Steven Colbert

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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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Good Bias.

Eric Keshin, a friend for whom I worked at McCann Erickson, liked to use the word bias when describing good advertising strategy. Creating bias toward your product resulted in sales increases the logic went. In my younger years I always wanted to start and ad agency and name it “Foster, Bias and Sales.” Foster attention. Create bias. Generate sales.

I received an email this morning about an upcoming board of education election in town. A current board member endorsed a candidate, with the candidate’s introductory email attached. The note included paragraph after paragraph about years of service, kids in the district, the challenges we face, yada yada… all the good brochure ware you’d expect. Idiot that I am and in an attempt at humor, I debated hitting “rely all” and asking “Elizabeth _____ , what type of name is that?” Of course I’d have been run out of town, but it is very Steven Colbert. And certainly raises questions about bad bias a la something you might have heard in the 60s. 

Bias is a powerful. When it takes 276 kidnapped girls in Nigeria to get the women of the senate to cross the aisle and unite, that’s bias. But bias “toward” not bias “against” can be a positive marketing strategy.

Brand planners who favor strategies attempting to build preference are on the right track. Those who work harder to create bias toward a brand — where consumers become defensive about their choice – are the true winners. Tink about it, as my Norwegian aunt might have said.


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My favorite modern marketer and lexicographer, Faris Yakob, uses the word “recombinant” a lot in his work and it’s a word I love.  His thesis is that everything is old and that what is new is just repackaging and/or a recombination of existing borrowed things.  

The new network television schedule launching tonight reminds me of Mr. Yakob’s theory.  More cop shows, medical shows, a sitcom or two depicting likeable middle ‘mericans.  But nothing really innovative.  The last innovation, if you don’t count cable using the word “dick” was probably reality TV, now accounting for 2 out of every 10 shows. Program-wise everything is so stale. Oh, we can text message and affect outcomes, but that’s a little 4th grade don’t you think?

We need some recombination here.  Mix a little Steven Colbert with 60 Minutes or NFL Pregame with America’s Most Wanted.  How about recombining House with Jersey Shore. Better yet, why doesn’t network TV go beyond recombination and just innovate completely.  The answer I trust lies somewhere at the nexus of consumer generated video, geolocation, gaming with a dash of celebrity.   The next big thing is out there and programmers with the vision to break the mold will reap the rewards. Come on networks, hire Mr. Yakob for a month.  Peace!

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There was a time when breaking news only came from radio, newspapers and TV. Then the Internet arrived and it became immediate. Mobile phones and Twitter apps introduced us to big news events reported in seconds from virtually anywhere.


News is free. It may be ad-supported but the horse has left the barn when it comes to making money on news.  Breaking news (the best kind) is no longer appointment-driven. It hits us in real-time over the closest device. Technology has made news 1s and 0s. It’s information. And free.


Analysis, on the other hand, is where the money is. A well turned, well contextualized story, is worth paying for. Hearing Steven Colbert’s fun spin on something is worth an appointment. Reading Thomas Friedman’s analysis of Obama’s Cairo speech is not like hearing about it from your neighbor (not that there’s anything wrong with neighbors).


As the news reporting business evolves and changes thanks to the Internet, I think we will begin to see two forms: generic, aggregated news (free) and in-depth, bi-lined, star-value analysis (paid). 


Content is still king and as we mix the great content in with the chaff — and offer it for free — it loses value.


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