May 26

When it comes to hard-hitting, investigative reporting, the ad trades have no peer


May 26
I
love reading Advertising Age and Adweek. They not only tell me the latest,
greatest thinking in the 'other' marketing disciplines, but they aren't afraid
take off the gloves and slam inappropriate behavior by client and agency alike.

The
current Ad Age provides a great example. In a front page article, Ad Age goes
behind the scenes to report on Chevy's reprehensible treatment of their
erstwhile agency of record Publicis. Readers learn about incoming CMO Joel
Ewanick's refusal to meet or even speak with the account managers from
Publicis. He didn't even return their repeated e-mails and voice mails.
Instead, he shifted the entire Chevy brand's $600 million account to his good
friend, Jeff Goodby of Goodby, Silverstein. That's the sort of atrocious
client-side behavior that deserves to be outed.

The
Chevy saga is one of many examples of the ad trades not being afraid to tackle
misbehaving clients. Earlier this year, Ad Age warned its agency readers of
'serial' clients such as 1-800-FLOWERS, Quiznos and BMW who chew up and spit
out agencies every few months.

The
PR trades are just the opposite. They'll whack agencies for underperforming or
not delivering on anticipated results but seldom, if ever, go after poor client
behavior. As an example, PR Week once gave us a 'thumbs down' because the
editor at the time said I hadn't been as vocal an advocate for independent
agencies as the publication's editorial staff had expected. So, they publicly
slammed my agency for an apparent personal shortcoming.

The
Holmes Report, Bulldog and others are quick to jump on agency account wins and
losses (and love to send an e-mail to the effect, 'Hey, we just heard ABC
Widgets is putting your account up for review. Any comment?'). But, their
heart-warming profiles of CMOs, VPs of corporate communications and PR
directors read like 'The Lives of the Saints.'

It's
high time PR industry trades began publishing in-depth, investigative pieces
like the Ad Age/Chevy piece. I'm not sure why there's such a reluctance to do
so, but it results in readers only getting half of what's really happening. So,
note to Steve, Paul and others: provide a real service to your agency readers
and let us know about the Joel Ewanek's and the 1-800-FLOWERS of PR. Trust me,
there are enough horror stories to fill multiple editions. 

Mar 08

Telling it like it is

March 8 The legendary ABC sportscaster Howard Cosell was famous for an oft-repeated, self-congratulatory description of his coverage. 'I'm just telling like it is,' he'd brag. And, he did just that.

Cosell's signature line comes to mind each week as I scour the various advertising and PR trade publications for the latest news, trends and happenings. As a Cosell devotee, I gravitate toward those media I believe are actually telling it like it is.

Advertising Age is the best in the business when it comes to balanced reporting. Their journalists aren't afraid of shining a glaring spotlight on the industry's good, bad and ugly. In the past few issues alone, they've outed serial marketers such as 1-800-Flowers and Chipotle while positively skewering DDB for clinging to an outdated business model that hasn't kept pace with the times. I admire the fact that Ad Age doesn't mince words. I trust the editorial content.

Adweek has done the best job of reporting the murkiness that is marketing communications in 2010. They've repeatedly covered the rise of PR, decline of traditional advertising and free-for-all melee every type of agency is embroiled in as we grapple for 'owning the idea' and the lion's share of the client's budget. Adweek even named Edelman as its PR agency of the year. That's never happened before (and is an awesome thing for Edelman in particular and PR in general).

PR Week's new approach is a vast improvement. The editorial dives deep into the world of corporate and marketing communications, and really tells me what's keeping my clients and prospects up at night. They've also started to attack shoddy corporate campaigns such as Ann Taylor. But, unlike its advertising brethren, PR Week is loathe to really take off the gloves. Their cover story profiles remind me of my old Catholic school days spent reading 'The Lives of the Saints.' PR Week also overlooks what's new in advertising and digital, which is unfortunate. I'd love a sole source that focuses on my profession, but tells me what I need to know about sister disciplines.

That said, PR Week has no competitors in our industry. Some, like PR News, fill a nice niche with their 'how to' content. Others, like Bulldog Reporter, add lots of valuable insight through webinars. I also turn to Bulldog for my daily news brief and a snapshot of what other PR bloggers are writing.

Public relations deserves a go-to journal that mixes the hard-hitting, damn the torpedoes approach of Ad Age and the diversity of Adweek. It's time our industry had its own Howard Cosell that tells it like it is.

Oct 01

What do you get when you mix an old white guy with a beaten down brand? GM’s new ad campaign

October 1

Have you seen the new TV spots from the 'new' General Motors that feature the 'new' CEO Ed Whitacre? They're just dreadful and reinforce the brand's image as yesterday's car for yesterday's consumer.

The spots sport a robotic Whitacre walking around the empty hallways of GM's corporate headquarters and extolling the virtues of the new, lean and mean General Motors. Whitacre ends the commercials by laying down the gauntlet to GM's competitors and declaring, “May the best car win.”

Ugh.

I know people who work with GM today and who have worked with them in the past. There's a pervasive 'not invented here' mentality that permeates the company and its marketing strategy (if you can call it that). The corporate hierarchy continues to espouse inside-out, top-down sales and marketing that fails miserably at connecting with consumers. The Whitacre campaign is just the latest example. It features the wrong man saying the wrong things at the wrong time.

I won't buy a GM car. Period. In fact, the only way I'd even consider one is if I saw someone I knew and trusted sitting behind the wheel. I'd want to know that the quality and service issues had been fixed and that the ride, design and style at least approximated what I get from the European and Japanese models. Even after all that, though, there's nothing a GM salesman could ever do to get me to purchase one.

Seeing a doddering, out-of-touch old man meandering through the lonely offices of a battered brand is a huge turnoff that would be laughable if it weren't so sad.

Who comes up with this stuff? Mr. Goodwrench?

As for the better car winning, it already has. And, GM's continually-shrinking market share is the best indicator that Toyota, Honda, BMW and others have long ago put GM in their collective rear view mirrors.