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Dogging it.

Venables Bell and Partners, an ad agency I admire, pooped the bed last night with a spot produced for Audi that combined oversized Doberman Pincer heads on Chihuahua bodies.  I once wrote a piece for Adweek as a kid (never sent in) suggesting that every element of an ad should sell the product. Even deconstructed elements. The room in which I watched the game last night was loud during this dog spot so I have no idea what the spot was about.  But I can tell you. visually, the little/big dogs skeeved me out. The Lotto guy with the little body and big head from a couple of years ago (Little bit of luck) was similarly retching but at least his voice and the story made it a little easier to bear. Compare the Audi spot to the Kia spot by David and Goliath with the dude from Matrix. Even with the sound off, I came away associating luxury with that particular Kia model. An unexpected association. 

Ugly dogs or luxuary car?  Which value prop would you like America to take away. Xactly. Peace.

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Car sales were reported yesterday and they were quite good.  Year over year for the month of September there was a 13% increase.  The New York Times lead story in the business section announced “the best results in 4 years.”  I’ve been blogging about the automobile industry since the beginning of What’s the Idea? mostly because I’ve been so angered by what’s been happening.

People need cars.  People need money. People need to be more responsible to the planet.  These observations drive my points of view.

I have a suggestion for the auto industry, especially GM and Ford the two companies that performed most poorly. Spin off your truck divisions. Divest completely. They need their own leaders, R&D (design with a capital D), manufacturing and marketing. Most times when there is a divestiture it’s government encouraged.  But time it should be market driven.

My second suggestion relates to advertising. Volkswagen, Kia and Audi are doing good work. The brands themselves are strong enough (4Ps-wise) to allow for advertising to work. The marketing officers and executive teams of these companies are on board with investing and pushing ad boundaries. Using good ad shops. (So is Chrysler.)

During the bail-out meetings a couple of years ago, in the picture of with Ford and GM executives sitting around the table with president Obama, had not a smart phone was to be seen. The Q-Tips were running the show (insider car target reference).  We need to drop the leash here too. Peace.

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Here’s one of my favorite song lyrics. It’s from the rawness that is David Allan Coe:

The old man was covered in tattoos and scars;
He got some in prison and others in bars.
The rest, he got workin’ on old junk cars…
In the daytime.

I was reading the paper paper today and noticed a nice big Rolex ad featuring Lindsey Vonn skiing.  She is not covered in tattoos but might as well have been.  Here are some of her sponsors: Red Bull, Spyder Thinsulate, Nature Valley, Charles Schwab, Audi, Visa, Sprint and Alka Seltzer Plus — and that’s just on the front of her racing suit. She also represents Head skis, I believe, but they’re on her feet and hard to see.

Red Bull

I tweeted a couple of weeks ago before the Olympics that someone smart should pick up Lindsey and sponsor her. Within an hour someone from Red Bull (good job monitoring, btw) responded that they were her sponsor. Red Bull has done a better job than some with Lindsey – they own her helmet – but the reality is much of their stuff is still tattoo-like.  As Bob Gilbreath says in his good book The Next Evolution of Marketing (better known as Marketing with Meaning), tattooed logos aren’t particularly meaningful.  The reason I didn’t know Ms. Vonn had sponsors was because no one had really pushed their brand idea into her being.

I read somewhere that the Red Bull branding idea has something to do with “flying.” Can’t tell from their website.  And if I can’t spot a brand idea, there probably isn’t one. Sponsors need to understand themselves before they can create a meaningful and promotable relationship with a spokesperson. They need to know their idea. Peace!

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I went on a bit recently about the new Audi TV spot and its lack of an idea. After reading the new Audi “launch” print ad, I can confirm that there is, indeed, an idea in the new Goodby Berlin and Partners advertising. “Truth in Engineering.”  And if your care to spend a few minutes, you can find hints of the idea in the ad in today’s Wall Street Journal
I say hints, but maybe I should say clues. You see, the two page contains copy that is so pasted together, in such a haphazard method, that the “true” true engineering story is left untold. The agency and client try to tell the whole story in a long copy format, and unfortunately tell none.  
There are probably five great ads in this one average ad. Real engineering stories are hinted at, but they are buried and glossed over.  Proof of an idea, demonstrations of an idea, are what makes compelling selling stories, not recitation of lists.  The writer needed to do more research and develop each engineering truth, not topline it.  Mercedes actually had a great fractional campaign on this strategy – articulating the little engineering feats that made a Mercedes a Mercedes — but those ads, too, were under-researched and scantily written. Finding the “idea” in marketing and advertising is hard. But delivering on the idea is where brands are built.

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Audi is launching a new advertising campaign using San Francisco’s Venables, Bell and Partners. I saw an Audi TT ad last night and hadn’t a clue what it was all about. Good thing I read the newspaper this morning. Apparently the Audi TT, a very cool car, is so fast the agency shrunk all of its features and beauty shots into a 2 second segment, which must be viewed using a DVR in slow motion. The whole spot is :15 and thoroughly unintelligible.

It’s no wonder the ad was a slurry of creativity; the strategy was unfocused.  If you follow Audi’s new marketing executive, Scott Keogh, whose explanatory quote in today’s Wall Street Journal, was “We are putting our foot in the ground and saying this is who we are,” I’m betting we are in for one long strange Audi trip.
What’s the idea? I’m not really sure. The new tagline is “Truth in Engineering,” which as any marketing student knows is every German company’s strategy. And though impressive engineering can be a strategy, from everything I’ve read and seen so far this campaign is all tactics with not even a hint of an idea. Stay tuned.

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