Tuesday, December 9, 2014


Talking the talk is way different from walking the walk.

I'm back.

Today, we sent out a self-promotional e-mail. If you didn't get it, you can see it here.
It's about the fact that companies ought to put more effort into developing their product or service or discovering what is truly unique about their product or service than telling people how wonderful they are.
We had a client not long ago (they and their industry will remain nameless here) that was a new entry into a crowded arena - an arena full of disgruntled customers.
This, we said, right at the beginning, is a tremendous opportunity. It's an opportunity to delivery a genuinely better product and genuinely better customer service than the competition. And believe me, the bar here was pretty low, so pretty much all these guys had to do was not hate their customers and they'd have stood out.
Note the use of past tense.
We had a lot of ideas for ways they could deliver a better product, but every one was met with a deaf ear. Now, maybe every single one of them sucked. That's a possibility. I don't buy into it, but it's possible. But the fact was, these guys weren't inclined to do anything better or different to distinguish themselves.
Wait, I'm wrong there. They were more than happy to say they were all about making this industry pleasant to use and saying that they believed in, as their marketing director said, in delivering their service in a "fun, creative and innovative approach." He used to want us to include copy about their "legendary customer service" in ads. Legendary. For a startup.
Anyway, this client is gone now. We tried our best, but this was a company that simply refused to develop or adopt a brand position that would differentiate them from the competition. And it was right there for the taking. They seemed to think the fact that they were in business would be enough to draw customers and resisted all efforts to lead them down a real marketing road.
They had some issues and hadn't done enough business to have generated the revenue to overcome those issues. So it was bye-bye. Maybe just for a while and maybe forever. But if they do come back and don't do things differently this time around, the result for version 2.0 will be the same as it was for the beta version.
You - or they - can blame the agency if you - or they - want for their failure, but I'm convinced that if they'd just taken a small step toward actually freaking delivering a better product, they'd have made enough money that they could have overcome all sorts of operational issues.
Do good. Tell people. But for God's sake DO GOOD.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Not everybody is going to agree with me on this.

Everybody loves Geico advertising and everybody loves the Martin Agency and they win a whole lot more awards than we do for their advertising, but maybe I'm missing something.

Because I hate them. Just about all of them.

Oh, some of them are funny. And if all they are supposed to do is make you remember Geico - and it doesn't matter why -  then they're brilliant.

But it has always seemed to me that humor is best if it has some real relevance to the product or service. Like the "Jake from State Farm" (above - you can get a real person on the phone any hour of the day or night) or "Mayhem" from Allstate (above - you can't plan for everything and if you have cut-rate insurance you might be screwed).

These are both funny and the humor is directly related to the benefit. I just have never understood what the fuck cavemen, pigs, a camel on hump day, a witch in a broom factory or a woodchuck chucking wood have to do with insurance. (See? I remember the spots, it's just that I still don't know why I should buy Geico insurance . . . )

Compare all three for yourself if you like.

I have said over and over again on here that I'm an idiot and certainly many will read this and agree with me because I fail to see the brilliance of the Geico advertising. I just think it's stronger if it's a more of a joke that relates to a product than a joke in search of an audience. Like a lot of advertising, it seems like somebody had a funny joke and they found a way to bolt it on to a client.

I'm clearly going to be dating myself here, but I have always thought that the Miller Lite "Tastes Great / Less Filling" campaign was brilliant. The spots were very funny, and every one of them was rooted in the brand promise of Miller Lite.

I just don't understand how that stupid damn pig has anything at all to do with insurance.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Just to keep things clear . . .

I hate this campaign.

And I love this one.

Now you know.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

How to use an RFP to find an ad agency

Almost nobody in the ad business likes RFPs.

And there is a movement afoot among some agencies to stop responding to the damn things. But, I'm afraid, very much like head lice and cockroaches, RFPs will be here long after all of us are gone.

We sent out an e-mail this morning with a link to a paper I wrote on how one might actually use an RFP to find an ad agency.

This piece itself is way too long to re-print here, but follow this link to our Particles of Thought e-mail and you'll be able to download a PDF on how those horrible things can actually be useful.

If there were only some way to link RFPs and crowdsourcing together, the world world truly be a better place. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The ad community lets itself down on a regular basis

Earlier today I got an e-mail from a friend asking if we could do a hurry-up job putting together some digital ads for web and mobile.

His client (he's a media company) decided at this late date to do some holiday promotion and the budget was limited . . .  and well, you get the idea.

So, even though the budget was less than it shoulda been, we said, sure, we'll help you out of a jam since you're a pal and all.

Then he came back to us a few hours later telling us that he didn't need us after all because they found "a publisher who will do it for free."  It's not like we'd have made anything on it, we were doing it as more of a favor than anything else. That's not what annoyed me. It's the "for free" part. And the fact that "you get what you pay for" is an alien concept to this client.

Which - at last - brings me to my point. 

It strikes me that our industry - marketing communications - is not held in very high regard by many businesses. (In other words by potential clients.)They tend to hire junior-level people to run the marketing, pay them very little, give them very small budgets to work with . . . and, of course, get everything free they can get from publications, stations or "publishers."

The Evil That Is Crowdsourcing is another example of this. 

Just tune in to almost any creative forum on LinkedIn to get an earful of examples of this problem.

It seems to me that local ad clubs and art directors' clubs could do their memberships a real service if they'd mount public service efforts aimed at educating the business public on the values of a) advertising and marketing communications (in whatever print, broadcast, digital or social media you may choose) and b) having it professionally developed and produced.

A rising tide floats all boats and all that. So it seems to me that just as Sy and Marcy Syms used to tell us that "an educated consumer is our best customer," the more the business public knows about the real value of professionally produced marketing communications, the better we'll all do.

I guess, though, if we're going to continue to let ourselves down and not make an effort to promote the value of what we do, we're going to get what we deserve. More station-produced radio and television, digital ads produced for free by a "publisher" and a continuing decline in budgets.

Perhaps local ad clubs would do well to start promoting the industry to the world of potential clients out there. There are some really smart, really great creative folk at work here in the D.C. market. If only some of that firepower were applied to help the community thrive.

I've always believed that marketing communications can be summarized in four words: "Do good. Tell people." As good as the ad community is, it's surprising we don't make more of an effort to tell people.

Sure as hell ain't nobody else gonna. 

Woody Hinkle

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I'm worth it. But you? Not so much.

OK, right up front, this image has nothing to do with today's topic.

But when I searched for "dollars and pennies" to illustrate this post, this is what came up with, and I really like it.

So there you go.

My topic today, fellas and gals is how interesting I think it is that so often organizations that charge a serious high price themselves want to go on the cheap for things like marketing communications or advertising.

If you ask these people why they charge so much more than the average in whatever their business is, they are almost insulted and will share with you several reasons why they are worth it. Most of them, I might add, are also good reasons why they should be happy to pay top dollar prices for top-dollar services.

Then - and often in the same meeting - they can't seem to understand why you're there charging them anything other than below-market prices for your services.

Honestly, there sometimes seems to be a inverse relationship between how much a company charges for its services and how much they are willing to spend to promote themselves.

What they don't seem to get is that when they take this approach, they are telling you "we're worth it, but you're not."

Thing is, in both cases, you usually get what you pay for.

I wonder how much the folks that make the Lucha Fuzz whateverthehellitis spend on their advertising.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

This may be a shock, but not everybody is 25 years old

At the risk of sounding like an old fart (I have no problem sounding like an idiot, because, as we all know, I am one of those, but I'm not such an old fart), I wish agencies would recognize that not everybody they need to be targeting is 20-something.

Seems like no matter what the product is, the concept, people in the commercial and humor, if there is any, is targeted pretty specifically at people Who Are Not Me. Which, in a way, tells me they don't want my business.

I believe in targeted marketing. I do. I believe that campaigns for Red Bull or Lite beer ought to be targeted to the demographic that drinks Red Bull and Lite beer.

But not everybody is in that generation. It just seems that the creative teams who do the work either are in that demographic or can't see past it. Or - and this is probably a big factor too - it's the old "let's do something really cool so we can win an award" factor at work. "Let's have a camel wandering through an office . . . "

Baby Boomers - make fun of them (us) mock our reluctance to act our ages, do what you want. But don't ignore the fact that more half the nation's wealth and more than $2.3 trillion in buying power is wrapped up in people born between 1946 and 1964. That's a lot.

Baby boomers dominate 1,023 out of 1,083 consumer packaged goods categories, watch 9-10 hours of video a day, comprise 1/3 of all TV viewers, online users, social media users, and Twitter users and are most likely to have broadband Internet access at home.

So think about who's going to buy that beer, use that credit card, test-drive that car or buy that insurance. Think about whether or not we're really going to respond to the same appeal as a 26 year-old will. Maybe one size doesn't actually fit all. Think about it.

And while you're thinking about it, get off my lawn.