Tuesday, February 24, 2009
This is a wonderful idea.
Steve Hall, editor of Adrants, is going to publish a book called, well, what do you think?
Here's a link to the Killed Ideas site where you can register and submit your own Killed Ideas.
Call me crazy, but I feel certain there will be some great work in there when it comes out in May. The deadline for submission is March 31.
Monday, February 23, 2009
According to Ad Age online, beer sales for Miller High Life in the week following the Super Bowl -- and their wonderful 1-second commercials -- were up 8.6 percent. Compared to last year when they were up 5%. In case you missed them, the spots consisted of actor Windell Middlebrook (their beer-truck guy) shouting "High Life". The YouTube video above is a bunch of other 1-second spots ("that didn't make the cut"). Also check this link.
You ask me, I think it's a great example of using creativity instead of just a big media budget. Note that Miller didn't disappear from the Super Bowl, but just did something smart. According to Miller's promotional site, "Paying $3 million for a 30-second commercial [in a recession] makes as much sense as putting sauerkraut on a donut." Maybe, and maybe not, but I'd give a week's pay to have thought up that "sauerkraut on a donut" line.
I liked the Miller Guy commenting on last year's spots too. See my previous post on that.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Like this, for example, that I found on I Have an Idea.
To illustrate the impact of global warming, they suspended life boats away up there in the air, stored life jackets under park benches and put life guard on duty on city streets.
I love those guys.
This has no basis in anything recent, but I think maybe I need a letter. A letter for New Guys everywhere.
You know New Guys. Mostly you know them as the new client contact. Or the new agency contact. But they also turn up sometimes as Somebody New on the Board, or Somebody Who Has Started Coming to Meetings Who Never Came To One Before. Whoever they are, sometimes it seems like a whole lot of time is spent -- and lost -- as they work to make sure we all know how smart and experienced they are.
They re-work things, change things, revise and re-visit things, cancel things and, as many times as they may make an improvement to the situation, usually it just sets everybody back a few weeks.
So let me say right now to New Guys everywhere, whether I've met you yet or not. You smarter than me. You know this business far, far better than I do, even if you're new to the position. No doubt you can also sing, swim and play basketball better than me too. In fact, I defer to your superiority in every way.
There. Now that that's settled, can we get on with the business at hand?
Saturday, February 14, 2009
There's a story in Friday's Washington Post about how the DC Metro system is looking for way to"bump up revenue". They are even considering a gas tax (that is, on people who drive rather than, um, take the subway) for additional funding.
Here's an idea:
Join the 20th century, and allow significantly more advertising on the system. Look around Metro, exactly what you think foots the bill for broadcast radio and television, newspapers and magazines? Hmmmmm?
According to a story in the Post last April, Metro brings in $35 million in advertising, " the largest source of revenue that does not come from fares, fees or local governments." (That last part left me wondering what the hell else there is.) The DC Metro, the story said then, has always prided itself in a "stark, distinctive look". And last year considered a single giant electronic sign that would bring in an additional $3 million a year. And there was lot of angst over that single (ONE) sign. Ridiculous. And further evidence that things like Metro are usually run by buffoons and idiots.
Have you ever ridden the DC Metro? They could double the number of car cards and quadruple the number of two-sheeters and dioramas and still carry off a semi "dark, distinctive look" (see photo). And generate a lot of money that would perhaps make for better service and fewer fare increases. Would it impact the quality of your time on the subway? Smoother starts and stops, fewer delays and escalators that actually work would do better.
As an ad agency, there have been plenty of times when we've wanted to place dioramas or two-sheeters, but there was no available inventory where we wanted to place them. Personally, I'd love to see more advertising available. (Partly, in all honesty, because I love out-of-home advertising.) And I'd like to see better use made of the cars themselves instead of the below-eye-level things that are on there now.
But nobody asked me.
Nobody ever does.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Found this on I Believe in Advertising.
Y&R In Thailand did this cool promotion for Colgate. Instead of passing out toothbrushes and toothpaste during things like Oral Health Month, they ran their message on stick inside things like ice-cream bars, cotton candy and lollipops.
If you're a regular reader of JITD, you know that I like the Denver Egoist blog. Always some good stuff on there. I don't know who does it, but in addition to being how I came across my friend Larry Hinkle, I think they do a terrific job.
This post in particular is one I think can apply here in Washington.
First some setup: A few years ago, I was (accidentally, I'm sure) invited to a meeting of local agency owner-types. The reason for the meeting was to discuss how to raise the visibility of advertising in Washington and keep more local clients in town. (Apparently, there was an infamous "accounts in review" list in Adweek that included several multi-million-dollar area accounts and not a single local agency was a finalist. Word was the managing director/chief pooh-bah of the local branch of a big agency was reamed out pretty good, which explained his sudden desire to raise the awareness of all of us. But that's just gossip, so who knows?)
The question was posed, how do we keep more accounts in town and make this a better advertising town? I raised my hand and suggested that perhaps we ought to do better work. Well, I was more or less shouted down and never invited back. Which was OK with me, because the result of this effort was to plan -- but never mount -- an exhibit of some sort. As a group they sat there and told themselves that we all did fabulous work. As good as any in the country. What's the name of that river in Egypt?
Sure, this was a few years ago, but advertising could be better in DC than it is. And I'm not convinced that as an advertising community, we're really doing anything about it. I don't see a real effort to bring on a higher standard of creativity that can be, as my friend Chris says, a rising tide that floats all boats.
I'm not saying N+H does fabulous work all the time. I wish we did, and we try to. I'm also not saying that nobody does good work here. MDB has come on recently, and their new DC Lottery campaign is one of the best I've seen for a lottery account. The Design Army does good design, and Arnold does great work too.
But if you thumb through CA, The One Show, Graphis and on and on, you don't see a lot of local zip codes. That's just the fact. As a community, we could stand to have better work across the board.
So anyway, back to the Denver Egoist, this is what Felix (the writer) said in part, and I think it applies here. "Denver has the ability to produce some quality work, but we must set the bar higher than Denver. As a city, we don’t have a steady stream of amazing work to measure our own creativity against. We must look to the best of the best of the best as our mentors. Only then will Denver have a chance of one day being one of those cities that can be called a creative hot spot without a sense of irony or sarcasm. Dream big."
Every creative person in Washington ought to remember those words. There are some tremendously talented people here. Joel Mooy, Lisa Biskin, Woody Kay, Shirley Fee Tibbets, Jeff McElhaney, Jake and Pum LeFebure come to mind, among others.
I think there are only two real roadblocks to this being a top-drawer ad town: 1) pretending there is no room for improvement and 2) not being willing to do something about it.
(Author's note: I had a little trouble coming up with art for this post. So just in case you're wondering, there is absolutely no good reason on the face of the earth for the photo at the top being there. Not a one.)
Today I heard a couple of clients (not mine) talking about a printed piece.
All mixed in together were comments from a non-creative person like "I dropped some color behind it, and I'm trying different fonts and things" and discussions about how to make the piece look better.
Here's one way. Let an art director or designer do it.
Just because you have a computer and can afford InDesign and Photoshop doesn't mean you can actually do the work yourself.
I have a camera, but I wouldn't presume to suggest I can do what a real photographer can do.
I have a saucepan and a stove, but know I can't cook like a professional chef.
I even have a paint brush. And a ladder. But I sure as hell can't do as good a job painting my house as a professional could.
But maybe I'm just having a bad day.
Friday, February 6, 2009
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Monday, February 2, 2009
More than one of us in this business has come out and urged clients and others not to pull their heads back inside their shells in hopes of simply weathering this currently awful economy.
I've said it before, and we've put it on our web site, but that's not going to stop me from saying it again. This is no time to disappear. This is the time to build market share. There is all sorts of hard data to support me on this too.
But the fact of reality is that if you're worried about making payroll, rent, 401(k) contributions, health insurance premiums and all the rest, it's kind of hard to get it up for writing a check for something as intangible as advertising. No matter what Woody Hinkle or people like him say.
So maybe we all ought to be thinking about "spending" in terms of some other kind of currency. Innovation is currency. So is creativity. And courage. Nerve. Faith. It seems to me that perhaps we could all afford to invest a bit of that stuff, even if we don't have the cash in the bank to do a new ad campaign.
All of us - advertisers and agencies alike - can do something different. Like joint advertising with a complementary company. Create partnerships and promotions based on product, service, location -- even cuisine.
Compensation can be something besides money too --like windows, kitchen cabinets, airline tickets or hotel rooms (both of which can be easily used as rewards for employees who have been waiting patiently too long for a raise).
Advertisers can tighten up that chin strap and take a few more creative chances with they advertising they do run. Your agency will love you. Demand a bit more attention than you might have been comfortable demanding before. Scare yourself a bit. Think about all those Super Bowl commercials you loved on Sunday.
The point is, there are a whole lot of non-money ways to invest in "advertising" and keep your smiling face out there in front of customers and prospects. All you have to do is be open to trying a few of them.
Everybody knows that old saw about the definition of insanity. Here's another thought, this one from Albert Einstein: "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."
They say everybody has a double somewhere. Here's mine.
Walter Becker of Steely Dan. I could use this for my driver's license picture if I wanted to and nobody would bat an eye.
I'm sure you needed to know this.
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Of course, I hope I don't. Because I'm friends with a lot of photographers. And I know the difference good photography or illustration can make to a concept. So, no offense intended.
Let's start with a story.
We recently completed a photo shoot for a client who, at the shoot, asked the photographer if the two-year rights clause meant he'd have to take the image off his truck in two years. The answer was that to keep it there, he'd have to pay an additional usage fee. How much? he asked. I'll have to think about it, was the answer.
The photography in question is simply wonderful. I can't wait to see it in print. What the client paid was, I think, a fair price. That's not the issue. It wasn't easy for me to convince my client to use original photography that was going to cost as much as this did, and my client trusted my judgment when I told him that I wanted to use this particular photographer for all sorts of good reasons. Him feeling like he was going to have to whip out his checkbook again in two years -- that was the issue. But that was the deal going in, and everybody knew it. That didn't keep me from wincing a bit.
Still, I wonder if it isn't time for photographers to think about embracing the reality of what a lot of their agency clients have to deal with today. Look, I know how this works. I totally understand the concept of purchased usage rights. But I'm not saying that I think it's a good system or that I even understand why it is what is. Only that I know how it works.
We're living in a time when some clients are wondering if the need an agency -- or photographers -- at all. Sometimes we have to work pretty hard and change the way we think to stay relevant. Almost everybody knows a "graphic designer" of some stripe, and many are hiring some pup right out of art school to work in-house. Google "create your own ads," and you will get 82,000 results.
There is a perception in some quarters that all you need to do is buy the equipment and the software and you're good to go. Some clients are making themselves comfortable with what they can do themselves -- and here's where they are starting: most of them know you can get royalty free photography pretty cheap.
And in this environment (especially when money is tight) it's getting harder and harder for an agency to be the middle man and convince a client that he or she needs to invest in original photography or illustration. That difficulty is multiplied by a factor of Ooopty-X when they discover that even though they pay a premium for original photography, they usually have only limited usage rights.
I think investing in original photography is usually a damn good investment. And I'm not one to deny anybody the chance to make as much money off their talent as is fair, reasonable and possible -- assuming the three things don't cancel one another out. But I, for one, have never understood why a photographer wants to be paid more money if the image they provide is used in more than one market or a wider circulation or however you want to define it.
Seriously, an image in an ad in a magazine with X circulation costs Y amount. The same image in a magazine with X-times-3 circulation or in magazines in several cities costs more. Even though the photographer didn't have to do anything extra.
I'm not sure how the value of the photography is increased beyond the value of any other part of the process by virtue of wider exposure. And, of course, the agency that, um, thought up the concept, convinced the client to use original photography, sold the client on a specific photographer, art-directed the shoot, and was involved in model, wardrobe, prop and site selection doesn't get any more money.
Most photographers have reps. And it's the rep's job to sell the agency or direct client on the abilities of their shooter. But it usually falls to the agency to sell the client on using original photography at all. It's up to the agency to convince them that it's worth the extra cash. And we usually don't get a hell of a lot of help from the photographers or their reps with this part of it.
Sometimes it's hard to explain to a client that well, yes, you're paying $10,000 for photography and yeah, we shot 200 images, but you can only use two of them and you can only use them in a certain number of places for a certain period of time unless you want to pay more.
No wonder so many of them take the "Screw this, I'll settle for less. Go find some royalty free something that will work" approach. So maybe the big advertisers with the big agencies don't play that. But I don't have many money-doesn't-matter clients, and reality is that few agencies do.
And before anybody sits down to pound out an "agencies should sell their work as usage rights too, you buffoon" comment, let me say I'm not in favor of that either. I know some agencies have tried, and a few years ago, there was a group around D.C. called Admine that tried to broker the resale and licensing of work. It flopped. It doesn't work.
Here's a news flash: Most clients aren't happy about the concept of limited rights. They're going to like it even less coming from their agencies. At which point we'll become ex-agencies.
What I do believe is that it is possible for a client to afford the kind of work he or she needs while all the various providers involved earn fair and reasonable profits. Without having to resort to royalty free.
The advertising world has changed. Conventions like agency compensation based on media commissions and markups are going away or are already gone. Fee- or results-based compensation are not uncommon. Hell, even the idea of sending a hi-res PDF to a printer or publication instead of film or boards was foreign not that long ago. And the technology bar has been raised for everybody.
I think it's time for photographers to change too. And make it easier for us agencies to sell our clients on using your work.
Again, just so there is no confusion here, I am not saying that photographers don't usually add a lot to any project. They do. But the way they charge for their contribution is often counterproductive, dated and hard on the agency that has to be the sell it to the client -- the agency without whose ideas, said photographer wouldn't have anything to shoot.
The truth is, most clients really do see the creative benefit of original photography most of the time. It's the cost-benefit that gets a little fuzzy for them.
Feel free to forward this post to anybody you want. But you'll have to send me a dollar every time you do.