Friday, January 28, 2005

Wait, I'm the One Here for Information

The Booth newspaper chain here in Michigan groups all their papers into a site called

Fine idea.

The bummer is that they continue to ask for my gender, birth date and zip code when I go to an article for the first time. It annoys me so much that I usually enter my gender as female, my zip code as somewhere in Manhattan and my birthdate as 1905. I love the idea of a meeting where management hears that a 100-year-old woman in New York City is a regular visitor to the site.

The lesson: don't put barriers between people and information.

— Dean Gemmell

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Well Then Why Don't You Just Give It Away?

Here's another bit of insight from Seth Godin on those sharp minds at Google and the general clumsiness of Microsoft. What's most interesting to me is Seth's last line: "The more you give away, the more you get."

That line is completely relevant outside of the tech/internet world as well. Here's a great example.

(Full disclosure: my thoughts here are a bit self-serving since they help promote one of our company's clients, but I'm forging on nonetheless.)

If you visit the store at the original Kalamazoo Brewing Company location in downtown Kalamazoo, you can buy all sorts of the usual things you'd expect at such a place. Like, well, many different types of Bell's Beer, brewed by the Kalamazoo Brewing Company. Hats. Shirts. Jackets. Beer cozies — I think. But here's where it gets interesting — Larry Bell also offers an incredible collection of supplies for home brewers. Yeast, malts, small kegs, caps for bottles. The whole nine yards. Basically, everything someone needs to brew their own beer.


At a big corporate brewery, they'd freak out. Start shouting stuff like, "I want people to drink more of my beer, not their own!"

Fact is, a brewery providing great home brewing supplies is exactly the kind of non-MBA thinking that works so well these days. It makes people love the brand. It lets people know the people behind Bell's just flat-out love beer.

And it's wonderfully logical. Even if someone becomes a really successful home brewer, they're not going to stop drinking Bell's. They just won't. And then there's this: once they actually try home brewing, people will probably realize it takes real talent and hard work to brew beer that's as good as Bell's.

It's further proof that there are no marketing rules anymore. Today, successful marketers are the ones who have the freedom to think and the courage to try.

— Dean Gemmell

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Brother, Can You Spare A Job?

A report today says that Michigan, the state I call home, has the second-highest unemployment rate in the country. And a good morning to you too, sir.

Bummed? Well, yeah. I think Michigan is a great state and I didn't even grow up here. No, it's not fancy-pants like Atlanta/Raleigh-Durham/Phoenix or any of those other locales that companies flock to every other day. But West Michigan, where I live, is an awfully nice place. Not perfect, but no place is.

Manufacturing is just getting killed here and all the new economy initiatives take a while to gather momentum. Hopefully, they work. My area is really pushing a biotech initiative. The trouble is that we have to get in line behind every other area in the country.

But I do see signs of hope here in Kalamazoo. Smaller companies emerging from the bigger ones, smart people deciding to stay despite the weather in February, developers putting money into the downtown.

Screw the number crunchers. I'm soldiering on.

— Dean Gemmell

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

I Wish I Could Still Win Just By Being Clever

Like a lot of creatives, I got into advertising because it offered a chance to get paid for being a bit of a smartass. Those were back in the heady days when the brands that won were usually the ones that were just a bit more clever than the others. And usually, that clever advertising was done by a smartass type who could look at the world in a funny, ironic way.

Now I have to accept that just being clever isn't enough. Mainly because I don't know if anybody is viewing, reading or listening to advertising even if it is clever. Instead of listening to the radio, people are plugged into their MP3 player and getting new music from the web. They're blowing right past commercials with their Tivo. And newspapers? Well, we all know the fight they're in.

Now, as Seth Godin notes, blogs are hoovering up audiences and their time. If people spend hours reading blogs, how much time do they have left to read a newspaper?

The numbers are definitely there, but I'm not sure when blogs will become a great advertising vehicle. I think they will. How is something I'm not willing to predict.

— Dean Gemmell

Monday, January 24, 2005

Heeeere's Another Reminder of the New Reality

The passing of Johnny Carson reminds one just how much our media world has changed. I can't imagine any person or show having that much clout again — that kind of mass appeal now looks so quaint. It's not a question of talent — Carson was definitely talented, but certainly no more deft than the current crop of late night hosts. In fact, the last show of any kind that I think people really talked about the next day in the office was Seinfeld. I do wish there was more entertainment that forged common bonds, but I can't see it happening. And figuring out all this fragmentation is definitely interesting.

— Dean Gemmell

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Hmm. Honesty. Go figure.

Over the years, I've lost countless hours of my life debating clients in soulless conference rooms over the claims they wanted to make in their advertising. "Best," I would say, "is not a strategy." I'd urge clients to let us say something that somebody might actually believe. I'd ask clients to really try and separate themselves from their marketing roles. Would they believe the claims they wanted us to make? Smart clients got it. But many others, perhaps weakened by the stale coffee and the acrid air in those conference rooms, did not.

I was an early skeptic of the real impact of blogs, but their value is now without question. An older article in Forbes on truth and blogs should give all marketers much to consider. Naturally, I found my way to this article through Rick Bruner's blog.

— Dean Gemmell

Sunday, January 16, 2005

All That Content Needs Editors

The absolutely insane amount of information on the web is a great thing. And, sometimes, completely maddening. Turns out that we still need great editors to help us filter. Here's one for music fans. I don't like everything they feature, but that's not the point.

As much as I love the way technology has made it possible for everyone to create, publish, etc., there will always be a place for filters. It used to be that all of our filters needed expensive platforms -- newspapers, networks, publishers. Now they just need to be good at it.

— Dean Gemmell

NHL Hockey Dead, Funeral Services Planned for Next Week

The dumbest people in sports are twiddling their thumbs while they watch a pro league die. My sincere hope now is that the NHL simply ceases to exist and a new league emerges to replace it. One with teams in Winnipeg, Quebec City and Grand Rapids.

— Dean Gemmell

Steve Jobs is stopping me from buying a new TV.

Love the idea that Apple might be considering a jump into HDTV sets. In fact, I love it so much that I'll probably put off buying another TV until I'm absolutely sure about Apple's plans. I'm quite sure that the traditional electronics companies just lost a few million Apple loyalists for a while.

— Dean Gemmell

Thursday, January 13, 2005

My Rants About Musicals -- Now Scientifically Proven

For years, and in an earlier post on this blog, I've stated my belief about who really attends all those crappy showy-Webbery-Mackintoshy musicals. And I've said why. Now the New York Times is reporting that I'm -- hah! -- right.

— Dean Gemmell

Driving Me Away Online

Slowing driving me insane are the the New York Times interstitials that torture me each time I try to reach an article for the first time. Like a cat, I jerk to Skip This Ad but it's never fast enough. The worst part is that it's the same lame Citi Advantage for Business ad. If I see this stock photo family and their damn restaurant purchases followed by their well-deserved vacation, I'm going to puke.

I realize how scary things are for a great paper like the Times. I'm a devoted Times reader who buys the actual paper less and less (of course, if they delivered to my home, I'd probably subscribe), so I can sympathize with their efforts to adapt to a changing model. But these annoying, persistent interruptions are not the solution.

Make them stop. Please.

— Dean Gemmell

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Reaching Enthusiasts

Just some unvarnished opinion in this post.

I believe that some of the most useless advertising is done in enthusiast categories. What's an enthusiast category? Well, there are thousands of them -- wine, boats, photography, video games, fishing. Anything where consumers arrive at an ad with a decidedly higher level of knowledge and interest.

When consumers know more, you need to sell less. Communicate instead. Give them category information that hopefully reflects well on your product but don't try to tell them what to think. They're too smart for that.

For me, the classic example of misplaced advertising to an enthusiast market is when a mass-market, below-average wine runs an ad in The Wine Spectator. I subscribe to WS and enjoy reading it, but I am very unlikely to be swayed by a gauzy photo of a couple in a sun-drenched meadow enjoying a glass of average red. In fact, I would advise all wine brands to avoid WS and leave the advertising in it to cars, watches, technology, etc.

If you have an enthusiast product, question your advertising relentlessly. You know that your target audience will.

— Dean Gemmell

Monday, January 10, 2005

E-Trade Fires Omnicom, Hires Omnicom

The New York Times is reporting today that E-Trade has hired Omnicom as its agency. Figuring it was one of those holding company pitches, I was surprised they really just meant that E-Trade had hired BBDO, an Omnicom agency.

This, of course, is after they parted ways with Martin-Williams, an Omnicom agency. Previously, of course, the account was at Goodby Silverstein & Partners, an Omnicom agency.

Does anyone else think the holding company big agency model is flat-out un-American? Advertising has gone from being a hyper-competitive business to one where holding companies swap accounts among agencies. And clients keep hopping around, somehow thinking they'll capture the magic with an agency within the same holding group that probably has the same structure as their previous agency. Here in this country, we used to look at the Japanese model, where there were only two or three agencies handling all the accounts -- even working on competing brands -- and think it was so strange. Now our holding companies are doing the exact same thing.

I guess I'd call it progress if advertising was working better than it ever has before.

-- Dean Gemmell

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

As if Duping 80 Million People Wasn't Enough

Not content with conning over 80 million theatergoers, Andrew Lloyd Webber -- along with Joel Schumacher -- had to bring The Phantom of the Opera to movie screens. Anthony Lane, in this week's New Yorker, already covered most of my thoughts more eloquently than I ever could. Something along the lines of garbage in, garbage out.

I continue to believe that the tyrannical fancy-showy-WebberyMackintoshy Broadway musical industry preys on unsuspecting Midwesterners for its filthy luchre. My brethren from here in the big Middle travel to NYC and feel compelled to see "a show." The whole time they suffer through it, there's a little voice in their heads that says, "This is complete crap." Alas, they're overpowered by the New York performing arts machine that insists the crap musical they just saw was really good. Eventually, the good people of the Midwest acquiesce and return to the flyover states, bringing news that the latest blockbuster musical is a must-see. A horrible, vicious cycle.

In the interests of balance, Rolling Stone was a whole lot more positive.

-- Dean Gemmell

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

In Advance of the Jokes on Sports Center

As a dedicated former curler and huge fan of the sport, I'm thrilled to hear that ESPN will show the world championships. Stop laughing. It seems to be true. Okay. That's enough now. Stop laughing. Really.

My passion for the game runs deep even though I live in a part of the country where I can't play the sport regularly. That said, I fully realize that to the uninitiated, curling looks like the most inane game ever invented. The sweeping, the shouting, the seemingly impossible to fathom rules. But trust me on this. It is a game that demands extraordinary athleticism to compete at the highest level and it is a sport filled with fabulous nuance and strategy. And at the fun, social level, there is really no better game.

Cut it some slack. Check out the coverage in April. Try it if you live near a curling club. Or be like me and start figuring out how to get a curling club built in your town.

– Dean Gemmell

Monday, January 03, 2005

Bitching and Moaning -- No Longer Humanly Possible

If someone in your work environment starts the New Year with complaints about their impossibly dimwitted boss, their lack of appropriate career opportunity or their punishing hours, try hitting them upside the head. Then show them how to fix that negative attitude.

— Dean Gemmell