Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Hurricane help

I gave to the Red Cross and Salvation Army because they're in place and ramped up, but there are more resources to support if you're interested. Here's the best round-up of relief agency links I've seen.

Of course the mob jokes were unavoidable

One impression of the new campaign to help save Italy's cultural treasures.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Me to August: uncle already

A cooler, catastrophe-free September can't begin soon enough.

The brand, like Hugh, isn't looking good these days

It is perhaps fitting that a writer named Bambi would report on Playboy's new online magazine. Give her credit though. She gets right to the problem. Or in this case, problems. Magazines and porn just ain't what they used to be. When Playboy debuted, we were an offline world and porn had to be softened to be made acceptable but now, "on the Web, there is no such thing as civilized sex." So can Playboy save at least their brand? Is it enough to update the bunny costume and re-introduce nightclubs? Has Maxim's clubs already outpaced them? And finally, should we care? Alas, Bambi cannot tell us.

Do you really want Penney's to rock your prom?

They're based in Plano so they may have a skewed estimate of how much schoolkids can spend, but Penney's is going all-out for the teen dollar.

Good/bad news if Mary Richards was your role model

I almost guarantee the execution won't be as funny as the concept: Mary Tyler Moore is slated to appear as a local news anchor on this season's That 70s Show.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Thanks for all those profits. Now we'd like more.

Two record companies want Steve Jobs to change iTunes pricing so they can charge more for the most popular songs. Jobs almost always wins these battles. But now -- could it be? -- he's even more powerful than Wal-Mart: "these days, allies and adversaries both agree, he has more power online than Wal-Mart has in the bricks-and-mortar world. Apple commands an estimated 75 percent of digital music sales, and roughly 80 percent of sales of MP3 players...." It's a fight over profits as well as platforms but it's astounding how everyone has forgotten that it was Jobs -- not record executives -- who got people to pay for the product. At least Jimmy Iovine knows it's a continuing process: "'We need to convert a lot more people to the habit of buying music online. I don't think a way to convert more people is to raise the price.'" And then there are artists who realize a well-planned free offering is a good investment in audience loyalty.

All of which is useful background for Hollywood's piracy claims. Two things. If movie studio sob stories about lost profits are true, then the problem is not that their product sucks. It's that they haven't figured out that whole customer-centricity thing: "some critics of Hollywood's response to digital piracy say that the film industry is not addressing the broader challenge: a rapid and epochal shift in how audiences watch movies. 'I think the movie business is in the same place the music business was in 2001 and 2002. They're just sitting it out and not doing much to put legitimate movie offerings online.'" And second, when the piracy card is played, gadgets suffer, making my cell phone and my DVD player less cool. And that is just so wrong.

It's like you could write a book about this stuff.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Sharon, you Cylon slut

The men of Galactica continue to disappoint. When it comes to killing the enemy, only women are brave enough to do it. Whipped much?

Headed south

According to the new Nielsen numbers, TV audiences are becoming older, more ethnic and more Southern. What a coincidence. So is the general population. Interesting, then, that people making most media and marketing decisions are not.

Animators create funny numbers

Why is the SEC looking at Pixar? Is this part of their investigation into insider trading at DreamWorks? And would it be Karma for DreamWorks' Jeffrey Katzenberg -- who, as a Disney executive, turned down the chance to buy a fledgling Pixar on the cheap -- to go to jail?

Maybe they're just not into you: an advice book for publishers and advertisers

The desperate quest for men continues. Sports Illustrated still thinks they can make it on TV, this time partnering with OLN to take on ESPN. Have you seen ESPN lately? Might be easy. And Lord knows, SI needs to turn a profit if only to reinstate staff expense accounts.

Then there's Playboy. Is it worth exploring why Playboy has to launch an online magazine to re-capture ad dollars, or is it only an opportunity to make predictable jokes and talk porn?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Somehow you can't get upset about a weak dollar

A fountain for capitalists.

Corporate giants learn that comedy is hard

For some reason, this should be funnier: SBC-EchoStar brand DISH will give free programming to the first town that renames itself "DISH." And yes, it'll probably have to be all caps.

But the money is real

Fantasy football is now a billion dollar industry. And what really gets everyone excited is the demo. "The average fantasy player is a 37-year-old white-collar man with a bachelor's degree and an annual household income of $76,689."

Food and gas, next exit. Maybe.

Clearly William Spain sees roadside chain restaurants as visual pollution. Nonetheless, he manages to pen a quick little article examining how high gas prices are hurting the customer base at Cracker Barrel and Appleby's. It must be true. Because Wal-Mart's data says it is.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Air kisses from Arkansas

Because I do not make a living in New York City magazine circles, I am neither excited nor astounded by the hefty Fall Vogue. But Jossip does and is and recognizes that the tectonic plates of culture are shifting when Wal-Mart buys 8 pages of ads.

Technology, analytics and beer

One article, so many important learnings. Among them, tanpin kanri is not a Fu move, 7-Eleven clerks are more tech-savvy than I am and -- happily -- I'm not the only person who's there for the 40-ouncers. Also: when CIOs use the phrase "moment of truth," it's time to find another buzzword.

From the Pauline Kael School of Business

Like any good marketing person, I predict consumer behavior based solely on my own quixotic personal tastes. So imagine how amazed I am that Blockbuster is still in business when I haven't been a customer for years. Shocking! Also surprising: "there were nearly 3.2 billion rental transactions last year. By contrast, box-office admissions were less than half of that number, DVD sales totaled about 1.1 billion and there were fewer than 350,000 purchases of movies through video on demand or pay per view." No wonder theater owners are cranky.

Blockbuster claims to be evolving into "'the place where people can rent, buy or trade movies or games, in store or online.'" Good thing. Their main advantage -- the ability to offer movies 6 weeks earlier than cable and pay-per-view -- depends on the wisdom and mercy of movie studio executives which, judging by recent product offerings, are not qualities commonly found in Hollywood.

Is it me or does it seem like anyone whose profits depend on the movie business better have a Plan B these days?

MORE: Grant McCracken lets his big brain ponder the movie business for about 10 seconds and naturally comes up with the reason there's a slump: blockbusters are next to impossible in an age of audience fragmentation. But is there really a slump?

Suddenly People Meters look reliable

Podcast listeners may be older than you think. Then again, maybe not. Helpful, isn't it?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Apparently 30-something women do not read

I'm happy that boomer women have More magazine. And it makes me laugh when the publisher says things like, "'the mistake marketers are making [is] assuming that 25-year-old girls are going to spend $12,000 on a watch or spend money on an expensive outfit. Those people have absolutely no money.'" That's genuinely funny. But I just wish there was something to bridge the Cosmo-I-just-discovered-sex years and the reading-about-retirement-funds stage. Or is that what Ladies Home Journal is supposed to be?

If so, I'm in big trouble.

Open your blue books and begin

Compare and contrast. Five paragraphs. While Target travels to Manhattan -- an isle where they have no stores and no immediate plans for stores -- to stage acrobatic runway shows and single-advertiser magazine issues, New Yorkers can't be talked into a Wal-Mart. The folks in Bentonville are trying. Hard. "Wal-Mart has sought to bolster its cause with clever advertisements, like a full-page one that ran in The Staten Island Advance. The ad read: 'On Staten Island, you can start the Marathon, take a ride on the Ferry, spend a day at Historic Richmond Town, and do just about anything. The only thing missing is every day low prices.'" New Yorkers' reaction? "'We need this Wal-Mart like a hole in the head.'"

I'm just trying to picture that sentence on my resume

I know it's an exciting new era, a dynamic time of change and blah blah blah, but is this, really, good career advice? "'People can decide to do anything anytime without any particular rationale.'"

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Remember: "cluster" was his word, not mine

This is how 7-Eleven's VP of Marketing describes FreshWorks, the buzzy new integrated Omnicom creation that will manage the account: "They essentially assembled a cluster of agencies managed by a single account team that presents one face to us and ensures complete integration and quality control." Of course, what we all want to know is how this will work. Is FreshWorks an uber-agency that can raid Omnicom resources at will to generate bold thinking, or merely a client-like middleman making sure everyone uses the same typeface? Uh. Well. They'll get back to us on that. "Details of how the units will interact have yet to be worked out."

Friday, August 19, 2005

Interjections show excitement or emotion

Upon review, it has been found that NotBillable relied on an immoderate -- and ultimately ill-advised -- amount of exclamation points this week and for this, I apologize.

A Dynamist trifecta

Do you get giddy when Virginia Postrel talks Target, glamour AND advertising all in one post? Me too!

Like Mae West, when food is bad, it's even better

Margaret Webb Pressler might be my new hero. Her article about the new menu at Ruby Tuesday delivers up so many wonderful real-world findings, it's hard to single out any one highlight.

There's this of course: "while customers say they want more nutritious choices, they rarely order them. As a result, fast food and casual dining chains — which together account for three out of four U.S. restaurant visits — are slowly going back to what they do best...high-calorie, high-fat fare." There's no shock in learning people won't admit to their bad habits. No, the real news is that someone out there is apparently getting my allotment of upscale restaurant visits. Oh, and that people can view something as simple as eating at Chili's as a reward.

Or this: "'in 1972...the No. 1 item people ordered when they went out was a hamburger and french fries....Today, the No. 1 items people order when they go out are a hamburger, french fries and chicken tenders.'" Progress?

And this: "at Wendy's, the Homestyle Chicken Strips Salad, eaten with one pack of ranch dressing, packs 670 calories and 45 grams of fat — more than any hamburger or sandwich on the menu." Better get a Diet Coke with that. Then ponder why it might take a stunt to sell Chicken Fries.

Maybe billionaires can't stick to budgets either

Can someone loan Mark Cuban a buck or two? Or, at least, donate some hairstyling services?

Your theories, while interesting, didn't test well

American Copywriter, with the help of Malcolm Gladwell, gamely tries to kill the focus group. A commenter at AdPulp gamely tries to prop it up again. I don't know what to think so later this evening I'll be calling consumers at their home -- probably right around dinnertime -- to get their thoughts.

And if that doesn't work, tomorrow: mall intercepts!

Get off the street

Bad reviews for a new HBO effort.

Can we all now -- finally -- agree that graffiti is not guerilla marketing? It's not original, fresh or buzz-worthy. It is, in fact, only the advertising equivalent of your mom wearing a belly shirt.

Freon = lifeforce

You'd reach that conclusion too if your air conditioner went out Sunday. Then again Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and, oh yeah, Thursday evening. But I'm not complaining!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

And not a moment too soon

Hollywood can't be Hollywood! if everyone is shooting stuff in Canada. Or, Lord help us, Louisiana. So California lawmakers are introducing tax breaks for the film industry. Television commercials are included. Porn is not.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Let's all go to the movies. Well OK, maybe not "all."

Movie theaters for grown-ups. Complete with babysitting services, gourmet concessions and over-21 age restrictions for all movies. Whether or not you think it's brilliant, you have to admire the innovative theater owners who recognize that the movie business can't depend solely on teenagers and foreign audiences to turn a profit.

Astoundingly, no word on whether your $18 ticket means the movie will be ad-free.

Quote of the day

It's early I know, but it has to be this: "'I used to fantasize about getting married in a church, even though I'm Jewish, just because that's how they all do it on soap operas.'"

Savvy traveller or TV addict? You decide.

Like Pavlov's dog, I am now thoroughly conditioned to shut down at 6 bells so I can watch Attack of the Show. Every day. Every single day. And I have been richly rewarded. Where else would I learn about the Catsup Crapper or how to degauss my monitor with nothing more than magnets and a drill? A girl needs to know these things.

So let other people get excited about high-priced hotels with their gaming butlers and XBox set-ups. I know better. Thanks to my little G4 friends, I can stay at the Red Roof and still have fun. Flashtastic!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Kinda like college kids, but with a bigger vocabulary

Do we, as a society, really want British tourists: "Britons are the biggest boozers on holiday and the most likely to get into trouble with police. They are also...the first to run out of money, a survey of holidaymakers from 16 countries by Halifax Travel Insurance has found." I say bring 'em.

Back to shopping

USAToday tells us back-to-school spending is expected to be down from last year but really can't explain why. Parents will "spend significantly less on electronics" but new school dress codes will dictate more purchases of "modest apparel."

Could it be that the idea of back-to-school shopping makes less sense when classes start in the middle of August heatwaves or even continue year-round? Anchor Blue president Tom Bush -- a man who can chant his brand mantra but struggles with definite answers -- describes back-to-school as "a period of time leading into September (and even continues once the kids see who wears what to school) and it does happen earlier and earlier. And there is the 12-month-a-year school." And what happens to back-to-school purchasing when big districts like Dallas adopt school uniforms?

Oh, I know. I shouldn't worry so much. After all, retailers can still count on the kids in Plano.

The money you lose in Vegas stays in Vegas

A few months ago Clear Channel, seemingly the owner of every radio station in America, happily signed on to sponsor Las Vegas' Centennial Celebration. It was not a money-maker. (Who's gonna put down a 99¢ shrimp cocktail at Slots-A-Fun to go see the Red Hot Chili Peppers at a city soccer park?) Now, deciding that civic-mindedness and contract terms really aren't all that, Clear Channel has decided to bill taxpayers for cost overruns. We shouldn't be too hard on Clear Channel, though. They're having a bad year.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Influential or just insular?

A New York Times readers survey, explained.

He counted to a trillion y'all

No matter how limited your audience, no matter how complex the process, someone will always check the accuracy of your ad claims. Hence weasel words.

The $1 million Target ad

Target takes over the New Yorker for an issue. Just because they can. But the illustrations are sweet.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

"Happiness in a bottle"

That's how I've always referred to Bombay Sapphire Gin but now Coca-Cola has gone and co-opted it. "Agencies preparing to pitch ideas for Coke Classic's global campaign are working off the brief 'Happiness in a bottle,' sources said. The winning approach will supplant the current 'Real' platform." I'm genuinely eager to see where they go with this.

They seem to have a thing for sports beloved by French-speaking people

The NHL -- a sport always played indoors -- may be coming to the Outdoor Life Network, the channel best known for bringing us the Tour de France. Lynne Kiesling theorizes that "hockey plus cycling offers a portfolio that gives each fan sufficient coverage during their respective seasons that they are willing to keep the subscription even during the off-season." I see. A tag team approach to maintaining audience numbers. It's just nutty enough to work!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Punk'd: The art world edition

Via PYLB, I learned something important. A "secretive 'guerilla' artist" can be so secretive that he refuses to be photographed yet not so secretive as to eschew the services of a media spokeswoman or resist displaying his own press clippings. Now those are some brand-building skills.

Don't get me wrong. I like the guy's work. Even if the feeling's not mutual.

Jane post-Jane

Jane Pratt may be going to Sirius Radio, meaning Jane magazine is losing an editor -- and perhaps its advertisers: "Fashion advertisers such as Donna Karan and Marc Jacobs are already said to be getting skittish...and that can't be good news for a magazine that has been flat this year."

But are advertisers nervous because of Pratt's absence or because the demo of the publication is surprisingly underage? "The mag this year had to forego liquor and tobacco ads because it was found that a large segment of its audience falls below the legal age for consuming the products." I don't think this is the audience Fairchild was hoping for. Nothing kills cache faster than a Clearasil ad.

Can we all fit into The Gap lounge?

Instead of creating genuine buzz among teens and twentysomethings, The Gap's watchmechange viral seems primarily to garner the the attention of business writers. Still, it's worth reading about if only for a very thorough listing of Gap's patently bad decision-making over the past few years and the news that stores will now have "a lounge area to encourage lingering and mingling." Lingering at The Gap? Sure. Because it's just so very, very hard for twenty-five year olds to find places to gather these days.

No wonder that buy-out talk was just a rumor.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Does this count as new media?

Ads printed on eggs. Of course, not a good media choice if you're targeting vegans.

There's a term for that

Right there in the middle of a story about Wal-Mart's latest TV spots, a brilliant new term is coined: "concept envy." Finally. 87% of advertising can now be properly diagnosed.


Your results may vary but David Brooks claims Americans are getting nicer: "America is becoming more virtuous. Americans today hurt each other less than they did 13 years ago. They are more likely to resist selfish and shortsighted impulses. They are leading more responsible, more organized lives. A result is an improvement in social order...." Of the many reasons cited, rap seems to have been overlooked.

Keep your eye on the ball

Mark Silveira points out a very good ad.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Move him to the sleeping porch, it's so much more comfortable

A Southern writer takes to his bed. Maybe someone should take him a pullet. Or at the very least, some sweet tea.

"We stuck a steeple on it, and you'd never know it wasn't always a church."

The Wall Street Journal recently called Dallas' office real estate market "the worst in the country." But say it with me: there are never problems, only opportunities. Our abandoned commercial properties are now being saved by churches.

Their brains are fried

Our nation's greatest minds cannot figure out why people don't buy wool sweaters in July. Hurricanes? Terrorism? Or the knowledge that all that crap will be marked down two months from now when you really need it?

Oh. And if you're in Texas, happy tax-free weekend! Remember: yes to $99 shoes. No if they're $100.

There really was a valley. And it really was hidden.

The history of Ranch dressing. Pine-Sol and Clorox play crucial roles.

Fine. Keep your CDs.

Another day, another record company doing something to piss me off. Is there any other industry so arrogant that it both ignores quality AND harasses its consumers?

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Share your thoughts, as long as they're our thoughts too

You know you can't curse like a sailor but did you realize you can't be, well, honest? At least if the online retailer is editing customer reviews. "While more sites recognize the potential for product reviews to build customer trust and loyalty, many are fearful that negative reviews might annoy manufacturers or hurt sales." That kind of thinking is almost quaint, isn't it? A true vestige of a past era. But the smart ones are learning: "Manufacturers also see product reviews as a tool to gain direct customer feedback, instead of using focus groups."

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Does Splenda have some splainin' to do?

What's an artificial sweetener to do? You try to build a little brand awareness but then your competitors go and call bullshit on you. It's a class-action cluster. And it's a real problem: should competitors be allowed to cripple you with expensive lawsuits? Should they be able to harass you into not advertising? And why didn't I go to law school so I could get rich off of all this?

TV's newest new newsy news show

There are the concerned few who really want to help but for others, it's simply too much fun to criticize new Current. It's not the concept so much. No, what seems to irritate everyone most about Current is that it's trying "way too hard to be 'down' with the kids." Interesting. Of all people, Current staffers should have known that cool is out.

I hope Current evolves into something interesting, fun and totally exploitable for advertising purposes. It's got potential. But so far, I think I've seen the format before. It was called Hot Dog.

Viral marketing, this and that

She keeps her clothes on and still this is quite shocking -- because it's from the formerly conservative people at Procter & Gamble. What's going on up there in Cincinnati? Oh. That.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Like William Hurt in Broadcast News, I don't know what crosses the line if the line keeps moving

The Caffeine Goddess tackles the subject of product placement in magazines and highlights this AdAge quote from a very self-assured Jane columnist: "I want readers to know my content hasn’t been dictated by advertising."

Oops. Too late.

I hardly have a good memory. Still, just in the past few days -- just while avoiding actual work to read the usual blogs -- several remarks seem to indicate that content is, let's say, shaped by advertisers. There's this Glenn Reynolds reaction to a Richard Posner article on blogs in which Posner argues the NYTimes, in order to "finance its large staff depends on advertising revenues and hence on the good will of advertisers.... These dependences constrain a newspaper in a variety of ways."

Or in a KausFiles post about Chrysler, there's this throwaway line: "Mercedes reliability did go to hell under Schrempp. The AP story run by WaPo ignores this rather important factor. (It's not the sort of thing newspapers are comfortable saying.)"

You say "comfortable." I say "dictated."

Reynolds himself asks "when did you last see a local paper do a big expose on car dealers or grocery stores?" Well, a local Dallas station did try reporting on Ford but when faced with losing ad dollars, they used their sister newspaper to repair the damage. And we're not even talking about magazines like InStyle or the lifestyle section of local papers, which are pure, pure product placements. (Aren't beauty editors, when not stocking their own shelves with swag, merely ad facilitators?) There may be real ethics to hash out here, but there's a lot of alarmist, self-important rhetoric that gets in the way. Hell, even ads get in the way. Yesterday, AdRants invited readers to comment on Gawker's unappealing sponsored date placers but to read the comments, you have to scroll past a Hewlett-Packard ad that looks just like, you guessed it, a regular AdRants post.

I guess it's good in a way. It's progress, right? After all, we've come a long way from the advertorial.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Coke, at long last, proves to be aptly named

Coca-Cola has plans for a new drink, one that "is said to burn 50 to 100 calories just by drinking a 12-oz. serving" and will be marketed to "active lifestyle consumers." Finally, the perfect endorsement deal for Lindsay Lohan.

Lesson: Disney-hating is not a business plan

The live-action side of DreamWorks is not doing well either. David Geffen claims that content "is too expensive to produce," Well, yeah. Another possibility: old, unimaginative, out-of-touch studio executives are too expensive to retain.