Saturday, December 31, 2005

People all over the world join hands, start a love train, love train

Of course, the wisdom of the O'Jays sounds better if you've never actually used public transportation. But it's the spirit that seems appropriate. So in that spirit: Happy New Year. I hope that 2006 brings you true happiness and much good luck.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Because no one's ever used cleavage to sell anything

Bob Parsons trots out the same GoDaddy ad strategy from last year and calls it "too edgy."

One paragraph of pure genius

Finally, TIME gives us something worth reading.

Wow. They say it and spray it.

I was right in the middle of this story about commercialism vs art in the graffiti world when I got distracted by a Neiman Marcus sale ad. Anyway. I think there's some controversy about a new Sony campaign: "Among artists who risk arrest to put up paintings and posters...the co-opting of street art by corporate America is a touchy issue. Patrick McNeil, a member of a three-person street-art collective called Faile, accused Sony of 'trying to cash in on an art movement where they and the product they are selling don't belong' and derided Sony's painters as 'an army of pimped-out artists.'"

Gosh. Did he say "pimped-out?" That's an allegation people in advertising never hear. That stings!

Then there's this: "For New York-based street artist Michael De Feo, the PSP campaign seems to elicit a shrug. 'Who are we to say they can't do it?'....the worse crime in Sony's PSP ad campaign is a lack of originality. 'People seem to get all bent out of shape with campaigns like this, when the fact remains that most of the public has the ability to tell good art from bad.'"

I'd also argue that the public can tell art from horseshit. Is all graffitti -- the non-ad graffiti -- good? Is it good just because it's underground? Does the fact that you paid for your own spray-can make you good? Or witty? Or able to see vital social truths hidden from the masses? Is it possible that graffiti purism is just played out? After all, graffiti is now guilty of every sin normally associated with advertising: it's disruptive and obnoxious but so ubiquitous that it can be easily ignored. (Well, unless you use it to taunt the police.)

But the one thing graffiti isn't is subversive. Not when its defenders betray a mindset that can only be called Establishmentarian and when its leading figures have painstakingly cultivated their own worldwide fame. Somehow, I don't think Sony is the only problem here.

Greeting cards must be bought by the same people who read newspapers

The people at American Greetings don't care about your silly e-cards. Just another fad!

Like the horseless carriage.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Singing in exultation will commence shortly

I have been to two grocery stores already this morning and it's quite striking how friendly -- even merry if you will -- everyone seems to be. At a grocery store. With a day of errands and preparations ahead. Yes. I'm saying that panic has given way to good humor. Don't you love that?

Have a very happy holiday.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Formulaic is not a criticism if the formula works

The only reason to note Motel 6 podcasts is to marvel at Tom Bodett, a man whose voice has launched a thousand ad careers. Some days it seems you cannot throw a presentation board down any agency hallway in Dallas without hitting 4-5 CDs or producers who won awards writing Bodett's copy. It could be his delivery. It could be Stan's writers. But let's put aside that Lennon-or-McCartney argument and simply admire the long, successful partnership of a client, an agency and a spokesman. Amazing.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Yes, my grades would have been much better if it hadn't been for all those trashcan punch billboards

As everybody knows, your ability to see through the devious, manipulative nature of advertising develops in an instant on your 22nd birthday. Before that, you're sheep. So it makes all kinds of sense for colleges to ban liquor ads. And it's getting results: "the level of binge drinking -- defined as at least five consecutive drinks for men and four for women -- remains at 44 percent of students, the same as in 1993." Oh wait. Well, in the academic world, it's the unproven thought that counts.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Is it really work if you can do it in your underwear?

The hardest part about working from home is convincing people that you are in fact working.

Mark Cuban's crystal ball is surprisingly self-promotional

He steered clear of Maverick boasting but Mark Cuban's 2006 predictions (reg. req. I think) do manage to prop up every other business he's invested in. HDTV sales explosion? Check. The revolution of movie distribution? Check. Cracks at Bill Gates and Donald Trump, check check. Maybe the only thing missing is hardcore NYTimes bashing. Oh, there it is.

NOTE: If Media Daily News does ask you to register, resist. It's not that Cuban's predictions are so spectacularly unremarkable. Rather, MDN thinks people want and need 10-15 media-related emails a day and there's just no reasoning with them.

Oh Mr Grant!

Life was simpler when bosses were gruff and hard-drinking and you could count on Murray to smooth things over. At least, that's my interpretation of a survey finding that Martha Stewart reminds more people of their real-life supervisor. That is to say, she's nice but fake-nice. And therefore dangerous -- something a newly former CFO or, I dunno, Alexis might agree with.

But really: isn't fake-nice our own fault? Isn't it the only acceptable conduct when anything else might be grounds for a lawsuit? Depending on your answer, there's a Human Resources presentation starting soon in the cafeteria. Please be on time.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Oh, you meant "direct," like without delay?

Bank of America experiences a service interruption and suddenly it's like deja vu all over again.

Will their sales leaders win electric cars?

A new approach to selling electric power: if the pyramid scheme doesn't scare you, the executive leadership's record of bankruptcy should.

This will change Tuesdays forever

Evidently fond of dogpiling, WalMart adds to Warner Studio's holiday from hell with yet more bad news. Warner Home Video will no longer be the store's category captain. Aside from having to rip the C off their jersey, that leaves Warner without captain's access to all-important competitive data, promotional coziness and even, yes, prestige: "the role of captain is coveted because it allows the studio to influence the strategic direction and growth of the entire industry." The good news: Warner people can now get the hell out of Bentonville.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Let the slow, determined clapping begin

Like Gene Hackman with a bunch of scared, skinny farm kids, Grant McCracken measures out the advertising court and reminds us of our own meaning-making abilities.

He has supplied purpose. And if the average Omnicom vice president will just restrain himself a bit, "we make meanings" can be the bold, eloquent statement it should be. Not "we make meanings you can measure" and not "we make meanings and results" because that's implicit, right? It is about the ideas. And some self-confidence.

Now let's win this for all the small thinkers that never had a chance to get here.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Quote of the day

A look at Anita Roddick's next plan: "Business life, she says, is 'boring', so it is time to offload bundles of cash on the doorsteps of deserving charities instead."

Smokin' and drinkin'

The logic is flawless. RJReynolds' newest approach is "a grass-roots marketing campaign to associate Camel cigarettes with trendy cocktails — and encourage young people to drink." Because drinking leads to smoking. I can only assume the next phase involves an image-building promotional tie-in with Trojans.

But really: isn't all tobacco marketing "grass-roots?" It's not like the law allows these companies to pursue splashy, multi-media campaigns for a primetime audience. So their campaigns exist under the radar, starting at bars and events and growing into direct mail programs. If that seems pernicious, if that seems upsetting -- and it is for state attorneys general, public health advocates and most important Rob Reiner -- there is one alternative: allow cigarettes to advertise on TV. In a more public arena and with network pressure, wouldn't they feel obligated to tone it down? Go a little more tame, bland and ultimately forgettable?

Or am I drunk?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Operators standing by

You can read and read about digital cameras but the biggest development is from FujiFilm who has chosen the interesting strategy of selling cameras as if they're prescription meds. Have you seen the spot? Two minutes of pure direct response. Complete with animated diagrams, before-and-after demos, even a sweepstakes.

Intriguing. And -- kinda? -- compelling.

Then again, maybe I was just won over by the complete absence of side effects.

Barneys validates our existence

The NYC store will return to Dallas. Oh thank God. It's hard to say what has scarred Dallas more -- Barneys' leaving back in the 90s because their "hair salon famously ignited a feud when it refused to do big hair" or, you know, that whole Kennedy thing. But better days are ahead: "Dallas is in the midst of a cultural and financial renaissance and its residents have become more cosmopolitan, these people said." Fabulous!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Quote of the day

Fenske? Yes, Fenske: "'it's just that no one can sell what I write.'"

The real problem with the gay cowboy movie: too few promotional tie-ins

But marketers may have better luck with Japanese prostitutes.

Brazilians don't eat out of buckets, don't care about the Kentucky Colonels

Why Arab fast food out-sold fried chicken in Brazil: "'Suddenly KFC wanted Brazilians to pick up pieces of chicken with their fingers, when it's not the Brazilian habit to eat with your hands. Also, the pieces of chicken were served in cardboard buckets. Brazilians are not used to being served like that. These are basic mistakes which customers will not accept.'"

Beware the "unspecified underwear"

CEOs Gone Wild.

Monday, December 12, 2005

On the plus side, he did resist the urge to make Cracker Barrel jokes

Chain restaurants: more than a good article topic, it's another opportunity to demonstrate your cultural isolation and sense of elitism! All I can say is -- if "Applebee's is the revenue leader among casual-dining chains, with $3.88 billion in sales in 2004, compared with $2.4 billion for Friday's and $1.47 billion for Ruby Tuesday" -- more people seem motivated to eat at those places than make fun of them.

Don't you really want to do a TV spot? Just a little bit?

Red state vs. blue state is so played out. Now the really smart kids talk about WalMart vs Starbucks. It's political too but, at least for People With Reels, potentially worse. Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz believes that "'guiding principles,' such as 'providing a great work environment' and 'contributing positively to our communities,' are the best advertising." And this: "Starbucks is all about the customer experience and very little about advertising."

Gasp. Seizure. Slump.

Friday, December 09, 2005

What is this strange feeling?

They call it "cold" and it apparently causes problems.

Do hobby farmers have hobby horses?

It's a genuine privilege to watch master craftsmen at work. So I treasure every chance to see Carmichael Lynch's Tractor Supply Company TV spots. Of course, I first wondered who Tractor Supply Company is. (Answer: "one of the largest retail chains in America which serves full and part time farmers and ranchers, hobby farmers, rural homeowners and contractors.") A magazine called "Out Here," a web site to teach you how to build a horse stall -- well, couldn't you just weep for the sheer multi-platform perfection?

And it all makes me wonder. What if WalMart advertising were that charming? Even though they cast a wider net shopper-wise, what if WalMart had made the early decision to honestly and skillfully embrace their small-town roots -- instead of now rushing to copy Target? It wouldn't exactly preclude going upscale. Because the genius of those TCS spots is they appeal to both the farmer audience and the urban dweller who dreams of riding mowers. Mesquite, huh?

Less emphasis on "stuffed with fluff"

Evidently a society that forces Pop Tarts to get healthier must also have a more active Winnie The Pooh.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Survey says

Let the jokes, not to mention the pop-psych analysis, begin: "Female chief executives say focusing on customers and employees are the main drivers of their business success, while more traditional priorities, such as sales growth and market share, were lower on their list, according to a new survey."

Turns out no one wanted to go to the Gap Lounge

If you picked today to run off copies of your resume at Kinko's, there's a good chance you'll bump into Paul Pressler doing that exact same thing. Both -- BOTH -- the NYPost and NYTimes speculate that the Gap's CEO is about to be booted. Fast. "What he has not done, analysts say, is inspire shoppers with the right products. As a result, sales...have remained flat or declined for 12 consecutive months."

And have you seen the new Gap holiday commercials? No? That's because the store made the interesting decision not to run any. All hope now hinges on a catalog. Must be the new way to encourage lingering and mingling.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Other than that, it's still genius

"Merry Christmas Charlie Brown" just doesn't seem right when it's not sponsored by Dolly Madison Cupcakes.

Cows, birds, germs, money

What scares you most -- avian flu, natural catastrophes or using a public restroom? Apparently, the horrifying possibility of all these events have caused hand sanitizer purchases to multiply like spores. That's good news for Pfizer, given that Viagra isn't selling. I myself became completely sold on their Purell after visiting Elsie the Cow at the State Fair. Elsie is the cleanest cow in all the world but I was still urged by strategically placed signage to wash my hands after petting the animals. I bought 3 bottles of Purell that same day.

And oh yeah, probably some dairy products too.

Sex sells, but maybe only to NYC writers

Somehow I feel that if JWT hadn't used the term "brand sluts, " the NYPost wouldn't have cared so much about declining consumer loyalty.

Monday, December 05, 2005

There goes one half of the media's Super Bowl stories

Someone better flash something at half-time because we're not going to have Super Bowl ads to complain about anymore:"Sara Lee execs came prepared to spend big on a conventional Super Bowl ad. They left with a different plan: a viral Internet campaign that turned on tailgating parties, stunts and contests. As the Super Bowl has ballooned into the year's most orgasmic media event, other advertisers are expressing queasiness about buying time on the telecast."

Do you have to talk about my friends like that?

Adweek says that some creative people might be slow on the interactive uptake and Seth Godin calls ad agencies babies. Well, crap. I'm going to complain bitterly about all this to my colleagues as soon as I figure out how to text message.

Michael Kors isn't a Detroit car executive. Maybe he should be.

Like Rhett Butler rushing to join a losing army, I started watching Martha Stewart's Apprentice only after it was cancelled. The contestants are dull but Martha wears nice clothes and her daughter has interesting, Postcards-From-the-Edge body language so it's not all bad. Last week's challenge: create "an innovative launch display" to promote Buick's Lucerne.

"Innovative." What does that mean to you? To Buick executives, it apparently means "familiar," even "predictable." They awarded the win to a well-done display that looked exactly like every other dealer showroom or car expo you've ever seen. "It took our breath away," cooed one GM judge. That's how big 3 automakers define "Innovative." Remember that the next time Bill Ford looks at you with his teary blue eyes and intones, "Innovation is the compass that will guide this company forward."

What Martha needed -- what Rick Wagoner may need -- is someone with a firmer grasp of the language. Like Michael Kors. Project Runway's most celebrated celebrity judge once kicked out a contestant not for the most hideous design but for one that lacked originality -- a wedding gown, he said, that looked like it was made by a mere "dressmaker," not a designer with vision.

It isn't easy to recognize the potential of a concept when the execution has initially failed. It is, however, an essential skill for people in the business of creating things. And, knowing the actual meaning of words is nice too.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

It's the holidays. I feel generous.

So I'm going to make it easy on eveyone and admit: it was MY pipe. Also: I am Sparticus.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Lauren Fine probably doesn't mean to ruin your holidays

I'm not sure but I think this is like the Seventeen back-to-school shopping guide, only for people who invest in agencies: "In her annual advertising update released Thursday, Lauren Fine of Merrill Lynch...lowered her U.S. ad spending forecast to 3.2% growth in 2005 from a previous 3.7% -- and cut her 2006 estimate to 4.5% from 5.2%."

Not even the Olympics and election year ad binge will save us from the economic buzzkill that is Detroit. Especially when GM is talking incentive compensation for agencies who are already givin' it away. On a side note, the Irene Done annual gall update was also released Thursday. It highlighted the performance of this unnamed source: "GM is in 'pretty dire straits,' said the GM agency exec, 'and agencies better be pretty empathetic.'" Hmm. Did the agencies design all those unsold Buicks? Run, my little IPG pals, run for your dear sweet lives!

But Ms. Fine isn't a total Gloomy Gus: "We continue to think that the ad agency group is a preferred way to play media." So. She's telling us we have a chance.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Danny Snyder wins a business fight but is frustrated to discover he is still a dork

He can't prevail on the football field but, by God, Dan Snyder can and will sponge off the business success of his most hated rival. How else to explain Snyder's takeover of Six Flags -- whose flagship amusement park is conveniently located near Jerry Jones' new stadium? You can't teach this kind of business instinct: in true Snyder fashion, his first moves include firing somebody and wrapping everything in corporate logos. Because that's so different, so breakthrough.

But if you're going to dump Mr. Six, just be sure to replace him with something truly entertaining.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Maybe Tolstoy meant to say all rich families are alike

Is it a coincidence that Bill Ford, August Busch IV and the Johnson heir are all currently featured in their companies' TV spots? And is it a coincidence that they all look like the same person?

They can dance if they want to

Pylbug's right. WalMart Dance Parties are the best thing that could happen to a big box retailer. Fun, vaguely subversive and no pepper spray! In fact, I -- a middle-aged capitalist -- would love to witness one, and that should horrify any true anarchist.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Words and pictures failing together

The newest AT&T -- sorry, at&t -- ad is somewhat problematic. And it can't be saved by the visual.

It's not exactly a new practice

Disney markets a new movie to churches and "corporate America has set its sights on the black Christian market." Potential upside: more variety in media and entertainment. Possible downside: moneychangers, temples, busted furniture.

More like Low 70 Degrees Welcome

So obviously I like a good beer. And prompted by the Real Ale Question, I am now on my annual search for Winter Welcome Ale. (Central Market: yes! Goody Goody Liquor on Greenville: still selling last year's bottles. Sigh. Goody Goody indeed.)

I have no idea if Winter Welcome Ale is a legitimate product. It could very well be that Samuel Smith makes a top-notch ale to sell in England, then mops the brewery floor, names the bucket contents Winter Welcome and ships it all off to please the dull palates of unknowing Americans. I like it still. Now the holiday season has officially begun. Let us rejoice.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Good news for the horse

Since it's 80 degrees outside, he will not have to carry the sleigh through any white and drifting snow. Old Dan can kick back. The rest of us will try to find a pair of shorts that can faithfully reflect an obvious commitment to Puritan tradition.

Now, for you, I have a sincere message and it's this: I hope you have a safe, comforting and happy Thanksgiving. Because I am thankful for you.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

It's not just a job. It's a controversy.

They're supported by taxes and their programs have accepted promotional fees in violation of a long-standing ban yet the BBC attempts an objective, even humorous, look at product placement. I think they succeed. Just don't miss the reader comments. Because for every Richard Knights -- "No matter how much advertisers try and justify what they do, (even calling it creative! for heavens sake) in the end they just recycle the ideas of others to peddle their own rubbish" -- there is a clever D Debry: "Businesses need to be as strong as possible to remain economically competitive and keep friends and family of the people who have these views in employment."

Also, it will be harder to christen ships

OK. The wine tube is practical. I get it. But I don't care. I just don't think any part of the decanting process should ever involve a spigot.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Text only? How visionary.

There are excellent reasons for saying nice things about Google. For instance, when they finally own everything in the world, maybe they'll one day remember the kind words and not demand my first-born male child. Also: they almost single-handedly killed creepy pop-unders.

I never have known what "business casual" means

After years of careful experimentation, I have learned that the secret to a good holiday office party is exactly two drinks. Any fewer and it's just too excruciatingly awkward to chit-chat with the CFO's wife. Any more and it's just too excruciatingly awkward to puke on the CFO's wife. Still, it's a little sad that company parties may be on the decline.

Evil marketer high five

It thrills me to my soulless core that a mere TV commercial could have this effect.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

I was told I could play my podcast at a reasonable volume

They're going to start counting podcast listeners. Interesting. But if you really want media people to care, Adam Curry will have to personally present the numbers to them over dinner at Nobu.

Quote of the day

From this: "'That is what I do. I write copy. I don't prance around and have meetings and have teams under me.'"

What's wrong with prancing?

They don't wear it in the pros

Oh my God. It's happened. I've reached an age where men my age sound like my Grandpa. Conversations now open with a severe and lengthy criticism of what people are wearing, and end with a prediction of what this means for the direction of the country. And don't even get them started on the ever-changing state of team uniforms.

But if there's a sport that could use an update, surely it's wrestling. The singlet -- you've seen the singlet -- is something invented by someone who never thought women would be watching. It can't die soon enough. So I for one welcome the two-piece wrestling uniform. It's colorful, cool and I think chicks'll dig it. Middle-aged guys? No telling.

That's one way to eliminate laugh lines

If you stand in a reinforced doorway, will it protect you when a paradigm shifts? First, new research reveals that People readers earn more than Vogue readers. Now it seems less and less women believe big bucks lead to softer, firmer skin -- and it's causing layoffs at Estee Lauder: "Estée Lauder has faced pressure from rivals such as Procter & Gamble and L'Oréal, which have tapped the huge demand for cut-price, age-fighting remedies including Oil of Olay's Age Defying lotion and L'Oréal's microdermabrasion kits." Aren't those brands sold at grocery stores? Oh the horror!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Compare, contrast

Interesting but just a tad stale: how the iPod taught manufacturers to care about design.

Fascinating yet brilliant in its simplicity: how the iPod made dating more problematic for women the world over.

Yeah, I don't know why newspapers are dying

It would be logical to assume that a New York Times style editor has a better understanding of the Internet than, say, a 74-year-old man but let's have their testimony read back to us:

Editor: "I hate blogs, I don't read them. I think they're for rich people with too much time on their hands to vent."

Old guy: "everybody now is empowered: Anyone can buy what they want, shop where they want, talk to anybody in the world that they want (and) state their own opinions. There's no mystery to a blog: Put up your thoughts (and) find friends. And the younger people are, the more time they're spending on it -- it's extraordinary."

Jury awards it to the old guy. Poor Elizabeth Hayt. She does not know her consumer very well. Let's at least hope no one will notice and she can avoid a vicious mocking. Oh. Too late.

Meanwhile, the 74-year-old man has been interviewed by The Hollywood Reporter. He says many interesting things. He can be controversial but, really, who can hate someone who claims that "too often you get a group of very brilliant Harvard MBAs in a company that are set up to study strategy or whatever, and it tends to slow things down. And it also tends to get political: People would rather say no than take a risk on something."

And he's a Simpsons fan!

So you're telling me it was a mistake to deduct the venti lattes?

You'd think that an article about job tips for 2006 would be helpful. Maybe even empowering. Instead I was bummed to learn I shouldn't ask for a raise and outright horrified to realize that auditing is now considered a growth industry. Auditing? Man, The Beatles totally were visionaries.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Have a story. No, wait. Have a point.

I buy the books. I scan the blogs. I even, upon Michael Eisner's advice, try to read the brogs. So I've learned that story-telling can be a powerful marketing tool and you can well imagine my excitement at finding a new brand of crackers with the name "Elsa's Story." From Godin's lips to marketers' ears!

Then I read the package:

"Elsa's Story sends you back to a time and place when you were young and carefree. It is about a memory, a hint of nostalgia, captured in the scents and tastes of warm cookies baking. Elsa's Kitchen was always open, her recipes remaining a well kept secret. Elsa's heritage is now relived through the goodness of quality ingredients and care that remind us of tastes long forgotten."

What is that? Why does it sound like the notes for manufacturing a story and not a story itself? In fact, there is no story, only a description of what effect the story should have on us. Puzzling.


Unless they're doing a bit. Yes, that's it. This is a send-up of advertising, right? A parody of everything overwrought and unauthentic, and a rebuke to ad people everywhere.

In which case, it might be genius.

Two nations, a common language, unintentional comedy

Odd headline of the day.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Terabyte is not the name of a new porn star

It's always fun to guess what Apple will do next.

Art is a jealous mistress

Bravely imperiling the connection between sponsorship money and their ability to make a living, Hollywood writers and actors have now spoken out against the evils of product placement. Clearly, they had to act while there's still hope of saving day-time TV. And their argument is heart-rending: "We are being told to write the lines that sell this merchandise and to deftly disguise the sale as a story." Yes. That is too much. If only everyone were as committed to quality as the gifted visionaries behind Rocky VI.

Friday, November 11, 2005

We blogged him back into our lives

Those "down-home folks from Oregon," the dears, have put aside Kobe Bryant's sexual assault trial and rolled out a new Kobe shoe campaign. Expect Mike Lupica to become a 4'10" spigot of outrage. Still, there's no denying that Kobe has fans: "among male teenagers and young adults -- the primary drivers of Nike's high-priced footwear sales -- Mr. Bryant continues to be a star, according to market research firm Umbria Inc., which tracked 12 million blogs last December for data on popular NBA players." Troublesome bloggers.

Thanks. I had no idea.

It took an in-depth survey to tell us but evidently knowing the right people and having the right attitude are key to getting a good job.

Herb's tour of love

Proving that we still, as a society, have a place in our hearts for smokers, Southwest Airlines' Herb Kelleher wowed 'em at the Senate hearing yesterday. Thank goodness. Let's hope it means the repeal of the Wright Amendment which in turns means cheaper airfares for me. Missouri better be just the start.

But there's another reason to watch this debate and it's Kelleher himself. He's a throwback, a man so fond of Bloody Bulls, he may in fact sweat vodka. He joshes. He tosses out jovial insults to business rivals: "'American Airlines does not exactly welcome interlopers with warm milk and graham crackers.'" In a low-carb, sexual harrassment world, Kelleher is the last of his kind. Let's enjoy him while we can.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Were you one of the 15 people who bought Derek Lam's poplin pants?

Stella McCarthey -- the person -- always seems a little sullen to me. But Stella McCarthey -- the line -- is evidently popular. If you too have a fashion dream, remember this: one of New York's hottest designers has no annual salary and must live off his tax refund to get by. Pure glam! In fact, success for many high dollar labels is only possible through selling out or designing a little "something for Target." Target? Oh no.

Winning is, apparently, a 20th-century concept

Running, jumping and skiing are all fine but it's the truly gifted person who can make us cry: "As the countdown to the Winter Olympics...begins, advertisers have begun backing athletes whose life stories may be more golden than their medal prospects."

This raises many questions. What's the shelf life of an athlete who loses? Will NBC skew coverage to give sponsors' athletes more air-time? Is that ethical? And will any of this matter when American Idol's on?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

I'm sure it was funny on paper

Maybe people don't want to be run over in the grocery aisle. Then again, it might not be an issue for my robot.

At the end of the day, it was a good interview

You know, this is how dealers do it. The WSJ is giving away content this week so enjoy all you can and tell yourself you can quit anytime. Today: Dan Wieden speaks. After winning Coca Cola and working with Procter & Gamble, he claims his agency is "'just down-home folks from Oregon.'" So THAT'S how they do all those Nike ads. They just use their simple hick sensibilities. Shoot, yeah!

I think we should start seeing other people

Heineken has a heart-to-heart with Publicis. They want -- they need -- better creative thinking for their new Heineken Light. And so they do. In fact, it's going to take a freaking creative Einstein to keep people from noticing the beer tastes just like tap water. But the bottle is elegant.

In other news, brewers may have finally learned the error of their ways: "'People will tell you that beer is not sophisticated enough, or stylish enough, to compete with wine and spirits,' says Tom Long, Miller's chief marketing officer. 'Why do they think that? Well, I believe it's because we told them.'" Mr. Long: I want to shake your hand.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

My Election Day endorsement

I don't want to get all partisan and everything but after careful consideration, I've decided to vote for Laura Roslin over Santos or Vinick. Although I have to admit: her running mate bothers me.

Circling, circling

Two months after their CEO described business as being "in the tank," Blockbuster posts a third quarter loss. Consistent!

Evidently Bea Arthur does a little something for them

What does it mean when 200,000 people like Golden Girls re-runs so much they'll sign up for the show's online newsletter? I'll tell ya what it means: A Golden Girls movie, slated for summer release and already destined for a sequel. But that's just a guess.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Today's essay question: is pole dancing helping or hurting Las Vegas?

If you're going to write an article about the stagnant state of Vegas tourism, wouldn't you naturally title it "Crapped Out?" No? Well then. There's good reason I toil in anonymity.

But back to Vegas. Business is good. It's just not growing at double-digit rates and, with everybody and their ex-wife building a high-rise, that means vacancies.

If there's a city that people should be flocking to, it's Vegas, right? There's the high-profile ad campaign. One, no, three TV series are set there. It's a gossip column staple. And now Vegas, so in need of venues for self-employed models, will be home to a new Playboy Club -- complete with updated bunny costumes.

In fact, we're a nation awash in Vegas promotional messages. And still Indian casinos -- with not even half the publicity -- have "accounted for about 40 percent of nationwide casino revenues" some years. So what's the solution? Because I'm pretty sure it sure can't be more advertising.

I hope to do better in the coach's poll

I didn't make Fortune magazine's list of the 50 Most Powerful Women. But neither did Paris Hilton and for that, we should all feel better.

Free people, free markets and free content. At least until Friday.

The Wall Street Journal has opened up their site for the week and of course the first thing I chose to read was Hollywood gossip. There I learned Chicken Little had a decent debut weekend. Decent? How very frustrating. The numbers are not good enough or bad enough for anyone to know what this means for Disney, for Pixar or for the "well-known reality distortion field" of Steve Jobs. But if "Disney has decided to slow down production of some of its animated titles," it's probably safe to assume they're still struggling with details. Like story-telling.

Anyway, the real question: will anyone even remember Disney's Computers 101 experiment once Harry Potter opens.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Really. How bad could he have been?

Now that we've heard the musical gifts of Kevin Federline, please hold a thought for Jason Allen Alexander. And what might have been.

Mollie Kuhn's cabana is bigger than my house

And I'm happy for her! And for all others like her who customize their kitchens with high-dollar appliances they'll never, ever use. Some call it "'range envy' – the desire to show off decked-out trophy kitchens to friends and party guests," but it has to be, in part, FoodTV fallout. Who among us can watch Ina Garten day in, day out and not feel the need for a built-in fridge and marble countertops? Rachel Ray's knife? Just the tip of the icemaker.

But this much is clear: the FoodTV audience isn't cooking. You can tell because prime-time is devoted to lifestyle, travel and remodelling shows. The most frequently downloaded FoodTV recipes are simple ones. The most popular hosts aren't formally trained chefs. And new shows have titles like Semi-Homemade and Good Food Fast.

So. It looks like there are two ways to get rich. Either make expensive gadgets then pay for placement in a TV chef's show. Or become a TV chef and don't use them.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The little sweeps period that couldn't

As a special service to those of you with things like Lives and Plans and Places To Be, let me urge you to go ahead and accept all social invitations this month. It's not like you'll miss anything on TV. November may be Sweeps month, but thanks to Local People Meters, there will be no Neilsen Diary-dominating specials, no stunts, nothing. Another hallowed American tradition, mauled by the merciless beast of technology.

Oh well, it's only a ratings fight for CBS and ABC anyway. "A deflated NBC--the network perhaps most notorious for stunting during sweeps--said it too is committed to its regular schedule." Which of course is hilarious when you consider this story from John Cook: "One media buyer...was so flabbergasted when NBC announced its fall schedule in May that she told her clients that it had to be a fake, and that Zucker would announce some sort of bold Thursday-night shake-up closer to launch. No such luck." Zucker was committed even then, "committed" being the new euphemism for "out of ideas."

But with words that might be cubicle wall-worthy, one network executive urges programmers to take more risks: "UPN president Dawn Ostroff said that quality projects usually come from people who are especially passionate about their work and that it's often best to not interfere with them....'You have to be respectful of people's vision,' she said. 'You get something more pure when they have a vision and you get out of their way. Why get in their way when someone has got the road map in their mind?'"

She's either saying something quite inspiring or absolving herself from all future blame when the shit hits the fan, I don't know. But let's hope it means better TV shows. Soon.

Let's talk about those pants

Growing up I used to think that Haggar pants were made by the Hager Twins. Seemed logical. But they weren't and now they're not even made by the Haggar family. After inventing the word "slacks" and the bar-coded sales tag, the Dallas family hung 'em up. But thank God we still got the twins. Right?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Will they comp the drinks too?

Ryanair says introducing inflight gambling could "do away with the need to charge air fares." Lesson: craps tables, yes. Organic food, no.

Quote of the day

From this: "'Blogs exist, in large part, because people have jobs that they are bored with.'"

Something touched me deep inside the day the music downloads leveled off

We just aren't downloading enough iTunes music to please industry executives. Where are our hearts? Where is our compassion? These people have Escalades and Cristal to pay for! And 99¢ a song isn't helping! So while I try to find some Brasso, you decide: do we see the iPod as just another way of managing our music, "not an incentive to buy new music?" Are we too busy with video? Or can we all just blame Ashlee Simpson?

Grant McCracken: an ad agency's best friend

For this alone, we should at least bake him a cake.

If a Yoga Mama marries a Ubersexual, is their offspring a wunderkind?

It's not about identifying new trends anymore. It's about naming them. So just know that while a Yoga Mama sounds all earthy and spiritual, she's kind of a snob. And one hellacious shopper: "no matter their income, they spend like lottery winners on their babies and toddlers. In the process, they're revolutionizing the baby-products market and forcing manufacturers and retailers of all sizes to adjust."

Sir Martin is ready for his close-up

The Weinstein brothers are so devoted to the art of film-making, they'll promise special promotions for WPP clients just to get Martin Sorrell to invest. You have to respect that level of commitment.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Ali and Cosell of the animation world

Pixar is a story-telling genius. Disney, with its distribution channel and parks, is a merchandising machine. So why can't these two crazy kids get along? And why would Steve Jobs sell Pixar to Disney?

Monday, October 31, 2005

Quote of the day

From this: "'That's what I like about what we do. You don't find the next answer. You find the next question.'"

I suspect that this attitude -- whether about a hobby, a job, or the world in general -- is probably a good indicator of an interesting and happy person.

What kind of screen does that have?

All I know is if Steve Jobs has "a well-known reality distortion field," I want one too.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Bigger D

To my eternal consternation, the megapolitan is not a new cocktail. Rather, it's CNN's term for future boomtowns across the country and Dallas, incredibly, could be one of them: "No region better captures and caters to the Latino population boom. A new generation of Hispanic business owners and industrialists will drive the growth, and the area will become a magnet for foreign firms trying to cash in on the U.S. Latino market."

And to everybody in The Bubble: relax. "Dallas's Caucasian population will jump 30 percent over the next two decades as relatively cheap real estate draws more people willing to move from overpriced markets in other states."

Really, there's only one thing to worry about: "Texas will be the country's new base for wind power."

Wind power? In the oil state? That's not exactly primetime material.

Quote of the day

From an AdPulp commenter: "A man or woman installing sheet rock and insulation doesn't have the ego of copywriter. Why is that?"

Don't forget!

Make room on your blog now for lengthy and vicious criticism of the new Forbes cover article by Daniel Lyons. C'mon people. Let's get the "lies, libel and invective" started!

Once again, I confront the incredible limitations of my own brain

There should have been a warning.

Had we been properly advised, we would have taken a day off or at least cancelled a few meetings because that's the kind of time investment needed to process Grant McCracken's blog this week. The latest bit is this: "But it's not clear to me that the beast called advertising is dead. There is no meaning maker in the marketer's tool kit as powerful as advertising. A TV spot can use 15 seconds to astonishing effect. It can make meanings, build relationships, construct brands at a stroke. When this is followed up by the smaller message and the more delicate interventions made possible by the new media, then we've really got something. But it seems to me too early to dismiss the mass media advertising instrument. I think it will be with us always."

At a time when all attention and energy seem focused on virals, that kind of talk is almost shocking. Imagine: mass media, new media -- working together for a more meaningful tomorrow!

But my favorite part is this which really applies to anyone in advertising: "Design will have to become deeply knowledgeable about contemporary culture and increasingly skilled in the ability to read its shifting trends.... The designer will have to have a deep and systematic knowledge that takes them outside the aesthetics and design communities they normally inhabit. (This is another way of saying that living in NYC, going to the right clubs, and reading the right magazines, will no longer be enough.)"

Oh my.

Thursday, October 27, 2005


It's a sad day for Anheuser-Busch when they can't even attract the cheap drunk: "U.S. brewers have been slashing prices in recent months in a bid to drive up volume, which has suffered as consumer tastes shifted toward wine and distilled spirits....'Discounting is not working.'"

Also, their strategy of smearing the family of a dead baseball player didn't seem to help the bottom line either.

As ripe as all this is for smart-assery, there's no delight to be had in this news. Aren't Budweiser and Michelob great American brands? Isn't this the last big American brewer? Doesn't anyone in St. Louis have any pride?

If people have turned to the more expensive option of cocktails -- a trend that is hardly news -- you could assume that price is not an issue. If spirits and wine can gain such wide acceptance without the luxury of TV advertising, you could conclude that maybe lounge culture, film and the popularity of TV gourmets have real power. And you could question why -- while all of that was becoming obvious -- Anheuser-Busch's own advertising was so out of step.

Let's see if there's a positive note anywhere. Searching...searching. OK. Here: "Anthem" might not be original, but like The Girl In The Moon, it works on some level and doesn't make me ashamed to drink beer in public. And oh yeah. That Budweiser logo, the one with the script B and the little crown? That's kinda awesome.

Why will Google succeed as a TV ad buyer?

Because they're smarter than us, that's why. If they can buy and sell print advertising, they can broker TV ads too.

I can't imagine a worse development for media people. I mean, other than having to pay for their own lunch or something.

"Renegotiating the convenant" is not a Hollywood sequel. Wait. Maybe it is.

Evidently if you're an investor, these are fate's most damning words: Blockbuster met with lenders yesterday.

Deep breaths. I promise -- we can get through this. Unless there's a secondary stock offering in which case current stockholders are totally screwed share price-wise and we should all look around for a window to jump out of.

Until then, here's something to feel good about: next year's movies might not suck!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Things I learned while reading blogs at the office

During my daily 40 minutes, I discovered there are places in this world where cellphone etiquette actually matters. Bewildering. You mean, not everybody will dodge my advances with a loud but fake conversation? There's hope!

The meeting really blew. Thank you, I'll be here all week.

It should not be interpreted as anything other than coincidence that this year's movie industry conference was scheduled for the very time and place Wilma struck. To suggest otherwise -- to draw some kind of unflattering analogy between the weather and the state of the film business -- why, this would be too obvious and a tad mean.

Yet fans gotta worry. Especially when the MPAA president embraces the new iPod only tentatively: "'I don't think people will want to watch a 1 1/2- or two-hour movie on something the size of their hand, but it could have value to advertise and promote movies.'" Right. Because the masses cry out to see more advertising. And they'll pay $499 for that alone.

Are theater owners more sensible? Their goal is to "rein in rude patrons and cell phone users" -- promising! -- and "making sure that any onscreen ads 'don't look or feel like TV.'" Well now. That's gonna take some money.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

By all means, bring back the shorts

Is Major League Baseball missing a huge merchandising opportunity? With two teams steeped in the grand tradition of uniform experimentation, every World Series game should have been Throwback Uniform day. Oh, the pageantry!

Netflix discovers everyone's a critic

"Debacle." "Annoying arrogance." "Insane." It's fun to read Herb Greenberg's take on Netflix. And it will be especially delightful for a certain Dallas company: "'if Blockbuster starts to get its act together (be it sending DVD's from stores, or partnering with Amazon) that will be a huge negative for Netflix.'"

WalMart's big, squishy group hug

H. Lee Scott will save the environment. Someone actually used "WalMart" and "chic" in the same sentence. And there's a new employee health plan.

It's not winning you over, is it?

Maybe it's not meant to. It's hard to tell if WalMart is seriously pursuing more upscale and urban shoppers or simply encouraging current shoppers to spend more per visit. After all the new clothes -- which are not Camilla chic, just "cheap chic" -- are aimed at this audience: "we're hoping to help a segment that's already shopping at our stores but wasn't necessarily finding what was essential to them." And if they can make those same shoppers forget about any controversy, all the better. I mean, there are 500 more stores to build.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Hello my little deadbeats

While others contemplate which of Dante's nine circles Phillip Bennett will one day call home, the NYTimes asks the important question: who'll pay for those Refco ads? I think we all know the answer. But did you know this: it's "been estimated in the magazine industry that 25 percent of all ads are 'dead debt,' meaning they are never paid for." Wow. That would affect like a whole pound of the September Vogue.

So can we assume that 25 percent of agency work is also never paid for? Would that be too low? And can we get names?

Friday, October 21, 2005

As reliable a harbinger as roiled clouds

It's always a sign of trouble when they trot out Bill Ford to appear in TV spots: "Ford is making his first TV ad appearance since the 2002....That effort was meant to reassure a wary public about Ford's ability to carry on in rough terrain. Back then, it was a tumultuous year ending with the ouster of Jacques Nasser as CEO. Now, it's the end of a disappointing quarter in which Ford reported a net loss of $284 million, and is laboring to sell SUVs."

But this note provides some relief: "In the new ads, Ford again speaks extemporaneously." Good. Because for a minute there I thought his last line -- "Innovation is the compass which will drive this company forward" -- might have been the product of a beaten and bowed copywriter.

UPDATE: Upon further review, the call has been reversed. Ford actually says: "Innovation is the compass which will GUIDE this company...." Which is better. I'm going out right now and buy an Expedition to atone for my mistake.

Last night I went to a meeting and a hockey game broke out

The concept of consumer-centricity has not, it seems, taken hold in some executive offices. Because after Comcast's OLN blocked hockey broadcasts to EchoStar's DISH subscribers, EchoStar slapped back: "Sources said EchoStar stunned Comcast brass by yanking the channel without warning. Company executives flew to the satellite service's Denver headquarters Thursday to negotiate a truce, but after 10 minutes of discussion, EchoStar ended the meeting."

And don't worry about all those viewers in New York City. Blip on the radar.

You're gonna make it after all

It was just a so-so look at the fashion trend of customization and then they went and referenced the Bedazzler. Now I think it's the best article ever. Could it have saved Michael Kors menswear?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The unbearable ingenuity of Netflix

Proving again that, eventually, everything can be blamed on advertising, Netflix claims marketing costs ate away at their third-quarter revenue. But here's the interesting part: "Netflix also will postpone a test launch of its online movie download service indefinitely because of problems obtaining licensing agreements from Hollywood studios."

I can't decide if that means Netflix is too smart for Hollywood or not smart enough. Didn't Steve Jobs just do something with some content? Aren't studios starting to talk to BitTorrent? Can't we all just get along?

After all, instant gratification is at stake here.

Progress? Or sign of the apocalypse?

We will have World Series baseball in Texas.

White Sox batters beware.

Oh my God

Murdoch's right. No one reads newspapers anymore. There's just no time what with Starbucks cups to study and discuss. That's especially true now that they'll include a quote from Reverend Rick Warren, something USAToday considers "a spiritual jolt" and a reason to examine all Bible-quoting businesses.

Oh, another reason people don't read papers? Sometimes their writers can miss the point.

It may not be a jolt for the 20 million people who bought Warren's book. Starbucks isn't becoming an evangelical version of Ben & Jerry's. And this is simply the latest phase of a larger, continuing campaign that invited everyone to contribute. "The Way I See It" cups feature quotes from all sorts of people. Maybe the more interesting story here is how Starbucks sells ideas, atmosphere, music --and maybe in the future literary works? -- as well as some truly average coffee. I mean, isn't that a kind of miracle?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Can a cell phone make you feel underdressed?

I don't know what I like more -- the product or the product review.

I thought you had to call 'em "pre-owned"

How to sell CDs in the Age of iPod.

There's a lesson in there for Blockbuster if it's not too late. Then again, it's never too late if Hollywood can't afford for you to go bankrupt.

We have apparently been going to hell for quite some time

"There are in our times a multitude of complex motives for adolescents getting into trouble, or marriages breaking up, but it is not too far-fetched to say that our homes and the way we live in them must be listed among the important causes." -- Mary and Russell Wright, Guide to Easier Living, 1950

I will only add that for a couple devoted to modern, fuss-free design, their writing style sure is clunky. Still, I'm enjoying the book.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Will they sell the paint-on panties too?

Are you tired of Juicy? Me too! Do you still want to overpay for sweatshirts? Me too! Let's be friends! And let's go shopping for some Barbie fashion for women. The jeans are about $176 and there's a Judith Lieber purse that's to die for. To. Die. For. So how much does that come to? Oh! Math is hard.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Getting old

They don't want to be treated like big kids even though they're buying up all the scooters. They're open-minded except when they're turned off by young people and indie music. And they respond best to realistic images of actual women like, you know, Christie Brinkley. See, marketing to Boomers is so simple with these 5 time-saving tips!

What was that about God and details?

Of course, you've already got the spinner exhaust pipe, right?


Talk about bringing down a room. Actors and directors demand their share of iPod video fees. Fine. Whatever.

But what happens when artists' demands end up stifling art? As the NYTimes observes, "anyone armed with a video camera and movie-editing software can make a documentary. But can everyone afford to make it legally?" The answer is -- did a cellphone go off in a scene? was someone watching The Simpsons? are you using archival photos? -- no, which means even monumental works like "Eyes On The Prize" can't be rented or sold. "'What's really important here is that documentary commitment to telling the truth is being compromised by the need to accommodate perceived intellectual and copyright constraints.'" So go ahead. Speak truth to power. But not to other artists.

Friday, October 14, 2005

What I wish I could watch right now on the new iPod

Last Friday's Charlie Rose show. Because that was the night Michael Eisner guest-hosted and interviewed Barry Diller for the last half-hour. The conversation was indeed illuminating: Diller reminiscing about the Marvin Davis years -- "who do you have to screw to get out of this room?" -- Diller getting bleeped for describing, in anatomical terms, how far back a pendulum can swing and mostly -- most delightfully -- Eisner trying to convince Diller of his own tech prowess by claiming he reads "brogs."

For a mere $1.99, who would not watch that again and again?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Maybe the term "listen" was too loosely defined

The most listened-to radio programming in the country is the Kroger InStore Network. And they want more advertisers.

Should OLN feel shame?

Was it the questionable choice of onscreen fonts or the experimental camera angles that made hockey on OLN feel so different? I couldn't tell. But for now, there's something charmingly retro about the absence of big-time advertisers. No pop-up promos. No sponsored scrolls. No Dodge Ram tough player of the game. Just old-time hockey. Toe Blake and all that.

Of course I was lucky. I saw the game. Some fans missed out because OLN is not airing NHL games to all DISH subscribers. It's a strategy designed to pressure DISH into offering OLN in its basic programming. And I'm sure hockey fans are just the audience to be overflowing right now with enough goodwill and patience to understand.

Pixar and Disney agree to seek counseling

So while we try to decide if the new iPod is the best thing ever or not all that, wasn't yesterday's real story that Jobs shared the stage with a Disney CEO? Y'all!

Does this mean that the problem was pure personality? Is Chicken Little so good, it scares Pixar? Can a Toy Story 3 disaster be averted? I want my gossipy, Eisner-mocking explanation now!

Rapp, huh?

There was a time in this city when you couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting 4 or 5 Brinker concept restaurants. That has changed. Now, Brinker = Chili's. There are other, minor brands and it's these accounts that Brinker just handed to Rapp for "a new marketing program...that drops television advertising and relies on direct marketing." I smell coupons!

Chili's -- which generates 74% of Brinker's profit -- will apparently remain at GSD&M. And apparently not drop TV.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

For this we let her out of jail?

Has Martha Stewart, truly, paid her debt to society? Is it, in fact, justice that she roams free, completely able to threaten the general population with shows and videos and plans like a new builder licensing agreement "in which the designs of three of Ms. Stewart's personal residences will be used as inspiration for the more modest homes in a new subdivision" in North Carolina.

Where is the law?

UPDATE: I just remembered that KB Home has a slight image problem, at least in Texas where one of the Martha communities is planned. See what I mean. Martha's a menace. Somebody do something.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

There are no mistakes. Only valuable lessons.

Helpful advice for school applications, press releases, RFPs and if need be, first dates.

Social shopping doesn't always lead to social buying

First there was the Gap Lounge. Now: Forth & Towne social-shopping fitting rooms. Anything, it seems, to keep women from noticing that the clothes might just suck.

UPDATE: Wardrobing room? Stop the madness.

He may be an SOB but he's not our SOB

Ranger fans say hell yeah, we'll have us some schadenfreude.

But does it taste like the back of a school bus?

Wine label comedy: "Clever names are the wine industry's tactic to compete in an increasingly informal age, and it is working, according to a July Gallup report that showed wine in a tie with beer as Americans' favorite 'adult beverage.' 'Food and wine should be fun, no?' says marketing director John Locke of Bonny Doon Vineyard.'"


Big wine sales could be credited to vintner puns or maybe to health news, celebrity chefs, or even movies. No?

Reddy Kilowatt cashes out, plans to invest in NBA team

It was only 3 years ago that electric power was de-regulated in Texas. It was only 1 year ago that Dallas' TXU announced the novel money-saving strategy of laying off their workforce -- except for the executive management team -- in favor of outsourcing. Now TXU is planning to "spin its electric transmission business into a new public company that could be valued at more than $10 billion." Nice work.

Oh. And nice work by the Dallas Morning News, who graciously allowed to break the story and the New York Post to pick it up. Yeah -- The Post.

New at Target: the Forced Resignation Barbie

Mattel fires its president and folds Fisher-Price into its iconic Hot Wheels and Barbie brand family. Remember this day. Like Romans who smiled then changed the subject as Nero appointed his horse to the Senate, we have just, as a culture, surrendered all sense of ourselves. And put Bratz in charge.

Don't strain yourself

Some of us won't just do it. So while sports gear sales are up, it's the same energetic people who are buying. Oh, it's a desirable demographic -- "enthusiasts tend to be college educated, in their mid 30s or early 40s, earning a six-figure income or better and overwhelmingly male." You know, ubersexuals. But how do you grow beyond that? Simple. Make sports-like stuff that in reality only enables our bad habits: "Coleman has recently expanded their reach towards the not-necessarily-active population by offering equipment especially designed for tailgating." Genius!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Quote of the day

How can this be: "But luckily I’m not longing for brand-zealots to add me to their MySpace pages or sing my praises in some sticky thread on an EasyBoard. You know what; it’s entirely possible to not give a damn about the label, packaging or company behind a product."

Questions of journalism ethics are so much more interesting when there are strippers involved

Sports Illustrated settles a lawsuit over a story they still claim to stand behind. Reasons to care: the story got a college football coach fired, a court ruled that magazines don't have the same protection as newspapers and the source might have been a topless dancer. How long do we have to wait for the ESPN original movie?

Sunday morning at the movies

An anti-WalMart documentary gets distribution help from the United Church of Christ. Yes. That's the same church that created a TV spot so controversial, networks refused to air it.

How was your weekend?

Mine was good.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Magazine ranks Mark Cuban somewhere between man-whore and criminal

As a supplement to their list of people they envy most, Fortune magazine votes Mark Cuban into their Lucky Hall Of Fame. Alongside Kevin Federline and Richard Scrushy.

See, this is Fortune's attempt at humor. Aren't they cheeky? Isn't it edgy? Don't you wish you could reference Britney Spears and corporate scandal in the same story? Exactly why fellow geek cash-out and NBA teamowner Paul Allen is considered enviable while Cuban is just a right-time, right-place dumbfuck is not fully explained. Don't think about that too much. Just know that Cuban looks goofy on the sideline and so, for Fortune, it must seem like comic genius simply to mention his name. And if Cuban invested early in Weblogs, Inc. -- a company that was just sold to AOL for $35 million? More stupid, stupid luck.

Those Fortune writers. They know funny!

Blockbuster, still in the toilet

Blockbuster admits that people haven't been all that eager to rent their DVDs online. Possible silver lining: the rest of the rental industry is sucking harder.

Quote of the day

From this: "'Publishing has a long history of publishing schlocky fiction for women.'"

Does this make them the DB Cooper of WiFijackers?

TechDirt links to this tale of Starbucks employees who allegedly helped customers steal a neighboring shop's free WiFi. Tsk, tsk baristas.

Maybe all these ugly incidents can be avoided when our cities build free WiFi. Maybe not. Because muni WiFi will bring along its own nerdy problems. Like, should cities be able to take over a business category and turn it into a public utility? Politicians -- or at least, their contributors -- can't agree. And if your city's WiFi features location-based advertising, is that appropriate? Can clubs advertise if part of the audience might be underage? And finally, why is WiFi a basic right but not premium cable?

TiVo for the masses!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Consumer confidence is at a new low. Or not.

We all felt so hopeless about the economy last week that we had to go shopping just to get over it. Who can blame us? No one wants to miss out on Su Doku.

The day the music died but then got resuscitated

Sony and EMI continue to sell CDs you can't copy into iTunes and the labels' own artists are revolting. I love you Switchfoot. And even though you had to go and write a song that "bemoans corporate product branding and marketing," I forgive you.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Do they skip ads because they're smart? Or are they smart because they skip ads?

It's a conundrum: people who fast forward through TV spots or use pop-up blockers "were generally more interested than their ad-watching peers in online product research and more likely to participate in online discussions of products, like those on blogs or product review sites." Knowledgeable influencers? Advocates-in-the-making? Hold me!

But how can you reach this audience? Should you consider, for starters, making sure your product is worth talking about?

No. If it were that easy, everyone would do it.

My day at the State Fair, or what I learned from a pile of horseshit

I ate a Corny Dog and rode the Crazy Mouse and didn't vomit, not even once. But when I visited the Clydesdales tent, I was overcome with emotion.

After all these years, the best Bud ads are still those that feature the horses. I feel safe in making that statement primarily because I did not visit the Whassup tent. Or the frogs tent. Don't get me wrong. I like those campaigns. They worked. It's spots like the "Bud Beer Tree" that kinda break my heart. Because the message of that ad is "guys wanna get drunk." And somewhere in St. Louis, they wonder why more Americans are now choosing wine over beer.

The Clydesdales are different. Can you hum the Christmas Card music? Do you remember old Auggie riding the wagon into the ballpark? The horses have an elegance and majesty that the brand itself often lacks. They're the connection to a story, a tradition. They're the symbol of a respectable grown-up beverage instead of a cheap, quick way to get liquored up. Not all ads should feature the Clydesdales, but shouldn't all ads strive for such aura?

And another question: why would anyone wait until the State Fair to buy cookware and cleaning products?

Fresh produce is not, always, your friend

Dole's pre-packaged salads have been linked to E. coli. Hmm. You rarely have this problem with potato chips.

They might burn their anime collections in protest

The people who make games are upset. And it's not because they've never had girlfriends. No. Today, game makers -- people who have probably, over the course of their lives, re-sold a car or at least a college textbook -- are angry at Best Buy for selling used games. There's all the usual arguments, predictable hypocrisy and underlying core issue of 40% profit margins. But Best Buy will not be stopped. They gotta do something with all those old CD aisles.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Overpaid, oversexed, overserved and over here

Because it's Friday, because it's happy hour, I raise my glass to the American -- Sky News won't tell us which one -- who had "a big night out," running up a $63,000 bar tab at a Kensington bar Wednesday night. The bill "included 26 Louis Roederer Cristal Magnums...and 851 cocktails." He didn't enjoy it all himself because if there's one thing the British will take part in, it's public drinking. No. This man was just making friends. This man was, in his way, trying to make the world a better place.

This man is my kind of guy.

No news may be good news but is it good reporting? runs a "Funny Money" story on how the Tabasco Sauce company fared during Hurricane Rita. It's neither funny nor about money but the real puzzler: no quotes, no interviews, no account of what, exactly, conditions are on Avery Island. Only a few facts lifted solely from the McIlhenny site. So. What was the point?

There's a cultural meaning in here somewhere

Turns out no one wants to watch Martha if there's not a hot glue gun involved. But NASCAR? Can't get enough.

Product placement is the Janet-Jackson-breast of our industry

The FCC's Jonathan Adelstein compares product placement to payola and calls for increased regulation of the ad industry.

That'll work.

Quote of the day

From Donny Deutsch: "I should have known there is a difference between taking my shirt off among friends and colleagues and doing it in front of a reporter."

C'mon. Give Donny a break. Who DOESN'T take their shirt off among colleagues? Who would know NOT to do that in front of a reporter? And, please, let's not even talk about how this applies to Speedos.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Todd Oldham and Joey: proof that there is no success without Friends

I gave him the best 90 minutes of my life and all he gave me was string art. I can't go on. I can't watch another episode of Todd Oldham's HGTV series.

To help explain why, let's review Todd Oldham's career highlights: designed dresses, became famous, famously had to quit designing dresses, famously hosted MTV show, quietly sold personal trademarks, famously partnered with Target, quietly had to quit partnering with Target.

So after 3 TV episodes, I realized what Todd's true talent is: befriending celebrities. He's likethis with Susan Sarandon! Joan Jett too! And his La-Z-Boy line, his book and matching TV series -- these seem like part of a too-obvious plan to do for mid-century masters like Eames and Breuer what Martha Stewart did for Jade-ite and enamelware. That is, de-value the originals and sell the hell out of re-branded copies. Only Todd has mixed results when it comes to moving the merchandise.

Look I know he has his fans. He's probably a wonderful person. But I have to do this. I have to call bullshit on the Oldham oeuvre.

This wouldn't be happening if we were digital!

No wonder everyone's always so mellow at Half-Price Books. Selling used books is now a $2 billion business. In fact, "one out of every 12 overall book purchases" is a used edition. This, of course, has publishers and authors even crankier than usual as they worry they're losing out on new book sales. Hmm. Their concerns sound so familiar.

Maybe their senators can look into it.

Kids today, they got everything

The $100 laptop. It's supposed to be for "the world's children" but I kinda want one.

Marketers have a crush on Michelle. Pass it on.

Michelle Wie is about to turn pro and the marketing world can't wait. She is, after all, an endorsement deal trifecta. She competes against men! She has fashion-model good looks! She's only 15! She's also filling a void I didn't know existed: "'There's still a huge variance between the need for celebrity women athletes and what's out there.'"

"What's out there?" Let's try to de-code that.

"What's out there" seems to be, at least when you're talking LPGA, a euphemism for "fat girls in bad clothes." Or at best, women who may win tournaments but lack the porn-like persona of Anna Kournikova.

So the person most excited about Michelle Wie is likely the new LPGA commissioner who just happens to be a former IPG COO. If women's golf has a little trouble admitting that pretty girls get all the attention, Wie may help. If Tiger can get pasty PGA guys to work out, anything's possible.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Bloggers without blogs

When technology lets you down, things get sad: "I'm being forced to simply have experiences and not document experiences."

Is there a target consumer in the house?

The NYTimes seems a little startled to report that Guidant paid doctors to implant its new heart device in patients as part of a study. But after a few paragraphs, they fess up: paying doctors isn't such a big deal. Everybody does it. "The two other major heart device companies, Medtronic Inc. and St. Jude Medical, also said they run product evaluation programs. All three companies said their payments to doctors for taking part in such surveys reflected reasonable compensation for a physician's time."

Essentially, products are being sampled and a target audience is being focus-grouped. It just happens to involve people's health and much larger sums of money.

If that makes you clinch, consider what happens if there's a total ban on pharmaceutical advertising to consumers. It's the heart device "study" writ large. And small. Doctors become the sole target of pharma promotions. Without consumer campaigns, pharma brands will have more dollars to spend on a smaller audience and -- presto -- even bigger rewards for doctors who prescribe their new drugs. And patients won't know a thing about it.

So which is worse? To allow pharmaceutical companies to run consumer advertising out in the open -- right there on TV -- where we all can evaluate it? Or opt instead for promotions that pay doctors cold, hard cash while never letting patients in on the info or the rewards?

Monday, September 26, 2005

Fewer people are reading this blog because of gas prices

Not meeting your numbers? Afraid that people may question your leadership? Relax. You've got the alibi de tutti alibis in fuel prices. And product category doesn't matter! First, high gas prices were blamed for keeping working-class consumers away from roadside restaurants and Wal-Marts. Reasonable. Now, it's why beer isn't selling at convenience stores. OK. But when Estee Lauder blames poor quarterly profits on "higher gas prices curbing consumer spending," you know it's become the corporate equivalent of "the dog ate my homework" -- only no one questions it!

Quote of the day

This: "I noted how Target put up Christmas stuff on Friday, and how the executives who approved such decisions should be met in the parking lot by citizens swinging cans of corn wrapped in athletic socks."

Have you ever been Ad-Tracked and did it hurt?

L'Oreal's new Eva Longoria spot gets run through the USAToday Ad Track and the target audience, in their own Lloyd Christmas way, "likes it a lot." I know, I know. I'm relieved too.

Still I can't help but ask: why are there so many celebrity endorsements yet so few that are genuinely entertaining? When did the endorsement deal become the achievement, as opposed to using the celebrity in a unique, clever, memorable way? Know what I mean? Eva could be switched out with Nicolette and you wouldn't have to change a thing because the concept is "we signed a hot actress." But the Ellen DeGeneres AmEx spot, which only works with Ellen, has a more robust concept. You can watch it over and over and still find it engaging.

Last week when Grant McCracken did a lot of thinking -- a lot of thinking -- about celebrity ads, it reminded me of this Ernie Schenck post and HighJive's comment: "reliance on's the stereotypical MO when pursuing urban markets." That's it, isn't it? That's why, for some advertisers, the endorsement deal is the end of the strategic and creative process rather than the beginning. It's evidence of a brand who has no idea of how to talk to its own target audience, urban or otherwise. And maybe no idea of its own identity. Desperate Housewives meet desperate marketers.

Don't worry though. As long as the Marketing VP gets to have his picture taken with someone famous, everybody's happy, right?

Will cameraphones kill the radio star?

A band shot a music video on a cameraphone.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

It's a hookah, not a hooker, and the kids love it

Richardson is a north Dallas suburb but it's not your normal north Dallas suburb. That is to say, it's not lily white and dripping with money. In fact, over the past 20 years, it's grown into a very interesting ethnic neighborhood filled with Asian and Middle Eastern businesses, churches, one mosque, a Sikh temple and now, the hookah bar. You know the hookah. It's this. Something that big and bong-like is bound to be a hit with the kids. So to speak.

It's just one more way Richardson is being saved by hard-working businessmen from far-off lands: "Hossein 'Hoss; Taher...bought Del's Charcoal Burgers, a fixture in downtown Richardson for almost half a century. He proudly continues its tradition of serving hamburgers, fried pies and homemade root beer. 'I was so lucky to find a jewel like this,' Mr. Taher said." Richardson, Texas: a multiculti, capitalist success story.

Friday, September 23, 2005

We need to talk about my feelings

Was it just me or did Martha Barletta's AdAge article read like a chick flick parody? Among her 7 tips for advertising to women:

"...while a man may be mesmerized by the specs of high-tech widgets and gadgets, a woman is captivated by the person using the product."

"...a bullet-point list of key facts and product features is an ideal format for men; think about adding a complementary treatment for women, one that...highlights lifestyle and feelings."

"it’s about making her feel useful."

Obviously Barletta's the expert and I'll try to evaluate her advice when I'm less emotional. But now that we know how to market to women, is it ever too early to start? "To put products in the hands of 'tween' influencers -- trendsetting girls ages 8 to 12 -- companies such as Capitol Records, Disney, and Hasbro are hosting marketing events modeled after sleepovers. All are clients of Girls Intelligence Agency, a Los Angeles market research firm that distributes slumber-party kits -- packed with freebies and ideas for themed games and snacks -- to 40,000 girls willing to introduce friends to new products."

This of course raises many questions. Why sleepovers? How have these trendsetters been identified -- scouting? Youth beauty pageants? Credit card lists? And finally, how do these parties make everyone feel?

UPDATE: On further review, the sleepover probably ensures the party is all-girl. Still, so many questions. Are these tween hosts being compensated? Are their mothers? Or their party guests? If my hypothetical daughter was invited to what was essentially a focus group, I'd hypothetically be a little upset at the host's parents. And I'd so tear into them at my next Pampered Chef party.