Monthly Archives: March 2009

Cool vs. Scary as a Motivator.


The New York StateSmokers Quitline (1-866-NY-QUITS) is a toll-free number to get help with smoking cessation. A while back while planning for the North Shore-LIJ Health System, I was asked to generate activity among Africa Americans. The program offered free nicotine patches.


If you’ve seen any Quitline ads recently, you’ll know they are quite powerful. A older gent talking through his voice box, a person with an amputated gangrenous foot. Lots of scary and lots of nasty. Our approach was different. We decided to celebrate smoker abstinence. Go positive. Use the advertising to suggest that it is the “powerful” who can face demon and say no.


To celebrate the power to quit I suggested making the nicotine patch a fashion symbol. (Remember how the birth control patch became a fashion symbol for a while?) We cast a young, cut, shirtless lad with cool tats proudly displaying his nicotine patch. Run on bus shelters and other OOH, the images were as powerful as the empowering message we conveyed.  Power and cool are way stronger motivators than preachy scare tactics.


News On The Street.



The newspaper business is tanking; partly caused by the economy, partly by the Internet, mostly because of the papers themselves. I wrote a couple of days ago how advertising account planners have to leave the building to get in touch with consumers. That is also true of newspaper reporters. 


The following quote appeared in The New York Times this morning concerning the San Francisco Chonicle’s difficulties: “The Chronicle no longer has anything like the grip it once had on this region.”  How does a newspaper create and maintain loyalty…or its grip? It must know its readers. It must live with its readers. Listen to and understand them. And that doesn’t come from periodic focus group research, it comes from feet on the street — at funerals, basketball tournaments, breast cancer walks, soup kitchens.


It’s ironic that the way most newspaper reporters get known today is from interviews on TV shows. I bet if you looked at the country’s best-read, most respected and decorated reporters, they are the ones with the biggest expense reports.  The worst reporters are those who eat in the cafeteria every day. Peace!


RealAge Coming of Age.


Most agree that the future of online advertising is in the hands of the data gatherers. Those who collect user data and do something smart with it will garner higher CPMs, lower their online marketing costs and improve customer satisfaction. The $64,000 question is: How can this be done without invading consumer privacy? has an idea of how to do it. RealAge provides members with a healthcare questionnaire that when truthfully answered will allow them to receive valuable medial information. People with a genetic or behavioral disposition to hypertension will receive targeted counsel. Owned by Hearst but sponsored predominantly by the normally heavy-handed pharmaceutical companies, this approach will stumble at first, but eventually find an appropriate operating level.   


RealAge does not sell its lists, acting as the list broker and trafficker of outbound newsletters, and it aggregates all the data and will, no doubt, do something smart with that too.  


I like this approach. If I were to fill out a hiking profile and get something of real value from an outdoor products companies, I’d be very happy. THIS is a business model. Peace.


MINI R57 Cabrio –Nice Idea



"Always Open" is the idea behind phase two of the MINI R57 Cabrio communications campaign. Created by Berlin-based agency Plantage, the TV spots suggest some classic film car scenes, all of which suggest how manly it is to keep the top down, ergo the Always Open. In one ad, think the Rebel Without a Cause “chicken” scene meets Katrina. Good idea.   


Showing how much fun a MINI Cabrio can be with the top down is smart. It’s what the Cabrio does best. Plus it identifies its drivers as rebels, rebel wannabes and most importantly a car for "manly men."  The intent is to open up an untapped side of the Cabrio market. Volkswagen’s Cabriolet sales skewed heavily toward women and this was a likely issue for the MINI.  My bet?  It is going to work.


Opting Out of Paper.



David Pogue, a pretty tuned-in writer, mentioned in his New York Times article yesterday that while at South By Southwest (heretofore referred to as South By) he noticed lots of newspapers and magazines at attendees hotel room doors each morning.  No doubt, most contained stickers and wraps touting sponsor messages.   What was odd, according to Mr. Poque, was that most people left the papers on the floor. And though this doesn’t say much for the housekeeping at his hotel, the many daily papers started to pile up over time in a subtle form of protest.  Last year while at South By, I noticed an anti-paper phenomenon which took place at the convention center. Check out the “paper protest alcove” picture and post.


South By-Interactive is filled with Posters (opposite of Pasters) who are content generating opinion leaders. South By-Music, held the following week, is filled with Music Posters.  Both are taste makers and both groups are opting out of paper. This is a trend which was very evident at South By and is coming to a neighborhood near you. Peace!




Robert J. Coen To Step Down.



I worked for McCann-Erickson-NY in the 90s and was a big Robert Coen fan. Bob, famous for being the advertising’s spending guru, is stepping down after 6 decades in the business.  Two quick stories about Bob: Well into the 1990s, he presented his findings on large oak tag boards written in crisp magic marker.  He didn’t use PowerPoint.  No way. Second, one time I ran into him in the halls and suggested he might want to start tracking ad spending on the Internet. Though he didn’t exactly scratch his head, he said that spending at the time was just a blip compared to the numbers. He didn’t start including online for a few more years.


Bob is a great ad man and a great economist. Always very accurate, he may be the most important, powerful ad executive of the past 50 years.  Check out the story here. Peace!

Cisco Demonstrates Smarts and Backbone.



Cisco Systems purchase of Pure Digital Technologies, manufacturer of the Flip video recorder, is a BIG move and Cisco’s first real push into consumer products. To date, the only people who have actually bought something from Cisco are business and IT people. Consumers have seen Cisco TV commercials promoting corporate video conferencing and the “human network,” but that was really a B2B and investor stock play.  


The Flip, however, is one of the coolest tech products to come along in a while and will finally give Cisco some real purchase in the consumer market. Cisco will evolve the product onto a wireless platform, somehow make it videoconference-able, and take personal video recording to a new level.  The Cisco Flip will be advertised using some serious cash, making ad agencies, media companies and retailers happy. In addition, the increased usage of Flips around the world will send some serious gigs over the net’s backbone routers, Cisco’s bread and butter.


This was a great move by Cisco and one which may catapult the brand into Sony landin 5 to 10 years. Peace!


Ads. TV vs. Online.




Quick, think of the best online ad you ever saw. What is it?  Thought so, you can’t. Okay maybe the BMW webisode or Whopper Challenge…but that’s about it. Know why? Because, for the most part, web ads aren’t that artful. Low cost, lacking in original music and idea, most leaderboards and rectangles are stilted, choppy and pretty ham-handed (whatever that means). The audio is usually sub-par and often stock.


McCann-Erickson was once the best shop in the world at creating original music for its clients. Today it’s a lost art; now agencies crow about buying music from the next Emo or House band. On the cheap. Music adds a richness and a tone to advertising;it becomes part of the story. Most people on the web don’t want audio in their ads.


The reason TV commercials still work better than any other advertising medium is the story telling. The casting. The stylists. Sounds design. Editing. TV commercials create emotional responses. Writing for a :30 must be perfect because the story is so short. Every word counts.


Digital advertising is a wonderful new medium in that gets consumer one-click away from purchase or inquiry, but today that ROI metric is overshadowing the potential artfulness of the medium. When ideas have to be bounced off the Flash editor, you know you are in trouble. Peace!


Carl’s Junior Hungry for Share.



Carl’s Junior, a hamburger chain with locations in the Western United States, has long been a fast food advertising poser. It has tried to break through and had some momentary hits but never really latched onto a powerful branding idea.


An article in today’s New York Times, however, shows they do finally have an idea and seem to be supporting it. “Young and hungry,” though slightly derivative of Burger King’s strategy is a tight, actionable branding idea.  I say it touches upon BK’s strategy because from a business standpoint the real turn around at Burger King IMHO was when it decided to target young males with big appetites, getting them to double and triple up their meat intake. And celebrate it.


Carl’s Junior has employed as spokesman Rob Dyrdek. Though not young, Mr. Dyrdek is certainly hungry and quite the skateboarding phenom. He comes with a prepackaged young and hungry persona, an MTV show or two, a strong following among the target and he does tricks. 


If Carl’s plays its cards right and manages this branding idea correctly, e.g., make the food look good (off-camera), serve obscene portions, etc. it will gain share hungrily. Peace!