thursday miscellania

Great Moments In Marketing Strategy
Boulder Sushi Chain Targets Oft-Hungry Demo – headline, BNet, Nov. 5

Winner Will Be Decided By Rock, Paper, Scissors
“Social Media” vs “I Don’t Know”: It’s A Tie – headline, Ad Contrarian, Nov. 5

Bottom Stories of the Day
Cows Aren’t Just For Tipping Anymore – headline, AdPulp, Nov. 5
You Can Call Me Fred If You Want – headline, Make The Logo Bigger, Nov. 5
Rude Stork Shows Up At Worst Possible Moments – headline, Denver Egoist, Nov. 5

life in an ad agency

I have been having a recurring dream. First, some context. Recently, I moved from a boutique-ish independent agency that still had its founders actively involved in the day-to-day business and setting of the culture to a mid-size agency owned by one of the holding companies whose founder had retired fully within the past few years and doesn’t really know what it is, besides being a mid-sized agency owned by one of the holding companies.

At both agencies, the creative product could be characterized as good to occasionally spectacular, the compensation is roughly comparable, and each has a foosball table.

But my last agency was truly human.

As such, my recurring dream is that I have gone back to my old agency because, dammit, it was a better place to work.

In the end, I wouldn’t go back for a host of location and familial reasons (and the realization, in my dream, that I chose work over those obligations is awfully haunting), but I really wish I could.

Separated from the vision of the founder and creaking under the weight of holding company bean-counting, an agency loses its soul.

wednesday miscellania

Not Exactly Prospecting For Gold
Agency Wants to Get Drunk With Prospects – headline, Adrants, Nov. 3

Weezer and Snuggie Warm Up To Each Other – headline, Adfreak, Nov. 3

And Why Weren’t They Prosecuted?
Did Ad Agency TBWA/Chiat/Day Kill Pets.com? – headline, Tribble Agency, Nov. 4

Bottom Stories of the Day
Silos Suck – headline, AdPulp, Nov. 4
Reader’s Digest Closes Rick Warren Magazine – headline, Media Decoder, Nov. 4
Bob Jeffries Cries Over Losing Kellogg’s – headline, Tribble Agency, Nov. 4

magic advertising words matter

Magic Advertising Words Matter

Advertisers are always caught in a bind: if a product is doing well, the credit goes to the product and not the advertising while if a product is not doing well, the blame gets put on the advertising and not the product.

As an example, take Subaru. It is the only car company to have posted positive sales gains for the last two years, yet even employees at the company have said that the advertising isn’t (splashy enough to be) award worthy. That acts as both a critique on what sort of advertising wins awards and as a reminder that product always gets the credit when sales are up.

The flipside example is provided by McCann and Microsoft. It’s not the tragically pathetic nature of the Vista product that caused issues, but rather it is the advertising. So Microsoft flipped the account to a new agency, Crispin, Porter + Bogusky, and they’re doing just about the same work for just about the same product.

Magic advertising words don’t drive large-scale gains.

And in the, I agree with Alan Wolk. Good advertising will not save a bad product. Great advertising will not save a bad product. “[Companies cannot rely] on the power of Magic Advertising Words to save them from doom when the real problem is a less-than-ideal product.”

A bad product, especially with the instant information available on the internet, cannot be saved by anything except for a better product. People know when a product is bad, unreliable, etc. And they know it instantly. Because you can’t hide on the internet.

That is not to say that advertising adds no value. Because it does.

But the value that it adds is at the margins.

For example, there is no real difference between Puma and Nike or Toyota and Lexus or Gap and Banana Republic or Samsonite and Kirkland Signature. The products are the same. In some cases, they are the exact same. But people pay more for one than the other, and they do so across not just the examples listed but across a vast array of examples. And they do so because of advertising.

Advertising matters, and it is at its best when the products are at or are near parity. It makes the marginal difference in consumer perception that matters – to differentiation, to sales, to profitability.

Advertising can’t save a bad product, but those magic advertising words can make a real difference.

Which is why people pay us to come up with them.

monday miscellania

Also Part of a Balanced Breakfast
Free Bagels: A Simple, Long-Term Promotion – headline, BNet, Nov. 2

Someone’s Not Telling the Truth
DirecTV Uses Only Living People in New Spot – headline, Adfreak, Nov. 2

DirecTV Ads Now Feature Heath Ledger, JFK, Jesus – headline, Adrants, Nov. 2

Someone’s Still Not Telling the Truth
Macy’s Says Phillies Won the World Series – feature, Adfreak, Nov. 2

context, content and hill holliday’s new website

Context, Content and Hill Holliday’s New Website

Boston agency Hill Holliday has launched a new agency website that, according to Chief Media Officer Baba Shetty, “gives us enormous flexibility to create scenarios that vary by user situation.”

Already owners of a site that eschewed the typical static brochureware about the company in that it was built around a blog, Hill Holliday has continued innovation with their new platform that “[allows] allowing us to play around with the intersection of web content and user context.”

That is the holy grail, isn’t it?

The digital holy grail at least. The real holy grail, as we all learned from Indiana Jones, is a wooden carpenter’s cup that is buried somewhere in the Crescent Valley along with a whole bunch of Hollywood extras.

An example of what Hill Holliday means by the intersection of content and context is highlighted in AdPulp today, where a custom header greets those who come from the AdPulp site with “We think AdPulpFiction would be an awesome movie. Welcome to Hill Holliday.” And that certainly is an intersection of content and context. But it is also a lot like the greeter at a store in the mall saying something like “that sweater you got over at J. Crew across the way looks great on you. Welcome to the Apple Store.”

Which is pretty creepy.

Content is meaningless without context, a statement that is so true as to be cliché, and a statement that begs the question what context is necessary and correct to give meaning to content.

Knowing what website you are coming from and flagging a note of that is context, sure, but it is doesn’t give the content anymore meaning. It is digital chest-bumping, showing that the technology can do something simply for and getting it noticed simply because of the novelty value. It doesn’t add value to what is on the site. And it is as weird as a store clerk at a mall store having watched you shop the store across the hall.

Which is not to say that one can’t use the knowledge of what site a person is coming from to give context to the content on their site. It is just that it should help determine what content is merchandised.

To use the analogy of the mall, what the store clerk should have done is take the knowledge of what the shopper bought in the other store to arrange his own merchandise or feature a product that is complementary or fills an unmet need. That would subtly make relevant content, making it contextually correct for the state of the consumer.

And that is what will make digital technology more than a party trick.

friday miscellania

Problem Solved
Issue: “Book Price War Leads to Rationing” – headline, The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 30

Solution: “Let’s Terminate Subtitles” – headline, Make the Logo Bigger, Oct. 29

News You Can Use
“Friends Don’t Let Friends Go Long Without eMail” – headline, AdPulp, Oct. 29
“Hold Onto Your Hairpiece With Stimorol Gum” – headline, Adfreak, Oct. 29
“Apply to College Through Twitter” – headline, Brand Flakes for Breakfast, Oct. 29