Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Once again I find myself scratching my head

And once again it has something to do with GEICO
Clearly, I have no freaking idea what I am doing and am a complete moron and should just get out of the advertising business for the good of the country.
I simply do not understand why the GEICO pre-roll ads that I find so annoying won a Gold Lion at Cannes. Hailed for putting a "hilarious twist on the typically boring genre" and breaking the rules of advertising, these spots just bother the hell out of me.
The VO tells you that you can't skip the ad because it's already over, and then  - at least on some web sites - it proceeds to just sit there while wow-that's-so-fucking-funny things like the dog jumping on the table and a guy's foot catches fire and you can't skip it.
Great idea if it's just short and over before you know it after having made the point, but it doesn't work that way. At least not that I've seen. 
I must not be the target and, as we all know, I'm an idiot anyway. I can only assume that the target audience is made up of the same people who find the jokes that go on too long on Family Guy funny.
I may come home tonight to a mob of advertising freaks on my lawn with pitchforks and torches, but I just have to say that an awful lot of stuff that Martin does these days - certainly what they do for GEICO - comes across as self-indulgent.
But they're a big agency with a warehouse full of awards and we're a boutique agency with a shelf full of awards, so they must be doing something right.
I just can't figure out what the hell it is.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The herd mentality and marketing to Millennials (and others)

There's a reason for this image. 

And we'll get to it in a minute.

But first, there's this. Much of the ad and marketing world is abuzz these days with Millennials and How to Reach Them. (Millennials being defined as 18-35 years old, although the 35 upper limit seems a bit high to me.)

Anyway, the latest to court this group is Marriott. They are determined to snag Millennial business and hired a consulting firm that specializes in communicating with Millennials.

Never mind that some of the Rules of Engagement that firm came up with seem either pretentious or obvious. (Millennials needs to be convinced of the value of a product through storytelling, or millennials value companies that have a powerful vision.) The assault on Millennials isn't necessarily right for everybody. Hillary Stout in a terrific article in the New York Times on June 21 said it this way: "Some analysts and consumers have begun to ask, what about the rest of us?"

Good question.

There is no question that Millennials are a good target, but as the market research firm Forrester said in their report The Kids Are Overrated. Don't Worry About Millennials, "that while some companies have to target Millennials because of the nature of their products, most don't need to."

Here are a few things to consider:

 - The Millennial generation has less wealth and more debt than other generations did at the same age. (Hello, student loan debt.)

- Baby boomers are bigger spenders than most, "unhip though they may be."

- Older shoppers make up a larger segment of the population than ever before.

- Boomers have more discretionary income and more free time in which to spend it.

Here's a link to a good article on the topic and, if you subscribe to the New York Times online, you can search "Oh, To Be Young Millennial And Oh So Wanted By Marketers" by Hillary Stout.

Look, there are good arguments for targeting any particular segment, and I'm not suggesting that this is an either/or kinda thing. What I am suggesting is that running headlong after Millennials may or may not be a good idea. It kind of depends on what you're selling.

Are Millennials good targets for things like Cadillacs, high-end vacation resorts, wealth management, Brooke Brothers suits or Dockers?. Maybe. But maybe not.

 . . . and this brings me to the image above.

It's from that great Emerald City Sequence in The Wiz. First the residents all "want to be seen green." That is, until The Wiz (Richard Prior) tells them all that "Green is dead. 'Til I change my mind, the color's red." And they all celebrate red. That is, until he comes back on the PA and says "The ultimate yellow brick is gold. That's the new color children." And everybody scurries to embrace gold.

That sequence always comes to my mind when the herd mentality takes over in the advertising and marketing arena. Green becomes red becomes gold and everybody jumps on board. Millennials are the only target worth having and everybody jumps on board.

The voices telling us this are a lot of the same voices that who told us that the only thing worth having in your marketing mix was a web site. Then told us all that worked was digital advertising and everything else was dead. Then they let us know that only re-targeting worked and then only Google search words. What's next?

They are probably all channeling the people who said print was dead when radio came out, radio was dead when television came out and on and on. Whatever happened to integrated marketing?

I don't want to sound like some sort of old get-off-my-lawn coot, but this follow-the-leader mentality just honks me no end. It seems to be the antithesis to everything I thought advertising was about. Which is to say, creativity and original thought . . .

 . . .  and not just pursuing that Shiny New Thing because everybody else is. Didn't your mother ever ask you "Well if Johnny jumped off a cliff, would you jump off a cliff?"

We have a lot of target markets available to us these days and we're able to hone in pretty closely to the ones that suit our product or service best. We also have a lot of tools at our disposal with which to do it.

We should use 'em.

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