Saturday, June 27, 2009

Remembering 3 celebs who really knew how to pitch

There is a kind of "back story" to the histories of most major brands, and the dialog is spiced up by the various celebrities or non-celebrities who pitched those brands over the years. With this week's passing of three major advertising pitchmen - well two men and one very memorable woman - it is worthwhile to recall some of their work. Everybody knows about Michael Jackson's Pepsi ads that were produced by ad hall-of-famer Phil Dusenberry. I don't believe that he had an unlimited budget, but it is clear they set the guy's hair on fire. And of course Ed pitched for Alpo and Budweiser back in the early days, then American Family Publishers

Media coverage of Jackson's death completely overshadowed Fawcett and McMahon, so enough about the so-called King of Pop.

Some of the best, most memorable ads from the 70's featured Farrah in some of her early appearances before being cast in TV series like "Harry O" with David Jansen.  Farrah's spots for Noxema shaving cream and the 1975 Mercury Cougar were great. No wonder I bought two of those cars.

A final note about McMahon - he was a great pitchman - possibly the greatest ever if you consider pitchmen in the purest sense. He wasn't famous, or infamous for being famous or dangerous or flashy. There was no "borrowed interest" other than the connection with Johnny Carson's show. He was a regular guy who made good because he had a very effective way of delivering the clients' pitches. He was as good or better than Billy Mays, getting his start on the old boardwalk in Atlantic City, NJ.

TV still a good way to reach teens, according to Nielson

Contrary to popular uninformed opinion, teens are not avoiding TV in favor of Internet. New research from The Nielsen Company says teens spend 11 hours, 32 minutes per month on Internet usage -- far less than adults. The overall average is 29 hours,15 minutes.

The Nielsen study also reveals that TV usage by teens has increased 6% over the last five years, belying a common misconception that teens watch less TV these days.

Could it be that TV is alive and well because young viewers have better ways of picking what they want to watch? Or is Nielsen just being Nielsen? I think it is the basis for healthy debate, but my observations as a parent reveal a healthy appetite for TV. So if you're reluctant to recommend the tube in media strategies targeting teens, think again. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Ad Age's Bloom says don't repeat history by building silos with social media

Ad Age’s Jonah Bloom thinks agencies are making a big mistake by creating dedicated social-media departments. I think he’s right. Not knocking social-media at all, just looking at history. His story makes a lot of sense. He points out that every time an apparently foreign object is identified in adland, those who are excited by it “annex” the object and create their own nation around it. This leaves everyone else to breathe a sigh of relief and go back to doing whatever they were doing -- albeit with just a few nagging fears about the ambitions of the fledgling country being built next door.

Before digital media it was media planning; before media, it was direct marketing. And if we want to go back in history to the Mad Men era and further, we can see that the same happened with TV and even radio. On each occasion, the newbies create their own jargon, their own law-making associations, their own cultures, their own ways of measuring success.

There are, of course, good reasons for separating new and old, but in the end, it is integration that nurtures success. Bloom points out that the new and old states cannot exist successfully without the other, a fact they realize after they have set up separate and often competitive fiefdoms that barely speak the same language. I've worked in larger shops where the urge to departmentalize things has gotten way out of hand. Something in the water? I’m also just old enough to have been around when direct marketing was the rage. DM was splintered off, taking important data-driven processes and analytics expertise with it. Then it struggled to reintegrate itself with the mainstream industry and its creative forces. 

It's happening again with social media. Bloom points out that marketers are constructing social-media departments and social-media agencies are popping up everywhere. Here's a wild concept: learn from history and integrate social media into your media department. That plan may be lacking in "gee-whiz" factor, but agencies should know by now that when you take away the silos you can deliver more effective results for clients.

Mixed feelings about pending Hummer sale

On the pending sale of GM's Hummer brand to the Chinese - seems the Chinese will gain access to a dealer network and a foothold in the U.S. car market. Now, will they be a good corporate citizen and create lots of American jobs? Pretty unlikely. Are you uncomfortable with a company from "Communist China" as Lou Dobbs ALWAYS calls them, acquiring an iconic American brand? Or, is it a good thing to give GM the cash infusion they desperately need?  

When you think about it, how ridiculous was it for GM to bring Hummer into the family in the first place? Can you think of a better example of the conspicuous consumption mentality? 

What's the right approach for GM's rebirth? There are many

The social networking gadflies are abuzz - telling anyone who will listen that GM should be using social networking media only - yes, that's only - to spread positive messages about their rebirth. My question is - who in their right mind would think GM or any other big brand would limit the distribution of their messages this way? With Hummer being sold off to the Chinese and Penske or somebody else buying Saturn, the four remaining GM badges - GMC, Buick, Cadillac and Chevy - will still appeal to a highly diverse consumer base. So they need to reach the female Gen-Nexter looking at the Chevy Cobalt and the 70-something male shopping for his 7th Buick with equal effectiveness. Let's also look at it this way - that older demographic is likely to know nothing of Twitter, Face Book or You Tube, but he does watch a lot of TV. And GM will make a bigger profit on the Buick he buys. So you can be sure they will keep traditional media in the mix for a long time. And event sponsorship for that matter.

Case in point: The only GM car I've had as a daily driver was a '98 Buick. Before you label me a geezer, let me clarify this was a Regal GS - supercharged V6 - very impressive when the right foot was lowered. How was I, who previously had driven  a string of imports, converted? I had an opportunity to look at the car up close and personal at a golf tournament, then I went to a dealer and drove one. So in my case, Buick's big dollar commitment to the PGA and Mr. Woods did get them some ROI.

I think better days are ahead for GM, and the people who plan their media are very very good at reaching a diverse audience - from highly mobile twenty-somethings, to the AARP crowd.