Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Ritz-Carlton "Loosens Up" its Brand with new Web films

I recently read about the new short films commissioned by Ritz-Carlton to loosen up its somewhat stiff image. The luxury brand has been around a long time and is certainy well established among the well-heeled travelers. The Wall Street Journal has reported that the hotel chain, which is owned by Marriott International Inc., is trying to "broaden its appeal" among young professionals and families. They've hired Saatchi & Saatchi's Team One Advertising to develop a series of short films - or long commercials - that are planned to run on the RC's web site and its hotel TVs next year. Pretty smart - drive more potential customers to the web site, and remind existing customers who may be younger folks that they haven't checked into their grandfather's hotel.

The R-C is making very carefully planned moves to appeal to younger travelers, while maintaining its true blue image among the conservative, "old money" crowd. So the films depict young, hip Gen X-ers in various situations that, I assume, make the R-C look like a place where the "young and hip" would like to hang out. I haven't seen them yet, so that's about all I can say for now. Team One is also working up a print ad campaign as well, so fear not, fans of traditional media.

I called Stephen Deucker, Director of Marketing for the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota, and asked for his take on this. Turns out he's pretty hip to the whole thing, having met with the Team One people this summer. He tells me Bruce Himelstein, R-C's senior VP for sales and marketing, is the guy who deserves the credit for taking on this brand tune-up to "blow the dust off the lion and crown." He thinks the films are a cool idea to reach a younger crowd, but without alienating the traditional R-C customer. Wow, you mean luxury doesn't have to be boring? Deucker points out that 25-26 year-old Gen X-ers are starting to check into their hotels while traveling on business, and the hotel chain has an obligation to make them feel as comfortable as the older, traditional customer.

Deucker also told me about some finer points of the brand tweaking - including some fine-tuning of the logo and a loosening of the strict rules governing employee behavior.

When I read about the campaign in the Wall Street Journal, the most memorable passage was a quote from Himelstein, who in a masterful moment of understatement said, "This brand doesn't leave you a lot of wiggle room. But we decided to push the envelope a bit." That's priceless.

Ritz-Carlton may have a long way to go before it appeals strongly to the instant-gratification generation, but it sounds like this new campaign is a smart move in the "managed perception" department.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

If we're banning cigarette companies' print ads, let's get the kids out of the bars first!

It's been all over the news this past week. The R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., under intense pressure from anti-smoking groups and members of Congress over print ads for its cigarettes, announced that it would not advertise its brands in newspapers or consumer magazines next year.

As reported in the Washington Post, the company had been criticized sharply for both its colorful and feminine Camel No. 9 ads, which appeared in fashion magazines and were seen as cynically aimed at young women, and also for a recent ad in Rolling Stone.

I am perhaps the least likely person to come out in defense of a tobacco company. I hate cigarette smoking. Hate it. It's annoying, dirty, unhealthy and, unfortunately, legal. Here's the problem with all this flap about RJ Reynolds and their advertising. It's a pretty scary thing when any company that is manufacturing and marketing a product that is legal for adults to purchase is put under this kind of pressure by groups who claim to be protecting our children, and the politicians who pander to them. It's a slippery slope my friends, and one that should be of major concern to everyone in the advertising industry.

The latest complaints are about RJ Reynolds' Camel No. 9 ads, which were launched early this year on thick, shiny paper in fuchsia or teal and are adorned with images of roses and lace. A group of Congress members, led by Rep. Lois Capps, D-Calif., have been urging women's magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Vogue and Glamour to stop accepting the ads, saying they threaten the health of the teenagers and young women who form a large part of their readership. This is an all too familiar tune, similar to the claims made several years ago that RJR was targeting kids with its Joe Camel cartoon character. I didn't agree then, and still don't. Just because the campaign used a "cartoon" camel it doesn't mean they were trying to get nine-year-olds to light up. Were they targeting a younger demographic? Sure, but not the SpongeBob crowd.

Regarding the Camel No. 9 campaign, here's a news flash - lots of women smoke. Adult women who should know better. And yes, it is like kissing an ashtray. But what's wrong with RJR using its marketing savvy and creativity to get women who choose to smoke to try their new brand?

Let's look at the facts. Sometimes kids happen to see advertising that is not really meant for them. Kids also see their parents smoking and engaging in various other forms of unhealthy behavior too. Want healthier kids? Hey Mom, how about fewer trips to the MacDonalds drive-through?

The Washington-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, which has long protested the Camel ads, called the company's decision to curtail print ads in 2008 "more a strategy to deflect criticism than a real change in marketing." Matthew Myers, president of the group, said it was unfortunate that R.J. Reynolds had not committed to permanently stop print advertising.
Sorry to dissappoint you, Matt, but don't you think this company has obligations to its shareholders and employees to market products successfully so that it can maintain profitability?

The Washington Post report continues this absurdity - Myers also says RJR has far to go to curtail what his group calls egregious marketing practices, which include promotions at bars and nightclubs. So, I guess in order to protect all the children who are hanging out in bars in nightclubs, we really should make RJR stop this evil, nasty stuff. God forbid someone should purchase a pack of smokes during a night of drinking, then actually be seen smoking by an innocent child!

Enough already. Here I go quoting Ogilvy again, but never has it been a better time to remind these people that "the enemies of advertising are the enemies of freedom."

Let's review...
I hate smoking. I like women. If it's legal to buy cigarettes and smoke them, let's stop trying to demonize marketers and their advertising. And let's get those kids out of the bars!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ad Age's Garfield Says Ford Exploits Katrina Victims with its MKX Spot

I agree with Bob Garfield's 11/12 blog post saying that Ford and Y&R have crossed the line with their new spot called "Hometown" for the Lincoln MKX cross-over whatever-the-heck-it-is vehicle. You know the spot - the one with Harry Connick Jr. tooling around his hometown in the new SUV.

Garfield says rather than celebrating the spirit of a great American city and recognizing its heroes, what they actually are doing is exploiting its victims to advertise luxury SUVs. He says it is vulgar, grotesque and disgusting.

I agree, Bob. If Ford keeps this up, I might have to pass on that Bullitt Mustang. But vulgar advertising from a car company? That's nothing new.

Demand for Super Bowl Spots is Brisk This Year - Spots Could go for $3 million

In a recent WSJ story, Tom McGovern, head of sports media for Omincom Group-owned Optimum Spoorts, describes how demand for Super Bowl spots is crazy this year. The Fox network has only two spots left for Super Bowl XLII to be played Feb. 3, which is giving them the upper hand in negotiations. This new demand is being driven, in part, by renewed interest among movie studios this year, as well as the lack of TV programs that get big ratings nowadays. Rates for a 30-second spot have topped $2.7 million for this season's final game, according to media buyers, up from as high as $2.6 million last year. Before it is all over, some of the final slots for the championship game could sell for as much as $3 million.

No surprise to me at all. This is the result of TV fallout - the fact that there is indeed a lot of crap on the tube that isn't worth watching. So high quality, big ratings opportunities like the Super Bowl become even more valuable. Still, I think an advertiser has to be pretty gutsy, or possessed of a very large media budget, to blow $3 million on a single spot.

P&G Urges College Students to "Rewear" for Earth's sake

The brand that brought America the "washday miracle" is experimenting with a new mission: marketing to the great unwashed masses at the country's biggest university.

Do college students really need Procter & Gamble Co.'s iconic brand - Tide - to tell them it's OK to rewear their clothes between washes? Trust me. I have a son in college myself. Swash by Tide, a sort of megabrand for laundry slackers, has set up a pop-up store just off the Ohio State University's campus on High Street in Columbus, close enough to Ohio State's fraternity row for visitors to practically smell the dirty laundry.

Swash is offering students dryer sheets, dewrinkling spray, stain-removing pens, odor-removing sprays and lint rollers that can help give their clothes the look and smell of having been washed without the trouble or expense of actual washing. In the process, the brand's helping eliminate the one domestic chore most college students do.

The products aren't actually new, but along the lines of P&G's "commercial innovation" movement under Chairman-CEO A.G. Lafley, they're old offerings cleverly repositioned to fit the lifestyle of multi-slackers -- students juggling the demands of not doing their laundry, not finishing their homework and not cleaning their rooms.

Since college students will buy just about anything anyway, I'm sure Swash will be successful. I'm not so sure that all those sprays, rollers and pens can take the place of actually doing the wash. And I'm not so sure I'd like to sit next to these "rewearers" in a stuffy classroom either.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

FPRA Panel deals with the realities of hiring outside counsel.

This week I participated in a four-person panel discussion at a meeting of the FPRA's Central West Coast Chapter. Moderated by Ginya Carnahan, Director of Marketing, Dattoli Cancer Center, the topic was "Hired Guns: Strategies for Establishing Win-Win Relationships with PR Counsel."

Topics of discussion included when, why and how to hire outside PR and advertising counsel; effectively managing relationships with clients; common mistakes clients and firms can avoid; and establishing trust and so on. All good things to be discussed, so I was glad the turnout was a strong one.

One of the topics in this discussion was the RFP. Nothing evokes more conflicting emotions than the arrival of a RFP at the agency. And there is no better example of all the different ways clients screw up the selection process. Whether they be a government agency spending public dollars, or a privately owned company, clients need to understand the importance of using best practices in hiring outside PR and Advertising help.

First, be clear as to what you need or want from the relationship.
Next, make a full disclosure of your situation - the challenges facing you, the budget and scope of your marketing program, etc. That will provide enough information for most agencies or freelance counselors to make a bid-or no-bid decision without a lot of anguish.

Make yourself clear, specifying what information you want from the bidders, and how it should be presented. If you don't do this, you will have a mess and be unable to make a sensible evaluation. Next, help bidders by outlining how their proposals will be scored - industry knowledge, local vs. out-of-town, approach to your business, etc. How will each of those response categories be weighted?

What about Spec creative? My opinion is, either ask for it or don't. There's no in-between. And if you do ask for it, request a taste, not a 3-course dinner. Be specific here as well. That way, it's a level playing field.

Another thing I find to be very helpful is a bidders' conference, held far enough in advance of the proposal deadline to make a difference. I find the Q&A sessions at these conferences to be very helpful, allowing every bidder to meet the client contacts face-to-face and get the answers to questions "right from the horse's mouth" with everyone in the room to hear it at the same time.

Never written an RFP before? No problemo. Templates and such are available on the Internet. My recnt search for RFP TEmplates turned up lots and lots of results. As Martha Stewart would say, it's a good thing.

Unilever accused of brand hypocrisy by consumer coalition

Here's another example of the political correctness police going after a company for what it describes as "hypocrisy" in the name of childrens' advocacy. A consumer group called The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has accused Unilever, the makers of the Dove and Axe brands, of hypocrisy for running conflicting advertising campaigns -- one for Dove that praises women and their natural beauty and one for Axe that the group said "blatantly objectifies and degrades" them.

We're all familiar with these two brands - one very mature, and targeting mature people, the other brand new, and targeting a very, very different audience - young males who are obsessed with - wait for it - young females.

This group launched a letter-writing effort on its web site and demanded that the company pull ads for the Axe line of grooming products for men, which one online pitch says makes "nice girls turn naughty." Unilever shouldn't be commended for Dove's "Campaign for Real Beauty" while promoting products with a starkly different message, said Susan Linn, the consumer group's director and an instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

Unilever spokeswoman Anita Larson pointed out for Ms.Linn's group and others who may be brand-challenged that the Axe ads were clearly spoofs, while the Dove campaign is serious and "dedicated to making women feel more beautiful." Larson said, "Each brand effort is tailored to reflect the unique interests and needs of its audience."

Pardon me, but - Duh! Are we really living in a society where something like this has to be explained? Have we passed through the Time Tunnel into the mid-80's and no one told me about it? If parents - organized or not - are so concerned about the messages kids are getting from this advertising, then they should just turn off the TV. I'm a big fan of Dove's "real beauty" campaign because of its depiction of real women, as opposed to Barbie Doll women. But in no way should Unilever be condemned for running a campaign for a completely different brand, targeting a completely different consumer group, that does use Barbie-types. The Axe campaign, after all, is targeting 18-24 year-old males, not women 35-plus.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Enemies of Advertising are the Enemies of Freedom.

I recently had occasion to write a letter to the fine editorial folks at the Bradenton Herald, one of the daily papers here in the Tampa Bay region. It was actually my response to a previously written letter by a guy who is convinced that auto insurance is expensive because of all the advertising Geico places on TV to "trick" the consumer into buying their product. He actually thinks that if Geico and the other insurance companies stopped all this advertising nonsense, then the rates would be cut in half. This, as my Art Director Scott Spear would say, really "got my dander up" and compelled me to write in. The occasion also gave me an opportunity to use a great quote by David Ogilvy.

Here's my response...
The writer completely misses the point. He probably subscribes to the misguided and misinformed theory that advertising is something businesses do when they have “extra money” to spend. I’m not a particularly big fan of geckos, or even cavemen for that matter, but I know that insurance companies, including Geico, spend big dollars on advertising as part of a thing we call healthy competition – the very thing that drives consumer prices down. Yes, the cost of advertising and all other marketing costs is factored into the price consumers pay for the product, just like every other consumer product or service sold throughout the world. Auto insurance high? Yes, but it couldn’t possibly be caused by all those uninsured drivers, car thieves and a flawed “no-fault” system, now could it?

As David Ogilvy said, “Remove advertising, disable a person or firm from proclaiming its wares and their merits, and the whole of society and of the economy is transformed. The enemies of advertising are the enemies of freedom.”

Advertising walk of fame winners

In conjunction with Advertising Week 2007, the winners for favorite icon - Orville Redenbacher, the Chick-Fil-A Cows. For favorite slogan - The US Marine Corps' "The few. The proud. The marines." and Southwest Airlines' "DING! You are now free to move about the country!"

Pretty underwhelming, if you ask me. I think there were a few in both categories more worthy of the recognition, but then again it is a popularity contest. I mean, really, do those cows really deserve the same honors bestowed upon such great icons as Tony the Tiger and the Pillsbury Doughboy? The thing that is puzzling me, and probably many other people in the industry, is this - Why is the Advertising Icon Museum going to be located in Kansas City, and not in New York? Okay, I could easily accept Chicago, where some of the great icons were created by the Leo Burnett agency. But KC?

TerraCycle v. Scotts as a Case Study

A few more thoughts on the TerraCycle suit. Writing for Chief Executive magazine, Fayazuddin Shirazi says TerraCycle's fight with Scotts Miracle-Gro might become a case study for small upstart companies on how to survive disputes with bigger - in this case much bigger - counterparts. And he points to a Wall Street Journal report indicating that TerraCycle's sales increased by 122 percent since TerraCycle launched their media campaign against Scotts. A little controversy goes a long way, and evidently it can be pretty darned profitable too.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

In the epic battle of Worm Poop vs. Miracle-Gro, who's the winner?

It was the epic battle of Worm Poop vs. Corporate Giant. Last week, TerraCycle Inc. and The Scotts Company announced the agreed settlement of their legal dispute regarding false advertising claims and trade dress infringement. In this rather nasty battle, Scotts claimed that TerraCycle, the upstart company founded in 2001 by two Princeton University Freshmen, was infringing on its Miracle-Gro brand. In the end, TerraCycle agreed to change certain advertising claims and its package design to avoid possible consumer confusion, and Scotts agreed to dismiss its false advertising and infringement claims. A September 21 news release by the two companies announcing that they'd resolved their differences made it all sound very proper, with predictable, carefully crafted quotes from Tom Szaky, the founder and CEO of TerraCycle and a Scotts spokesperson.

Is there a clear winner and loser in this battle? Seems to me the Worm Poop guys come out on top. The suit can only be a good thing for TerraCycle, who prior to the suit, didnt even show up on the consumer radar screen. Although there isn't much chance this will become a standard tactic by upstart marketers, you have to admit; the whole mess certainly put TerraCycle on the map.

The bigger picture? I'm old-fashioned enough to think that marketers should use the best and brightest original thinking in product development, branding and media executions. On the other hand, I'm enough of a realist to admit that making your product look like the established big "Brand X" to intentionally confuse the consumer might bring you some degree of short-term success. Enough to charm the buyers at the big mass merchandisers. For them, it's all about the numbers. They don't care how much time, talent, creativity and sweat has gone into a brand. I'm compelled to root for the little guy in this battle, but at the end of the day you have to respect the fact that Scotts has made a huge investment in the brand and has every right to protect it. The guys who use copycat tactics may get some short-term results, but they don't build strong brands. They're perceived as knock-offs, and the consumer has a very short attention span.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

What's your favorite icon and slogan? Celebrate Advertising Week 2007 and cast your vote.

The best and brightest in the advertising industry will be getting together September 24th-28th in New York City for Advertising Week. Even if you can't make it to the Big Apple for all the fun, you can cast your vote for America’s Favorite Advertising Icon and Slogan now through September 24th. This year, two icons and two slogans will join the Madison Avenue Advertising Walk of Fame. Click over to to cast your vote.

Previous winners include Colonel Sanders, Juan Valdez, Tony the Tiger and the Pillsbury Doughboy.
If it all seems a little silly - well that's the very reason many of us are in this crazy business to begin with. It's fun. If you can have some fun and make the client's product sell better at the same time, then you've really got something. And when the business stops being fun, then it's game over.

Can Wal-Mart change its story with new campaign from Martin?

David Kiley's post about the Wal-Mart campaign breaking this week is interesting. On the Brand New Day blog he describes Wal-Mart's first work from The Martin Agency. I encourage you to check it out at The new slogan is "Save money. Live better." Wal-Mart bashing has become a favorite past-time in this country. I know it has for me - for very good reasons. My feeling is this - can Wal-Mart really believe that it can promise to make the American consumer's life better? What about the typical Wal-Mart employee? Is he or she basking in the glow of the American dream, or working 2-3 jobs to make ends meet? And does having more cheap stuff make your life better?

If ever there was an accurate advertising slogan, it was "Always Low Prices." Not the most poetic, but certainly accurate. I think Wal-Mart should have stuck with that one.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Marketing to Baby Boomers - Whole Lotta Hype, Indeed.

Just finished reading a piece by Paula Burkes Erickson of The Oklahoman newspaper that was picked up by my local news-astonisher. It's one more in a stream of stories on the subject of marketing to baby boomers, and it compelled me to write something. The boomers - those of us born between 1946, when all the GI's came home from the big war and started making lots of babies, and 1964, when the Beatles showed up here - are certainly a marketer's dream. I'm getting just a little tired of hearing about how marketing geniuses are doing so many creative new things to attract the boomers and their spending power. It's ridiculous. In our fair city, one of the ad agencies touts its considerable research prowess and specialty into the boomer pyschie. Is this anything new? It's not rocket science people; the boomers are the ones with money to spend, so you create advertising that appeals to them.

Now, will hearing that Led Zeppelin song 38 times a day really make you want to test drive a Cadillac? Actually, since they only bought that one song, I got so sick of it that I wanted to kill Robert Plant with my bare hands! In sharp contrast, put Dennis Hopper, the aging counter-culture hipster icon himself, on the beach for Ameriprise Financial, and you've got something. A little more cerebral and way better executed than the Cadillac campaign. It works, because it has a well crafted message. So kudos to the folks at Saatchi & Saatchi who created that campaign for Ameriprise, the newly re-named American Express Financial Advisors unit. I don't care if Ad Age's Bob Garfield thinks Hopper was the wrong choice for spokesperson. I give it a big"thumbs up."

What's really different about the boomers? I think it's that we are the first generation to grow up with television, and to grow up without having to endure lengthy economic hardship. Sure, we had the Cold War, Viet Nam, Watergate, the gas crisis of '74 and several recessions along the way, but we still know how to have fun. And even the boomers who are pushing 60 don't think of themselves as adults. Sure they're battling osteoporosis and E.D., but they are kids at heart. They buy what they want, without remorse. And they have fun, without guilt.

Viva Viagra.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Will so-called New Chrysler be a better brand?

Heard some interesting things during the past week about the so-called "New Chrysler Corporation." This is apparently the result of a media blitz by the new corporate ownership to get the buzz going. First, I heard they are restoring the old star logo. May be a big mistake. Why? Seems to me the old five-pointed star logo will do nothing more than remind everyone in their target demographic of those crap cars of the 70's and 80's. Remember the Aspen and Volare? The K-cars? Remember when all the keys were shaped like that goofy star? I guess if you happen to have fond memories of your Aunt's Dodge Polara, or spent some time in the back seat of a Dodge Polara police cruiser, or you are a Mopar muscle car fan, this could bring a smile to your face. As for me, I received a mailer with that stupid star die-cut right into its cover the other day. It was underwhelming.

Interesting thing number two - they've hired Bob Nardelli as the new CEO. This is the guy who left Home Depot in disgrace - with a pile of big corporate CEO money. A guy who doesn't know the car business. Did they do it for the media shock value alone?

For this brand to return to the glory days, when people took notice and said, "Hey, Chrysler's putting some great cars on the road," they're going to have to do beter than this.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

How is America's Brand Doing?

We often debate how well big brands are doing in terms of image and perception. If we look at America as a brand, I think it's safe to say we've got a long way to go towards winning over "consumers" worldwide. In Iraq, for example, America's "show of force" branding strategy has pretty much backfired. A recent Washington Post story on that really highlights the dangers of misunderstanding or failing to learn about your consumer. The Pentagon gets pretty low marks as a Brand Manager. The executive branch isn't doing much better. It's no wonder we're always hearing about how America is perceived worldwide as either a bully or an arrogant bore.

A 211-page, $400,000 study by the Rand Corp. suggests that instead of being super-aggressive in a military sort of way, a better Iraq branding strategy may be to say "We will help you." Maybe some good branding strategy really can win hearts and minds, if you hire the right people for the job. And the price was a relative bargian.

Mad Men on AMC Worth Watching

We're all aware of how the advertising industry is portrayed, and sometimes shockingly misrepresented, on the tube. Even so, the new AMC original series Mad Men is refreshing. If you haven't seen it yet, don't worry. It's not another ThirtySomething" thank God. It's actually an interesting and stylized interpretation of a fictional ad agency during advertising's "golden age" at the height of the 1950's. It's 1960 and Nixon's gonna make a run for the White House. The PC and "desktop publishing" are still 20 years away, cars have fins, the most high-tech thing in the office is the newly introduced IBM Selectric typewriter, men's ties are skinny and everybody, and I mean everybody, smokes cigarettes. Female viewers may be a bit put-off by the way women are objectified in the male-dominated, boozy business culture of that time, but I can already see strong female characters emerging. One thing that is portrayed accurately and probably never will change - the AE's are universally despised. See the rerun episodes Wed. at 10, and the new ones Thurs at 10.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Local Stations Still Saying No to Condom Ads

Here's another one from the NY Times - Andrew Newman's story about the Trojan "Evolve" campaign being banned in Pittsburgh. Local CBS, ABC and Fox stations have rejected the ads, but in a sweet bit of poetic cyber-justice, the commercial has been viewed nearly 100,000 times on YouTube! Dont you love it? In rejecting the ads on whatever misguided moral high ground they think they are maintaining, those local stations are doing Trojan a huge favor.

Here's an interesting factoid Newman points to in the story:

According to a 2001 survey by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 71 percent of Americans believe that condom advertising should be allowed on television, more than those who approve of televised ads for beer (64 percent) or hard liquor (51 percent).

And to that I'll add a fact of my own. I'll bet those same stations have no problem accepting ads for Viagra, Cialis and the other E.D. drugs.

'Nuff said. I'm going to watch some YouTube now.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

NY Times reports advertisers limiting "junk food" ads to kids

Trying to persuade critics the industry does not need government regulation, 11 big food companies, including McDonald's, Campbell Soup and PepsiCo, have agreed to stop advertising to children under 12 products that do not meet certain nutritional standards. Some of the companies, like Coca-Cola, have already withdrawn all such commercials or are in the process of doing so. Others, like General Mills, said they would withdraw them over the next year or so, while a handful agreed to expand their self-imposed bans to radio, print and Internet advertising.

As the NY Times reported 7/18/07, this is a self-imposed ban. The reason why? The last thing the big brand marketers want or need is to have more Big Brother government intervention in their marketing. Let's hope that never happens. I understand the seriousness of this country's childhood obesity problem, but if we allow government intererence, it will be the most slippery slope you've ever seen. When government dictates how and where we can advertise certain products to certain age groups, it'll be over and out. There are many people, including politicians, in this country who feel the advertising industry is made up of hucksters who want to make you buy things that are bad for you and that you cannot afford. And, of course, because we're so evil, we will stop at nothing to pollute the minds of our precious children.

In a July 18 news release, AAF President Wally Snyder praised the commitment of the advertising industry on its aggressive self-regulation efforts. Snyder says, "The industry has responded positively and aggressively to improve its self-regulatory response." The poor guy had to go straight home and take six showers after making that statement.

As an AAF member and ad agency owner, it all just makes me feel uneasy.

But fear not, ad fans, apparently while General Mills will no longer be advertising Trix to 12-and-under viewers, it will continue to advertise Cocoa Puffs, which have one less gram of sugar per serving. And it will be able to continue advertising Trix on other TV shows and media that are considered to cater to "families" rather than just kids.

Thank goodness for those talented media planners. Silly rabbit. Sorry, couldn't resist that one.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Big brands looking to Tivo-proof their advertising

Have you seen the stories in Ad Age and WSJ lately about how the big brands - Geico, Gillette, Garmin and others - are "Tivo-Proofing" their advertising? In this "I'm too sexy for my TV" age, advertisers are integrating their messages into TV network programming by reaching back to the 1950s when TV shows were created - and named - for their sponsors. Can you say "Soap Opera?" Talk about a blast from the past!

My P.R. director doesn't like me to use the word "crap" but I have to pose the question - As advertisers re-invent TV 1950s-style, does this open the doors for all kinds of advertiser-driven crap TV that will eventually serve to drive more viewers away?

Anyone care to share their thoughts about Garmin’s live commercial on NBC's The Tonight Show? I’ll go first. It was pathetic.

Is E-mail really for old people?

Higher education marketing expert and former college recruiter Susan L. Blake points to a recent Chronicle of Higher Education story stating that students are ignoring their campus email accounts and colleges are faced with reaching them by other means of communication.

Emerging technologies like Web 2.0 (podcasting, blogging, text messaging and social networking) can help colleges communicate with students. Teens are plugged into this digital word and savvy higher-ed marketers and recruiters will use these tools to stay ahead of the competition. Look for a soon-to-be-released White Paper on this topic from Ms. Blake.

About the name "Smith on Branding"

Those of you who’ve worked in the advertising business for more than ten minutes will be familiar with David Ogilvy’s book, Ogilvy on Advertising. The first American edition was published in 1983, and the first sentence summarized Ogilvy’s no-nonsense approach to advertising…

“I do not regard advertising as entertainmet or an art form, but as a medium of information.”

And although the book is almost 25 years old – written well before the Internet, e-mail, cell phones and YouTube, it’s still one of the books everyone in advertising should have on the shelf.
So the name of my blog is both homage to Ogilvy, the most successful advertising man in the history of the business, and glimpse into the ever shifting landscape of branding.


Launching this blog was a natural for me. There’s nothing I enjoy more than sharing information about the wonderful, whacky world of branding. As someone who has practiced the art of advertising, sales promotion and direct marketing for almost 25 years, I’m always looking for information, opinions, news and trends on my favorite subject. There is always something new going on. Things that make you say, “What in the world were they thinking?” Other things that make you say, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

Some of the content you see here can also be found in my firm’s quarterly newsletter, Advertising & Other Creative Stuff. I try to include as many interesting things as possible, but an e-newsletter has to be short and sweet. Here, on the other hand, we’ll talk as much as we want. So feel free to share your thoughts on branding. And you can be sure we won’t run out of things to talk about!