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.

Coveting thy neighbor's box office

Motivated by Mel Gibson's success with "The Passion Of The Christ" -- which no studio wanted to make -- executives are now marketing movies to churches. So it's official. Hollywood will copy anything. If you want original thinking, though, you can talk to Mark Cuban, Todd Wagner and Steven Soderbergh. They're so radical, they want to sell DVDs right there in the theater lobby. And when they do, Blockbuster won't have a prayer.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Dylan interviews Dylan, calls it "art"

So is that PBS documentary about Bob Dylan really more like an ad? Yep.

Have you ever heard anyone, ever, use the phrase "massive self-blow-job?" Nope.

Can I get you gentlemen something? Some Pizza Shooters, Shrimp Poppers or Extreme Fajitas?

A Texas-intensive update from ADWEEK. First, new Salvation Army spots from The Richards Group are set to run next month. I can only imagine that's worth announcing rightthissecond because Stan is tired of hearing about GSD&M's Red Cross spots.

But GSD&M is Omnicom, so we'll hear more: they've worked a product placement deal between Chili's and NBC's The Office. That's The Office, not Office Space, and that's Chili's, not Tchotchke's. But maybe no one will notice.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Your mother was right: Paul is the cutest

Of course, no discussion of Fidelity's new campaign can avoid the accusation that Paul McCartney has sold out. At least Slate's Seth Stevenson puts it in context: "I'm not sure that the concept of selling out has much traction anymore. The battle is over, and the sellouts have won."

Besides, if you had to watch Michael Jackson fund Neverland with profits he made selling your band's songs, what would you do? That alone should end the discussion. Best just to enjoy all the old footage of Paul.

If we're still troubled by the celebrity sell-out, Grant McCracken gently tells us to lighten up Francis. He declares the Amex My Card, My Life spots -- celebrating the wildly different personalities of Ellen DeGeneres, Tiger Woods and Robert DeNiro -- to be a victory of individualism over the uniformity and conformity of the brand. The result: "contemporary culture is now the beneficiary of more interesting advertising which in turn serves as an inducement to more difference....Whatever else these ads are about, they celebrate personal expression." Not selling out, just celebrating -- let's say it together. Or individually. Whatever you prefer.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Wal-Mart mind tricks, set to music

When it's Ray Charles and Starbucks, everyone's all worshipful and eager to lionize the trailblazing marketing minds at work. When it's Garth Brooks and Wal-Mart, oh good God. The world is ending. Society is being taken over by Huns. And worse, it might lead to illegal downloads.

How do the folks in Bentonville do that? Isn't it enough for them to be the world's top retailer? Do they have to interfere with our powers of rational thought and objective analysis too?


So. How 'bout those chewing gum sales?

Fascinating to me and maybe to me only: Gum sales are up 6% thanks in large part to varieties that promise to whiten our teeth to TV-anchor-like brightness. You have to think they're going somewhere with this. Vitamin gum, slimming gum, brain-boosting gum -- I can't wait to see what's next from Wrigley, where they own everything including Lifesavers AND Altoids. Yes, Altoids!


ADWEEK today: "IPG disclosed, in an 8-K filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, that the latest company restatement is due, in part, to 'violations of laws,' the 'misappropriation of assets,' 'inappropriate customer charges' and 'falsified books and records.'"

Such passive language. Perhaps they will yet discover that confession is good for the soul. I suggest this tack: start with something simple like "nearly 100 of our own IPG employees stole money."

The crimes may be limited mostly to European offices but still, don't you cringe just a little? Me too. That's why I like this, from MultiCultClassics Essay 134: "Michael Jackson does not represent ideal parenting....Doctor Kervorkian does not represent the AMA....Shona Seifert does not represent the advertising industry."

I'm just going to spend a few minutes chanting that. Then I'll be fine.

Thanks for clearing that up

Friday I asked how bad things were at Blockbuster. That next day, CEO John Antioco called up the Wall Street Journal to announce that his business is "in the tank".

I'm working on a follow-up question.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Is it just me?

Ideally a TV spot should capture your attention. But it shouldn't give you violent Crying Game flashbacks, should it?

Thanks a lot, Clones.

Blockbuster: "stock price, schmock price."

It was their rival who warned about poor performance but it was Blockbuster who took it in the shorts. Today their share price hit an all-time low and people are starting to talk.

Are things really that bad? While Carl Icahn was going WWF on the CEO last spring, Blockbuster was testing new video on demand in the UK -- even though Blockbuster "believes that because studios can earn more from DVDs than video-on-demand, the studios will have a vested interest in supporting the older technology." So they may not be groundbreakers but they do know how to hedge their bets. Let's hope, at least for the sake of the Dallas workforce, that Blockbuster knows a little something. Because it's pretty clear that no one wants to leave the house to rent movies. Even from McDonalds.

Small consolation

Isn't it always the way? Stunning good looks can garner plenty of attention but never any real talk of commitment. How else to explain the so-so sales for nano? Some say it's a cost issue though that kind of logical reasoning can't be right. Maybe everyone has been distracted by the phone. Maybe everyone has spent the last week learning to hack it.

There is however some good news. Those who love nano, really love nano.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Our long national talent show continues

Try as we might to look sophisticated for the BBC it simply won't work. We love reality shows so much we want to marry them, on live TV and in prime time. We love them so much that next year, it'll cost $700,000 for a 30-second spot American Idol.

And that's the Wednesday show, not the performance-packed Tuesday show. Meaning that we don't care about talent so much as we love seeing youthful dreams cruelly and abruptly crushed. Not to be left out, the Food Network will air a second search for a show host. Because even people who think network TV is unoriginal tripe are hooked on...unoriginal tripe.

Hans hates hybrids

"Few European auto executives can even discuss hybrid technology without referring to a recent test conducted by a German trade magazine, Auto Bild, in which a Mercedes-Benz S.U.V. with a diesel engine was pitted against the Lexus RX 400h in a drive from New York to San Francisco. The Mercedes finished with substantially better fuel efficiency."

Please. Do tell.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Is it art? Is it garbage? No, it's just advertising.

ADWEEK takes a look at a new outdoor campaign for an environmental group: "Mindful that trash has been presented nobly in galleries as 'found art,' Felipe Bascope was careful 'not to overly art direct' the billboards going up this week near the Pacific Coast Highway.... He wanted the 3-D material mounted on the boards to look exactly like what it is--garbage, collected in a single day of beach cleanup."

Maybe Bascope has instead hit upon a new creative technique. Call it "found concept."

"Blank is the new blank" is the new "That was so 5 minutes ago."

I get weary -- women do get weary -- hearing the same old tired expressions.

Try a little thoughtfulness.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Don't I know you from somewhere?

SicolaMartin has unveiled their new logo design for Quark. Will you love it? The Scottish Arts Council did when they bought it back in 2001.

Men's fashion question

When you change your name to "Dockers San Francisco," could it be considered too overtly metrosexual?

Star-struck in Cincinnati

Suspend your belief and play along. Teri Hatcher claims she really does use Nice 'n Easy. Because she's just that busy! But Procter did get their money's worth if only for this Hatcher quote: "In all my career, in my ups and downs, I've never had a beauty campaign. This was meaningful that at almost 41 years old, I could be getting my first beauty campaign."

That's almost poignant, in a post-modern, endorsement-deal kind of way.

At the other end of the age spectrum, Procter signed Danica Patrick -- the only Indy car driver anyone can name -- to shill for Secret. Would it be going out on a limb to say that this move is a step up from Secret's sponsorship of the WNBA?

And would it be too bold to conclude that researchers in Cincinnati think celebrities are unnecessary for men's brands like Old Spice but for women, it's evidently the only way to get attention.

Monday, September 12, 2005

I didn't know he was a fan

As the nation turns its attention to the John Roberts hearings, this NYTimes op-ed tackles the tough issues: "Could a human-like artificial intelligence constitute a 'person' for purposes of protection under the 14th Amendment...?"

I think we all know why that's important.

P&G: taking over shelves you never thought of

Controversial as this stance may be, I don't believe it's possible to have too many Tides. Even if it means the inevitable advent of Tide with Febreze. Or, more accurately Tide (R) with Febreze (R)! But I do prefer Tide Original Scent and quietly celebrated this morning when I found it -- in the 200 fl oz size! -- at the Home Depot checkout line. Did it feel weird to purchase a detergent at Home Depot? Yes, yes it did. But the upside is I'm having it delivered along with the convection range.

The F word

After her run as a Pier 1 spokesperson generated only tepid reviews -- and sales -- Kirstie Alley seems to be having better luck with the Jenny Craig campaign. Sure she lost weight. The real shocker: she actually got to use the word "fat" in a diet TV spot.

Years from now, we'll all remember where we were when we first heard it.

Quote of the day

And maybe the best lede ever: "Tommy Hilfiger celebrated his 20th anniversary as a designer with a collection so lame it seriously called into question his right to claim membership of that self-important profession."

But wait. Maybe Hilfiger does have some influence after all.

Meanwhile on the banks of the Olentangy

Let us pause now and give thanks for the sweet, sweet skills of Vince Young. Did you see the pass to Limas Sweed? Has there ever been a more melodious name than Limas Sweed? It was all so overwhelming and emotional, I forgot to keep up with the Brent Musberger drinking game. Pardner!

Friday, September 09, 2005

Again with the fake TV news person?

Because FrontBurner continues to be fascinated by it, let's re-visit the new Dallas Morning News campaign, which seems remarkable only for the use of a Candace Bergen voiceover. A FrontBurner reader "who knows his business" writes: "it's reminiscent of the campaign that DMN's agency, The Richards Group, created for the Dallas Times Herald years ago using the voice of Mason Adams, who had played an editor on Lou Grant.... I think that The Richards Group is doing a terrific job."

Oh really? Because, you know, usually, when an agency recycles an idea it produced 20 years ago for another client, this is not considered, at least by people in the industry, to be "doing a terrific job."

Stan Richards' legacy aside and all.

Matchbox or Hot Wheels?

Hot Wheels. Definitely Hot Wheels.

Those girls have cool clothes

The employees of ProjectAlabama are different than most industry people gathered at New York's Fashion Week. For one, they're probably not living with a former pool boy from Sao Paulo. For another, it will actually make you feel good to read about them.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

My favorite was the Bic Banana. Yours?

Since you swipe them from the office supply cabinet, it's thanks to your employer that Bic has sold its 100 billionth pen. Goofy news item or meaningful milestone in product design? Both! At a time when fountain pens were impractical and other ballpoints were too expensive and leaky, Bic pioneered "what has since become a mainstay of modern mass-produced commerce -- well designed products, using good technology and made accessible to everyone at cheap prices and then sold across the world."

And another thing: that one pen -- the one that lets you see the ink level -- that's a model called 'Cristal.' Think of that elegant name the next time you see one chewed up, split open and stuck to the bottom of your desk drawer.

Flashmobs for the cine set

While everyone else is still puzzling over a so-so summer box office, movie lovers are staging guerilla drive-ins. There's probably a generational, societal or marketing lesson in there somewhere but I'm so pissed at being excluded, I can't figure it out.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Admit it. You bought one already.

The phone we knew about and are only surprised by its ugliness. But nano?

I wept.

An elegant cloak for a more civilized age

A British costume warehouse does some housecleaning and what they find causes every male under 40 to wet himself.

Lou Grant musta been busy

FrontBurner notices that the ailing Dallas Morning News is running new radio and TV spots featuring the voice of Candace Bergen. They're from The Richards Group so you can choose from two appropriate responses. Bow down before the independent greatness of Stan Richards (again). Or ask: are Dallasites so contemptuous of our real news people that we'll only listen to a fictional one?

The Colonel tries for King

If you're like me, you still haven't forgiven KFC for inflicting the dancing dead Colonel Sanders on us lo those many years ago. So it's understandably difficult to provide an objective evaluation of their new Flavor Station campaign. Let's just say the cubicle-setting of the site vignettes only reminds me of Burger King. Who did it better. Last year.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a graph? Not so much

It's important to remember that people who use charts, tables or matrices -- especially matrices -- are just like you and me. They have families. They have feelings. They deserve, ultimately, to be treated with respect.


It's going to take some doing to improve on this Mark Silveira graph.

For Mac nerds, the sun will come out tomorrow

Steve Jobs will make a big announcement Wednesday and if you have the iPod phone square in your office pool, you're in good shape. But wait. Will we still think it's a big announcement if we learn the phone only holds 25 songs? BusinessWeek re-caps all the other Apple speculation and offers this Jobs-Brain-In-A-Nutshell rundown: "he has long argued against the subscription model, saying consumers want to own rather than rent their music. He doesn't believe people want to watch movies on portable digital players' tiny screens. And he has said Apple can do more for its customers by sticking to its proprietary approach to developing products, rather than spending time getting them to work with less popular products from others."

Quote of the day

From this: "McCartney's new album, 'Chaos and Creation in the Backyard,' comes out next week. It was sent around to reviewers under the name 'Pete Mitchell' because of piracy fears. The press CD is also watermarked and not playable in a computer. Of course, what Capitol Records doesn't realize is that McCartney's fans are too old to know how to pirate anything."

In related news, the outcry over lost profits from illegal downloads loses a little something when the Songwriters Guild's own manager may turn out to be a real thief.

Is that your TV or mine?

In a post that throws cold and contrarian water square in the face of conventional wisdom, Techdirt questions if anyone really wants a TV in their phone.

Unexpected announcement of the day: I'm proud of Dallas

Actually the entire North Texas area is welcoming Katrina evacuees: "In McKinney, the city, businesses and volunteers combined to transform a former Wal-Mart from vacant space to a shelter, complete with showers, meals, first aid and bedding for 250, in less than 72 hours. The building had been scheduled to be demolished this month."

Even the Dallas job market looks promising for new arrivals. So should we call them evacuees or refugees? Or consumers? At least one bank -- Hibernia -- is running radio spots specifically addressing them. Exploitative? Not at all. They're straightforward spots much like conventional post-disaster claims messages from insurance companies. If I were a Hibernia customer, I'd feel a little better after hearing them. A little.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Grandpa is a little bit rock and roll


Quote of the day

Yes, I am becoming obsessed with shopping news: "there just aren't enough butts in America to wear all the jeans the stores have stocked."

Maybe Rita Cosby will host an in-depth special to deal with the issue. Look for it in the listings -- "America: Where are the butts?"