Monthly Archives: June 2007

Summer Sale.

The Luxottica Group is buying Oakley Inc, solidifying it as the strongest eyewear manufacturer in the world. “Oakleys,” as they are called on the sand and snow, are design-forward sunglasses that have risen to the top of the sports segment and will help Luxottica enormously. Whether worn backwards by baseball players (Jose, Jose, Jose, Jose, JO-SAY, JO-SAY), straight up by sun-bleached surfers, or as goggles by skiers, boarders and moto-riders, Oakley will help Luxottica gain some serious share. If the Italian Luxottica, adds its sense of style to the American “sports” marketing machine there should be no holding Oakley back. Watch out Smith! This would be a stock Warren Buffett would buy. Everybody needs sunglasses.
Happy summer. And don’t forget your sunglasses.

Who Yahoo!?

Here’s what Yahoo should do. It needs to become the biggest portal on the Internet. Oh that’s right, it already is. Yahoo has lost its lead in search and it has lost its lead as a communications platform. It’s second, third or fourth in a number of other competitive areas: IM, picture sharing, start pages, video, advertising, etc. As social computing grows and all large competitors move towards the center (toward each other), there is still room for a portal. AOL used to own the portal but it’s up for grabs now. Yahoo can and should strengthen its hold here.
How? First Yahoo must start to find, display, and link to the most exciting things on the Web. That will take brilliant content editors. The Elizabeth Spiers of the world. It must bring into the fold, some exciting original content: first run movies, concerts, comedy acts and Broadway shows. It must become not only a television station on the Internet, but a library, a concert hall, a movie theater, magazine, blog and newspaper. It should start buying up the best blogs on the net and paying the writers and creators dearly: the Robert Scobles, PostSecrets, the BoingBoings.  
The web is, and always will be, about the content. User generated stuff is wonderful(ish), but who is culling it for the really great art? Rather than trying to out-Goggle Google, or out-MySpace MySpace, Yahoo should try to out-Yahoo Yahoo. It should become the Web’s biggest and best online content provider.   

Awards ads are the worst.

I may have lost jobs because of awards ads. They are confounding. Clients love to win awards because it gives them validation. They immediately ask their agencies to do awards ads and invariably, because the are “me” ads not “you” ads, the ads suck and are hard to get approved. A “me” ad, by the way, is an ad about me the advertiser. A “you” ad is about you the consumer.
Good agencies try to write strategies focused on what the award means to the consumer, but it often comes back to something like “the consumer gets to buy a higher quality product.” Or, in the case of the SAB Miller Brewing house ad for Lite Beer, the consumer gets a tastier beer. (Except the Miller Lite ad was about Miller employees raising banners in the brewery.) This whole award ad business, I’m guessing, was one of the reasons Crispin was under duress with Miller, and why they resigned the business (Good Call.)
Awards ads can be done well, but it takes finesse, a client with vision, and a lot of hard work. There is an example of one in today’s New York Times from Hackensack University Medical Center. The headline reads “When it comes to cardiac health, we’re right up there with diet and exercise.” The ad references a Healthgrades ranking in the copy and that’s it. Della Femina Rothschild Jeary and Partners continues to create great healthcare advertising.


To pig or not to pig?

Here’s an idea: associate “men on the prowl” who don’t carry condoms with pigs. This is the notion in Church & Dwight’s new Trojan condom ad campaign and it’s simple and brilliant.  It speaks loudly to both men and women and is an idea with ballast.  I’ve only read about the TV campaign, so I won’t pass judgment, but it’s supposed to be funny. In that it comes from Kaplan Thaler Group in NY I wonder, but we’ll see. 
A man with a condom is prepared. He is smart. He is thoughtful.  And though perhaps a bit presumptive, he is clearly someone who understands the sanctity of the deed. Today, a man of any sexual persuasion who is prepared with a condom doesn’t come off as a player — if the wrapper is faded, he probably isn’t — but he does come off as a man.  Not a kid.  Or metaphorically, a pig.
Men may act like pigs sometimes, but deep down they don’t want to be seen as pigs. It’s a great idea. Bravo to the Kaplan Thaler planner!
Pop quiz: Which U.S. ad agency produced the first ever condom ad for TV. 

The Times vs. the Journal

Have you ever read a story in both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal and come away with two completely different appreciations? I have, and it’s pretty amazing. For me The New York Times is the world’s greatest newspaper. I crave it when it’s not at hand, but I have to give props to the Journal when it comes to business reporting. It’s business reporting is just better.
Here’s an example from articles today about Interpublic Group’s (IPG) troubles with the S.E.C. (IPG is and ad agency holding company.) The Times headline is “Settlement Sought With Interpublic.” It suggests that IPG will be hit by fines.  It reads, the S.E.C. “signals that its staff is likely to recommend civil action regarding possible S.E.C. violations.” Because I own some IPG stock, this article doesn’t make me feel too good.
The headline in the Journal is “Probe of IPG May Be Near End.” This article suggests the S.E.C. “intends to recommend a civil action against the recipient. That allows Interpublic to present its side of the allegations, an opportunity to ward off both charges and penalties from the S.E.C.” This one makes me feel good. The Journal article, is longer, includes more detail and nuance, and as is often the case, has a more complete story when it comes to business.  It specializes in business. Still, I love the Times, but the two together make an unbeatable combination.

Buy American

As a brand planner and marketer I have always wondered what it was that motivated a middle aged man in rural Kentucky to only put the highest grade motor oil in his car when on his dinner table he served onion greens and pork shoulder?  It didn’t make sense to me. Yet it was a reality. Many American’s today are still extremely brand loyal – in some cases, perhaps, to a fault. But they are not stupid. 

All of this pro-American advertising bullshit in the automotive category is pandering and silly. The reason Americans are buying foreign cars is because the cars are better. They perform better, they look better, and they handle better.  The reason we’ve maintained our lead in the truck market is because we’ve remained more competitive in trucks; our trucks are flat out superior. The wonderful “American” imagery and Bob Seger-ish music associated with truck advertising over the years is has been spectacular, but is is not a disguise for good product. The product design in the truck category was awesome, evolved, and in touch with it’s buyers.  General Motor and Ford trucks were well packaged and sold.

American car design is just beginning to make a statement. Let’s ride good product design for a while before we trot out the “Buy American” approach. And don’t think for a minute that the new Saturn ads aren’t buy American pandering. They protest too much, I sayeth.

Social or too social?

By trade I am the marketing director of a social computing site called Zude. Zude is in private Beta right now, which means it’s open for business but in a controlled fashion. If you’d like to check it out or sign up, please leave me a comment.
So last night I was looking at a number of new user sites on Zude and found a band called the SilverSun Pickups. It showed a video and a song called “Lazy Eye.”  I was drawn in by the rock riff and a video story of two kids meeting at a bar.  The video idea was simple and powerful; an insider looks at the art (or randomness) of a bar pickup. Anyway, I spent time searching out the band and learned they are an indie band from LA, have been on late night TV a couple of times, and, overall, just had an excellent vibe. 
So I wanted to thank the person on whose Zude page the band appeared.  Now the dilemma – she (emphasis on the she) is a 29 year old. Talk about overthink. Should I or shouldn’t I? With a few beers in me at Mary Carroll’s, I would have said “who’s this” and “thanks” in a heartbeat.  But online? Creepy?
Well the music won out. I sent a little thank you. It was the “social” thing to do.

Words. Canon. Shot.


My dad, Fred Poppe, who was a terrific writer and ad pundit, had a thing for one word headlines. They drove him crazy. Typically, these ads place a word like RELIABILITY in block letters centered atop the page. Lazy efforts like this are what give ad people a bad name.

My pet peeve is multiple word headlines with the words separated by periods. Like the headline of this blog post. Canon is running a printer campaign using one of these constructs: Produce. Persuade. Perform. On Paper.

This is not an idea; it’s not even 4 ideas. Whatever it is you can drive an earthmover through it. If there is an idea hidden in this campaign, it’s probably the last part of the word string “On paper.”  You just might be able to build a selling story around that, given the right strategy, but for the life of me I can’t tell what that strategy would be from what I read. 

The campaign runs on 4 consecutive half-page horizontal pages and tosses out words like: speed, quality, budget, quality, productivity, accuracy, quality, consistency, speed, accuracy and consistency. And just in case your brain wasn’t spinning fast enough, they repeat “Produce. Persuade. Perform. On Paper.” in each ad.

Here’s what consumers will say about this campaign in day-after recall copytesting: “I remember pictures on a table and lots of black space.” Props to the art director.   

Get a Life?

The stores on Second Life are open for business. Or is that virtual business? Or is that experiential virtual business? Beats me. It also seems to beat marketers, not many of whom are actually attributing real product sales to Second Life shops. In fact, I wonder if fake shopping will have a negative impact on real shopping. Will it desensitize the shopper to a real purchase because play-acting a purchase just isn’t as much fun?
For instance, if I go to the Reebok store on Second Life and buy my avatar (a cartoon image/likeness) a plaid pair of high-tops with orange laces, am I building these sneakers because they are cool looking and I would wear them in public? Or am I trying to decide if they are cool and I would wear them in public? Or am I buying them because there’s no way I’d wear them in public, but can pretend I might? And do I even need sneakers at the same time my avatar does? 
Then the phone rings, someone asks me to go to the beach, I grab my flip-flops and say “Would I?”
Second Life might make sense for new, category-busting products, but I’m not yet feeling the love for traditional products. Not yet.

Foundation Fighting Blindness

I went to a dinner last night celebrating the humanitarian efforts of Daniel G. Bergstein, a longtime activist and supporter of the Foundation Fighting Blindness. The foundation’s mission is to fund the science and research required to find a cure for retinal diseases. In his speech, Gordon Gund noted that when he began (with) the FFB there was more money than there was research projects to fund in retinal degenerative diseases. Today, only 20% of all available research projects are funded.   
This amazing event was held in NYC at Cipriani on 42nd street in what used to be the flagship branch of the Bowery Savings Bank. In its heyday that branch held hundreds of millions of dollars in deposits, but I’ll bet never before has that building seen more important money change hands as did last night.
Kudos to Dan Bergstein, Gordon Gund, Jordan Bergstein and Jim McNiel — beacons for all of us.
To make a donation, please visit