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.