Advertising

    Paper the Walls.

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    Many years ago I learned a trick about advertising from Brendan Ryan, president of FCB/Leber Katz, in NYC. One day he asked the AT&T Network Systems account team to paper the walls with the current campaign. The headline for each as we “Are You Ready.” Network Systems sold the 5E switches to phone companies that powered American communications. So paper the walls we did.

    Mr. Ryan walked around the plush conference room reading sub-heads, looking at visual and dashing through copy here and there. He pointed to campaign outliers and confirmed what he thought to be the idea. Neat trick. Neat way to level-set the idea.

    Fast forward 25 years to an era when communications manifest across more channels than we ever perceived, some with control, many with none. If you were to paper the walls with the myriad comms we generate today, you’d have a messy, messy room. A walk around that room  would remind you why an “organizing principle for product, experience and messaging” is critical. Otherwise known as a brand strategy.

    So me droogies, paper your walls with your internal and external comms and see what-ith you spew-ith into the consumer realm.

    Peace.

     

    We’re Here!

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    This is a leader board from AOL that appeared on Adweek.com.  It’s a perfect example of “We’re Here” advertising, doing little more than telling users they exist.  The creative for this baby could not have taken more than 10 minutes.  And that with 3 re-dos.  Come on AOL, you can do better than this!  Peace!

    HP TouchPad Ads Off…and Running.

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    Hewlett-Packard is launching a new ad campaign today for the TouchPad tablet and it sounds rather messy.  I read about it in The New York Times ad column and hope it’s just poor reporting. The story was written by Elizabeth Olson.

    Here’s my strategic take. 

    • HP is late to market with the tablet and needs to get noticed.
    • HP has a new operating system (OS), which will drive all its hardware devices. Called webOS, it will integrate their smartphones, PCs, printers, tablets and soon other devices and appliances.  It’s a cool promise, but s complicated story.
    • Printers are a big franchise and potential differentiator, so HP wants to make them more relevant.
    • The purchase of Palm and the growth of the smartphone market has made the mobile business a critical growth component.
    • HP is not a big brand with Millennials and teens.

    That is a lot of stuff to convey.  If you have to say 5 things, you’ve said nothing.

    The NY Times story starts out talking about a new commercial with Russell Brand. I’m feeling it.  A little old school, but I’m feeling it. Then it says there are executions with stars from iCarly and Glee. The future holds spots/vids from Lebron James and Jay-Z and Lady Gaga did some work in May but has not re-upped.  Add to that, all the social media contests (100 free TouchPads) and Twitter tchotch and you begin to see how it’s going to be hard to find the idea. Goodby Silverstein is a great  ad shop, but it doesn’t sound as if it hasn’t corralled this herd of goats. 

    My head is spinning.  I hope it is just a lot of info, not well organized, by a reporter from another newspaper beat. And I’m no Leo Apotheker. Peace!

     

    Buick’s Progress. A tale.

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    I drove a Buick Skylark as a kid and loved it.  Though green wasn’t my favorite color, the car offered a little macho and some pep.  My friend’s dad owned the Buick dealership from whence it came and when he grew up he, too, owned a Buick Dealership.  I went to work at McCann-Erickson in the 90s and we had the Buick account. Market research began to slip out that Buick had become the brand of Q-Tips — little white heads that stuck up from behind the steering wheel. That was the 90s.  As much as the client and agency derided the target and tried to go younger, they never really changed the car models.

    The decade of the 2000s rolled in and again management talked about aiming younger.  Tiger Woods was the spokesperson – young phenom that he was.  Some youthful accoutrements were put on the cars, some grilles were youthenized, a new younger nameplate introduced (Lucerne, hee hee), yet the old people car tag did not abate.

    Fast forward to today – the 2000 teens.  “People still equate us with big, floaty, boxy cars that are driven by people in their 70s and 80s,” said Craig Bierley, director of advertising and sales of Buick/GMC in today’s paper.  He added “This is really about position Buick in a progressive marketing space, so that people can think of Buick as a progressive company overall.”  This quote, a reference to a new selling application for iPhones and Androids.

    Hello?  You can market younger but the car designs must appeal so. They don’t yet. See you in 2020. Peace!

    Branding: Scorch, drone or look ‘em in the eye.

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    It was not long ago that advertising was governed by a scorched earth approach. Fire up a message and spray it in every direction.  If you bought the top TV show, the best read magazine, the leading radio station and newspaper in the 10 largest cities, you reached everyone.

    Extending the metaphor, following the scorched earth approach, thanks to the web, we are now more in drone attack mode. We don’t target those not interested in our products and messaging, that would be wasteful, we conduct due diligence then hover over our targets and bomb the shit out of them. Behavioral targeting, search engines, opt-in vehicles all enable drone attack kills.  The problem with drone attacks is that there are often lots of accidental casualties. Drone attacks are not only singularly expensive, they can give a brand a bad name. Drone attacks are preferred to scorched earth because corporate executives feel more in control and can see immediate results.  

    The reality is, drone attacks do have kills (sales) though as a marketing tools they dilute our brands. Brands today are defined by campaigns, not brand values.  Ask a consumer about Old Spice and the first thing they’ll say is “that football player” or the “guy who rides the horse” or “guy with the great pecs.”  They rarely play back the human connection to the value of body spray.  

    What I love about new media – social media – is that corporate executive can tune in to consumers from street level. That’s where it counts. Scott Monty of Ford is tuned-in where it counts. Sure he’s Mr. Twitter and Mr. Fotchbook, but he hears his audience every day. And Alan Mulally, his boss, and the shareholders benefits. Mr. Monty is on the ground listening, not operating a drone remotely. That’s the way to build a brand. That’s how you build a marketing program. With a brand, a plan, and a policy. Not a campaign dashboard.  Peace!

    Wendy’s. Kaplan Thaler. Unreal.

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    Branding is about owning a discrete idea in the minds of consumers.  Find the right idea — something you are good at and upon which you can deliver – then spend your money proving it.  

    A couple of years ago, Wendy’s, a top 3 fast food burger chain, gave its account to Kaplan Thaler Group. Kaplan Thaler does good ads, great music and creates muscle memory for its clients.  It won the Wendy’s business with a neat jingle and neat idea “You know when it’s real.”   The idea revolves around a commitment to use more natural ingredients.  No one doesn’t want more natural ingredients.  So it is a great idea in a category with pent up “bad nutrition” ideals.

    We can debate whether the last two year of advertising have delivered on the natural ingredients promise, but there is a $25 million campaign launching for Wendy’s new French fries that has gone off trail. The product uses natural-cut unpeeled Russet Burbank potatoes and sea salt. Presumably they are using a healthier quality of fry oil.  The advertising idea – and here is where the disconnect comes in — is about “taste and sharing.”  People like the taste so much they don’t want to share.  You know when it’s real?  When this work is copy-tested people will play back “the fries are so good you won’t want to share.”  FAIL.  (I’m sure the copy talks about real ingredients, but the idea is about taste and sharing.) This doesn’t put a deposit in the brand idea bank, it makes a withdrawal.  

    Money into the market will make sale blip up. It will be viewed as modest near-term success.  But by now, Kaplan should know how brand strategy works: Get them to sing the strategy, then burrow it into their heads.  Props to Wendy’s product people for the product idea. As for the marketing people shame, shame.  Peace!

    Bing’s Decision Engine. Part 2.

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    Bing may be a better search engine; it may not be.  If you listen to Microsoft insiders it certainly is. If you listen to SEO nerds it’s a toss-up or a no.  If you try Bing, it appears to be a new skin with better pictures on the same algo.

    Bing’s initial advertising straddled the fence on 2 ideas: the decision engine and information overload. The latter was fun and made for great advertising and a great launch. It set the stage for an implicit benefit: make better decisions. The benefit was not explicit, though the tagline was. Microsoft recently moved the Bing business to Crispin Porter Bogusky from JWT and is running a new TV ad talking about Facebook integration. (Integration is a word techies use when at a loss for other words.) The new work is cute and will appeal to fast-twitch media consumers (millennials) but it feels idea-less.  I’m not getting information overload or decision engine.

    Though not everyone who searches is looking to make a decision, decision engine is a good strategy. Tying the wagon (Could I be more of a geezer?) to Facebook or Project Glee is a borrowed interest approach to marketing. It’s a tactic. The nerdiest softies in Redmond know their search algo is better than Google’s. Someone just needs to find out why. And how.  Then take that how and wrap it English — with song, pictures and video and sell some clicks. And the real softy nerds know this. “Why are we singing, when we should be saying?” Decision engine is the idea.  Organize the proof. Peace!

    Is Creative a Beauty Pageant?

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    BBDO has made a huge impact on advertising and consumerism with its call-to-arms “It’s all about the work.” a reference that explains its constantly superior creative product. There have been creative hot shops over the years, the flavor of the year if you will, but BBDO is always up there. This year it won the Gunn Report’s most creative network for the tenth straight time.

    Most agency creative chiefs and executives will tell you it’s about the work. But is it?

    In the marketing world there is only one litmus: sales. Sales leadership backed by market share and revenue power. Money creates scale and scope. And advertising. Can’t fund good work without money. Advertising can touch the hearts, minds and souls of consumers but so can a good movie. A great song. What it needs to do is move a consumer closer to a sale.

    Advertising is also about being in the right place at the right time. Ask someone in sales. Sure sales surround helps, but nothing says cha-ching like a consumer ready to buy. When ready to buy a consumer who thinks about your brand, prefers your brand, and understands its value is a consumer that buys your brand.

    Branding is about ideas that infuse the soul. Ideas that create preference. That’s the work marketers care about. Creating muscle memory for value. Not for an ad. Ads can contribute mightily, but it’s not the beauty pageant some make it out to be.

    Peace.

    PS. This post is not meant to suggest BBDO’s work is not effective. The post is about redefining what the work is.

     

    IPG’s Starting to Samba.

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    The Interpublic Group of Companies (IPG) just announced a minority investment in Samba TV. Props to Michael Roth and Chad Stoller. This looks like money well invested.

    I’m always looking for the Is-Does when it comes to brands and Samba TV seems to be an analytics company. One tapped into 10 million household TV cable boxes. The Does of the Is-Does may be best described by co-founder and CEO of Samba TV, Ashwin Navin: “We think that more data will allow brands to reach more people they care about and waste less of their media budgets.”

    This bulls eyes the famous John Wannamaker quote “I know half my advertising is working, problem is I don’t know which half.” Samba TV may not corral the missing half, but it will start to get close.

    Nice to see IPG getting back up on the horse again. It’s good for business. Peace!

     

    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!