Tuesday, December 22, 2015

"I'm putting it all in Adwords"
At one point, digital marketing tools like adwords, pay-per-click, retargeting and such were pretty terrific for smaller companies, like independent hotels. And, for many, it's still the go-to marketing channel. The must-do. Sometimes at the expense of other avenues.

Unfortunately, it's not necessarily the slam-dunk benefit that it used to be.

For one thing, the cost is going up. Many will say you need to be spending $10k a month to get any value out of it. Even my journalism-school math tells me that's $120,000 a year. A big part of a marketing budget for a property doing between $12 million and $20 million in revenue annually.

And any messages that might show up way down on a page (often out of sight) still count as an impression (that you pay for), so it's hard to tell exactly what benefit you got from the expenditure. Further, unless you're using full-path attribution, it's hard to pinpoint exactly what drove a potential guest to make a reservation. "Last-touch" certainly isn't the only factor that will drive someone to your property and get them to actually book a room.

In fact, often the keywords that most frequently drive pay-per-click and adwords responses are the actual name of the property. Which begs the question, how did that person find the name of the property in the first place? And there's the logical follow-on question: How can we get our name out there more?

Few digital marketing tools like these lend themselves to effective delivery of a brand position - and a brand distinction is one thing an independent hotel can use to its advantage. Creative delivery of what sets your property apart from another is not exactly a strong suit of something like adwords.

This is not to say that digital should not play a role in the marketing of an independent property or collection. It should.

Just make sure your eyes are wide open about the cost, the benefits and how they fit into your particular circumstance. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

If you can't tell which one is better, quit the business

A tale of two ads

Here are two print ads from the same issue of The New Yorker.

One is good - clever, well-written, based on a brand position and a strategy. The othe rone is just stupid.

But both of them were developed and placed on behalf of a client with a big budget (The New Yorker isn't cheap).

So it raises the question - why would one of these big, well-heeled companies pay for a poorly done ad?


Monday, November 9, 2015

And what about that soda in the mini-bar?

Sometimes you just shake your head in wonder.  

There is an article and discussion The Economist about something that really makes you realize that people at big companies aren't always really that smart.
Apparently Marriott hotels was fined ($600,000!!) for blocking guests' personal wireless modems and hotspots and now a complaint has been filed against Hilton too.
The Economist piece goes into detail about it - and the comments are pretty interesting too - but the learning for anybody in the hotel business comes at the very end: "But notwithstanding its legality, price-gouging your customers is generally a bad idea if you are interested in the long-term success of your business. Here's a better idea if hotels are keen to make money from their Wi-Fi, why not offer something worth paying for?"
Good thought.
We've always wondered why hotels seem to be driven - like airlines - to nickel-and-dime guests. At least the big chains seem to take that approach. Independents seem generally to be much more guest-friendly. A hotel that charges Ooopty dollars for parking could, instead, add Ooopty dollars to the room rate and offer "free parking". Maybe instead of gouging on things in the mini-bar, only stock it with things you're willing to give away.
And for crying out loud, don't charge for the Internet.
Sure, a hotel has to pay for it, as one commenter pointed out. But, as another was quick to note, they also have to pay for the free breakfast, the gym, the pool and all the rest of it.
But whether it's an airline or a hotel and whether it's a genuine desire to provide a lot or a pricing mask, add-on charges tend to give customers a bad taste in their mouths.
Especially when they could just walk across the street to a Starbucks and use the Wi-Fi for free.

Friday, October 30, 2015

It's Mac Tonight!

Back when commercials were really good.

That is, before the obsession with dumb jokes and irrelevant comedy took over. Back then, there used to be spots like this.

If you don't know the story, it was originally done by an agency for the Southern California franchise group. So good, it went national.

They had to take it off the air when Bobby Darrin's family sued, claiming they copied his moves. The suit was later dropped.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Non-Millennials and social media - Larry says it better than I could

Read this. Be smarter.

Larry Mogelonsky (the smiling gentleman seated above) is what I call a Really Smart Guy when it comes to hotel marketing. 
I can't remember the last time I disagreed with what he wrote on his fabulous Hotels Magazine blog.
As the discussion of social media and boomers carries on, Larry weighed in yesterday with some really smart stuff. Which makes sense, him being a Really Smart Guy and all.
So rather than offer my own thoughts, and since he said it better that I could have, I give you "Gray is the new green part 12: social media differences."

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

We're looking at some blue-shy ideation and an experiential process that can help us profile their emotional needs and head space

I have been doing this for more than 25 years and sometimes I just flat out get a headache when I hear the doublespeak and jargon and blah-blah-blahdiddy-blah that agency and design folk tend to spew.

English please.

That is all.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Pepsi generation for . . .

Come alive!

When Karen first started in the ad business, she was in the creative department at Ehrlich Harris Manes, an ad agency in Bethesda, MD. One of the people she worked with was a production manager named Lyn Thompson.
Lyn was a pretty smart person and she said something one time about a commercial that stuck with me - and it seems to be true today: "That commercial is the Pepsi Generation for __________________." 
So true today.
For a creative business, we sure do a lot of lookalike work, don't we? On any given evening in front of the TV, you're going to see at least two or three "Pepsi Generation"-type spots. For beer, cars, liquor, wine - jeez for whatever. You could pretty much swap out the logos and nobody would notice. Everybody is young and good-looking and just having so much fun and it's just all so unbelievable, isn't it?
There are variations, like the one below, but they really are all pretty much the same, don't you think? Tired? Been there? Done that?
You have to wonder who is driving all this repetitive stuff. Is it a client who says "I want one of those?" Or a lazy agency who thinks everybody under 30 lives a fantasy life - like from "Friends"?

Friday, October 2, 2015

Two totally different, totally wonderful commercials

So here's a look at how good
advertising can actually be - if it wants to.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Penny Wise and Pound Foolish

Because this is the guy who gets credit for saying it, that's why.

Ok, with the "why is there a picture of Ben Franklin in a post about being penny wise and pound foolish?" question out of the way, let's move on to the subject at hand, shall we?

Which is, well, being penny wise and pound foolish.

Here's a short story.

We're in the process of doing a small brochure on a project basis. We quoted a price that included preparation of some specific artwork, but this client wanted to spend a lot less, so we eliminated that - and other things - from the proposal to get to their price point.

Long story short, that artwork has become a colossal pain in the ass and has delayed production of the brochure by at least three weeks. The main reason for the delay is that the client isn't really equipped to deal with this sort of pain in the ass and is having issues properly preparing the artwork.

Of course, we are equipped to do it. And we coulda done it. Long ago. But it wasn't part of the deal and the client didn't want to pay the extra cost for us to do the work, Of course, if they'd accepted our original price in the first place, this artwork would have still been a pain in the ass, but it would have been our pain in the ass, not theirs.

So what should have been a simple brochure has become a problem and is way overdue. For no good reason.

My point here is that there is often a false economy when you Do It Yourself. Which is to say when you get a proposal from an agency or design firm and you want it done for less, think about whether or not you can really take up the slack for things you don't want to pay for.

Maybe it's a good idea to let people who know how to do certain things do those certain things.

Of course, I tend to think that if the most important factor in getting something done is how cheaply you can get it done (as opposed to, say, how well it can be done), then don't do it at all.

That's the cheapest way there is.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Let's talk about the root of all evil

I say let's talk about money early on

Like many of us, I grew up being told it wasn't polite to talk about money. How much someone gets paid or laid out for a car, a house or a tie was none of my damn business, so don’t ask.

Maybe that's why many creative firms are reluctant to bring up the subject of money (as in b-u-d-g-e-t) early on in the conversation. That and maybe it takes away, somehow, the perception that we're all dedicated artists and gosh-I-just-do-this-for-the-love-of-it and money is secondary.

(We actually had a client say to us once in a meeting "I know you guys aren’t in it for the money . . . " At which point both of us leaped from our chairs to nip that particular line of thinking in the bud: "Actually, that's not true. We do it for the money.")

I think that often an agency doesn't want to talk about money because they are just so doggone focused on getting the job,they lose sight of the fact that it has to turn a profit.

As far as prospective clients go, a lot of them don’t want to talk about money because they would like it if you gave them a proposal that was well below what they have earmarked for a project or an agency fee thankyouverymuch.

It's amazing how often someone will answer the "what's your budget?" question with "I don't know" or "we don't really have one."  Really? You have no idea how much you are willing to spend for this? Of course, everybody in the room knows that they do have a budget or even a rough idea of how much they can spend or think is appropriate to spend. It's a silly, silly game to play. But it's been played or years. It just won't die, you know?

At the risk of sounding like I'm only in it for the money, budget is one of the very first things you need to get sorted out, whether you're an agency or a client. That's because the whole idea of finding the right creative firm to work with you and the right client with whom to work is determining whether this is going to be a good marriage.

And, in addition to chemistry, category experience and quality of the work, money is a pretty significant indicator of whether or not it's a good match.That's just reality.

So if you're a client, it's going to make things a whole lot easier for everybody and help you find the right agency more quickly if you 1) have an idea of your budget, 2) tell the agency what it is and 3) be aware that they will want to spend it all.  (And why not? That's what it's for, right?) The question is who will spend it all most wisely and get the most out of it for you.

And if you just absolutely, positively, have some block about being willing to divulge the amount of money you may or may not spend with those people across the table with whom you may enter into a relationship, do this:  Ask them what sort of budget range works best for them as far as a client is concerned. Just as a client really ought to have a budget figure in mind, a professional creative firm ought to have a figure in mind below which they can't really afford to do the work.  The key is for everybody to know that there is a financial fit in there somewhere.

Of course, if you're a creative firm, you have to find out early on whether or not the piece of business you are discussing is one you ought to be pursuing.

As awkward as it may be discussing money, once it's over and done with, everybody seems to feel better. You either know you're in a good place as far as what you want to spend and/or need to earn, or you're not.

And if you're not, everybody can stop wasting any more time on it and you can go out and get some lunch.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Orson Wells, wine, Ritz-Carlton and Reserve hotels

Orson Wells is here for a reason.

And this is it. No matter what he said or how lovely his voice sounded when he said it, Gallo wine was still, in the end, Gallo wine. Before its time or not.
So this came to mind when I saw an article in Forbes - via the ILHA SmartBrief - about the new Reserve group of hotels from Ritz-Carlton and how it's bringing a "boutique vibe to Ritz-Carlton."
Honestly, this could be perceived as a bit of a slap at a real boutique independent hotel or small to mid-sized collection of hotels. Because, when you get right down to it, Reserve is still part of Ritz-Carlton which is still part of Marriott. Just like Autograph. Or Hyatt Andaz, Hilton Curio or other subgroups of big chains.
An independent hotel and a smaller collection of hotels is a totally different thing than a cluster of properties gathered under a large brand name and given a sub-name. Sure, there are almost certainly some differences from the Mother Ship, but it's still a part of the big brand.
People who work for Ritz-slash-Marriott are sharp people and know what they are doing, and there is no question about whether or not Reserve has a lot going for it. 
It most certainly does.
But let's not for a minute confuse it with a true independent property or small collection of hotels or resorts - with all the unique experiences they can deliver to their guests.
The cheapest and most expensive cars made by General Motors are still from General Motors with all the good - and bad - things that go with it.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The sophomore-ization of American advertising

It's finally happened.  Beavis and Butthead have gone into advertising.

My guess is that Booking.com has decided that high-school boys - chronologically or emotionally - are the best target for their online hotel reservations service.
That's the only thing I can imagine based on these stupid "booking-this" and "booking-that" commercials done by Weiden and Kennedy. 
You get it, right? If not see above. "Incredible booking vacation" and "you got it booking right" and so on. (Heh, heh, heh, Beavis. He said "booking."). 
So if I'm to understand this, what could be a good idea is built around the fact that (heh, heh, heh, Beavis) it sounds like they are saying "fucking". So clever. If you're like 16 years old.
I'd have loved to have been at the meeting when they presented the creative. "OK, so the premise of this spot is that when you say 'booking-something, it sort of sounds like 'fucking-something' Pretty cool, huh? Huh?"
I think it's just stupid. There are any number of attention-getting, compelling ways to sell Booking.com. This is really the best one they could come up with? Maybe the target is, I don't know, different than me.
Weiden and Kennedy is a great agency with awards coming out of their ears, so there must be something I'm fucking missing. 
I mean "booking" missing.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

In honor of Barrett Strong

Let's talk just a minute about, well, you know

If you're on the client side of an agency relationship, I'm here to tell you that almost every one of them only really asks you for two things:

1. Respect us and our ideas. (Note that I didn't say like all our ideas. Just show some respect for the effort.)

2. Pay our bills on time.

So, on #$ 2 - Nobody likes to have to call and ask for money. It's especially hard on a smaller agency where they don't have a separate A/R department. It often puts the AE - the person charged with maintaining a relationship - in the awkward position of having to inquire about a past-due invoice.

If the price is too high, bring it up before you agree to the project. If there is a question about the invoice, ask it as soon as you get the invoice and you'll get an answer. If the work is no good, fire them.

And if you just installed a new accounting system, the CFO is on vacation or any one of a dozen other things we've all heard several times, make it clear to your agency early on.

Agencies can't repossess anything. Or cut off your credit. All we have to sell is time and expertise, and once you've got it, we can't take it back. All an agency - or design studio - can really do is stop work until you catch up. And nobody wants to do that because, well, because we're here to help you succeed, not slow things down.

Think about it, as much as we all want to believe that every client is important, we're also all human. And the guy who is always late and never pays we bug him for it is going to look different to us than the guy who pays promptly and on time. That's just reality.

People sometimes seem to think that because we're in a creative business, money is secondary to an agency or design firm. Not so.

Really. No kidding. Not so.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

This is a ridiculous criticism of a good spot

No, not this this. This this.

Nature Valley, makers of granola bars of some sort, produced this video that points out a  real difference in the way the youngest generation today passes the time and the way previous generations did.

The reviewer - for my money clearly a member of the nose-in-a-smart phone set - absolutely trashed it, characterizing it as a "three-minute technology hate-on."

Check it out and see what you see. Here's the link again. I mean, I really want you to see it.
I'll wait here.

Got it? So here's what I think. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Rebecca Cullers, who wrote the review, is so full of shit her eyes are brown, as we used to say when we were little.

In her snarky review she pretty much missed the whole fucking point point.

Nobody said "in my day." Nobody harshed on the kids who are so committed to smart phones and tablets. And nobody told anybody to get off their lawn. But the fact that Nature Valley (who clearly wants to associate themselves with All Things Natural and Wholesome and Perhaps Even Outdoors) pointed out that little kids are missing one hell of a lot of cool stuff by marrying their tablet, smart phone or computer seems to have really touched  a nerve with Cullers.

She seems personally offended that anybody would dare to suggest that perhaps there is a world out there that don't run on a battery. WTF?

My guess is that she is one of those you see walking down the sidewalk or across the street with her attention focused on the phone in her hand instead of the world around her or even where she is going.

I always thought each of us ought to get to bump one of those people with our car. Just once.

Friday, July 10, 2015

God, that's a beautiful logo. So what?

An award-winning logo never brought anybody any business.

Neither has a really cool color palette or set of identity guidelines.

Those are all part of Branding – usually the domain of design studios and often confused with "Brand." Not the same thing. And in all honesty, it kind of honks me (me, Woody Hinkle) that design studios often seem content to let the distinction go unnoticed by clients.

If you've read anything on our web site or know anything about us, you know that the two things we do are Brand Development and Creative. We're not a design studio and don't seek out that kind of work. Oh, we can design a logo or web site and produce a corporate identity guide. And Frank (that would be ace art director Frank Salonek) can come up with a color palette with the best of them.

But we tend to try to avoid doing that stuff if the client doesn't have a clear Brand or until we've helped them develop one. What the hell good does it do to have a beautiful logo on a snazzy brochure if your marketing materials aren't telling anybody why the hell they ought to do business with you?

And I'm here to tell you right now in no uncertain terms that people don't do business with you because of your logo. We can go out back and fight about it if you want, but it's the truth.

People will do business with you because of what you offer that the Next Guy doesn't. Or you offer it in a way that's more appealing than the Next Guy. That differentiation is what you have to clarify first. Then, you can make sure your Branding – the logo, ad campaign, tag line and all the rest (which we can and will produce very well for you thankyouverymuch) – follow your Brand.

While I realize that I can't paint everybody with such a broad brush, it has been my experience that design studios and PR firms often have one thing in common: They are focused on tactical things – what the logo looks like, what type face works best, what hot-diggity-dog cool stuff they can put in the web site, or what the message ought to be in the next press release.

And none of that stuff matters at all, if they aren’t working off a single Brand strategy

Because your Brand is, well, it's the reason why anybody should give a damn what the hell you're selling.

The old joke about clients often revolves around "make the logo bigger." I'd say, make the logo second.

Do the Brand first.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Once again I find myself scratching my head

And once again it has something to do with GEICO
Clearly, I have no freaking idea what I am doing and am a complete moron and should just get out of the advertising business for the good of the country.
I simply do not understand why the GEICO pre-roll ads that I find so annoying won a Gold Lion at Cannes. Hailed for putting a "hilarious twist on the typically boring genre" and breaking the rules of advertising, these spots just bother the hell out of me.
The VO tells you that you can't skip the ad because it's already over, and then  - at least on some web sites - it proceeds to just sit there while wow-that's-so-fucking-funny things like the dog jumping on the table and a guy's foot catches fire and you can't skip it.
Great idea if it's just short and over before you know it after having made the point, but it doesn't work that way. At least not that I've seen. 
I must not be the target and, as we all know, I'm an idiot anyway. I can only assume that the target audience is made up of the same people who find the jokes that go on too long on Family Guy funny.
I may come home tonight to a mob of advertising freaks on my lawn with pitchforks and torches, but I just have to say that an awful lot of stuff that Martin does these days - certainly what they do for GEICO - comes across as self-indulgent.
But they're a big agency with a warehouse full of awards and we're a boutique agency with a shelf full of awards, so they must be doing something right.
I just can't figure out what the hell it is.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The herd mentality and marketing to Millennials (and others)

There's a reason for this image. 

And we'll get to it in a minute.

But first, there's this. Much of the ad and marketing world is abuzz these days with Millennials and How to Reach Them. (Millennials being defined as 18-35 years old, although the 35 upper limit seems a bit high to me.)

Anyway, the latest to court this group is Marriott. They are determined to snag Millennial business and hired a consulting firm that specializes in communicating with Millennials.

Never mind that some of the Rules of Engagement that firm came up with seem either pretentious or obvious. (Millennials needs to be convinced of the value of a product through storytelling, or millennials value companies that have a powerful vision.) The assault on Millennials isn't necessarily right for everybody. Hillary Stout in a terrific article in the New York Times on June 21 said it this way: "Some analysts and consumers have begun to ask, what about the rest of us?"

Good question.

There is no question that Millennials are a good target, but as the market research firm Forrester said in their report The Kids Are Overrated. Don't Worry About Millennials, "that while some companies have to target Millennials because of the nature of their products, most don't need to."

Here are a few things to consider:

 - The Millennial generation has less wealth and more debt than other generations did at the same age. (Hello, student loan debt.)

- Baby boomers are bigger spenders than most, "unhip though they may be."

- Older shoppers make up a larger segment of the population than ever before.

- Boomers have more discretionary income and more free time in which to spend it.

Here's a link to a good article on the topic and, if you subscribe to the New York Times online, you can search "Oh, To Be Young Millennial And Oh So Wanted By Marketers" by Hillary Stout.

Look, there are good arguments for targeting any particular segment, and I'm not suggesting that this is an either/or kinda thing. What I am suggesting is that running headlong after Millennials may or may not be a good idea. It kind of depends on what you're selling.

Are Millennials good targets for things like Cadillacs, high-end vacation resorts, wealth management, Brooke Brothers suits or Dockers?. Maybe. But maybe not.

 . . . and this brings me to the image above.

It's from that great Emerald City Sequence in The Wiz. First the residents all "want to be seen green." That is, until The Wiz (Richard Prior) tells them all that "Green is dead. 'Til I change my mind, the color's red." And they all celebrate red. That is, until he comes back on the PA and says "The ultimate yellow brick is gold. That's the new color children." And everybody scurries to embrace gold.

That sequence always comes to my mind when the herd mentality takes over in the advertising and marketing arena. Green becomes red becomes gold and everybody jumps on board. Millennials are the only target worth having and everybody jumps on board.

The voices telling us this are a lot of the same voices that who told us that the only thing worth having in your marketing mix was a web site. Then told us all that worked was digital advertising and everything else was dead. Then they let us know that only re-targeting worked and then only Google search words. What's next?

They are probably all channeling the people who said print was dead when radio came out, radio was dead when television came out and on and on. Whatever happened to integrated marketing?

I don't want to sound like some sort of old get-off-my-lawn coot, but this follow-the-leader mentality just honks me no end. It seems to be the antithesis to everything I thought advertising was about. Which is to say, creativity and original thought . . .

 . . .  and not just pursuing that Shiny New Thing because everybody else is. Didn't your mother ever ask you "Well if Johnny jumped off a cliff, would you jump off a cliff?"

We have a lot of target markets available to us these days and we're able to hone in pretty closely to the ones that suit our product or service best. We also have a lot of tools at our disposal with which to do it.

We should use 'em.