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The other day I read AT&T was moving all of its advertising business to Omnicom. No doubt the reason undergirding the move was economies of scale. One of the public explanations for Omnicom winning the business was “integration” of programs and ideas. That is to say the new media agency “nuts and honey” or some such and super shop BBDO will work together closely, in an aligned fashion, to insure the ideas they presented as a team in the pitch are structurally recreated IRL (in real life).

This age old strategy sounds great on paper. And as we get more mature as an industry the strategy will actually work. But there are two conflicting forces against a move like this. Ferocious competition and complacence. When one entity is in charge, time and comfort engender complacence. BBDO will churn out nice work, great work even…Hearts and Science (the media company) will plan and digitize its ass off…to a point. The paranoia, however, that keeps shops on their toes dissipates.

The energy that has shops like Anomaly, Droga and Preacher slamming, is lost.  Not a fan of the big consolidation move. Competition is what marketers thrive on. So must its shops.




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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.


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


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Sorry for my snark yesterday concerning the BBDO advertising for Hewlett Packard Enterprise. I’m sure the people who worked on the campaign are very nice. I worked on the Lucent Technologies launch in the 90s when AT&T and Lucent spun apart, and the execution was superb. From the logo design to the launch ads and the subsequent follow-on advertising — that was McCann-Erickson at its best. Lucent was only an $11B company at the time. Hewlett Packard enterprise is $53B.

Launching multi-billion dollar spin offs should be a big thing. Not a pedestrian effort. HP is an American brand of great import. It should carry itself that way. The company deserved fanfare. It deserved a great launch. A big budget.

An ad is an expression of a company. My hope is that moving forward Ms. Whitman and her executives put great effort into the new brand and company, and this “quiet period” will be over soon.



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Advertising By Bot.

HP split into two companies recently, one of which is called Hewlett Packard Enterprise. It is a $53B company. I’ve been picking on pre-break up company HP for its idea-less advertising for a couple of years, trying to learn more about the advertising by writing planners at BBDO, a terrific shop that know some advertising. To no avail.

hp enterprise

The launch advertising for Hewlett Packard Enterprise is preposterous in this day and age. It’s poor 1990 technology advertising. The brand strategy revolves around “accelerate next.” as in accelerate the speed with which customers use and benefit from technology. Say whaaat? The print work I saw this week is high school- like. The TV ad feels like as if it was directed by an ad bot.

I know Hewlett Packard Enterprise makes some serious technology and does amazing things. But ads are not one of them. Meg Whitman must be asleep at the switch. And BBDO? This is C team stuff. David Lubars can’t have an excuse. The brand brief must have been written by a temp. And I’m not even cranky this morning. This whole advertising cluster fork is amazing to me.

And the Siegle+Gale logo and naming project?  Also sophomoric. I can only hope the teams had about 10 days to do everything and that this the result. Accelerating Next can sometimes be a mistake.





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I don’t mean to pick on HP or its advertising and marketing again. But I must.  The company is using arguably the world’s best advertising agency (BBDO) and can’t get out of its own way.  They can’t come up with a sustainable brand idea; an idea that marries what they do best with what customers want most. Today’s new idea, as seen in an ad in the NYT, revolves around the notion of “further faster.”  It is all claim, exposition and pedantic nothingness – not a single sign of proof in the copy. Do HP and Meg Whitman really think IT executives and Fortune 2000 leaders don’t know they have to be faster and more informed in their business decisions? OMG. If “further faster” is the idea — at least it is better than “make it matter,” their last strategic foray. You wouldn’t know it from this ad however.

HP has bigger fish to fry than a tagline and brand idea. They are splitting the company and losing small cities worth of money. That said, someone at the top in the marketing dept. should be trying much harder to deliver a clear, meaningful idea.

BBDO is great at selling consumer goods but perhaps doesn’t truly get B2B. (B team?) This whole mess is really hard to believe. If HP wants to get to the future faster, they had better learn a lot more about claim and proof…and find the organizing principle that helps make more money. Peace.



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ExxonMobil was once the world’s largest grossing company.  It’s still way up there. In early 2012 they started running K-12 education advertising.  A cause marketing effort. The ads were pushing STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), which one might explain as a recruitment effort as ExxonMobil was looking toward the future — reinventing the energy business. But I think is was more post BP Gulf oil spill driven — an attempt to deflect negative oil company press. (I was working in the education space at the time and paying attention.)

Frankly, I’m not sure what ExxonMobil is doing with their advertising these days but at least some of the latest ads involve energy, or what I call an “endemic category message.”  The new ads promote an energy quiz and use the line “Energy Lives Here.”  They have a really smart planner at BBDO working on the business (or they did as of a couple months ago) so I wonder what the problem is?  BP’s licking its wounds and rear-view mirror planning; that’s to be expected.  But ExxonMobil?  Just not sure. They have a good agency and plenty of money so I expect they’ll find their way at some point. Peace.    


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Storytelling in advertising and marketing is the haps. The narrative. The customer journey. These approaches refer to getting consumers onboard without direct selling. Direct selling being “me, me, me” advertising versus storytelling which is you, you, you — always a more thoughtful approach. An approach much harder to get funded by marketing officers.

Agencies like storytelling because it creates buildables. Video is big. A friend of mine with a women’s sneaker company tells me “everyone keeps calling trying to sell me video.” BBDO has a Lowes Vines story on its website, boasting of effective 6 second Vines videos that only cost Lowes $5,000.

I’m down with storytelling. And video. And the digital journey through an assortment of buildables. But I’m more down with strategy. Or moving consumers to the moral of the story –what one feels about a brand as a result of all the work. And it’s not just a click or a product purchase, it’s the why. I bought a Coke because I wanted refreshment. I bought a Krispy Kreme donut because I deserved a treat.

Story telling is good but branding is more like crescendo building. Moving custies closer to full on purposeful love. Geico, could take a note or two here. Peace.

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Most marketing strategists, especially those of the digital variety, are all about the science. Success and failure are things that can be quantified and measured.  Well ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I’m here to tell you that science is the price of admission. Como se duh? The dashboard is important – especially that “sales” metric – but every marketing organization is better off if they have a handle on the softer side of selling. The tone and poetry of a brand.

I was sharing coffee with a behavioral planner at BBDO a while ago, I believed he worked on Gillette, and he said something that really stayed with me.  It spoke to me planning brain (he was Irish). He said most planners don’t have a sense of poetry. And I agree. Wholeheartedly. They may appreciate poetry, they may even seek it out in their insights, but when it becomes paper time, time to make the brief, the words become rational and the emotions are simply reported. The brief must provide the poetry.  

When science is the price of admission and poetry is the voice of brand reason, great things can happen. Because poetry is what moves creative people to greatness, not logic. Poetry is the fertile ground that makes writers and art directors (and yes, even coders) feel and spark and sing. And, oh yes, laugh out loud.

So whoever you are, if you are looking at a brief (even your ouwn) ask yourself “Where is the poetry here?” The poetry that warms the brand. Peace!

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I interviewed for a dream job as a brand planner at BBDO on Gillette a couple of years ago.  Had a great non-lunch, the interviewer told me my views were unique and had ballast (my word, it was 2 years ago.)  The next step was to send some planning samples and creative to the boss, which I did.  It was, sadly, a poor digital package.  Not BBDO-like.

Today, I’m reading about a reality web series being sponsored by Schick razors in Andrew Adam Newman’s NYT ad column and all parties are saying the wrong things, so the effort will no doubt be lackluster.  Clean break is the idea. We know they are talking clean break from Gillette, but they suggest the strategy is otherwise.  It got me thing about Gillette’s strategy. And all I can come up with is the word “man.”  And an assortment of new products.  I shave with a Gillette 5 days a week, and I am a man.  Beyond forward thinking expensive product, I haven’t a clue what their idea is.

Since I did not get the job, I’d love a chance to talk to the person who did to discuss and plumb the idea.  Could it be just to let Schick waddle forward?  I doubt it.  Branding is about claim and proof. Organized.  Man, product innovation and I’ll throw in some smooth are okay planks, but without an idea to bind them, they lose muscle memory. Peace.

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“Make it matter” is the new HP tagline.  The first ad I’ve come across with the line appeared in the paper today touting a sub-$900 laptop, wireless printer and Beats headphone package.  Aimed at school-bound kids and their parents, this bundle will matter to kids who typically may ask mom and dad for Apple machines. It will give both parents and students pause.

Meaningfulness is what good marketing and good brand plans mean to achieve — so why not put the idea right in the work? “Make it matter.”  Were I riding point on this idea, I’d make sure every ad served up to the general pop mattered. All product ads would need to provide a definable point of difference with a rational or emotional tug. It’s going to be hard to live up to. 

Make it matter is bi-directional.  It tells the reader to make it matter, but also suggests HP makes it matter. When you tagline is “Setting new standards in healthcare” every ad needs to show a new standard.  Brand ideas matter. Words matter. Good luck BBDO. Your day just got a lot longer.  Peace.  

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