting here, I’m talking performance of the idea. Performance of the proof.

    Think about the performance, don’t stop at strategy, creative and production. Peace.

    Data Chunking.

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    Omnicom and Publicis agreed over the weekend to merge.  Como se unexpected? The story even made front page of The New York Times. The spin was all about big data. More people, more devices, more messages. And the best way to reach all these things is through smart use of earned, owned and rented data.

    Data companies are finding new and exciting ways to track people. And it’s only just beginning. Home thermostat apps can indicate when a person is at home, road side cameras can log when a license place passes a dinner, voice activation apps can capture when a body needs a sushi fix.

    When I pitch Twitch Point Planning to marketers and their agents I explain the offer in three words: understand, map and manipulate.  Big data feeds the understand and map components. Capture and organize data.  But as David Droga rightly says in the article on the merger (last para.), someone has to do something smart with the data. (When everyone has the understand and map tools, data will just become a commodity.) And that’s the subtext not covered in the Times article. Ad agencies are best at creating the manipulative message. Not bad manipulation, but good. Important. Heartfelt and personal. Dare I say poetic.

    I agree that marketers will do understand and map in-house. But the manipulation part, they can’t do well. For this, even for a one-on-one mobile phone ad, they need professionals. If you want to follow the money, this merger is about good old fashion creative, not chunking data. It bodes well for agencies of all size and stripe. Peace! 

    Frank’s Red Hot Sauce

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    There is a radio campaign I’ve been hearing lately for Frank’s Hot Sauce – it’s actually red hot sauce, but my ears don’t hear it that way – and I absolutely love it.  There are snippets of video on the website which suggest the campaign may be on TV but I haven’t seen it.

    You can’t miss the radio.  It’s typical actor product banter but punctuated by line “I put that bleep on everything.”  Whatever word you think is bleeped out is up to you, but you just know it starts the “shhh” and rhymes with “hit”.  The line is delivered by a granny-sounding actress and you can’t help but giggle (out loud). Even moms of the Southern Christian Right have to twinkle a wee bit.

    The strategy is straight forward – use Frank’s on more dishes in more dayparts – but the humor is wonderfully disruptive.  It’s the best radio out there. For me, though, the jury’s still out on the TV. If the website videos are representative I think the TV will fall short.  The acting performance isn’t the same.  The surprise isn’t there.  And it almost demeans the radio. As a branding idea, I don’t see it translating in print either.  But enough darts, the radio is killer.

    If you know the agency and the creative minds behind the work, please share.   I smell a Mercury Award. Peace!  

    Young girl, violins, center of her own attention.

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     When Eddie Vedder sings “Daughter,” which according to the movie Pearl Jam 20 started out as a song called Brother, he sings the headline of this post about a girl at a breakfast table. To Pearl Jam fans, this song makes the world spin. If a guy, the song has meaning. If a woman, even more meaning. The lyrics speak to us in many, many ways. Personally. On behalf of a friend. On behalf of a neighborhood.  This is Pearl Jam at its best.

    Reading The New York Times this morning I encountered 4 “young girl” ads in the first few pages. They were silhouetted in white or surrounded by big retail type and pictured beneath headlines telling other girls and non-girls about products and services. “Experience the finest education on 3 continents.” Stuff like that.  If I had a dollar for every girl ad without a narrative, I’d e a much less busy man. When Pearl Jam plays Daughter in concert 85% of the audience knows 95% of the words. And they sing.

    When marketers, tiny ad agencies, and in-house communications departments put a girl in the ad, she is no one’s daughter. There are no violins.  She isn’t alone, listless, sitting at a breakfast table in an otherwise empty room.  She’s not even selling shit.  No wonder every other new TV show is about zombies.  Can we fix this please? Hee hee. Peace!

     

    Lee, Mike, Arnold and Amber.

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    It was reported by Stuart Elliott in today’s New York Times that Lee Jeans is using Mike Rowe as its spokesperson.  Mike Rowe, the guy from the Ford commercials, is the star of America’s Dirtiest Jobs (or whatever it’s called).  His fame comes not from the show, which probably does a 2.2 rating on Cable, but from walking around Ford showrooms and using his sing-songy manly voice. 

     The fact that Mr. Rowe is the news of the Lee Jean advertising story shows how shallow the strategic idea really is. Moreover, Lee has 3 agencies carving up the work: Arnold Worldwide, GroupM (for media), and Barkley of Kansas City for PR and didge. The total budget is about $10M and you know a chuck of that goes to Mr. Rowe. 

    So let’s recap. National challenger brand. No identifiable, differentiated brand strategy (comfort a man would love?). A spokesperson famous for selling cars. A limited “jump ball” budget shared by 3 partners.  And a product with little to talk about. About right?

    The Fix.

    Arnold is actually a good shop with breadth.  Lee should go all Joel Ewanick on itself and give them the entire business.  Then turn Amber Finlay loose, Arnold’s new head of digital strategy. I bet she could multiply the dollars.  Lee needs a little brand spanking and, if allowed, Arnold is the kind of shop that can do it. Was there a buy-out clause in Mr. Rowe’s contract?  Peace!

    Frank’s Red Hot Sauce Radio Spots.

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    One of my favorite advertising campaigns is for Frank’s RedHot Sauce.  It may be my only favorite ad campaign.  I heard if yesterday morning and had to remark about it to the lady at Ace Hardware.  The business strategy is to get consumers to put Frank’s RedHot Sauce on more dishes.  I use hot sauce on burritos and tacos only.  My brother in law from North Carolina likes it on his eggs.  (It’s not bad.) The more dishes Frank’s can get you to spice up with hot sauce the more sales it rings.

    Now normally funny advertising for the sake of funny is not something I advocate.  Funny is rarely a brand plank. But the little old lady with the graggy voice who performs these spots is quite the star. But the copywriter is the true star.  Each ad repeats the line “I put that shit on everything.” Of course the word shit is beeped out. The bleeped word is the hero of the spot. Try not laughing. Try not understanding the strategy. Try not visualizing a little old lady putting hot sauce on her breakfast, lunch and dinner.

    Some church people will be offended. Some parents with small children will have to explain to their kids why they are laughing. Some will want to protest.  Me?  I just love that ____.  The best ad campaign I’ve heard in a long time. Peace. 

    Selling business.

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    Native advertising is defined by some as advertising done to look like the content of the media on which it appears.  The ads are tailored to the media. A couple of decades ago if you made your TV ad to look like a newscast and scheduled it to run on the evening news, standards and practices would not approve it.  It had gone too native. Lately, I’ve seen some cable stations using program actors to promote products in commercial pods during the show.  It’s worth a rewind…until you see it’s an ad.  Smart idea actually.

    In the web world, native advertising is doing similar things, allowing marketers to appear to offer site content but then pulling the rug out quickly to reveal a product endorsement. It is a way forward, and if does properly effective yet it will make us callous to the media channel.

    I’m all about value…and native advertising has the ability to add a little value to the selling message, but it does detract from the media channel’s integrity.

    But here’s the thing.  Today many regular ads aren’t native to their own selling message. So why be native to a media property.  Ads are typically native to humor, to visual extravagance, to performance and story but not the product. Let’s fix that first before we go mucking up other media channels.

    Great consumer insights married to emotional and logical selling schemes are the way forward. Let’s not forget we are in the selling business.  Peace.

    Promises vs. Deeds

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    I’m all about the deeds.  In marketing, promises are like air. Deeds on the other hand are few and far between. Okay, bringing coffees to a sale call is a deed. So is lunch.  But they are not brand-meaningful deeds. For a great reference on meaningful marketing check out Bob Gilbreath’s bookThe Next Evolution of MarketingDeeds are about putting your money where your mouth is.  About delivering proof that you care. Words are important. Deeds are marketing currency.  Deeds make one believe the words.

    The first print ads were no doubt all type.  Words. Then came the ability to reproduce pictures in ads so marketers could pair products and usage with the words. Advertising now is in end-benefit land.  Yet it still feels like “me” advertising not “you” advertising. When we market through deeds rather than promises we connect.  We create muscle memory for our brand ideas.

    One good deed can support months and months of promises. And I meaningful it.  Hee hee. Peace!

     

    Genetically Engineered Copy.

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    There is a new story today that suggests tomatoes have no taste because they’ve been genetically engineered to look good.  Brilliant red tomatoes with nary a color blotch, piled high in our grocery stores because of a gene mutation that has said “buh-bye” to flavor, sweetness and aroma.

    I wonder if advertising has been genetically engineered to look pretty, the result of which has been impeded selling. Have we removed the important selling component of thoughtful copy in favor of pretty pictures?  Has the flavor gone out of our copy. The sensual response that good copywriting can evoke?  I fear the answer is yes.

    To sell one must do more than convey, one must connect and inspire.

    At Cannes, mightn’t we instate a copywriting award?  RU listening creative leaders?  (David  Lubars?) Let’s loose the robo-copy and build more artful selling. Put that on you BLT with light Hellman’s.  Peace!