Mar 20


Now that advertising agencies, PR firms and marketing firms have finally noticed that the Hispanic market is the fastest growing consumer market in the United States, they are more aggressively targeting this population. However, sometimes agencies are moving too fast and firing before they aim; think of it as a metaphorical Dick Cheney incident.

Case in point: the Volkswagen debacle which was recently featured in Wall Street Journal. Volkswagen’s ad agency, CreativeOndemanD, came up with the slogan "Turbo-Cojones" for VW’s new GTI 2006 model that was placed on billboards in Miami, New York and Los Angeles. Although Turbo_1 Americans use "cojones" colloquially to mean "gutsy," the literal translation from Spanish to English is "testicles." And, according to Luis Perez Tolon, an instructor at Miami-Dade College who was quoted in the Wall Street Journal article, "In English, Turbo-Balls might not sound so offensive. But in the Spanish-speaking community, it will always have a vulgar connotation."

How did VW react: they took down the billboards.

How can a Miami-based agency not be in tune with what translations resonate well and which do not work at all with the Hispanic population? How can any ad agency, PR firm or marketing firm, for that matter, which says it wants to target the Hispanic market not do their homework? And, it’s not just the Hispanic market. According to the article, a few Asian countries banned Australia’s new tourist slogan "Where the Bloody Hell Are You?"

Agencies and corporations must both be accountable and conduct the appropriate due diligence before trying to influence a specific market or culture. By not doing so, they are demonstrating to other populations just how ignorant they are and how much they do not care about the population’s culture. Why, then, should the targeted population care?

One misstep could result in months or years of trying to earn back the trust of the now alienated population.

Corporations are so concerned today about how to manage their reputations in the digital world of blogs and message boards. They need to be equally concerned about their reputation when focusing on traditional advertising, PR and marketing.

In this case, ignorance isn’t bliss….it’s "bloody hell" for the corporation, not to mention the agency.

Jan 10

This NFL decision should be penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct

LevitraSo, the NFL just announced it plans to cut its $18 million sponsorship agreement with Levitra, saying the erectile dysfunction drug campaign is "too risqué" for viewers.

Say what? Time out, ref! Time out!

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Is this the same NFL that for years has been allowing beer companies to run commercials with bikini-clad babes romping across the screen? Is it the same NFL that permitted ABC to run the incredibly suggestive T.O. and Nicollette Sheridan of Desperate Housewives commercial during the half-time of one recent Monday night game? And, is it the same NFL that’s been trying to distance itself from the Minnesota Vikings’ sexcapades on their Lake Minnetonka cruise boat and the Carolina Panthers’ lesbian cheerleaders brouhaha?

What’s next for the suddenly Puritanical NFL? What other commercials might they deem a bit too naughty? Those adult diaper spots can get pretty graphic at times. Or, how about those sleeping pill commercials? The ones with the nightgown-clad models who sigh and stretch oh-so-contentedly after finally getting a good night’s sleep? Aren’t they risqué?

The NFL’s move strikes me as pure hypocrisy. The league needs to clean up its own infractions before it throws a yellow penalty flag at advertisers who allegedly offend the general public’s sensibilities. In fact, I’m sorry, but I’m throwing my red flag. I’d like the officials in the booth to review this call.

Nov 16

You have to admire their guts, if not their logic

Ad agency Goodby Silverstein made a ballsy judgment call recently when it walked away from its $80 mm relationship with Discover Financial Services to pursue the much larger Visa USA, a direct competitor.

Sadly, Visa announced today it would select an Omnicom agency to be its new AOR, leaving Goodby with zero clients in the credit card sector.

I think most professionals would admire Goodby for its bold decision. They went for the brass ring and lost. You can’t say they don’t have guts. On the other hand, smallish clients might think twice about hiring the firm in the future, thinking they’ll be discarded like yesterday’s newspaper when a larger, more attractive competitive client attracts Goodby’s attention.

It’s all part of the client-agency mating ritual which, as Lewis Carroll might say, just gets curiouser and curiouser.

Nov 02

Putting all your Eggs in one Basket

I must admit to cringing when I read the dismaying news about ad agency Berlin Cameron losing its two anchor accounts last week and having to downsize 55 of its 90-person staff.

It was a "there but for the grace of God go I" feeling since Peppercom has twice faced similar circumstances in our 10-year history. One occurred when a division of GE and its 35 percent of our billings decided it needed a global firm to "best meet its needs." Another occurred very early on when a now defunct business insurance client was acquired by another one, and 40 percent of our billings disappeared faster than you can say or spell "actuarial."

These were painful but healthy lessons for us to learn. When a business relies too heavily on a few key clients, it creates too many vulnerabilities and, in my opinion, distorts the client-agency relationship since the client knows it wields tremendous power (and we’ve experienced a few, very abusive client managers who knew this fact and took advantage of it).

The "too many eggs in one basket" syndrome is a house of cards strategy that can immediately impact a firm’s image and reputation if the client(s) departs. Advertising Age, for example, ran this headline in covering Berlin Cameron’s double loss: "The fall of Berlin?" And they quoted an industry analyst as saying, "From a new business perspective, some clients may pause for a second and wonder what’s going on." Such comments can be the kiss of death for an agency and the beginning of a self-fulfilling prophecy that can only end in acquisition or Chapter 11.