Jul 08

Motown’s macho man

Imagine picking up a newspaper or turning on the tube to learn your significant other has fallen
4fcaa6ba3e21 in love with someone else. Well, that's figuratively what happened to Greg Anderson, CEO of ad agency BBH, who read his agency had been fired by Cadillac in Advertising Age! No warning by the client. No note thanking the firm for its work. Nothing. Talk about being blindsided. To make matters worse, the exact same fate befell Susan Gianinno, CEO of Publicis, a month earlier.

Both had fallen victim to Motown's new macho man, Joel Ewanick, the VP of U.S. Advertising for General Motors. Ewanick has been in his job for exactly two months. In just 60 days, he's destroyed his own image, further tarnished GM's already tattered reputation and decimated two fine ad agencies. Now, there's something to tell the grandchildren one day (“Curl up on grandpa's lap and let me tell you about the time I whacked two hot shot ad agencies in less than 30 days. You kids will just love it!”).

Prior to GM, Ewanick had toiled for Nissan, Hyundai and a
yacht maker. Something tells his internal ethics compass went awry on board one
of those yachts.

Kudos to Ad Age for once again providing a valuable reader service by outing such horrific behavior. I wish our PR trades would follow suit. Trust me, Ewanick is not unique (and, try saying that three times fast).

If I were the Motown macho man's new agencies, though, I'd be sure the invoices were paid promptly. This guy put the 'v' in volatile.

We've been 'Ewanicked' a few times in our storied history, but it was never as sinister as this. We once pitched the division of a Fortune 500 company, for example, and were told a decision would be forthcoming shortly. Naturally, that was followed by complete radio silence. Then, sure enough, O'Dwyer's printed an article announcing the corporation's new agency of record. I was upset, so I e-mailed the prospect. He responded a few days later saying he thought he'd sent a letter to the losers. Nice. No apology. No explanation. Nothing. Just lots of wasted time and effort on our part and yet another misbehaving prospect not held accountable.

If there's a god (and one wonders nowadays), Ewanick will get his just desserts one day soon. Ideally, he'll wake up in his Grosse Point Farms estate, shuffle to the front door, pick up a copy of Automotive News and read the following, 'Ewanick Sacked. Smith to Head GM's Advertising.' I'll bet a lot of BBH and Publicis staffers would lift a glass of champagne to toast that decision.

Apr 09

We have no intention of becoming PR’s version of the Packard

Al Ries, marketing, branding and positioning guru
extraordinaire, has penned a most fascinating opinion piece in a recent Ad Age. April 9 - Packard

The Ries piece (I couldn't resist) warns such marketers as
Starbucks and Cadillac to stop cheapening their brand before it's too late.
Ries says the long lost Packard automobile did just that and died as a result.

Prior to The Great Depression, says Ries, Packard totally
dominated the U.S.
luxury car market. In fact, Cadillac was little more than a distant blip in
Packard's rear view mirror. But, when the downturn came, Packard developed a
much lower cost alternative. The cars sold well. But, when the economy
rebounded, newly affluent Americans went with Cadillac, which had remained true
to its high-priced, high-quality roots throughout the Depression. Packard never
recovered and eventually disappeared altogether in 1957.

Now, fast forward to today. I see lots of commentary in the
PR and advertising trades from agency leaders who are suggesting that others
follow their lead in cutting billing rates to 'ensure ongoing business and
demonstrate value.' I see other 'leaders' offering 'lite' versions of their
positioning, media training and media relations services or charging $500 per
press release. I think such 'strategies' scream desperation and cheapen an
agency's brand.

I think, instead, we should be providing additional value by
being more creative, getting closer to our clients' customers and helping our
clients fight the good fight when their purchasing, finance or legal
departments suggest wholesale marketing cuts.

Cheapening your brand by lowering your billing rates or
giving away your services in "a la carte" menu style will cause you
huge headaches when the economy rebounds. And good luck convincing your clients
that you deserve a rate increase just because other vendors have increased
theirs.

We all have to endure budget cuts. They're a fact of life.
But offering the PR version of instant coffee a la Starbucks or a Cimarron a la Cadillac is a penny-wise, pound-foolish
strategy. (And Cadillac's mistake of the 1980s was all the more dumbfounding,
considering that it defied the very strategy that made them a big name brand
coming out of the Depression.)

The good times will return. Maintaining one's position as a
high quality service provider during the downturn will ensure a swifter return
to heady profits in the days to come. We, for one, have no interest in
becoming our industry's version of the Packard.

Jun 20

Cadillac is more like caddy shack

When I was beginning my PR career in the late 18th century, my bosses would often refer to a Cadillac client’s/prospect’s product or service as aspiring to be the ‘Cadillac’ of its space.

In those days, Cadillac was synonymous with luxury and status.

As we now know, that was then and this is now. Aside from a few drug dealers and pro athletes who like to tool around in tricked-out Escalades, no one goes near the Cadillac brand. In fact, there’s new proof that, when it comes to luxury, the tables have really turned on the once mighty brand.

According to a Scarborough Research/Radio Advertising Bureau study, Volkswagen owners have a media household income of $77,914 vs. $59,565 for Caddy drivers. Volkswagen? Ouch! I can remember when the VW bug was seen as a low-end, counter-culture means of transportation to and from the Woodstocks and Monterrey Pop Festivals of the era. Now, though, VW is clearly leaving Cadillac in the dust.

Caddy is in a freefall and I, for one, see no way for them to avoid the abyss. When their aging owners finally die so, too, will the brand.