Nov 30

The Most Expensive Garment You Will Ever Not Own

Guest blog written by Gene Colter.

That multimillion-dollar bra Heidi Klum sported a couple of years ago has got nothing on this tiny tog of extravagance for the toddler set.Vest

The item in question is a patchwork vest for kids, available from J. Crew’s “Crewcuts” line for $325. Spotted on a flier ad on a countertop at a train station. Said flier was soon doused in coffee as the result of the classic “spit shot” produced by the person writing this entry.

This is an article of clothing whose economic excesses deserve further examination and perturbation. The two feet or so of material on display in this imported luxury speaks volumes about the reputations of both the retailer who sells it and the parents and relatives who will buy it.

First, the obvious: By definition, junior will get one season’s wear out of this item. One. (If your child can still wear the vest 12 months hence then there are medical problems in your family, and I wish you nothing but the path to good health, and please stop reading now.)

But, foolish blogger, you’re thinking, can’t you understand that this item can be passed down to little brother?

Indeed. Which amortizes its cost slightly – but of course also means that you have taken on the financial responsibility of another kid. So, at the risk of using fuzzy math, you’ve got the price down to about $162. That’ll make a dent in the $200,000 or so the extra kid will cost you through age 18 provided you don’t send him to private school.

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Nov 29

When BusinessWeek suggests you’re irrelevant, it’s time to go to plan B

The current BusinessWeek cover asks a question I’ve been wondering about for some time: ‘Is Madison  Avenue racing towards irrelevance? I’d say so.Business_2

Traditional advertising is in a freefall as documented by the BW article. Growth has slowed, profits are down and clients are going elsewhere for solutions. Why? Because the big ad shops like Saatchi, which is the focus of BWs profile, simply aren’t retrofitting their basic model fast enough to keep up with rapidly-changing consumer buying patterns.

Saatchi’s recent campaign for JC Penney is cited as a textbook example of advertising’s growing irrelevance. Despite crafting a campaign that dazzled the ad industry and will, no doubt, win countless Gold Lions at Cannes, the effort did absolutely nothing for sales. Nothing. Why? Because consumers have far too many other sources of information today and don’t have the time for, or trust in, advertising.

BW says direct mail, media buying shops and interactive agencies are the big beneficiaries of advertising’s decline. And they are. But, so too, is PR. From everything I see and read, more and more marketers ‘get’ PR and understand its far more powerful and credible strategies for connecting with fickle, web 2.0-enabled consumers.

So, what’s a poor ad man to do? BW says Saatchi’s CEO Kevin Roberts is contemplating everything from ‘green communications’ to ‘retail design consulting.’ Ouch. How do you spell desperation?

PR has long been seen as advertising’s poor stepsister. So, it’s hard to shed many tears for all the high and mighty creative geniuses whose ‘breakthrough’ work simply doesn’t cut it anymore. Maybe some of them can find jobs in direct mail, interactive or, gasp, even PR?

Nov 28

Frankly, ‘Frank’ stank

I am struggling to publish a second book. The first one was a piece of cake. McGraw-Hill approached me,Youngfrankenstein
assigned an editor, paid me a fee and I was off-and-running. The follow-up, though, has been a bear. I’ve been through countless agents, publishers and editors, and have nothing to show for it. And, yet, I believe the second book runs rings around its predecessor in terms of style and content.

So I can relate to what Mel Brooks felt with the debut of his new play, ‘Young Frankenstein’.

Chris ‘Repman, Jr’ Cody and I saw the play last week. It stunk. The casting was horrible, the songs forgettable and the few, new laugh lines mediocre at best. Coming off the mega success of ‘The Producers,’ I’m sure Brooks felt he had a sure fire follow-up hit on his hands. But, Frank shot a blank.

Mel Brooks has had a long and successful career that will easily survive his soon-to-be failure. I hope, though, he learns a lesson from it and, as he contemplates turning ‘Blazing Saddles’ or one of his other movie properties into a play, he thinks twice.

Lightning almost never strikes twice, whether it’s a mega Broadway hit (or a modest self-help book). And, I’d hate to see Mel’s stellar image and reputation suffer at the very end of a long and glorious career.

Nov 27

Robb High’s half right

I enjoy Marketing Consultant Robb High’s regular missives on business development. Robb’s been in thePresentation
trenches, speaks from experience and draws upon the results of a recent CMO survey to prove his points.

That said, I think Robb’s most recent mailing misses the mark. High believes that most prospective clients have no interest whatsoever in learning about agencies and their capabilities in a first-round pitch. Instead, he says, they want to talk about themselves. Period.

He suggests preparing 30 or more questions and using the allotted time to have the prospect talk solely about themselves and their needs. Robb suggests not spending any time at all on the who, what, when, where or why of the agency. And, counsels High, if the prospect says, ‘…thanks…but you didn’t talk about your agency,’ he recommends the following response: ‘If the last hour of talking together doesn’t make you feel like we should go to the next step of the review, I can’t imagine what we could tell you about our agency that would change that.’

I think Robb’s half right. Countless statistics prove that prospects feel a meeting has gone well if they’ve spoken 50 percent or more of the time. So, having a prepared list of questions in your hip pocket is very smart. But, you don’t want it to be one way.

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Nov 26

I’d give ‘e’ an ‘A’

I just finished reading a hilarious book called ‘e’. Written in 2000 by a veteran of the British advertisingE_5
wars, ‘e’ follows the adventures and misadventures of a fictitious London ad agency called Miller Shanks.

Like ‘Who moved my blackberry?‘ the plot unfolds in a series of e-mails between agency management, the creative group, executive headhunters, office services and new hires.

Unlike ‘Who moved my blackberry?’ ‘e’ gets into office politics, office romances and office images/reputations. There’s the technology-challenged boss, the backstabbing creative director, the burnt out hippy of an art director, the nerdy office services manager and a whole bevy of sexually active personal assistants. They all act, and react, to the stresses of a major new business pitch while jockeying for power with one another.

To call ‘e’ a page-turner does it a disservice. I found it alternately riveting and rollicking. And, I related to just about every character, having worked for, or with, carbon copies of each.

‘E’ is a little dated and uses some Brit-specific jokes and phrases, but it’s well worth the time and effort. It’s also the kind of book I’d like to one day write myself since it reinforces the absurdity of the workplace and self-important types who too often frequent the hallways.

Nov 21

Dante’s Kids

Guest blog written by Gene Colter.

Come with us now as we descend into hell. Down through the first circles and on to the murderers andMortgage_2
harmers of the innocent and young. Gaze upon the horrors to be seen there. –

I like to think I’ve gotten pretty good at spotting and avoiding the come-on letters, but this one got by me. It came in a good-quality envelope, the sort of one used to see wrapped around personal letters back when people wrote letters. So I opened it. On the cover of the card inside was a color photo of a darling baby girl. She was some months past birth, given her ability to hold her head up and the stud earrings she was already sporting, but she was still swaddled like a baby. My mind raced: Whose baby is getting christened? Why don’t I recognize this lovely little doll? I opened the letter to find out.

Whereupon I found out that I, Eugene, could lower my monthly mortgage payment if I could meet with a representative who had reviewed my loan and who would soon be in my neighborhood to chat.

That representative, of course, would be a mortgage broker. He and his ilk are well represented down where the sun never shines. And, despite a daily pounding of news coverage on the woes of the nation’s housing market, some of the worst salespeople in the country continue to ply their trade just as they did when housing prices were inflating and loans of dubious merit were being extended to people who had little hope of being able to live up to their terms.

This is an industry that has not even begun to grasp the basics of reputation management. Salesmen in general have always had a complicated reputation, but the mortgage-broking industry stands out in its awfulness.

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Nov 20

Stupid, desperate people

Ever watch those horrific infomercials on TV? Tony_little

Fed up with the pabulum being pitched on local TV news channels this morning, I instead decided to check out the ‘paid programming’.

What I saw was patronizing, if not pathetic. One spot, for example, featured a real estate guru who guaranteed he’d make millionaires out of any viewer willing to follow his ‘simple, six-step, zero money down’ investment philosophy.  Yeah, sure.

Another showed scores of beaming, middle-aged housewives holding up their tent-like jeans and dresses. They’d each lost inches from their waistlines by following some bogus, seven-minute isometric exercise. The erstwhile ‘big gals,’ waxed poetic about their newfound energy, love lives and wardrobes. And they positively gushed about the isometric gadget, since it required only seven minutes daily out of their busy schedules. Scores of pounds lost? Inches melted away? All from isometrics? Me thinks not.

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Nov 19

The workplace becomes hotspot for dating

Steve and Ted discuss workplace romances and the impact they have on their companies. Repchatter_logo_2

The discussion is centered on a Miami Herald article by Fred Gonzalez in which he references a survey (conducted by Glamour magazine and, no less) that reveals that 41 percent of employed Americans ages 25-40 admit to having an office romance.

Is it difficult to separate work from personal time?  Can office romances lead to poor production for companies?

Nov 19

No one ever got fired for being early

I don’t like people who are late for meetings. And, it seems I’m not alone.Late

Sometimes tardiness simply can’t be avoided. And, yes, sometimes I’m late for a meeting (or two). But, I’m steamed by the people who are habitually late for everything.

We have an employee who always shows up late. Always. He’ll come sauntering in, mumble something about being stuck on a client call and then slip into an empty chair. As a result, we’ll have to recap what’s just been discussed in order to bring him up to speed. It’s rude, an insult to the rest of us and a waste of everyone’s precious time. But, in our passive-aggressive workplace culture, we never directly confront the ‘late guy.’ And that’s a ‘shame on us.’

Truth be told, though, I prefer late people to their rare, but equally annoying, early bird doppelgangers. These oddities insist on getting to airports, meetings or any other appointment way, way too early. When you do follow their advice, you just end up sitting. And sitting.

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Nov 16

The Three Stooges Ride Again

Outlined against a blue-gray plasma screen, the Three Stooges rode again. This time, though, theirThreestooges
names weren’t Moe, Larry and Curly but, rather, OJ, A-Rod and Barry.

Bumbling, stumbling and anything but humbling, the neo Three Stooges are the uber role models for everything that’s wrong with today’s society. Whether it’s OJ’s criminal behavior, A-Rod’s surly self-centeredness or Barry’s lying and cheating, the Three Stooges are there in all their glory for us to see.

And, sadly, the media loves to shine the spotlight on these goofballs. I find it all rather tiresome and long for a TV Land marathon of the real deal.

Who wouldn’t prefer to see Moe poking Larry and Curly in the eyes than view OJ in another courtroom, A-Rod muffing another ground ball or Barry parking another home run into McCovey’s Cove? Here’s hoping it’s strike three for at least two of the modern Three Stooges.