Just a quick note:
NEW YORK: The “green” messages of many major advertisers in the US are failing to resonate with consumers, despite the fact an increasing number of Americans are placing a heightened emphasis on environmental issues, a new study has found. (US brands see green messages fall flat.)
Well, duh! With everything from light bulbs to bathroom tissue promoting themselves as the latest word in “green,” the message is bound to get muddied. I pointed that out in Prius Gets It Right — With the Help of a Contrarian:
The purpose [of the Prius ad] is solely to promote the brand as being eco-friendly — a feature which, in the present market of eco-friendly cleaners, bathroom tissue, light bulbs, and drain cleaners, is becoming less and less of a distinction.
What with the present obsession with Word of Mouth (WOM), social networking, and promotion of “green” it’s a wonder any ads manage to sell a single product these days.
I’ve had a few e-mail queries asking if I’ve gone the route of Bob Hoffman (better known as The Ad Contrarian) and folded up shop. Not true. But this semester has presented me with two classes in a course I’ve never taught before, two new campuses in which to teach, and a reworking of the curriculum I already had reworked last year — but that now has to be done again so I can accommodate certain changes.
Oh, and I’m taking courses myself towards a journalism certificate.
As a result, I’ve not had a chance to attend to either Ad Nauseam or Editor’s Sidebar.
But it is only temporary.
Alcohol played an integral, but not excessive, part of agency life back in the ’80s and early ’90s. At least, it didn’t seem excessive to us. I imagine things have calmed down a lot since then, what with all the law suits and the whole societal disdain towards getting tipsy in the afternoon.
But I still fondly remember the sound of glass tinkling in the hallway outside my office at JWT as the president pushed a cart loaded with various bottles of hooch and mix, stopping at each door, and fixing whatever drink was requested. It wasn’t a frequent event, but it was a welcome one. And of course there were the liquid lunches at JWT South, a particular bar on Yonge Street that I won’t name because it wouldn’t be prudent — but it’s true that one of our female employees (I think she was in traffic) quit the company when she discovered that she could make more money as a dancer there.
And then there were the in-house parties. Halloween, of course. And Christmas. Valentine’s Day. St. Patrick’s Day. Flag Day. Tuesday.
And of course there were celebrations for landing an account.
Or losing one.
The point is, we drank, and we worked, and the one never interfered with the other.
I was always very good at holding my liquor. I could drink a fair amount, but always knew when to stop before I embarrassed myself.
But sometimes mistakes happened.
The worst, for me, occurred at a party held by a friend of mine who ran a public relations firm in the city. I no longer recall the reason for the party — if, indeed, there was one (perhaps it was Tuesday) — but the entire affair was attended by marketing and advertising people from numerous agencies.
There was also plenty of alcohol, including something I’d never run across before: Polar Ice.
Now Polar Ice is a particularly pure brand of vodka, and the custom at the time was to throw it in the freezer until it was literally ice-cold — but not frozen, of course, because of the alcohol content, which I believe was in the neighbourhood of 200%.
The nice thing about frozen vodka is that it doesn’t have the bite of regular vodka. It also takes a while to metabolise, which means you can drink several glasses before realising the effect it’s having.
In short, I got drunk.
Not bad on its own — there were a lot of intoxicated people there, and even drunk I can normally handle myself with at least a modicum of dignity. Which I did.
Oh sure, I performed a couple of magic tricks, but only by request, and those watching were suitably impressed. The fact that I didn’t screw up surely meant I was in control, if somewhat wobbly.
Now it’s important to understand that up to this point I had been behaving in an entirely acceptable fashion. I’d been having a discussion with a woman beside me on the couch about Thompson’s 25-year mark with the Pepsi account, and I could tell that I was being coherent because my wife was still smiling at me.
And then he walked in.
“He” was the man who had re-imaged the entire concept of the detergent commercial, for both laundry and dish. His spots featured people talking happily while doing the washing-up, and while the product was never spoken of, it was prominently displayed as part of the cheerful scene. One spot featured a little girl helping her mother bring in the laundry and getting excited as her teddy bear was taken down from the line.
I wanted to tell this man how much I respected the direction he’d taken with the new spots. I wanted to explain to him that, while ads which didn’t mention the product were normally ineffective, his use of visuals had overcome this objection beautifully. I wanted to tell him that he was an advertising genius.
Unfortunately, somewhere between standing up, and reaching for his hand, a whole bunch of Polar Ice which, until that moment, had been hiding somewhere in my metabolism biding its time, decided to strike. I discovered that my feet were suddenly completely To stay on my suddenly untrustworthy, and the only recourse I had for staying on my feet was to grab his jacket lapel while shaking his hand.
Remembering that there was something I’d wanted to say, I blurted out, “I looove the teddy bear!”
That was the extent of my verbal acuity. I stood for a moment longer, attempting to work out how much of what I’d meant to say had actually been said, while also trying to figure out why I seemed incapable of standing without support. Since the standing part was temporarily being taken care of by hanging onto this fortunately-placed jacket lapel, I opted to continue my discourse on advertising.
“I looove the teddy bear,” I said, vaguely aware that I’d already said something similar. Unable to think of how to progress from there when I had a sudden flash of insight, and said, “I looove the teddy bear.”
It was sad. And I never touched Polar Ice again, nor got that intoxicated.
Even worse — I never could remember his name.
But if by any chance he stumbles upon this blog and is reading this, I just want to tell him: “I loooove the teddy bear.”
Imagine the scene. The Allied forces are storming the beaches of Normandy. People are getting shot all over the place. There are explosions and screams and the firing of automatic weapons. Finally, after hours of fighting, the German forces retreat and the beachhead has been won.
You know what didn’t happen next? What didn’t happen next was the Allied forces gathering up all their stuff and then buggering off home. And you know why that didn’t happen next?
Because that would have been a guerrilla warfare tactic. And they weren’t using guerrilla warfare tactics. And do you know why they weren’t using guerrilla warfare tactics?
Because they weren’t bloody idiots! Read more…
I started writing Ad Nauseam in 1994 for a small Toronto newspaper. My qualifications were minimal — a few years as an independent commercial artist and copywriter, followed by a stint at JWT where I set up their IT department and analysed tracking software.
Still, it’s not like there was a lot of competition. At the time, nobody figured the average reader cared about the advertising industry, and the only people writing about it were doing so in trade magazines. On the other hand, I’d heard too many people talking about the latest commercials, and how bad/good/stupid they were, to believe that laymen were truly apathetic about the subject. I thought there was a chance people might actually be interested in a public discussion about advertising — and not one based on advertising’s subversive influence on our lives. I wanted to be the devil’s advocate, so to speak, and for the first few years even wrote it under the name Blaise Meredith, the protagonist in Morris West’s book, The Devil’s Advocate. Read more…
In this semi-regular feature we celebrate those unsung heroes of the marketing world who, faced with products that seemed impossible to market, succeeded in defying the odds to create highly successful campaigns.
Due to a malfunction in the computers that ran their cutting machines back in the early ’80s, a clothing manufacturer accidentally churned out hundreds of thousands of pants with crotches that came down to the knees. Faced with the expense of discarding all this material, the owner of the company took the problem to his ad agency, Dayton, Darton, Burnsten and O’Reilly (DDBO) to see if they could work some magic. Michael Scataloon was a lowly intern at the time, but he was positive he could sell the damaged inventory if given a chance. Since DDBO had nothing to lose, they agreed to put him in charge“
I knew traditional approaches weren’t going to work,” Scataloon said in a recent interview with New Pathways in Marketing, “so I set out to explore some nontraditional approaches. We didn’t have the formal concept of ‘viral’ campaigns back then, but essentially that’s what I was after. I just needed to define the right demographic. It had to be a demographic with absolutely no fashion sense. Naturally I decided on the rap culture. I figured any group that could base a musical culture around the absence of music, while dressing themselves in cartoon clothing and jewellery was the perfect prospect for our client’s pants.
Scataloon approached a couple of rap stars (even today he won’t say who they were) and offered a substantial amount of money if they would wear the malformed apparel at some of their public appearances. They weren’t eager to take him up on it, however. Read more…
Earlier this month one of the most important events in social network marketing took place when the New Advertising Directions Symposium was held in Chicago. Here, in its entirety, is the story from The New Marketing magazine.
The New Marketing Magazine
Chicago, April 1, 2009
It takes NADS to promote the new marketing
Walter “The Buzz” Vaine, president, NADS
This past Wednesday saw the first annual conference sponsored by the New Advertising Directions Symposium. Aimed at exploring the expanding opportunities offered by the new media, the symposium is in direct opposition to the assumptions of traditional advertising methodologies.
This discrepancy between the new and old generations was apparent from the moment Walter (The Buzz) Vaine, president of NADS, strode out to greet the crowd, none of whom appeared to be over 35.
“The Old Guard were all about ‘effectiveness’ and ‘sales,’” said Vaine. “We now know that our job goes far beyond these primitive goals, reaching out to the very consciousness of the consumer. No longer do we measure our results in the number of widgets, whatnots, or whatevers that our campaigns sell; instead we look for the ‘conversation,’ the ‘buzz,’ and the ‘insight.’ It is our job to e-enable real-time communities and matrix interactive experiences. Read more…