March 31, 2008

Stalinism By The Bay

Thanks to Jay Tannenbaum for the idea for today's blog.

When people fell out of favor in Stalinist Russia, they would be shipped off to Siberia and their likenesses would mysteriously disappear from official photographs. One day they'd be standing with the inner circle, next day the photo would be doctored to remove them.

The San Francisco Giants have done that with Barry Bonds. I attended my first baseball game of the season at ATT Park last week. You'd never know Bonds had ever played for the team.

Since the park opened in 2000, you couldn't turn around without seeing a picture, poster, mural, or tribute to Bonds. Everywhere you looked there was something about Barry. Now, nothing.

I'm no big fan of Barry Bonds (See Barry Bonds). However, the hypocrisy and treachery of the Giants management and ownership is truly breathtaking to behold. For years they lived off Bonds. Now that he's in trouble, they have dumped him like a leaking sack of nuclear waste.

This is bad marketing. This disloyalty will not be appreciated by Giants' fans. The Giants will pay at the gate for their blatant betrayal.

March 28, 2008

I Didn't Know I Was A Pornographer

Two months ago I wrote a blog entry called "Interporn". It was a speculation on the issue of internet pornography.

A few days ago, I was checking to see where traffic to this blog comes from. I wanted to see which keywords are leading people here. The number one keyword is not "advertising"; it's not "contrarian"; it's not "marketing" or "business" or anything to do with the advertising or marketing industries. It's "interporn".

Almost 7% of the people who get to this blog are actually looking for pornography.

The information superhighway my ass.

March 27, 2008

The Justification Business

Advertising today consists of two very different disciplines: Making ads, and making the justification for ads.

The way ad agencies work (especially the big ones) is that most of the effort is spent making the justification for the ads -- research, planning, brand analysis, meetings, presentations, strategy sessions, briefs, conference calls, downloads, uploads, deep dives, off sites and insights followed by revised research, planning, brand analysis, meetings, presentations, strategy sessions, briefs, conference calls, downloads, uploads, deep dives, off sites and insights.

After months of this stuff, when all the knuckleheads are satisfied that justification has been achieved, as an offshoot of all this activity, sometimes an ad appears somewhere.

Justification has become the business. Ads have become the by-product.

March 26, 2008

Why I Love Apple

On your right is a picture of my iPhone.

I dropped it in the street. A car ran over it.

It still works.

Steve, I'm available for endorsements.

March 25, 2008

Hal Riney, RIP

I was once somewhere with Hal when someone asked him why he chose to work in San Francisco. His reply:

"It's as far away from New York as I can get without drowning."

Marketing U

DOTAC (Daughter of the Ad Contrarian) is going to college in September, which means we went shopping for colleges this year.

The best visit we had, and the school DOTAC fell in love with, followed some universal principles of marketing.

First, they treated the customer right. When we arrived, they had DOTAC's schedule for the visit clearly and personally printed for her. She knew exactly what she was going to do and when she was going to do it.

Next, they had the best salesman make the pitch. The info session was conducted by the Dean of Admissions, not a student or an underling. He was articulate, he was knowledgeable, and he was credible.

Finally, the school clearly differentiated itself : here's how we do things and here's why. We know it's different, but there's a reason for it.

You don't have to be a Rhodes scholar to figure this stuff out.


March 24, 2008

Snatching Defeat From Jaws Of Victory

Thanks to guest blogger John Joss for this contribution

Examples of ‘new, improved’ product design of staggering stupidity that replaces a functional and effective product abound. Few examples plumb the depths of Schering-Plough’s raging incompetence with its Tinactin, an athlete’s-foot cure used by millions. Fewer are now using it, because the ‘new, improved’ packaging is deeply dysfunctional.

The old design—a small plastic bottle with tiny spout that let a user apply the cure cleanly and precisely, in small amounts—worked brilliantly. Then some Schering-Plough genius decided to discontinue this packaging and substituted a hand-pump bottle that spreads product inaccurately, all over the top of the foot, washbasin and toilet boil, to be dried and mopped up with tissues. Huh?

Were they following the approach used by a toothpaste manufacturer that raised consumption 30% or so by making the orifice larger? Cynical but effective. Certainly the ‘new, improved,’ pump forces one to use more product.

The new design’s breathtaking incompetence compels this former customer (I tossed it) to consider that whoever committed the new leap backwards had (1) never suffered from athlete’s foot and (2) had never used either the old or new packaging. If I could, I’d go over to Schering-Plough with a baseball bat and try to get his or her attention. Imagine: some idiot was actually paid money to screw up a perfectly satisfactory product. Any competent ad man could have told them. And don’t get me started on their website incompetence.

March 21, 2008

Recommended Reading

A few years ago I read a book by Tony Earley called Jim the Boy. It became one of my all time favorites. Now there is a sequel called The Blue Star. It is just as good, if not better.

Read them in that order.

March 20, 2008

Saving the Earth, One Pair of Pants at a Time

Great news!

Got an email yesterday telling me that "Encompass Outdoor Media provides an earth-friendly alternative within its successful dry cleaning advertising network." Yes, now your ad can appear on biodegradable dry cleaning bags!

Drinks are on me.

(For more on this, see yesterday's post)

March 19, 2008

Let's Buy Seth A Television

From Seth Godin's blog on Monday:
"...there's plenty of bad economic news floating around. From the price of oil to Wall Street to bailouts to the death of traditional advertising."

The death of traditional advertising? I'm trying to watch a basketball game here and all I'm seeing is 1.9% APR on Ford half-tons.

Would someone please buy Seth a television? Or a radio? Or glasses, so he can see that every square inch of America is covered in advertising? Every dry cleaning bag, every urinal, every bus, and every t-shirt.

Seth's been telling us for years that advertising is dead. And the longer it is not dead the more sure he seems to be that it is.

The problem is not that advertising is dead, the problem is that it's way too alive.

(For more on this this see The End of The World)

March 18, 2008

Pepsi Drinking The Kool-Aid

Pepsi is going all unconventional and artsy on us.

They're introducing a new beverage called Tava with websites, music downloads, "brand experiences", blah, blah, blah. In other words, the the full pantheon of over-priced, under-performing, traditional "non-traditional" marketing gimmicks.

They'll be giving free samples to employees of Apple, Google and MTV. Dude, how cool is that? But wait, there's more. They'll also be giving it away at the -- are you ready -- Sundance Film Festival! Oh my God! Mega-double-extra-wicked cool!

Pepsi's agencies are making marketing mistake number one. They're marketing to themselves.

Tava will either fail or be on tv next year. You heard it here first.

March 17, 2008

The Consumer Knows Nothing

There was a time when advertisers weren't afraid to make decisions. They would trust their judgment. They wouldn't be too timid to have an opinion.

Unfortunately, those days are gone. Now, every creative decision is made by "the consumer"-- i.e., research.

This would be fine if there was a reliable research methodology to determine advertising effectiveness. But there isn't. I've been involved in about a million creative decisions made by "the consumer" and you might as well have had my cat make the decision.

I've never worked on the Apple account, but I'll bet you Steve Jobs doesn't let "the consumer" make advertising decisions for him.

As a former science teacher, I have a healthy regard for the difference between facts and bullshit. Consumer research has its value for certain kinds of marketing and strategic issues. When it comes to creative decisions, however, the consumer knows nothing.

March 14, 2008


A big mistake that advertisers and marketers -- and everyone else -- makes is "straightlining."

If this happened last week, last month, last year, then this is what will happen next week, next month, next year. Almost nothing moves in a straight line.

The future maybe better or worse, but it is rarely what we anticipate.

March 10, 2008

Top 5 People Who Need To Just Go Away

Here are 5 people I've seen way too much of for one lifetime.

First is Ralph Nader. Is there a bigger egomaniac dick anywhere outside of Hollywood?

Next is Hugh Hefner: Hef, you ain't hip no more, you're pathetic. Do us all a favor, lose the girls and get yourself a cat or something.

Third is Whoopi Goldberg. Has she ever said anything funny? Ever?

Number Four is Pat Buchanan. Would someone please give this guy a wedgie?

Finally, Jane Fonda. Just when you think she's dead and buried, up she pops to annoy the shit out of you.

March 08, 2008

Who's Responsible for This?

Thanks to guest blogger Roger Lewis for this advertising report from spring training.

Saturday in Southwest Florida was beautiful, and we were spending the day in Hammond Stadium watching the Twins play the Red Sox. After the third inning, most of the players you'd ever heard of were on the bench and the pitchers were having a hard time finding the strike zone.

It was then that the announcer said if any Twin player hit a home run off the RV North sign, everyone in the stands would receive $1,000 off a new RV (much laughter.) And I started looking at the advertising.

There are 28 ads in the outfield, 14 on each side of center. Here is the final count. Readable 4, readable with some effort 10, readable with binoculars 10, unknown message 4. So what I am saying is that 24 of 28 ads were bad and someone had to be responsible.

The national advertisers Pepsi and Macy's had single word large messages that were easy to read from 330 feet away. Metro PCS had so many words on their board that it took a few minutes to figure out what the message was. There was a board that read Beef Jerky with a brand name obscured in a jumble of red type and flame. My favorite was the one in the right field corner which was gold type on a white background. Even with binoculars it could not be read.

The rest were a smattering of local and national advertisers (car dealers, insurance company, banks, restaurants). With a combination of type styles and colors they rendered their messages useless.

I know that ball park sponsorships come with perks like tickets, parking and throwing out the first pitch. But why waste the opportunity to communicate with customers if you paid the money.

So was it the ad agency who designed something really artsy or the son-in-law on his home computer that developed these ads? And why did the client say yes? Didn't they think about someone trying to get their message from 330 feet? Sure the client knows where his ad is and can point it out to his friends in their free seats, but for most of us it was an opportunity wasted.

So shame on agencies, sons-in-law and clients who created such bad advertising and ruined my day.

By the way the Red Sox won 8-6.

March 07, 2008

Very Funny Comment

This comment by Jimmy Cabral about yesterday's blog is so funny I had to post it. Be sure you look at this web film/implement of torture before you read it.

"I thought I was going to see a wild (blueberry pie filled) 3-way with the suicidal blonde, the Armenian cab driver and "Moron" the Bell Boy? Did it happen? I fell asleep."

March 06, 2008

This Film Is Rated T For Torture

Memo to the CIA: You can now confidently put an end to waterboarding. Just make your prisoners watch this excruciating Ritz-Carlton web film. They will quickly break.

Back in December, when we wrote Ritz Bits, and Web Films vs. Bagels we had a feeling the Ritz-Carlton had lost its mind. But, honestly, we had no idea it was his bad.

March 05, 2008

Don't Ya Love Research?

On the same day last week I read the following two research findings:

1. A poll by We Media/Zogby Interactive showed... "Nearly half of the 1,979 people who responded to the survey said their primary source of news and information is the Internet, up from 40 percent just a year ago. Less than one third use television to get their news..."

2. "According to the survey, which Hearst-Argyle president and CEO David Barrett discussed at the conference, 55% of respondents cited TV as their primary source of news information, ahead of the Web (26%) ..."

Don't ya love research?

March 04, 2008

Still Fawning Over Obama

Since my political instincts are hopeless, and since today may turn out to be the last day of the Democratic party's race for the nomination, with any luck this will be my last political post for a while.

Months ago, we commented on how the media was fawning over Obama (see Words and Pictures.) Now even Democratic insiders are noticing it and expressing outrage.

For some good laughs, and an example of the "hands off Obama" prejudice, take a look at David Letterman's Monologues the past few weeks. He's been skewering McCain, Nader, Romney, et al, with a joke whose structure is, "He looks like the guy who..." See if you can find even one reference to Obama.

March 03, 2008

Best Performance By A French Moron

One of the unfortunate aspects of working in advertising is that every now and then you have to come into contact with actors.

Watching the Academy Awards last week (for the first time in about 25 years) it struck me that these idiots really think they're doing something important. The way they talk about their "art" you'd think they're busy developing polio vaccine. Their skill, for god's sake, is pretending. That's what they're good at. Pretending. Maybe if you're 5 years old it's something to be all smug and puffed up about.

Mostly, these people are good looking, self-absorbed morons. If you need proof of that, take a look at these comments from the imbecile who won the Best Actress award.

You tell them where to stand. You tell them what to say. Then they win an award and they think they're allowed to have opinions.