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.