Tuesday, April 15, 2014

"The outside looks great. the inside is rotten."

That's how Jon Hamm describes his Mad Men character, Don Draper, in James Poniewozik's great pre-season profile in Time magazine. Sunday night's season premiere did not disappoint. As the final season opens we see Draper, as miserable as ever, trying to claw his way back. Weiner's ad man is a complex one. The man who's life "moves in one direction: forward," (remember his brother, Adam?)          has run out of new frontiers. Poniewozik says, quite brilliantly, he now must fix himself or fail.

So we see a Don Draper who isn’t preoccupied with drinking and shagging. He just wants to get back to work. So desperate is he to continue working during his forced exile from Sterling Cooper & Partners, he’s playing Cyrano to freelance copy/contact man Freddie Rumsen.

Pete’s taking to L.A. like a fish to water. Roger’s hedonistic lifestyle is reaching new heights. Peggy’s as miserable as Don. Elisabeth Moss is amazing.

On the business side, it’s the beginning of a new era. The agencies can no longer take for granted their clients will be hard drinking WW II veteran bean counters or engineers. When Joan is forced to deal with an MBA type from the shoe manufacturer who looks young enough to be her kid, we see for the first time the challenge of clients bringing their advertising in-house. Get used to it guys. It’s gonna be a recurring theme for the next 40 years.

Worth noting…

The season promo poster art – very 1969-ish – was done by Milton Glaser. Classy move. As with the show's perfect sixties-era props, authenticity is the key.

The Time magazine web site has a great Draper’s-eye view of the Time-Life building. Well that fits, because that’s where they are, and that’s where SC&P opened up shop in 1964. It’s fun to see those images from 1959-1960 when the mid-century was new. Stunning architecture and real enduring style.

From the Pages of Billboard

A couple of very interesting items from the latest issue of Billboard magazine:

First, Paul Weller of The Jam and The Style Council has launched a clothing collection. He's calling it "Real Stars Are Rare." I know it doesn't sound very "fashiony" but Weller knows what he's doing. He's known as much for his style as his music. They don't call him "The Modfather" for nothing.

Designed by Weller in collaboration with Phil Bickley, owner of Tonic, a menswear store in West London, the Autumn/ Winter 2014 launch collection will be available to buy in selected stores and online from late Summer 2014. 

Want a blast from the past? Open up iTunes and check out some of the Jam's albums. Sound Affects is my favorite. Takes me right back to my college radio days.

Next, I turn to page 30 and staring me in the face is an incredible B&W image of the incomparable Debbie Harry. It's a spread about the new book by 1970's "alternate scene" photog Christopher Makos called White Trash Uncut. This guy saw it all back in the day - and captured it on film - Iggy, Bowie, Alice Cooper and a lot more.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

GM Brands Use Grannies and an Updated Logo to Shift Perception

I like a confident brand that isn't afraid to poke fun at itself. As reported in Ad Age, Buick introduced a new TV spot this week that will try to convince consumers once again that its vehicles aren't made for the blue-haired set. But this time it will enlist the help of a few Grannies. Buick is tapping one of its biggest advertising platforms of the year, the NCAA men's basketball tournament, to air the spot from agency Leo Burnett Detroit, which began running last Thursday, during the “Sweet 16” games.

They’re smart to continuing using sports platforms. I leased a ’98 Buick Regal GS after seeing one displayed at a golf tournament here in Tampa Bay. I hadn't been looking at Buick, but after getting a close look at the car, then driving one, I made the switch from Japanese product to my first new GM car.

With a 5-model lineup that is probably their best in years in terms of quality and style – all sharing that distinctive shark’s mouth grill – I’d say I’d say Buick has its best chance in years of appealing to younger buyers. They won't crack the millennial market. Leave that to Chevy. They will, however, appeal to buyers in the 35-plus range.

Cadillac Loses the Wreath
Another GM brand trying to appeal to a younger buyer profile is Cadillac. Here's another marque with a problem. They've always been synonymous with luxury, they've always been powerful, but they too tend to have an older buyer profile. Recently they gave the Cadillac logo a little makeover, losing the wreath and making the crest lower, leaner and meaner - kind of like the new styling of the cars. Will this appeal to a younger buyer? No.
You have to look at the whole package. I do't think it will have much impact, but at least it will make the logo more consistent with their current styling.

Overshadowing both of these brands, and the others in GM's stable, is the current recall crisis. A real test for new GM CEO Mary Barra (see previous post). Some very good marketing and creative work here could be nullified by bad press and a drastic decline in consumer confidence. We'll see how that plays out.