Monday, December 17, 2012

Pay a little expect a lot. Pat a lot get a lot.

No good deed goes unpunished.

Here's what happens:

Client wants to pay as little as possible for a service - let's say advertising or photography.

Provider decides to go along and give client a good price (pick one or more) 1 - to generate some needed cash, 2 - to make a good impressions and maybe get more business, 3 - to do a good turn for a good client, 4 - any one of a bunch of other good or bad reasons.

And usually the provider indicates on a proposal or invoice that a discount has been extended. Which client often promptly forgets . . .  as they start pushing the schedule and asking for more revisions, options or services (like retouching, for example) than the deal called for. Then they complain when they are charged for things that go beyond the original scope of work.

And everybody involved winds up in a bad mood.

Charge what's fair for a clearly laid-out scope of work.

And pay what's fair for a clearly laid-out scope of work.

It's really pretty simple.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Are you kidding me?

OK, you want a new logo for your fast-food chain.

Something that doesn't look so "old-fashioned". (Another voice might say it's a "classic" look, but let's not get off message here.)

Fine. Go ahead. Spend a few hundred thousand getting some design studio to study the hell out of it and then come up with some that's, well, OK.

Just say so. "We just kinda got tired of the old one and we like the new one better. It's kinda 'now', you know?"

Don't feel the need to try to bullshit us with a lot of gobbledygook. Don't (and I'm talking to you Craig Bahner, CMO of Wendy's) try to convince us that this beige approach above "signals the innovation and fresh thinking taking place at Wendy’s, while reinforcing that we are staying true to our values as a distinct and beloved brand.” 

What a load of crap.

Something tells me this guy is pals with the marketing genius at Avis who decided to drop their classic tag line for a bunch of words.

Probably also the guy behind their lame "now that's better" ad campaign.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Plumbers do it. Why shouldn't we?

Yeah, cheap joke in the image department here.

I know, I know.

But still, what do plumbers, auto mechanics, appliance repairmen and even dentists have in common?

They don't work for free. In fact, they won't even tell you what is wrong with your toilet, car, refrigerator or teeth unless you're going to pay them something.

Honest, since this popped into my head yesterday, I haven't been able to think of a single other line of work that is expected to give away its expertise in order to get hired.

Talk to us. Look at what we've done for others. Talk to our references. Ask questions.

But got God's sake stop asking us to "tell us what you'd do for us." And stop asking us if we have any "ideas".

We'd do for you what we've done for others, and if what we've done for them isn't good enough, move along. There's nothing to see here.

And of course we have ideas. Would you like to pay us for them?

Seriously, is there another business on earth that will invest as much time in the hope of new business as us?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Mime pizza

A cool spot by way of ace copywriter Larry No Relations Hinkle at Lunchbucket Creative and his Will Write For Beer blog.

It's nice to have non-relatives in the business.

The road to success is a toll road.

An inadequate ad budget is like bringing a knife to a gunfight.

I can't figure out if it's because people don't think advertising is worth spending anything on or if it's because they think it's such a powerful tool that they don't need to spend much on it to get a benefit.

Or if they think that simply throwing up a Facebook page or hopping on the Twitter Autobahn is enough. Or they are thrilled that social media seems to be free. Or that the PR folks are getting tons of "free" advertising.

I don't know. I really don't.

But I do know that when someone is investing several million dollars in a new business or in improvements to an existing one, it is the height of folly not to make an adequate investment in telling people about it.

And make no mistake about it, the whole arena of getting attention for your business is a big, nasty, wild-west gunfight. With some pretty smart, aggressive characters in it.

Back when I was a PR guy, I learned an expression that I think applies to marketing in general. Everything you need to know is in four words:

"Do good. Tell people."

It's not that hard. But time and again, you see someone put a lot of cash into the "doing good" part and then sort of letting the "tell people" part slide. Makes no sense.

Whether you do it on the web (in paid or social media), in a newspaper or a magazine or on a billboard, on the radio or the television, if you want people to know about whateverthehellitisyou'redoing, you going to have to freaking tell them.

I don't care how nice your hotel is, how great your restaurant will be, how wonderful your customer service will be, what sort of selection you have in the showroom or how low your prices are, it won't count for a hill of beans if nobody knows about it.

I've said it before and will no doubt say it again, "If you build it they will come" only works in the movies.

And only in one movie at that.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

I'm not with stupid.

If you're like me, you're probably pretty sick of political advertising.

Here in the DC suburbs, we're getting it heavy. Of course, there's a national election on. But Virginia next door is not only a "battleground" state, but also is electing a Senator. *

It's exhausting.

But it's also somewhere between disgusting and embarrassing. Full of half-truth, shades of the truth, misrepresented truths, quotes and comments out of context, personal attacks, name-calling and often - let's just say it - outright lies.

If I was stuck working for one of the agencies that produces that crap, I'd probably take a hot shower every day after work - and still feel kind of dirty. Maybe this is how political advertising has always been, throwing mud at the Other Guy rather than applause at Your Guy. I don't know.

But I do know that few of us in commercial advertising practice the same sort of approach that people who do political ads do. Here's an example:

Capella Georgetown is a new client of ours that is opening a luxury hotel in Georgetown. It's going to be quite a place. Real nice. On the Canal, a block off M Street, just 48 rooms. And on and on. For example, every guest is assigned a Personal Assistant who will Make the Magic Happen - almost regardless of what you might want.

OK, now the most similar competitor hotel to us is The Jefferson. The Jefferson is a small, very, very, very nice place where guests enjoy privacy and discretion. It's also the hotel where, at least 10 years ago, political goombah Dick Morris took hookers. That was a long time ago and had more to do with Dick Morris and his own morals than The Jefferson.

But if we approached advertising for Capella the way Political Ad Agency XYZ approaches advertising for their guy Candidate Bob, we'd be running ads with headlines like: "Hookers prefer the Jefferson." Or "The Jefferson - haven for hookers." Or even "The Jefferson. Got ho's?"

My point is that advertising is an incredibly cost-effective tool you can use to tell your potential customers why the hell they ought to care about you. If all a product carried in its ads was distortions about its competitors, wouldn't you walk away wondering why they can't think of anything better to say about themselves than that the other stuff is worse?

Most of the people I know in this business - probably everybody I know in this business - is focused on finding what is good and unique about our clients and developing creative ways to tell the public about it. That's not what the charlatans at political advertising agencies are about.

And the fact that the DC Ad Club wants to embrace these guys in order to pump up the perceived size of the DC ad market is disappointing at best.

OK, fact: Nasuti & Hinkle does not do the kind of dishonest, misleading advertising that characterizes most of what we see today from candidates for political office. Neither does August, Lang Husak. Or RP3. Or Lunchbucket Creative, LM&O, SmithGifford, Adworks, Arnold, Pappas, Exit 10 or anybody the hell else I can think of that I admire. Period.

One time, when I was the advertising and PR manager for part of a Fortune 500 company a co-worker introduced me to her husband at a company party. "So you're the paid liar, huh?" he said.

When I look at political commercials today, I guess I have to understand why he felt that way.

*As usual, please note the correct use of "not only" and "but also". I'm fairly certain no political advertising agency could do that . . .

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Monkey-see, monkey-do. Or something like that.

OK, some of these people really should know better.
All four of these ads were taken from a single issue of Travel & Leisure. Karen looked up the rate card and the open rate for a national run is $124,000. The 18x rate of $113,000.
WTF? Do Intercontinental, Sheraton, Oceania Cruises and Virtuoso all subscribe to some sort of stock ad service? Not only is the art direction on all four of these boring, but they all look a-freaking-like. 
I don't know much about Oceania Cruises and Virtuoso in terms of who does their advertising, but my guess is that Sheraton and Intercontinental both have agencies who damn well ought to be able to do better work than this.
This crap is just sad. The fact that all four of them look so much alike tells you something. I'm not 100% sure what, but I can tell you that if my agency did any one of these, I'd be embarrassed. And if I saw that three other agencies did the same thing, I'd want to crawl under a rock.
For God's sake, it you're going to spend more than 100 G's on an ad at least get your agency to make some kind of effort to do something worthwhile.
Here's an open offer to Sheraton AND Intercontinental. We can do better than this. At half the price, I'm sure.
Then again, better than this crap is a mighty low bar.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

We used to be about service, but now we're all about space.

Avis has apparently decided not to try harder anymore.

Last month, the newish (a year on the job) CMO announced that "We try harder" - one of the smartest, long-lasting, effective tag lines of all time - is going by-the-bye.

To be replaced with this brilliant bit of MBA blah-dee-blah: "It's your space."

What's my space? The inside of the freaking car I rented from you? And, even if it is, so the @#%& what? My space? Are you serious? This is what you want to say about your company?

You want to move from three words that put a stake in the ground for every Avis employee in the world and make it crystal clear to customers and potential customers what you stand for to three words that befuddle the shit out of anybody who reads them? In any context?

All I can figure is that nobody at the meeting was willing to stand up and shout "I don't get it" for fear of looking stupid. This, remember, was sort of why the king ran around naked.

Check the commercials. Blends in rather well, I think. Radios! They play rock music. Cool! Who knew rental cars had radios

This is one of the original ads. Dated? Yes. It was done in 1963, after all. But a better message? Absolutely.

Honestly, I can't tell you about recent Avis advertising. Maybe it sucked worse than the new stuff. But building a new ad campaign around "We try harder" sure offers a lot of fertile ground.

Jeannine Haas is the CMO in question. I looked her up on LinkedIn. Nothing in her profile - MBA (well, maybe that's a clue), worked for Ford and American Express (could be another there) before joining Avis would indicate that she is a dim bulb.

And yet . . .

Maybe it's that change-for-the-sake-of-change thing. Or, like an alpha dog, a new CMO needs to pee on things to establish some territorial ownership. Or maybe it's because the tag line in question was developed in 1963, well before she was born, before iPads and the Internet and over-thinking damn near everything became the norm.

I don't know.

But I know this. I'm an idiot and only have a bachelor's degree and was never a vice president at a company as big and prestigious as American Express or Avis. But even I know that dumping one of the greatest tag lines ever written - and, apparently dumping one of the strongest brand positions ever created along with it - for some doubletalk, touchy-feely thing is just a damn stupid thing to do.

Sure, change the freaking tag line if it needs changing. But change it to something better.

Or at least something coherent.

(P.S. I can just imagine some guy returning a rental car with a pile of garbage in the back seat, smelling strange, with suspicious stains all over the seat and explaining it all away with "Hey man, it's my space. You said so. This is how I like my space.")

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Ben, Jerry and the Body Shop. And Honest Tea.

I like Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream. I like The Body Shop too, although I haven't bought anything there in a while.

And I like local-boy-makes-good Honest Tea too.

But they all have something in common that annoys me. They all seemed, at one time in their lives to be almost smugly proud of the fact that they didn't ever advertise. Or so they said. You know, our product is so good and our fans just love us and blah, blah blah.

OK two things.

One, they have all since changed their minds.

And two, they all sure as hell did advertise. Maybe it was fliers passed around Shelburne, Vermont, maybe it was signs on the windows in shopping malls or maybe it was label design and shelf talkers for retail outlets. And maybe it was just their web site and the SEO that went with it, but they all sure did advertise.

They just didn't do it in newspapers or television. At first.

And as long as we're talking about people who annoy me (well, nobody asked, but still . . ) right up there with businesses that (whether misguided, arrogant or simply riding the wave as the New Thing in Town) think they can survive without any sort of advertising at all are people who claim they aren't affected by advertising.

Often these are people who spend their days glued to their smart phone on Twitter, Facebook and the web. They are also the people who will run a classified ad or Craigslist posting when they want to sell something.

Look, I don't know whether it is the impressions created by televisions shows such as Bewitched, 30-Something or Mad Men, but there is something about this business that people seem to like to dis on a regular basis.

Except, that is, when they are trying to decide which pair of sneakers to buy.

Back when I was a corporate guy, I was at a company function and was introduced to someone's husband as the guy who handled the advertising and public relations for the company. "So you're the paid liar" he said.

I shoulda kicked him in the knee.

Or higher.

Seth Godin always has something to say

And having just returned from a trip, I can really emphasize with his comments about tourism. Anyway - enjoy.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Of course it's good. I paid a lot for it.

I've railed in this space before about the automatic assumption that a big agency always does better work than a smaller one.

It's frustrating as hell when those of us who populate Small Agencyland see second-rate work for big clients (anything Capital One has ever done comes to mind).

But before we go any further, let me state the obvious. Big agencies are almost always big because they've been successful. And they are almost always successful because they do good work.  Two things: a) note the cautionary use of "almost" and b) just because they did good work doesn't mean they do it now, do it every time or put the same effort into smaller clients that they put into the big ones with the big TV budgets.

We've said for years that our job usually at some point boils down to a couple of people in a room with a pencil and a blank piece of paper. And, while the big agencies can afford to win almost any talent bidding war, not only are there plenty of hacks at big agencies, but also there are plenty of really talented folks at smaller agencies.

We were presented with a clear (glaring?) example of this recently when we got a look at the results of a brand development project conducted by one of the big guys. This is an agency whose name you would almost certainly recognize, since it includes the name of a guy many consider a legend in the business; a guy many feel "wrote the book" on advertising.

From what we saw, it was a beautiful document, with elegant typesetting and a wonderful use of stock photos to illustrate the brand personality. Without a doubt it took several months to complete and equally without a doubt, the price tag had to be into six figures. To the left of the decimal point, that is.

But it's pure vanilla and doesn't say much of anything about the company. At least not much of anything that differentiates it from anybody else. I'm talking "We're all over the place and locally too."

This is a position we figure could apply to any number of international companies with any sort of local presence, including IBM, Hilton, Exxon, BP, Google, Toyota . . . well, you get the idea. As we said in an e-mail that no doubt brought many of you here, it's one step removed from boilerplate. (And that, boys and girls, explains the photograph above.)

Our polite reaction was "Seriously? This is it?"

But you know what? Even though we know we'd have done a better job (our brand position for a competitor is built around how their approach to the business is different from anybody else's) and we know we'd have charged a third of what the big agency charged and celebrated our good fortune all weekend, we'd probably never would have been hired for this particular gig.

Because somebody would assume that because we'd be charging a fraction of what those guys with the legendary name charged, the work would have been only a fraction as good. Which simply isn't the case.

This is the kind of thinking that tells people that an expensive car is always better, expensive wine is always better, the name brand is always better than the store brand and you simply can't get anything good to eat in a cheap restaurant.

Assumed value based on what something costs is clouded thinking and a poor yardstick.

You know that old saying "nobody ever got fired for buying IBM"? I heard a great comeback to that: "Nobody ever got promoted for buying IBM, either."

Monday, April 30, 2012

Do good. Tell People.

There is a fun Facebook page called Creative Advertising that usually has lots of good print ads.

I like it.

But one thing I really like about it is the quote that they use to introduce the page:

"Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing, but nobody else does."

Boy, does that ever sum it up.

It's kind of amazing how often someone opens a business or adds to the one they have or invests in some sort of improvements, but doesn't take the next step and tell people about it.

And when I say "tell people", I don't mean tell people who are already loyal followers - like those who "like" your Facebook page, follow your Tweets or gave you permission to put them on your mailing list.

That's preaching to the choir if preaching to the choir ever did be.

No, I mean people who are not currently doing business with you. People who don't care much about you one way or the other. People who can give you the additional income that will pay for the investment you made in your business or in the improvements to it. New business.

No matter what kind of business you have, customers are not out there looking for you. They may be looking for someone like you, but if you aren't going to actually go to the trouble to tell them your story . . .  well, they have too many distractions and too many other ways to spend their money.

"If you build it, they will come" only works in the movies. And only in one movie at that.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Nowwwwww I know

I've always wondered who does all those awful television commercials and radio spots and bus backs that come across (to me at least) as a total waste of money.

I mean, look at this. Who's going to be able to read that without risking life and limb rear-ending a freaking bus?

Anyway, now I know. Most of them come out of the same shop. I probably should not mention the name here.

While it brings some comfort to know that this approach to our business is kind of contained and doesn't run rampant in DC, these people probably live in a nicer house than me and drive a better car than I do. I'm not sure what that tells you, but it can't be anything good.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

As long as you're fixing my car, can you look at this wart too?

Look, I get that web sites are the be-all and end-all in marketing and that web design companies can do just about everything. I do.

Actually, I don't. Not at all.

But I do get that people think that. And that, rather than venture out and look for someone new to take care of a specialized project, many will just see if somebody they already know can handle that too.

I'm talking specifically about brand development here. And, I guess, advertising.

Seems like we keep running across organizations that want to re-do their web site and realize that they need to clarify or define their brand, so they just ask the web company if they can do it. Much of the time, the answer is "sure, of course, why not?"

Same thing happens with advertising. "Saaaay, you fellas did us a pretty snappy web site. Can you do our print ads too? And maybe some television?"

Well, I'm sorry. With few exceptions, they can't. But they will say they can. (Some good friends of ours, one of the very best web and digital agencies you'll ever run across, are an exception. They know what they do better than almost everybody else and they stick to it.)

As a general rule, a web design firm cannot, by virtue of being a web design firm, develop your brand or do your print or broadcast advertising as well as a brand development or advertising agency can. We can go out back and fight about it if you want, but the fact is, they are different disciplines.

That's why different people do 'em. I mean, I like ducks. And I like dogs. But a duck is not a dog.

(Let's be clear, I'm talking about core skill-sets here. A design firm - web or otherwise - can almost always do a simple ad. And an ad agency can almost always do a simple web site. But when it comes to a specialty like Brand Development or Something Serious, well, it's a different story.)

A web design firm may well recognize that you need a clear brand position before you can create an effective web site, but that doesn't mean they are qualified to do it, any more than, say, a PR firm who recognizes you need a web site is qualified to do that.

There's a real good example locally. A big consumer-oriented home goods company has a really good web design/design studio working for them. The web site and online efforts are great. The print advertising and a television spot they attempted recently are horrible.

Again, there are exceptions. There are switch-hitters in every field who can do it all. But let's not try to pretend this is anything but the exception.

Web design firms, God love 'em, are web design firms. They are not ad agencies or brand development firms. And I wish to hell they'd stop pretending they are.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Ed McCabe is someone to be admired

Here we are with everybody falling all over themselves gushing about the new season of "Mad Men" and the New York Times runs a brief profile on Ed McCabe, one of the great thinkers and copywriters of our time.

You can read it here.

This is the man responsible for that whole "It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken" thing for Perdue, but more importantly, responsible for the whole branded approach to what had been a commodity.

He also was the genius behind this spot for Hebrew National. Not to mention lots of great work for Volvo and on and on.

Ed might be thought of as old-hat among a lot of the stupidity that passes for advertising these days. Or maybe not. I don't know. But there are a couple of things he said in the article I really like:

“Our advertising was tough. It was not done with nuance; it was done with a stylish hammer in the face.”


“Weak advertising tells people what you want them to know. Strong advertising gets people to conclude what you want them to know.”

Monday, March 19, 2012

Half of these are good ads

(The original title of this post was "Are some people not even trying in print anymore?", but I changed it, because I thought many of you out there might think I was dissing all four of these ads. When, in fact, I mean only to dis two of them.)

I like to read the New York Times Magazine on Sundays and one reason is because of the print ads. (That is, in addition to the magazine's wonderful art direction.)

There are some very good print ads there every week - and, it seems, just as many that make you wonder why they spent the money to buy the space. You know, if they're not going to do any better than they did with the creative.

I scanned four examples. I think two of them are good. Two were a waste of money. I'll leave it to you to decide which is which, but it ought to be evident. (There were a few really, really nice ones in there, but they were spreads and my scanner at home isn't big enough to handle them.)

What this makes me wonder is, if at some places, print is so far down the pole of Worthwhile Things that they don't really even try to do good work on it. I may not agree with that point of view - and actually, I don't - but if you feel that way, for God's sake, don't buy a full-page ad in the New York Times Magazine to show everybody.

If you're going to spend that kind of money, then for God's sake do something creative enough to attract attention and get your message across. Two of these ads make you work too hard to get the point - if there is one at all.

Then again, with applied creativity maybe they don't even need to be full page ads.

But that's just me and I happen to like print. And, as we all know, I'm an idiot.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

I could do worse for cheaper.

This ad is a colossal piece of crap. A total waste of money.

You probably can't read the logo, but it's for Invesco, a company that reported "positive net flows of $24.5 billion" for 2011.

This three column by 7.5 inch thing ran on the front of the Business & Finance section of Saturday's Wall Street Journal.

I don't know what run they bought, but at the best discounted rate for just the Baltimore-Washington regional buy, they paid $2,400 to run this garbage.

Big company like that, there is no telling what they paid somebody to come up with it. Somebody who apparently thinks white type on an orange background is actually readable on newsprint.

I'm not sure what they think it is telling people, but it's tells me that if they can't even manage to do something simple like express their value in a simple ad that people can read, then they probably can't do much else very well.

Here's my offer to Invesco and you can hold me to it. I can - quickly - do a much worse ad than this for half of what you paid for this one.

I'm sure of it.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

This pretty powerful

At first you wonder what the hell is going on and it makes you a bit uncomfortable, but the pay off is great.

Not suitable for work, by the way.

And here we have it - the biggest piece of crap I've seen in a week

Who the f$#@ is the target for this thing?

And who would sit through the whole 2:30 of it if you didn't have to?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

I was going to use an image of shooting yourself in the foot

But I decided not to.

You have to wonder sometimes what people are thinking. The most recent case of WWTT comes to us from the DC Ad Club which "is excited to announce the launch of our Career Catalyst Program - the official mentoring program of the DC Ad Club."

Well, having come to this business after stops elsewhere, I sure coulda used mentor, so I'm gonna do it. Karen wants to too, since she participated in a mentoring program with the local AMA and thought it was a good thing to do.

But here's the thing:

I'm a member of the Ad Club and she's not. (After all, how many memberships does a small agency like ours need?) And one of the requirements is that in order to be a mentor -- that is, in order to volunteer your time over a four-month period - you have to be a member of the ad club.

Of course, they are happy to have those who are not currently members take part. The email seeking volunteers cheerily says: "Have a friend who’s not a DC Ad Club Member, but know they’d love to participate? Send them to to join!"

Now, I have no issue at all with limiting the opportunity to have a mentor to Ad Club members. None. But if someone who is not a member is willing to volunteer his or her time, do you really want to make it a requirement that they join the damn club?

I'm sorry, that's just dumb. You can't volunteer unless you pay to join the club? Seriously?

The goals of the program - as stated in the e-mail - are to help members grow, give them real-world experience, expand networks and such. I didn't see anything about increasing the club's membership.

What the hell's wrong with doing something like this for the Good of the Community?

The issue I have had with the DC Ad Club for years (and I have been a member for nearly 25 years) is that it seems not to be focused on raising the level of advertising and building a stronger community so much as bringing in revenue.

Like I said, the "mentees" who will benefit most from the program the club is organizing absolutely should have to be members. But to require someone to be a member to volunteer their time and expertise?

That's just - as my friend Spoon from college used to say - "makes a whole bunch of no sense at all."

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Basset Hound, Larry Flynt and a water tap

(First things first.

I couldn't find a picture that I thought illustrated this topic very well, but I really like Basset Hounds, so here's a picture of a four-week old Basset Hound that I found. Now on to the actual blog topic.)

Leafing through the Sunday Washington Post and New York Times this past weekend, I was struck by how many full-page ads I saw that were a waste of at least half of the space - and the money that it cost. With better creative the advertiser could have attracted the same or more attention in half the space.

Sure, a full-page will by definition, attract attention. Hell, the ugly ad Larry Flynt and Hustler Magazine ran in the Post Sunday was hard to miss. But since he's offering $1 million if you can rat out a public figure for some sexual impropriety, he didn't really have to buy the whole full page, did he?

That's a cheesy example, but it does illustrate that content can trump size.

(I guess I could have illustrated this with a Larry Flynt/Hustler image, but I'm kind of partial to Basset Hounds.)

Do the math. A full-page, four-color ad in local run of the Washington Post goes for about $83,000 at the open rate. And based on many of the ads I saw this weekend, I could just about guarantee you that I (or any one of a half-dozen ad folk I could name around here) could have done a better ad that would have attracted more attention and worked harder at a half-page. That's a savings of nigh on $41,000.

The New York Times national run is a whopping $145,000. You can figure out the rest. I'm a journalism major.

Take it just a little further. If you were to run four ads with two sets of creative, paying someone half of what you'd save by running smaller ads, you'd come out ahead. Works out to about about $124,500 with the Post and even more for the Times. And reality is, those folks who ran those full page ads paid over and above their media cost to have them produced, so the bottom line savings would be even more.

In fact, I'd go so far as to make an offer. If you're a client type running a full-page ad, give us a shot at doing something better in a half-page. Let's agree on the results you want, then you get out of the way and let's test them. If what we do doesn't pull better than the full-page ad you ran, don't pay us. If the result is better than you got with that full page ad, pay us half the savings. Either way, you win.

Worst case, you get the same results for half the cost. Hell, don't call us. Ask your current agency to take the same challenge. I can just about guarantee they'd do it. Because they know creativity can work harder than volume.

Think of advertising effectiveness as if you're filling a gallon bucket with water. The degree to which the tap is open is the degree to which you employ creativity. The amount of time it is open is the cost of the media space or time you have to employ to fill the bucket.

If the tap is wide open with creativity, you can run it for half as long as you'd have to if it was only halfway open.

(You know, come to think of it, I could have used an illustration of a water tap for this post. But I'm sticking with the basset hound.)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

I just can't believe they didn't see the possibilities

(With apologies for the cell phone photo.)

Here you have it ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls and children of all ages - a perfect example of a lost opportunity.

I was meeting my son at a Wizard's basketball game last night and saw that Tropicana orange juice had bought out the whole Gallery Place Metro station.

What struck me immediately as I wandered through, fumbling for my farecard, was the completely missed opportunity to use those pillar things better.

If you didn't see it yourself, look again. See any similarity between the shape and dimensions of the pillar and the OJ bottle?

Yeah. I did too.

Why put a small picture of something on something that is shaped almost just like the something you're trying to sell? How often does an obvious creative application present itself like that and how could you possibly let it go by?

OJ in grocery stores is identified by the consumer - at least in part - by the shape of the bottle.

And some buffoon agency passed on a chance to burn that bottle into everybody's brain. I mean, what were they thinking?

I guess they were more focused on the headlines - things that were supposed to be "inside" regional jokes but only proved the agency was from Somewhere Else.

A missed creative opportunity if I ever did see one.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

"That's the new color children"

So now everybody is falling all over each other to get on Pinterest, and bloggers are writing about your "Pinterest strategy" and asking if it's the new Facebook.

You may remember that 3-4 months ago, they were asking if Google + is the new Facebook.

Did you ever see "The Wiz"? I'm thinking specifically of the "Emerald City Sequence". YouTube won't let me embed it, but here's a handy-dandy link so you can watch it.

Go ahead. I'll wait.

Aaaaaand we're back. Did you notice how (at 2:25) while everybody is loving Green, The Wiz (Richard Pryor) announces that "I thought it over, and Green is dead. 'Til I change my mind, the color's red."

And oh, do we all love Red. But wait, at 4:36, he comes back on the horn. "Last week when y'all were wearing pink, already for me Red was old. The ultimate yellow brick is Gold! (That's the new color children.)"

And that's pretty much what it looks like to me as we run from MySpace to Facebook to Twitter, to Google + to Pinterest and all around the rest of the Lesser Sites and back again.

Green. Red. Gold. And On and On.

Look, just because a newspaper, magazine, radio station, web site or television network exists doesn't mean you absolutely, positively have to be in it or on it, does it? Of course not.

By the same token, just because another digital genius (and I don't mean that with any sarcasm) comes up with another whiz-bang medium for oversharing doesn't mean you have to automatically be there.

And yet, we all know people who feel the need to immediately get their this-page, that-page and the-other-page up and running and maintained with daily updates. And much of it is of the "here's our daily special" or "it's nice weather so come and see us soon!" or "here's what we did this morning" variety.

I think that in many, many cases, it's because it seems like a "free" way to reach customers, guests or clients. Actually, unless you don't value your time at all, it's not free. There is a cost associated with creating and properly maintaining all of those social media outlets. And you have to wonder - or at least I wonder - whether or not there is a measurable return - in as in $$$ - as a result of it.

I'm not going to discount the value of social media, obviously. I Tweet once a day with what I hope is a value statement for those who follow us. Something they can use. Those Nasuti & Hinkle Tweets are linked to my LinkedIn page and Karen's as well, and I put stuff up on our company Facebook page when I think it's appropriate. And I try to blog 2- times a week.

I just think that it's a it silly to turn yourself inside-out making sure you are all over whatever Latest Thing there is.

What you need to turn yourself inside-out over is making sure you're using the Best Thing there is to reach your target. Maybe it's Pinterest.

And maybe it's not.

I like Queen. And Freddie Mercury.

And I like Bohemian Rhapsody too.

But I think this is trying to hard to be . . . something.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

This is cool

In Spanish, English and Korean even . . .

Friday, February 17, 2012

Give them a reason and they'll find you

Here's an idea. Don't put your phone number in your advertising.

Or in your television spot. Don't have your VO read the number three times in your radio spots either.

And while you're at it, don't bother with your web address. Or a Facebook icon. Or Twitter, Pinterest or anything else.

Why would I suggest such a thing?

Start here - Everything in an advertisement of any sort devalues everything else in it.

So, for every second, pixel or square quarter-inch you spend telling people how to get in touch with you is a second, pixel or square quarter-inch you're not focusing on telling them why the hell they should.

I mean, if your creative really presents a strong, compelling case (and it damn sure oughta), do you really need to bolt on "For more information . . . "?

And in this day and age, do we really have to tell people to follow us on Facebook or Twitter in our ads? Really? You think so? I kind of feel like anybody computer-literate enough to want to follow us on Twitter of Facebook or go to our website is computer literate enough to know how to find us with a click or keystroke or two. Understand, I think web site, Twitter and Facebook links on the web make sense, because they streamline the process. I just am not sure they are necessary anywhere else.

Certainly anybody who can spell "Google" can find anything. And direct click-throughability is surely right around the television corner.

Do people usually rip out print ads so they can keep the contact information or make a note of the phone number or web address? Or whip out their smartphone to scan your QR code while they are reading a newspaper or magazine? Do they pull the car over to the side of the road so they can record the phone number you read to them three times? Will they put down the remote long enough to jot down your web address?

Reality is, probably not. And even for those who do, they won't have to if your message is strong enough, creative enough and memorable enough. They will remember you.

And if they remember you, finding you is like falling off a log. Seriously.

So maybe think less about telling people how to get in reach you with you and more about giving them a reason to want to.

Or at least about making sure your advertising is strong enough that you could get by without any of the call-to-action stuff.

And another thing about that "For more information . . . " business. Why the hell else would anybody want to call you if not for more information? So why even say it?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

And today's "gratuitous nudtity" prize goes to . . .

. . . TBWA, Istanbul, Turkey! Come on down kids, and take a bow!

Ok, a couple of things here: I know I'm am old fart who probably Doesn't Get It Anymore, and we all know I'm an idiot. But will someone please explain these to me?

I mean, I'm a healthy, red-blooded American Boy and I like naked women as much as the next guy, but I can't imagine what naked people have to do with vintage clothing. And I kind of usually maybe sorta most of the time or all of the time think the creative ought to be, you know, relevant to the message.

What am I missing?

Larry Hinkle, you out there? You're a smart guy. What's the point of this?

Found on I Believe In Advertising.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Contract? Project? Gee, I don't know . . .

Recently, we ran into the "We have a contract with another agency, but I'm not thrilled with them and maybe we'll be able to make other plans when the contract runs out next year" thing in response to a new-business approach.


This comes up a bit, and I'm not suggesting that it's anything other than exactly what it sounds like - someone committed to a relationship. But the number of people who tell you are locked into a long-term contract with an agency they'd like to replace is kind of surprising.

So let's talk a bit about contracts versus projects, shall we? There are positives and negatives for both client and agency to each.

Contracts - The Agency
Certainly from an agency point of view, a long-term contract can be a good thing. Having someone drop by every afternoon with a sack full of twenties would be a good thing too, but that's neither here nor there. Thing is, predictable income is nice.

A termination clause usually guarantees you some income for some period of time while you look for a replacement client if you get fired, too. And if you're working with a retainer, unsolicited thinking and ideas you may generate for the client don't feel like spec work.

Then again, if you're working with a retainer, the volume of work in a given month can exceed your compensation. Not only that it's been my experience that clients get antsy when a month shows up the other way around.

And if you're under contract with a client, you have to be mindful of this relationship as you hunt for new business. Which means you might miss out on an opportunity to trade up.

Contracts - The Client

A contract can be a good thing for a client too. For one thing, there's cost efficiency. Anything you buy in bulk is less expensive than something you buy a-la-cart.

And there is a certain assurance that your agency isn't actively courting or working for your competition if they're under contract to you. (And, of course, having an agency under contract is a ready-made way to turn away agency overtures. Sort of like "we gave at the office".)

On the downside, there's the chance that you'll fall out of love with your agency but you're stuck with them. Maybe a key player that drew you to them has moved on and you find yourself working with Somebody Else.

Of course, there is almost always a termination clause, so if you really hate your agency you can get out of it,. But you'll pay them for a while to either Do Nothing or to Do Something With an Attitude because they just got fired.

Projects - The Agency
And agency can make more money on a project-by-project basis. That cost-efficiency thing works both ways.

And an agency working project-by-project can talk to anybody they want for new business. Free agents.

But a project basis can be a pain in the neck for an agency too. For all intents and purposes, you have to sell yourself over and over to the same client, and you can find yourself without a client any day. So you're continually proving yourself.

Projects - The Client
Working on a project-by-project basis can be good for a client. For one thing, you're not obligated to anything beyond the current project. No termination clauses or anything like that.

And there's that whole thing about your agency having to constantly prove itself. Now, let me say here that most of the people and agencies I know are going to do their best work whether they're on a retainer or not. But maybe you're not working with anybody I know.

On the downside, a project-by-project arrangement can be more expensive. As I said earlier, cost efficiency works both ways.

Clearly I have not provided a single answer here. Or give anybody clear direction as to Which Way To Jump. What works for some clients and agencies might not work as well for those same agencies with other clients.

But I have to say that I think project-by-project is a pretty good way to go. I personally don't see anything wrong with expecting yourself to be sure and bring your "A" game every day.

It can keep you on the edge, but The Edge is often a good thing.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Social media explained

A friend of mine posted this on his Facebook page.

He got it from a friend who no doubt got it from a friend who no doubt got it from a friend who no doubt got it from a friend who no doubt got it from a friend . . .

which explains Facebook.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

This is a bullshit commercial - even as an extended version

Forget for a moment that the dog losing weight so he can chase a car has jack to do with the car. WTF did they feel like they had to introduce the Star Wars thing for? Just to show what hipsters they are with the whole "Star Wars bar scene" reference?

I mean sure it's funny, and as a dog lover, I always like to watch dogs run, but a commenter on YouTube had it right, I think:

">Make random commercial about dog losing weight

>Pretend it has anything to do with the product you're selling

>List 0 reasons to buy your product"

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

You can use sex to sell anything . . .

The Dream from Jerome Genevray on Vimeo.

. . . even bug repellant.

Via Illegal Advertising.

Monday, January 30, 2012

I'll give you a dollar. No, wait, 50 cents. Oh, OK, make it $1.25.

We sent out an e-mail about budget discussions and how to agree on a price for a project. Maybe you saw it.

Putting it together led us to talking about pricing models in general. And there are both good and bad points to just about any we can think of.

Compensation via commissions and/or markups. This is a dated concept. And bad for a whole bunch of reasons. For one thing, it doesn't really apply to digital or social media. For another, it turns an agency into a bank, taking on financial obligations for clients and depending on them to pay their bill on time. Been there. Didn't like it.

For another, an agency shouldn't make more money because they selected an expensive printer or photographer or recommended a costly media outlet. I mean, that photographer or that media outlet may well be the best, but if the agency has no financial interest in it, the client can be sure of the purity of their recommendation.

Compensation based strictly on an hourly rate. OK, there at least two things wrong with this. Why should I make more if it takes me forever to solve your problem? And on the other side of the coin, why should I make less if I solve your problem quickly?

Performance-based compensation. This is an idea that has been bandied about for a few years without being really embraced by clients or agencies. On the surface it seems like a good idea - the better the agency does its work, the more they make.

But determining that measurement yardstick can be tough. If you base it on sales, for example, does the agency have any say in the price or the selling process? And if you base it on drawing traffic to a web site or 800-number, how do you determine if the traffic drawn is qualified?

A variable price based on usage. This is the same sort of model that photographers, illustrators, voiceover talent and others have used for years. Personally, I don't like it. While there's a real good argument to be made for paying for the use of an idea someone else owns for as long as you use it, it just seems to be unnecessarily complicated.

Besides, some of the most unpleasant discussions I've had with clients over the years have been around explaining to them why they have to keep paying for something that somebody finished working on several months ago. If clients don't like it for photographers, they aren't going to like it any better for their agency.

A fixed fee based on a perceived value. I think we like this the best. Circling back to our e-mail, if you're a client, you must have some idea of how much a project is worth to you. So share it with the agency and get them to tell you how they will solve your problem for that amount. (Or, if they don't think they can solve your problem for that amount, if that's the case.)

I mean, what the hell? You pay for other things based on your perception of their value to you, right? Dinner in a particular restaurant, a particular kind of jewelry, a room in a particular hotel and designer coffee all come to mind. It's not an alien concept is it? (And - ahem - this where a brand comes in. But that's a discussion for another day.)

Anyway, if you want some sort of performance-based incentive in there, perhaps settle on a lower initial fee with a bonus for agreed-upon results.

But then, as I said earlier, you have to agree on the measurement device. This could be its own blog post. I mean, if I'm going to be judged on how well a weekend room package does for a hotel, for example, I'm going to want to have something to say about the rate and where it's promoted. And I'm going to want a lot of control over the creative. Don't offer to pay me a bonus based on how well I do something and then tell me how to do it.

I'm not saying you can't reach an agreement on how to judge "performance". I think you can, and I think this is the best simplest model of those that I know of. I'm just saying that it takes some thought.

There are very solid clients and agencies operating under all of these models (except, I hope to God, the first one), so it's entirely possible to make any of them work for all parties involved. And a larger discussion - or even an essay - on pricing could get really long. This one certainly has and I've re-written it several times.

But I think the bottom line - at least for us here at Nasuti & Hinkle Creative Thinking - is that we'd prefer some sort of value-based pricing. We think we bring value to our clients, and we'd like to be paid based on that value. Not how long it took us to do the work, how big the media budget is or how long they plan to use whatever the hell it is we produce.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

On political "advertising"

Well, it's officially 2012, the year of the presidential campaign. My guess is that we'll all be sick of it by, oh, this time tomorrow.

And speaking for everybody everywhere, I'll go ahead and say that what we'll be sickest of is the advertising. Which brings me to my point today.

Not too long ago, some quarters in the Washington ad community got all worked up claiming that, if political agencies were included, this was one of the largest centers of advertising in the country. Like third or something, I think.

That annoyed the hell out of me. Unfortunately, this being an election year, it's probably going to come up again. And when it does, it's going to annoy the hell out of me then too.

The DC ad community shouldn't be embracing political agencies in order to pump up our perceived size. Rather, we ought to disassociate ourselves from them.


I mean, does any segment of the advertising industry do more to paint us all as congenital liars and sleazeballs that these guys? I don't think so.

Political advertising has become, for the most part, the reality of anybody's worst criticisms of our industry. While most of the rest of us are focused on presenting the best benefits of our clients' products or services, these jokers are focused on smears, fact manipulation and out-of-context garbage. I don't see how they do it. I mean, we expect that kind of B.S. from politicians, but I have always considered advertising people a higher life form that politicians of any party.

(A note here: I don't care which party you belong to, who you voted for last time or who you might vote for this go-around in a national, state or local election. If there is anything in this country that is truly bi-partisan, it's the shaky character of the vast majority of our politicians. And, unfortunately, this is nothing new. Ask Mark Twain.)

I don't mean to suggest that 100% of all political advertising is slimy and based on half-truths. Just 98% of it. And I hate to see the Washington ad community embrace it for the sake of inflating our own self image.

There are some damn good agencies around here. Design Army, Smith+ Gifford, Arnold, Adworks, August, Lang, LM&O and others. Thumb through an Addy showbook and see if you don't agree.

So I don't see any reason to associate our industry with those who tar the good name of advertising with everything they do.

I think the ad community ought to be judged on the quality of the work it does, not the number of firms engaged in it.

Friday, January 27, 2012

A few thoughts on Super Bowl commercials

Reading today how Ferris Bueller is "trending" in the Twitter world because of the buzz about his appearance in a Super Bowl commercial made me think about Super Bowl commercials for a minute.

(For the dazed and confused out there, the picture at right is Mean Joe Greene in a classic Super Bowl commercial. It is not Ferris Bueller. Or Matthew Broderick. That should be obvious. Neither one of them has a beard. But we soldier on . . . )

For some reason, I find myself resenting all the attention lavished on Super Bowl commercials - by ad folk and civilians alike. And I'm not exactly sure why.

Maybe there's a bit of "so the only time we really care about these things is in early February?"

Or maybe I feel a bit like advertisers ought to work as hard on their spots the other 11 months of the year.

Could be I just get annoyed at how many spots seem to be just gratuitous bullshit creativity designed to get people talking about the spot (not the product) the next day.

Then again maybe it's how often execution takes priority over concept in these things.

I don't know.

And maybe I'm just becoming a curmudgeon - in addition to being an idiot, as we all know.

But if I go to a Super Bowl party, when the commercials come on, look for me over at the punchbowl. Away from the TV.

Just don't ask me why.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Two common advertising failures

I just posted this on Twitter: "Advertising is like a singles bar -- loud, busy, lots of competition, and the audience has a short attention span. Creativity helps. A lot."

Then a few minutes later, I linked this from Ad Age about Super Bowl commercials where I had added this comment: "My guess is that the most frequently heard comment around the water cooler the Monday after the Super Bowl goes something like: 'Did you see that funny commercial with the monkey on the Super Bowl? I can't remember who it was for - but anyway . .' "

They might seem a bit contradictory - one arguing for creativity and the other pooh-poohing creativity in Super Bowl commercials. But not necessarily. Drop down a couple of posts and read this.

I think there are two common failures that can doom any sort of advertising to irrelevance.

One is just what the post says - the mindless production of stunningly creative advertising - advertising that sometimes seems to me to be little more than (and I apologize for the language, but it is what it is) masturbation for the creative department. That's one.

The other is not applying creativity at all. This is the kind of all-we-have-to-do-is-show-the-product-and-customers-will-flock-to-the-door approach as practiced by many. That singles bar analogy holds. If nobody notices you, nobody is going to know what the hell it is you have to sell. And if you look like everybody else in the category, nobody is going to notice you.

The trick is to be creative and demand attention from the target audience, but to have the creativity built around a product attribute. "Tastes Great. Less Filling" always comes to mind. So does "Think Different", and the wonderful new commercials Samsung is running for their smart phones.

It's pretty easy to just be "creative". Hell anybody who ever did a "Think that's crazy? It's not as crazy as buying a car anywhere else!" approach was creative. Being creative in a way that promotes your client - that's harder.

Of course, the easiest thing is to not be creative at all. I'd give you example of something, but I tend to blot those out of my mind. Read today's paper, watch television tonight or open the home page of your local newspaper's web site. You'll see what I mean.

There's a difference between creative and creative for a good reason, and not everybody knows what it is.

Perhaps that's why God invented copywriters and art directors.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Grits, Lasanga and Won-Ton Soup. And Red Velvet cupcakes for dessert.

Five chefs make a meal together.

Each one is on his or her own, with his or her own ideas about what makes a good meal. And his or her own particular strengths, specialties and abilities.

Naturally, each of them wants to be the Big Dog in the Kitchen.

Sounds a lot like marketing efforts I've seen. There's an ad agency for the ads, a graphic designer or firm for the collateral, a digital firm (or maybe just a "web guy") for the web site, online ads and e-mails, and someone doing the public relations - maybe a firm and maybe just somebody internally who isn't too busy.

That's a lot of competition. And it's easy to see how each of them could sincerely believe that their particular channel is the best for the client. (Just look how often you read some digital agency executive proclaim that print is dead or television is dead or social media is the only thing that matters anymore.)

Marketing by Committee can be a lot like those five chefs making a meal. Together, but apart.

I'm not really sure of the reasons for this kind of approach, but I would guess there are many. One certainly would be that it would appear to be cost-efficient. Which it most certainly is not. Then again, how often do you run across a firm that can provide all of those services in an affordable manner?

One thing that happens is that the client might turn to their web firm for collateral and advertising. Mistake. A web design firm can't do advertising as well as an ad agency as a general rule. Nor can an ad agency generally design and program a web site as well as a web firm. So that's a mistake too. Sometimes clients will get their PR firm to handle the advertising, web and/or collateral. Many PR firms offer it, but most simply farm it out to a freelancer or another firm. So where's the savings?

Almost nobody does everything well, so there's a real good argument for having a team of experts working on your behalf. Certainly I know of at least one network of specialist firms who know how to work together and can do it in an non-competitive environment.

But in any case, one very simple way to make sure everybody is Rowing in the Same Direction is to have a very clear brand position. Actually, this is a hell of a good idea whether you have one agency or five. Or even if you do the work in-house. A clear brand position can ensure that everybody involved in the effort is Reading From the Same Sheet Music.

(While they are all Rowing in the Same Direction, of course . . . )

Almost nothing can be as cost-efficient as a clearly defined brand. With that in hand, it's not hard for those separate-but-equal team players to work together. With the same goal in mind. Investing in brand development or brand clarification is what's known in the biz as a "Hell of a Good Investment."

So OK guys. Let's get it together. Tonight we're all doing Chinese.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The mindless production of stunningly creative advertising

I think I missed something.

The Martin Agency is one hot-shot agency indeed. But I don't get this at all.

Agency: "So here's our idea. Pig flies down a zip line. Comes even with a human who looks at him in surprise. Pig says 'Pure. Adrenaline'. And that ladies and gentlemen, is how we're going to sell insurance."

OK, I will admit that I am perhaps tragically unhip at this point of my life (although I'm still a real looker with a firm handshake and a quick wit), but I don't get it. Not at all.

I can't shake the feeling that there is some joke going on here that I'm not in on. But then, are all Geico prospects in on it? Several years ago, I wrote a piece for our web site entitled, well . . same as this post. And maybe it's time to revisit the subject.

Don't get me wrong. This is a very creative spot. Babe was a very creative movie too. And neither one of them is going to get me to buy Geico insurance.

You get the feeling sometimes that the really good, really creative agencies lose control of themselves. And the clients figure, "Well, these guys did come up with that gecko thing, so they must know what the hell they are doing. But I gotta tell you Bob, I don't get it."

"I don't either Rod. I don't either."

My guess is that at the meeting when this thing was presented after all laughter died down, nobody had the balls to speak up and say "OK, it's funny as hell. Pig on zip line. So fucking what?"

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Ah, the good old days . . .

Well, not those good old days (although I remember being accosted by all sorts of people selling all sorts of stuff on 42nd Street years ago).

I'm talking about the good old days of really cool Daffy's advertising. Like what you see below.

I don't know who's doing it these days, but this (via the Denver Egotist) is pretty much fun. And effective.

Friday, January 13, 2012

So you can use sex to sell non-alcoholic beer too?

Who knew?

What was that? I can't hear you for all the noise!

(I resisted the temptation to title this "can you hear me now?" )

Imagine a roomful of people. Let's say 25 of them. All talking at once. Can't hear a damn thing, can you?

OK, let's say that 24 of them suddenly stop talking.

The one person still talking can be heard loud and clear.

That's exactly the opportunity that presents itself to a business in a down economy when people cut their advertising budgets. Or, said another way, when they decide to stop looking for new customers.

When the economy gets tight, many of your competitors will hunker down, thinking they can ride it out, planning to kick that marketing program back in when times are better.

That's your cue to step in and snatch their customers.

Slow and steady isn't going to win this race. Not in this economy.

There is plenty of data to support this, too. During the recession of the 80's, McGraw-Hill found that companies that cut their advertising saw sales rise 19% during the latter part of the decade. Companies that maintained or increased their advertising saw their sales increase 275% during the same time frame.

I'm not saying that advertising is the be-all and end-all in making it through a recession. What I'm saying is that I can't imagine a better time to shout out your sales message from the rooftops than when damn near everybody else has quieted down. And there is no more cost-efficient way to reach large numbers of potential customers than through some form of advertising.

Cutting back on efforts to generate new business is saying "Business is bad, so we're going to stop trying to get new business until business gets better all by itself."

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Seriously, you can trust me

It can be depressing to look at another agency's web site.

You check it out and say to yourself (as I did yesterday) "Holy cow! Look at those clients!"

Then you look a little deeper, and you realize that it's not all it seems to be. Chunks of the "Work" and "Clients" sections turn out to be not exactly completely really relevant to the current agency. I saw one recently that included a great deal of work produced by a predecessor agency. I've seen others where they included on their client list, clients of a way-back former agency where one of the principals used to work. Two jobs ago.

OK, so technically, it's not completely inaccurate. Bob actually worked at Bruise Brothers Creative Partners when Parabellum Projectile Potato Chips was a client, and he actually did work on the account. And the agency they bought the agency from had these clients and the three of us here now worked on them there, but still . . .

It just seems a tad dishonest to me to present work and/or clients as your own with no disclaimers or caveats at all, allowing the reader to draw his or her own conclusions. I don't feel that there should be any issue with stating that "This is not an agency client. Myrtle worked on this account at a previous job and Myrtle is a senior art director here, so it is representative of the work she does for us and will do for you." What the hell is wrong with that? Nothing.

It's the kind of bullshit approach to bullshitting that I think helps give us all a bad name. I mean, do we really want clients who visit our web site to feel like they have to take everything we say there - and by extension anywhere else - with a grain of salt? I don't think so.

It seems to be accepted that many agencies will misrepresent themselves or inflate themselves. Certainly billings are often inflated. So is the number of employees.

I remember a local agency a few years ago that was pitching a large account and hired a double handful of temps on the day of the Agency Visit and told them to sit in offices and look busy, like they were working. A few years ago, another local agency claimed on their web site that they had won "Best in Show" that year at the Addys for their web site, when what they actually had won was an Addy. An Addy is good enough, why BS about it?

There is an agency that even has (or used to have) a lobby display built around a successful campaign their CD ran in another city before he even came to town. A casual observer could easily be forgiven for thinking the local agency was responsible. (Besides, no CD ever does all the work himself, so claiming all the credit is kind of cheesy anyway.)

My point is, the advertising business and the people in it have enough of a credibility problem as it is. We're accused of fabricating claims in our ads and commercials, of trying to convince people to buy things they don't need at prices they can't afford and all manner of other less-than-desirable things. It doesn't seem to me that we ought to go out of our way to give anybody an excuse to see us as bullshit artists.

If you're a prospect reading this, ask the agency which staff members worked on the projects in their portfolio. And ask them if the clients they list are their clients or someone else's. It's a fair question. There's nothing really wrong with showing work or client experience that is only tangentially or distantly yours - if it fairly illustrates the kind of work your clients will get. Just be upfront and honest about it.

And before anybody calls or writes or starts to call me names, one of the things about being a small agency where one of the owners is the creative director and primary copywriter is that I can state with absolute honesty that every single bit of work on our web site and in our portfolio and everything we show clients, I had a major role in. Probably wrote every word too. For better or for worse.

I have always believed that one critical element of good advertising is that it has to contain an essential truth. An essential truth ought to be part of what we say about ourselves as well.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

"Stand out or don't bother"

I'm reading "Social Boom" by Jeffery Gitomer, and it's a great read.

The title of this post is a direct quote from the book, and, while the book is concerned with social media, I think it applies to any sort of advertising and marketing you might do.

Actually I know it does.

Often, clients think the agency is pushing for a particularly creative or different approach just to satisfy their own jollies. And sometimes that's true. But the fact is, your agency is very aware of what is going on in the ad world (and that includes web sites, Facebook, banner ads, commercials and all the rest) and knows how much it can all run together. And they know that "all running together" is another way to say "invisible".

Your agency is usually pushing you to take a particular approach because they want whatever it is you're doing to, well, stand out. (Note: I'm not saying that gratuitous creativity - you know, the "joke in search of a reason for it" approach - is good either. But that's another topic.)

If nobody notices your message, nobody is going to get your message and you've wasted whatever resources you've applied to it.

So the next time your agency is making a creative presentation, keep in mind "stand out or don't bother."