When is funny not funny?

Was there one Super Bowl commercial  (Am I allowed to use the word Super Bowl without paying a licensing fee?) that wasn’t designed to make people laugh? It seemed that every marketer cared only about creating a humorous imprint on consumers rather than selling a little product. Don’t get me wrong, I love humor. But in the comedy club that has become the Super Bowl I’m afraid consumers are beginning to judge the work, rather than respond to it. The messages are getting lost in the humor.
The ad I remember most over the last couple of Super Bowls was the one in which soldiers returning home from Iraq were met with spontaneous applause in the airport. That was powerful. And though I’m not 100% sure it was Budweiser, I’m going to give them credit. While I’m giving Bud (not Bud Light) credit, I’m going to like them a little more as a company, albeit not in any thirst-quenching manner. 

On what is supposed to be advertising’s finest day, I think we’re losing our way.

Dell Diving

Michael Dell’s announcement to run the company again is a good one, but not if he takes his eye off the ball and decides to build revenue through increased focus on business services/consulting. The direct-sales business model works. The market has never been more conditioned to buy things direct. Dell’s problem is HP, who is really cutting into its share. Mr. Dell should focus on building a better product than HP and maintaining a lower price point. He should also amp (sic) up the design of his notebooks. Dell once owned notebooks, now the gene pool is being diluted. (After ten years with Dell I’m working on a Toshiba, and though I keep typing Stege instead of Steve, due to the funky keyboard, I’m happy. The screen resolution is terrific.)
If Dell decides to focus on business consulting rather than building low-cost, good product with good design, they will gateway right out the door…Steve        

Bud A Dud?

Anheuser-Busch has looked to one of its ad agencies, DDB, to create a Super Bowl spot aimed at the younger target. Let’s call them 21+.   In this age of ceding control of the creative product to anyone who will listen, DDB has decided to enlist interns to come up with this spot, but that’s a topic for another day. AB’s goal of making Bud more relevant to the younger target, is a very good one.
Bud is getting killed–at least in the NY Metro area–in the 21-34 year old demo. 
Have I dialed into Beverage Industry newsletters and trade pub data for this insight?  Nope. I went to a Pearl Jam concert at the Meadowlands last year and while the beer lines were 40 feet long at the Guinness cart and the other domestic beer carts, Bud devotees could grab a quaff in seconds. It was unbelievable. It was like the Bud cart repelled people. Perhaps my email of this market research study-of-one got through the firewall to AB’s Bob Lachky. 

Are You Elfing Kidding?

Over the Christmas holidays OfficeMax and their agency Toy Inc. cobbled together a fun little creative effort to build gift sales.  Not many people go to OfficeMax to roam the store looking for Christmas/Holiday inspiration, so getting bodies into the store that time of year for anything other than pen sets and desks is probably a challenge.
The program, a piece of branded entertainment called Elf Yourself, generated 36 million visits to the online site over 5 weeks. 
Here’s a quote from Ad Age on the program results: “It ended up with a 20% bump in online traffic during the holidays, though it’s tough to say if the web effort was responsible for a sales rise at OfficeMax.” 

Are you Elfing kidding me?

If I parse the Ad Age sentence, the quote either means that 36 million new consumer impressions did not translate into store sales, or there weren’t any increased store sales.
I certainly hope it was the former and that there were increases but management felt they couldn’t be sure they were attributable to the 36M impressions. (Must have been those holiday point of sale signs and end-caps.)  If stores sales were not up YOY, then I would call that an Elfing opportunity lost. 

Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company has tanked so badly, it is beyond understanding. By some accounts, for every car they sold in 2006, Ford lost $4,700. No genius I, but perhaps someone should have done something a little more sweeping when Ford hit the $1,000 per car mark. 
Marketing is still all about the 4Ps (product, price, promotion, place/distribution.)  Ford’s problem was, and is, the product. Too many SUVs, too many big trucks, and too poor car design for the family sedan. When Ford let the best selling Taurus lose market share to Toyota’s Camry, the cards were dealt. Ford will only come back when they build a new car or two that meet the needs of the consumer: small, responsive, gas efficient, youthful — and then surround it with imagination-capturing promotion (another “P”.)
Ford is a geezer brand, with geezer management, at a geezer ad agency. All the YouTube videos in the world aren’t going to change that.  By the time Michelangelo was 28, he had done his most exciting work.     

Strategy vs. Tactics


Here’s what’s wrong with marketing today:  The tacticians are pushing out the strategists. 

Measure, measure, measure is taking over for common sense, sense, sense.  Big strategic branding ideas are being replaced by campaign management, ROI, and marketing metric dashboard mania.  Pay per click? Please.  Our ADD society is being fueled legions of marketing people who only see today and next quarter.  

Big branding ideas take time to build, to take hold, to burst forth from the seed. Tacticians don’t have time for that.  

Campaigns come and go but a powerful branding idea is indelible.  


Whether you agree with Bob Parsons, the CEO of GoDaddy.com, or not, you have to admire his tactics. Here’s a man who knows how to use advertising.  It is “we’re here” advertising, which in my book is lazy but people are noticing it. And they certainly know what his company does. (My PR firm, just yesterday, used GoDaddy to buy a URL.) For those unfamiliar, GoDaddy places most all of its advertising energy behind one provocative Super Bowl spot. 
According to Parsons, while there are over 800 domain name registry companies out there, consumers can recall the names of only two or three — GoDaddy being one of them. Though it may be a low-interest category, 10% of Americans have Web sites, so the domain name registry business it is not an un-trivial business.    
If I saw GoDaddy Girl on the street I wouldn’t know her from Eve, but put her in that flowing white blouse, let her stare into the camera with those pouting eyes on Super Sunday and I’m ready to register…a domain.  

Brand Planning

There are two kinds of brand planner practicing today: “side view mirror” and “forward- looking.” Planners of the side view mirror variety tend to spend their time, budget, and resources finding out why people bought product in the past. This is not wasted learning, of course, but it’s only part of the story. Forward looking planners take that learning and apply it to what will sell in the future; to a selling scheme that hasn’t been done.
Fashion designers are “forward-looking.” They are some of the most creative people in the business world. Why?  Because they design with the future in mind. They stick their necks out predicting what will sell, not what has sold.  The marketing planners who see the future — who predict the future — are those who will win the day. 
The person who invented the Heely sneaker was a forward-looking planner. 

The copywriter.

It is my opinion that the copywriter is the most important spoke in the wheel that is advertising.  I’m a big strategy guy, don’t get me wrong, and brand strategy is the fundamental building block upon all selling must take place, but the copywriter is the persuader.  The salesperson.  

Is copywriting a lost art today?  You betcha.  And it is very sad.

I forgot who once said “That’s not writing, that’s typing.” but he summed up pretty well what’s going on today in copy.  Many copywriters think their job is done when the facts are communicated. Perhaps with humor. Maybe even using the parlance of the target. Certainly with nice cadence and tempo. However, more often than not, they are not intoxicating the consumer with persuasion and truly creating disposition toward purchase.

Real copywriters can do this.  The good ones still do.  And the really good ones should be paid millions.  



As a kid in the advertising business I was once dressed down by McCann Erickson’s creative director for making a minor copy change to the call-to-action on an ad.  In front of the copywriter, who apparently ratted me out, I was told in no uncertain terms never to change copy.  I guess it would “f” up the art, the gestalt, the continuity.  (She was right, of course.)

Anyway, if an account manager with intimate knowledge of the client and consumer can’t couldn’t change a word or two, why in the world would we cede control over the entire message to a consumer?  Cessation of message control to consumers is going to send our already reeling business even further down the rabbit hole.  As it has with Network TV.  We’ve ceded control of TV to consumers, to a degree, by going the reality TV route.

It all will get better, but we’re in for a rocky couple of years.

Peace one (whatever that means.)