Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Brooke Shields helps La-Z-Boy "Relax" its Image

Have you seen the new spots for La-Z-Boy with Brooke Shields?

This is one of those times when my reaction is mixed. Sure, I understand the strategy – get a classy, female celebrity spokesperson to counteract the “lazy man’s recliner” image of this well-known American brand (I can’t help thinking about Martin Crane’s duct tape-clad lounger on TV’s Frasier) and bring anti-recliner furniture shoppers into the galleries.

As Stuart Elliott points out in his NY Times piece about the campaign, La-Z-Boy and Santa Monica-based agency RPA (the brand’s agency since 2007) are trying to tell furniture shoppers that La-Z-Boy is not just for recliners anymore. Kind of like how Florida’s citrus growers famously told fans of orange juice that “it’s not just for breakfast anymore.”

The fact that La-Z-Boy is synonymous with “recliner” is a happy problem for a brand to have, I suppose, but the challenge here is to remind consumers that they make plenty of furniture that does not recline.

Now here’s the potential downside. Ms Shields has been so overexposed commercially – appearing in ads for Colgate toothpaste, Volkswagen and what seems like a hundred others, I’m wondering how effective this campaign will be.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Coping with Christmas Creep

Time once again for that annual plague upon American society known as “Christmas Creep.” No, I’m not talking about your creepy Uncle Walter; it’s those crazy retailers again.

I understand as well as the next guy that retailers are anticipating – or should I say praying for – a better year this year, but does Christmas have to come before Halloween? According to a recent AdAge.com story, the bulk of major retailers are still kicking off holiday campaigns nearly two months before Christmas. Best Buy began its holiday effort on Nov. 1, 10 days earlier than last year.

The following day, Kohl's debuted its first holiday radio spots and will promote Christmas-themed sales throughout November. Macy's holiday campaign kicked off on Nov. 7 with an animated TV spot. JCPenney began running a holiday ad promoting its relationship with the Salvation Army's Angel Giving Tree on Nov. 1.

Kudos to Target. Once again they take the high road by not playing this game. Their main holiday campaign won't launch until the weekend after Thanksgiving.

Chris Morran, senior editor at Consumerist.com, says, "There are those that find it truly offensive and gaudy and unnecessary. And there are those that don't care at all and those that actually like it. ... People are, sadly, getting used to it."

I can’t imagine the parents of young children getting used to this – having to juggle Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas shopping all at once. No wonder they're all beginning to have that "reindeer in the headlights" look. Glad my offspring are grown.

Now help me figure this out – is Black Friday the Friday before Halloween, or the one before Labor Day?

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Tea party Brand: Reality TV or Twilight Zone?

I read Michael Joseph Gross’ Vanity Fair feature about Sarah Palin the other day. What it reveals about Palin can be applied to the Tea Party candidates in general.

In an era when 24/7 cable news and social media give political candidates nowhere to hide, you would think America would relegate the tea party nut-jobs to the back of the bus. But somehow they have found a way to “go Palin.”

Mr. Gross describes how the Palin brand is defined by, and dependent on, Sarah Palin “injecting herself into the news on a strictly one-way basis” primarily using social media, and the press plays along. Information flows only one way – hers. We saw how badly it went for Palin when interviewed by real journalists expecting real answers to real, unfiltered questions. That two-way thing just didn’t work for her, so she created her own reality.

But keep in mind, she’s not held accountable for her shrill pronouncements because she’s not running for anything, nor is she still Alaska’s governor. She quit to pursue the big bucks – speaking fees, a new reality TV show, the book, the whole shebang.

The story shines an extremely unflattering light on an angry, vengeful Palin, about whom the town folk in Wasilla seem to be afraid to say anything for fear of reprisals. The whole thing is so weird, Gross describes Palin’s hometown of Wasilla “like a place in The Twilight Zone – a town populated entirely by abuse survivors.”

The amazing thing is how the Tea Party candidates who actually are running for office – Angle, O’Donnell and Miller most notably among them – are able to use the same sort of tactics and still be taken seriously by the electorate. Remember when people running for office actually had to “relate” to the media? How they would undergo something called “media training” to avoid looking stupid, instead of literally running away from the media?

The Tea Party brand. They should have called it "Chock Full 'o Nuts."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Only 14 years in the making - MSNBC Defines itself with a great new tag.

Along with MSNBC’s launch of its new branding campaign, Sharon Otterman, the chief marketing officer for MSNBC, said something that should carved into some branding monument somewhere. She said “When you’re clear about who you are, you actually make money.” That, in a nutshell, is the very definition of branding.

The cable news channel unveiled its new tagline today - “Lean Forward.”

As reported yesterday in the NY Times, this is the first time MSNBC, now the No. 2 cable news channel, has made an earnest attempt to define who they are. Jeez, nice to finally meetchya, MSNBC.

I like this new tagline because it makes a very smart statement. It suggests a smart, contemporary, forward-thinking news organization. And that’s my personal impression when I watch their programming. I think what MSBC is saying is “it’s not about who leans left, or who leans right. Leave that to the other guys. We want to be known for going forward.” And of course, it implies that their primary competition, the conservative and so-called “Fair and Balanced” Fox News Channel, is leaning backward.

About that Fox News tag, you tell me – what kind of legitimate news organization would feel the need to tell you they are “fair and balanced?” Only one, I suppose, that is anything but. But that’s another post.

“The Place for Politics” catchphrase will be used alongside “Lean Forward.” Can’t wait to see more of their campaign.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

AAF-Suncoast to present Fall TV preview 10/6.

Following up on the previous post, the AAF-Suncoast will present its Fall TV preview on October 6.

This event represents the return of a popular annual program for the Ad Fed, with Representatives from WEDU 3, ABC 7, NBC 8, CBS 10, FOX 13, Blab TV and Bright House planning to attend. They’ll be bringing along clips from last season’s hottest programs and trailers of this season’s most talked about new shows. Plenty of traditional network TV stuff – cop shows, such as the return of Hawaii Five-O to CBS, NBC’s Law & Order Los Angeles and Blue Bloods with Tom Selleck, and new prime time comedies, like Mike and Molly and Outsourced. Several interesting new shows debut this fall from the cable networks, and we know they've really become a force to be reckoned with on the strength of major cable hits like AMC's Mad Men and HBO's The Sopranos.

I’ve always enjoyed the Fall TV Previews when we did them “back in the day” and I’m glad that Alex Stafford, Ad Fed Programs Chair has decided to go ahead with this one. Alex is getting plenty of help from my good friend Linda Gross, a well-known media buyer and recent recipient of the Ad Fed’s Silver Medal Award.

Strong early interest in this event is another indication that traditional media certainly is not dead.

Here’s the breakdown:

Date: Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Time: 5:30 to 8:30 PM

Place: Keiser University Auditorium

6151 Lake Osprey Dr # 100, Sarasota, FL 34240-8442

Price: $15 for AAF-Suncoast members / $15 students / $20 future members

Become a new member at the event and get in Free!

Delicious hors d'oeuvres and a cash bar will be provided by Cosimo's Restaurants.

RSVP to info@aafsuncoast.com by Friday, October 1st.

Fall TV season to be a strong one for toys, but a dud for kids’ food brands.

According to Wayne Freidman’s story in MediaDailyNews, strong toy ad dollars on kids' TV networks are fueling a surprisingly higher-priced third and fourth-quarter selling period. The kids’ food category, however, isn't fairing so well. Translating that for those of you who are not media buyers, this is the time of year when big dollars are at stake, ramping up for the holiday toy retail – uh, - what’s the word? Madness.

Kids' marketers typically spend heavily in the fourth quarter and especially in the so-called "hard eight" or 10 weeks before the Christmas holiday. So what’s new? In spite of a sluggish economy, the advertising CPM in key demo kids' groups is soaring -- up 20% to 30% or more over an already strong 2010-2011 kids' upfront market.

Freidman says the market is so hot, certain networks are sold out in specific days/weeks. Big kids' retailers Wal-Mart, Target and Toys 'R Us are using their clout to pressure even modest-size toy manufacturers to spend heavily on television.

Continuing to lose steam, however, is the kids' food category.

Food marketers had been curtailing efforts, especially around rising kids' health and obesity issues. Sara Lee Corp., for example, recently said it would limit its kids' TV marketing under an industry-wide initiative. Sara Lee joins 16 other companies, including Burger King, Campbell Soup Company, Coke and Pepsi, Dannon, General Mills, Hershey, Kellogg, Kraft Foods, Mars, McDonald's and NestlĂ©. I learned about this intitative early this year and, believe me, it’s not going away.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Experian's fake band is gone, but deception remains.

Okay, so the good news is – we don’t have to see that lame, make-believe band anymore in Experian’s freecreditreport.com TV spots. The bad news is that Experian is still up to their old tricks.

Experts in personal finance have long criticized the campaign from Experian for freecreditreport.com for taking advantage of consumer confusion between the Experian Web site, which sells a subscription service costing $14.95 a month, and the official Web site for free reports, annualcreditreport.com.

Music lovers have hated the campaign because that fake band is so goofy. Now, as Experian introduces a Web site devoted to credit scores rather than credit reports, there will be an actual band singing its praises. It wasn’t the lip-synched vocals that bothered me. What annoyed me the most was that the band’s vocalist/guitarist was the worst “fake guitar player” I’ve ever seen. This guy couldn’t take ten minutes to learn a few simple chords?

A commercial for the debut of freecreditscore.com, and the winning band, a Detroit area outfit known as The Victorious Secrets, is scheduled to appear during the 2010 Video Music Awards on MTV on Sept. 12.

Experian believes a real band will generate more “social media buzz” because they can actually show up at events and play live. Now there’s a no-brainer. Makes you wonder why they didn’t recruit a real band in the first place.

But I’ve already seen some negative buzz from people who say that, when you consider the thousands of plays the new commercials will get, this band is getting ripped off. This could magnify Experian’s image problems and shine a brighter light on their deceptive practices. So stay tuned.

I wonder if they’re going to rename the band – Question Mark and the Experians?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

C-K's Cultural Dictionary is fun and a smart self-promo tactic.

Here's another reason why I think some of the world's most inspired creative thinking comes from Chicago. Cramer-Krasselt, the Chicago-based shop that is, I believe over 100 years old (makes Burnett look like a youngster) has launched the third edition of its "Cultural Dictionary."

A few samples:

Ecochondriac - The woman in the next cubicle who can't stop talking about apocalyptic climate change.

Hopetimism - The ability to believe in the best possible outcome.

Gagalicious - An adjective for outrageous, ornate or over-the-top style.

The point of the project -- now in its third year -- is to present a tiny "cultural snapshot" with each word, and a little insight into the trends and events that spawned them. Fans can go to http://www.c-k.com/cultural-dictionary/ to "like" or "dislike" words. This is fun stuff, worth a look. And clever self-promotion by C-K, associating their agency with what’s up-to-the-minute hot in American culture. Sorry Sarah Palin fans, no sign of “refudiate” here.

Many, of course, are custom-made for marketers and media types.

Happy 75th, Leo Burnett.

Chicago-based creative powerhouse agency Leo Burnett, part of the Paris-based Publicis Groupe since 2002, celebrated its 75th anniversary last month. Do a little quick math and you’ll ponder this was a pretty big gamble for a 44-year-old former newspaper reporter to take smack in the middle of the Great Depression. But as we all know, the gamble paid off big.

Admit it or not, quoting the Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rosenthal, your stream of consciousness "includes plenty of runoff from Burnett brainstorms," especially if you’re over the age of 30.

You would never think of Marlboro as a women's cigarette, but that's how the brand was introduced in the 1920s. In the mid-1950s, Burnett and company repositioned the brand with the Marlboro Man, and after all these years, he still stands tall as the macho man of tobacco-land. Even if you’re too young to remember cigarette ads on TV, you know the icon.

The Green Giant Co. was the first Burnett client. How good was the Jolly Green Giant, introduced in 1936, as an advertising icon? The original name of the company was the Minnesota Valley Canning Company, until the Giant became so big, he overshadowed everything else.

My favorite Burnett quote – When you reach for the stars you may not quite get one, but you won't come up with a handful of mud either.” Nothing fancy about that. Burnett believed in keeping things simple, easy to read and understand, and memorable. And he literally regarded a great ad as “the most beautiful thing in the world.”

They don't make 'em like that anymore. With so much of today's advertising being derivative, sloppy, thoughtless and often too complex to remember the brand, we can all take a lesson from an Ad Man who died before many readers of this blog were born, but whose ideas continue to build good brands and increase sales.

Custom Media Day in NY reveals upward trend in digital custom content.

The Custom Content Council presented "Custom Media Day in New York 2010" and SAS business development associate Mike Eisgrau covered the story as only he can, filing an interesting and very encouraging report as to the present and future of custom content marketing.

Among this year's conference speakers was Zinio.com VP Nicholas Pavach, who told the group he has "no paper phobia" – that there will still be a need for print magazines, even though that content will appear more and more via the digital world of Blackberries, iPads, iPods and PCs. He illustrated the point with a study showing that while 41% of readers pay more attention to ads in digital magazines---59% are still paying more attention to those same ads in print. In the healthcare field that translates into nearly 60% of readers of our magazines responding to the content by holding print publications in their hands---whether in a medical office or at home.

Speaker after speaker made the point that custom publishing has entered the digital world big time---in the healthcare field and many other areas.

Conference moderator Joe Pulizzi, the self-described Content Marketing Evangelist and founder of Junta42, sees a long and prosperous future for custom content marketing. He told his audience: "We are just getting out of the dugout for a nine-inning game. We are in our infancy."

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Politics Over Principle Damages America-the Brand

Getting back to the Toyota – BP – America branding discussion, perhaps it is America, the brand, that suffers most when corporate America puts profits over responsibility. This is often compounded by our elected officials who engage in obstructionist partisan politics at just the moment when they need to pull together for the common good. Take Texas Congressman Joe Barton, the jackass who came out and said BP was owed an apology for being subjected to a “shakedown” by our government. He was taken to the wood shed by his own party for that one. He represents Houston, the big oil town. No surprise there. And wouldn't you love to follow the money trail between him and big oil?

I suppose in a perfect world, there would be a long-term boycott of Toyota vehicles and BP oil, and Congressman Barton would be tarred and feathered. But that’s the problem. Like certain banks we all learned about in the big financial meltdown, they are too big to fail.

I’ve heard Congressman Alan Grayson, a Florida Democrat, say the GOP stands for Greed Over Principle. Well, putting politics aside and sticking to branding, the same could be said for corporate America. It is more than disturbing to consider how the biggest corporations – from big oil to big box retailers, put their profits first, and the bigger picture – the environment, the safety of their employees, etc. – second. When taken to task, they sing the same old tune: “We’re the good guys because we create jobs. If you fine us or impose too many restrictions on us, you’ll take jobs away from hard working American families.” I say shame on them all for diminishing America, the brand.

How is America's Brand Doing?

On this, the eve of America's 234th birthday, I'm compelled to think about how America, the brand, is doing. To some, I suppose we're still the envy of the world. To others, especially when you consider the emerging super-economies like China and India, we must seem like a stumbling former champion.

When is a brand irreparably damaged?

Having just heard about new recalls by Toyota, the world’s biggest automotive brand, I can’t help thinking the marketing folks at Toyota – the company that sold thousands of vehicles in the U.S. with faulty accelerators – must be happy these days. To quote an old campaign tagline of theirs, “Oh What A Feeling!”

In the wake of a humiliating, brand-ruining nightmare, Toyota is buying huge amounts of TV time to shift perception and restore consumer confidence. The company says it’s spending a million dollars an hour on safety engineering. Very strategically developed graphics – like the word “SAFE” in big letters adjacent to the Toyota logo attempt to make the corrective association.

Getting back to the marketing types at Toyota, why should they be happy? Because no matter how badly Toyota has screwed up, it’s nothing compared to Uber screw-up BP. When a new villain comes along, the public forgets about the old one. Because the consumer tends to have a short memory, the old villain is no longer the villain; he’s yesterday’s news.

The new villain, BP, essentially did the same thing Toyota did with its faulty accelerator problem. In the early stages, they minimized the problem, avoided cooperating with federal investigators and hoped it would fix itself somehow.

BP is going to wind up spending about $30 billion to pay for its screw-up. But the question remains. Is the BP brand so irreparably damaged that British Petroleum will soon spin off its U.S. operations into a newly-named division?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Forbes' list of "Best-Ever" Advertising Taglines reminds us of how good we can be.

This is a quickie. While we're surrounded every day by advertising that is total garbage - derivative, immature, me-too and totally forgettable, the list of "Best Ever" Advertising Taglines compiled recently by Forbes is a good reminder of how effective, and enduring, the industry's best taglines can be. It's every copywriter's dream to create one of these. And rightfully so. Taglines become part of our lives.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Dropping Mercury is the latest smart move by Ford.

After 71 years of “cruising up and down this road” the latest domestic automotive brand to be phased out is Mercury, the step-up from Ford, or step-down from Lincoln, depending on which end of the market you’re coming from. It occurs to me that the two Mercury cars I have owned, built in the same decade, represented the best and the nearly worst of that marque. My brother’s first car was a 1967 Mercury Cougar. My first car was a 1970 Cougar XR7. Pure muscle, with a little personal luxury thrown in. Its high-compression 351 Cleveland engine produced 300 horses right out of the factory, so it did not disappoint when the right foot was lowered. On the other hand, my 1978 Cougar XR7 was a typical late-seventies Detroit product. Although it was one of the nicest looking cars of the disco era, especially with a set of aftermarket wire basket wheels, it was a product poorly built by a company that clearly let the bean counters have their way. I still have some of the repair bills. In later years, the innovation vanished, the image as a personal luxury brand was forgotten and Mercury became the stepchild of Lincoln.

In recent years, Ford has done a lot of things right. They are profitable and their quality seems to be up to snuff across the board. Problem with the Mercury brand, however, has been the lack of a clear brand personality. Since the “sign of the cat” days, Mercury cars have just seemed like differently-badged Fords. No distinction. No drama. And that “hockey stick” logo never made sense to anybody. For example, it doesn’t make sense to buy the Mercury Mariner when a nicely equipped Ford Escape SUV is such an attractive product. So it makes perfect sense for Ford to drop the Mercury brand. They will no doubt make the higher-end Ford cars a little classier, and make the Lincolns more appealing. The Lincoln-Mercury dealers will be pissed off, but they will be realigned and live to sell cars another day. By dropping the line, Ford will increase efficiency and brand value, just the way Chrysler has done by dropping their Plymouth brand, and GM, of course, by dropping Oldsmobile, Saturn and Pontiac. As much as I hate to see Mercury go, I have to admit this consolidation is a smart move.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Our newest powerhouse brand - New Jersey. You got a problem with that?

One of the most oddball developments in the whacky world of branding these days is the way the characters and culture of New Jersey are taking television by storm. New Jersey – where you don’t go to the beach in the summertime, you go “down the shore.” And the words water, coffee, dog and whatever are pronounced wadder, cawfee, dawg and wadever. Growing up in North Jersey, I thought I’d never see the day when the Garden State, long the subject of derision by “too cool for school” New Yorkers and comics who loved to crack wise with that “what exit?” joke, would become a powerhouse brand and the darling of reality TV. Who woulda’ thought Style, Bravo, TLC, HBO and others would all be going nuts over Jersey.

If ever there was a case of perception versus reality, it’s in New Jersey. Take a look at the way the media buyers see Jersey, or the way it’s been portrayed in films and TV shows from Law & Order to HBO’s The Sopranos, and you’ll begin to understand the “perception” problem. To the media buyer, North and Central Jersey are part of the NY Metro and practically the sixth and seventh boroughs of NYC. South Jersey? That whole thing belongs to Philly. The reality is that New Jersey is a densely populated cross-section of America – the good, the bad and the ugly. There are lots of people, and many of them are very, very affluent. Many of them actually do not commute to Manhattan to work.

So did Jersey ever have a chance to build its brand? Does Jersey really have anything unique? I think what the television networks, advertisers, magazine publishers and other “shapers and reflectors” of the popular culture have finally discovered about Jersey is its people. In a recent promotional interview, I heard Carolyn Manzo, one of Bravo’s “Real Housewives of New Jersey,” say that people from New Jersey dare to be themselves. She's a smart lady and I agree with her. It seems no matter what their net worth, these “regular guys” and Jersey girls” are interesting to watch because they’re just being themselves. And adding to their appeal is the fact that they really don’t care if you like them or not.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ad groups don't want FTC "on steroids."

In a story published April 22 in Ad Age, Rich Thomaselli reported the advertising industry is rallying in opposition of a provision in the Financial Reform Bill that could extend the power of the FTC to uncomfortable new levels.

The 4-A’s, the Direct Marketing Association and the AAF are among 30 groups that delivered a letter to the U.S. Senate and took out a full-page ad in the influential Capitol Hill newspaper, Roll Call, spearheading an effort to prevent the Federal Trade Commission from once again becoming the "nation's nanny."

The groups say a "hidden" provision in the already-passed House of Representatives' version of the Financial Reform Bill (H.R. 4173) would expand FTC power and restore the broad rule-making and enforcement authority the agency enjoyed prior to 1975, when Congress imposed restrictions on the FTC with the passage of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.

The ad industry groups and others believe the provision that would grant the FTC greater power over unfair and deceptive ad practices has no business in a financial reform bill. They fear heavy-handed tactics and an atmosphere where the FTC has too broad an authority over many different industries.

Could the "gloom and doom" be finally over?

Great story on Forbes.com about how advertisers are rolling out carefree campaigns that use humor, colorful images and upbeat language to get consumers to lighten up--and open up their wallets. But hey, isn’t that what advertising is supposed to do?

While none of us could ever get two economists to agree whether the real tough times are finally behind us, leave it to advertising to lead us to our happy place as consumers. Sure, people are still unemployed and facing foreclosure, but when the gloominess of our reality begins to seep into advertising, most of the resulting executions are pretty lame. And they come off as pretty insincere. Advertising should be happy, uplifting, humorous. That's what we expect.

Lane Bryant says Fox, ABC censored their spot.

In a post on the company’s Inside Curve blog, plus-size retailer Lane Bryant complains that two networks -- Fox and ABC -- are trying to censor them by resisting the airing of its sexy Cacique lingerie ad. Fox wanted edits, then wanted to restrict them to the final 10 minutes of American Idol.

This story is interesting for several reasons. First, it's an example of hypocritical these two networks in particular - the right wing Fox and the Disney-owned ABC - really are.

So why give LB this kind of static when both networks have consistently broadcast other racy ads (think Victoria’s Secret) and programming (like the sexually-charged Desperate Housewives). I know the TV networks have a tough time dealing with the needs, wants, desires, prejudices of their affiliates, particularly in the Bible Belt, but come on. Let's grow up. Or could it be that Victoria's Secret is such a powerhouse advertiser, they don't want LB encroaching on their turf?

LB has made the most of this whole thing - and who can blame them? I've gone to the blog, watched the spot in question - Yes, it's great work. Very sexy, but also very tastefully done. The consumer reaction seems overwhelmingly favorable. People get it. Why are the stick-thin, but amazingly ample-breasted females on the Victoria's Secret ads deemed to be "normal" while the bigger, more curvy women represented by LB seen as being too fat for prime time? We're not talking obese here. We're talking normal.

One of the comments posted at LB's blog brought up a good point. If you go back to pre-Farrah Fawcett America, pre-Super Model America, back to the Mad Men era of the late fifties/early sixties, the Marilyn Monroe body, which I believe was a size 10, was considered the ideal. Nothing wrong with those curves either.

Watching American tonight. Let's see if they air the sexy Cacique ad, or just the tamer one.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Gotta love those Belgian Agencies. How do you say "chutzpah" in Flemish?

In case you haven't heard about this, ad agencies in Belgium - nearly 20 of them - have banded together in a protest against spec new business pitches. They say clients are abusing the industry by conducting pitches where too many agencies are invited and all are expected to do spec work. Gotta love those Belgians for having the backbone to say, "enough is enough." They've called a Virtual Strike, and done it in a very creative, classy way that leaves no doubt of their solidarity. The strike started yesterday, and is planned to last for a week.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

This year's Super Bowl ads were just a sad commentary on our society.

I watched this year's Super Bowl again with great anticipation. The lack of creativity in this year's class of ads could make this a very short post.

It's a good thing the Super Bowl ads aren't really an indication of who's the best and brightest in the ad business. And some of what you saw wasn't even conceived by advertising people. The Dorito's ads, for instance, are "user generated" and the result of a contest for average Joes to submit ad concepts and win a big money prizes. Great, as if there aren't enough advertising creative types out of work these days.

No, the best creative work is being done by small agencies for smaller clients with limited budgets. In their world, the creative has to be damn good to break through the media clutter on a comparatively shoestring budget.

So what were this year's Super Bowl ads an indication of? Here are a few suggestions...

1. Some higher being has apparently decried that all advertising must be sophomoric, snarky and/or derivative. Originality is not allowed.

2. Talking babies are apparently an indication of a highly advanced society.

3. A talking baby with a girlfriend is apparently even more "awesomer."

4. The people at Doritos have cursed as with their stupid "let's invite average people to submit ad ideas and pay them lots of money so we will appear to be average people just like them" contest thingy.

5. As a society, we really, really, really love beer.

6. With the exception of Audi, the auto manufacturers apparently didn't get the memo. Audi's "Green Police" spot was pretty darn good, and scored in USA Today's Top Ten.

Note to Doritos brand managers:
Please, please, please stop doing that stupid contest.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Could be worse for Toyota - those Camrys could be exploding!

Getting back to Toyota now, we’ve had all kinds of calamities with automotive recalls over the years, from exploding Ford Pintos, to the big “unintended acceleration” scandal with Audi back in the 1980’s. The fact that you probably don’t even remember that will tell you what I’m about to say. This too shall pass, but not before Toyota loses a lot of ground in both market share and reputation. GM they say was the first to jump on Toyota’s neck, offering some big financial incentives to Toyota owners to come in and try the Chevy products. Good move, I say. Because a lot of those former Toyota loyalists would be driving Hondas next week if not given a robust incentive to try the American cars.

Now the Feds are jumping on. They want to look like they're doing something to keep all the soccer moms safe. If Toyota knew a lot more sooner, then I say they deserve it. But we'll never know.

Quoted in Advertising Age, Dean Crutchfield of branding agency Method brought up an excellent point. He said regardless of how hard Toyota throws itself on its sword, there will always be a level of doubt in place that the company's dealerships will have to contend with. "Can you imagine those poor dealerships are now going to have to contend with questions about whether the issue is sorted out in this model or not every time they try to sell a car?" he said. "It's going to trail them for some time to come."

Yes, it will. The Audi situation was a very interesting one. I did a fair amount of work in the car industry back in the eighties and was told by very well informed sources there was nothing wrong with the cars. The whole thing was driver error, but it messed up Audi’s reputation big time, and those dealers had to hear all kinds of inane questions and wisecracks from well misinformed showroom customers for a long time.

Ah, the car business. Never gets dull.

Dumb move, Apple. Are you losing your humanity?

I know I'm a bit late weighing in on this iPad thing, but I can’t believe Apple, as smart as they are, being the skillful marketers they have been all these years, have made such an obvious blunder with the name of the iPad. From a possible infringement with another manufacturer, to the whole fem hygiene association, it was really kind of a dumb move.

On the day it was launched I was watching CNBC in the office kitchen and trying to eat my lunch without getting seasick from there double market ticker crawl-thing. Im sure the TV folks have a cool name for that thing. I just call it nausea. Just before giving up for fear of getting sick all over my newly-repaired Italian loafers, anchor Michelle Caruso-Cabrera made a crack about the name reminding her of a feminine product. As annoying as she can be - well she's right. A real turnoff for the female consumer.

My sincere hope is that Apple isn't getting arrogant. One of the most appealing things about the Apple brand historically has been its "humanity." If consumers see arrogance creeping in, they will start to put them in the same category as Microsoft!

Toyota goes into major spin control, but will lose the soccer mom loyalty

As Toyota’s U.S. boss Jim Lentz goes into damage control hyperdrive, the Toyota gas pedal calamity roils. This is a brand nightmare that gets bigger every day, and will not go away for a long, long, long time, no matter how many tactics Toyota uses to positively manage perception.

The difficulty for Toyota is magnified by the very nature of their brand. Devastating for them –like Honda, their buyer is typically someone who buys a car as an “appliance” to get from Point A to – oh, let’s say soccer practice, with optimal gas mileage. This isn’t exactly the "car enthusiast" crowd. Toyota is the Wal-Mart of the auto industry. Big. Lowest common denominator. Bent on world auto market domination. Want more panache? Step up to the Lexus ES series, which is really a gussied-up Camry.

So their buyer is someone who – and I’m not exaggerating here – will cross them off the list in a heartbeat because of this accelerator pedal recall.

GM they say was the first to jump on Toyota’s neck, offering some big financial incentives to Toyota owners to come in and try the Chevy products. Good move, I say. Because you know most of those former Toyota loyalists would be driving Hondas next week if not given the incentive to try the American products.