Monday, December 27, 2004

Making Sense

Difficult – impossible? – to begin to comprehend the human suffering brought by the Asai tsunamis. So many thousands gone in an instant. The countless pictures of parents with the bodies of their children are especially horrifying.

Makes things like the usual end-of-year stock market wrap-ups and top albums of 2004 seem more than a bit inconsequential.

Sad that it can take such a massive human tragedy to make one appreciate the smaller moments. Over the holidays, a blast of cold air made pond hockey a reality in our part of Michigan. Cathartic. Can pond hockey help me make any sense of the events in Asia? Of course not. But it is a welcome respite and a reminder to pursue a life well-lived.

-- Dean Gemmell

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Flush That Turd

Apparently, McCann felt the heat of the ad world commentary and is currently "updating" their site. Ouch.

Would have loved to have been in the meetings when that decision was made. Wonder how many executives managed to take cover under those mahogany desks.

-- Dean Gemmell

Drug Paranoia

While some of the criticisms of big pharma may have merit, the quick leap from a study result to a pulled drug is getting ridiculous. Granted, I think Merck was disingenuous with the public about Vioxx, but then there was a call for Celebrex to be pulled before any research was any reviewed. Now there are some conflicting studies, but there's an outcry among many for Pfizer to pull it. I'm not all warm and fuzzy about the world's biggest drug maker, but I think Pfizer is right to not pull the plug on it yet. Although they seem sort of unsure of themselves when they also decide to pull all of the consumer advertising. That was probably a legal move.

Fact is, we all assume some level of risk whenever we put a drug into our bodies. They're chemicals, after all. The question is always about balancing risk and reward. And we always forget to look at the macro perspective -- a drug like Celebrex has probably helped millions manage pain and live more rewarding lives. We have to balance the benefits to the larger group with the problems that something might create for certain individuals. I heard a physician on NPR today who said that aspirin would not be an over-the-counter medication if it was introduced today. Whatever happened to the libertarian spirit in this country? Frankly, I don't see it in either political party. It's either the FCC regulating free speech, the Administration regulating marriage, or the FDA having another knee jerk reaction.

-- Dean Gemmell

Monday, December 20, 2004

Bridging the Gap

The Gap has been through agency changes, retreats to the in-house agency, management changes and yet their advertising almost always looks and feels the same. Which would be a good thing if this unwavering consistency was resulting in big numbers, but we all know that the Gap has lost its mojo for some time.

Into the breach steps CP&B, as yet another marketer turns to these guys to shake things up. At this point, it's almost become a default decision, with clients saying, "We suck. Let's call those Miami guys to take the heat off." Pretty soon we'll have to start calling CP&B venerable.

The Gap must have one strong machine to have forced so many decent agencies to make the exact same commercial over all these years. But if any agency can craft advertising that won't seem like an attempt to recapture the Gap's heady days of the early nineties, CP&B probably has a shot at this exact moment. By next year, it may be too late. Maybe was horribly misguided, but that might have been just a case of too many people drinking the Kool-Aid these last few months. We'll see.

Of course, the bigger problem is that nobody wants to buy the clothes that are in Gap stores. Hmm. Don't think Crispin can solve that one.

Thursday, December 16, 2004


Talk about a big agency turd. Check out the new McCann World Group web site. There's already been discussion about it on other ad blogs, but I just can't stop thinking about it. It haunts me. It's not because it's a big agency falling on its face -- let's face it, there are plenty of small agencies that do lousy work and have crummy web sites -- it's just that it's quite a statement about our business when such a large agency does such ghastly work on its own behalf.

It's hard enough to get past the weird talking male executives -- Dooner! Cranin! -- but then you start to realize just how banal their whole pitch is. Demand Chain? Oh wait, I'm sorry, it's Demand Chain®. The big revelation here is that companies have to create, um, demand for their products. Imagine the looks in the client conference room when the McCann team weighs in with this exciting piece of information. No wonder so many people think ad professionals are such bullshit artists.

Right now, if I was a high-level McCann exec even remotely associated with this new site, I'd feel like I had just pulled the pin on a grenade. And I'd be diving behind my mahogany desk for cover.

-- Dean Gemmell

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

American Brand Blues

A topic that's gained some, but not much, traction in the traditional media is the chance for backlash against American consumer brands and what it could mean for the economy.

It's probably because most economy wonks don't see the numbers that prove it's happening yet. Maybe it isn't.

In November -- I know, I know a lifetime ago in internet time -- Thomas Mucha in Business 2.0 had a balanced take on the issue. My feeling is that the numbers may not have caught up with consumer realities. At some point, demand for distinctly American brands like Budweiser and Coke is going to run into the now pervasive anti-American sentiment. I can remember when the arrival of Budweiser in a new market meant big initial sales for A-B -- I just can't see non-Americans getting as excited about it these days.

I thought the Democrats needed to figure out how to make this at least some kind of issue in the election. But they were too busy with their Us vs. Them, Let's Take on Corporate America, Bob Shrum-generated populist rheotoric.

Maybe Bush World Tour 2005 -- the one that's supposed to mend fences in Europe -- will help keep this a non-issue. Considering our place in the global economy, I sure hope so.

-- Dean Gemmell

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Post-Prison Martha

It's the holiday season and my thoughts, quite naturally, turn to Martha Stewart. Me, and the entire media population, it seems. The New York Times hopped on the bandwagon recently with an article about her reality show set to launch upon her, ahem, release from prison.

I personally think Martha got a bad deal -- six months in jail for selling a stock on a tip and then being a bit snippy with federal investigators. Especially since we all knew she was naturally snippy. But I think it might turn out to be a brilliant career move -- look for Martha to come out to a world of Sears-Kmart, the aforementioned reality show and maybe even the launch of a handy household shiv.

In fact, I predict the post-prison Martha brand will be bigger than ever. And since she's served time, you've got to think that absolutely nobody will want to @#$%%^^&*! with her now.

– Dean Gemmell

Thursday, December 09, 2004

As if satellite wasn’t enough for commercial radio to worry about.

Interesting article on podcasting by Steve Rubel of CooperKatz in iMediaConnection. Also a feature about this emerging application on CNN. Step back and you realize it’s just Tivo for radio, with your MP3 player substituting for the DVR. Here’s a very simple bit of technology that changes the radio landscape even further. Imagine being able to record your favorite radio shows and listen to them when it’s convenient. NPR is starting to podcast some shows. Lord knows what commercial radio is going to do -- except crawl into the corner and assume the fetal position. No, as with Tivo, it’s not the death of broadcast. But it sure does change things. Eventually, the lousy content will move to the fringes and better content will emerge.

The narrowcasting opportunities are great for many marketers. Companies that cater to an audience without the critical mass that makes traditional advertising make sense could sponsor shows targeted to their niche. Sports such as badminton or table tennis. A local financial planning firm could sponsor a show about investing. No, podcasting doesn’t have to be filled with nothing but Macedonian folk music or the silly rants of angry, underachieving 40-year-olds. It can be commercial and be good.

Most importantly, in order to be commercial, it will have to be good. Compare that with the radio we’ve been stuck with for the last 20 years.

A good site to check out is And, yes, the founder is indeed that Adam Curry – a name that will ring a bell with members of the first MTV generation.

– Dean Gemmell