Nov 19

You are what you watch. Except when you aren’t.

Dog watching television According to psychographic ad targeter Mindset Media, the television shows we watch provide a  unique insight into our personality and can help brands better target their marketing spend (insert link).

For example, modest people, says Mindset Media, are more likely to watch 'Deadliest Catch' while altruistic types, such as Ed Moed, dial up cooking shows like 'Rachel Ray.'

Hmmm. Color me skeptical about all this psychographic psychobabble.

In describing viewers of my favorite show, 'Mad Men', Mindset says it attracts creative types. (No duh. The show's about an ad agency.) But, the creative types who watch 'Mad Men' are also emotionally sensitive (Well, yes, that's me.) and intellectually curious types (Damn, right again.) who tend to be more often dreamers than realists. (Whoa. Back off, Mindset. That's not me!)

Mad Men watchers are also liberal (Gee, these guys are pretty good.) and prefer brands such as Blue Moon and American Express. (I order sauvignon blanc, but I do like a Blue Moon on occasion and carry an AmEx card.) Mindset says I wouldn't be as interested in Campbell's Soup or the Cadillac Escalade. (That's putting it mildly.)

Mindset analyzed viewers of other shows as well, including ‘The Office’ which, while it's gone steadily downhill, is still a favorite of mine. “Like Michael on the show,” says Mindset, “watchers of The Office think they are superior to others.” (Rubbish.) In fact, says Mindset, fans of ‘The Office’ believe they are extraordinary (Which I am.) and happily brag about their accomplishments. (I'm a shameless self promoter.) Viewers prefer Starbucks (Not me. The coffee's way too bitter.) and the BMW Series 3 (Now, this is scary. I own an M3.) They dislike McDonald's (The word 'loathe' would be more appropriate.) and the Lincoln Town Car. (I'll ride in one, but you'll never catch me behind the wheel.).

All in all, this psychobabble stuff IS pretty impressive. Their analysis of me based upon my viewing of ‘Mad Men’ and ‘The Office’ is eerily accurate.

BTW, in case you watch ‘Glee’ (which I can't stomach), you're “in touch with your own feelings and may even feel happiness or sadness more intensely than others.” I'll bet you didn't know that, did you? You also drink Evian and drive a Volkswagen. You dislike Quaker cereals (What's your issue with Quaker cereals?) and the Chevy Silverado. (Does anyone like that car?) Oh, and as reluctant as I am to add this in, Mindset says ‘Glee’ viewers are closest to viewers of ‘Mad Men’ when it comes to being creative. Not true. We ‘Mad Men’ types rule.

So, what's your favorite TV show and what do you think it says about you? I'd go on, but I need to DVR 'Eastbound and Down.' I'll bet Mindset would have a field day with viewers of that show.

Sep 10

Would you have kept Peggy working late?

The most recent episode of AMC’s ‘Mad Men’ probed even deeper into the exceedingly dark side Office-window-sam of Don Draper (nee Dick Whitman).

In last Sunday’s episode, ad man extraordinaire Draper worked late into the night to develop new strategies for a Samsonite Luggage campaign. Not content to suffer alone, Don forces his creative aide de camp, Peggy, to work right alongside him. The endless evening ends up costing Peggy a surprise party thrown by her soon-to-be-erstwhile boyfriend (but draws her closer to Don in some very interesting ways).

I’ve never been a fan of making people stay late into the night. It’s abusive. It speaks poorly of the organization. And, it will eventually impact image and reputation.

That said, I’ve heard of more than one PR firm, especially those in the technology space, who suggest their employees leave the office at 6pm, gobble down a quick dinner and then return to complete their assignments. That’s brutal. I’ve heard of other firms that use the ‘West Coast’ excuse to keep East Coast employees working well past 8:30pm. That’s also bogus. And, then there are the corporate versions of Don Draper’s “keep ‘em late and make ‘em sweat” management style. In Jacked Up: The inside Story of How Jack Welch Talked GE into Becoming the World’s Greatest Company, author Bill Lane says the entire corporate office staff was afraid to leave for the day before their chief had. This was problematic since Mr. Welch seldom departed before 7pm. He knew others feared him, wouldn’t dare leave before he did and, either didn’t care about inconveniencing them or enjoyed the rush that went along with controlling other people’s lives.

We once had a mini version of Jack Welch working at our firm. This guy’s office was conveniently located right by the elevators. So, he’d naturally spy anyone who was skulking out while he was still slaving away. After hearing about the issue, we sat down with the executive (and his reports). We found that he tended to while away his time during normal working hours and, for whatever reason, didn’t really roll up his sleeves until late afternoon. As a result, he’d set meetings that began at 5 or 5:30, mete out assignments and then expect his direct reports to stay and finish their work before leaving. Rather than suffer a palace revolt (I’ve always believed that people quit people. They don’t quit businesses.), we had our strategy consultant work with the executive to help him better organize his day. We ended up keeping our people, but losing the executive to a corporate gig (which was a win-win in my book).

Because of the nature of our business, we still have people who, because of a client crisis or over servicing on our part, stay later than they should. When they do, we try to either intercede or, at the very least provide transportation home and compensatory time off. But, we’re far from perfect.

There are many different ways to manage an organization. Draper’s approach may work in the short-term, but I’ve rarely seen it work over the long haul (unless an employee completely defines himself by his work and thrives on a steady diet of 24×7). I can’t speak for Welch’s management style since I never experienced it first-hand. But, I know we don’t want executives who, intentionally or unintentionally, make their employees stay late. Life’s way too short (which I hope Don Draper figures out sooner rather than later).

Aug 16

Don Draper rocks

Don Draper, the fictional lead character in AMC's breakout hit, 'Mad Men,' just did what every PR Mad-men-office and ad agency executive pines to do just once in a career. In a recent episode, he threw two executives from a prospective client out of his office. Draper did so because the Jantzen swimwear executives refused to see the strategic business sense in Don's suggested creative campaign. The fearful Jantzen guys, not wanting to upset their conservative target audience, were afraid of Draper's provocative ad and told him so (and what a brutal product placement for Jantzen, whose swim suits remain amazingly modest, BTW. I checked).

Draper stormed out of the conference room, thought about it for a second, and then stormed back in to tell the Luddites to immediately get out of his office. It was breathtaking to watch (and, might I add that this is stuff of which dreams are made).

I don't know how many times I've wanted to toss a rude, boorish or indifferent prospect out of our conference. You know the types:

– The self-absorbed prospects who bang away on their Blackberries while you pitch.
– The ones who are totally evasive about their budget (“Why don't you tell us what you think it will take?”). Prospects who don't know what their budget is shouldn't be seeking PR support
– The marketing executives who, after telling you category expertise isn't important, interrupt your presentation to ask, ”So, that's it? That's all the category experience you have?”

There are many, many more examples.

The beauty of Mad Men is its spot-on accuracy. In addition to dealing with maladroit prospects, Don's nascent firm also has to walk on egg shells for their biggest client, Lucky Strike cigarettes, which commands 71 percent of billings. The Lucky Strike client knows he can belittle and berate his agency, so he does.

The Lucky Strike guy reminds me of a huge client of ours from long ago and far away. This particular master of the universe boasted that he'd give us a $10 million budget with which to work. He also immediately applied the pressure, knowing he was indeed, for one brief, dark moment, our largest client. His particular mission in life was to force diversity on the profession. So, right after hiring us, he gave us an ultimatum. Prove that our staff was at least 18 percent minority-based, or risk losing his business within the year. (Note: that's one tough mandate in an industry that remains as lily white as ours).

Anyway, my business partner, Ed, rose to the occasion with some amazing legerdemain and convinced this bizarre client that Peppercom was, in fact, 18 percent diverse. (I think Ed counted left-handed employees and New Jersey residents as minorities).

Long story made short, the big shot client was fired less than a year after his hiring, and has bounced around from one job to the other since.

We're a bit older and wiser now, and make sure no one client dominates too large a percentage of our billings. That's somewhat easier when your firm is an established, 15-year-old midsized business. That isn't the case for Don Draper's upstart agency and it certainly wasn't the case in Peppercom's embryonic days.

While he may have many dark sides and hidden agendas, I love the way Don Draper manages new business prospects. As his partner, Roger Sterling, said in the same episode, “My father told me advertising would be a great business if it weren't for the clients.” I'd change that to read, 'PR would be a great business if it weren't for the abusive prospective clients.’

Jun 25

I wish I’d said that

Legendary Ad Man Bill Bernbach was many things to many people, according to Doris Willens, author of 'Nobody's Perfect: Bill Bernbach and the Golden Age of Advertising.'

June 25 - On the negative side of the ledger, Bernbach was notorious for claiming ownership of his employees' creative ideas. He also enabled political factions to fester within his firm, Doyle Dane Bernbach. Under his tutelage, DDB became shark-infested workplace. He also encouraged what became known as DDB's 'asshole' culture. Everyone smiled at one another in internal agency meetings, but would routinely call one another assholes behind the scenes. Nice, no?

But Bernbach was also advertising's ultimate creative genius and, along with David Ogilvy, responsible for fostering advertising's golden age in the 1960s (beautifully recreated by the AMC series, Mad Men, btw).

Bernbach was absolutely fearless with clients and prospects. He'd fire the former if they meddled with his creative campaigns. And, he'd tell important clients and prospects exactly what he thought of them and their ideas. To wit: 'A VP (with Mobil Oil) was speaking rather proudly about their newly-proposed logo design commemorating the company's 100th birthday. (The client) said with starry-eyed pride, 'Just look at that. It will be displayed on gas stations all over America. Just look at that red O. Right in the center, it will say 1866-1966. Isn't that wonderful. Do you know what that means?'

The room grew silent. Bernbach nodded and said, 'IT MEANS YOU JUST DIED!" Priceless.

His many faults aside, the advertising and PR agency worlds would be better places if we had senior executives who, like Bernbach, weren't afraid to speak the truth.

Apr 20

Trust me, ad agency types leave the doors open

I really enjoy the TNT series “Trust Me,” which depicts the inner workings of a fictitious Trust_me Chicago advertising agency.

The cast is outstanding. The plot lines are compelling and credible and the writers deftly co-mingle real-world accounts like Rolling Rock and Dove Soap with ersatz ones like ArcMobile.

Mason and Connor are the show's protagonists. One's a creative director. The other's a writer. Their relationship has been strained because the former was promoted and now this once tight team has to deal with the fact that they're no longer equals. They both work for an amazingly idiosyncratic group creative director named Tony Mink, who is at war with the agency's other group creative director, a totally obnoxious Brit.

Anyway, the show is very cool and nicely complements my other favorite ad show: “Mad Men.” I only have one issue with “Trust Me.” The agency executives all work behind closed doors! What's that all about? It doesn't ring true, especially for an ad agency in the year 2009. Most have amazingly open workspaces, accented by exposed brick, arched ceilings, and Stanley Kubrick-like ductwork (I have no idea what that means, but it sounds right.) What they don't have is what the “Trust Me” office sports: old fashioned, individual offices with doors that are not only closed most of the time, but locked as well.

RepMan readers know I'm not a big fan of the craft of advertising. But, I do admire many of their uber cool office environments I've visited over the years. Firms like Chiat Day pioneered the open office environment that encouraged creativity, communication and a communal esprit d'corps.

So, trust me, you'll like “Trust Me.” But, someone needs to clue in the writers about the office layout. It doesn't ring true and blemishes an otherwise spot-on depiction of the mostly brutal, brutish and sometimes brilliant lives of modern-day mad men.