Sunday, December 18, 2011
Friday, December 16, 2011
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
They know how to make things accessible.
Talked today to one of those agency new-business firms. They look sharp, and I am certain they can deliver on everything they say they can deliver on. I'm sure of it.
But the cost of it is out of reach.
Seems like the very small agencies - like us - that could benefit the most from new-business help are the ones who can't afford to buy it. Which is to say they can't afford to pay for help bringing in the new business that would let them afford things like help with new business, which would bring in enough business so they'd have the money for things like help with new business.
So they'd be able to afford to pay for new-business help to bring in the . . .
Oh, never mind.
You know what? The folks at Quicken did a damn fine job of making account software accessible to everybody. Seems like if someone was able to come up with a "we can't make you rich for that retainer, but we can bring in enough new business so you can move to the next level with us and make enough money there so you can move to the next level where we can make you rich" program - they'd get rich on it.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Sorry we haven't been around for a while, but I suppose I've been all up in Facebook.
But since we're sending out a company e-mail, and so many of you come directly here afterwards, I kind of felt like I ought to give you something to read. And it's going to be basically a coarser, "Juggling in the Dark" take on the subject of that e-mail.
Brand Development as often practiced by design studios and some ad agencies.
Which is to say, it's not brand development at all. And clients are throwing their money away on it.
Oh, it's sure as hell priced like brand development (or more). Five or even six figures (and to the left of the decimal point too!) but what the client gets is a new logo, different take on the web site or a new ad campaign.
(Interlude: There are lots of different definitions for "brand". The one we like best is "A key differentiation around which you deliver a unique value." Note that I did not say: "your web site.")
This is how it seems to work a lot. Client decides their web site sucks and calls a studio to re-do it. Studio tells them "you need some brand development too" and then comes up with a new logo to incorporate into the new website. And, of course, increase the fee income for the job. But the actual brand development goes undone.
I'm talking about real brand development. Giving the client something they can freaking use.
Not to disrespect too many people at once here, but it's hard enough to see the overdone ads that so many design studios produce, so it's really annoying - and a sad financial thing - to see how many clients pay The Big Bucks for a logo or web site or identity package, thinking they are getting a brand position.
Lookee here. If you read the Particles of Thought e-mail we sent out, you saw this already. But it's good information, I think. You can use a clear brand position to determine your best target audience ("If this is what we are, then who most wants to buy it?"), develop new products, decide on business partners, develop an ad campaign (or a logo) and screen potential new-hires to see which ones fit in best with your brand.
You can use your brand position to determine what sorts of Twitter posts to put up, the attitude you may or may not incorporate into them and even what you share on your Facebook page besides pictures of the Office Holiday Party.
Show me how you can do any of that with a logo or a new web site, and I'll buy you lunch.
Somewhere nice too.
Monday, August 22, 2011
The Toad Stoool is a good blog that often crosses between discussions of digital and Other Kinds of Advertising.
It was a little surprising, then, to see this discussion of simplicity as if it was some sort of revelation. Um, well duh, as they say.
Simplicity has always been a mantra of those who want to do great advertising. Luke Sullivan, who wrote what I think is the greatest book on creating ads that ever did be (Hey Whipple Squeeze This) pounds this thought home again and again. And if you didn't get it, one more time.
He was the one who, as far as I know, first used a stop sign as an example of the perfect "ad." A clear, simple message, a distinctive look and it draws attention. It works. Perfectly.
(And if you've never seen the hysterical video about how the design process would probably go if stop signs did not exist and some mega-corporation was charged with creating one, you can see it here.)
The thing that is sometimes hard for folks to understand is that the more stuff you cram into an ad (or a commercial or an e-mail or a web site or any other damn thing) the harder it is for your target to zero in on your primary message. Even though that "real estate" might be expensive, you're not really doing yourself any favors by over-filling it.
Something I heard a long time ago that I pull out whenever I'm trying to deal with the addition of This and That and a Bit More of The Other Thing is that everything in an ad devalues everything else there. And that makes sense.
So, yeah. Simplicity rules.Even if it's a game for your smartphone.
Monday, August 8, 2011
There was a great back-and-forth in Ad Age a week or so ago. Some guy posted a piece in which he opined (I hope the use of the word "opined" has impressed you already) that "Old Spice's Love Affair With Itself Serves No Sales Purpose". (That was the title of the piece)
You can read it all - and the following comments here. But the gist of it was that while the campaign was great, the following content on YouTube and Twitter featuring a "spokesguy" duel between this guy and Fabio was a waste of time. The author, Jonathan Baskin, said (I love the first phrase):
"I enjoy stupid as much as the next guy, mind you, and one could legitimately argue that there's not a whole lot upon which to base a relationship with a brand that is made up of a few cents' worth of ingredients in a plastic bottle that consumers swipe and splash on mostly out of habit.
Maybe that's the point? This latest campaign could be a textbook example of why every brand doesn't need a content strategy, and maybe why it isn't so old-fashioned to focus marketing on selling things instead of being entertaining."
He finished up with:
"Cart without horse. Medium without message. Marketing without purpose.
I think I'd be happier if the spots ended with 'Shoot the brute some Old Spice.' Is it really so unfashionable for brands to ask for the sale?"
As I said, there was a lot of discussion in the comments section. Some of it kind of heated and personal. Enjoy it at your leisure. My personal favorite was from some clown in Bethesda, Maryland, who said that he thought the question was whether or not it sold Old Spice. And I like that comment, not just because that clown was me, but because just a few days later, I came across this piece in Ad Age:
"Old Spice is Killing it on YouTube Again, But Sales are Down Double Digits." The subhead notes that coupons and probably not the funny spots drove gains last year. Read that one here.
Several years ago, someone from our agency (guess who?) was at a presentation in New York by Dan Wieden of Wieden and Kennedy, the agency most recently behind the Old Spice work. The very-creative-and-funny-but-ultimately-unsuccessful "Dick" campaign for Miller Lite had just been pulled because of poor sales. During the Q&A, our guy asked Wieden how he reconciled the fact that such a creative campaign didn't push the sales needle at all.
In a huff, Wieden moved into Lecture Mode. "It's not about selling beer," he said.
OK. Fine. Then WTF is it about?
You don't have to look very far for examples of great creative advertising that drove sales. Two of my favorites are the classic "Tastes Great/Less Filling" campaign for Miller Lite (which - ahem - did sell beer) and "It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken" for Perdue (which sold a lot of chicken).
I understand they aren't either one exactly current, but a) that's why I used the word "classic" as in "classic rock" and b) they both stand the test of time. They'd both work pretty damn well if they ran tomorrow.
Face it folks. An advertising agency's job, it's reason for being, is to help the client sell stuff. Beer. Blue jeans. Cars. Vacation homes. Time shares. Whatever. That's why we get hired. And if we employ smart creativity to do it - and our clients recognize the value of it - that's what we can do. Sell stuff.
No matter what Dan Wieden thinks.
Monday, May 30, 2011
(To the 2 or 3 of you who actually read Juggling in the Dark, my apologies for not posting anything since April 19. I've been too slack and lazy and occupied with other things.
That's my argument for social media overkill -- takes so much time to do the blog, Facebook and Twitter. But that's for another day.)
There are a couple of very good pieces in Ads Age Daily recently about creative briefs (Briefs. Get it, huh? Get it? Oh never mind, I'm sorry.). One point of view is that clients need to give their agencies better briefs and one that follows comes from the school of "the agency should go get a better brief".
Here they both are:
The first one.
The other one.
Both of them spurred interesting comments and online "discussion". I think I tend to come down on the side of "go get the brief", since we've always figured that initiation of the brief is our responsibility, not the client's. That said, I think clients do have a responsibility to give us as much direction as they can when they have an assignment - and, if not, we have to insist on asking lots of questions - questions with answers to which we're entitled.
I'm not talking necessarily about major new campaigns here necessarily, as a Small Agency, a lot of our work is projects. But whether it's a small assignment like a single promotion ad or a new campaign, I think that the client has an obligation - to itself if nobody else - to think it out before they pick up the phone and call the agency.
And even then, the agency may have to force a bit of thinking.
I think all of us have had the experience of being handed an assignment that may rest on no other reason for being than the fact that somebody got a bonus insertion or wants to try a new media outlet. And, I think many of us have been guilty of going ahead on, say a new campaign with an existing client without really probing to find out what they want to accomplish. It's just to easy to assume that you know the client and you know their positioning and you know the objectives.
Honestly, "we need an ad tomorrow, here are the specs" isn't enough to go on.
But on the flip side, I've been down that road where the client approves the brief - and maybe even makes some comments and/or changes on it - only to come back when you present creative that follows the brief laid out in the strategy with a different point of view. Sometimes, no matter what you do, you get the feeling that they aren't really focused on it. Like it or not, there are folks out there who, like art and porn, don't know what it is but assume they will know it when they see it when it comes to creative that is on strategy.
And that not only can make for a lot of extra work for the agency, but also (and more important) it can result in an ill-focused bit of work for the client.
So I guess both of the guys mentioned above have good points. (Can't say the same for one commenter who said : "The creative brief is a dead as Lindsay Lohan's career. Today what is needed is not a document such as a creative brief but in a relationship where agency and brand marketers are connected via constant communication and Intranet sites." Sorry, but what a total doofus.)
If you're a client, think it through before you get anybody started on anything. Or at least get your agency to think it through with you.
And if you're an agency, don't be lulled into thinking you can bang ahead on a project without any form of brief or clear thought from your clients. Even if you have to pry it out of them.
Bottom line, I suppose, is that if it's going to help us to better work, it's up to us to get it.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
And you're going to have to whip out your smart phone and aim it at the screen if you want to know what that is.
Pain in the ass, right?
So here's what I think about QR codes.
I think QR codes are very useful and very good for certain applications. Very cool idea. Outdoor, transit, temporary tattoos, t-shirts, bar coasters, etc and etc. Airport signs at the baggage claim. On a bag that lives on the baggage carousel. Painted on cabs. On pedicabs. Hell, paint them on cows in a field. Put 'em on small children at the beach. In grocery stores for an instant coupon. On grocery carts. Real estate signs are a great use - someone can get more information immediately about a house they just drove or walked past. Anywhere someone can take advantage of the ease of aiming their phone-camera at a code more easily or more in a better time frame than anything else. And on and on.
We all know I'm an idiot, but I'm not some kind of luddite who uses a manual typewriter and just hates all that gol-danged crazy new-fangled stuff those crazy kids like. But just because something does a cool thing isn't a good enough reason to use it everywhere. For example, put a QR code in a magazine and on a business card and in order to make any use of it, one has to put down the magazine or card, get their phone, aim it at the code and then look at the screen on their phone. As opposed to, I don't know, going to their computer and just typing in an URL?
Never mind the fact that not EVERYBODY on earth has a smart phone - or wants one - it just seems like a case of doing something for the same reason a dog . . . never mind, bad joke. But the punch line is "because he can".
(Added - Since this originally went up, I have been advised to delete the part about not everybody having or wanting a smart phone for fear it is too curmudgeonly. The jury will therefore disregard that part. The crabby old guy who wrote this is not a curmudgeon and does not want to appear to be one.)
I don't have a prejudice against QR codes. But I'm not a big fan of using the latest gimmick just to be using the latest gimmick, either.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Probably not in and of itself, no. But the way some "creative" companies use it to, I believe, take advantage of creative folk, is.
But that's just me.
I'm talking here about those groups who offer clients a "new wave creative choice! Exceptional creative content through a revolutionary model. Quickly. Under budget."
It sure smells like spec work to me. They may claim a thoroughly "vetted" creative community and all that, but the fact remains that the basic premise is that a variety of individuals or teams compete for the work. The middleman works with the client to prepare a creative brief and then they farm it out to this vetted community to submit their ideas. The selected work moves forward and the losers are "compensated" and retain ownership of their work. So I guess it's not a total rip-off.
But to me, everything that is wrong with spec work is wrong with this model. For one thing, as much as anybody can deny it's a contest, it's a contest. And I'll eat my hat if the "compensation" the losers get covers the effort they put into it. That's just the reality of a competition. And everybody knows it.
For another, there is almost no way any creative team can know enough about the client and his or her product, service, culture, competition, competitive environment or brand position to do a proper job. That's why people pay agencies to do that sort of thing. The more you know about the client, the higher your chances of success. And a good creative team is going to ask questions and see things the client - and their middleman - won't.
And having the middleman and client prepare the brief to send to the competitors? Well, I don't know about your agency, but at Nasuti + Hinkle, the creative folk are involved in the developing the brief. Personally, I can't see how it could work any other way.
I think there are some very cool applications for crowdsourcing. Things like Wikipedia and such. I'm not so much the fool that I can't see any use in change or innovation.
What I object to - and as a creative, I object to it a lot - is what I see as taking unfair advantage of the talents and skills of creative people and short-sheeting a client at the same time.
Of course, on that second point, my friend John Corey used to say that ultimately "a client gets the agency it deserves."
Thursday, February 24, 2011
I don't know how many of you regularly look at the Big Think, but it's a great source of smarts.
So starting today, look at it regularly, subscribe to the ideafeed and learn from it. I'll be checking on you later.
This particular interview is with Bonin Bough, Global Director of Social Media for PepsiCo. First crack out of the box he offers some really good advice that applies, I think, to a lot of things, not just social media. He says if you don't have the means to have a person on Twitter 24/7 - don't. Do what you can.
Very interesting interview. Click here to see it.
Or click his image above.
Or, if you'd rather, click here.
Friday, February 18, 2011
Misspent as in all those years as a lawyer when he shoulda been writing comedy. Which he does now that he's retired.
Here, for your reading and (if you read it out loud in the tub) listening pleasure is Rich from the Tastee Diner (AKA The Old Sports Guy) on "shit".
(PS - "LSSW" in TOSG World stands for "Long Suffering Sports
Friday, January 28, 2011
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Friday, January 14, 2011
Thursday, January 6, 2011
But I'll bet there are a half-dozen design studios around here that could have done as well or better for less . . .
Starbuck's has a new logo.
Addy entries are due here in DC tomorrow, so naturally, we'll finish ours up - tomorrow.
No minute like the last minute.
Anyway, going through work and deciding what we should and could enter and what I'm embarassed we did last year, I had a few thoughts on categories I'd like to see:
- Best use of client-supplied photography
- Best print ad with way too much crap in it *
- Best campaign created from a single ad that somebody decided they wanted to turn into a campaign
- Best use of an awful logo
- Best use of your kids (a.k.a. The Ameritel Award)
- Best art direction although the copy sucks
- Best copywriting although the art direction totally blows
- Best concept ruined by the art direction and the copywriting
- Best bogus ad created just for the show
- Best reallyfastdisclaimerattheendofaradiospotthatnobodycanunderstandanyway
- Best use of "got (fill in the blank here)"? concept
- Best rip-off of something really original
- Best idea I had first but the client wouldn't f-ing run, damnit