May 16

Not this Boomer. Not no how. Not no way.

Yesterday’s New York Times article, headlined “Eyes drift. Marketers stick to TV” had this Boomer/blogger executing a classic double take.

In sum, the article says that, even though TV ratings are collapsing, media stocks are failing and core cutting is accelerating, major advertisers are CONTINUING to pour billions and billions of dollars into, get this, broadcast television.

In fact, major marketers just plunked down a cool $9 billion dollars to sponsor shows on ABC, CBS, ABC and Fox. This, despite the fact that TV’s number one show, ‘The Big Bang Theory,’ has a median viewing age of 55.

So, why do smart CMO’s, whose average mayfly-like lifespan is shorter than any other member of the C-Suite, continue to dump mega dollars into a medium a Pivotal Research analyst described as “…archaic as water flowing through pipes”?

There are several reasons:

– Network sales directors correctly point out that they, and they alone, provide premium content that is professionally produced, vetted and won’t be an issue for your brand to be associated with (a biggie considering the flak Facebook in particular has received after allowing live videos of murders and suicides to appear right alongside digital ads).

– While digital may be the darling of the day, it still trails traditional advertising spending by a whopping 11 percent. So much for the mindset that ALL THINGS MUST BE DIGITAL RIGHT NOW.

While I can understand why advertisers prefer TV to digital, especially when it comes to reaching Boomers, I must tell you I despise commercials.

I don’t watch a single “live” major network program; I opt opt instead to DVR my favorite cable programs, and view them when I can. And, when I can, I immediately fast forward EVERY, single commercial.

So, for now, there remains a colossal number of Boomers (and their younger brethren, the so often overlooked Gen Xers), who still watch the mediocre mix of recycled:

–  ‘CSI: Benton Harbor’ spin-offs

–  Oh-so-predictable ‘Bull’ courtroom dramas

–  Moronic sitcoms and reality shows.

I can tell these network advertisers one thing for sure: their days are numbered.

While “the base” may still enjoy “Dancing with the Has-beens and Never Were”, their Millennial and Generation Z kids aren’t going anywhere near TV sets.

And, discerning Boomers and Gen Xers will continue to DVR their favorite shows and blow past commercials faster than the White House disavowed Trump’s sharing top State secrets with visiting Russian diplomats.

Network TV is reaping the rewards of the final days of the horse-and-buggy era. While they can still count on money pouring into their coffers in the short term, the handwriting is on the wall (or on the i8. Take your pick).

Digital is coming. And, guys like me are leaving.

The sooner Boomer bloggers like me die off (or descend into senility), the sooner networks will have to face facts: The Big Bang Theory, and the advertisers who support it, will disappear.

It’ll be a Big Bang of advertising. And, it’s coming soon to a theatre near you.

Hello digital. Bye-bye broadcast.




May 15

“Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?”

Last week’s shenanigans in the West Wing reinforced what’s been happening across all pillars of society for the past few years: The rise of fake news and the demise of truth. There are lots of fingers to be pointed at lots of ersatz sources on both the Left and Right Wings of our highly polarized society, but I’ve yet to see an analysis of the potential impact of false news on corporate America.

Hill Holliday just filled that gap by surveying 540 Americans aged 18-61.

As you see from the infographic below, Americans have had it with fakery. And, woe betide the organization that is caught creating, or forwarding, fake news.

When asked if a brand they loved presented fake content:

–              59 percent of respondents said they’d stop shopping with that brand.

–              36 percent would stop following the brand on social media.

–              30 percent would delete the brand’s app.

Holy dire consequences, Batman! And holy opportunity for the chief communications officer (CCO) and her PR partners!

The Arthur W. Page Society in particular, and our profession in general, has long advocated on behalf of the role of the CCO and, positioned the “title” as being the conscience of an organization. Clearly, the CCO’s role has never been more important.

Cover-up unethical practices, share false, negative information about a competitor or boast that your product, service or company is something that it’s not, and the fallout won’t be temporary. Massive amounts of stakeholders will cut you off. Permanently. Your sales, stock price and reputation will experience a nuclear winter. And guess who many CEOs will blame? The CCO and her agency.

These are the times that try men’s (and women’s) souls, but it’s also the time for CCOs and their agency partners to rise to the occasion. If you see something that seems fishy, say something. Push back. Verify and re-verify. Refuse to lie or spread fake news. If you’re on the agency side, resign the account post haste.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of a single client that can afford a 59 percent decline in sales. And, I don’t know of a single agency that could survive the fallout of having aided and abetted a client organization in spreading fake news.


May 10

Want Fries with that?… We’re out of scruples.

Today’s guest blog was written by Matt Lester, Peppercomm’s creative director. 

For quite some time the Carl’s Jr. burger chain had been the king of sexist, soft-porn marketing. So, I suppose they can be commended for emphasizing food instead of boobs in their latest campaign. Going back to their roots of solid, innovative, good food with a sense of humor was a smart step in the right direction, albeit forced by consumer data more than from the heart. Through a well-produced pairing of a seemingly honorable, can-do Carl Sr. and entitled slacker Carl Jr., they set up a classic sitcom conflict by leveraging the generational differences between a baby-boomer dad and his millennial son. I was actually looking forward to what’s next in the series.

Let’s not heap too much praise on one, admittedly well done film. Having been part of a global coffee campaign that ran nearly two dozen episodes in the states alone, I know a thing or two about serial commercials. The question of what’s next is exactly what should be on the minds of every one of your viewers at the end of each film. Diligently establish full characters and they’ll practically write the scripts for you. Carl Sr. was introduced as the classic, righteous, all-American hero arriving just in the nick of time to save the company from certainly failure. A man who stands tall for his principles, does the right thing for himself, his family and the public at large. Well, that’s who I thought he was until I saw the latest installment explaining how the Baby Back Rib Burger was born.

Here’s yet another example of our new world order where the less scruples you have, the more you’re celebrated at the highest levels of society. Where the old definition of the classic hero fighting for fairness and what’s right is turned into a joke. In this film, the two Carls team up to blatantly steal a, “million-dollar idea” from a hard-working short order cook and then cowardly run away. To add insult to injury, it’s not enough to take advantage of the guy and leave him with nothing, he’s made to look the fool and humiliated in the closing scene.

Most CMO’s and CCO’s know that the importance of what a company stands for is at an all-time high and rising. Carl’s Jr. had a perfect opportunity to establish a new purpose, one about a belief in honest, good food at a good value. Instead, their agency stole that chance from them by portraying their founder as being just as lazy, irresponsible and selfish as his spoiled kid.

Ray Kroc is reported to have once said, “If I see my competition drowning, I’ll stick a hose in their mouth.” Sadly, I guess that’s Carl’s Jr.’s new mission, their new purpose. Dare I say, it almost makes me miss the boobs.

May 09

A Ray of Hope in the Morning

I was pleasantly surprised to read that my favorite morning news show, CBS This Morning is kicking some serious butt.

I’ve been attracted to the morning show ever since CBS completely changed the format in 2011 and added the distinguished Charlie Rose as their anchor. Rose is flanked by longtime Washington insider, Norah O’Donnell, and Oprah’s BFF, Gayle King, who also happens to be a formidable interviewer.

What makes CBS This Morning different, and far better, than it’s network rivals is its intense focus on news (at least for the first half hour). So, while GMA is reporting on Kelly’s new co-host and The Today Show cast is busy making each other laugh, Rose & Co. are taking care of business.

The program begins with a snapshot of the lead news stories of the day called, “Your world in 90 seconds.” If I have time for nothing else, I know I can count on that first minute-and-a-half to bring me up-to-speed.

Typically, I watch 15 minutes or so of CBS This Morning. Then I check my feeds from The Skimm, BBC America, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Advertising Age and Adweek. With that kind of download, I’m locked and loaded with the information I need to counsel clients, suggest new ideas for my firm and be prepared to discuss just about any topic of the day at a new business meeting.

According to Adweek, I’m not the only one who’s discovered this gem in a sea of superficiality in the morning. Check these facts:

  • Rose & Co. are delivering the biggest viewership for CBS morning shows in 30 years.
  • It’s the only one of the three major network morning shows to grow viewership in the past five years.
  • It’s the only morning show to have gained viewers with both the coveted 25-54 age demographic AND with women. ABC and NBC plummeted by an average of 25 percent with the same cohorts.

CBS This Morning is an oasis in the desert. Its remarkable success gives me hope there’s a growing number of Americans who prefer smart, hard news to start their days (as opposed to the pablum served up by NBC and ABC or the polarizing content found on Fox and MSNBC).

One final point: CBS This Morning has also attracted 10 new, blue chip advertisers this year. As CBS-TV President of Sales, Jo Ann Ross summarized: “Every category is now interested. They know they are getting an educated and intelligent audience.”

Here’s hoping the powers-that-be at CBS continue to double down and invest in a traditional medium that’s keeping pace with anything digital has to offer.


May 01

Making the English Language Mediocre Again

Name the only president in American history whose words and grammar were worse than those of Donald J. Trump?

According to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, that dubious distinction belongs to 43, otherwise known as George W. Bush.

Carnegie Mellon researchers say that presidential candidates “…routinely use words and phrases of students in grades 6-8.” Not The Donald. CMU academics say Trump’s vocabulary lags behind even those lowly standards.

But, there’s a method to Trump’s mangling madness, says Times Columnist Charles M. Blow, who described Trump’s Tweets as “…a jumble of incomplete thoughts stitched together with arrogance and ignorance.” His words. Not mine.

Trump’s short, and rambling, Tweets emphasize certainty and determination, built upon layer and layer, like (ironically) bricks in a wall,” wrote NYT CEO, Mark Thompson. “It’s a style that students of rhetoric call parataxis (Note to self: Call primary care doctor to see if I’ve been inoculated against this disease).

Thompson says parataxis is “….an age-old style used by generals and dictators alike who have used it to distinguish themselves from the caviling civilians they mean to sweep away.”

Yikes, I don’t know if I’m more perplexed by the phrase sweep away or the adjective caviling (Note: I must admit to having had to research the latter, which means whimpering or whining).

I’ll have to work that gem of a word into my next cocktail reception discussion with my fellow, long-suffering Jets fans (“C’mon, guys. Let’s admit it. We’re just a bunch of caviling cry babies.”). That’ll be right after I invoke the late Spiro T. Agnew’s description of the media as, “Nattering nabobs of negativity.”

What is it with Republicans and their contempt of mainstream media?

Regardless of the gibberish and double talk, Trump’s base eats up his Tweets, even if they’re:

– Inaccurate (“a U.S. Fleet is now steaming towards North Korea”)
– Contradictory (“I’m killing NAFTA”) only to be followed the very next day by (“Just had great talks with leaders of Canada and Mexico. Lots of room to negotiate NAFTA”).
– Or, flat out absurd (” My cabinet has probably the highest IQ of any cabinet in history”).

It’s one thing to mangle the English language. It’s quite another to use one’s barely understandable Tweets to bewilder friends and foes alike. That’s like playing Russian Roulette with the fragile stability of an unstable world.

What worries me most from a grammatical and spelling standpoint is the impact TrumpProse will have on our nation’s young people (who are already severely challenged when it comes to writing clear, concise, active sentences).

Mix in eight more years of Trump’s trashing of the language with another near decade of recent college graduates using text abbreviations in their client and management memos, and you’ve got all the ingredients necessary to return the proper use of the English language to a mix of prehistoric, cave man grunts and indecipherable slang.

It’s a real problem that I believe our nation’s colleges and universities have taken a pass on. I know my son, who is completing his Ph. D. while simultaneously teaching freshman history students, is absolutely appalled by the abysmal quality of the papers turned in by his students.

And, it’s only going to get worse with our nation’s commander-in-chief setting the example.

It makes one pine for the days when W. used to mangle his speeches with such memorable phrases as, “Fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”

Where’s it all headed? Thoughts welcomed.

Apr 26

People and Culture in 2017: What Matters Most?

There’s no secret to running a successful business: You attract and retain good people who, in turn, attract and retain good clients. Ah, but to suggest accomplishing the above is easy is akin to saying Donald Trump is introverted.  Today’s guest column was penned by Sara Whitman, our culture czar and head of Human Resources who believe success, and a successful culture, are the result of two key factors.“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things,” Peter Drucker.

These wise words rang in my ears as I found myself asking, “What are those right things?” Enter Pomello, a provider of culture analytics solutions. The company published a report last month on the key people management and company culture priorities in 2017. The core hypothesis in the report is that companies reach a tipping point when they hit about 1000 employees. At that point, Pomello says that companies start to shift people management priorities towards employee engagement, learning & development and leadership.

But I’m not so sure that the scale of the company dictates that focus. Working at an agency with 100+ employees, those priorities feel right for us as well.  And it has me thinking, is it less about scale and more about maturity of the business? Could it be how well developed a focus senior management has on culture and people management in general?

I spoke with Pomello co-founder and COO, Catherine Spence about my thoughts. “It’s possible. Maturity of a business is much harder to measure. For most companies, there is a fast-growth period that shifts priorities quickly. We definitely see companies struggle to keep their culture strong as they scale.”

The Pomello report states that only 14% of larger companies report having a very strong culture, compared to smaller companies where more than a third report having a strong culture. So how can companies maintain culture through change? I believe it comes down to two things:

  1. It comes from the top. Whatever the culture stands for, if the leaders at the top do not demonstrate those principles and values, the culture will morph and won’t hold steady through change. Leaders need to believe in the culture, demonstrate it in their actions every day and make sure that any process, system and approach reinforces that culture as the company grows or embarks on any other type of change.
  1. But it belongs to the people. If the leaders set the tone for the culture, employees set the tempo. Departments, teams and individuals across the company need to be feel empowered to express the culture in ways that are meaningful – and not dictated – to them. Giving employees the freedom to express opinions, to introduce new ideas and to run with them will ignite the culture and allow it to blaze throughout the organization.

As I look ahead to the rest of this year, doing the right things to maintain those two factors is exactly where we’ll focus in 2017, and we encourage you to do the same. Lead on.


Apr 24

Fake News Comes to Advertising

What did Grace Kelly and Amelia Earhart have in common?

Aside from being superstars during their lifetimes, a new ad from Allergan would suggest that, along with a bevy of other high-profile role models featured in a new TV spot, the aviatrix and princess of Monaco suffered from, get this, dry eyes.

Don’t believe me? Check out the spot.

Now, I consider myself quite the historian, and I’ve never, ever read about Amelia struggles with dry eyes as she vainly sought to find a place to land her lost aircraft on Homeland Island. Nor do I remember the cause cited for Princess Grace’s death in an automobile accident as being linked to dry eyes.

In fact, I’ll bet there’s no documentation whatsoever to prove these two rolemodels suffered from what, the heartbreak of dry eyes? The discomfort? The redness and itchiness? Or, is red eyes merely an inconvenience? I’m not sure.

I’m not trying to minimize whatever discomfort the condition might cause, but Allergen, the ad’s sponsor (whose logo is seen oh-so-briefly at the very end of the spot) wants you to believe the opposite.

In fact, by bombarding us with snapshots of scores upon scores of women, we’re led to believe that:

  1. ALL of these ladies do/did battle with dry eyes.
  2. Allergan can help.

Now, the latter may be true, but the former qualifies as fake news in my book. And, unless Allergan can provide documented proof to the contrary, I’m calling them out.

Allergen can then do one of three things:

  1. Issue a clarification and apology
  2. Prove me wrong
  3. Ignore my blog. Instead, it can own the fake news and hire the queen of misinformation, the seldom seen White House Strategist Kellyanne Conway.

After all, it was Ms. Conway who coined the now infamous expression “alternative facts” when she was confronted by reporters the morning after her boss’s inauguration with the actual number of people who turned out to watch the reality star be sworn in.

We already have Breitbart, the dearly departed Bill O’Reilly and scads and scads of far left- and right-wing sources to provide fake news and lies. Now, thanks to Allergan, we have to start questioning the veracity of TV commercials as well. Well done, Allergan. Well done.

It’s almost enough to make me wipe away a tear but, like Madame Bovary, Joan of Arc and Cleopatra, I, too, suffer from dry eyes and simply can’t conjure up a tear. Or a lie, for that matter.

Apr 19

Don’t Come Around Here No More

Imagine you work in the travel & tourism business. Now, imagine you’re the senior executive leading a major U.S. city’s tourism efforts.

Now, consider these sobering facts:

– Some 4.3 million FEWER people are expected to visit the U.S. this year .

– The overall travel & tourism industry is expected to LOSE $7.4 billion in revenue in 2017.

– Next year will be EVEN WORSE: There will 6.3 million fewer tourists and $10.8 billion in lost revenues.

Miami will be the hardest hit destination spot, followed closely by San Francisco and New York (serves them right for once being, or continuing to be, sanctuary cities).

Anyway, these dire facts and projections are the direct result of what the New York Times has dubbed, “The Trump Slump.”

It seems our 45th president’s vitriolic, whacko and completely unsubstantiated claims are sending a very clear, if unsettling, message to the rest of the world: Find other countries to kick back and relax while on vacation.

Arne Sorensen, chief executive of Marriott International, the world’s biggest hotel company, says it isn’t just tourists who are steering clear of the land of the free and the home of the brave: “…companies and conferences were also choosing to host events in other countries due to uncertainty over restrictions on entry to the U. S.”


Now, factor in yesterday’s hate crime in Fresno, the Charleston Church shootings and the deranged, random gunman who chose to document his assassination of a complete stranger on Facebook, and you’re facing a serious image and reputation challenge if you happen to be in charge of any large U.S. city’s tourism and business conference operations.

Things have gotten so dicey that even those fun-loving Canadians I always seem to bump into at the Jersey Shore over the Fourth of July weekend are staying put in the Great White North. Can anyone imagine a Summer in Cape May without bumping into roving bands of Québécois who’ve just driven 1,000 miles to frolic in our syringe-strewn seas?

Want some more anti-globalization fat to chew on? The number of flights from China and Iraq have dropped 40 percent since January 20th (The Donald’s inauguration date lest you forget), and demand from Ireland and New Zealand are down 35 percent.

Ah, but try to guess the one country where departing flights to the U.S. have surged 60 percent this year? If you said the land of Lenin, Tolstoy and Vlad “The Bear” Putin, you’d be correct.

While all of this news is sad and sobering (and has untold ripple effects on the cottage industries that support hotels, convention halls and Disney-type theme parks), consider the implications on jobs. Yes, jobs. The one issue that propelled Trump to his incredible victory.

While I wasn’t able to unearth specific numbers or predictions, The Trump Factor is singlehandedly idling hundreds, if not tens of thousands, of Americans who count on long-term employment in travel & tourism to earn their livelihood.

Methinks the president couldn’t care less since I understand Trump-branded properties are faring quite well. So, if Eric and Donald, Jr., aren’t being impacted, what’s the big deal? And, speaking of deals, how about that monopolistic move by Ivanka with Communist China? That should reset a lot of jobs. In China.

What is crystal clear is that Trump will only accelerate his isolationist, America-first Tweeting and pontificating. In his endless efforts to flex America’s muscle, he’s dramatically weakened one of the key sectors of our economy. But, hey, I’ll bet all the statistics I’ve read and cited would be dismissed by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer as mere “…Left-Wing, fake news from the Opposition Party.”

Leaving Spicey and getting back to the profound marketing challenge facing the travel & tourism industry today, I suggest they consider one of these three campaign strategies:

1.) Admit fault, but position fear and hatred as an unexpected value add to a foreign national’s otherwise mundane vacation: “You’ve always wanted to see the Grand Canyon. Now, we can detain you AND provide a few extra weeks to explore ALL of its natural beauty. But, remember to pack your handcuffs. it’s a BYO destination.”

2.) Play-up the historical significance of a vacation to the U.S. during Trump’s reign. “You missed Mussolini and were too young to experience Stalin’s Gulags, so why not watch, firsthand, as a Democracy becomes a dictatorship. Talk about a story you can tell the grand kids!”

3.) Throw up your hands and tell it like it is. Borrow a line from a Tom Petty classic and run ads headlined, “Don’t come around here no more. Or, at least not until 2039.'”

Thoughts (and campaign themes) welcomed.

And A tip o’ RepMan’s cap to Chris Cody for suggesting this post.

Apr 18

Is hate entering mainstream advertising?

If there’s one thing those of you who are left or right of center (or stuck in the middle with me,) can agree upon, it’s this:  The one unifying thread Americans seem to share nowadays is hate.

Like you, I’ve unfriended countless, longtime BFFs on social channels, have seen a rift occur in my own family and, frankly, have tried to avoid talking politics at all costs.

But, having just viewed this new TV spot from Lexus, I wonder if marketers are picking up on the undercurrent of hate and subliminally adding it to their pitch?

Check it out (below) and pay close attention to the driver’s reaction AFTER he swerves to avoid hitting a businessman carrying a stack of papers. The car’s sensors prevented the driver from hitting the pedestrian, but the latter is left behind to pick-up all of the paperwork the car’s velocity scattered.

Meanwhile, the Lexus driver plows ahead with a definite smirk on his face that one could read as:

– I’m so happy my Lexus sensors prevented me from hitting that dope, or

– Stupid bastard. Serves him right that he’s left to try and scoop up his valuable paperwork.

Wouldn’t the average driver stop, pull over and help the guy collect his belongings? I certainly would. But, not this particular Lexus driver, who’s probably thinking, “F the pedestrian’s problems. I avoided an accident and have people to see, places to go and things to do.”

So, what’s your take? Did you react the way I did? And, based upon the ever escalating vitriol in our country, will other marketers find ways to subtly insert hate in their messaging? I have to believe half of the viewers shouted, “Right on!” when the driver smiled and plowed ahead while the other half felt terrible for the businessman.

Comments welcomed from fans of O’Reilly, Maddow and everyone else in-between.

And  a tip of RepMan’s racing helmet to Ann Barlow for suggesting this post.

Apr 14

While you were away

How many times have you surfaced from an important meeting only to check your iPhone and find out we’ve just launched 59 Tomahawk missiles, dropped the “mother of all bombs” in Afghanistan or read a Tweet warning “… if China won’t do something about North Korea, we will.”?

I’m aiming the questions at my fellow marketing communications professionals whose jobs demand they continually create informative, entertaining and, in many cases, inspiring content (despite the reality of what we see, read and hear on our news channels).

It’s a question particularly relevant to our profession and, I think, I know what you’ll say:

“Top PR and marketing professionals cannot let world events keep us from storytelling on our organizations’ behalf. It’s also more important right now to double down on our companies’ values and higher purpose in the belief that every constituent audience we serve needs to know we remain committed to doing the right thing.”

And I agree 100 percent.

But, we’re also human and while I can’t speak for you, I can’t help thinking that, despite our best-intentioned efforts to do the right thing, events are spiraling out of control.

So, I’m curious to know: When you’re not lying awake nights worrying about an upcoming shareholder meeting, a big new business pitch or rolling out a multi-phased, omnichannel marketing campaign, do you ponder the what if?

What if there won’t be an annual report this year (or any year for the next century or so)?

What if all of your organization’s noteworthy contributions end up lying buried in the rubble of an all-too-possible nuclear exchange between Trump and Putin?

How do you deal with it? Ignore it? Place your belief in the hope that things will soon settle down? And, for those of you in senior positions, do you ever discuss these subjects with your junior staff?

I’m not positing a POV either, but I ask because I know our trade press would never, ever raise the issue. Too genuine, too raw, too scary.

I’d just like to know how you’re doing, how you’re coping with the storm clouds on the horizon and if any of the above have affected the way you comport yourself on a day-to-day basis.

Input welcomed.