Jan 31, 2007

Guerrilla Advertising Gone VERY, VERY Bad

Ruh-Roh. A guerrilla marketing campaign for the Cartoon Network in Boston turned out to be a Homeland Security violation, with bridges and tunnels shut down and 1 person arrested.

It's best to let the news story speak for itself

Check out the actual "devices" here

Boston devices a cartoon publicity ploy

By KEN MAGUIRE, Associated Press Writer

More than 10 blinking electronic devices planted at bridges and other spots in Boston threw a scare into the city Wednesday in what turned out to be a publicity campaign for a late-night cable cartoon. Most if not all of the devices depict a character giving the finger.

Boston police said Wednesday night that one person had been arrested, and authorities scheduled a news conference to provide details.

Highways, bridges and a section of the Charles River were shut down and bomb squads were sent in before authorities declared the devices were harmless.

"It's a hoax — and it's not funny," said Gov. Deval Patrick, who said he'll speak to the state's attorney general "about what recourse we may have."

Turner Broadcasting, a division of Time Warner Inc. and parent of Cartoon Network, said the devices were part of a promotion for the TV show "Aqua Teen Hunger Force," a surreal series about a talking milkshake, a box of fries and a meatball.

Read the rest of the article here

Take That, Joe Jaffe

So today's still-unlinkable Wall Street Journal has an interview with Brant Herzer and Tyler Campbell, the world's oldest interns (they're 26 and 30, respectively), who are the proud creators of a Budweiser TV commercial that will run on the Super Bowl this Sunday, via DDB-Chicago.

And despite the protestations of the aforementioned Mr. Jaffe and others of his ilk (Bob Greenberg) these young bucks are all about the 30 second commercial.

(Because I'm just too good to my readers, I will retype, with my own fingers, the relevant passage)

WSJ: The ad world is in desperate need of talent in the digital space. (Talent being the key word here.) As a result, salaries in that space are rising as much as 40% (for flash designers-- they're still underpaying the creatives vis a vis their general counterparts... by about 40%) Why did you not choose to specialize in that area?

Mr. Herzer: TV is where it's at. That is what everyone wants to do and we were so lucky to get into this with this client (Anheuser-Busch). Honestly I don't have experience online. I love TV. I want to do it forever.
Now granted, Herzer may have answered in an expeditious manner, given his junior position at DDB, but still I know my friend Pali will be happy to read this.

Seriously though, until there's even a remote chance that creative concepts can originate from within an agency's interactive group, juniors are not going to want to work there. (Balancing out salaries would help too!) Working on TV means that it's your concept and if someone else executes it as a DM piece or banner, all the better. Lots of times you even get to tell the interactive department your idea for the web component, so they can execute it for you. What's not to love?

Jan 30, 2007

Separated At Birth?

Just too tempting to let this one go.

The Fault, Dear Jonah, Is Not In The Stars, But In Ourselves

G. Parker's favorite ad columnist, Jonah Bloom at Ad Age, delivers a passioned defense of Crispin, Porter & Bogusky in this weeks column.

Much of what he has to say is true: a lot of people are jealous of them, a lot of the sniping is sour grapes, blah, blah, blah, but man alive does he pour it on. I mean Mom Bogusky wouldn't have written something so fawning. Take this snippet, for instance:

Crispin ads aren't relatively inoffensive little sales presentations like so many of today's spots. They are an event in and of themselves, almost always getting a brand noticed.
"They are an event in and of themselves" -- what the fuck, Jonah??

That said, what I've always admired about CPB is that they took a mediocre shop in a mediocre market and very quickly turned it into one of the hottest agencies in the world. And that Bogusky (to my knowledge, anyway) never worked at any of the "hot" shops-- he built his career in tandem with the agency.

Where Bloom really loses me though is his take on how the trades cover Crispin:

One of the popular myths is that the shop is somehow a PR miracle worker, able to get publications like this one to write about everything it does, but it's been years since anyone there pitched a story. That's not how they operate. And they don't have to, because the work does the job. We know it'll make good story fodder, drawing big traffic numbers and lots of passionate comments from readers.
Actually Jonah, they don't need to do publicity anymore because they know the trades pretty much run a story every time Bogusky sneezes. I mean maybe it does sell magazines, but mostly it seems like they (the trades) can't be bothered. I mean yeah the guy is photogenic, but you tend to cover him the way Us and People cover Tom Cruise. To the point where I don't think any of us would be surprised if you ran a picture of him shirtless on the cover.

(To see just how photogenic Bogusky is, click here.)

Kirshenbaum Bond had the same magic going for them about 10 years ago when you couldn't pick up an issue of Adweek (in particular) without reading about some funny thing that happened to Richard on his way to the dry cleaners or some such drivel. And when that action dried up, the trades jumped all over Crispin.

I'm sure there are plenty of other interesting agencies out there, Jonah. You and the rest of the ad journos have just got to get off your butts and find them.

Jan 29, 2007

So with 18 months to go until the election, Senator Clinton has put together an ad team. According to Adweek:

The ad executives involved include Roy Spence, longtime Clinton friend and CEO of Omnicom Group's GSD&M; Andy Berlin, CEO of WPP Group's Voluntary United Group of Creative Agencies; and Jimmy Siegel, a former BBDO senior executive creative director who is now cd at a-political, an issues advocacy marketing firm.
"Include" being the key word here.

Because everyone knows when you get that many egos into a room the result is a cohesive unit that selflessly adheres single-mindedly to a tight strategy.



So AdAge has some coverage of the new multi-zillion dollar campaign to launch Microsoft Vista:

The spots picture "Wow"-murmuring moments such as a '60s-looking family staring at a black-and-white TV as a rocket blasts into space, a hippie climbing up on scaffolding to look out over the Woodstock crowd, a young boy staring out his window at a early-morning snow-blanketed street, and a man putting down a chunk of rock on the table as those gathered watch the Berlin Wall being torn down on TV. The juxtaposition will provide surefire fodder for the blogosphere.

Basketball superstar LeBron James also lends his celebrity to the ads. In a vignette, he is playing with a group of kids when one breaks in front of him, zipping off and doing fancy dribbles down the court. Mr. James stares after him and says "Wow." At the end of every spot, a man opens his laptop in a darkened office while the voice-over intones, "Every so often you experience something so new, so delightfully unexpected, there's only one word for it."

Cue the Vista "Wow."
Raise your hand if you've ever written a spot with any of the aforementioned vignettes in them.

Raise your hand again if you looked at it 10 minutes later and said "this stuff is so cliché, we better come up with something else."

Tag line is nice though, especially the tonality of it.

What's odd though, is given that most people's reaction to Vista is going to be "here's a new operating system that I'm going to be forced to learn and use, whether I want to or not, and that probably isn't going to make any of my daily tasks any easier" the campaign direction seems quite counterintuitive.

I mean cod liver oil isn't something that makes you say "wow."

And putting LeBron James in the spot isn't going to make it go down any easier.

Jan 26, 2007

Friday Shout-Out, Part 1

Going to try to highlight a piece of advertising I like every Friday. This campaign (there's a bunch of these) makes me laugh every time I see it. And if you watch the MSG network, you see it a lot.

Not sure of the credits on this, so if anyone knows who did it, please post.

Jan 25, 2007

Living the Dream

So it turns out that Gino Bona, the guy who won the NFL's "write your own Super Bowl spot" contest is a failed copywriter. Okay, that might be too harsh. Maybe "reformed copywriter" is more accurate.

Regardless, he's living the ultimate revenge fantasy of every guy who's been told "your stuff isn't really right for us." Or "there were a few interesting things in there. Come back when you've got some new stuff in your book."

Because now he's got a Pytka-directed Super Bowl spot and you don't.

At the ToadStool, we've long believed that luck and a degree from Portfolio Center were often the only things that separated creatives at hot shops from the ones toiling away at the DMB&Bs of the world. We remember the first time we freelanced at one of those shops, armed with our awards and our attitude and expecting to be met by a gaggle of hacks. But we weren't.

We were in fact, surprised, at the quality of the creative and the drive of the people we met, who seemed genuinely concerned with doing good work and frustrated by the CDs, accountniks and clients who held them back. (Well a bunch of them, anyway. Clearly not the whole agency.)

Why didn't they flee? Well, it turned out most of them had tried, but to no avail. It seemed just seeing the name of the hack agency on their resume made them lethal to the recruiters at most of the good shops. And, not having gone to Miami Adfolio Circus Center, they didn't have any contacts at those top shops to vouch for them.

So here's to you Gino Bona, for extracting the Revenge of the Ad Nerds.

Jan 24, 2007

Wendy’s Goes Back To Saatchi

Okay, Dancer Fitzgerald. But they eventually became Saatchi sometime during MergerMania. I’ll be curious to see what Kevin Roberts and Tony Granger do with the account. Right now, all Granger’s done is prove how easy it is to get work into The One Show, what with all the for-award-shows-only campaigns they’ve been doing. (Take Air Tahiti Nui for example. Does an airline that flies nonstop from NYC to Tahiti really need a full-on outdoor campaign, plus full page ads in high-end glossies and outdoor installation art? We’re kinda doubtful. And funny how the campaign graphics aren't on the website)

Don’t get me wrong, the work is very nice, but no one seems to be buying the idea that it’s a reflection of the sort of work Saatchi does for real clients. So here’s a chance for Roberts and Granger to take some of that magic and put it to work for a real client. And with BK upping the creative ante in the category, I’m hoping they’ll be able to do something interesting.

Also curious to see what K&B’s role will be. The division of labor between the two agencies—which are owned by different holding companies—has not been clearly delineated by the trade press.

See the article here.

Writers Who Can't Write

Blame it on the trend towards “global” concepts—ads that rely on visuals rather than words. Or web banners that don’t require full sentences. Whatever it is, it’s led to a plethora of copywriters who can’t string 2 or 3 sentences together to make a coherent paragraph.

I’m seeing this all too often as I look at the books and websites of prospective writers. Or when I get a simple paragraph block that looks like it was written by someone for whom English is their third or fourth language. I’m not talking stylistic embellishments here, friends, I’m talking basic grammar: using correct verb tenses and pronouns and words that exist in the English language. (e.g. “differenter” is not a word unless you’re using it to mimic the speech of a 3 year old.)

And it baffles me, in a Parkerian manner, that someone with such poor writing skills would decide that being an advertising writer was the career for them. Many “someones.” I mean people who are bad at math don’t become accountants. At a time when we desperately need more good content, with writing that’s clear and coherent and interesting, we’re being inundated by writers who aren’t proficient at any of those things.

Which I guess makes life easier for those who are.

Jan 23, 2007

The Great Drift Downwards

Time was when advertising executives—creative directors, higher up accountniks and the like—made a very good living. With salaries that allowed them to live amongst doctors, lawyers and bankers. Those days seem to rapidly be drawing to a close, and (self-interest) aside, we’re at a loss to understand why.

Every headhunter I’ve spoken to recently has mentioned this trend to me, so it’s not a figment of Toadian imagination. Part of this, I’m told is a result of the lower salaries paid by interactive agencies. The gradual shrinking of the actual number of big agencies (e.g. shops with the wherewithal to pay the big salaries) is another part, as is pressure from holding companies like WPP and Omnicom to keep the numbers down.

All this does however, is drive more and more people from the business. As a junior, the idea of one day pulling down a $300K/year salary was one of the things that kept me going. But now that CDs are looking at salaries as low as $175K, juniors are asking themselves if it’s really worth it and the answer is usually “no.” (These are NYC #s I’m quoting)

Jan 22, 2007

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

Once again, Madison Avenue's response to the call for more diversity is so laughable as to make it difficult to distinguish Adweek from The Onion.

Check out this snippet from an article on McCann's response:

Sallie Mars, director of creative services, will add the title director of diversity.

You try telling someone, with a straight face, that you are the "Director of Diversity."

Jan 19, 2007

David Brooks Gets It

I may not agree with everything David Brooks (the New York Times' version of a "conservative" columnist) says, but he is truly the only person at the New York Times who actually gets that there's a world outside of upper middle class Manhattan.

Here's the beginning of his most excellent column from yesterday's paper:

If all the world were south of 96th Street, what a happy place it would be! If all the world were south of 96th Street, then we could greet with unalloyed joy the news that after decades of social change, more American women are living without husbands than with them.

We could revel in the stories of women — from Riverside Drive all the way to TriBeCa! — liberated from constraining marriages and no longer smothered by self-absorbed spouses. We could celebrate with those — the ad executives as well as the law partners! — who now have the time and freedom to go back to school and travel abroad, and who are choosing not to get remarried.

But alas, there are people in this country who do not live within five miles of MoMA, and for them, the fact that many more people are getting divorced or never marrying at all is not such good news.
For the full story, click here.

Jan 18, 2007

Dancing Cowboys

I love being right ;)

The other day on George Parker’s Madscam blog, we were debating the effectiveness of online advertising and I’d explained to the masses (okay, Marino and Pali and Drentzel) that despite how ridiculous we found spam and cheesy DM banners, they were clearly effective, otherwise the companies that perpetrated them on us wouldn’t keep doing so.

So in today’s New York Times, there’s an article about one of the more egregious examples of banner spam: those ridiculous dancing figures from lowermybills.com, one of the web’s more persistent advertisers.

The article is both hilarious and eye-opening, in that we learn the figures were created by some (rather attractive) dancer-cum-graphic designer who worked for the company in-house, and that the map and select-your-state feature were added because they’d read some sort of pamphlet about how to create effective online advertising.

The success of lowermybills.com (they were recently bought out for an extremely large amount of money) just illustrates one of the Great Paradoxes of Advertising: a really bad, really annoying ad can be every bit as effective as a really good one. Perhaps even more so. Remember Crazy Eddie? He had greater name recognition than the president. Is there anyone in the NYC metro area who can’t repeat the chant “Autoland! Autoland! 1-800-Autoland!”

Now granted you need a suitable product for Badvertising™ to work. Cheap used cars, discount electronics, refinanced loans: that all works. Higher end or lifestyle stuff wouldn’t.

And think of how much time we’d save if we could get all our ideas out of brochure. Instead of an awards show book.

Jan 17, 2007

75 Points If You Can Tell Me What This Means

Got it in an e-mail. Almost sounds like Japanglish.

In Defense of Kaplan Thaler

Those of you who roll your eyes at the Kaplan Thaler Group and its creative output would do well to remember the words of David Ogilvy who said "the consumer isn't stupid, she's your wife."

Because unless your wife is a 29 year-old hipster living in Bushwick, Brooklyn, she probably thinks a lot of what Ms. K-T puts out is pretty funny.

It's the Achilles heel of the ad business-- our tendency to judge things by the standards of the sort of young, sophisticated, single, urban male who already thinks Death Cab for Cutie is too "mass" to be cool anymore.

Unfortunately, most things are not bought by young, sophisticated, single, urban males who already think Death Cab for Cutie is too "mass" to be cool anymore. They're bought by 55 year old women who think the Aflac duck is just the funniest thing they've ever seen. And that the purple kangaroo for Aussie Natural hair products is just "so adorable."

Now ad hipsters may not like that, may not like the fact that this audience keeps Barry Manilow, Michael Bolton and Dancing With The Stars in business, but there's a lot more of them than there are of you. And Kaplan Thaler is pretty smart to be marketing to them in a voice that resonates with who they are while everyone else is busy trying to sound like their no-good slacker nephews.

Jan 16, 2007

All The Way To Shanghai For The Truth

We're getting no small amount of pleasure here at the Toad Stool in watching the ad industry squirm as it tries to meet the demands of the New York City Commission of Human Rights that it hire more minorities.

I will give kudos to AdAge for actually printing the truth about why this state of affairs exists, even if they did have to reach all the way to China to get someone willing to be quoted on it:

Lower pay scale

Advertising's lower pay scale vs. other industries is widely cited as a barrier to hiring and retaining minorities. "Advertising's centered in cities that have high costs of living and doesn't pay well in the early years. A higher number of kids who are not minorities can live off of mom and dad for the first couple of years," said Jason White, account director for Nike at Wieden & Kennedy, Shanghai. "The best and the brightest are heavily recruited out of college, and there's a percentage of minority prospects who figure advertising just isn't worth it."

Read the full article here.

Ad Schools and the Eternal Whiteness of Creative Departments

Those of us who entered the business in the last 15 years might be surprised to learn that agencies used to have creative training programs, where they took bright young college and high school graduates and paid them while they learned to be copywriters and art directors.

Today’s model, where college graduates pay upwards of $30,000 for a two-year post-graduate portfolio program, is troubling for so many reasons.

First and foremost is the incredible lack of diversity it promotes. We’re pretty much limiting our creative departments to affluent white kids whose parents are generous enough to spot them the $30K for grad school. This creates a homogenization of experience and viewpoint that virtually ensures that all the ads we see look and sound the same. (Want to see this principle at work? Take a look at Crispin’s campaign for Haggar. The print, in particular, with its forced attempt at working class vernacular, sounds like some Grosse Pointe preppy’s bad imitation of the guys he worked with during a summer job spent at his father’s factory. "There ain't a lick of difference..." Ouch.)

Second problem Toads have with portfolio schools is the way certain agencies use them as their own personal source of free labor. Now granted, it’s not always free—sometimes they pay them $100/day. But putting 30 “interns” on a pitch isn’t really playing fair. I mean can you imagine if say, Goldman Sachs hired a hundred business students from NYU, put them to work crunching numbers on a pending deal and told them all it was an “internship.”

Final problem: What are we going to do with all these juniors? Portfolio Center, VCU, Creative Circus, Miami Ad School, Wieden’s little raccoon-wearing videomakers… how do we absorb several hundred kids a year into a business that’s already none too fond of juniors and has a limited number of big agencies left with the bandwidth to soak up more than one or two of them a year?

Many of them no doubt wind up at places like Agency dot com or similar web shops. Where they quickly become disillusioned when they figure out that even the CDs at those shops only make around $125K/year. And that the CDs are all basically ex-designers or ex-journalists who wound up in the right place at the right time, and know next to nothing about the business the little darlings have spent the past two years studying. ("Lee Clown? Is he an animé character?")

So I’d imagine the ad schools have a lot of unhappy graduates. I mean if I graduated from a good college and watched my dad pay $30K for a grad school that promised to get me a job in advertising, where I could make a six-figure salary with my English degree and not have to wear a suit to work-- I’d be pretty furious if they didn’t deliver. Even more so if I actually had to take out a loan to afford it. I mean heck, for a few more shekels, I could have gone to law school…

It used to be fun

While self-proclaimed new media experts, change agents, web 2.0-niks and the like are tripping over themselves to define the new world of advertising and media, they seem to be overlooking one important component: Who’s going to want to work in it.

Seriously, who are they going to get to write all those keyword searches, invitations for consumer generated content and generic commercials you can pay to tag with your flower shop’s name and address.

Advertising used to be somewhat glamorous, especially the creative end. Bright, talented, ambitious people went into it to create TV commercials and print ads that oftentimes became part of the common vernacular. They were well-compensated for their efforts, too, with creative directors at the multitude of big agencies pulling down salaries well into the six figures. And as clueless as clients could sometimes be, as awful as some of the spots were, the upside was pretty terrific: weeks in Los Angeles bunking at the Four Seasons, eating at the Ivy and otherwise pretending to be a Hollywood player; actually making a mini-movie with real actors who often as not were celebrities. Not to mention the thrill of seeing your work on prime time TV.

And if that’s all gone, just who are we going to get to work in the creative department? Despite the hype, interactive departments are still filled with guys who couldn’t break into the general world along with a sprinkling of hard-core geeks. Why? Well for starters, the pay sucks. Interactive (and for that matter, direct) shops pay creatives considerably less than general agencies. There’s also the fact that they’re rarely creating the campaigns, but rather, adapting something the general guys have done. So where’s the glamour in being the B team?

If creativity really is the be all and end all for an advertising agency, we’re going to have to find a way to keep it front and center. A recent post on jaffejuice.com, Ground Zero for the whole “TV is dead” movement is an eerie harbinger of how that crew would turn us into McKinseys for the marketing community where creative is a minor factor, to be outsourced at best.

Until, of course, someone rediscovers its value.