Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Advertising pretty much detested. As if more research was needed.

Joseph Jaffe picked up on a Yankelovich study done for Media Post. Turns out most people don't like crap advertising. Turns out most people would like to receive only advertising for things that really interest them. Turns out most people want products that help them avoid advertising.

Personally, I didn't need a study for this information. But maybe it will alert the laggards to the fact that the days of "advertising" are over. With so much information available to every consumer, it's about communicating with people honestly and transparently.

When a guy like me, loaded with traditional advertising DNA, is saying it's time stop worrying about coming up with a good button for the :30, things have really changed. Even weirder, I think it's better than it was before.

Men Holding Hands.

I've got to agree with Jeff Jarvis on this one. Even the staunchest Bush supporter would prefer that this photo had not been taken.

Here's Jarvis' link to the photo.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Solutions for the Dead.

So rather than just say who's dead and who's not, here's a a link to Buzz Machine filled with thoughts on change and survival for print media.

Friday, April 22, 2005

If it's print media, it better be precious.

Smart media planners and buyers know that numbers are just one part of the story. But with print media, I think numbers are even less important.

Why? Because I think the only print vehicles that are going to thrive in the years ahead are the ones that feel precious. In fact, I think if a print vehicle isn't precious, it's dead. There is just too much information available elsewhere. Rather than measure the sheer numbers and demographics, there needs to be more thought about the commitment of the readers. It's not just weekly versus monthly versus daily. And it's not just narrow niche versus mass. When you're asking people to pay for that printed material, it's about connecting with an audience in a deep, meaningful way. Who do I think will live or die?

Daily newspaper. Dead. (And I love newspapers, so this one hurts. Note: Seattle P-I was randomly selected as a perfectly average example of a perfectly average daily newspaper.)

Sunday New York Times. Not dead. (As long as a desire to feel intelligent after a boozy Saturday night doesn't wane.)

Vogue, Elle, etc. Alive, unfortunately. (Fashion just seems so mean sometimes, but it's not going away.)

Time, Newsweek, US News & World Report. Dead. Really dead. Not even worth linking.

The New Yorker. Very much alive.

Backpacker, Transworld Snowboarding, Golf Digest. Enthusiast pubs are a no-brainer. Alive and kicking. (Note: I'm getting tired of making links so I'm stopping now.)

Adweek, Advertising Age. A slow, painful death.

Dwell, Metropolitan Home. Alive. Dreams need reference.

Here's a number that I think print media planners should start asking for: average number of days it takes for a publication to go from a reader's hands to the blue recycling bin.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Y &R was DOA. It's not the fault of Ann Fudge.

Young & Rubicam announced this week, to no one's surprise, that Ann Fudge is being replaced as the Chairman-CEO of Young & Rubicam Brands. It seems she will remain as Chairman-CEO of something within Y&R, but we all know that she's really just going to get paid to do very little until her contract expires.

(Full disclosure: I had two stints working at Young & Rubicam in the 1990s. When I left in 1999, I was an ACD on the Star Alliance account. It was one of those typically average big agency positions.)

First, I don't think there has ever been an executive who has made a successful transition from the client side to running an ad agency. Fudge was a marketing poobah at Kraft, and was a key client of the agency when I was working there in the 1990s. The agency business is messy and it's an abrupt change from the far tidier world of brand management at a big company.

But I don't think Fudge was the problem at Y&R. In fact, I applaud WPP for appointing her in the first place – it brought some long-needed diversity to the upper echelons of the big agency world. But like others before her, she was brought in to fix something that can't be fixed at Y&R. It's the history of the place.

Y&R's problem is Seth Godin's Purple Cow thing. It's always been one of the most incredibly innocuous agency brands -- not really outstanding at anything and not really that bad either. When I worked at the agency, there were plenty of people far smarter than me inhabiting those dreadfully dreary offices. It's just that the place had no mojo. Most people felt like there was a better job somewhere else. The creative wasn't usually bad, but it rarely rose to great or paradigm-shifting. (Of course, there are pockets of creativity in New York and the Chicago office does turn out some first-rate work, but the overall product is consistently mediocre.) The planning and media initiatives were always decent, but never quite amazing. The account people were solid, but probably not much better at relationship-building than any other agency and rarely champions of daring ideas.

In short, the agency was, and is, well, adequate. These days, for most marketers, adequate is awfully expensive.

My prediction? Sometime in the next two years, WPP will merge all of its adequate agencies – JWT, O&M and Y&R – into one agency that will be big and old and perfectly adequate. Only EVEN BIGGER.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

It's official. Broadcast networks are now crapping in their pants.

After years of publicly claiming that the DVR was just an updated version of programming one's VCR to record shows, it seems the broadcast networks are finally getting honest with the public and themselves. In fact, you get the sense that they're now sitting in their offices with their heads in their hands, slowly moaning, "We're screwed. We're totally screwed."

Of course, they're not totally screwed. They're big, they've got cash, they've got inertia. But they're really going to have to think themselves out of the mess they're in and when you examine any recent broadcast network primetime schedule, you realize that thinking may not really be their strong suit. What's more, the DVR is only one part of their problem. There's also things like filesharing and BitTorrent and gosh knows what else on the horizon. How many times does any network — broadcast or cable — executive have to be reminded that about 400,000 people saw Jon Stewart skewer Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala on CNN while more than 20 million people viewed it on the Internet?

Here's an example of how DVR changes viewing. We have a client who recently got one of the machines that has these network executives so worked up. Our client is a bit of a foodie. He had seen a show called Good Eats with Alton Brown a few times on The Food Network. He liked the show, but he never matched his life to the broadcast schedule. In other words, if he was plopped on the couch and it was on, he might watch it, but he wasn't about to adjust his life for it.

Enter the DVR. He set the machine to record the show. He watched it when he had time. He enjoyed it even more than he thought he would. He went to Alton Brown's web site. He read his blog. I think he bought a T-shirt. And yes, when he watches the show on his DVR, he skips past all the commercials.

The question, of course, is who will pay for Good Eats if advertisers decide it's a waste of their time? Will the advertising shift to Alton Brown's web site and blog? Will Alton Brown have to sell a billion T-shirts in order to make any serious dough?

Of course, some new, financially viable model will eventually emerge. There's just too much money to be made by satisfying the basic American need for entertainment. The cool thing is that the turds like Bob Wright, Michael Eisner and Bob Iger might have to watch from the sidelines.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Bob Garfield Gets It.

Here's a link fromJeff Jarvis at BuzzMachine to Bob Garfield's audio essay on the future of media. Pretty smart stuff. I really like the basic point — everyone always talks about the bold, grand future without talking much about the taxing slog through the mud on the way there.

I think there's an added bonus if you take the time to listen. Even though the link isn't in podcast form, Garfield's piece is a good model for podcast production. The length of the essay, the production qualities — I think there's a lot in it that will form the basis of good podcasts in the future.

China-India. Money is the trump card.

It's interesting how mutual economic interests can overcome years of international discord. It's not like China and India suddenly decided, "Hey, you're not such a pain in the ass after all." No, they both decided they could get richer by working together. The question is whether business principles are always the best formula for international policy. More and more, it seems like we'll learn the answer over the next few years.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

WPP, Omnicom, Interpublic — Are Big Agency Networks Going to Become Content Distributors?

Last week, Ad Age seemed to verify the rumorsthat Motorola was talking to a number of creative shops about a branding assignment. Hardly surprising news, despite the fact that Ogilvy & Mather has done decent work on the account.

What I found interesting, however, was the statement that, "...it is possible Motorola will retain Ogilvy or another global agency as a distribution network." Motorola, and others, seem to realize that it would be wise to farm out creative projects to various agencies while still retaining the services of a large multinational for media buying and planning. Again, that in itself isn't entirely new, but calling this "distribution" really struck me. It's odd, but the use of that word seems to force big agencies and the holding companies to justify the existence of their creative departments.

Recently, I was talking to a senior-level marketing person who remarked that he believed the media arm of his agency was really his marketing partner. He does still use the same large global shop for creative, but the reality is that creative has become the final piece to fit into the puzzle. It's not really that difficult for a large company to pick and choose creative partners according to the needs of a project.

The big agencies and the holding companies could, in the future, adopt the movie studio model. Today, the big Hollywood studios usually just provide distribution and financing, while the actual moviemaking is left to studios such as Lion's Gate or small studios spun off by the big studios (Fox Searchlight, New Line, etc.). Applied to advertising, this would make big agencies the planners and the buyers of the media — the distribution and the financing — while smaller operations would compete for creative projects on a project basis. As a business model, it would probably make more sense for everyone.

It only stops making sense if big agency creative departments are cranking out work that is dramatically superior to the work done by the so-called boutiques. And I think most people would agree that's something that's just not happening.