Wednesday, February 27, 2008

One For Our Team

The copy's too long and too big and the logo is too big and kind of ordinary. The idea and the headline, however, are terrific.

But the best thing about this poster on the D.C. subway is that is pissed off somebody from New York who took offense at the reference to a subway system "which will remain nameless".

I don't know for sure who did it (LM&O maybe?) but good for 'em. We take so many B.S. shots from New Yorkers, it's about time somebody got one in from this direction.

The Irony Here is Just Too Much

Got an e-mail today from an artists' rep pushing a meticulous illustrator. The subject line was "Attention to Every Last Detial".

I think we've all probably made some sort of mistake like that. I sure have. But this one is particularly memorable.

I Gotta Get Away Because Life Comes at Me Fast

In the category of People Who Ought To Be Taken Out And Shot For The Good of The Country, I’d like to offer up those who keep using the type of voiceover you hear in this Nationwide commercial.

It's a funny joke, and I like the campaign, I guess. But it does sort of have that “sure that’s crazy, but not as crazy as our George Washington’s Day sale prices!!!” feel to it. You know, here’s a joke that really doesn’t relate to our product. Now on to the selling part.

Whatever. Smarter people than me do these things.

But still, I am just sick to death of that “voice”. Southwest Airlines and God knows who all else do the same sort of thing. I leap for the mute button when I see it coming.

It’s like using a punch label for a headline type. The first time somebody did it, it was cool.

Now it’s just annoying.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sir or Madam: Your 10.5 Mil is Waiting

I don't know if Dr. Jerry is stupid, lazy, confused, or all three, but this is the worst one of these things I have ever seen.

So I thought I'd share.

The Agency and the RFP – Part 4: Mechanics and Fairness

This is Part 4 of our take on how to use an RFP to find an ad agency or creative thinking firm.

Who’s writing your RFP? Is it based on some historical style? The same one you used for, oh, let’s just say, plumbing fixtures and machine screws? Is it the same format that’s been used for years and years? Maybe it was written by a committee.

The best way to get the proper answers is to ask the proper questions. And someone with advertising experience is going to know how to ask the proper questions. If you don’t have anybody with advertising experience on hand, hire someone on a project basis to help you. They aren't hard to find. Honest. Check with the American Advertising Federation or the American Association of Advertising Agencies or the Second Wind Network.

You can even get someone with advertising experience to help you evaluate responses if you’re new at it.

It all sort of boils down to what you really want to know and what’s really important. And asking the questions that will give you that information.

Here’s one last thing. Be fair.

I’ve heard many people say that RFP really ought to be spelled CYA. Or that it’s wired, going through the legal motions with a designated winner already in hand. If you’re not looking, if you’re just trying to light a fire under your current agency, or get them to "sharpen their pencil", don’t waste anybody’s time. Please. Not even yours.

If you’re not legally bound to issue an RFP, and you’ve got an agency that tops your list, talk to them first. Find out all those things I listed earlier. See if you can make a decision without being disingenuous with everybody else.

But in any case, be as honest with everybody as you can.

My partner and I once went to a bid conference for a local government economic development account. The gentleman running the show did everything in his power to be fair. “This is a representative from our current agency,” he said, pointing to the man next to him. “We are very happy with them and the work they do. I repeat. (Pause for effect.) We are very happy with their work. But we are legally bound to issue an RFP and conduct a review every three years. Our current agency – and we are very, very happy with them - will be participating in the competition. Any questions?”

Somebody actually asked one.

Friday, February 22, 2008

A great idea? Or just littering?

I saw this on I Have an Idea. If you can't read the description, a department store in India dropped thousands of price tags on busy intersections to promote drastically reduced prices.

I don't know. On one hand, it's a cool idea, but on the other, it leaves kind of a lot of trash with the client's name on it lying about. Imagine if they did that in Singapore. Somebody would have been flogged for it.

The RFP and The Agency - Part 3: Creative

This is Part 3 of our take on how to use an RFP to find an ad agency or creative thinking firm.

Here’s the thing. I don’t think asking for spec creative is a fair way to start a relationship. It just seems to me that when you do that, the first message you've sent a potential partner is that you'd like them to do something for free. Besides, there are all sorts of debates about whether the spec work that gets done is of any value anyway.

But if you’re doing an RFP, you do need to know if the competing agencies can write and design anything worth looking at and if the work they do is effective – or just creative (and the two are not always the same thing). Thinking skills are important. After all, that’s what you’re buying.

So by all means, ask for some creative samples and don’t worry about it if the samples they give you aren’t exactly in your category. (After all, isn’t there some currency in a fresh approach?)

Ask them to show you the work they are proudest of, regardless of category. You might even ask them to show you work that never ran – but that they believe should have. That will give you some real insight as to whether or not you’re on the same creative page.

If you’re buying what they’re selling you’re going to get along. Anything else, and sooner or later it becomes a chore for everybody.

Also, I don’t want to sound harsh, but if you can’t tell from their body of work whether or not they can solve your problem, then maybe you should get someone who can to help you. On the other hand, if it’s not apparent to a moderately experienced eye whether or not an agency can do the work, they probably can’t.

And why not get examples that show you how they work beyond the creative – like timelines, strategies for other clients and success stories? What do their invoices look like? Their proposals? Find out about all the elements of the relationship.

Because they all matter.

Next (and last) Mechanics and Fairness

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Apropos of sort of nothing at all . . .

. . . except that I heard a radio spot on the way home from a basketball game last night, I think "we know around here" for Super Pages is one of the bests lines I've heard in a long time. Short. To the point. Worded in just a perfectly odd way as to make it memorable. It's not new; it was done in 2006 by t:m of Dallas.

I'm not sure the radio spots hold up to the brilliance of the line, though. But I do like that line.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The RFP and The Agency - Part II: Let's Talk About Money

This is Part II of our take on how to use an RFP to find an ad agency or creative firm. Part I was posted February 14.

Writing a good creative RFP doesn’t mean leaving price out of the equation. (After all, almost by definition, an RFP is about money.)
It only means asking different kinds of price questions.

Like maybe instead of asking what an agency will charge to do specific things, laying out your marketing problem and a budget figure (even a hypothetical one) and letting the agencies tell you what they can do for that budget.
Let them flex their minds a bit and show you what good stewards of your finances they can be.

I’m not talking about spec creative or a comprehensive plan (which is asking them to give it away and I am not in favor of that by any stretch). I’m talking about broad strokes. Maybe a general budget allocation. You’re bound to have a budget figure in mind. If not, better do that before you even think about looking for an agency.

Of course if you give an agency a budget figure, they’re going to spend it, and if you don’t give them a figure they just might come in way below your actual budget. Which makes you a hero, right? OK, that’s true. But they also might come in way over what you can reasonably spend and even way over what they’d be willing to take to handle your account. So you rule them out for no good reason. And nobody wins.

Your goal with an RFP should not be to see how cheaply you can get it done, but to see who can do the best job with what you have to spend. Please note that there two parts to that question. The point is, nobody can really give you a good picture of what they can do for you if they are flying blind – that is, they don’t know what you are willing to spend to do it. Give us a dollar figure – if only a range – and see which one of us makes the best use of it. Even if it’s a made-up dollar figure. Just don’t make us guess at it. You have a figure in mind; you know you do. What you want to know is which agency can give you the most for it.

The question should not be “How cheaply will you do what you do?”, but “What can you do for our budget?” Or even “This is our budget and this is what we need done. Can you do it or not?” Then move on to the next question.

Next: Creative

Friday, February 15, 2008

This works

Even though I'm a copywriter, I'm a huge fan of no-copy advertising. This is a wonderful example. It's for McDonald's in Stockholm via the Ads of The World site.

How could anybody ignore this?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The RFP and The Agency - Part I

In recent months, we’ve heard a few prospects mention that they would probably be doing an RFP for an upcoming project. It got me to thinking about something we’d written about RFPs and posted on our web site. I decided to break it up into three parts and post it here ― just so you can see that JITD isn’t only about links to cool stuff other people do and bitching about the Ad Club. So here is Part I of our take on using an RFP to find an ad agency (or other creative services).

I don’t think using an RFP is the best way to find an advertising agency or creative firm.

They’re hard to write, can be a pain to administer and the results are often difficult to evaluate. And their effectiveness is questionable. There are probably some agency folks who like RFPs, I’ve never met any. But I’ve never met any Hungarians either, even though we all know they exist. So I’m willing to accept that some agency people like the RFP process. I just can’t imagine why.

An RFP is fine for some purchases. Anything where price is the biggest issue. Plumbing fixtures and machine screws come to mind. But would you use an RFP to find a law firm or a doctor? Probably not.

A typical RFP has all the staffing and experience questions, but “what will it cost to do thus-and-so?” is the big one. It’s usually the one that does or doesn’t get you to the next round. And most of the agency people I know don’t sell on price. Most of us are selling some combination of relationship, creativity, category experience, enthusiasm and a track record.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the price tag isn’t an issue. It is. Just not the only issue. Not if you want to wind up with the best creative agency for your account, that is.

Basing an agency decision on price doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get the best agency. It means you’ll get the cheapest. Besides, if cost is the only thing that matters, it’s cheaper to do it yourself. Or not do it at all.

At the same time, having been on the client side of an agency search, I can understand the facility of an RFP as a first step. If only to avoid presentations from agencies who, for one reason or another, have no business pitching the business. Too big, too small, too far away, not enough experience – whatever. It’s also a good way to compare dissimilar organizations on similar terms.

But if for some reason you’re required, bound and determined or just inclined to use an RFP to find a creative firm, there actually is a good way to do it.

Next: Let’s Talk About Money

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

And the "Best Use of an Escalator" award goes to . . .

Click the image to see it bigger.

But if you still can't read the explanation, it's this: To show the variety of hair styles available at this salon, they put a shot of a guy up to his forehead at the bottom of an escalator and then put the "tops" with various cuts on the stairs, creating a constantly changing "haircut portfolio". Pretty smart, huh?

I found it on the I Believe in Advertising blog. It was done by Rediffusion DY&R in Mumbai, India.

I can't imagine trying to do this in Washington. I'm sure the paperwork, permitting and liability waivers you'd have to deal with are staggering. Even then, they'd probably want you to include which Metro stop it's closest to.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I've already said I like dogs more than I like people

This is one of my favorite commercials of all time. It came out a year ago, but is now running during the Westminster Kennel Club Show.

Maybe it's because I love dogs, maybe it's because I think it's smart, or maybe it's because (as someone who lives with two basset hounds) it's because of the part at :48, but I love this spot. They could have taken the "Dogs love it!!! Woof! Woof!" approach, but they didn't.

I also like that Pedigree has taken a role in the cause of homeless dogs. Sure, they make money on dog food. But it seems they really are for dogs.

In any case, I love this spot.

Great name for the web site too -- Dogs Rule.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Unfortunately, I'm still right here.

I was disappointed to read on Adfreak this morning that Australia had dropped this campaign. I liked it when it first came out and I still do. According to Adfreak, the tag line was controversial as soon as it came out two years ago.

The web site it still up though. For now.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Cute. Very cute.

The Washington Business Journal has launched a new advertising column. They named it (get this) "Ad Nauseum".


Kind of lets you know where the advertising business fits in the food chain over there at the Biz Journal, doesn't it?

Look it up. "Ad Nauseum" means "sickening to the point of disgust". What do you suppose they were thinking? Maybe somebody thought it was a really clever play on words. Personally, if you're going to go that direction, I like "Ad Yaks" better.

Nothing about advertising here either . . .

But my buddy photographer Carol Caruso just sent me this.

As a dog lover, all I can say is too bad it's just an empty jersey.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Just for the record . . .

If given the choice between listening to Billy Packer (left) or Dick Vitale do the color for a basketball game (as I was last night for the Duke/North Carolina game), Packer is the choice to make.

There may be some advertising relevance in there somewhere.

Give me a day or so to think about it.

Too much? Or not?

This is one of three anti-child abuse ads I saw on Adfreak. Done in the UK for NSPCC. Appropriate? Inappropriate? Powerful? Effective? Too much? Or just creepy?

What do you think?

Whatever it is, Adfreak was right to say it gives you the "heebie-jeebies".

Honestly, I don't know yet what I think.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Money for nothing. Thoughts for free.

We have a client who, through no fault of their own, suddenly has a marketing problem. We’re not on a retainer, and they aren’t our largest client. But they are one of our favorites. We like the people and the product and usually get a chance to do good work for them.

So when they called with an urgent request to send some artwork to their e-newsletter vendor so they could send something out to try and address the problem, we gave it our immediate attention.

That was yesterday. Then yesterday afternoon, last night and this morning, I struggled with myself. Because what they are going to do with that e-newsletter isn’t enough to solve this problem, I don’t think. We had another idea. Maybe a better idea. Certainly a simple, low-cost easy-to-do idea.

And that’s the problem. Like most of us out here in agency-land, we don’t get paid for any unsolicited thinking (ideas) we give this client. In this case, the creative and production fees we might get if they go ahead with our suggestion wouldn’t be much. They don’t have much to throw at the problem. So a solution that doesn’t cost a lot is a big part of our idea.

In fact, it’s ironic that in the entire equation here, the single most valuable part of the whole thing is the one part we wouldn’t get paid for. The initiative, original thinking and generation of a creative solution to solve a marketing problem. That’s the valuable part. Not the production.

I’ve said it before and no doubt I’ll say it again. The value that we bring to our clients is not just in copywriting, art direction and production. It’s in thinking and ideas. And as long as clients continue to believe that our compensation should come from production (and this is only marginally different than that old 15% commission thing) they will continue to expect ideas for free. Who could blame them? But should we keep our ideas to ourselves unless they wave a fistful of money at us?

In this case, our client didn’t ask or expect us to come up with anything for free. That was on us. And in the end, I sent them an e-mail outlining the idea. I just couldn’t help myself.

But as much as I like this client, I can’t shake the feeling that maybe I just gave something away.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Miller Lite Guy on Super Bowl spots

I hadn't planned on so many Super Bowl posts, much less three in one day.

But I had to do something besides finish the hang-tag I'm supposed to be writing . . .

Then again, I like dogs more than I like people

Find more videos like this on AdGabber

From AdRants, (where you can find about all the Super Bowl Spots, plus some interesting commentary on them) this is the "pack of Dalmatians" spot that I like. (See previous post.)

I think it's good. But maybe I'm just a hack.

Super (Bowl) Thoughts

I haven’t really run through all the ad blogs and web pages to see what the Ad World thinks about the Super Bowl commercials. Nor have I read the newspapers to see what the Civilians think.

The only place I’ve looked so far is Ernie Schenck’s blog, and I’m on the “Charlie Brown for Coke Was the Best” bus. Nice spot. Engaging, relevant, well done.

Actually, I thought most of the spots on this year’s Super Bowl were pretty good. I could be wrong, but it seemed that there was a lot less of the “we’re spending more than two mil on this thing, so let’s go wild and crazy and shock everybody” approach from past years. The Dalmatian spot with the Clydesdale for Bud was good.

And maybe I missed it, but I’d seen a preview of a spot that ended with a whole pack of Dalmatians pursuing a Miller Light truck. I wish it had run.