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.