Thursday, January 31, 2008

What happened to the advertising industry?

I asked myself this morning what happened to the icons of the advertising industry?

My liver is happy to report that 3 Martini lunches were before my time.

When I started in advertising, this bloke might have been around. From my experience, those 'advertising types' didn't really work that much. While we were slaving away, they hung out at the 'advertiser type' bars all night.

That was replaced with black for everything: Black designer glasses, black suits, black shirts. We just wanted to look serious and not like "advertiser types".

And that's the current state: If you're in advertising, you need to have a moleskin. Moleskins are the new black.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Find your own voice

Why do too many ads read like this?

Because education told us so. Starting at home, we tell kids that's there a difference between the language they speak and the way they should write. So, when copywriters sit in front of the screen (does anyone still sit in front of a piece of paper???) we tend to hear the voices of our parents and teachers, instead of listening to our own voice. And bringing this voice to life. Everybody can be a critic. Not everybody can express their real inner voice and put it into a fascinating piece of advertising. Copywriters, that's your damn job.

Don't listen to me. Listen to the master:
"If you're trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think. We try to write in the vernacular." - David Ogilvy

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sometimes you purchase a product...

...just because the design or functionality interests you. When you discover that the wine is good as well, you will buy the product again. It's that easy.

Monday, January 28, 2008


I'm an early bird. Mostly get up before the sunrise. Mostly because of my hellish commute (try to drive through downtown LA at 7.30 am) but also because it's in my blood. My parents and sister slept in on weekends, often until noon. By that time, I already had 6 hours of Sunday behind me and 2 breakfasts. I was always ready for the third breakfast.

I like being the first person in the office: read the papers and trades, have something to eat, try to get the day started. It feels like a different place when you're in an office designed for 100+ people and then be by yourself for 2-3 hours. Everything seems to be different with nobody else around. Just like an existence out of the normal office routine.

The same happens when I go on vacation. I love to rise up before everybody and feel the earth waking up: There's nothing better than discovering all the stars in the sky outside of urban life. Or the sunrise on a mountain top. No wonder ancient tribes used to worship earth, the stars, the sun or the moon. We have diminished nature to a background. At the foreground is technology. Now, I don't say praying to Mother Earth makes more sense than worshiping technology. But it implies a disconnect with the real world. And the technology admiration leads us to an Inconvenient Truth. Interestingly, technology might be the only way out. Thereby, perpetuating the idea that technology will save the day.

In the end, only humans can save the day. Technology didn't tear down the wall, didn't fly us to the moon, didn't abolish many diseases. Humans did. Technology is a crutch to improve the human experience. Everything else is just a dreadful addiction.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Facebook in 40 years

Who wants to be a millionaire?

I do.
One proud owner of a ticket to the TED conference, Cameron Sinclair, donated his prized possession to raise funding for his non-profit organization Architecture for Humanity.
The auction currently stands at $33,535,00.

Seriously, you wanted to do something good in 2008, right? Well, bid high and send the ticket to me. It's one of those 100 things in my life I want to do. You know you want it. (To remind you what an amazing event TED is, check out the amazing presentation from Sir Ken Robinson above.)

And if you want to find out how annoying Facebook is or can be, check this video out.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Faux One-to-one marketing gone horribly wrong

The only time we ever receive handwritten letters is around Christmas or birthdays. When I checked the family mail yesterday, I found a handwritten letter addressed to my wife. No return address, the handwriting from an older person. Intrigued, I exclaimed: "You have a personal letter." Even more intrigued, my wife opened the letter immediately to find above abomination:
A fake cutout from a newspaper (stock quotes in the back to communicate the business-savvy part of the offer) talking about a lame offer from a Ford Dealership in Glendale, California. A Post-It Note was attached: "This deal is awesome. G."

Pathetic is not the right word to describe this idea from an unknown marketing virtuoso. I leave the right word to your curse vocabulary. I guess some companies think people are really stupid. I mean, really, really stupid. Really, really, really stupid. I would like to meet the person that fell for this stunt and bought a Ford. I will make sure he'll win the Darwin Awards. And I buy him a drink.

Or, shall I worry? I mean the Post-It Note was signed with 'G'. What does 'G' stand for? Genius Marketer? Gangster? Maybe it was a threat by G-Man that there's more to come.

G-Man, I'll be ready. I fight your pathetic marketing strategy with all the might of my 1,000+ spam emails daily. G-Man, I'm waiting for you!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

We write ads or people die

Thanks to Meme Huffer for this find.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I found this interesting

This is what I'm currently reading. Mostly focused on business, especially 'presentationzen' and 'Master Class in Brand Planning: The timeless work of Stephen King'. You need to understand history before you can change the future.

Found this piece about cellphone novels in Japan fascinating.
"Of last year’s 10 best-selling novels, five were originally cellphone novels, mostly love stories written in the short sentences characteristic of text messaging but containing little of the plotting or character development found in traditional novels. What is more, the top three spots were occupied by first-time cellphone novelists, touching off debates in the news media and blogosphere.

“Will cellphone novels kill ‘the author’?” a famous literary journal, Bungaku-kai, asked on the cover of its January issue. Fans praised the novels as a new literary genre created and consumed by a generation whose reading habits had consisted mostly of manga, or comic books. Critics said the dominance of cellphone novels, with their poor literary quality, would hasten the decline of Japanese literature.

Whatever their literary talents, cellphone novelists are racking up the kind of sales that most more experienced, traditional novelists can only dream of."
Not sure if this is a local phenomenon or something that will take off globally. Time will tell.

And, last but not least, if you need some entertainment, it doesn't get better than this:

"On August 6th 2007, Mark Gagliardi drank a bottle of Scotch...
And then discussed a famous historical event.

That night history was made...Drunk History."

Monday, January 21, 2008

Martin Luther King Day

"In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

A few years ago, a co-worker explained the black experience to me: How he felt like a suspect every time he entered a department store. How people became suspicious when he looked at products more than a few seconds. How he was followed by security throughout almost every store.

We see many signs of hope: Obama having a realistic chance to become the next president. A new leadership emerging in the black community.

But there are many troubling signs: Incarceration of black youths are horrendously high, societal changes have not translated into economic equality. We have a long way to go.

"Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think."
Living in Los Angeles feels like an isolated pod experience: From your home pod to your work pod, back to your home pod and ending at the entertainment pod.
Social networks help us leaving the pod and experiencing other experiences:
Black experience. Hispanic experience. Korean experience.

Social networks are about embracing people. Embracing diversity. Humanity. Let's make sure we stay on this path.
"All progress is precarious, and the solution of one problem brings us face to face with another problem."

Saturday, January 19, 2008

I wish I thought of this

When I created TV commercials, I always liked to utilize silence and scrolling copy. It's such a disruptive but still positive experience.
Anomaly took it to a new level with their Converse campaign.

Hat Tip to Gareth Kay. Good to have you back.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Join the Age of Conversation

What began as a dare between two bloggers, turned into one of the most interesting blogosphere stories of 2007: The Age of Conversation.

Much has been written about this book, Advertising Age listed it among the 'Books You Should Have Read in 2007" and more than $10,000 were raised for Variety the Children's Charity.

How do you follow up this successful, social project? You create an even bigger, better, baddder and more daring book.

In the spirit of collaboration, the sequel begins with a call-out to the community to determine this year's theme. You can choose between Marketing Manifesto, Why They Don't Get It and My Marketing Tragedy). Weigh in now and vote.

Get the official announcement here.

And if you feel ready to join the conversation with your own voice, email Drew and become part of the gang.

And, did I mention, vote now?

Hat tip to Greg Verdino for the top graphic.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Social networks

I read 100 blogs weekly. Some daily, some weekly.
I follow more than 100 people on twitter.
Have bunches of 'friends' on Facebook.

Keeps me busy, alright. But there are days that leave me uninspired. Days where you click from blog to blog and you feel like nothing has been produced. Same old, tired ideas. (Defining 'old' as the prime age of 1 week.)

Then I discovered this article from the NY Times:

"'People who live in the intersection of social worlds,'' Mr. Burt writes, ''are at higher risk of having good ideas.'"

People with cohesive social networks, whether offices, cliques or industries, tend to think and act the same, he explains. In the long run, this homogeneity deadens creativity. As Mr. Burt's research has repeatedly shown, people who reach outside their social network not only are often the first to learn about new and useful information, but they are also able to see how different kinds of groups solve similar problems."
I'm refining my approach. I started with Twitter, finding interesting people outside of the social media circle. Blogs to follow. Facebook? I can wait.
I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Polish the gravestones

TVWeek is reporting that the "seventh-season premiere of Fox’s “American Idol” was its lowest-rated in four years.
“Idol” fell from last year’s series-high premiere perch, yet was once again a ratings titan that readily blew away all competitors Tuesday night, as well as all other network premieres from earlier this season.
“Idol” received a 13.8 rating among adults 18 to 49, according to preliminary Nielsen data.
That’s down 13% from last year’s 15.8 and down 10% from 2006’s 15.3.
Among total viewers, “Idol” was seen by an average of 33.2 million, down 11% from last year."

Given the fact, that TV afficionados touted American Idol as the miracle medicine for their hemorrhaging ratings, this doesn't fare good for the TV world. Plenty cheap explantations out there (Primary Season, warmer than usual weather, the bar had $1 special, I had to wash my hair) but the real culprit is the decline of TV as the mass gathering place. The only bastion remaining is the Super Bowl. And I expect those ratings to get bigger and bigger. People long for these moments and brands are willing to pay top dollars for them.

Besides the Super Bowl, I wonder if my daughter will ever experience these water cooler moments again.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Is Chevy getting it?

In cooperation with the NY Times, Chevy bought above one-page ad in today's NY Times and launched a conversational marketing campaign.

Headlined 'We need to talk', the ad copy states:
"At General Motors, we take our responsibility for the environment seriously. If that sounds disingenuous, coming from the world's largest producer of cars and trucks, well, maybe it's time to talk - in depth and frankly. That's what this is: the beginning of a dialogue between people who share a planet. Fact is, we need to talk. We want to talk."
After Chevy explains their various environmental initiatives, they close:
"We expect skepticism. So if you have questions about our fuel solutions, we are ready to answer them. Over the next several months, this dialogue will take place on the web and in the pages of this newspaper. Ask your questions on the web, and we'll answer them, right here in the Friday Op/Ed section of this newspaper. Please submit your questions and comments at nytimes/com/chevy.
These are serious issues. And we are making serious progress. We hope to prove that to you. But we haven't got all the answers. We value your input. And we promise to listen."
The ad is signed by Beth Lowery, GM VP, Environment, Energy and Safety Policy.

The overall idea is good and an interesting evolution of the infamous Chevy Tahoe campaign. But, once again, it falls short:

- When you go to the site, there's only one thing to do: Post a comment. Q&A, the most important section of the site, has not even launched yet.
- Posting a comment doesn't feel like a real conversation. It just feels like another one-way communication. If I have questions, why bother posting on the site? Why not write GM/Chevy directly on their site or through email?
- A real conversation has to be authentic. Even though the ad copy is well written, it doesn't read like a real person wrote it. Too polished, too corporate.
- This feels like a great media idea that wasn't executed well. It's one of those alibi campaigns that give executives a warm, fuzzy feeling: "We're doing a lot about the environment and deploy these cool, new marketing tools, called Conversational Marketing."

The tagline worked really well for the iPhone, great piece of copywriting. To use it as a headline for the Chevy campaign doesn't feel right.

We need to talk? Chevy might but I have no intention to follow their command.

Overall, a good idea and I'm glad Chevy tries to join the conversation. But they fell short. Once again.

P.S.: It might be helpful to include the campaign in search results of NY Times. If you search for Chevy, the campaign doesn't even come up. Only nerdy bloggers like me cut out ads to remember the URL.

Friday, January 11, 2008

A few thoughts

Yes, I wish I would read more. I do read the daily newspaper but books have become kryptonite for me. Really hard to find time while balancing work, family and plain life. Ok, I will read a book this weekend. I promise.

These are the moments brands need to live for. Moments that people want to recreate. Memorable moments, human moments. Data-driven marketing might help the bottom line with great ROI, experiential combined with conversational marketing creates real moments.

That's the magic of advertising: Creating fascination and astonishment, surprising people. Good creative, good ideas are unexplainable (while very simple) and people won't even try explaining them.

Recession, downturn, sub-prime crisis, wars, terrorism, inflation, global warming, etc. Too many problems to tackle, overhwelming, disturbing. But when you go to bed, wrap yourself with that thought.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Piece of crap

Now, what the hell is this? Who came up with this idea? Are people supposed to flock to a Kia dealership just because there's a hot-selling dealer getting ready to sell like a maniac? This creative is so removed from what people care about, I don't even know where to start. I just hope Goodby, Silverstein and Partners had nothing to do with the hottest contender for the worst commercial of 2008.

Straight talk

Companies should learn from the current elections: Authenticity and straight talk pays off. Hillary used to speak like a corporate spokeshole. 2 days ago she showed a real side of her. Not the poll-driven, pundit-steered Hillary we know so well. And dislike. A real person with real feelings. That turnaround cumulated with her win yesterday and 'I found my voice.'

Politicians and companies have to understand that authenticity is at a premium. Words and messages get lost in the clutter. Real voices don't.

Good question

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

If I can teach my daughter one thing

My daughter played a few days ago with a New Year's tiara: She put it on herself, on me, on her dolls and, finally, on our dog. Kid have this amazing ability to try new things. A drum can become a house for a doll, a doll house a drum. While I stay within the lines of her coloring books, she couldn't care less about the lines and colors the way she wants to.

As parents we need to find the right balance between being a parent/educator and letting creativity take its course. It's a constant battle but creativity should always win.

Creativity doesn't know limits. Creativity demands experimentation. Creativity demands courage.

Courage to let go of limitations society put on you. Courage to challenge yourself and the rest of the world. Courage to change the world.

I expect nothing less from her.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Only the dead have seen the end of war

Andrew Olmsted, a United States Army major who blogged for The Rocky Mountain News, wrote about his own death in July 2007 and prepared for the possibility of not returning to the US and his loved ones. The 3,000-word piece took on a new meaning when he was killed January 3, 2008 by insurgents in Sadiyah.

Andrew Olmsted wrote:
"I do ask (not that I'm in a position to enforce this) that no one try to use my death to further their political purposes. I went to Iraq and did what I did for my reasons, not yours. My life isn't a chit to be used to bludgeon people to silence on either side. If you think the U.S. should stay in Iraq, don't drag me into it by claiming that somehow my death demands us staying in Iraq. If you think the U.S. ought to get out tomorrow, don't cite my name as an example of someone's life who was wasted by our mission in Iraq. I have my own opinions about what we should do about Iraq, but since I'm not around to expound on them I'd prefer others not try and use me as some kind of moral capital to support a position I probably didn't support. Further, this is tough enough on my family without their having to see my picture being used in some rally or my name being cited for some political purpose. You can fight political battles without hurting my family, and I'd prefer that you did so.

On a similar note, while you're free to think whatever you like about my life and death, if you think I wasted my life, I'll tell you you're wrong. We're all going to die of something. I died doing a job I loved. When your time comes, I hope you are as fortunate as I was."
And the heartbreaking closing words:
"This is the hardest part. While I certainly have no desire to die, at this point I no longer have any worries. That is not true of the woman who made my life something to enjoy rather than something merely to survive. She put up with all of my faults, and they are myriad, she endured separations again and again...I cannot imagine being more fortunate in love than I have been with Amanda. Now she has to go on without me, and while a cynic might observe she's better off, I know that this is a terrible burden I have placed on her, and I would give almost anything if she would not have to bear it. It seems that is not an option. I cannot imagine anything more painful than that, and if there is an afterlife, this is a pain I'll bear forever.

I wasn't the greatest husband. I could have done so much more, a realization that, as it so often does, comes too late to matter. But I cherished every day I was married to Amanda. When everything else in my life seemed dark, she was always there to light the darkness. It is difficult to imagine my life being worth living without her having been in it. I hope and pray that she goes on without me and enjoys her life as much as she deserves. I can think of no one more deserving of happiness than her.

"I will see you again, in the place where no shadows fall."
Ambassador Delenn, Babylon 5

I don't know if there is an afterlife; I tend to doubt it, to be perfectly honest. But if there is any way possible, Amanda, then I will live up to Delenn's words, somehow, some way. I love you."
It's amazing how personal and intimate this whole phenomenon of Social/Participatory Media has become. Especially marketers sometimes forget that social networking is more than just an application. We live such a commercialized life and the Web allows us to believe that only specific connections link us together. But we all have the need and desire to connect across differences. That's what makes us human.

And the one thing we need is more humanity.

RIP, Andrew Olmsted.

Please make sure to read his complete, final post.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Obsession with customers

Joe Nocera, of NY Times fame, yesterday wrote a piece about Amazon's obsession with customers and his personal experience with their service.

He questions Wall Street's obsession with short-term goals:
"Maybe, just maybe, taking care of customers is something worth doing when you are trying to create a lasting company. Maybe, in fact, it's the best way to build a real business - even if it comes at the expense of short-term results."
And he concludes:
"There is simply no question that Mr. Bezos’s obsession with his customers — and the long term — has paid off, even if he had to take some hits to the stock price along the way. Surely, it was worth it. As for me, the $500 favor the company did for me this Christmas will surely rebound in additional business down the line. Why would I ever shop anywhere else online? Then again, there may be another reason good customer service makes sense. “Jeff used to say that if you did something good for one customer, they would tell 100 customers,” Mr. Kotha said.

I guess that’s what I just did."
Customer experiences become more and more important: Thoughtfulness is on the top of my list. Two examples:

My wife and I used to have a mortgage with Citibank and switched a few months ago to ING Direct. What a dramatic change:
The ING Direct web experience might be the best I've ever encountered. It takes less than 30 seconds to pay the mortgage, everything is superbly organized, no unnecessary paperwork. A pure, minimalistic experience. Exactly what I'm looking for when dealing with a mortgage company. The brand promise. Overdelivered.

Second Example: You know the situation: It's a dark bar, you get the check, it's hard to read and even harder to write down the tip and total, sign it. This bar and, dare I say it: Camel, improved my overall experience by offering the first back-lit bar check.

Bruce Temkin spoke on his blog about ten customer experience resolutions for 2008. All brands should have those resolutions posted in each room and our sites. And by all brands, I mean all brands. When a bar can delight you with something besides cheap and stiff drinks, you know that every brand can make my life better.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The dangers of blogging

Another great talk from TED: Yossi Vardi, a serial entrepreneur from Israel, explains his view on the dangers of blogging. Hilarious.

And, yes, I will take on his advice. See me laying on the bed at 4am. Just like him.

The embedding didn't work. Click on this link.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Happy to be alive

Don't think the other side has better things to offer.

Via National Geographics, via Vex Appeal

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Ying and the Yang

Politicians fall into two categories: You either deal with a visionary/innovator or a project leader. One cares about the high-level strategy, the other about tactics.

Clearly, the visionary is more appealing and sexy. We all wait for the JFK moment, the moment where we look up to your president, feel part of something bigger. But, if you want a big vision, you need a giant to make it happen. Little people with big ideas have no chance. Giants with big ideas will be able to attract smaller people. Who, in return, will turn these big ideas into reality.

The project leader, on the other hand, might not have huge visions, big ideas. He has smaller ideas because he knows big ideas take a lot of effort and luck. He will make little steps, achieve little victories, change the direction of the country gradually.

Unfortunately, it's almost impossible to get the best of both worlds. In the end, we have to make a decision between a visionary path or a road paved with realities and small visions.

There are times when a reality check is the best path for a country. And there are times when a lofty vision is required to move things in the right direction.

Your call.

P.S.: Ed Rollins (Huckabee advisor) just stated on CNN that Romney had all the money and TV spots, Huckabee almost no money and focused his message on the Internet. And that's why he won. Who knew an evangelist would be the spokesperson for new media?

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

MTV - listen up

There's a market for music videos/films. Just ask Radiohead who premiered 'Scotch Mist' NYE on Current TV, while most of us were standing in line for drinks.
The band performs all songs from it's latest album, 'In Rainbows', with some added poetry readings and interesting visuals. It's nice to know that such basic but brilliant work finds a dedicated audience.
Out of the label prison, Radiohead explores new ways to connect with their fans. Exactly what we all need.

MTV, how about it? The last time something memorable was shown on your station was late 1993: Nirvana's unplugged concert. Yep, that was more than 14 years ago. Since then you have wasted all our lives with lame award shows and even lamer reality shows. How about it MTV? How about giving the fans what they want? Just ask Radiohead. It works for them. And all of us.

Stunts or conversational marketing

Scott Monty followed in the footsteps of his boss, Joseph Jaffe, and asked the online community online for help to purchase a product. In Scott's case a snowblower. 5 months ago, Joseph asked for an iPhone in exchange for a podcast sponsorship. (Both from Crayon fame.) And Grant Prouly, one of Jaffe's readers, asks for a Macbook Pro.

Now, before I go any further, let me clear about one thing: I believe participatory media and social networks are great for people helping each other out. With thoughts. Conversations. Money. Prayer. And this post is not about slamming people in need.

However, these two sentences in Scott's post concern me:
"If this angle doesn't work out - and I have very low expectations - perhaps Toro, Sears or Lowes are paying attention. It would be an interesting project for them to be involved in."
Is this a real project? Is it more than asking friends to help out? And, even more important, is this the state of conversational marketing?

Didn't I just read in 'Join the Conversation' from Joseph Jaffe that:

"81% of marketers believe that in 5 years they'll be spending as much or more on conversational marketing vs. traditional marketing"

or was I dreaming? Now, I'm agreeing with Jaffe that small ideas are the way to go but how small can ideas be before companies just walk away from any conversational marketing tactics?

Let's face it, some brands believe in conversational marketing, understand the philosophy and idea behind it. But they need to understand how conversational marketing can scale, how they can reach potential/potential customers and how to convert them. Or brands won't spend a dime utilizing conversational marketing.

There are ways of doing it. Scalable ways. Efficient ways. And it will take the whole social media community and a lot of work to convince brands to spend their money on these tactics. In order for conversational marketing to really take off, we need fresh ideas, fresh voices and fresh thinking. And executives of cutting-edge companies to move the conversation forward and advance our thinking.

I'm not sure bartering for iPhones and snowplows will do the trick. But I'm sure we need less tricks/stunts and more thought leadership and case studies.