Friday, July 29, 2005

Giving Hollywood the respect it deserves

Filthy Critic, I think I love you.

Do these jeans make me look pathetic?

Does it ever feel like The Gap does a good job of manufacturing PR but can't sell a stitch of clothing? Their new plan: give away a free iTunes download to shoppers who try on jeans. That's a big 99¢ pay day, so hurry in. You don't want to miss out on the freshest, most novel promotion ever. Or at least since Pepsi.

The Gap will then kick off "print and television ads that will feature a cast of musicians including singers Alanis Morissette, Joss Stone, Michelle Williams." It's an idea re-generation bandwagon! So let me plagiarize Ernie Schenck and ask: "maybe instead of beating the celebrity drum to death, any chance you might want to consider an actual concept for once?"

Hammered

I have never doubted the marketing genius of Home Depot since that day two years ago when I, a single woman with no carpentry skills, bought a shop vac. Now Home Depot is the nation's #2 retailer behind Wal-Mart. How'd that happen? It starts with an always-tinkering CEO whose business plan sounds vaguely like world domination: "'Home Depot will provide components to the infrastructure around your home. There will be materials provided from Home Depot in the road around your home. The water you drink will be transported through valves and pipes that Home Depot will supply. The hotel room that you stay in will be supported by Home Depot from construction to d├ęcor.'"

When that's done, Home Depot department managers will then invoke first-night rights in their local markets. But not to worry. All will be made right once they open their own convenience stores.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

McQuestion

Did McDonalds just announce their new relationship with DreamWorks Animation because they're oblivious to impending scandal or because they want to act before things get really, really bad?

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Now there's a mental image we can all appreciate

There are many lessons in today's Lloyd Grove column. The faithfulness of husbands, the vicissitudes of young love, even the hazards of hotel-magazine distribution deals -- which leads to this enchanting description of how Lollapalooza has changed: "'everything became designed to take kids by their ankles and shake all the cash out of their baggy jeans.'"

Can an old medium even have a new era?

For the first time ever, a Spanish-language radio station has topped our local Arbitron ratings. The Dallas Morning News claims this "milestone heralds a new era in Dallas radio, one where advertisers can no longer dismiss Spanish-language radio as simply a niche format." Maybe. Or maybe radio in general can be dismissed as simply a niche format.

I don't want to say that DMN may have missed a larger story here, but DMN may have missed a larger story here. Is all this a sign that non-Spanish speakers, by comparison, just aren't listening to radio anymore? Do Hispanics who prefer to speak Spanish listen to the radio because they have yet to embrace newer media? And most important, does this mean that Hispanic stations can finally get a payola scandal of their very own?

See what I mean. Larger stories, all of 'em.

People and their places

A Chuck E. Cheese for adults? History will long note this day. But for now, we must have more Starbucks! With more mood-setting compilation CDs! Because people like cheerfulness.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

A real corker

For the first time ever, more Americans prefer wine to beer. I blame the flatulent horse.

They don't have good hands and they're not good neighbors

Seth Stevenson at Slate calls Geico's "Tiny House" the best ad on TV. I think he might want to tap the brake there just a bit. But Stevenson does make an excellent point about Geico's overall strategy. Instead of trying to appeal to everyone with one bland campaign, Geico scattershoots with wildly different mini-campaigns aimed at different segments. It's a nervy departure from the "trust us" posture of every other auto insurer. And it seems appropriate for a comparatively new company selling direct to consumers. But does it work? "While its competitors are running lots of dour ads that exploit our fear of accidents, Geico stands out from the clutter with its oddball humor and lighthearted tone. The company has managed to inject fun into a product that we resent having to buy." That's the brilliant part.

As for "Tiny House," AdJab is worried: "In this day and age, any ad that manages to fool us is undoubtedly smart. Now we must ask ourselves what the world has come to when such a premise seems completely believable."

Monday, July 25, 2005

Does your magazine have a self-esteem problem? Take this short quiz to find out!

Jann Wenner is planning a new magazine, one "aimed at being a one-stop read for busy women. Stories about real-life experiences and high-profile crimes will mix with celebrity coverage, plus lifestyle and fashion features." Ought to be successful. That's the exact same format as primetime cable news.

But some of us find that a one-stop read is still too, too time-consuming. So we turn to new Quick & Easy with "vibrant-colored sidebars and graphics." Which sounds like the exact same format as a web page. There seems to be a lesson here. If you aren't part of the new media, maybe you can do what women's magazines have always advocated and just fake it.

Quote of the day

This: "Lock me in a room with a computer, an original San Andreas DVD and a binary-file editor, and I will be able to unlock the stuff in a matter of minutes."

I was locked in a room with a binary-file editor one time. It was fun but two months later, he left me for a guy. Oh wait. Maybe I'm confused.

It's the real brand

Interbrand has ranked the world's most valuable brands. Coke is #1. NotBillable is not mentioned.

The more you ignore advertising, the more it surrounds you

We wanted this to be professional. Efficient, adroit, cooperative, not a lot to ask. Alas, consumers refused to sit through our TV commercials so we went to plan B. Which lately means TiVo pop-up ads while you forward, automatically updated movie trailers on your hard drive and full-motion, 15-second ads within your video games. You will watch!

One question though. Will new game ratings and regulations discourage or attract advertisers? Because apparently cop-killing violence is OK but sex is too upsetting.

UPDATE: Ask and AdAge shall answer.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Damn. I'm a fad that is so over.

CNET takes a stroll down ol' memory lane and ranks the Top 10 Web Fads. Alarmingly, Blogger is number 9. More alarmingly, the guys at Jib Jab are number 10.

Ad revenue is a good thing

While some are sensitive enough to worry -- and worry -- about her soul, Martha Stewart is set to save at least her business empire. It won't be easy. The magazine that brings in a third of her company's revenue has seen "more than 65% of its ad volume [disappear] between 2002 and 2004." But Martha's a game girl whose fans really, really want to like her. So much so they have asked her to blog. Yesss. Please, please, please, Martha, you must do it. I don't want to go another 24 hours without learning which hired underling deserves to be run over and why.

The strange appeal of Jared Fogle

From the department of "and the horse you rode in on:" Subway fired their agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners and, possibly, the marketing director who chose them. But here's the shocker. "Subway executives have said when ads featuring Mr. Fogle stop running, sales dropped as much as 10%." Is that believable? Goodby had tried to jettison Jared but they should have known better. You can't fight a guy whose popularity may be based on an enormous porn collection.

I am a fan of baseball promotional nights

Mainly because they tend to be weird. And therefore fun. It's marketing at its most imaginative and Faith Nights are no exception. "Churches, like thousands of other organizations, had outings to ballparks before with discounts on group tickets. But Faith Nights go further: They have become a marketing tool, targeting churches with promotional campaigns. And they provide entertainment and specific activities geared to those fans." Like a Moses bobblehead. Or VeggieTale trivia games. Always remember: "'God doesn't want us not to have fun.'"

The diaper business gets messy

Dallas's own Kimberly-Clarke announces that 6000 of their employees will be asked to seek CEO opportunities. But the company won't announce which employees. Thus demoralizing all 62,000 of their workforce.

The problem seems to be efficiency. Tissues -- especially the new anti-viral ones that appeal so effectively to our inner Howard Hughes -- and diapers are posting big sales, but the Huggies price war with Pampers has been brutal. And oh yeah, blame Wal-Mart: "The job cuts 'reflect the changing relationship with Wal-Mart and the other big retailers that have reduced suppliers' pricing power.'" In other words, Kimberly-Clarke needs to make 'em cheaper and faster. How do you say "plant relocation" in Bangladeshi?

But the real lesson may be this: "'Historically larger firms are not the job creators, they are the job shedders in America.'"

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Must love ads

Important movements in history often begin as a lone voice in the wilderness. Just so with AdAge's bold new stand against product placement. They start by revealing that the movie Must Love Dogs may in fact be one artfully created infomercial: "The script, originally written with a generic online dating service, now includes numerous mentions and placements for PerfectMatch.com....PerfectMatch.com has three placements in the movie trailer alone."

Then Rance Cain shocks us all by explaining "Why Product Placement Does Not Equal Brand Building." Bad news if you were in on the Herbie deal. Good news if this prediction comes true: "it won’t be long before movie companies will let people into theaters free to drive DVD sales."

Job news, part 3

Citigroup's Sandy Weill is rich enough. Now he wants to leave his job to start a private equity fund with a Saudi prince. (I can't tell you how many times I've come close to doing that exact same thing.) There's just one hitch: Citigroup won't continue to pay his bonus or let him use the company jet after he leaves. So Weill may not be meeting his prince so soon.

Most employees get mad and quit. Only the very privileged can get mad and threaten to stay.

Job news, part 2

Women who take time off to have children have trouble re-entering the workforce. Hardly news. But this kind of thinking might be: "staffing strategy for superior talent could possibly come from an ilk of lost stars—women and men (primarily women) who had given up their promising careers to become stay-at-home moms...the creation of an agency environment that uses these mothers in a part-time fashion while giving them benefits that would truly help them at home and make their lives easier would create a staff of highly motivated, talented, and eager-to-be-stimulated people."

The Mommy Agency? Well, if the business doesn't work out, you could always pitch it as a movie idea. "9 to 5" meets "Look Who's Talking." A Holly Hunter vehicle.

Job news, part 1

Depending on which USAToday article you read, full-time employment either has great benefits or next to no upside. First: "self-employment plunged last month as entrepreneurs sought steadier income and benefits with established companies." But then there's this: "Many companies are likely to ask workers to pay more for their insurance, and rising health care costs mean companies may dole out lower raises." So take the job for the health plan or quit to start freelancing because the health plan sucks. Whatever. Just don't send any resumes to Hewlett-Packard.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Shona Seifert's new street cred

ADWEEK has more Seifert details, the best of which is that she'll likely serve her sentence at a Danbury, Connecticut facility. Sound familiar? With good reason. That's the same minimum security prison that will house recently sentenced rapper Lil Kim. Let the beautiful friendship and long-lasting business collaboration begin!

Friday, July 15, 2005

Why should the trees suffer?

Former Y&R senior partner Shona Seifert, sentenced to jail for overbilling a government client, is also required by the judge to write an ethics guidebook for ad agencies. I'll clear a space on the shelf right now. It will make a perfect companion edition to Martha's how-to business book.

A more interesting exercise might have been to require TBWA/Chiat/Day to explain why they hired Seifert as president when she was facing trial.

Are you for real?

Because there are authors other than JK Rowling, publishers have to think of some way to sell all those books. Their solution: blogs written by fictional characters.

Sorta like that whole tree falling in the forest question

All the outrage over Chevy's all-star game banner may not matter. The ratings are in and apparently no one was watching.

Somebody give Bud Selig a hug. Gosh darn it, he tried.

"Citigroup pres/COO leaves bank to seek CEO opportunities"

That's a crawl I just read on TV and, really, isn't it the most brilliantly worded sentence you've ever seen? CEO opportunities? Why, of course! Stepping down, parting ways, getting laid off, leaving to spend more time with family -- these terms are so inadequate now. They utterly fail to convey any sense of self-worth or expectation for the future. So take a pledge with me now: we, all of us, will never be "jobless" again. We will simply be "seeking CEO opportunities."

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Quote of the day

From this: "it's worth noting that women overwhelmingly are the ones who shop for everything, including men's wear."

Paper money

Maybe this will inspire a cute little chart on page one of the Money section. Or maybe not. The publisher of USAToday saw profits drop 4.5% last quarter. "Advertising demand, while growing at local papers, fell nationally as automakers and political groups cut spending." The good news for Gannett: that's changing even as we blog. But one thing will not improve. As "the largest owner of NBC affiliates," Gannett's broadcast unit is in for a colorless fall season.

And just so you know, "growing at local papers" means 3%. You could probably read about that yourself but you'd have to get past the false cover.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Hand me down my walking cane

It's OK. We've missed the Rubberband man too.

The view from my banana seat

I know only 2 things about the Tour de France: first, Lance Armstrong has won it for, like, 184 straight years and second, today is a very good sign he might win again.

Which brings up a question: what do you think of Armstrong's new Nike 10//2 TV spot? Some have had their doubts about so plainly focusing on Armstrong's cancer but I find the ad well-done, restrained and profoundly moving. And it's Lance's story, right? He can use it to inspire others. He can laugh at it in Dodgeball. He can talk about it in a TV commercial. And he can use it to persuade a corporation like Nike to help cancer patients. Whether we approve or not seems beside the point.

Finally, let us feel just a tad sorry for the Tour. This is Lance's last appearance in the race and when he retires, no one on this side of the Atlantic may ever think of the event again.

Get 'em Lance.

Live from Lincoln Center: "It's very much happiness"

How does Lincoln Center sell tickets to people who don't read the New Yorker? Or, for that matter, speak English? "Founded in 1996 as a celebration of Western and non-Western artistic forms, the Lincoln Center Festival, perhaps more than any other in the city, relies on the enthusiasm of local foreign residents...to fill seats." But reaching this audience takes old-fashioned work. For the staging "of an Indonesian epic, members of the Lincoln Center marketing team - read, interns - approached Indonesian mosques in Long Island City and Indonesian restaurants in Park Slope. It dropped fliers at an Indonesian-owned bank on Wall Street, a South Asian martial arts studio in the Flower District, and even a couple of yoga studios in SoHo."

Naturally this reminded me of Kentucky. Maybe the message here is that selling the arts takes a marketing team as creative and hard-working as the onstage artists.

Monday, July 11, 2005

"Own a word"

Good advice from Al Ries in AdAge: "What’s your brand? If you can’t answer that question about your own brand in two or three words, your brand’s in trouble. Powerful, long-lasting brands are built by owning a word in the mind. What’s a Volvo? A safe car."

It's hard. Companies, like well-meaning people, want to please everyone: "A few years ago the CEO of Wal-Mart’s ad agency was asked, 'What would you say is Wal-Mart’s USP?'...Without hesitation, he replied: 'Value, loyalty and quality.'" But you can't have all three because you have to focus. To own a word, you have to make a decision. You have to know who you are and who the customer is.

To own a word, you have to buy a clue.

The little idea that couldn't

If you have DirecTV, you've now seen their NFL Sunday Ticket spot 2,387,495 times. You hear the opening notes of the re-worked Willy Wonka musical number and like a bullet to the brainpan, your instinct to live is shattered. Or is it just me?

And you have to ask why. Because, when you think about it, the spot probably seemed funny in the conceptual stage. Forget about the finished product as we know it and imagine how you'd describe the idea at the initial presentation: take an existing song, camp up the lyrics, have it performed by a totally unexpected singer and choreograph the whole thing with plenty of zany background action. Which is also how you'd described the idea behind this spot. So why does the DirectTV commercial blow so very hard and Burger King's doesn't?

Execution, right? DirecTV chose a lackluster tune and an unappealing actor who can't sing. They went with a neighborhood backdrop instead of something fanciful or reminiscent of a 193Os Hollywood soundstage. They wasted the potential of an impressive cast of pro players. And they never, ever pushed the idea to its full zany potential or tried to include a single surprising element -- not even a hint of Vida ass. And that's just sad. It wasn't a big idea, but it wasn't a bad one either. Without inspired execution, it's just another 30 seconds to TiVo through. Hundreds of times a day.

A million here, a million there

Reagan Greer is a man for our times. He shuns both truthful advertising and humble resignation announcements. But not everyone can appreciate his special brand of genius. After promoting false jackpot amounts not once but four times, Greer, the Texas Lottery director, has been forced to resign. "In a prepared statement released Friday, Mr. Greer noted that the lottery contributes $1 billion annually to schools.... But he came under fire in recent weeks...for his staff's decision to advertise the Lotto Texas jackpot at $8 million – even though ticket sales would support a jackpot of only about $6.5 million."

And congratulations to the government oversight committees, investigative journalists and law enforcement officials who courageously stood down while a solitary blogger checked Greer's math and called for punishment. Well played.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Maybe a little too energetic

Dude. Whaddaya feedin' that cat?

It's been a hard week for the fellows in Ft. Worth

Poor American Airlines. First, their big new ad campaign produced a grand prize winner who refused his prize and shot them the bird. And today, their battle against this region's only profitable airline took an unfortunate turn when DFW Airport checked the wind direction and decided they really, really do want Southwest Airlines to fly out of their airport.

Well, I feel better. How 'bout you?

Shocking news from the world of medicine: doctors admit they might not know it all. "Four in 10 doctors said they received no training in medical school on prescribing controlled substances; more than one-half received no training on identifying prescription drug abuse or addiction. Three-fourths said they had no training in medical school identifying diversion of prescription drugs for illicit purposes."

The reason is, of course, advertising. That's what I read in the papers anyway. "Frist said advertising pushes consumers to ask for drugs they may not need. That pressure can also influence physicians to prescribe those medications or change the prescription...." Advertising might also raise awareness of medical conditions consumers might not know are treatable but that's not important right now. Or it might motivate consumers to visit a doctor when they otherwise wouldn't but that's not important either. What matters is government wants drug companies to impose an ad ban on themselves which Bristol-Myers has obediently already done.

So to re-cap: even though they admit they receive little to no prescription training -- even though they wilt under the slightest pressure from patients but presumably will stand up firmly to future overtures from drug companies -- doctors will be trusted to stay on top of every new pharmaceutical development. Because they have that kind of down time. And consumers, the big brutes, will just have to suffer.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Tom's love, Wendy's chili and the growing irrelevancy of facts

I don't want this to be all about Tom Cruise because, dear Lord, who among us can take more of that? But when Ernie Schenck discusses Cruise as a brand, he asks, "What if Cruise actually is in love with Holmes?"

To which I must answer, "Does it matter?"

Did it matter that Wendy's wasn't responsible for a severed finger in their chili? Apparently not; business suffered anyway. Does is matter that shark attacks are statistically rare? No, because the prevailing view in our world is that sharks are everywhere. Everywhere!

It's tricky when the facts are on your side but the public isn't. Seth Godin says "changing a worldview requires you to get your prospects to admit that they were wrong. This is awfully hard to do....tapping into a worldview almost always requires more than a new title or a new wrapper or a new ad. I think it requires rethinking the product itself." Is this possible for odd humans and large restaurant franchises? For Cruise, whose brand is surely damaged within his own industry, that might mean fewer talk show appearances, more roles in indie films and most important a moratorium on public displays of Katie. All of a sudden, he could be an artist instead of a freakshow.

Wendy's took what seemed like the right steps to recovery -- intense investigation, public disclosure even free Frostys -- but these rational measures failed to address the emotional "ick" factor. A better idea would have been not to serve chili for a while. Off the menu and out of people's minds. At least until the weather turns cold and everyone remembers they like it.

Sometimes you just need to remove the very thing that's the problem. Even if there is, in fact, no problem. Because honesty doesn't always equal sincerity and the facts don't always matter.

Word to Paul Cappelli

I just noticed this and am so genuinely amused, I'm going to totally cave and apologize for making fun of you. Honest.

Don't worry. I'm sure this kind of attitude doesn't affect ratings or anything.

TV Newser is always fascinating. Mostly because it reveals TV news people to be the pettiest, pissiest, most self-absorbed people on the planet. And that's not even including the part where someone refers to his own coverage of the London bombings as "the glory and the thrill."

I thought I saw you at the mall

Looks like we all went shopping last month. Two things of interest: "'Clearly consumers have shrugged off higher oil prices.'" This is so counterintuitive it just might be right. And: "Those missing denim and bohemian trends, such as Gap Inc. didn't fare as well."

Listen. Hear that? That's maniacal cackling and it's coming from Sarah Jessica Parker.

Questions I've never thought to ask myself

1) Is it possible I've had too much to drink? and 2) Why aren't there any good Christian video games?

London calling

Heaven bless the Land of Hope and Glory.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Quote of the day

This: "Trying to be hip will get Coke nowhere. In fact, this brand's obsession with youth reminds me of what some wag once said about a woman who'd had a little too much work done on herself: 'If she gets one more facelift, she's going to be wearing a Van Dyke.'"

It's an original opinion, I'll give you that

Did Mel Gibson begat Tom Cruise?

That's more like it

June 30: NotBillable notes a need for brevity and levity at Squawkblog.
July 1: NotBillable takes it back.

Europe's oral fixation

To gain European Commission approval for their merger with Gillette, P&G may have to spit out Crest. Let's hope that, instead, Gillette will sell off Oral-B so the brand might finally produce commercials that don't look like spoofs.

Fashionsportsentertainmentporn

P. Diddy may redesign the McDonalds uniform and rappers get all the good endorsement deals. Including shoe contracts that used to go to athletes. Why? Athletes get in trouble. And while we're appalled that Kobe might cheat on his wife, we expect it -- and worse -- from music stars. At least, that's according to famed marketer 50 Cent, "ex-drug dealer turned rap mogul who survived nine bullet wounds from a shooting in 2000."

If it's true that ''kids in their teens and 20s don't make a delineation between sports and entertainment,'" how do they feel about porn? It must be part of the mix since Playboy is updating their uniform too. Can't wait to see that.

A sign you've lost touch with your audience

A Cirque du Soleil show is my idea of hell but people in Vegas seem to go for it. Except for the latest production. Le Reve at Steve Wynn's new resort is being revised to cut "one of the show's most unsettling scenes, the pregnant-looking performers who were dropped into the pool from high above."

Friday, July 01, 2005

I am not a bot!

In case you had any doubt.

The party in your mouth

Someone's awfully excited about new Crest mouthwash, or at least its geniunely pleasing package design. But buck up, Mr. Listerine bottle. This isn't just a battle of beauty. The real question here may be which brand can hold their liquor.

But if she gets skinny, can she still be the Snapple lady?

Wendy joins the cast of VH1's Celebrity Fit Club. Ya gotta ask: is it just the start of a new diet drink promotion?