Thursday, January 31, 2008

Your second chance at a New Year's resolution

The cult of FranklinCovey thinks you stand a decent chance of breaking your New Year's resolutions this week, assuming you haven't done so already. But even if you've failed at weight loss, better money management, or the Great American Novel, you still deserve a second chance to make some new resolutions. And Steve McKee's "suggestions for improving your marketing efforts" are a great place to start. A few highlights:

6. I won't project my media habits on my customers. You may hate country music or subscribe to obscure journals, but chances are many of your customers have different media habits. Just because you never see your ads in a certain place, doesn't mean that they don't.

7. I will be more open to taking risks. If you want to stand out you have to do something different. But doing something different is, by definition, risky. Don't be afraid to take a calculated risk with your advertising, it's your only chance to generate a big return.


11. I will not let lawyers write my copy. No offense to attorneys, but their job is to help you avoid risk. See No. 7 above.
One note: McKee's list was first published over a year ago, but it's just as relevant today as it was then. More evidence that good ideas have a pretty long shelf life.

Leadership Institute application deadline extended to Feb. 8

As mentioned in a comment to this post, the YLNI Leadership Institute application deadline has been extended to Fri., Feb. 8.

Now that you have another week to apply, consider this endorsement from one of last year's attendees:

I participated in this last year and found it well worth my time. Not only did I make some fantastic personal and professional contacts, but I also learned a great deal from the sessions themselves. This is an outstanding program for both those currently involved in YLNI and those looking to participate in the organization and the community overall.
Click here for a flyer, or visit to apply.

YLNI Leadership Institute application deadline is Friday

Applications for the 2008 Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana Leadership Institute are due this Friday, Feb. 1. Participants will attend five Saturday sessions and Thursday kick-off and graduation events. The cost is $225/person, with discounts available for YLNI members.

I will be presenting at one of the sessions, with a focus on workplace communication skills. Click here for a flyer, or visit to apply.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Black turtleneck optional

Great BusinessWeek column on Friday: "Deliver a Presentation like Steve Jobs." Carmine Gallo highlights 10 things that the Apple/Pixar founder does well, strategies you can adopt to make your next presentation insanely great.

Being a huge fan of the man behind the Mac, SBB also
has complied a list of its own--"The Top 10 Little Known Steve Jobs Presentation Strategies":

10. Start presentation by running down center aisle clad in a unitard; throw hammer through screen

Stop in mid-speech to take call from his wife on iPhone

8. Throw on a heather grey mock turtleneck, just to mix things up

7. Try to stuff
NeXT Cube into a manila envelope; fail

6. Use scissor lift to reach point on graph showing "Number of people pissed off when we lowered the price of the iPhone"

5. Unveil new iPod that doubles as a pacemaker

4. Put a pile of MacBooks on the stage next to a bag of
tangelos; yell "that's like comparing apples and oranges!"

3. Have henchmen force Bill Gates onstage to perform "
I'm a Mac, and I'm a PC" skit

2. Announce that he's going to give everyone in the audience a check equal to his annual salary;
giggle to himself while everyone goes nuts

1. When all else fails, bust out the Dilbert cartoons

Bonus coverage: check out highlights from Jobs' 2008 Macworld keynote

Hat tip: You know who you are.

Franchisees ask "Where's the beef?"; Wendy's responds with new campaign

A friend e-mailed me today about the demise of Wendy's "red wig" ads: "I am glad to see this campaign go away," she said. "It was beyond STUPID." Well, it sounds like Wendy's heard the same message from its franchisees. As MSNBC reports:

Wendy's International Inc. will scrap its eight-month old advertising campaign—much of it built on young men wearing a red wig with braided pigtails—amid continued weak sales, the nation's third-largest hamburger chain announced Monday.

[S]ales at stores opened at least a year — considered a key indicator of a retailer's strength — fell 0.8 percent at U.S. company restaurants in the fourth quarter compared with a 3.1 percent increase in the fourth quarter of 2006. At franchise restaurants, same-store sales were up 0.2 percent for the quarter, compared with a 2.7 percent increase the year before.
The "red wig" spots were created by Saatchi & Saatchi, the same agency that developed Wendy's landmark "Where's the Beef?" campaign in 1984. According to Advertising Age, the company has hired Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners to roll out new spots beginning Feb. 4:
Wendy's used its franchisee convention in Florida to unveil a new product-based campaign from Kirshenbaum that will begin airing next week. There's also a new tagline: "It's waaaay better than fast food. It's Wendy's."
There's a great lesson in all this for marketers and agencies, something that I mentioned in a previous post about Old Marketing vs. New Marketing: "Old marketing was about raising awareness. New marketing is about raising the rate of response." It's pretty clear that people noticed Wendy's "red wig" ads. But in retrospect, any thought that this increase in awareness would lead to increased sales seems, to quote the friend mentioned above, "beyond STUPID."

AdFed accepting 2008 Silver Medal nominations

The Advertising Federation of Fort Wayne is accepting nominations for its 2008 Silver Medal Award. The award honors "individuals who have made outstanding contributions to advertising and who have been active in furthering the industry’s standards, creative excellence and responsibility in areas of social concern."

Past recipients include
three members of the Bonsib family, Helene Foellinger, Hilliard Gates, George Nitecki (with whom I had the pleasure of working when I was at Parkview), Roger Diehm, and last year’s winner, Alan Nauts of University of Saint Francis.

All AdFed members are invited to submit a nomination in accordance with the guidelines shown here. The deadline is Feb. 8.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Sometimes it’s difficult to say no. But it’s becoming the most important word in a marketer’s vocabulary. Why? You have an ever-increasing number of options to get your message out—and many of them are ineffective.

Sometimes we say yes because we don’t like confrontation. Sometimes we say yes because we have money in the budget and we think we’ll lose it if we don’t spend it. Sometimes we say yes because its seems like the right answer at the time. But sometimes we don’t know why we say yes. And that’s why it’s important to get better at saying no.

Say no when you’re told something will only “build awareness.” Say no when there’s no way to measure response.

Say no to options that reach a large audience that’s not your target market. Say no to waste.

Say no to bad creative. Say no when no one can explain how the creative is tied to strategy.

Say no to the hard sell.

Say no to impressions when what you want is click-throughs. Say no to online ads that aren’t tied to content.

Say no to quantity when what you want is quality. Say no to anything that claims to reach “everyone.”

Say no to messages that depend on interruption for their “effectiveness.” Say no to messages that scream when they should whisper.

Say no to messages that aren’t aligned with your audience. Say no to trying to be all things to all people.

Say no to old media that no longer works. Say no to new media that has no other merit other than being new.

Learning to say no more often will help you learn when to say yes. And saying yes to the right stuff leads to results, which over time will give you confidence to know when to say no.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A precise, concise definition of good writing

In my writing classes, I tell students that good writing is first precise, but also concise. That means choosing exactly the right word/phrase, while also using as few words and sentences as possible. It means there's nothing left out that's necessary to convey exactly the right meaning, but nothing added in that's superfluous, either.

Sure, there's more to it than that. But "precise and concise" is a good place to start.

Dr. Seuss, ad guy

My head's still spinning from everything that was packed into the 84-minute Political Dr. Seuss documentary I watched a couple of weeks ago. Another SBB-relevant tidbit: at the start of his career, Theodor Geisel was an ad guy, creating illustrations for companies like GE, NBC Radio, and Standard Oil. The ads are drawn in Geisel's inimitable style, which would evolve as he developed characters like the Grinch, the Lorax, and the Cat in the Hat.

Originals and sketches of Geisel's ad work are housed at the Mandeville Special Collections Library at the University of California, San Diego, and you can view samples online at The Advertising Artwork of Dr. Seuss.

SBB tackles final week of Super Bowl ad coverage

Sometimes silence is golden. Sometimes silence is just really expensive. Friday’s
Dallas Morning News reports on an example of the latter from PepsiCo:

PepsiCo Inc. is hoping to make some noise with a Super Bowl ad featuring 60 seconds of silence.

During the Fox network's pregame show on Feb. 3, the nation's second-largest soft drink maker will air a commercial conceived by a PepsiCo employee, starring him and three others, including two who are deaf.
While PepsiCo is banking on the power of silence, one group of Super Bowl viewers is claiming that advertisers aren’t giving them anything to listen to. As Brandweek reports:
According to a new survey, 80% of moms plan to watch the big game and 60% say they will watch just to see the commercials. But 76% say they don’t think the ads are targeting them.

“The Super Bowl is an all-American affair, and moms around the country not only organize their families’ home-viewing parties, but are the segment of the market that actually purchase most of the products advertised during the game,” Teri Lucie Thompson, a board member at Marketing to Moms Coalition, Chicago...
There is, however, at least one advertiser who’s clearly hoping to get mom’s attention: the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Advertising Age provides a sneak preview of a Super Bowl spot from ONDCP that reminds parents to keep an eye on the Nyquil:
The Super Bowl spot, to air at the close of the first half, features a drug dealer complaining that his business is down because teens are getting high from abusing drugs in the medicine cabinet. It ends with an announcer saying: "Teens don't need a drug dealer to get high, safeguard your prescriptions. Safeguard you teens."
(By the way, SBB agrees with AdFreak’s take on the spot’s protagonist: "Didn’t I see that guy on a rerun of Starsky & Hutch? Maybe it was Miami Vice.")

But the ONDCP ad actually isn’t all that bad—especially in anticipation of some of the spots other advertisers have planned. This week’s poll provides a glimpse of the ones voted Mostly Likely to Suck by its readers. SBB is especially happy to hear that is near the top of the list.

And finally, speaking of things that suck, Thursday’s TV Week reports that none of the presidential candidates will be waving flags, shaking hands, and holding babies during the Big Game:
Fox has put an end to speculation that one or more of the presidential candidates might use the highest-rated TV broadcast of the year to air a national campaign spot two days before more than 20 states hold presidential primary and caucus votes.

While no candidate has yet requested time, the network has declared it won’t sell Super Bowl spots to their campaigns.

The reasons: The show is sold out and equal opportunities couldn’t be provided to all candidates, even if some additional time could be found for one to buy in.
Well, as much as we'll hear from the candidates during the next nine months, we could all probably use a break on Game Day. It's going to be hard enough sitting through whatever SalesGenie is letting out of its bottle.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Off Target

Interesting PR misstep this week from Target, a brand that usually gets it right. In the aftermath of the flap over its Times Square billboard, the Big Red Bull's Eye revealed its bizarre stance toward new media in a response to questions from the blog Shaping Youth:

Thank you for contacting Target; unfortunately we are unable to respond to your inquiry because Target does not participate with non-traditional media outlets. This practice is in place to allow us to focus on publications that reach our core guest.

Once again thank you for your interest, and have a nice day.
Erik Deckers summed up the stupidity of this position very nicely in his comment on Rare Bird:
Wait, is this the same Target that has a website at The same Target that sells more stuff online than they have in stock in their stores?
Here's the thing that has turned this story into a scream instead of a whisper: after the initial Shaping Youth post criticizing the billboard, the response from the blogosphere included some pretty vigorous comments in defense of Target. But after Target slapped the blogosphere, the blogosphere began slapping back.

After this week, I wonder if Target still thinks that it "doesn't
participate with non-traditional media outlets." The truth is that your company will participate in "non-traditional media" one way or another, either actively or passively. Make no mistake about it: you can't control the message anymore, and you only have a limited say in how your story gets told. But that's still much better than letting everyone else tell your story for you while you ignore them, making believe they don't exist.

Hats tipped to Rare Bird, PR Squared

Neoti launches at Moe's and Bandido's

This week's Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly includes a story about the Neoti Broadcast Network's Summit City launch. I'm quoted in the story, restating some of the things I said in this December post, but GFWBW also provides new information about what Neoti hopes to offer advertisers:

“The thing we like about that is the ability to ‘narrow-cast,’” [Neoti President and CEO Derek Myers] said. “Screen locations in Aboite can play content related to Aboite. Everything is geographically targeted to the area that they’re in.”
According to the story, Bandido’s and Moe’s Southwest Grill are among the first to host Neoti screens. It appears that Bandido's received some incentives to give Neoti access to its customers' eyeballs:
Bandido’s received free TVs, cable and Wi-Fi service as part of its deal with the company.
I'm curious what the early response is from Moe's and Bandido's customers. Have you seen the Neoti screens? Whaddya think?

Friday, January 25, 2008

How the web is changing healthcare

A few years ago, I worked in marketing for a local hospital system. The growth of the web in general, and WebMD in particular, was already changing the face of healthcare. One significant change was the patient/ physician relationship, which moved from something that looked like this:

  1. Patient chooses physician based on recommendations from family/friends
  2. Patient feels ill/gets injured
  3. Patient schedules appointment with doctor
  4. Doctor diagnoses illness/injury
  5. Patient follows doctor’s orders

To something that looked like this:

  1. Patient chooses physician based on recommendations from family/friends
  2. Patient feels ill/gets injured
  3. Patient surfs the web for information about the illness/injury
  4. Patient self-diagnoses
  5. Patient schedules appointment with doctor
  6. Doctor diagnoses illness/injury
  7. Patient determines whether diagnosis is consistent with what they found on the web
  8. Patient follows doctor’s orders...or asks a lot of questions

On Thursday, NPR did a great story on a new way the web is changing this relationship:

Health consumers are increasingly shopping online for doctors through peer-based sites like,, and even local city search sites.


Health insurance companies have been rating the performance of doctors for years, but consumers seem to prefer the opinion of their peers over a company that might have a financial interest.

WellPoint, the nation's biggest insurer, is apparently paying attention. It recently teamed up with Zagat — famous for its restaurant and hotel guides — to provide a rating system for doctors based on consumer input. According to founder Nina Zagat, the tool allows users to rate doctors on qualities of trust, communication, availability and environment.

This means the patient/physician relationship is evolving again, into something like this:

  1. Patient chooses physician based on recommendations from family/friends AND online reviews
  2. Patient feels ill/gets injured
  3. Patient surfs the web for information about the illness/injury
  4. Patient self-diagnoses
  5. Patient schedules appointment with doctor
  6. Doctor diagnoses illness/injury
  7. Patient determines whether diagnosis is consistent with what they found on the web
  8. Patient follows doctor’s orders...or asks a lot of questions
  9. Patient documents experience on peer-based site
  10. If not satisfied, patient returns to step one

What does this mean for physicians? Well, reputation has always mattered, but intangibles like bedside manner/customer service, the environment of the patient care setting, and wait times will be more important than ever, as subtle differences begin to separate the great from the merely good. If that sounds familiar, it's because it's exactly the type of change that's affecting nearly every organization. The difference with healthcare, of course, is that stakes are much, much higher, so the consumer's willingness to switch is much, much greater.

All of this leads me to two questions:

  • How do you use the web today, if at all, to make healthcare decisions?
  • What services/features would you like your physician—or your hospital, for that matter—to offer on the web?

Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

My takeaways from the Seth Godin seminar

Yesterday’s "How do you avoid the meatball sundae?" online seminar was pretty good. Not much new for those who are familiar with Seth Godin’s work, but it was a solid review of some of the changes that today’s marketers are facing—and how we can respond.

Here are the five takeaways that have stuck with me during the past 24 hours:

1. Seth presented some great examples of organizations that got defensive about new media instead of being innovative in how to approach it. The Yellow Pages could have evolved into Google. TV Guide could have evolved into YouTube. AOL could have evolved into Facebook. Unfortunately for them, they were too invested in doing things the old way. (After taking all this in and absorbing a question a friend asked me, here's another one: could have evolved into Facebook.)

2. Seth was asked what role ad agencies can play amid all this change. His response? “They have a great opportunity, but I think they’re going to blow it.”

Let’s start with that whole opportunity thing: if ad agencies are willing to do work that’s vastly different than what we do today, we can be more valuable than ever to our clients. This new work will involve sitting side-by-side with clients from a project’s conception, giving them an objective opinion on how to make their product or service truly remarkable. Agencies also can channel their creative energies into helping shape a differentiated message for that product or service, although that message will take the form of traditional advertising much less frequently.

Now, when Seth says “they’re going to blow it,” I don’t completely disagree. The agencies who aren’t focused on strategy, and who are more concerned with awards than getting results for their clients, will be irrelevant before long. But those who are committed to the principles of new marketing won’t “blow it”—they’ll simply take the place of agencies who can’t adapt.

3. Every organization needs to think of itself as an online business. Every organization needs to think of the opportunities inherent in social networking. If you don’t think those possibilities exist, you’re either not thinking creatively enough or you’re headed towards extinction.

4. The phrase “everyone’s a critic” must be taken literally today, because every customer has a voice, all those voices are equal in volume, and prospects will listen to one of your customers before they’ll listen to you. (If you don’t agree,
watch this clip. Then look at the number of views it’s received.)

5. Today’s marketer should strive for
permission: an invitation from customers or prospects to speak with them. It’s an invitation to take some of their discretionary time, which is the currency of the new marketing era. How do you know when you have permission? When your customers miss you when you’re not there (in their in box, on your blog, or next to you at the conference table, for example).

The best thing about attending the seminar, though, was that it sparked an idea for an organization I work with. That alone made it a worthwhile hour.

If you’re interested in learning more from Seth Godin, check out his books--including his latest, Meatball Sundae.

KFC user-generated Super Bowl promotion takes flight; Coors Light entries still horrible

Tuesday’s USA Today reports that KFC has introduced a Super Bowl promotion that actually sounds pretty decent:

KFC's contest, which began Tuesday, invites football and fried chicken fans to upload video of themselves doing an arm-flapping "chicken dance" at The most creative dancer wins a KFC-catered Super Sunday party package that also includes a new flat-panel TV, limo service for the guests and cleaning team to tidy up the next day.


In addition to asking regular folks to participate in its chicken-dance challenge, it also will involve Super Bowl pros. KFC will send letters to Patriots and Giants players, as well as halftime performer Tom Petty, asking them to do a chicken dance in the end zone or, for Petty, on stage. If anyone does it, KFC will donate $260,000 to Colonel's Scholars, which provides college scholarships.

KFC’s effort looks especially good after a peek at this week’s Coors Light Super Bowl user-generated videos. After Week 1, I didn’t think it could get any worse. I was wrong.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Green with...well, it's not envy...

You might think the green M & M's at your neighborhood Kroger have just arrived early for St. Patrick's Day. Actually, they're part of Mars Snackfood's Valentine's Day marketing efforts. So, what does green have to do with Valentine's Day? This is one of those times when I can't imagine how we survived before

Why won't graduate

A friend e-mailed me a great question the other day:

I've got a profile posted at . In order to do anything of significance on the site, you have to pay to access profiles of the people you went to high school or college with. Has this idea been superseded by Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networking sites where I don't have to pay to see profiles and reconnect with old friends?
The short answer is YES. The long answer is still YES, but it's a little more complicated. had a phenomenal opportunity to build a social networking site to rival its competitors at the time--Friendster and a new kid on the block called MySpace. had an advantage, too: it could build a social net
work based on real world relationships, with people already predisposed to connect online to relaunch or continue that relationship. Instead of creating income by harnessing the value their audience might have to potential advertisers, however, they decided instead to try to make money off of memberships and fees. That created a significant barrier to entry.

Around the same time, Facebook was launched for a limited audience: college students with a college-issued e-mail address. No memberships and no fees, but with the e-mail address prerequisite serving as a barrier to entry nonetheless. Once Facebook realized the power inherent in letting everyone in, however, they removed this barrier. The result? It's unclear exactly how much Facebook is worth today, but here's
one estimate.

Amid all this, whither Well, it's withering. Instead of opening their doors, they're still trying to survive by building barriers. For example, they keep telling me I have two e-mails in my in-box, but when I try to log-in and read them, I'm told I can't unless I buy a membership. And sure, I'm curious about who those e-mails are from, but not that curious--especially when I've probably already connected with the same people elsewhere. I have no idea why thinks this will work in a world where free e-mail and free network memberships are the norm. I can only guess they're hanging on to it because they can't come up with a better idea. What's the next move for Well, I pretty much agree with this guy. could have been named Most Likely to Succeed. Now they look like the class clown.

Final thoughts on The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR

This is the last of three posts on the SBB Book of the Month, The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR (you may want to read post 1 and post 2 if you haven’t already). A few more places where I believe the Rieses get it wrong:

  • The Rieses argue that the prevalence of “alternative” forms of advertising—their examples include blimps, stadium naming rights, and point of purchase displays—demonstrate that advertising is less effective than ever before. The problem here isn’t that this premise is wrong—they’re 100% correct when they say there’s more advertising clutter out there than ever before. But PR has exactly the same problem. That’s why you’re see PR agencies using more promotional stunts—some very effective—to get the audience’s attention, instead of just relying on earned media. We have more stuff competing for our attention these days, and that’s true whether you’re talking about a full-page newspaper ad or the full-page news story running next to it.
  • The most egregious head-to-head comparison the Rieses make is between Coca-Cola and Microsoft. Here’s the crux of the argument: the Coca-Cola brand, launched in 1886, was built on advertising; the Microsoft brand, launched in 1975, was not built on advertising; therefore, advertising must be in decline. Again, I don’t disagree that the rules of the advertising game have changed dramatically, but this example is beyond oversimplified. The reason why Microsoft didn’t need a large advertising budget to build its brand is that they had very little competition. If you had a near monopoly, how much would you spend to advertise your product?
  • In a book full of flaws, the biggest one may be the Rieses use an ad from Long Island’s Adelphi University to demonstrate why advertising doesn’t work. The headline: “Harvard. The Adelphi of Massachusetts.” This ad’s failure has nothing to do with advertising itself and everything to do with a horrible ad concept. If you’re an unknown, you don’t take on the brand leader by claiming you can beat them at their greatest strength (especially when you probably can't beat them at their greatest strength). This goes beyond David vs. Goliath: this is David dropping his slingshot and challenging Goliath to a wrestling match. With one hand tied behind his back. After insulting Goliath’s mother. Sure, bad ads won’t help you build your brand. But bad examples like this don’t help the Rieses build a case for PR's supremacy.
Overall, The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR provides some good case studies in PR done well and advertising done poorly. But in focusing only on those extremes, the book ignores the true problem that today’s marketers face: both advertising and PR face serious challenges in today’s cluttered, chaotic communications environment, and marketers need to use every tool available to them. Sometimes that’s PR. Sometimes its advertising. And sometimes its neither. But don’t put away that slingshot just yet.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Pregame starts in 15 mins.; SBB's Super Bowl ad coverage continues

No, it’s not quite time for the Super Bowl pregame show, but there’s a blitz of ad news with less than two weeks to go before the Big Game.

Yesterday’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer discusses some interesting possibilities with Super Tuesday following hard on the heels of Super Sunday:

How about a presidential "vote for me" ad during the Feb. 3 Super Bowl? The notion of such a high-impact political commercial just before two dozen states vote has crossed some media advisers' minds. But chances seem pretty slim.

A 30-second ad during the Super Bowl is going for as much as $3 million. In an age of ultra-targeted media strategies, there are other ways for a political campaign to spend $3 million than on a commercial that would compete with some of the best spots Madison Avenue can produce.

Super Bowl aside, the number of states in play Feb. 5 and the unsettled state of the race two weeks in advance pose a political advertising challenge unseen before.

"It's a long way to go in a very short time," said political ad analyst Evan Tracey. "It feels like bold move time."

Four Super Tuesday states have are home to huge numbers of fans of the Super Bowl New York Giants and New England Patriots: New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

And while it’s not likely that you’ll see a spot from the man (or woman) who will be king, today’s New York Times says it’s almost a guarantee that you’ll see a spot from the King of Beers:

Anheuser-Busch, which buys more commercial time each year in the Super Bowl than any other marketer, is likely to run seven spots in Super Bowl XLII on Feb. 3, all of them for Budweiser or Bud Light. The spots being considered for the game would last an aggregate of four minutes: one is 60 seconds and the rest are 30 seconds each.

There will also be a so-called secret spot, not appearing during the Super Bowl, that owners of mobile devices like cellphones will be able to watch when the game ends as part of a promotion.

And for those of you keeping score at home, you can...well, keep score at home for the ads, too, as reported in today’s New Mexico Business Weekly:

McKee Wallwork Cleveland is launching its ADBOWL Web site for the eighth consecutive year to gather and tabulate opinions about Super Bowl ads.

The Web site, first launched by the Albuquerque full-service advertising agency in 2001, provides an online, real-time system for individuals to vote on Super Bowl advertisements, rating them a "touchdown" or a "fumble," said Steve McKee, president of McKee Wallwork Cleveland.

The results are announced just after midnight the night of the game. ADBOWL totals are collected, but not shared real time on the site so that voters aren't influenced by the opinions of others

One more thing: there's a new poll in the right-hand column. Let’s hear how closely you'll be following the ads during this year's Super Bowl.

Enter the Fort Wayne Purple Cow-abunga Contest

Just a reminder about our little contest. No word yet from Seth, but maybe I'll ask him about it at tomorrow's seminar.

More on The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR

This is a continuation of yesterday’s post about the SBB Book of the Month, The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR. Here are a couple of places where I believe the book falls short.

The Rieses contend that today, PR is more powerful than advertising because advertising lacks credibility. And while it’s absolutely true that people today are skeptical of advertising, it’s due in large part to their skepitism about everything, including the earned media coverage that the Rieses proclaim as a marketing smoking gun. One of their supporting arguments is that advertising people rank just above car salesman when it comes to crediblity. But they failed to look at those same survey respondents' feeling about public relations practicioners and media professionals. I might be wrong, but I’d be willing to bet that neither group would rank much higher than those in advertising—and certainly not as high as the nurses and doctors against whom the Rieses use as a benchmark. Both advertising and PR have a credibility problem, and we need to ask ourselves what if anything we can do about it instead of kidding ourselves that one is better than another.

One thing the book does well is reminding readers that advertising should lead to increased sales instead of just hard-to-quantify “awareness.” They support this argument with several examples of campaigns that had no effect, or a negative effect, on the bottom line. Almost without exception, however, the examples they use feature dinosaur brands that have serious product problems or that have experienced major changes in their competitive environment. Sure, you could make an argument that AT&T’s advertising did nothing to help sell its phone service. But what the dozens of competitors who entered the marketplace leaner and more agile than AT&T? And it’s probably true that Chevrolet’s ads have done little to move cars off dealers' lots. But Toyota runs ads, too, and it seems to be doing pretty well nevertheless.

Perhaps the worst example that they use, however, is one intended to show how a brand can succeed even with ineffective advertising. The brand they chose is Target. Here’s an excerpt:

As with many marketing programs today, there’s a disconnect between the advertising and the consumer perception. Target’s advertising focuses on visual symbolism using the "target" logotype, while the targets of Target’s advertising, its customers, talk about wide aisles, neat displays, and hip merchandise. No one ever says "I go there because they have this neat trademark.”
I’m sorry, but this argument is just stupid. Sure, Target's advertising features its logo—but so does nearly everyone in the history of branding and advertising. The message of Target’s ads is that they offer accessible, inexpensive high design, and they are successful because—guess what?—they really do offer accessible, inexpensive high design. Target’s advertising is integral to its success as a brand because it reinforces its differentiated position. You would think Al Ries, one of the men who helped define positioning, would understand that.

Obviously, I have some strong opinions on The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR. I’ll post some final thoughts tomorrow, and after you read those I’d encourage you to give your opinion in the comments.

"How many points for 'dumbass'?": B.L. Ochman on the Scrabulous Scuffle

Last week, SBB put in its two cents about the scuffle over Scrabulous. Yesterday, the inimitable B.L. Ochman had her say. A sample:

So Hasbro asked Facebook to take down Scrabulous – which attracts over 600,000 daily users and nets the brothers $25,000 worth of advertising a month.

What’s the point of turning your biggest fans into criminals? Why not just buy the company? Why not advertise the Scrabble board game on the Scrabulous pages of Facebook?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Old marketing vs. new marketing

I had one of those big, ambitious, fun, 10,000-foot-level conversations today about what’s changed in marketing during the past few years. Here’s my take...what’s yours?

Yesterday, the loudest marketing message was the one most likely to be heard. Today, the loudest message is one most likely to be ignored.

It used to be about spending as much money as you could afford to reach the largest group of people with the right message. Today, it’s about spending the absolute minimum to reach only the right people with the right message.

Old marketing primarily dealt with words and images. New marketing starts with data.

Old marketing was about raising awareness. New marketing is about raising the rate of response.

With old marketing, it was hard to do a good job of measuring results. With new marketing, it’s hard to do a good job unless you measure results.

Old marketing was about always being the smartest person in the room. New marketing is about being great at bringing people smarter than you into the room.

Old marketing started with a conversation about the product or service. New marketing starts with a conversation with your customers.

Marketing used to be about making the greatest profit. New marketing is about making the greatest impact on your customers’ lives, and having confidence in that leading to profit.

Poll results: ads on your cell phone

Our poll about ads on your cell phone isn't by any means statistically significant, but it still tells an interesting story about permission:

  • 61% of you are " against them altogether"
  • 38% of you are "O.K. with them if they're opt-in only"
  • No one was "O.K. with them no matter what"
I've stated previously (here and here) that the telecomm companies should do everyting they can to make opt-in ads the industry standard. It sounds like most of you agree--and that you'd hang up on unsolicited ads, too, if you could.

Book of the Month: The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR

Just as Time occasionally selects a Man of the Year due to his impact on society more than his contributions to society (Adolph Hitler, 1938; Joseph Stalin, 1939; You, 2006), SBB will occasionally offer up a Book of the Month that is more influential than it is exceptional. Our choice for January, 2008--The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR by father and daughter team Al and Laura Ries--is such a book.

Now, given the book’s title, it could be that I’m biased because I work in advertising. But here’s the catch: I also work in PR, so I just as easily could be in the choir to whom the Rieses are preaching. As a result, I ended up looking at the book pretty objectively and without much in the way of preconceptions. As I result, I found several flaws in the authors' logic, an oversimplification of several important issues, and somewhat of an ignorance of the true shift that both disciplines are experiencing. What we’re really seeing today is the fall of bad advertising and PR, and the rise of good advertising and PR. Your audiences won’t let you waste their time, whether you’re doing so in an ad, a news story, or anywhere else. The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR, however, ignores this reality and instead draws only from the best of PR and the worst of advertising. It’s kind of like saying that beef is better than chicken because filet mignon is better than the wings at KFC.

The Rieses seem to have come up with a thesis first and then found evidence to support it, while also ignoring anything that contradicted it. The unfortunate thing is that they could have written a more balanced argument and ended up sounding much more credible instead of looking like they’re out of touch and ill informed.

If you’re looking for a PR how-to manual, The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR offers some great suggestions. However, much of what the book says about advertising is either shortsighted or just plain wrong.
Tomorrow and Wednesday, I’ll post a few examples of where I think the Rieses miss the mark, along with a discussion of some important issues that affect those who work in advertising , PR, or both. If you've read it and would like to comment, I'd encourage you to do so after you've read all three posts about the book.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Is this Texas candidate The Biggest Loser?

Fox News reports on a Texas congressional candidate with a big fat PR problem:

Dean Hrbacek appears slimmer than usual in a new campaign brochure because a photo of his head was affixed to the image of a different body.

While the mailer sent to voters this week by the former Sugar Land mayor says "Dean's record speaks for itself," his physique clearly does not.

The picture, presented as a true image of the candidate, is a computerized composite of Hrbacek's face and someone else's slimmer figure, in suit and tie, from neck to kneecaps.


Campaign manager Scott Broschart acknowledged the image is a fake. Hrbacek has been so busy meeting voters that he had no time to take a full-length, genuine photo for the political mailing, Broschart said.

So Hrbacek's campaign put the headless body with the candidate's head.

"He may appreciate that we took a few pounds off him," Broschart said. "I think the voters ... are more concerned with the issues as opposed to pretty photo shoots."

Actually, Scott, they’re concerned with both. An audience will let you get away with best-foot-forward tactics in your advertising, as long as what they’re seeing is somewhat authentic. You can have the photographer adjust the lighting. You can have the candidate shave right before the photo shoot. You even can put him in a suit that hides a few pounds. But use the ol’ head/body switcheroo, and voters are going to start wondering what other tricks you're using to deceive them.

Advertising on its own doesn’t win elections, but advertising that creates PR problems sure doesn’t help. In trying to make Hrbacek look like The Biggest Loser in his brochure, his campaign may have just ensured that he’ll be a big loser in the March primary.

Bonus coverage: the Lone Star Times has a close up of the less-than-stellar PhotoShop work that started the big fat controversy.

Kelly Tilghman, the PGA, and PR

The Kelly TilghmanLynchident” is an object lesson in how public relations has changed—and how it hasn’t
in the New Media age.

If you haven’t heard about it, here’s a summary: during a recent PGA event, after commentator Nick Faldo said that Tiger Woods’ opponents might want to “gang up” on him, Tilghman took things one step further by suggesting that they should “lynch [Woods] in a back alley.”

As a result of her comment, Tilghman received a two-week suspension from the Golf Channel (she’s due back Thursday). Woods has brushed the whole thing off as a “non-incident,” but the Rev. Al Sharpton is calling for her to be fired.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the story, however, was what followed, as the Chicago Tribune’s Ed Sherman reports:

The first person to get fired as a result of Kelly Tilghman's "lynch" comment wasn't Kelly Tilghman.

Golfweek editor Dave Seanor was dismissed Friday, the fall guy for the magazine's decision to use a cover featuring a noose in its report of the Tilghman controversy.

Bad decisions all the way around, that’s for sure. So what can those in PR and media learn from all of this? Quite a bit, actually:

  • Branding matters. Tilghman and Seanor’s employers celebrate all things golf, and that means they are part of the sport’s ethos. The downside is that this ethos includes an unfortunate legacy of racism, sexism and exclusivity that affects any brand that aligns itself with professional golf. Would have Tilghman’s words and Seanor’s cover have gone unnoticed if the sport was baseball, basketball, or football? No, but golf’s reputation as discriminatory towards minorities—warranted or not—sure didn’t help. (And it’s worth noting that even though Woods’ race and Tilghman’s gender demonstrate how far the sport has come in recent years, the brand is still bigger than any one person.)
  • But your personal brand matters, too. Most people probably hadn't heard of Tilghman before her gaffe--and that may benefit her in this case because we're not predisposed to support or criticize her. Among those who do know her, however, she seems to have a reputation as a solid, uncontroversial professional (in a world where solid and uncontroversial are highly valued). This makes her much different than the likes of Don Imus and Howard Cosell, whose careers changed dramatically after they made comments that were deemed insensitive. Both Imus and Cosell built their reputation with their mouths, which paid off handsomely for both for most of their careers—until they slipped up. The lesson? Be aware of your “personal brand” and the risks that come with it. What you’re known for can make you famous—or infamous.
  • Personal relationships matter. When you discover that Woods and Tilghman are friends, it takes a lot of air out of the argument that Tilghman had malicious intent. And when Woods came to her defense quickly and unequivocally, it took a lot of air our of the controversy as a whole. Who you know, and how you treat them, still means something.
  • YouTube and the blogs are watching. Today, if you make a mistake, someone’s going to catch it. And if you’re in the spotlight, you’re going to make a mistake eventually. What can you do about it? Mitigate the damage by apologizing early and sincerely. And don’t try to make believe it didn’t happen, because your audience can log onto YouTube and watch it happen over and over again. I don't know how many people saw Tilghman’s slip up when it was first broadcast. But it’s almost a guarantee that the original audience is inconsequential as compared to the number of people who have watched it on YouTube or read about it on a blog. News has always traveled fast, but today it doesn’t even have to move—it just sits there where millions of people can find it, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, forever.

It’s obviously better if you can stay out of trouble in the first place, but the next best thing is being prepared. Think ahead to how you’d respond if you were in Tilghman’s Footjoys. Everybody makes mistakes, but what really matters is whether your immediate response minimizes the damage—or makes things even worse.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Super Bowl Ad Shuffle

Hyundai was out. Now they’re back in.

And if you want a full rundown of who’s running what during the Super Bowl, Advertising Age has put together the complete lineup, so far. (Hyundai is listed as day-to-day.)

A few highlights:
  • Anhauser Busch has 10 spots in the Super Bowl. That’s $27 million they could have spent on beer.
  • Frito-Lay is once again going the user-generated route.
  • GoDaddy’s Bob Parsons is in his annual battle with network execs. (Read more about it on his blog.)
  • The NFL reveals the winner of its “Superad” contest
  • Justin Timberlake’s back in the Bowl courtesy of Pepsi, hopefully keeping his grubby paws to himself this time
  • tries to win the Super Bowl of Sucking. Again.
  • Victoria’s Secret is in, undoing everything that the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty did for female self-esteem.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Now HERE'S how to get attention with a banner ad

Great stuff from Apple and TBWA, and bonus points for playing off an existing, successful mass media campaign. Double-bonus points for tying it to relevant content on the page.

Hat tip: AdFreak

Congrats, Rachel

SBB sends out the heartiest of hearty congratulations to Rachel on her new gig. The Public Information Officer position is a great match for her intellect, communication skill, and professional approach, and she will serve the city, its citizens, and the media very well.

Sadly, Rachel's new job means that Be Part of the Solution is leaving the blogosphere. In the short time that it was up and running, BPOTS quickly became a go-to site for measured, informed, rational discussion of local issues. Rachel also was incredibly generous in sharing both ideas and her technical knowledge with other bloggers, both of which have been a huge help to me in starting SBB.

On a personal note, I'll miss commenting over at BPOTS, and since Rachel was employed by a client, I'll miss working with her in the real world, too. But I also know this is a
tremendous opportunity for her, and I know she'll do a great job.

So good luck, Bea Pots. Keep in touch.


SBB thinks there's a lot you can learn from those who create truly different, truly great PowerPoint presentations. But we also like the video about what NOT to do posted at AdFontes on Tuesday.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Scrabulous Scuffle leaves players at a loss for words

Game players love it. Hasbro hates it. And now, it’s in a war that makes the battles in Stefan Fatsis’ Word Freak look like child’s play.

It’s Scrabulous, the web and Facebook phenomenon that borrows more than a little from Scrabble, the world’s best-selling board game. How similar are the two? Just a glance at a Scrabulous board (see above, and note the trouncing I’m taking from Martha and Rebecca) tells the story. And now it’s gotten serious enough for the lawyers to be involved, as Reuters reports:

Game companies Hasbro, which distributes Scrabble in North America, and Mattel, which is responsible for its overseas trademarks, have reportedly asked Facebook to remove the game from its application directory.

One interesting note that says something about the power of social networks: Scrabulous was living a pretty great life out on the web (where I first discovered it), but Hasbro didn’t seem to care until it become all the rage with the kids on Facebook. All’s fair, apparently, until someone pokes your brand in the wrong place.

The Scrabble Scuffle has also started an interesting online debate about whether Hasbro would be better served to collaborate with the makers of Scrabulous or fight it out in court. In a comment to his post on Tuesday, Scott at Collective Wisdom argued that “Hasbro can be the hero by buying Scrabulous and mak[ing] money, or wast[ing] a bunch of cash on lawyers.” Others, however, think that Scrabulous is not exactly being above board by encroaching on Hasbro’s intellectual property rights in particular and the rules of fair play in general.

As both a rabid Scrabble fan and a Scrabulous junkie, I’m caught in the middle (along with everyone else in Facebook forums like "Save Scrabulous!" and "If Hasbro Kills Scrabulous, I Will Die!"). I definitely see where Hasbro’s getting screwed, but I applaud Scrabulous for giving players a free online option that doesn’t suck (unlike Yahoo’s lame Literati). And it gets even more complicated when you consider that Scrabulous is making serious money off their version, which Hasbro probably could have done if it invested in innovation instead of legal fees.

The whole thing reminds me of the music industry and Napster. Sure, artists should get paid for their work, but you gotta love a system that gives you exactly what you want at no cost. My guess is that we’ll see a similar result here, with Scrabulous going the way of Napster (blown up only to be resurrected as something about 5% as good), Hasbro going the way of the music industry (enjoying a short-term win while still contemplating long-term irrelevance), and players going the way of music fans (using Lime Wire to get around the system until we feel guilty enough to buy a couple of songs on iTunes).

In the end, the whole thing is likely to leave Scrabulous players at a loss for words. After all, disputes like this having a happy ending are as rare a triple word-score bingo.