March 02, 2015

Daring Greatly And Failing Miserably


My favorite car campaigns of all time were Doyle Dane's Volkswagen, Ammirati's BMW, and Scali's Volvo.

These 3 campaigns had one thing in common: They didn't try to tell me who I was, they told me who they were. They told me why their product was great, and in so doing, created great brands.

They understood that the best way to build most brands is with product-focused advertising.

Which leads us to Cadillac's new campaign. You can read all about it here. As you probably know, Cadillac changes campaigns more enthusiastically than Bruce Jenner changes sexes.

Supposedly, this new campaign is not a campaign, it's a re-branding. Well, technically, according Cadillac's CMO, it's not a re-branding either. It's a "re-invention."

What is a "re-invention," you ask? As far as I can tell, it's exactly like a re-branding, only way more expensive.

First, Cadillac is moving its headquarters to New York City's Soho area. How cool is that?

I guess some people from Detroit think of this as the height of hipness. To a lot of New Yorkers, Soho is where you go to admire Korean tourists. On the other hand, if I was the CMO of Cadillac, I wouldn't mind having breakfast every morning at Balthazar either.

Next, Cadillac is "tapping into the Millennial mindset." Of course, you can't do anything in marketing these days without invoking the M word. Just one little problem. Last I looked, Millennials were buying about 12% of new cars and about 0% of Cadillacs.

But maybe it's just their "mindset" he's targeting. This could be problematic because mindsets often have trouble getting car loans.

I don't really care much for the campaign. It's called "Dare Greatly." It feels like an ad school version of "Think Different."

One problem with the campaign is the problem with so much advertising these days. It's full of lofty thoughts and is devoid of persuasion.

Another problem is in the imagery. The CMO seems to be so enchanted with Soho that in addition to moving there, he also shot the spots there. When Chrysler shot in Detroit, they "dared greatly." But leaning on the imagery of Soho seems to me like daring tentatively.

A third problem is that the execution doesn't match the strategy. "Dare greatly" is a quote from Teddy Roosevelt. Roosevelt and and his boys were called the "Rough Riders." They were famous for a brave charge up San Juan Hill during the Spanish-American War. 

But this campaign is very fey and artsy. It features some people we're supposed to admire for following Roosevelt's dictum. I have serious doubts that the Rough Riders would consider fashion design "daring greatly." Their idea of daring greatly was getting up on a horse and shooting something.

One of the people featured in the campaign is Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who I actually do admire. Only problem is he looks more like he swallowed a Cadillac than drives one.

Which leads me to a little poem..
Some ads are merely regrettable
And some are completely incredible
I can't see Steve Wozniak
Buying a Cadillac
Unless the damn thing was edible
“Luxury brands don’t sell products, they sell dreams,” says Cadillac's CMO. Yeah, maybe. But car dealers sell products. And when they don't, CMOs have very bad dreams.

The Cadillac re-invention needs to arrive very quickly at advertising that persuasively extols the exceptional qualities of the product -- not the purported mindset of Millennials.

Otherwise they may find they have dared greatly and failed miserably.



February 26, 2015

Brand, Bullshit & Beyond


Lately, the Ad Contrarian blog has been breaking all kinds of attendance records.

In trying to analyze the reason for this sudden popularity, I've noticed something. People seem to love posts with the word "bullshit" in the title.

Being the kind of guy who likes to give the customers what they want, from now on every post title will contain the word "bullshit." I think this is what CMOs call "best practices."

Last week, I really gave it to the "Global CEO" of a huge ad agency concerning a video he did in which he invoked the genius of Steve Jobs for his own purposes -- and got it 100% wrong.

The guy was lecturing on his theory called "Why Your Brand Is More Important Than Your Product" which, of course, is the constant mantra of the world's professional brand babblers. To bolster his theory he invoked the name of Steve Jobs and proclaimed that the reason for Steve's great success was that he, too, put brand first.

Only problem was that Mr. Global was absolutely, positively, laughably wrong. In fact, Steve was such a believer in the power of the product, that according to Allison Johnson, his VP of Worldwide Marketing, at Apple "brand" was a "dirty word" and Steve "dreaded, hated" the word branding.

Now we get an equally powerful repudiation of the misrepresentations of this global loudmouth, this time from the man who was closest to Steve at Apple, Jony Ive.

The New Yorker has a lengthy and interesting profile of Ive in this week's edition called "The Shape of Things to Come: How an industrial designer became Apple’s greatest product."

Here are some quotes from the piece juxtaposed with some of the assertions of Mr. Global.
Steve Jobs: "If I had a spiritual partner at Apple, it's Jony. Jony and I think up most of the products together and then pull the others in and say 'Hey, what do you think about this?' He gets the big picture as well as the most infinitesimal details about each product. And he understands that Apple is a product company."
Global CEO: "Product first, I think, is very retro and very 1980's." 
Jony Ive: "I can't emphasize enough: I think there's something really very special  about how practical we are. And you could, depending on your vantage point, describe it as old school and traditional, or you could describe it as very effective."
Global CEO: (About Jobs) He started with an idea that consumers want to be bespoke...and he back-filled into a product
Ive: "We put the product ahead of everything else."
Don't you love it? There is so much bullshit in our business. Most of it arrives in the form of an opinion or an anecdote. Consequently, it is very hard to actually catch a bullshitter red-handed like this.

I don't know why this thrills me so much, but it does. Despite all my tantrums, I really do feel deeply about the ad business and I'm sick at heart from watching it being diminished and dismantled by financial manipulators and insufferable blowhards.

I'm also completely fucking tired of these over-fed meatballs undermining the credibility of our industry with their trite, cunning theories and pompous pronouncements.

Thank you Allison Johnson and Jony Ive. 


February 25, 2015

Ad Contrarian Cruelly Dumped


Lots of big things happening here at Ad Contrarian Worldwide Headquarters.

Type A Minus
I've been dumped again.

Big congratulations to my business partner in Type A Group, Sharon Krinsky. Sharon's been named President and Chief Creative Officer of RESO, an amazing online kids' activities resource site.

RESO just launched in the San Francisco area in the past few weeks and has aggressive growth plans. Sharon will soon be an internet billionaire and I'll still be going for cheap laughs at the expense of social media dorks.

I'm thinking of looking for a new partner for Type A. Qualifications: Cute; drink too much; laugh too loud.

Better Than The Movie
My new book was supposed to be ready in September. Then it was supposed to be ready early in January. I've postponed this thing more times than my next prostate exam.

Well, I think it's almost ready. I've changed the title and direction a few dozen times, but I think I'm actually happy with where it is. The title is Marketers Are From Mars, Consumers Are From New Jersey. 

Should be on sale at Amazon by May 15th. What's the over/under on that?

Can't Shut Up
I'll be doing two speaking gigs in the next few weeks.

The first is next week in Brussels at UBA Trends Day. The title will be "Advertising Needs Troublemakers."

The second will be a seminar in Chicago at the American Society on Aging's Aging in America conference. Title: "The Battle For The World's Most Valuable Customer."

Several more talks coming up in Canada, New York, and London. I'll keep you posted.

And remember, if you need a speaker for a conference or sales event, I know a good one.

Update: WAB just announced I will Keynote at their 81st Annual Conference. Read about it here.