advertising week

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Poor poor advertising. Woe is Advertising. It really doesn’t get much respect. As a kid growing up in the business (before Cable TV and Mad Men), ad agency peeps listed just above car salesmen in term of trustworthyness and job stature. God knows where they stand today. Advertising needs a PR company to remold its image.

Where do you think Google gets its bank? Its campus? Its engineers and PHDs? And, and, and. From ad dollars. Sure AdWords are McAwful. Not creative and mostly DIY. But its advertising. Advertising is a gazillon dollar business.

Advertising needs a boost. It needs a strategy. It needs an event. An event to end all events? How about something that makes South By look like child’s play? How about we fill NYC or Brooklyn with the top creative people in the world? Not an awards show like Cannes, but a celebration of creativity like never before. “Banksy, would you mind lighting the opening bond fire?” “Pearl Jam, could you play at the closing event?” “Steven Colbert, might you emcee a live stream art face-off from McCarren Park?”

I’m not talking Advertising Week where we parade the Jolly Green Giant and Clara Peller? I’m not talking Lee Clow in a duel of words with Rich Silverstein? I’d love to celebrate and inebriate the city with the biggest creative names, people, brands and sponsors of the day. (That day being tomorrow…not yesterday.)

We need a strategy. I smell money.

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It used to be that a brand planner or strategist could easily sway corporate officers as to the need for a brand plan – or at least a campaign idea – by taking all company ads and pinning them to the wall.  For good measure one could display brochures, direct mail and other printed pieces. 

Today, the biggest culprit in creating brand disharmony, especially true at small and midsize companies, is the video.  In this social media age, most agree – and you heard the drum beat at Advertising Week in NY the last 4 days – visual selling through video is more engaging and powerful. 

The problem stems not so much from the quality of the videos, e.g., editing, audio, effects, it’s the content.  It meanders. It is not blocked out in serial, logical chunks.  With ads, if you didn’t have a tight strategy you called Ernie the montage artist. With a loose video, you just rely on fast cuts and louder music.

So who is making these videos?  Mostly, it’s inexpensive freelance, 20 something, fresh-out-of college kids with iMacs.  One such young man, who is more than capable, said he’d been to many meetings with large agencies like Ogilvy, where he was instructed to “just do something that gets noticed, that goes viral.”  No direction, no brief.  This is not how big agencies normally operates, but at those agencies on the digital creative side, it happens more than you might think.  As for smaller shops, or in-house marketing departments it’s even worse.

Marketing videos need to do a job but they also much convey a positive, organized brand imprint. With half of marketing videos either case studies or tutorials, brand strategy has a way of slipping away. Branding is always on. Approving videos without a brand planning oversight — and it happens thousands of times a day — is like writing bad checks.  So executive, turn down the lights in your conference room, fire up the interactive projector and start watching all your vids. Then ask yourself what are they trying to say about the company?  Peace.



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It’s Advertising Week In NYC and Aol has launched a campaign (Product? Movement?) it hopes will make it more relevant.  I love their idea to have an idea. 

Aol’s declaimed strategy is to become a content leader on the web. Easily said. This campaign suggests they are serious.  Loosely called ProjectDevil, it is based on an insight that one-third of the web is advertising.  And poorly curated advertising at that.   A print ad in The New York Times today shows a side-by-side comparison of an old school website and a new school website.  Old is covered in ads and links, while new is elegant, clean and surprisingly magazine like.

If you go to the ProjectDevil site, which has been nicely cobbled together and targeted to an advertising audience, you get the sense that Aol is spending money, currying favor with smart digital people (a bit of a pander) and focusing on the presentation of content.  Compared to Yahoo, its closest competitor in the “content strategy’ strategy, this is a refreshing first down.

The “one third insight’ is a strong one.  The content strategy is a strong one.  If Aol gets better content and innovates with the delivery of that content, next year at Advertising Week you’ll see a very different company. Peace.

PS.  Last year I was walking around Advertising Week talking to Yahoo people who were oblivious to the awful Ogilvy work passing them by on the sides of buses.  Within weeks the account had moved to Goody Silverstein and Gareth Kay.  Yahoo is with a good shop, but their idea is still percolating.

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RGA and the Platform.

bob greenberg

Yesterday I attended a talk by Bob Greenberg, CEO of RGA and his right hand man Barry Wacksman as part of Advertising Week in NYC. The preso was entitled “The Way Forward,” an up to speed on digital marketing.

Messrs. Greenberg and Wacksman are both very smart men and have done some serious selling – especially for Nike – but I’m not sure anything they shared was seminal. These gentleman suggested the way forward was via online “platforms.” Campaigns come and go, they offered, which I completely agree with. Bridging ecommerce with an online experience that collapses steps to a sale is a good idea. And I agree using the web in a participatory fashion to further affinity for a brand, increase loyalty and/or promote or entertainment is a terrific use of marketing dollars. But if to believe Mr. Greenberg and Wacksman, one might come away thinking the platform is more important than all else. Nay, I say. Nay.

Brand strategy is the driver of marketing success. Campaigns, platforms, media are all tactics used to deliver the strategy. Unless a marketer has a tight brand strategy the world wide web and all these commercial platforms will turn into an online Levittowns; a bunch of houses all looking alike, with a few build-outs on the corners.

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3 hospital ads appeared in yesterday’s newspaper. Here are their headlines:
1. If every hospital in America performed as well as Hackensack University Medical Center, Finn (boy in ad) might be having this catch with his grandfather.
2. When it comes to sports medicine, we’re at the top of our game.
3. We’re advancing the treatments in gynecology. Along with the confidence of the women who need them.
If ads are supposed to make you “feel” something then “do” something, only one of these headlines works.  Della Femina, Rothschild, Jeary and Partners (
continue to dominate in hospital advertising. Hackensack wins.

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There is a digital phone company out there, the name of which escapes me, that will serve up ads based upon the content of your phone conversation. If you are talking about going to a movie on your “celly,” when the call completes you might have a movie ad poop (sic) up on your screen. 

This is going a little too far. Even for Advertising Week.
What’s next? In-home audio surveillance to drive direct mail programs? Garbage truck scanners that spit out coupons? An chip in your EZ Pass that reports shopping center propensities?
Privacy (I love the way the Brits say it) is going to be a major, major issue in a year or two. It’s only a matter of time before some bonehead company oversteps its bounds, and brings down the wrath of consumers and advocates.
I smell a bonehead.

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