NY Times

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David Carr wrote a piece in the NYT today talking about a juggernaut taking over print. The proposed takeover by Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox of Time Warner Inc. has no print component. Multimedia is the juggernaut and print the dog yapping at the tires.

I was in a meeting last week with some creative people and we were talking about websites. Last year Brian Solis of the Altimeter Group when talking about websites  said “It’s 2013, how come they are so bad?” I propose they’re bad because we are still using a print paradigm to create them. Writers, art directors, and template jockeys are laying out the web experience. What content do we stuff above the fold? What images best reflect our mission? Which type of slide show? Where is the call to action? How many navigational elements on each page? Seems like a clickable print medium to me.

Where’s the surprise? Does the experience have a scripted beginning, middle and end? How do we surface conflict? These are the things of multimedia – of transmedia. I love print and the written word – done well there is story, richness and spark. But many websites today are 80% format, art and copy. Information. Advice. And self-aggrandizement.

Branded utility was a big thing a couple of years ago. Story and narrative are the things today. By combining these two approaches we should get beyond the print-centric view of website design. Peace.




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Heineken Light is launching a new ad campaign. All the stories will be about new spokesman Neil Patrick Harris, Wieden+Kennedy and the advertising poking fun at the fact that one can’t drink beer on a TV commercial. Mr. Harris drinks and slurps off camera.

According to Heineken USA CMO Nuno Teles “Everything in marketing should start with a consumer insight.” The one he identified to Stuart Elliott of the NY Times was that “40% of 21-27 year old consumers desire a light beer with a full taste.” Some quick research suggests there are 25 million 18-24 year olds in the US, so let’s say there are about the same number of 21-27 year olds. Forty percent of that number is 10M. In a country of 300M, that leaves a lot of beer on the table. But I agree that taste for a premium light makes sense. The fact that Barney from “How I met your mother” craves Heineken Light on a TV commercial, though, doesn’t quite set the “taste” hook for me. I’m not sure if he says anything about the new Cascade Hops, but I surely hope so.

Behavioral brand planners will ask how do we get consumers to change beer brands? The answer is, get them to try it and like it. Also, give them a reason to expect to like it. Not sure drinking what Barney drinks is that reason. Peace!

P.S. Wieden knows what they are doing and they know advertising, so let’s wait until the barrel counts start coming in. This is just my expectation of success.


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When is a newspaper article finished?  Well, maybe never.  I’m was reading today about Apple’s new educational releases, e.g., iBooks 2, iBooks Author, iTunes U, in The NY Times paper paper and wanted to save the article to my OneNote document.  (Not many people know about Microsoft OneNote — but should.)  Anyway, in order to save the article I went to the NYTimes.com and while lighting up the URL noticed the article, first published at 10 A.M., had been updated at  9:02 last night.  Now that update may have made the paper paper but it may not. So why read the paper paper which may have old, perhaps, less than accurate news? The reason is the form factor.

When the accuracy of the content in news reporting out-weights the form factor (user interface, e.g. paper vs. screen, vs. Siri) the war will really be over.   

But back to the first question. When is a newspaper article finished?  Will publishers be interested in changing stories in a year because they know it to have inaccurate info?  Will it be legal to do so? If it’s on the web and accessible, shouldn’t it be the truth?  Now there are some more things to nosh on.  Peace!

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I went off a little yesterday on Twitter about all the crazy titles people are putting on their business cards in the marketing services world. Here’s one: Chief Storyteller, Apprentice Zen Teacher.  Come se what?

Storytelling is big business today.  Why?  Because video is such an important communications device – and it’s billable. But before everybody and her brother could make a crappy video and tell a crappy narrative, the art of storytelling required discipline – the thoughtfulness and restraint to tell stories with fewer pictures and words.  

Now digital and ad agencies talk about story telling all the time.  First we must understand the brand story.  Then we must be able to translate the brand story and articulate into business strategy for management.  Only then can we tell the story to consumers.  And now, pray tell, thanks to social media, the story goes both ways now.  Around the brand campfire we listen to consumers tell our story… and we encourage them to tell it to others.

The real story on story.

Sorry to go all geeze on you but I saw a wonderful print ad in The New York Times paper paper today.  It wasn’t anything X 768 — it was two honking color half pages by L.L. Bean at opposite corners of a spread folio.  The headline was “gear that stands the test of time” (left) “now ships free all the time” (right).  The left page showed a close up of the heels of two Bean boots.  Since the story was about product durability and free shipping, the picture of the boots was amazingly rich. Shot by the Annie Leibovitz of boot photographers, the color, patina, texture and composition of the boots said “wear.” The shot also said tear, but not too much.  The heels weren’t too worn, the settle of the leather not too weighted.    The cant of one boot to the other, like a kiss.

The picture reminded me on a pair of my father’s L.L. Bean boots. It captured me. It helped me tell my own story. Sometimes the best storytelling in marketing communications is not explicit.  It’s provocative. In this “fast twitch media” world, I don’t have time to sit through a mini-movie on the durability of a boot, made by an NYU film student at $35 an hour. Don’t tell me the story, remind me, incite me, coddle me into my own story. Bravo L.L. Bean.  Ship me a pair of my daddy’s boots.  (Actually, I think I still have them.  Maybe I’ll just put ‘em bad boys on.) Peace!

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Sally Hogshead declaimed yesterday at TEDxAtlanta that we have the attention span of about 9 seconds when it comes to marketing.  I believe she also mentioned a neurological study that suggested our brains are evolving so as to better process multiple pieces of information at once.  Being an evolutionist, I would have to agree but add that the effects of that evolution will probably not be seen unto the year 20,010.

Personally, I cannot read a whole article in the NY Times paper paper anymore without checking the web or email and I haven’t even bit the bullet and bought a smart phone yet, which is so in my future.   Last night over a beer with GetMurphy@yahoo.com, I mean my friend John Murphy, he offered up sheepishly that there are actually times when he might go off the grid for 3 straight hours to work – he’s a creative director at Millennium Communications.  (Did you know stevepoppe.com is an available URL?)

I’ve referred to this, as have many, as the ADD-ification of America.  Is it bad? Yes and no.  Is it good? Yes and no.  It just is. I read a Tweet this morning by someone who works for MDC Partners who mentioned that in the course of walking two blocks he saw 3 people walk into immovable objects.

I’m a roots guy. Awaiting a modest overload backlash.  But while waiting I’m preparing for the ADD-ification of my marketing targets. I know that an email that hits a Blackberry is more likely to get trashed than one that hits the desktop. Preparation. Peace!

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When first working on the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System business I thought I was going to dislike the category. Now I’m a fan.  Perhaps I was conditioned to think healthcare was bad and unexciting because the ads were so bad.   My agency,  Welch Nehlen Groome, made recommendations to North Shore to manage the brand as if a consumer packaged good: land on a strategic idea, organized it, stick to it and use the it to manage the client. The approach paid off. In our market “Setting new standards in healthcare”- a promise every healthcare provide would aspire to – was better known than “the best cancer care anywhere” the promise of Memorial Sloan Kettering.

What turned me around on healthcare was the depth and complexity of the sell. It offered very fertile ground for connecting with consumers.  If you did your homework, you could hear great stories about the human condition. Talk about finding the pain?  Stories about relationships, e.g., caregiver, doctor patient, etc. Even stories about heroism.  Then there was the science side of the storytelling.  What the docs did. The role of diagnosis, R&D, the team.  Suffice it to say a lot of info could go into the making of an ad.

The Hospital For Special Surgery ran an ad in the NY Times today that is half brilliant. The headline is “Our doctors work hard to perfect joint replacement. Our scientists work hard to prevent them.” Buried in the copy are no less than 5 awesome stories waiting to be told —  waiting to convince people to jump in their cars to go to HSS. But the stories won’t be read; the headline was either written by a tyro or a beat down writer too busy to connect. Too busy to change or save a life.  When we get advertising right in the digital age, those five stories will be linked web videos. In print, they will be underlined and printed in blue to let readers know there is multimedia attached. When we get advertising right in the digital age, we will write headlines that jab us like a needle. Peace!

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Smiles at AOL.

AOL’s purchase of the Huffington Post 8 hours ago was very smart.  I Googled my blog  (whattheidea+AOL) to see if I could find the prediction of said purchase and could not. Maybe I should use Bing.  (Full disclosure, hee hee.)  Anyway, if AOL’s strategy is to provide the best content on the web, this is a great move.  And I loved Arianna Huffington’s quote in the paper paper — her first as head of the new media property group — that she won’t let her politics get in the way of her job.  Yeah right. That’s what makes the Huff Post great.  She can put on her transformer hat when overseeing other media properties, but don’t change a thing on the Huff Post.   Ima (pronounced eye-mah) have to start reading, I guess. 

And, oh, by the way, this story was not on the front page of the NY Times business section, it was on the front page.  Just under the mast head.  The geezer talk for important.

Tim Armstrong articulated the strategy to be a content leader and he is delivering.  Yahoo articulated the same strategy and is not. Nice move AOL. Nice move.  Even Michael Arrington (TechCrunch) is probably smiling.  Peace!

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Stuart Elliott, The New York Times advertising writer, did a nice piece today on the Honda Insight hybrid automobile. The Insight will be available in late March, starting at just under $20,000. For all the ad campaign talk about “democracy” and “a hybrid for everyone,” this advertising campaign is about price.  It’s a mistake and a missed opportunity. The campaign is from RPA in Los Angeles.   


The allure the hybrid is not the $1,000 above or below the $20,000 price point, it’s in saving fuel, creating less emissions, being forward thinking, and feeling good about it. Hybrid penetration isn’t about the initial car cost – though, if they cost $12,000 they’d be much more common – it’s about making the “late majority” of car buyers believe that driving a hybrid is a normal thing, not an advocacy thing. The late majority wonders if the cars will break down, if their friends will “out” them for being closet liberals, if the cars are peppy enough. These are the big market-moving issues, not price.


In a few years the combustion engine automobile will be the cultural equivalent of the turntable. Why would anyone today buy a non-hybrid car? The campaign should focus on the barriers. Peace!


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The current outbreak of salmonella poisoning in the peanut and peanut butter industry is an example of lax government oversight that will only get worse. Remember the milk crisis in China? The tainted jalapeno pepper/salsa problem last year?  Bad farmed salmon from South America? Mad cow disease in American cattle?


The NY Times today did an excellent piece on the Peter Pan peanut butter salmonella mess, which started with a family-owned processing plant in Blakely, GA.  Workers weren’t paid good wages, temps were used, roofs leaked, rodent schmoo on the floor and government safety inspectors who were over-stretched. A recipe for disaster.


This type of thing, though certainly not rampant, is happening all over. As company profits dry up and workers let go — and as the government eases up oversight due to lack of funds – food safety problem will multiply.


And can’t you just see a bunch of marketers stepping into the breach, segmenting the market with premium food brands that tout higher levels of quality control under the guise of  “pure-natural,” or “healthiest choice” or some such — by inference, positioning regular store brands as for the other class of shopper. Whole Foods, to a degree, is already catering to these up-market consumers.   


The government needs to step up here and pump some serious stimulus money into cleaning up the food industry. Let’s put the search for the car czar on hold and clean up a food plant or two first.  Food safety before car bail-out.    



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