May 27

Garbage in, garbage out

9109 I’ve never met Casey Jones (the marketer, not the engineer), but I already like the cut of this man’s jib.

For those of you unfamiliar with Casey (the marketer, not the ill-fated engineer), Jones has a long list of accomplishments including serving as VP of Dell and creating Apple’s memorable ‘1984’ TV spot that launched the Mac computer.

But, I’m not writing about Casey’s past accomplishments as a marketer. Instead, I feel compelled to wax poetic about his fresh way of thinking about client-agency relationships. As a strategy consultant to corporations such as Verizon Wireless, Jones has changed the ways clients think. To wit, Verizon’s VP of marketing communications, John Harrobin, is now holding his internal executives responsible for “…demonstrating excellence in providing the organization’s stable of agencies clearly defined briefs from which to execute marketing communications and campaigns.” That’s HUGE! In other words, clients can no longer pass the buck and blame their agencies for poor execution. Instead, thanks to Casey’s counsel, Verizon’s internal communications team shares success or failure with their agency partners. Talk about a long overdue sea change.

Jones is an absolute evangelist when it comes to the ongoing blame game about failed marketing efforts. His motto is ‘Garbage in, garbage out.’ That’s shorthand for his theory that efficiency-obsessed clients can get want they want by not slashing an agency’s budget but, rather, by briefing the agency better. Jones rates the average client direction as being between a two and a three on a scale of one to 10. “The norm is partial, incomplete and sometimes no brief at all,” he opines. Ouch.

I agree with Jones (with reservations, of course). We have some superb clients with whom we’re fully engaged in the strategic planning process, creative brief and definitions of success. And, then there have been those clients who, after telling us they wanted a strategic partner, left us to put out fires on a daily basis and fired us for ‘not understanding the business of their business.’ I still recall a post mortem with one client who admitted he himself didn’t really get the corporation’s business model but still felt compelled to fire us. “So,” replied Deb Brown, our ice hockey playing, Kangoo-jumping, absolutely fearless account manager of the ill-fated business, “How do you expect your agency to understand your business if you don’t?” You go, girl.

Casey Jones and his ideas are starting to take root. The Association of National Advertisers’ School of Marketing has invited him to give presentations about the importance of quality briefings by the client. That’s great. But, it’s not enough. I suggest the Arthur W. Page Society (www.awpagesociety.com) and the Council of PR Firms (www.prfirms.org) follow suit ASAP and invite Jones to present to PR types.

Success has many fathers while failure is an orphan. It’s high time other clients follow the lead of Verizon Wireless and hold their own internal communications team just as responsible for success (or failure) as they do their external agency partners.

As Ad Age said in its headline for the article, “Marketers, quit blaming your agency – it’s your brief at fault.”

Dec 15

Tell your statistics to shut up!

In his seminal 1969 book about major league baseball, former Yankees pitcher Jim Bouton wrote about his salary negotiation with Seattle Mariners' Manager Barney Schultz.

Bouton came fully armed for the meeting with reams of statistics showing how many games he'd saved, runners he'd stranded, etc. His goal was a modest salary increase for the upcoming season. Schultz, after reviewing Bouton's data, flung the pages back at the pitcher and yelled, 'Tell your statistics to shut up. No raise.'

December 15 - of white paper.11132009 I was reminded of the Bouton-Schultz saga as I powered through an otherwise extraordinarily superb research paper co-published by Advertising Age and JWT, and called. 'The rise of the real mom.'

It's a lengthy treatise that examines what today's mom really wants and needs, and updates the conventional wisdom that most women aspire to be 'super mom.’ According to the report, the real mom 'wants' four things:

1) To make every dollar count
2) To put her family first
3) Permission to be imperfect (Ladies: permission granted by RepMan, for what that's worth)
4) To be seen as more than just a mom

I was really soaking up the insights until I was stopped in my tracks by what I saw as both negative stereotyping and, frankly, a cheap shot taken at the expense of who else, but men.

In discussing parenting, the report says only men aged 30-44 prioritize parenting as much as women. It goes on to state that, when it comes to parenting, 'men peak at 30 to 44 and dramatically de-prioritize parenting as they age. For men, it's like, I've done my job, I've gone to the baseball games, I've paid for your college education; now you're on your own.' That quote came from Marian Muley, founder of the 85% Niche, a consulting firm dedicated to helping business grow market share among women across ethnic, racial and socioeconomic lines.

Continue reading

Nov 06

Dewmockery

November 6 - desmocracy Imagine how bad life must be right now within the walls of a traditional advertising agency. Now imagine what it must be like inside the walls of a traditional advertising agency owned by a holding company. It has to be just brutal.

Not only is the basic advertising model broken, but holding companies are reporting record third quarter profit losses as well. I have to believe pay raises and bonuses have been postponed until at least the 23rd century.

Ad Age contains two stories that illustrate the industry's plight. The first reports on the closing of the legendary Cliff Freeman & Partners. This was the firm that launched Little Caesar's 'Pizza, Pizza' campaign and fired a gerbil out of a cannon for Outpost.com (I still remember the animal rights activists going nuts over that one). Freeman failed, says Ad Age, because it didn't keep up with the digital revolution. Very sad.

Even more alarming is the news that PepsiCo will allow consumers to select their new agency. Ponder the lunacy of that for a moment.

Not content to let consumers vote on their favorite campaigns, Pepsi is now allowing the inmates to literally run the asylum. Ad Age reports that, 'In a contest beginning this month, Pepsi's Mtn Dew will hand off marketing duties for a $100 million-plus business to several potentially unknown players selected by consumers.' It's part of something the brand calls 'Dewmocracy.' Dewmockery is more like it.

How'd you like to be part of the creative team at PepsiCo's incumbent agency, BBDO?

'Sorry guys, but the results are in and consumers have chosen that talking soda can commercial the beautician from Butte created. We'll have to take the $100 million we'd allocated to you and give it to Betty & Partners. That's what she's calling her hybrid beauty salon/creative shop, btw.'

Traditional advertising agencies and the creative directors who run them like to think they control the brand messaging. Bill Bernbach, David Ogilvy, Leo Burnett and their staffs once did. Now, though, the battered bastards of Madison Avenue have to compete with every Tom, Dick and Harry (or Betty) who think they can create advertising. Talk about living a nightmare.

I am sooooo happy to be in public relations.