October 31, 2008

Son of Friday Filler

Last week I started something called "Friday Filler" in which I threw a few odds and ends together. People seemed to like it so I'm going to continue it. Actually, I really don't give a shit if people liked it, writing 5 posts a week is too damn hard.

This Could Cost Him Votes In Berkeley.

Reinventing Iconic Bullshit:

Last week, McKinney in Raleigh N.C, won the Sherwin-Williams account. From Adweek:
McKinney president Jeff Jones said that agency and client would now "work to reinvent this truly iconic American brand for future growth and prove its expertise in the marketplace.
Are there any brands left that aren't "iconic?"

And if it's so ifuckingconic, why does it need to be "reinvented?"

And how does a brand have "expertise in the marketplace?" I thought humans had expertise. Although, apparently not in language.

Hey, Jeff, you're in the fucking communication business, okay?

Sarah Silverman:
I can't wait for this election to be over so people will stop sending me "The Big Schlep." If I wanted unfunny video I'd get a DVD of Whoopi Goldberg.

Note to Sarah: No matter how noble the cause, pedantic is never funny.

It's Just A Coincidence, Right?
We know all news organizations are unbiased (they promised!) and all polling is scientific (they said so!)

So it's just a wacky coincidence that in this morning's polls the most liberal, CBS/NYTimes, has Obama up by the widest margin (+11) and the most conservative, FOXNews, has him up by the smallest margin (+3).

The difference? A mere 367%.

From CBS/NYTimes: "With less than one week until Election Day, Barack Obama maintains a clear lead over John McCain..."

From FOXNews: "The race for the White House has tightened significantly..."

Just a wacky coincidence, right? Yeah, right.

Is the worst month of the year and Halloween is the worst day of the year. Good fucking riddance.

Next Week:
It's going to be "Recession Week" here at TAC. Five days of advice and opinions about advertising and marketing while the world comes crashing down around us...talk about your fun! It's even got its own logo, just like on cable! Why am I using so many fucking exclamation marks?!

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October 30, 2008

More Social Media Baloney

Remember TAC's first rule of research: Never trust a study done by an interested party.

Here's a lovely example.

The ClickZ Network reports that in a study released by Razorfish...
"...many MySpace and Facebook users said ads on their favorite social sites have prompted them to buy something"
Sounds promising, doesn't it? Just don't look too closely.
"Razorfish describes the survey respondents as "connected consumers." It defines them as people with broadband access who spent at least $200 online (emphasis mine) in the past year, used a community site such as MySpace (mine again) and consumed or made some type of digital media including videos and music."
In other words, they only sampled the most likely suspects.

And what did they find?
"Razorfish...found that 40 percent of the respondents said they made purchases due to seeing those ads."
So let's translate this into plain English.

Among the fraction of the population most likely to respond to an online ad, who have visited social sites probably thousands of time, 40% claim to have responded to an ad once.

And we're supposed to be impressed with this?

But of all the bullshit in this report, the sentence I really love is this one:
"Connected consumers have enthusiastically embraced social media.
This is a beautiful bit of tautological bullshit. Since they define "connected consumers" as those who "have used a community site such as MySpace," what this sentence really means is this: Those who have embraced social media have embraced social media.

Razorfish has a vested interest in encouraging online advertising. If you want reliable information about the effectiveness of advertising on social media, get it somewhere else.

Like Here:
Want the real scoop? From a Global Advertising Study done by AOL:
"Ninety-nine percent of Web users do not click on ads on a monthly basis. Of the 1% that do, most only click once a month. Less than two tenths of one percent click more often. That tiny percentage makes up the vast majority of banner ad clicks.

Who are these "heavy clickers"? They are predominantly female, indexing at a rate almost double the male population. They are older. They are predominantly Midwesterners...they look at sweepstakes far more than any other kind of content. Yes, these are the same people that tend to open direct mail and love to talk to telemarketers."

Not exactly the MySpace, Facebook crowd.

Next Week:
Don't miss "Recession Week" here at TAC. Five days of advice and opinions about advertising and marketing while the world comes crashing down around us. It's even got a logo, just like on cable!

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October 29, 2008

Pols Not Spending On Web

Once again, the hype about online advertising has been proven wrong.

At the beginning of this presidential cycle, pundits were gushing about how the web was where the action would be, and how online advertising would challenge traditional tv ads.

Not even close.

Back in January, a Lehman Brothers forecast predicted that this year candidates would spend as much as $110 million in online advertising.

The actual number? According to media research firm Borrell Associates, the real number is less than $18 million.

Hey, but let's be fair. Lehman was only off by 610%
"We found that most of it was search," said Kip Cassino, Borrell's VP of research... According to Federal Election Commission reports analyzed by ClickZ News, nearly 60 percent of Obama's online ad dollars went towards Google as of August...By the end of her race for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton's camp spent 57 percent of its online ad money on Google. "
So not only is there way less ad money being spent online, the money isn't really going to advertising. It's going to Google...um, I mean, search.

Time to wake up, people. For the most part online display advertising ain't worth shit. Social media, ditto.

How could the geniuses at Lehman Brothers have been so wrong? Hard to figure.

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October 28, 2008

The Smear Machine

Alan Wolk of The Toad Stool is one of my favorite bloggers. Today, however, I have to disagree with him on something.

In a post last Thursday, Alan praised an hypothesis described by Arianna Huffington and attributed to Eric Schmidt, ceo of Google, that the internet is a kind of antidote for lies, smears, and general bullshit.

The logic, in abridged form, goes like this: politicians and others have always used smears and untrue statements for nefarious ends. But now the web provides us with the ability to quickly fact-check and expose these lies. Once exposed on the internet, the effect of the lies will be substantially diminished, if not neutralized.

Sorry, I don't buy it.

Case in point: Last week a nut-job volunteer for McCain made up a story about having been brutalized by an Obama-supporting Black man. (According to police, it appears the woman is mentally ill and no one put her up to it.)

It was all over the internet (Drudge) for at least 2 days. Where were the fact-checkers? The answer is nowhere.

Ultimately, the cops busted her. But I guarantee you half the people who read the initial report still believe it.

I wish I was as optimistic as Alan. It seems to me that the internet has proven to be a far better medium for spreading nonsense than for exposing it.

Take this blog, for example.

Eric Schmidt probably thinks the internet is the antidote to everything, since he owns it.

October 27, 2008

Top 10 Bullshit Professions

I was thinking that maybe advertising was the world's number one bullshit profession.

After semi-painstaking analysis and consideration, however, I am happy to report that advertising is way down at number eight.

To develop this list I did two things. First I eliminated all occupations that are obviously scams -- like palm reader, astrologer, and economist.

Second, I used only one criterion in creating the list:

Do they really know anything or are they just making shit up?

Okay, drum roll -- The Ad Contrarian Top 10 Bullshit Professions:
1. Career Counselors: If they knew anything they'd find themselves better jobs.

2. Clergymen: God-bothering bullies masquerading as holy men.

3. Psychotherapists: Practitioners of the world's most advanced form of pseudoscience.

4. Politicians: Insufferable egotists pretending to be "public servants."

5. Branding Consultants: Why didn't I think of this scam?

6. Art Critics: Thankfully, no one pays attention except rich twits.

7. Actors: We tell them where to stand. We tell them what to say. They win awards.

8. Ad Executives: You can build a career by memorizing 10 cliches.

9. Financial Advisors: Monkeys throwing darts.

10. Third Base Umpires: One call a game if you're lucky.

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October 24, 2008

Friday Filler

Is spending 1.2 billion (yeah, with a b) behind a "rebranding" over 3 years. The first move is the introduction of new logos. If the rest of the "rebranding" is as shitty as this, it's gonna be a long 3 years.
1.2 billion on fucking Pac-Man?

The Press:
The idea of press neutrality is a joke. You don't have to be a McCain supporter to observe that the press has been drooling over Obama since the day he announced he was running, just ask Hillary Clinton.

A study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, reported in the Washington Post yesterday, claims that press reporting about McCain since the conventions has been three times as negative as reporting about Obama.

The Pew Research Center reports:
"Voters overwhelmingly believe that the media wants Barack Obama to win the presidential election. By a margin of 70%-9%, Americans say most journalists want to see Obama, not John McCain, win on Nov. 4."
We're used to Republicans whining that the press treats them unfairly. Now Democrats agree by over 60% that the press wants Obama to win.

Online Advertising:
Is likely to fair better during the recession than traditional advertising. Despite its alarming ineffectiveness, online is a great place to do "alibi advertising." For not much money, advertisers can create a flow chart that makes it look like they're doing something.

Dude, We're On Facebook:
I started a Facebook page for The Ad Contrarian. I have no idea why, other than I'm trying desperately to be cool. I don't even know what the fuck it does.

Also, I don't know how you access it. Try this link or try typing The Ad Contrarian in the Facebook search box. Then leave a message or something so I know it's working. Dude, thanks.

Bud Light:
Their "Drinkability" campaign is awful. This is what happens when you let researchers into creative meetings.

"Drinkability" is not a word that an actual human being would use. Only an MBA would speak it. If this is representative of what the InBev boys are going to be doing, Budweiser is in deep dark shit.

A's hire A's. B's hire C's.
That's how we know neither Obama nor McCain is an A. Obama could have chosen Hillary and didn't. McCain could have chosen anyone. And he did.

The same day (Thursday) we read a report from the Zogby poll saying that Obama had increased his lead to almost 10 points and was headed for a "Reagan-style landslide", we read an AP poll saying that McCain was closing quickly and the race was dead even.

Is 10% bestowed and 90% assumed.

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October 23, 2008

The Living Dead

If you read the advertising trades, the mainstream press, and the online pundits, you know that advertising is dead.

Don't believe me? Check out the bibliography below. The People Who Always Get It Wrong are pretty certain about this.

I wish I was as dead as advertising.

It's not enough that just about every fucking square inch of the planet is covered in it, now we're finding new unimagined places to put it.

In the past week alone we read about 3 brilliant new ad venues:
  • Subway Tunnels: While their lives are being threatening by thugs with knives, lucky New York City residents will be able to look at ads in subway tunnels.
  • Inside Airplanes: Air travel isn't unpleasant enough, so now while some fat guy is sweating all over you you can admire ads plastered anywhere someone is willing to pay to put them.
  • Dentist's Chairs: While they're sticking needles in our heads, they're also going to be shooting darts at our brains.
Hope I'm this alive when I'm dead.

'Advertising is dead' bibliography:
Here, Here, Here, Here, Here and a million other places

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October 22, 2008

Dust Off That Old Television

From Ad Age, October 17, 2008
TiVo CEO Says End Is Nigh for TV Ads

TiVo CEO Tom Rogers did everything but hang an "end is near" sign around his neck as he tried to rouse a Saturday morning breakfast crowd at the Association of National Advertisers annual conference with warnings of fast-approaching doom for conventional TV ads.

At issue is whether DVR penetration is about to reach the tipping point at which advertiser-supported TV goes the way of the music industry and newspapers -- a scenario Mr. Rogers warned repeatedly is coming soon...
Ever since the introduction of TiVo about 10 years ago we've been hearing the same bullshit over and over -- tv advertising is dead.

If it's so dead, how come I can't watch a goddamn playoff game without a brain damaging barrage of "0% financing," talking fucking geckos, and "drinkability," whatever the hell that is?

Can I just take a minute here to remind Mr. CEO Rogers that DVR playback and video-on-demand (VOD) together account for only 6% of tv viewing.

Now a little math. When viewing DVR playback, viewers skip commercials 60% of the time. Stay with me here.

6% (DVR viewing) X 60% (incidence of skipping) = 3.6% (spots skipped)

But wait. There's less.

We have to adjust this 3.6% number down because...
  • Some of the 6% of DVR viewing is VOD, not tv programming
  • Top rated shows actually get a viewership lift of 20-25% from time-shifted viewing
So, all this hyperventilating is about no more than 3% of spots being missed by "TiVo-ing". More spots are missed by people logging on to the Ad Contrarian.

Okay, maybe not.

And just one more thing. People with low reading comprehension (especially in the media) keep confusing the drop in network viewing with total viewing. Yes, network viewing is way down. But total TV viewing is up 7.6% since 2000.

Not quite time to kill ourselves yet.

More "advertising is dead" bullshit.

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October 21, 2008

Where Account Planning Came From

In a recent post I was critical of account planning. A reader wrote and asked why it developed as it did.

I have a theory about how account planning developed in the U.S.

It goes back to the late 1970s. In those days, every client had a market research department. The market research department was constantly at war with the ad agency, and it always won.

Every time the agency would say "we think X is a good idea", the market research department would say, "but consumer research says Y," and the agency would lose.

After a while, it became clear that whoever "owned" the consumer, i.e., whoever was in charge of interpreting consumer sentiment, also owned the advertising.

A few smart ad people then realized that if they wanted to re-gain control of the advertising, somehow they had to wrestle the interpretation of consumer thinking away from the client research department.

Nobody knew how to do this. For 15 more years agencies struggled with client-side research departments (and their day-after recall tests, galvanic skin response tests, and all manner of moronic pseudo-science.) The agencies always lost.

During this time, two things happened. First, client management got disillusioned with market research. They started getting rid of researchers who had been so wrong so often.

Second, Jay Chiat took a trip to Great Britain and discovered account planning.

In account planning, agencies found a new, as yet untainted, type of research. Wisely, they didn't call it research. Best of all, it could help them re-gain control of advertising. With traditional market research in decline, account planning promised not just to interpret consumer sentiment, but to actually represent the consumer in the marketing process.

It was a godsend and agencies couldn't get enough. They replaced client pseudo-science with their own. Now, anytime a client said, "we think X is a good idea", the agency could say, "but consumers think Y."

The tables were well turned.

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October 20, 2008

Words Without Meaning

One thing we can all agree on -- there's a lot of bullshit in the ad business.

As a matter of fact, if it wasn't for presidential candidates, art critics, and branding consultants, we would lead the league in bullshit.

What occurred to me earlier this week was that we create two different kinds of bullshit. The first kind is intentionally misleading bullshit. You know, the "no pain reliever is stronger" (i.e., they're all the same) kind of bullshit.

The second kind is words without meaning. It's not misleading or deceptive, it's just bewildering.

I was driving to work and I saw a taxi. On the side of the taxi was their proud company slogan.
"Our People. Our Community."
It has the sound and structure of an advertising tag line. And it means absolutely nothing.

Who are "Our People?" The drivers? The owners? The customers? The citizens of San Francisco? Likewise, who is "Our Community?"

But more important, what about them? Even if we understood what was meant by "Our People. Our Community," what about them? Are they lovely individuals? Are they smelly degenerates? What? What's the point?

We are exposed to so much bullshit every day we can't even see it any more. The ad industry certainly didn't invent bullshit, but everywhere we step we spread a little.

Reading Assignment:
"On Bullshit" by Harry Frankfurt. A professor of philosophy at Princeton looks at our favorite subject. It's only 80 pages and it's terrific.

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October 17, 2008

Myth Of Web Metrics

We are often told that the big advantage of web marketing is that it is so easily measurable.


I have a very simple little blog here. All I want to know is how many people visit it each day. I can't imagine a simpler piece of data to ask for -- no calculations, no processing, no complicated algorithm, just a simple count.

And yet, I cannot get a verifiable number.

If I install a counter I get a count. If I install another counter I get a different count.

I have tried three different counters and they never agree. I have upgraded to the highest level of service, and they still never agree. They are sometimes off by as much as one hundred percent.

If a simple blog that gets a thousand visitors on a really good day can't get accurate information, how in the world are commercial sites which get millions supposed to have any confidence in web metrics?

I can only imagine the bullshit data that is being generated for large web users with sophisticated needs and the waste that is being created by wrong conclusions drawn from this bogus data.

October 16, 2008

Advertising Isn't Dead. It's Just Numb.

Get out the novocain. Apparently dentistry isn't painful enough.

Now dentists will be inflicting an extra dose of agony.

According to The San Francisco Chronicle, while your dentist is drilling on you he will also be showing you ads through the miracle of InChairTV

This is not a joke.
"...For the past year, InChairTV has been filling commercial breaks with short infomercials about teeth whitening and other premium procedures. Now the company says it is opening the commercial breaks to outside advertisers...

Matthew Leader, chief executive of InChairTV... points out that patients are focused while they're sitting in the chair..."
Damn right we're focused. Focused on getting the fuck out.

But Seriously Folks...
I want to say thank you to some of the bloggers who have had nice things -- or anything -- to say about TAC recently. Thank you to Brand Experience Lab, AdPulp, Agency Spy, Bhatnaturally, AdRants, and Dear Jane Sample.

TAC regulars: Please visit our charming and brilliant supporters.

October 15, 2008

Scientists Discover "The Brand Gene"

"Brand affinity is clearly hard wired. It is...fundamental to human existence. It must have a genetic component."
CEO, Eric Schmidt.
NEW YORK - In a paper published today, researchers from the University of Search Engine Optimization claim to have discovered the brand gene.

For years geneticists have speculated that humans must have a "brand gene." How else, they say, can you explain the success of Meineke Mufflers and Pillsbury Toaster Strudel?

The article claims that the brand gene first appeared about 200,000 years ago and helped our species develop language, social skills, and really cool sunglasses.

nthropologists speculate that previously there was another species of human-like primates that did
not have the brand gene. These proto-humans walked upright and developed primitive tools, but couldn't tell Jif from Skippy, and believed Evian and Crystal Geyser were pretty much the same stuff. Scientists marvel at their survival.

Geneticists say that through a chance mutation, one individual was born with the brand gene.

This individual had a huge advantage over others of his species. While others walked around cluelessly in Gap, he felt an affinity for Abercrombie and Fitch. He drove a wicked cool Pontiac Vibe instead of his father's Oldsmobile Alero.

They speculate that in short order members of this new species had swooshes on their clubs and little alligator logos on their animal skins. This led to lots of super-hot cave sex and a thriving new species.

Scientists have named this newly discovered species "nebranderthal man" (Homo nebranderthalensis.)

It wasn't long before nebranderthal man made it out of Africa, to Soho and Beverly Hills where brands of greater and greater complexity were developed.

Today, scientists are devising tests to help those born with defective brand genes. These people can often be seen wearing a Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt or driving a Mitsubishi Galant. To help these people, activists are calling for universal brand gene screening.

Scientists claim that because we now know the genetic basis for brand affinity, they are beginning to understand previously unexplained phenomena, like the existence of Panda Express and Cool Ranch Doritos.

Today's report adds fuel to the ongoing disagreement between those who believe branding is a fundamental component of human existence -- like eating, breathing, sex and shoplifting -- and those who believe it's just a load of marketing bullshit.

October 14, 2008

Lying With Numbers

Here's why you should never trust research done by an interested party.

Break Media released some research last week. The research was summarized in an article on the website TV Week by an idiot reporter under the headline, "Study Finds Men Responsive to Online Ads."

The lead finding from the article was this:

  • "The company found that 47% of online men in that demographic (18-34) have purchased a product or service after seeing an online ad."
The above sentence is written in such a way as to be maximally deceiving. On quick reading, it gives the impression that if you run an online ad you have a 47% chance of someone in that group purchasing your service or product. Bullshit.

What it actually means is that of the tens of thousands of online ads a guy may have seen in his lifetime, he has a 47% chance of ever having responded to one.

The article should not have been titled "Study Finds Men Responsive to Online Ads" it should have been titled "Study Finds Men Almost Never Responsive to Online Ads."

In case you haven't guessed, Break Media just happens to own web sites that sell online ads.

And By The Way...
The study also reported that "71% prefer a date with a “hot girl” to a poker game with the boys." Which proves that 29% are even stupider than we thought.

More About Bullshit Research...
Here and Here

October 13, 2008

Stop Listening To Consumers

From the website Broadcasting and Cable:
'A new frontier in advertising research is “listening” to consumers via the digital-media ether...Audience listening is a brave new world. “It’s a big opportunity for the research industry and broader marketing, as well,” '
Can we get one thing straight? Listening to consumers...
...is the biggest cliche in marketing
...is not a new idea
...is most often a waste of time
...rarely results in usable insights
...can be disastrously misleading
...is no substitute for imaginative thinking

Most consumer behavior is not mysterious or difficult to understand. Most consumers behave in ways that are perfectly obvious. Here it is in a nutshell:
  • One third buy because it's cheaper
  • One third buy because they believe it tastes (works, looks, smells) better
  • One third buy because they like the brand better
That's what you're usually going to learn from studying the consumer. No charge.

So quit wasting time and money on the endless quest for consumer insight and instead get to work on the important stuff -- how is your product better than the other guy's?

If you can imaginatively differentiate your product from the other guy's you won't have to go looking for consumers. They'll come looking for you.

October 10, 2008

How To Sell Great Creative: Ego and Failure

In Wednesday's post, I talked about a simple, sensible way to present creative work more successfully. Today, why this is a virtual impossibility in most agencies and with most clients.

At every client organization there is one person who is the real decision maker. In some companies it's the cmo. In some companies it's the ceo. In some companies it's the brand manager. Their title is irrelevant. The real decision maker is the person who can say "yes, go do it" without having to show it to anyone else.

At every agency, there is one person who is the real creative leader on the account. On some accounts it's the exec creative director. On some accounts it's the art director. On some accounts it's the president of the agency. Their title is irrelevant. The real creative leader is the person the real decision maker looks to for guidance.

The best creative work happens when the real decision maker and the real creative leader have a good relationship and work closely together (see Let's Do It On The Floor.)

The worst creative work is always the result of layers of people supervising layers of people.

Working in a marketing department is a tough job. The hours are grueling. The work is tedious. The finance, operations, and sales people think you're a bozo. You're always having to justify your budget.

But there is a little fun. You get to attend creative presentations.

Working in an account services or creative department at an agency is a tough job. The work is frustrating. The client always has you on the defensive.

But there is some fun. You get to attend creative presentations.

Because marketing departments and agencies are difficult and frustrating places to work, and because agencies and clients want to keep their people happy, these people have been given an entitlement -- they can come to creative presentations.

Packing the room with client and agency people just makes the process tougher. But it's essentially impossible for an agency manager to tell an account director or a creative director, "I don't want you in the presentation." It's impossible for a cmo to say to a brand manager, "You really don't need to be there."

Egos simply can't tolerate this.

If you are an agency that wants to do good work on an account, someone in your creative department has to develop a good working relationship with the real decision maker on that account.

If you are a client that wants good creative work, you've got to undo the entitlements, and let the real decision maker at your company work directly with the real creative leader on your account.

After 100 years in the agency business, I still have no idea how to create great ads. It’s a code I haven’t cracked. But I do know how to sell them. Get your best creative person together with the real decision maker, and get everyone else out of the fucking way.

October 09, 2008

The Web: TV With Its Hat On Backwards

From Ad Age, Tuesday:
"Until now, online viewers have been able to watch TV with one substantial perk: fewer ads than if they watched the same show on TV...

But that will soon change. The networks and distributors putting TV online are facing some tough economics...

And that's forcing sites to consider breaking what has been a de facto rule in web video, that viewers only get one ad per break..."
More and more the web is looking like television.

Everything is sponsored. Everything has ads. You want to see some video content? It's going to have commercials attached.

As soon as the web has enough bandwidth, it will have "channels" and "channels" will have "shows" and "shows" will have "sponsors." Of course, there'll be a different name for everything, but that won't change what it is.

I'm starting to get the feeling that the web's killer app is television.

October 08, 2008

How To Sell Great Creative: "Let's Do It On The Floor"

In the first part of this series, The Big Show, I talked about how big presentations are the death of good ideas. Today, an interesting lesson I learned from a couple of oddballs.

At one point in my career I was creative director for the US operation of an Australia-based agency called Mojo.

Mojo was recognized as one of the world’s really good creative shops. It was named “International Advertising Agency of the Year” by Advertising Age in 1988.

It was ultimately bought by Jay Chiat and re-christened Chiat/Day/Mojo.

During my tenure there I learned a very important lesson about presenting creative work from Alan (Mo) Morris and Allan (Jo) Johnston.

Mo and Jo were unpretentious oddballs. They had a dread of big meetings, fancy presentations, and anything that smacked of formality.

They shared an office and worked as a creative team, although they were both copywriters.

They had a very unusual and successful method of presentation. When they had an idea, they would call the real decision maker at the client company and invite him (usually a man in those days) over to the agency.

It would be Mo, Jo and the big guy. No account people, no researchers, no observers. They would sit in their office and spread the layouts or storyboards out on the floor, and then they'd explain the ideas.

No big set-ups. No Powerpoint. No parsing every word of the brief. None of the tortured logic of account planning. None of the usual agency rituals and bullshit that turn creative presentations into torment and agony.

It removed all the major obstacles to a successful presentation:
  • the anxiety of the big show
  • the focus on the unimportant
  • playing to the crowd
  • the irrelevant opinions of onlookers
Their technique was very successful, and it helped them sell what they wanted to sell. It is without question a better way to accomplish the primary goal of both agency and client -- to produce better advertising.

And yet, because of the structure and politics of most client-agency relationships, this method of operation is almost impossible.

In the next part (How To Sell Great Creative: "Ego and Failure") I'll talk about why this simple, sensible method of presenting ideas has almost no chance in most agencies and with most clients.

October 07, 2008

Odds, Ends and Beyond and More.

Top 5 Bullshit Marketing Terms Of 2008
5. Ideation
4. Authenticity
3. Megabrand
2. Conversation
1. Narrative

Top 7 Nothings Whose Names Made Them Something
7. Joba Chamberlain
6. Carrot Top
4. Cheech
3. Chong
2. Regis Philbin
2. Wavy Gravy
1. Whoopi Goldberg

So Who Asked You To Look?
Headline from Yahoo News: "Dim But Visible: Seeking Out Uranus"

Most Difficult Word For Republicans To Pronounce:

Why I Love Las Vegas:
There's nothing hotter than a fat 60-year old in a tank top

Memo To Art Directors and Social Media Maniacs:
From Alan Wolk: "There's a silly belief out there now that the more you can hide the fact that you're advertising something, the more consumers will like you."

Special Thanks To:
Sell! Sell! for the incredibly nice words about this blog, and The Daily (Ad) Biz for including us in their top 25 advertising blogs.

October 06, 2008

The Crisis Of Advertising, Part 5: What To Do

The first four parts of this series were the fun parts -- whining about all the problems. This is the not fun part -- finding answers.

I've written three drafts of this post and I still don't know what the hell I'm trying to say. The Crisis of Advertising? I have no idea what to do about it and anyone who says he does is full of shit.

The first draft said we were going the way of the music industry, i.e., evaporating. That's just simply not going to happen.

The second draft said that BDAs (big, dumb agencies) were going to turn into black holes, exploding under the gravitational pressure of their own mass. That's not going to happen either.

So here are some random thoughts about how the agency business needs to change, how you as an agency or you as an individual might want to think about what's next.
  • Contrary to all the nonsense you read, advertising is not dead. You can't swing a dead account planner without hitting an ad. It's everywhere -- urinals, grocery check-out separators, dry cleaning bags. Advertising is thriving, but ad agencies aren't.
  • There just isn't enough value anymore in big, slow, expensive ad agencies. Smart, industrious clients can cobble together small groups to get the work done at lesser cost and with superior creativity. They just don't know it yet.
  • The most important client-side marketing job currently does not exist: Someone to coordinate the activities of a variety of small, nimble marketing and advertising resource providers.
  • The idea that global agencies can provide global marketing solutions is an idiotic fraud that anyone with the intelligence of a gnat can see through. You can't find a single agency to get done everything you need done in Houston, how the hell are they supposed to do it worldwide? That global agencies even exist is a testament to the laziness of global marketers.
  • There will always be a place for BDAs because there will always be BDCs.
  • There will also be a place for regional, independent agencies because there will always be entrepreneurs and regional advertisers.
  • The middle, however, will continue to collapse. This will create big failures and enormous opportunities.
  • The web has turned us all into liars. We pretend the web has opened up huge new advertising opportunities when we secretly know that it has mostly been a dismal failure as an advertising medium. We cling to the few big successes and argue from the extreme. We pretend we know how to "do it all", but we don't. We pretend to be "media neutral" but secretly are either broadcast-centric, print-centric or web-centric.
  • The strategic part of what agencies do is going to disappear. Smart clients have no confidence in account planning. Those who haven't yet, will soon take strategy away from agencies and place it in-house or in the hands of consultants.
  • All their baloney notwithstanding, the huge media buying conglomerates have commoditized media buying and it is becoming a price war.
  • The one and only leverageable asset agencies will be left with will be creativity. The definition of creativity has evolved into more than just making ads, and it will continue to evolve.
  • Agencies will try to create relationships with creative resources outside the industry (directors, writers, performers) and, as always, this will fail. You will need your own outstanding creative resources.
Some strategies to think about:
  • Specialize: Go against the grain. Every agency is trying to convince clients that they can do it all. Instead, be an agency that does only one thing really well. Specialize in retail, or become expert in marketing to Mid-Westerners, or only work on luxury brands, or only do creative work. Find something you can be famous for.
  • Get small and do it yourself: The economics of the ad industry are going to hell. It's hard to make money. Soon big agencies may realize they can be more profitable by outsourcing to smaller, nimbler entities. Become a small, nimble entity (SNE?) Have your own clients and do contract work for BDA's.
  • Confederate: Form a confederated brand with other small, nimble entities. One does strategy. One does creative. One does media planning. One does promotions. You are independent, but you work cooperatively. You provide clients with a single service or a suite of services.
  • Something completely different: This is the most likely answer. The next model for the ad business is likely to be something we haven't even thought of.
Now is a perfect time to look at the ad industry in a new way. Throw away what you think you know. What are the big problems clients are facing? What's a new way to deliver solutions? Times of economic stress force companies to do something they hate -- search for new answers.

This is a great time for new ideas and innovative thinking. Get off your ass and do something different.

The series:
The Crisis Of Advertising, Part 1
The Crisis Of Advertising, Part 2: Consolidation
The Crisis Of Advertising, Part 3: Talent
The Crisis Of Advertising, Part 4: Brain Drain
The Crisis Of Advertising, Part 5: What To Do

Interactive My Ass:
On several occasions (like here and here) I have commented on the fraudulent idea that the internet is an interactive medium. Case in point: On Friday I posted a video and asked people to vote on whether they thought it was funny. Voting required one click of one mouse. We had 1,008 views. 49 people voted. Just to repeat, interactive my ass.

Results Of The Poll:

a) Funny-66%;
b) Not funny -20%;
c) Funny, but easily misunderstood - 14%

October 03, 2008

Funny Or Not Funny?

This "mock" recruitment video was very controversial around the agency when we produced it a while back.

Some people thought it was hilarious. Some people were horrified.

I'd love your opinion. Take a look at it and please respond to the poll on the right.

The polling is over and here are the results:
a) Funny-66%;
b) Not funny -20%;
c) Funny, But Easily Misunderstood - 14%

If you think it's funny, we'll put it back up online. If not, we'll keep it in the ad cave.

Comments are still welcome.

Monday -- The Crisis Of Advertising, Part 5: What To Do?

October 02, 2008

How To Sell Great Creative: The Big Show

You’ve been working on a new campaign for six weeks. Tomorrow’s the day you present to the client.

The account director has booked the main conference room. Pastries have been ordered. The agenda has been Xeroxed.

Coming from the client organization are the CMO and/or marketing director, the advertising manager, the brand manager and assistant brand manager, and maybe someone from upper management.

From the agency, the following people will be there: the account director, the account supervisor, the account executive, the exec creative director and/or creative director, the copywriter, art director, planning director and/or planner, media director, and maybe someone from upper management.

Already, you have no fucking chance. None. You're dead meat. The Grapes Of Wrath couldn't survive this meeting. Hamlet couldn't survive it.

Large group presentations are the death of good advertising. Here’s why:
  • When you gather so many people together, the importance of the meeting becomes exaggerated.
  • When a meeting takes on exaggerated importance, participants become anxious.
  • Clients can smell agency anxiety a mile away. It's contagious and it causes fear. Fear is the enemy of an open mind.
  • The meeting becomes a medium for the creation of subtle power relationships and a showcase for lower level people to demonstrate their analytic abilities (which is another way of saying 'finding flaws.')
  • Every idea has weak points. Gone With The Wind has weak points. The Great Gatsby has weak points. People will be scrambling to show off by being the first to identify the weak points.
  • Internal rivalries will be played out through the language of criticism.
  • All comments will be equivocal until the highest ranking person speaks.
The biggest killer of good ideas is not research or clients or budgets. It's The Big Show.

In order to sell great work, you must do everything in your power to avoid The Big Show. You must avoid the conference room. You must avoid pastries and agendas.

How do you do that? We'll talk about it next week in "How To Sell Great Creative: Let's Do It On The Floor"

Big Thanks...
To the people at Agency Spy for the nice words about yesterday's post.

October 01, 2008

The Crisis of Advertising, Part 4 - Brain Drain

Last week, in The Crisis of Advertising, Part 3, I talked about why we are not attracting enough good creative people. Today's post is about the debasement of account management.

The following is a true story.

One of our junior account people was hired by our client. She had done a nice job working on the account. The client, not understanding the difference between cooks and waiters, hired her to be their advertising manager.

Within a month, this woman -- who had essentially been an amiable delivery person and had never been within fifty yards of an ad or a strategy ---- was telling our account director what our strategies should be, how our ads should look, and threatening our tenure on the account.

Is it any wonder smart, ambitious people are getting harder to recruit into agency account management?

These days, you have to really love advertising to be in account management.
  • When things go well, it's because the creatives are brilliant.
  • When things go badly, you fucked up.
  • You have no time to do your job because you're usually doing your client's job.
  • You have little say over strategy. Account planners and creative directors are busy screaming at each other over that. Your only responsibility is to keep them from killing each other.
  • Worst of all, you can never adequately explain to your mother what the fuck it is you actually do.
Is this what you got a business degree for?

A lot of people don't think so. That's why the agency business is not attracting the type of marketing talent we need. Talented account people are now just as hard to hire as talented creative people.

There are several factors underlying the exodus of smart people from account management.
  • The tactical always drives out the strategic: Clients have lost discipline, patience and focus. They are unwilling to stay with any idea for more than six months. This drives strategic thinkers crazy.
  • Who's got authority?: Client side marketing people have been given grander titles and less authority. Agencies will work for months on strategies approved by CMOs, only to have them ripped to shreds at the last minute by the real decision makers. This, too, drives smart people crazy.
  • Account planning: Responsibility for marketing strategy used to be in the hands of account managers. It no longer is. (Concurrently, there has been a general loss of confidence among clients in ad agencies' abilities to provide strategic guidance. Maybe it's a coincidence, but this loss of confidence has correlated almost perfectly with the ascendancy of account planning.)
  • Self-respect: Many high-level account managers are directed by client-side people they wouldn't hire to be their assistants.
Account management has always been a thankless and difficult job. Traditionally, however, smart account managers could get satisfaction from strongly influencing their clients' business strategies. They once provided clients with insights into the hard sciences of sales and marketing. Today, agencies are less interested in sales and marketing than they are in the soft science of cultural anthropology.

Ambitious marketing people want no part of it. I don't blame them.

The Crisis Of Advertising, Part 1
The Crisis Of Advertising, Part 2: Consolidation
The Crisis Of Advertising, Part 3: Talent
The Crisis Of Advertising, Part 4: Brain Drain
The Crisis Of Advertising, Part 5: What To Do