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Mark Pritchard, Proctor & Gamble’s CMO has asked Publicis, WPP and Omnicom to create a hybrid consumer agency to service a portion of his North American business. The collaboration, he hopes, will yield better creative and better economics. (Insert silent giggle here.) When the boss asks for something and is willing to pay for something, you do it. Mr. Pritchard is the boss and the biggest ad spender in the neighborhood.

As proof of concept, he points to the wonderful anti-advertising Tide Detergent campaign aired during the last Super Bowl. But there’s a massive problem with the logic. Ad people are very ethnocentric. Very egocentric. Did I mention competitive? Especially creative people.  Leonardo da Vinci let some talented interns mix the paints and sketch on some canvases, but he wasn’t collaborating.

Every time someone trots out this hybrid agency idea or the idea to have a totally dedicated brand shop, it’s failed.  As Faris says, “ideas are recombinant.” Egos aren’t.

This dedicated agency model may save money, it may make a couple of goods ads, but it won’t attract the best people and certainly won’t foster the best creative. Ring around the agency.

Peace.

 

 

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Just Be Cause.

For some reason, I was never a Citibank guy.  I love Citi Field in Queens, home of the NY Mets and once applied for a job at Publicis to work on Citibank.  That said, I do have a rewards credit card in my wallet, but that’s more a function of American Airlines than Citi.  Banks are not a category I get all warm and fuzzy about, with the possible exception of  JPMorgan Chase, a brand I did a dive on a couple of years ago.

Today I was reading Andrew Ross Sorkin, a New York Times financial columnist, and as a result have newfound affinity for Citibank. It seems the boys and women at Citi Bank have decided to stop doing business with manufacturers and sellers of guns. Not an easy task. Certainly they will pizzle off the NRA. They will, as the story explained, suffer a number of credit cards being cut up and other lost relationships. Moreover, they will need to figure out how to shut down gun show work-arounds.     

But what they have done is put the masses ahead of their bottom line. This is a level of cause related marketing I have not seen in a long time. I don’t know the Citibank brand strategy. I don’t know the CEO. I don’t begin to understand basis points and earnings.  I do know balls. This is a ballsy cause.

Peace.

 

 

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Sean Boyle, a really smart Publicis brand planner, once told me good brand strategies offer a poetic appeal. To understand his point, I suspect it is much easier to look at a brand strategy and notice a lack of poetry than is to articulate  a poetic frame.  I’ve tried poetry. When my pops died, I wrote one. Following powerful relationships, others. They weren’t “There once was a man from Nantucket” ditties, they were home-grown and from the heart. Without rhyme or perfect tempo.  They were my tempo.    

Poetry and what is poetic is in the eyes of the beholder I reckon, so Sean’s notion about good strategy will be different to each planner. But let’s agree to say poetic ideas are pregnant ideas. And dimensional. Ideas that strike up emotion. Certainly they can provide rational context — it is the real world after all. Perhaps this is why “storytelling” is such a pop marketing topic of the day. But storytelling and the journey and all that other brand-speak, is only as good at the strategy that gave it birth. Only as good as the morals of those stories.  “A closer shave” is not poetic, “a softer rough” just might be. Peace.    

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Omnicom and Publicis agreed over the weekend to merge.  Como se unexpected? The story even made front page of The New York Times. The spin was all about big data. More people, more devices, more messages. And the best way to reach all these things is through smart use of earned, owned and rented data.

Data companies are finding new and exciting ways to track people. And it’s only just beginning. Home thermostat apps can indicate when a person is at home, road side cameras can log when a license place passes a dinner, voice activation apps can capture when a body needs a sushi fix.

When I pitch Twitch Point Planning to marketers and their agents I explain the offer in three words: understand, map and manipulate.  Big data feeds the understand and map components. Capture and organize data.  But as David Droga rightly says in the article on the merger (last para.), someone has to do something smart with the data. (When everyone has the understand and map tools, data will just become a commodity.) And that’s the subtext not covered in the Times article. Ad agencies are best at creating the manipulative message. Not bad manipulation, but good. Important. Heartfelt and personal. Dare I say poetic.

I agree that marketers will do understand and map in-house. But the manipulation part, they can’t do well. For this, even for a one-on-one mobile phone ad, they need professionals. If you want to follow the money, this merger is about good old fashion creative, not chunking data. It bodes well for agencies of all size and stripe. Peace! 

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I love Twitter and have long said it is a very important media. Global, real-time news with attachments. In a presentation first given to the Long Island Social Media Club, I shared a slide entitled “rock the hashtag.” (Sorry, it was a while ago.)  I encouraged people to be inventive with the hashtag and suggested that in the future marketers would find unique and exciting ways to be promotional with it.   

publicis logo

Publicis, an advertising and holding company has just announced a R&D labs with Twitter to help consumers use Twitter thusly.  Right now, they’re focused on marrying Twitter with TV programming which is just a sign of the times; the times being there is a lot of poor television around…and more channels on which to watch them. (Psst, TV Program Creators — the idea is to not bore your audience into using second screens.) Anyway, the labs will no doubt come up with some interesting ideas and twists, which will give birth to new ideas, twists and forms of technology.  Publicis may have just hit a home run here.

Twitter is about much more than just the hashtag – but the hash is a transformative tool. Hopefully, mid-level marketing managers won’t be at the controls and brand managers will keep an eye on what is going on. Poorly executed programs will have the potential to do more harm than good…rocking that hashtag.  Peace. #merleFest

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The minute I saw my first piece of Banksy’s graffiti art I knew it was art. Art is very personal.  I have used many Banksy pieces as Twitter backgrounds. (Much obliged, sir. Sir?)

Many talk about the art of marketing, brand planning and advertising. But today l prefer to talk about the in.  Art has a very meaningful place in marketing.  Like the beautiful, style-happy person you pass on the street and can’t keep your eyes off, an artful photo, turn of phrase, or video edit captures the viewer’s imagination. And once the imagination is captured and the senses are a tingle – the door to the heat and mind are open.

What the marketer does with that open door is the critical next step.  Sell too hard and the consumer loses the warmies. Sell without context and the viewer is confused. Opt not to sell at all and you become the disaffected artist in the SOHO gallery who cares not.

citibank climber

What the marketer does with that open door depends on the art itself and  the brand plan. It’s complicated.  When Citibank, in its lovely “cliff climber” TV spot, shares that amazing climbing sequence and the poetic card purchases that enabled the climb — “And what girl wouldn’t want new shoes?,” there is mad connection.  The art is visual. It’s athletic. Unseen. That’s art in marketing. Not of marketing. Peace!

(The Citibank spot is by Publicis, I believe.)

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Right now, T-Mobile’s advertising is the best in the category.  The way it integrates print, TV and web is beautiful, the art direction is constant, and spokesperson Carly Foulkes has been managed brilliantly.  Never tarted up, always positive, always girl next door, Ms, Foulkes and agency Publicis Seattle are building a place in our brains for this price shopper 4G mobile brand.

As ubiquitous as this advertising is, it’s not Geico annoying.  Not AT&T message meandering or Verizon techno mappish. It’s a clean, retail brand imprint and it’s beginning to work.

Creative advertising dudes (less so dudettes) will snark at this comment saying the work is as creative as chipped nail polish, but from a brand management point of view, in a muddled market, this work is moving phones.  And T-Mobile doesn’t even have an iPhone.    

Imagine if T-Mobile changed its spokesperson every couple of ads.  Or tried to compete with Verizon by employed a lot of red in its color palette. Or rather than hammer home price it showed all the cool phone innovations (okay, they do a bit of that on TV).

If the AT&T purchase goes through next year, don’t be surprised to see BBDO morph the campaign Ms. Foulkes way.  They won’t cut over using the Magenta color the way they did using Cingular orange, but they know enough to keep the price work clean. Or we might just see Publicis hold the retail business and cede network and inno to BBDO.

T-Mobile has organized its brand and kept to the plan. That’s why its numbers are creeping up! Peace.

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ITT announced yesterday that it will split into three companies.  Sara Lee is considering splitting into two companies. And as you know, I believe Google will split into 3 companies in the next 5 years.  All this makes me wonder what’s in store for the big public ad agency holding companies?  What will IPG, WPP, Omnicom and Publicis look like in a decade or two?

The drivers of divestiture are usually varied margin and profitability spans.  In the case of ITT, the military business is not as profitable as the water pump business.  In agency holding companies, I wonder if there are discreet businesses with differing margins? 

Our business has changed much in the past 5 years thanks to the computer and digital marketing.  Analysis and reports, once the provenance of humans are now much more automated.  Translating the big selling idea across platform was always the heavy lifting, but today many media forms are converging. Content is still where the money and margin is in marketing.

If I were a betting person, I’d suggest a bifurcation of creative and analytics. Move the analytics companies nearer the energy plants so the computer farms are cheaper and run the creative companies in urban centers closer to all the stimuli. Patsy Cline? Fast forward. Peace!

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I say brand plan you say________? Right.  No one really knows what a brand plan looks like.  That’s not to say Proctor and Gamble and L’Oreal don’t have brand plans. Or that Publicis, Ogilvy or Crispin Porter don’t have them. They do. But what they’re called and how they are organized are all quite different. 

Brand Strategy Statement.

My brand plans are simple to understand.  They contain a brand strategy statement which I tell clients is a suit strategy.  It’s not very catchy, not creative or tagline-worthy, but it tends to hit the CMO and CEO right in the solar plexus.  It may be contextual and/or contain metaphor but it’s certainly a quick, decisive statement of the brand value. 

Brand Planks.

Beneath this simple statement are three planks. Brand planks. Borrowed from Bill Clinton’s first election campaign when the mantra was “It’s the economy stupid,” a brand plank is a product development and messaging directive.  My planning process begins with the gathering of formation. Then I boil it down into its most powerful, tasty flavors and those flavors became the planks.  Of course, I make sure the planks are key consumer care-abouts and key company strengths (or potential, attainable strengths). 

But lately I’ve been analyzing the planks to see if they share any formula for success.  Thinking about what makes good brand planks before I fill the stock pot with data and get sidetracked is (sorry Bud Cadell) what consumes me. 

I haven’t gotten there yet but here’s a quick start: 

One plank should educate (it’s what leaders do). One plank should engage (motivate preference).  And one plank should personalize (create a personally meaningful connection between the brand and consumer — bring the consumer closer to the brand). 

This stuff is mapping the branding genome hard. Or not. But when I finish, it’s going to be exciting.  Peace!

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MDC Partners is a marketing services holding company with a brand strategy.  That’s right, they have an idea. IPG doesn’t, though back in the day one might have assigned them “entrepreneurship.” WPP, Publicis, and Omnicom don’t have ideas, though perhaps at one point Omnicom might have owned “creative.”  At holding companies the powers that be feel brand strategies are not really needed.

MDC Partners owns talent. “Where great talent lives” is their idea. For some, that might be a platitude or poesy but for Miles Nadal, CEO, it’s a real strategy.  As a practice, MDC does not own a majority stake in its companies, it owns 49%.  This insures that great talent will stick around.  Their hands-off approach also insures that the talent stays great.  Though I only know Mr. Nadal through his actions and deeds his focus is solely on the leaders he hires, not their output.  Any person who has been around this business knows managing people is easier than managing work output.  Talent is what drives great marketing.  The talent to see what sells, the talent to package it, and the talent to promote it has driven the business since soap suds.  Never mind if that talent is traditional, digital, mobile or whatever’s next. (What could possibly be next?)

 MDC Partners stock grew last year while every other holding company’s tanked. Campaigns come and go and talent comes and goes, but in the marketing world “talent” is a powerful idea. Peace!

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