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.