Friday, August 31, 2007

I wish I were Mitt Romney. A poem.

I wish I were Mitt Romney.
I wish I had perfect hair.
I wish I were named after a sporting good
and had a billion dollars.

I wish I tied my dog to my car's roof.
And drove.
I wish I looked like a Ken doll.
And had a Barbie wife and Ken doll sons.

I wish.
I wish.
I wish.
I wish I were Romnipotent.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

What's more...

Pursuant to my previous post that was pursuant to my previous-er post--this low-bid jag I'm on is all about answering the question in the subtitle of Ad Aged, to wit and forsooth, "Will Madison Avenue become Detroit?" Well, current course and speed, my answer is a resounding "yes."

If as an industry we don't believe in the efficacy of our industry, it's effectiveness, if we fall prey to impecunious louts who treat advertising like Heinz treats tomatoes ("Bring in another truckload at twenty-nine cents a pound) we are doomed to un-planned obsolescence. We are costly, disposable, out-sourceable, low-bid-able.

Low-bid advertising is offensive, irrelevant, invisible and expensive because it is meaningless. Good advertising, based on intrusion and measurement works. Therefore it is worth paying for.

Pursuant to my last post.

The deleterious effects of our low-bid economy are everywhere and they make my blood boil. So today we end up with cheap products that wind up more expensive, growth-hormones in our farm-grown Chinese fish and lead in our brand-name children's toys. And crappy one-off advertising that does nothing.

But here's the thing that really rubs my goat the wrong way. Where are our industry leaders? (I won't for a second say, where are our national leaders? They're at a focus-group facility some place reading poll results and back-pedaling.) You see, low-bid is in many cases synonymous with low-risk. And if we had industry leaders they would be speaking out about this.

Instead, Chief Creative Officers are wanking on about minutia, agency presidents are blathering about new media modalities, Bob Greenberg is incomprehensible, and no one, no one is saying advertising takes time, money, intimacy and intelligence for it to be effective. Advertising is not a cost-center--it is a profit center. It should not be low-bid, low-risk.

Is there an agency person out there willing to make a speech entitled "Why an "Expensive" agency winds up being cheaper." Naw. I'm off to the Hamptons.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The "low bid" economy.

All over America things are being built. Highways, levees, bridges, houses, housing projects, mine-shafts. Even ad campaigns.

In our current MBAelstrom of thought, when those projects are put out for RFP, if they don't go to a crony, they go to the lowest bid. According to Alan Weisman's new book, which will soon be a classic, "The World Without Us," the results of low-bidding are crashing around us everyday. (Even in Iraq--the war that was supposed to cost us nothing, remember.)

In advertising, which this blog is nominally about, Clients wind up with low-bid creative (Hot pockets!), low-bid innovation, low-bid client service and worst, low-bid results. And those CMOs that buy into the low-bid adconomy? Their average tenure is down to a new low...23 months. Let's low-bid them adieu.

It's joke time!!!!!!!!!!

The George W. Bush Library is being designed by the eminent architectural firm of Robert A. M. Stern.

The George W. Bush Library. The Adolph Hitler Fun Park. The Britney Spears Bhurka Shop.

OK. Revenue is vital. But nevertheless, there are times when you have to turn down an account; when the assignment, or the people are so odious and malignant that the moral and morale cost outweigh the revenue gained.

Collette Dickinson Pearce, the great English Agency of the '60s, limited its size to ten clients and fired the worst each year and only then would take on a new one. In the movie "Big Night," Tony Shaloub wouldn't serve a guest risotto with a side of pasta because it is just wrong. Obvious, I know. But sometimes we have to have something called scruples.


Monday, August 27, 2007

A few more words on dumb titles.

In a recent post I carped about the proliferation of meaningless titles. This is endemic in all businesses today, but, I think particularly rife in ours. If a baseball team had similar title proliferation each would have a "Chief Going into the Hole and Making the Peg Officer," a "Chief Short-Hop Officer" and the like.

Great players, whether it's in sports or business can do many things. A good copywriter or art director or, god-forbid, media director should have ideas. Thus, perhaps, eliminating the need for a "Chief Idea Officer."

Semantically, linguistically, philologically, I don't know what this proliferation says about us. I suspect it's a agency's way of saying our business is so complex and involved that we need many, many specialists to provide you with the myriad services you need. Taken further, it's probably a way to obscure what we do so we can charge more.

Ed McCabe, all 5'3" of him, created a brand, a company and an entire industry with the words "It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken." I wonder if he could have gotten that positioning past a Chief Something Officer.

Politically incorrect.

Alberto Gonzales, appointed by our president and approved by our congress, to uphold and enforce our laws (in a nation governed by laws) resigned on Friday, The New York Times reported this morning. Like his namesake, Speedy, reputedly the fastest mouse in all of Me heeee co, Gonzales was meant to protect the "leetle mouses" from the metaphorical fat cats who, left to their own devices, will torment us all. He's gone now, off to a right wing, neo-fascist Think Tank, I'm sure, a seven-digit book-contract, a Fox TV show and who knows what other mammon the gauleiters of the goose-stepping Bush administration are accorded.

Where is our rage? I wrote my "representatives" not long ago, Hilary and Chuck and Carolyn, and did not even receive a form letter back. We are deep in the meniscus and it's sad. As Preston Sturges wrote in "The Sin of Harold Diddlebock," "A man works his whole life in a glass factory, one day he picks up a hammer." Make mine a sledge.

This makes me a little ill.

I know that the new trend in agency naming is to call your joint "Molten Newt" or "Cesium 138." But GSD&M's new name sets a new sort of standard, if you ask me. GSD&M was originally named for its founders whose last names started with G, S, D and M. OK. But to encourage the "new generation" of leadership, GSD&M has changed its name to "GSD&M Idea City." Kind of like Circuit City I guess, only with ideas. And everyday low prices.

They're even looking for a "Chief Idea Officer," and their CEO will now become their Vice Chairman, "overseeing innovation." Oy Vey.

Of late I have seen more Chief titles than I can shake an Excel spreadsheet at. As Alben Barkley (Truman's veep) said, "The vice presidency isn't worth a bucket of warm spit." I feel much the same way about Chief Digital Officers, Chief Innovation Officers, Chief People Officers, Chief Pixel Officers, ad nauseam. What, exactly, do you do here all day?

And what's it like in Idea City? Do they have a football team (the Inklings)? How are housing prices? Can I find a nice pied a terre if I just want to visit on weekends? Idea City. Yeesh.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

A party.

Some time either tomorrow, Sunday, or Monday, will be my 100th post. To commemorate this august event, which uncannily enough is taking place in August, I've planned some festivities. This event will be something on the order of a grand opening of a new Home Depot, so fasten your seat belts and stay tuned.

The good enough agency.

Jay Chiat, I think it was, famously said "good enough is not good enough." True. But this post is not about good enough in the "Chiatian" sense. Instead it's about some thoughts by child psychologist and educator Donald Winnicot, who propagated the notion of the "good-enough mother."

A little background, to Winnicott, the good-enough mother tries to provide what the infant needs, but she instinctively leaves a time lag between the demands and their satisfaction and progressively increases it. As Winnicott states: "The good-enough mother...starts off with an almost complete adaptation to her infant's needs, and as time proceeds she adapts less and less completely, gradually, according to the infant's growing ability to deal with her failure" (Winnicott, 1953). The good enough mother stands in contrast with the "perfect" mother who satisfies all the needs of the infant on the spot, thus preventing him/her from developing.

I wonder if more agencies should think about this contrast. Clients (and I'm not being condescending here) in this metaphor can be thought of as babies. If all their needs are met immediately, perfectly, they will never develop patience and maturity. They will never accept dissent, strong opinions, even defiance. They will grow reliant, dependent but not trusting.

The good enough agency would not ignore the client, but instead, help the client to develop independently and maturely over time. Ultimately what the child/client learns is a sense of self.

I am neither a psychologist or an account guy, but this makes sense to me. Is your agency good enough? Because that's better than perfect.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A newspaper re-run.

The top three stories in today's NYTimes:

1. Bush defends Iraq policy.
2. 14 U.S. soldiers die in copter crash in Iraq.
3. Hurricane weaker but still a threat.

I have a feeling these three articles could have run any day in the past four years. Oh, and just so we stay on the topic of advertising:

4. Airwaves inundated with banal messages portraying people as they are gushing over mediocre products they couldn't possible care about. Sunny D! Sun-tastic!

Socialism for the rich. Capitalism for the poor.

Wall Street, including Goldman Sachs (late of $100 million bonuses), has gotten a nice infusion of cash from the Feds to keep their 17-room apartments over-looking the Park spic-n-span. Farmers who make $1,000,0000 plus get government doles on the average of $300K. Meanwhile 40 bus-drivers are fired in South Carolina because they want a $2/hr raise and miners perish in Utah because the head of the mine-safety-commission is in bed literally with the Secretary of Labor (they're married.) And somehow our government thinks people can survive on $6/hr without health-care; they call that minimum wage--the minimum one needs to make to live an adequate life. Oh yeah.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? as they say in Latin--Who will guard the guards themeselves?

So the rich get shielded and protected by the government and the poor are meant to be hardy individuals.

Nothing to do with advertising--except dip-shit, low-wage industries like ours get the shaft from Congress investigating "diversity" and time-sheet miscreance, while General Dynamics, Grumman, Halliburton, Blackwater pocket trillions (yes, trillions) in untold graft. And no one barks a bark.

Monday, August 20, 2007

HDNA & Sony.

I read in Ad Age recently about Sony's new brand campaign which they are calling HDNA, ie. HD (high-def) is in their DNA. I saw one of their online ads this morning on the NY Times site and I thought it was very attractive and attention getting. Curiosity, and some residual affinity toward Sony prompted me to click on the ad.

Now, here's where I got disappointed. Sony carries a price premium. I was given no reasons to spend $100 extra or more on a parity piece of machinery. My entire career I've been accused of being too rational. But darn, if you're gonna get extra money from me, I want at least a slim scintilla of a permission to believe. Otherwise I'll buy something else.

Not much of a brand resuscitation. Though I do like the graphics.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

We need help.

There have been massive changes in our world and industry of late and massive advances in our ability to measure things and manipulate all kinds of numbers. What we haven't figured out is how to really measure if something is working, if people like it, if they pass it along, if they'll act on it.

In fact, and I hope there's someone out there reading this more qualified than I to comment, I don't think all the data we collect today leads to greater understanding of the customer. 'With all thy getting, get understanding' as is written in the Pentateuch. I think the same can be said for focus groups. They seem to be key these days in helping us find our political candidates, and they've lead to little more than inauthentic drips we supposedly want to have a drink with. Two weeks ago Ad Age reported on July's most recalled new TV spots and an embarrassment by Danone's Activa made their list twice. You can, the spot says, regulate yourself in just two weeks. The spot itself could nauseate you so I am going to assume there is some experimenter bias involved, or something similarly fishy.

My point isn't to blast Activa or anyone else. However, as I've written in two prior posts, things like "Brand Depreciation" are not measured when we measure response alone. That makes no sense. What's more, if you believe customer ratings, virtually every restaurant rates an "excellent" and there no such thing as a bad digital camera. If you believe J.D. Power (who have won an award, I'm sure, for making the world's ugliest award) everything from automobiles to highways to dry-cleaners are award-winning.

Finally, here is a testing story Billy Wilder told to Cameron Crowe.

In 1939 the movie NINOTCHKA (directed by Ersnt Lubitsch, written by Billy Wilder & Charles Brackett and starring Greta Garbo, pictured above) was being tested in a theatre in Long Beach. Following the screening the audience was asked to fill out comment cards. Lubitsch and Wilder were reading the cards in the back of the limo on their way home. Lubitsch read one and burst out laughing. He showed it to Wilder. It said:

“This movie was hilarious. I laughed so hard I almost peed into my girlfriend’s hand”.

At least that customer reviewer got things right--Ninotchka is hilarious. Too often customer-reviewers are giving the thumbs up to Porky's 3, George W. Bush, or the like.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Truth in Advertising, cont.

There is a new bar in my neighborhood called Swig. Which as far as truth in advertising goes, is a step in the right direction. I am still waiting for a bar called, Drink too much, Try to get laid, Go home alone, Puke on shoes.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Ramping up a new model.

Someone sent me a note the other day that they were working on ramping up a new model for their agency. I remarked that I've spent my entire adult life attempting to ramp up a model.

I mean c'mon. WTF does ramp up a new model mean? Could you please speak English? Or as my Yiddishe mama would say, 'spik hanglish.' Those who write for the web or who work for web-focused agencies are usually the worst offenders. First off, they're usually tech-heads, so they're used to using complicated words like 'interface,' and second, they work in a medium that always seems to accommodate more words (they would say verbiage.) The discipline of print, where you pare, pare, pare is missing. So writing becomes lax, lazy and long.

I don't think saying words like modality, paradigm, etc. makes people sound smart. At one agency I worked at, a whole new language was created. There were mentors and mentees. Mentee is not a word. Protege is. I understand the English language is a mutable beast. But that does not mean it is an ever-expanding catch-basin for bullshit.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Claudette Colbert and Verizon.

I read something about Claudette Colbert the other day, and I saw an ad for Verizon this morning that made me think about a Theorem of mine--the Brand Depreciation Theory--that was the subject of a previous post, but I think bears repeating.

First, Claudette Colbert--a gamin or vixen extraordinaire--and star of such seminal screwball comedies as It Happened One Night and (my favorite) Palm Beach Story. Claudette, as she insisted I call her, had a bad side and she bid her directors not to show her from the right. You see, she believed one bad part of her would subtract from her totality.

Second, there is a Verizon ad in the Times today that is so aggressively dreadful it deserves comment. Verizon spends a lot of dough attempting to propagate its brand. They also spend a lot on retail ads. Well the brand ads say "we're nice and cool" while the retail ads say "we're crass and overbearing and class-less." They cancel each other out. At least in my view.

This forces me to remind you of George's Brand Depreciation Theory. If one part of your advertising says "white, white, white" and another says "black, black, black" they end up nixing themselves and becoming a dull, gray mass. Butt ugly.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Women lose jobs in broad restructuring.

Some years ago, the very headline directly above ran in The Wall Street Journal. A joke some writer got through his editor. Another I remember from Newsday, "Man kills kids, self; wife critical." You bet she's critical--she has every right to be.

I bring these dumb but true headlines up for a couple of reasons. First, I find them funny. And second, as Yogi Berra might remark, "If you have nothing to say, don't put it in headline."

In other words, if it's banal and obvious, look for another lede.

Speaking of headlines, Adweek has a doozy in this week's issue: 'Old Media' Still Resonate, Survey Says. Wow. You mean life as we know it hasn't gone down the tubes because of the internet? Astonishing.

I suppose the reason I find this Adweek's headline so asinine is that I am absolutely against absolutism. Many in the industry, especially those involved in new media, paint an absolutist's portrait of what they call the media landscape--it's a world that is devoid of television, print, etc. That's nonsense and I suppose salesmanship. Either way, it's inaccurate.

New York graffiti.

I walked by Cooper Union this morning, a notable building where Abraham Lincoln made an important address almost 150 years ago, and I saw this graffito:

"The revolution begins in your heart."

Underneath it, someone had written, "No, it begins in your pants."

It just shows what can happen to your message when the public gets a hold of it.

Global warming and its effects.

If there are any global-warming deniers still lingering out there this photograph of Karl Rove should put their doubts to rest. Karl Rove's face, though it shows no beads of sweat, is actually melting into his body.

Many have remarked that Rove is a marketing genius--the mastermind behind the Bush and the Republican (or radical right) ass-cendancy. I'm not buying that. Rove was just another politico playing on, capitalizing on the fears of the public. He follows in the ignoble tradition of Father Coughlin, Sen. Joseph McCarthy and, yes, Joseph Goebbels, all men who took primal fears and turned them into political hay.

In The Paranoid Style in American Politics and Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, Columbia prof Richard Hofstadter described American society as a whole as extremely provincial. Any ideas (or people) outside the mainstream were alien and to be shunned. Hofstadter saw a direct link from the Salem witch trials in the 17th century down to the McCarthyism of his era. If Hofstadter had written in this decade as opposed to the 60s, he would have written about terrorist-inspired paranoia rather than communist-inspired fear. If you read The Paranoid Style, in fact, and substitute Muslim for Communist, you'll get the point.

I don't think there was any genius in Rove. Just a willingness abandon all ethics. Rove used the same tactics as direct marketers who sell miracle weight-loss products or wart removers or vacuum cleaners that can remove pet hair from high-pile carpeting. Appeal to the sad, lonely, scared and needy with promises of Elysia and you'll never go wrong.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Oh wad gifts the giftie gie us, to see oursels as ithers see us.

This chart was published in this week's BusinessWeek. It asked "Are you one of the top 10% of performers in your company?" Think about that next time you get or give a 360-review.

Truth in Advertising.

There's a quotation I remember from Budd Schulberg, author of On the Waterfront and What Makes Sammy Run? Sammy (he who is running) says, "Going through life with a conscience is like driving with your brake on."

So, to continue from my last post, what do you do with your corporate conscience? When in your corporate past you've evicted widows and orphans, poisoned the environment, discriminated against minorities and the like. Assuming those behaviors are no more, do you acknowledge them, or sweep them under a blood-stained carpet?

If you were running for political office and had whored, drugged and whored some more as a youth, do you acknowledge this or hope no one ever finds out? My personal belief is to always come clean. To mea your culpa while ye may and make tangible, sincere amends. I'd forgive Thyssen-Krupp, Hugo Boss and Mercedes-Benz their Nazi complicity if they even acknowledged their Nazi complicity. But I am exacting and Old Testament in my imprecations, so I don't really count.

What do you do when you do something bad?

I have been both blessed and cursed with an elephantine and near photographic memory. That means I can do really well on Jeopardy! but have a hard time in relationships because I remember everything that ever happened along with times and dates. Though I am aware that not everyone is as compendious as I am, people, even the most brain-fried and feeble must have some recall.

They know OJ did something. Gary Hart (if they remember him) did something. Dow Chemical made Napalm (R) and Agent Orange even if they spend millions on advertising today that proclaims their humanity. And so on.

My question is (and it's only a question) is what do we as marketers do when our products have done bad things? In the You-Tube Youniverse a dumb statement or action in a small town now becomes a national story. Mitt Romney equating his five sons' work on his campaign to military service or Guiliani saying he was as exposed to 9/11 dust as anyone, are two recent examples. From a multi-national point of view, Ford attempting to cover-up its New Jersey Superfund site and BP (the beyond petroleum company) running America's dirtiest and most-dangerous petro-chemical plant are two more examples. The fact is, people and companies are going to do and say dumb things. And they will be "found out." What should they do when they are?

My instincts say that the first company or politician that embraces genuine contrition will make PR hay. I guess it's like a fight with your spouse. I fucked up.
I made a mistake. I'll try not to do it again. Please forgive me because I am just flesh. That tactic should work for a while. Probably better than denial.

Fran Lebowitz and CRM.

Fran Lebowitz is a humorist I never found funny, though she's been called by some (probably herself) our generation's Dorothy Parker. That being said, even the least funny humorist can occasionally strike a chord or say something profound.

Lebowitz once said, "The opposite of talking isn't listening, the opposite of talking is waiting." Not laugh out-loud funny, but her observation teeters on the brink of the profound. Many so-called marketers--especially those purportedly involved in customer relationship marketing--aren't really listening, they are merely waiting so they can blast another message your way. Yogi Berra once said, "I never really said all the things I said." But marketers, in an effort to corral your responses into a "bucket" respond to the answer they wanted to hear.

I think that's why whenever you call a phone center to complain about something they resolutely refuse to fix, the rep always ends the conversation with "is there anything else I can help you with?" I always respond by saying, "You haven't helped me at all."

I guess my abstruse, obtuse and chartreuse point is this--marketers (and I include politicians under that term) don't really listen. Our onslaught of data and personalization is still dramatically short of true custom-ness. As consumers we've been told (daily and by automatonic voices) that we are important, but except to a few enlightened marketers we are something that fits in a bucket.

Once, not so long ago, I wrote a letter to president Bush who that day hailed four-hundred years of friendship with the German people (I think it was some commemoration of Frederick Muhlenberg's arrival in the US.) The thing was, Bush chose to commemorate German-American amity on Yom Kippur, the Holiest Day of the Jewish year and a day where some of God's chosen think about the six-million annihilated by Nazis, many of them German. I suggested in my letter to Bush that he could have waited a day, and thus avoided a fearful symmetry. What did I get back from the Bush Administration two months later, a document on German-American trade.

OK. Some bureaucrat checked a box and trade was the one that was closest to an answer to my plaint. That's ain't listening, it's waiting.

If businesses want to manage customer relationships, they better do it right. For too many CRM is really customer relationship manglement.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

5 Minutes of Charlie Chaplin.

Reader participation.

Since so few of you take the time to comment in this space, and since this is meant to be an exchange of ideas, I thought I'd swipe a page from other media titans and appropriate some of their tactics. Henceforth and hitherto, whenever your editor feels attention is flagging I will post a picture of a hometown "hottie." The picture here happens to be of Ilsa, my masseuse.

Ilsa is a pro at both "rolfing" and deep muscle. In her spare time she is learning English and (thanks to me) Yiddish. As this photo suggests, Ilsa loves watersports. Ilsa is a fabulous cook...and, to you fellas out there, she's single! Yowsah!

I burped and this came up.

Every once in a while I'll read something so appalling I just want to scream. The quotation below qualifies.

"A JWT spokeswoman said the win covers 95 markets and 'was hard-fought over six months and tens of countries, and that delivers on JWT's promise of being future ready'."

What does it mean if you don't deliver the promise of future ready? That you're going to die in your sleep tonight? This is JWT kicking and screaming and saying, "we're not obsolete." Guess what? If you have to say it, you are.


Today is the 62nd Anniversary of the atomic-bombing of Nagasaki. On Monday (the 62nd anniversary of the atomic-bombing of Hiroshima) HBO played a documentary called White Light/Black Rain. In it dozens of survivors of the devastation were interviewed. If you have a chance to see White Light/Black Rain, you should and your kids should too. I hope HBO will play it again. By the way, the drawing here was done by a child witness of the bombing. It is of a melting hand with blue flames coming from the fingertips. I wish our politicians would watch it too. Halivai.

Rectangles and Lewis Mumford.

If you're in advertising, much of your time is spent thinking of how to fill a rectangle--a rectangle shaped like a spread, or a single page, or a 4x3 screen or, today, more often than not, some oddly shaped rectangle we call a banner.

If you go to Times Square and behold the onrush of messages aimed at you, they're almost all rectangular.

Now I have nothing against rectangles, but the preponderance of them makes me wonder if we have not listened well enough to Lewis Mumford. Mumford, though almost forgotten and almost out-of-print today, was an historian of civilization. How we as a species developed. He was also a big fan of circles and ovals. In fact, Mumford believed (I am simplifying here) that the round shape was responsible for civilization itself. Bowls and baskets were round. They stored grain and carried water. The ability to store and carry made it possible for mankind to settle. We could stop being nomads, stop hunting and gathering and start building community.

OK, it's late for me, I had a rough day and I have another one tomorrow. This post is weirder than I usually get. But maybe if our rectangularity in advertising were supplanted by circularity, connection, and community we would do a better job reaching people. It's less "here's my message," and more, "come, share this with me, help me, join me and build with me." Not sure what this all means. But I do have a call into Lewis Mumford.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Is you is or is you ain't?

Advertising agencies like to categorize people. So-and-so is a traditional person, a TV guy, a print guy, and interactive woman, a long copy person, a promotions woman.

This reminds me of how white people used to categorize dark people. Depending on one's lineage, people were called mulattos, quadroons, octaroons, quintroons, and so on. This was an entire taxonomy created to discriminate, to put people in boxes so they're easier to deal with. Not nice, not fair, not honest, not good.

Life can be much simpler. Someone is either good, creative and vital or not. Those attributes aren't contingent on the media or medium you're working in. You either do intrusive, impactful work or you don't.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Just a song before I go.

There has been much is the trade-press of late about the obsolescence of words in advertising. The new MasterCard permutation, which is wordless, was cited as an indication that our time-pressed and scarcely literate consumer eschews phonemes and morphemes and is content with pictures.

I couldn't disagree more. I think the fault lies not in the words but in ourselves. We have failed to make words visual and interesting and non-cliched.

In early 1941, one of my communication heroes, Franklin Roosevelt, faced a dilemma. The British Empire was about to fall to the Nazis and the isolationists in the US (and there were many) were vehemently against the US providing materiel aid to the UK. FDR hit upon the idea of loaning the Brits weapons. A hard sell.

Here are the words Roosevelt used to sell his loan plan to the public. "A man would not say to a neighbor whose house was on fire: 'Neighbor, my garden hose cost me fifteen dollars; you have to pay me fifteen dollars for it.' He would lend the neighbor his hose and get it back later.

This simple copy won the day. We loaned the UK and later the USSR billions of dollars of weapons and they were able to stay the Nazi advance until the full-force of the US entered the fray.

That's copy. When it's good, it works.

My friend Pete.

Pete Louison is a brilliant copywriter and poet who I was lucky enough to work with for a couple of years. Like me, he has a modicum of disdain for the numbing dumbness and interchangeability of slogans. To that end, Pete's sent me this url that explains it all. Check it out
if you dare to steal a few minutes from "the man."

Quid pro quo.

I'm not writing any more if you people out there don't comment.

According to the latest Nielsen BTMaU Study (Blog Tracking Metrics and Usage Study) Ad Aged has over 3,000 readers daily with and average household income of $250,000+. I have remained assiduously non-commercial in this space, rebuffing advertisers like P&G, Microsoft and the Dennis Kucinich campaign who wish to reach my particular and highly-prized group of readers. Dozens of self-proclaimed Futurists and techno-visionaries love this site and call it a "must-read." Rupert Murdoch has opened his--er--purse to me. Media moguls have beckoned. Yet, like Addison and Steele, I remain a quiet and independent voice, a light in the darkening swirl. Please, let me know you are out there. This means you. Thank youse.

Monday, August 6, 2007

One second more.

This has nothing to do with advertising. Sixty-two years today, in the blink of an eye, over 100,000 people died in Hiroshima, Japan. They died from an atomic bomb which by today's standards was tiny. Please take a minute today and think about the last dingdong of doom and how we can stop it from knelling. Pray.

I'm so tired.

Bob Nardelli, who did so much to enrich himself and wring shareholder value from The Home Depot, is being named as the new head of Cerberus Group's Chrysler Corporation.

This is an example of the American corporate phenomenon of failing up.

I suppose Nardelli was successful at GE. But GE is a defense contractor that owns television networks. Not real hard to be a successful arms merchant is it? At Home Depot, the stock slid while he collected billions. Put those resume stops together and, voila, you have the turnaround expert Chrysler needs.

So, here is a poem I've writ in his honor:

You must admire Bob Nardelli,
His path is straight,
His wake is smelly.

He's now the head of Chrysler Co.,
Ten thousand workers to let go.

It's great to lead a turn-around,
While driving a company
To the ground.

But wait, there's more.

In the interest of full-disclosure and quaint notions of integrity (journalistic or otherwise) until February I was on the payroll as the Executive Creative Director of Digitas' flagship Boston office. I left in part because of the thinking exemplified by today's Times article. It would be great for business if advertising were mechanized, formula-ized and otherwise-ized to always lead to the desired results. Then creative people could be replaced by off-shore programmers or software. This dream is some version of that old apocrypha that says if you give a million monkeys a million typewriters they will eventually scribe the compleat works of Shakespeare, or at least Rod McKuen.

I don't think the world is that linear. According to research conducted by Komar and Melamid, this is America's favorite painting. You see, Americans like blue and George Washington and wildlife. Here's the thing though, it sucks. Read more here:

Komar and Melamid's original article can be found here:

The science of marketing.

There is a long article in today's New York Times about Digitas and their ability to version ads that will lead to increased effectiveness over time. Here's a slice of that article: "The plan is to build a global digital ad network that uses offshore labor to create thousands of versions of ads. Then, using data about consumers and computer algorithms, the network will decide which advertising message to show at which moment to every person who turns on a computer, cellphone or — eventually — a television." You can read the whole thing here:

Here's what's wrong with this, the latest example of advertising as SCIENCE not CRAFT. It ignores the function of creativity in reaching customers. It reduces advertising to an "if/then proposition." If we move the photo up in the banner, then it will have this effect on the customer. Life, and the human mind, are not that simple.

What is simple is this: George's Law of 21st Century Advertising: Creative intrusion and breakthrough + sophisticated analytics and follow-up = success. In other words, if you believe as I do that the basics of communication haven't changed since Raquel Welch starred in One Million Years BC, you still have to stay something compelling, interesting, funny, engaging, memorable before your can return and say something again. You need that permission. It's easy, boys and girls. Advertising is like dating. To meet someone and go out with them, you need to do more than be in the right place at the right time, you need also to have something to say.

Friday, August 3, 2007

The annotated Fortune 10.

One of the reasons I think for the cynicism and obsolescence of traditional marketing is that marketing/advertising is the public face of so many companies that are, in the words of Teddy Roosevelt, "malefactors of great wealth."

So as a highly radicalized public service, I've pasted here the Fortune 10, with my purposefully cynical thoughts alongside.

1. Wal-Mart Stores--hires illegal immigrants, locks them in at night. Indirectly uses Chinese slave labor to drive down prices.
2. Exxon Mobil--polluters. Responsible for the 1953 coup in Iran that, more than the Balfour Declaration, set the Middle East on fire.
3. General Motors--refuses to raise fuel-efficiency standards. Keeps producing environmentally abusive trucks. Major defense contractor. Propagates environmentally dangerous corn ethanol.
4. Chevron--See Exxon Mobil above.
5. ConocoPhillips--See Exxon Mobile above.
6. General Electric--Killed the Hudson River with thousands of tons of PCBs and refuses to clean it. America's 2nd largest defense contractor--makes depleted uranium bullets. Owns America's largest broadcast network.
7. Ford Motor--See GM above and add legacy of Nazi collaboration and virulent anti-semitism. Including dissemination of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion aka The International Jew.
8. Citigroup--Usurious lending practices via its credit cards.
9. Bank of America--Clean, I think.
10. American International Group--Due to insurance fraud has lost $58 billion in market cap since 2005.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Sorry, but I have to get political.

The real terrorists in the world today are the US "Military-Industrial Complex." We spend over half a trillion dollars a year on weapons and therefore have little money left over for anything else. Like the things we really need. So, bridges collapse, steam pipes explode, one out of every six Americans have no health insurance (including over nine million children.) And so it goes.

No society can afford both guns and butter. Islamo-terrorism won't destroy us. Defense-cabal terrorism will.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Detroit in the news.

For the first time in history, America automakers have been outsold in the US by import nameplates. To be specific, 51.9% of vehicles sold in the US in July were imports; 48.1% were domestic.

Why is this important in a blog on advertising? Well, the basic premise behind Ad Aged is that unless it changes course dramatically, traditional Madison Avenue is heading down the same road toward obsolescence as the American auto industry. I think the parallel between Detroit and Madison Avenue makes sense for a number of reasons.

1. Detroit never adjusted to overseas competition. They hoped their size and history would keep the imports at bay. Traditional Madison Avenue is acting similarly.

2. Detroit valued hyperbole and exhortation over honest informative discourse. Mad Ave does too. (It was Detroit and Mad Ave together who hoped to sell Buicks via Tiger Woods as spoke-shill, like anyone anywhere would believe Tiger Woods drives a Buick.)

3. Detroit never retooled, ie. their factories, their production systems, their supply chains never adjusted to the speed of either their competition or the market. Ditto Mad Ave traditional.

4. Detroit never really wavered from Henry Ford's belief in "any color as long as it's black." Madison Avenue hasn't really budged from its belief in any media as long as it's a :30.

I could go on. But you get the point. Or don't you?