Eric Weaver, writing on his blog Ad-Verse has crafted, hands down, the best article on why direct marketers are still stuck in the dark ages and why the practice is, as Weaver calls it, "A science of stupidities." While we've long known many marketers are, in fact, still holding signs up and grunting incessantly in front of cave men's doorways, never before have we read such a concise diatribe against the practice of direct marketing.
In the works since last year, tire maker Pirelli will, in March. release The Call, a 10-minute video, created by Leo Burnett and set in the Vatican, starring John Malkovich who plays a priest and Naomi Campbell who plays the devil. Using the power stuggle between good and evil, Pirelli claims the film, directed by Antoine Fuqua, will be a metaphor for the company's "power is nothing without control" tagline. The film will be released exclusively online and receive promotion through online, print and television.
This is Hollywood-style, celebrity-powered ad is sure to give Russell Crowe plenty of ammunition to further castigate celebrities for selling out. That said, if we, as an industry want better ads, we have to tap better talent. Big names bring a sea of eyeballs and getting noticed in today's media environment is becoming an impossible task. Granted, Malkovick, though a superb actor, isn't A-list in terms of popularity and Campbell, while very popular, is no Malkovich in the acting department but together, they just might bring some notoriety and sales to Pirelli and its sleepy, commodity-like category of automotive tires.
As a goof, a new business strategy and a statement that isn't far from the truth, Maryland-based ad agency MGH placed an ad this week in the Wall Street Journal with the headline, "Sweatshop conditions at America's advertising/PR agencies must end." The ad claims agency personnel are overworked due to decades old practices of cutting overhead and under staffing, that it's an unseen practice and that it negatively effects clients. All true. However, the ad neglects to mention clients no longer value most agencies as the true business partner they once were and refuse to pay them what they're worth, sloughing them off and just another vendor which can be financially bled dry while the client reaps the rewards and profits the agency created for them. Of course, an ad that spoke that truth wouldn't gain much new business.
To be fair, most agencies are not adapting to clients' needs and have refused to step outside the mold that's been in place for a hundred years. So it's no surprise clients have devalued agencies because, in the eyes of the client, they aren't getting what they want from the agency so they aren't going to pay thereby causing the problem this ad so succinctly points out.
Putting aside the swirling controversy over Apple's copy The Postal Service's video for its new Intel ad, Apple matters dissects the ad and explains why it is so offensive to current Mac users, current windows user and just about everyone else. Not one to just complain with out offering a solution, App;le Matters suggests the whole problem could have been avoided had the copy writer simply written, "Starting today the Intel chip will get to power the most advanced operating system on earth: OS X< rather than the everyone sucks copy, "The Intel Chip. For years, it's been trapped inside PCs, inside dull little boxes dutifully performing dull little tasks when it could have been doing so much more. Starting today, the Intel chip will be set free and get to live inside a Mac. Imagine the possibilities." Think about it. Apple really did trash most everyone with this new ad. A new chip inside an Apple is hardly going to affect sales. A bad commercial like this one will. Negatively.
Perhaps it was all fire and brimstone or perhaps it really was the truth but Commercial Alert Executive Director Gary Ruskin Minced no words when he told ad execs at an Association of National Advertisers luncheon yesterday that "most Americans really despise what you do." He also told the audience what we all have known for a long time; we are not loved by people. Poll after poll ranks us right up there with car dealers in terms of trust. Citing yet another study, Ruskin said, "your industry is not yet as unpopular as the tobacco industry." It's not inconceivable that, with the increasing amount of ad-avoidance control people gain, that will happen quite soon.
He had no kind words to say about product placement or buzz marketing either and that's not surprising. The walls between advertising and content have long since disappeared because of media fragmentation which gave people more choice to avoid advertising and because of ad-avoidance platforms like pay-per-view, DVRs, bit torrent, file-sharing and the iPod. It's no surprise that marketers are grasping at straws to regain the control it once had over consumer eyeballs when a three network buy would reach every person in the country.
Clinging for it its own life at the expense of the lives of others whom it feels should perceive smoking as a glamorous activity rather than the killer it is, R.J. Reynolds in launching a fancy new brand of cigarettes called Marshall McGearty and supporting the brand with a hipster lounge in Chicago. As if completely oblivious to the past 20 years worth of research highlighting the killing qualities of cancer sticks, Larry McGearty, CD at RJR agency Gyro Worldwide told Ad Age, "No one has done this before. Nobody has tried to create romance in the industry and take it to the next level." McGearty and the other pompous soul who's name is on the brand, RJR stench guru Jerry Marshal cooked up the idea several years ago realizing many other categories of social vices had high end brands that were successful and figured why should cigarettes be left out of that game.
Oh sure, everyone should be free to choose their on manner of death but at least in American society, the whole smoking thing is over. It had it's day. It's done. Clearly, it's not a healthy thing to engage in and eradicating it from the earth wouldn't be such a bad thing. Oh wait, then everyone will want to ban alcohol, coffee and all those other pleasantly mood-altering but health challenged substances we all enjoy from time to time. That said, we just don't think this one's going to go very far. You can see two of the ads here and here.
Yesterday we shared our opinion on the Ad-Free Blog movement commenting "until aliens land and introduce an entirely new economic system, advertising will continue to make the world go 'round." Today, the inimitably more adamant Bucky Turco has weighed in on the topic, sending a letter to the folks over at Ad-Free Blog writing, in part, "The whole reason a lot of brands are going online is because they like the openness and frankness which the blogs bring. I mean look at Gawker for Christ sake. Huge blog, lots of advertisers, and their editorial wall is thick like the Great Wall of China. Not to mention it forces brands to come up with quality stuff or they will get slammed, whether they are paying customers or not."
While the effort was not well received within the ad community, there's no doubt the two people behind Ad-Free Blog, Keri Smith and Jeff Pitcher are fine human beings. After all, Smith is an accomplished author and Pitcher is a devoted musician and artist but, as Turco points out, they aren't marketers, "Again it [Ad-Free Blogs] is a good idea for someone who knows nothing about the subject, but the bloggers will definitely call you on your bullshit. Key is keeping up a strict editorial wall and attracting and selecting only cool advertisers that get it. And trust me, plenty of them "get it."
While we might all be uppity over the effort these two have launched, everyone, after all, is entitled to their opinion.
We've had the pleasure of working for Bob Brennan but when we learned he would be co-presiding over the $300 million Miller media account review, currently handled by Starcom which Bob Brennan founded and has since left, we couldn't help feeling a bit odd about the whole thing.
It seems to us an account review manage by someone who founded an agency involved in the pitch is about as unbiased as a parent judging their own kid in a ice skating competition. Miller says the review is just part of their normal "best practices policy" but as far as we know, best practices doesn't include nepotism.
We aren't normally a fan of iconic brands drastically changing their image, logo, tagline and overall marketing but we've taken a quick look at the new Absolut campaign from TBWA/Chiat/Day New York and we like it. We really like it. Gone is the bottle, mostly, and gone is the print heavy focus. TV has been added to the mix showing iconic imagery such as an image of Steve McQueen with the tagline, "The Absolute Man," an image of the Statue of Liberty with the tagline, "The Absolute Welcome" and an image of the moon rover with the tagline, 'The Absolute Road Trip." Clearly, the over crowded, hipsteresque vodka landscape has required a different tact for Absolut to set itself apart. This just might work.
Adrants is a blog. Do you care? I didn't think so. I bet you come here because there's content you like which is all that really matters. In today's Ad Age, Simon Dumenco wrote a piece entitled A Blogger is Just A Writer With A Cooler Name in which he breaks down the facade that blogging is something other than what it is: just a really easy way to publish a website. We read Dumenco's piece with appreciative glee that someone finally agreed with our position on the topic.
While lots of bloggers (writers as Dumenco defines) seem to get a kick out of sticking it to the man or mainstream media as "the man" is currently defined, all bloggers do when blogging is efficiently publish content and offer commentary on news or another person's opinion and the framework through which they publish that opinion. For some reason, the blog publishing platform has been equated to snarky opinion making which, to some degree, is fair as most blogs don't have editors are are written purposefully to ruffle feathers. But plenty of feathers are ruffled through mainstream media as well.