Friday, April 29, 2005

Sam Donaldson was right

If you work in a network news division, how do feel when your bosses' bosses complain about the President's press conference? Do you feel, in any way, that it might demean your role? I ask because while everyone obsesses about new formats and new anchors, it may be all for naught if the networks themselves consider covering something as simple as a DC press conference to be nothing but a money-losing proposition.

They can complain about the high cost of news-gathering. They can speak hopefully of on-demand news and deploying content across all platforms. But when execs at NBC call the White House to grouse about bad sweeps timing, it reveals that these are really entertainment channels who grudgingly -- and at times, incompetently -- maintain news divisions. How can audiences and advertisers be interested in network news when network bosses aren't?

Don't think of it as a fine. Think of it as an early campaign donation.

An agency gets their interactive ass hauled into court for their use of spyware. I'd be inclined to applaud this, except it's a suit by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and the ad spyware in question had already been discontinued by Intermix. Spitzer's tactic here is predictable: he "exploits the threat of stock declines and business losses to force industries to change." And indeed, Intermix's "'stock price has halved since it became public two weeks ago that Spitzer was investigating,'" observed one analyst. Intermix now faces either impossibly heavy fines or a settlement. I'm not sayin' they don't deserve it. I'm just counting down the days until Spitzer runs for governor, loses, fades into obscurity and thereby enables New York to become a business-friendly state once again.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Ads in disguise

Mr and Mrs Britney Spears buy a bungalow in Vegas' new Hard Rock condo complex. Two weeks later, Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachay buy "a luxury condo unit at Palms Place, the new high-rise residential condo and spa at the Palms" owned by the Maloof brothers. Maybe "buy" isn't the right word. It's more like a dueling ad campaign with real estate as compensation. And gossip columnists are just media outlets that you don't have to pay.

But good thing those gossip writers work for real papers. If they were bloggers, their ethics would be questionable.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Apple bookstore gets a little smaller

Maybe PSFK was right. Just as the iPod is becoming an icon and winning converts, Apple does something uncool. From the AP: "Apple Computer Inc. has retaliated against the publisher of an upcoming unauthorized biography about chief executive Steve Jobs by removing dozens of other technology books sold by the publisher from Apple stores....It's a strategy that experts in brand management say is likely to backfire.... 'Pulling books off the shelf is a little draconian,' said Rob Frankel, a brand consultant. 'It reeks of repression.'" Repression? Apple? But aren't they the ones who promised to end all that?

Maybe they really did hope they'd die before they got old

A very Cliffs Notes-y look at senior, Boomer, X and Y demos. Most unintentionally damning note: "Baby Boomers are the country's biggest spenders and look for quality products that help define the generation's focus on itself." This reminded me of a recent article about Marianne Faithful. Mick Jagger's most infamous former flame has "turned to therapy to help to her cope with growing old....'It's very hard having been so beautiful when young,' she said." Is that what they mean by being focused on yourself?

Monday, April 25, 2005

Hatin' on Wal-Mart

Last Wednesday, the NYTimes ran an anti-Wal-Mart ad, the first in a media campaign from a "newly formed, union-backed anti-Wal-Mart group, which draws support from environmentalists, political activists, and women's rights groups."

I guess they're all taking time out from their opposition research on federal judicial nominees to pursue Wal-Mart but this may be a poorly chosen battle. It pits sermonizing political activists (not fun) against my impulse to shop (fun!) and my desire to buy stuff cheap (less fun, but important to my family). Advantage: my impulses and desires!

And: if their media buy is made up only of ads in the NYTimes -- whose primary readership is unlikely to live near, shop at or be sympathetic to a Wal-Mart -- can we really say this is a serious "campaign" meant to persuade anyone?

The politics of extreme publicity

If the mayor of your town started photographing naked women for porn magazines, would voters be appalled? Mayor Oscar Goodman has agreed to be a Playboy guest photographer but since he's mayor of Las Vegas, the moral outrage may be muted. In fact, the only citizen expressing disapproval chooses particularly poor words to do so: "'If that's the case...that seems to be too much to swallow.'"

The real question is if Mayor Goodman -- who made his money defending mobsters in court -- is pursuing a sort of scorched-earth publicity tour as a run-up to promoting a tell-all book. Is he doing the outrageous simply to make himself nationally famous? For the answer, we have to turn to the master of extreme PR, Paris Hilton. Unfortunately, she's busy making borderline-porn TV commercials for a new Carl's Jr burger.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Paula's not strung out, y'all!

She has simply "found the right doctor and the right treatment and is no longer suffering." Whew. A national intervention has been averted.

When product placement goes wrong

That ship that was hit by a monster wave over the weekend? It was speeding toward NYC to make a paid-for appearance with Donald Trump on The Apprentice. If Norwegian Cruise Lines thought the $1 million product placement fee was steep, wait 'til they start settling the lawsuits.

The Idol perfect storm

The contestants get booed at a baseball game, Lisa de Moraes' criticism is actually warranted and Drudge hints that the show could finish third in this week's ratings. Odd news considering Ryan Seascrest claims that the show is setting new voting records every week. Maybe the audience has melted away to reveal what we've always feared: all the votes are actually phoned in by the same 15 teenagers calling 2 millions times each.

But part of the fun of watching Idol is seeing how rapidly, if not subtlely, the producers react to bad news. How will they save the juggernaut? I'll tune in tonight to see.

Who's punking who?

From an PSFK post about media hoaxes: "as big media learns how to act, or at least look, like small media and clever people everywhere find ways to do the opposite; we are in for a show. The main question, as I see it, is the same as it ever was, 'Who can you trust?'"

Proactive at Prevacid

Following my rant about the heavy-handedness of FDA ad guidelines, the marketers of Prevacid have announced they're pulling their TV spots in favor of running more print ads featuring more disclaimers. A Prevacid spokesperson said, "'Print advertising allows consumers to take their time reviewing important risk-benefit information. Additionally, it gives us ample space to include that information.'"

Let me translate that: "when the FDA sent out those four warning letters to other pharm advertisers, we crapped our pants. Now our only hope to avoid similar FDA treatment is to load up on low-profile print ads. Pray for us."

Things don't add up at Fleishman-Hillard

PR agency Fleishman-Hillard admits they overbilled the City of Los Angeles by $4.2 million between 1999-2004. A former F-H vice president will face a trial in August over the matter. All of this comes to light only a few months after the O&M trial, where two agency execs were found guilty of bilking the federal government out of millions of dollars.

According to F-H's Los Angeles GM, the agency takes "'full responsibility for any billing issues,'" and they " have taken steps to ensure the integrity of our billing process.'" Really? Care to share what those steps are? Because the whole industry might need to do the same.

They don't want a saint. They want a Santa Claus

That's the impression I get after watching TV commentators discuss the new Pope.

But it helps to remember that the press is not in Rome for any reasons having to do with faith or world leadership. They are there because the rituals, flowing robes and historic architecture make good TV. (If they cared about religion, we'd hear about Falwell's health. If they cared about international events, we'd hear about the UN scandal.) They're covering the story with the intellectual heft one would muster to cover Princess Di's wedding -- and for them all this talk about sin, resurrection, and morality is just a buzz-kill. So the MSM reveals itself to be shallow. And terribly isolated: they apparently think the Pope leads a church comprised only of Americans living in Manhattan and DC. And they frame their discussion about the new Pope in political terms because that's the only reference they have. They really should get out more.

As for the new Pope, I'm excited by him. Or as excited as a Protestant girl can be. He speaks often of the need to "bear fruit" and yesterday when he described himself as "a humble worker in God's vineyard," it struck me that this man wants results. If JPII was a fisherman of souls, BXVI might be a cultivator of souls. And that would be good news.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Being misled vs. being disgusted

The FDA has sent warning letters to several pharmaceutical marketers for what the agency deems to be misleading ads. In almost all cases, the problem stemmed from language that could imply superior performance. "The Zyrtec print ads had used the headline, 'Tired of your allergy medicine not working? Good thing there's Zyrtec.' The FDA found that theme implied that Zyrtec worked better than other allergy meds...." Levitra was cited for a TV spot with a woman who says, "'Ask your doctor if Levitra is right for you ... It's the best way to experience that difference.' The FDA objected to the notion that Levitra was in any way the 'best' drug for E.D."

Picky, aren't they? I think it could be argued that the ads were indeed carefully worded enough to avoid direct implications, but what do I know? That's why this category is such a bitch for ad agencies. Between the restrictions on language and the required legal disclaimers, it's difficult to communicate anything of value to a consumer. And while I would never advocate the end of pharm TV advertising, there must be some way to spare viewers the appallingly graphic disclaimer copy. Isn't it the doctor's role to warn against side effects? If the FDA wants to bring down the hammer on claims of superior efficacy, fine. But can they just stop warning us about 4-hour erections and uncontrollable bowel movements? Please?

Martha, fresh from prison and now with street cred, gets DJ gig

Sirius is getting a Martha Stewart radio channel. Martha in a non-visual medium should present interesting challenges. How endearing is her habit of overenunciation? How do you demonstrate crafts with no pictures? And how will anyone be able to tell what new bag she might be carrying?

But what we really fear this means is that Martha is planning the audio equivalent of Oprah's Book Club. Look for the Martha Musical Selections CD series in stores soon.

We'd like more research about research

What do you make of this NYTimes article about ad research? It begins with this: "the research industry is...looking at issues like trying to determine the return on investment for advertising spending, improving the measurement of audiences...[and] helping agencies identify the most efficient media outlets." That's all so true! Wanna learn more? Too bad, because all you'll find is some quotes from a guy who measures heart rates of people while they view TV commercials. But that's a creative quality issue, not ROI. In fact, nothing in the article pays off audience or media measurement and that's a shame because those are the areas that hold the most promise for advertisers. It's why Procter & Gamble funnels its monster media budgets to media planners with shiny, new research tools and it even played a role in the 2004 presidential election where Bush-Cheney '04 was a research machine.

It's not a bad article, just one that fails to deliver on its opening lines. Writer Stuart Elliott interviews only two ad people -- then again, maybe it's a sign of progress that neither of them is Paul Cappelli.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Everyone's watching, but no one's paying attention

ESPN is touting new research that shows we're watching more TV than ever. But that's still not good news for broadcast networks: the biggest increases are in cable viewership at odd hours.

I don't think this is good news for anyone in TV. More sets may be on at 3am but are they really the focus of attention or simply a comforting noise until we fall asleep? TV has become background music, the way radio was for my parents. And that's not a good sign at all.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Bonus question

Why would Lloyd Grove lead his column with such a detailed account of Jay McCarroll's drunken tirade?

a) because McCarroll is a household name known for his family-friendly sense of humor
b) because such conduct was so shockingly rude that, even though McCarroll later called to personally apologize, Grove just couldn't believe anyone in New York City would talk like that
c) because Project Runway brilliantly promoted Grove's rival Richard Johnson from Page Six


Cigarettes, misdemeanors and messy divorces: absolutely the best FrontBurner post ever.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Shake, rattle and text

At (reg. req), Cory Treffiletti tells us about a recent U2 concert. At one point, Bono "asked everyone to take out their cell phones and text message their be added to a petition of people who pledge their support to improving human rights around the globe....20 minutes later, the names of the people who had texted themselves was scrolled across the big screen hovering over the band, allowing the crowd to see their names in lights and tied forever in the image of their minds to that show." Fun! But to be clear: when it's used to help out a good cause, it's fun; some day, when it's used to sell the performer's latest CD -- and that day is coming -- it may be less fun.

Sports talk Wednesday continues

Adjab links to this item about overseas Budweiser ads that poke fun at the American aversion to soccer. Adjab fears the campaign might offend Americans who see it online, but I wouldn't worry. Americans are kind of proud that here, football means the NFL and soccer means...somethin' else. Monster trucks on the pitch? Dang right!

How do they feel about this in Cooperstown?

Do we really need a National Sports Museum? And how focused is its goal of becoming "the place for domestic and international visitors to experience the thrill and history of sports throughout the ages and throughout the world."

Since all the major pro sports have partnered with the new museum, I assume it's just sort of a centrally located, 3-D tourism ad for their individual halls of fame. And because the new site is in New York City, each new visiting exhibit is guaranteed to be a media event. Still -- rather than enticing visitors to plan trips to a genuine Hall of Fame, this may instead give everyone a sense of "oh yeah, I already saw that in New York City." But the Museum has its government funding and corporate partnerships, so I guess someone did marketing studies to prove otherwise. And studies never lie. Right?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Future imperfect

Everything's changing and everyone's trying to figure out what it all means. Patrick Ruffini ponders the future of political blogs, Newsosaur worries about newspapers who give away content and, via Lost Remote, Bob Garfield wonders what couch potatoes will watch in a world where TV is so vastly different. Notice that of the three, only Ruffini seems unafraid. Maybe that's because he's not concerned about advertising money -- that's already flowing to more targeted media and that may fit in nicely with his vision of a somewhat blog-friendly future. But the truth is: no one knows.

One heck of an arrest record

If you, as I, love "Cops" you'll be glad to know the show has been picked up for an 18th season. "Cops" draws 7 million viewers every Saturday night, leading the all-important 18-49 age demo for its time slot.

No word yet on how producers plan to top their "Tazed and Confused" episode from a few weeks ago. That was pure genius.

Podunk power

Big global fashion house Hugo Boss is headquartered in smallish Metzingen, Germany. Mark Landler of the NYTimes finds this peculiar, calling Metzingen a "one-horse town" and a "Podunk location," but helpfully explains that this is a "tradition in German business: the strong global company with parochial roots."

Oh. That's a German tradition? Wonder if they've heard about it in Bentonville and Cincinnati?

Monday, April 11, 2005

Paul Cappelli: The only ad man ever, anywhere

In a story about the Vegas tourism campaign, USAToday quotes everyone's favorite full-of-himself ad guy Paul Cappelli. As usual, Cappelli has no special insight nor did he create the likeable ads, but never mind that. It's clear that now, having used the controversy to get on every business writer's contact list, he's going to appear in every ad-related article everywhere, everytime. Because dammit, someone has to be the next Donny Deutsch.

It's a hit

I like baseball, but this shocks even me: "baseball is one of the few sports where the ratings have actually climbed over the last few years....[ESPN baseball telecasts] are sold out at more than a 90 percent level, far ahead of last season." More advertisers are buying time on telecasts because more people are watching. Another surprise: "'licensed merchandise sales were up 100 percent over last year.'"

Does this mean that when the Yankees choke in the post-season, it's actually good for baseball?

Yes, I think it does. And I hope the Yankees continue to oblige.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Golf buddies have rights too

I agree. This is a very unfortunate ad placement.

Built for comfort

A site that lets you check out the seat configurations of airline flights and ranks them according to legroom and noise? Genius!

Drowning at Pier 1

Things are not good for the Ft. Worth retailer. Fourth-quarter profits were down 61%.


Sixty effing one per cent.

Now Target's selling furniture and Pier 1's own execs admit a new ad campaign may take time to attract shoppers.

But if you've seen the new TV spots, you know what Pier 1's problem really is -- they have no personality. After hiding behind ill-chosen celebrity personalities, they're now on their own and all they can think to do is to show stuff. I have a message for sellers of stuff everywhere: I don't need a reason to buy stuff; what I need is a reason to buy stuff from you. Target gives me an aesthetic. Bed Bath & Beyond, who just posted some nice 4th quarter numbers, gives me value and selection. Pier 1 doesn't know what it stands for and by the time they figure it out, no one may care. One analyst put it this way: "'We think investors should be selling this name today' as Pier One has alienated its customer base over the last two years and competition is getting worse. 'Even with a launch of a new ad campaign, Pier 1 is going to have a very difficult time driving traffic into their stores.'" Yikes.

Not what you'd call a vigorous defense

A tax preparer defends himself against federal charges of fraud with a filing that reads: "'Your complaint simply ain't true.'"

Help with a virus

Viral advertising explained. From Marketing Sherpa, it's really a good look at what works, what's tired and what clients should expect from a viral ad. One interesting point: they think audio clips have a "great potential and [are] VASTLY underused." But maybe not after this.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Yeah, it was some enchanted evening alright

Did you hear that? That was my heart shattering into a billion pieces as they announced the theme on this week's American Idol would be show tunes -- my favorite! -- and not one contestant had a clue.

When dorks crush

Maybe the only thing geekier than getting excited about the new Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy movie is getting excited about its star, Martin Freeman, who will play Arthur Dent. Mr. Freeman, of course, is number 7 on our list of Top Ten Men of BBCAmerica. We didn't even lose respect for him when he took off his clothes in Love Actually because it was so obviously integral to the plot. 24 more days. Don't panic.

Boom goes the dynamite

I sense a future ESPN ad coming on.

It's a Madden, Madden world

Shoe designer Steve Madden did not do time at Camp Cupcake. But he is in jail and his upcoming release is being touted in a new ad campaign. As if anyone cares. The NYTimes has the story, but check out who they go to for expert perspective: Paul Cappelli of Ad Store. Remember him? His agency created the Super Bowl spots, the ones featuring "a beautiful woman with a nice ample chest." (In the spot, she's even given the name of Nikki Cappelli, Paul's teenage daughter. Ick.) When Fox declined to air one of the spots, it was Cappelli who made the uproariously self-important claim that he was being censored.

This is Cappelli on the Madden ads: "'I could see myself suggesting something like this to a client,' Mr. Cappelli said, 'that instead of ignoring the 5,000-pound elephant in the corner, you might as well bring it out into the open and make hay of it.'"

Paul Cappelli is doing a bit, right? He's just riffing on advertising stereotypes, isn't he? And The Times is just playing a joke, winking and nodding and pretending not to notice the self-promotion or the slaughtered metaphor, right? Right?

Monday, April 04, 2005

News in the balance

Al Gore gets mixed reviews for his new cable news venture. The NYPost is doubtful -- well, they ARE The Post -- while Lost Remote is giddy about all the iPod analogies and other details.

UPDATE: And Adfreak is snarky! For special emphasis, they include a decidedly unflattering photo of the former VP. So in a NotBillable flash-poll, Current gets thumbs up from those who cover the news media and thumbs down from those who cover advertising. Could be a problem.

Age Gap

Joss Stone did the impossible. She made me feel sorry for Sarah Jessica Parker when The Gap signed Stone to replace the 40-year-old actress in their summer TV campaign. Now Joss has moved in with her boyfriend, a 25-year-old record producer. No big deal except she's only 17 and in California, that's under the age of consent. Is that too controversial for The Gap? I'm guessin' not.

What's wrong with this sentence?

From the Dallas Morning News: "The hot hand this spring has been Gary Matthews Jr. who will open in center field at the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday."

At the Los Angeles Angels? AT? The Angels are a team, not a place and Los Angeles isn't even where they play. I should maybe get used to it. Thanks to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, it's going to be a season filled with tortured displays of inexact language.

Re-habbing Halliburton

You've been accused of improper billing, sued in US District Court and your company name has become shorthand for profiteering warmongering. What should you do? Halliburton is launching TV and print ads. It's a campaign to rally the faithful, not convert critics: "'Our core audiences—employees, shareholders, vendors and customers—proved their support of the company last year, in a very difficult environment,' said company representative Beverly Scippa. 'These ads should confirm their endorsement'....While the spots do not focus exclusively on workers in Iraq, they do promote 'thousands of Halliburton employees who every day go places no one else will go and do things no one else can do,' company president, CEO and chairman Dave Lesar said in a statement." And they're using The Richards Group, just about the only agency I'd trust for such an assignment.

Ignorance is profitable

Bad schools begat No Child Left Behind and No Child Left Behind begat a $2 billion tutoring business. Thanks to the new legislation, kids in failing schools are now eligible for free, federally funded tutoring and -- presto -- a booming new industry has been born. But the competition for students (and their funds) is fierce; to get kids to sign up, private tutoring companies offer free computers and basketball tickets. Must be a pretty good profit margin if you can afford an acquisition campaign complete with giveaways.

Notice that nowhere in this story is there an incentive for actual success. No reward to the student for improving performance, no reward to the tutor based on improved student performance and nothing at all to fix the school. Would you consider that a glitch?

In other education/business news, expect a good year for manufacturers of purple ink.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Let's play two

Although it's a crime that the first game of the first day of the new season is no longer played in Cincinnati -- where they would close the schools and open the breweries -- today is Opening Day. So put down the ointment and sing:

"Well, beat the drum and hold the phone - the sun came out today!
We’re born again, there’s new grass on the field.
A-roundin’ third, and headed for home, it’s a brown-eyed handsome man;
Anyone can understand the way I feel."

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Maybe there is such a thing as bad publicity

You're featured in a NYPost gossip item, but it begins, "Curtis Vogel is a kind and forgiving cuckold."

Little surfer girl

Adrants links to this story about a famous athlete who's about to launch a fragrance line. Yawn, right? Except that she's Bethany Hamilton, the teenage pro surfer who lost an arm in a shark attack two years ago. She's back surfing, winning and raising funds for charities. I'm glad I read this story first today.