Lee Clow

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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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Apple has been on the front page of many metropolitan newspapers over the last couple of years.  The FoxConn story on manufacturing in China under un-American circumstances, the hard looks at Steve Jobs during publication of his biography and passing and now its tax avoidance.  It’s almost as if some in the media have an axe to grind with this darling of American commerce and technology.  Overdogs often are targeted. Yet with all this bad press, most consumers still love Apple.


Microsoft used to be the overdog and all consumers used their products — but most skewered them. Many techies loved to kill them on message boards, in offices and around the digital coolers.  The only Microsoft advocates worked at Microsoft.

So how why does Apple get stink on itself and still maintain the love? Products. And proper brand management. Much of the latter is due to Lee Clow, TBWA/Chiat Day, Steve Jobs himself and the marketing Kool-Aid drinkers.  The Apple ads are fun, funny, sometimes biting, colorful and artful.  And clean like the products.

I’m hard-pressed to see how the latest tax image problem will be resolved by Apple, but I’m sure it will be. Samsung, Microsoft, HTC and Google Glass will fight Apple for share of wallet. But when it comes to the “love,” they will need to create and manage their brands with grace, insight and focus if they are to beat the overdog syndrome. (Google and it’s agency BBH have a clue. Eye on them.) Peace.

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Innovation is a word I hear in brand planning meetings all the time.  Executives, brand managers and marketing partners love to camp out on it claiming its importance to their brands. If you don’t count technology, two categories come to mind as the primary innovation hounds: healthcare and banks.  In healthcare, marketers and their agents scurry around the hospital looking for innovation under every bed and when found hit publish.  Right next to their awards ad.  Banks are so mired a commodity status (TD Bank’s only claim to fame is the color green) that they create innovation just so they have something to say other than rate and service.   

News flash!  Innovation is not a brand plank.  It’s lazy, fleeting and often a refundable deposit in the brand bank. Even Apple doesn’t get caught up in the innovation game. Their schtick is design. They innovate but don’t talk about it, showing design and apps.  If you did a tag cloud of every piece of copy Apple has run on TV over the last 15 years, I bet the other “i” word would turn up in only 4 point type.  Lee Clow, you on the tag cloud thing?

Innovation is the price of doing business —  it’s not a branding value. Coddle it, couch it and canoodle it into your story but don’t try to be the Innovation company.  Peace@\!

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Jerry Yang is stepping down at Yahoo (without a named successor) and PepsiCo has removed long-time ad agency BBDO in favor of white hot TBWA/Chiat Day.  Change is in the wind.  Yahoo needed to do something, though I’m not sure removing Yang does anything. The number 1 website in terms of traffic, they still do not know what they want to be. The next CEO had better have a focused strategic vision beyond “I wouldn’t have f’ed up the Microsoft deal.”


As for TBWA/Chiat Day picking up PepsiCo, it is the second black eye they have given BBDO in the last couple of years; taking Visa was the first.  Both these agencies are on a par if you ask me with the slight edge going to TBWA thanks to good leadership (Tom Carroll and Lee Clow) and the ability to do striking, simple work.  But “Life Takes Visa,” though a fine line, hasn’t yet been actualized.  


These two changes are incremental, certainly not seismic. And so are they changes at all? Nah.


But ladies and gentlemen, change is in the wind and it is to those who take advantage of it – with tight strategic understanding – that the spoils will fall.   

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