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View From The Cheap Seats: Advertising’s Most Provocative Columns

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A broader look at advertising, marketing, branding, global politics, office politics, racial politics, and getting drunk during a job interview. …

A broader look at advertising, marketing, branding, global politics, office politics, racial politics, and getting drunk during a job interview.

An abridged version is available in softcover and e-book formats at Amazon.com.

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  • 1. 2002My Client, The Bait-and-Switch Sleazebags .................................................................................................8Why Few People Respect Advertising in the Morning ...............................................................................10Are You Targeting Me? Are You Targeting ME? .........................................................................................12I Got Your Account Planning Right Here, Pal .............................................................................................14I’m Not Lying To You Right Now ................................................................................................................16This Agencys For You .................................................................................................................................18The Creative Teamsters ................................................................................................................................20Hey, Luke, Squeeze This .............................................................................................................................22The Enemies Down The Hall ......................................................................................................................24“60 Minutes” and a Brilliant Marketing Minute ..........................................................................................26Advertising For Columbine .........................................................................................................................28 ............................................................................................30On Killer Books and Hard-Hitting Executions Screw Unto Others… ...................................................................................................................................32This Column is Gold, Baby .........................................................................................................................34Chapter 11 in The Book Of Advertising ......................................................................................................36 2003Geezertising .................................................................................................................................................38Leaping to The Dark Side ............................................................................................................................40Getting Embedded With the Client ..............................................................................................................42In The Belly Of The Beast ...........................................................................................................................44Jumping The Shark ......................................................................................................................................46Can’t We Just Be Friends? ...........................................................................................................................48Majority to Minority ....................................................................................................................................50Telemuckraking ...........................................................................................................................................52Paging Richard Simmons .............................................................................................................................54Queer Eye for the Ad Guy ...........................................................................................................................56Just Sue It .....................................................................................................................................................58Consult This .................................................................................................................................................60Random Questions .......................................................................................................................................62Im the Best Columnist Ever ........................................................................................................................64This is Your Holding Company on Drugs ....................................................................................................66Slippery Jelly at the Helm of a Dubious Idea ..............................................................................................68The Soul of Soles .........................................................................................................................................70A Super Lesson ............................................................................................................................................72Trump and Chumps ......................................................................................................................................74
  • 2. Brands Flying Blind .....................................................................................................................................76 2004From a No Show to the One Show ..............................................................................................................78FBI, CIA, AAAA, and CYA ........................................................................................................................80Subservient Agency .....................................................................................................................................82The Bastards Among Us ..............................................................................................................................84Word-of-a-Whole-Lot-of-Mouths-Advertising ...........................................................................................86I Cannes Tell You Exactly What Happened .................................................................................................88Clear Problem, Clear Solution .....................................................................................................................90Advertising Week (or maybe it’s Advertising Weak) ..................................................................................92Corvettroversy .............................................................................................................................................94In the Land of the Fee ..................................................................................................................................96Black, White, and Spot Color ......................................................................................................................98Living Under the Bus .................................................................................................................................100Addicted to Advertising .............................................................................................................................102New Words for the New Year ....................................................................................................................104It’s All About the Benjamins--or the Bernbachs ........................................................................................106Wardrobe Malfunctions and Advertising Dysfunctions .............................................................................108H-P and the Bigger Picture ........................................................................................................................110Boeing and Banging ..................................................................................................................................112Desperate Housewives and Desperate Senators .........................................................................................114 2005Maximizing Our Skill Sets to Enable Synergistic Crap ............................................................................116Installing an Upgrade to Ad Industry 2.0 ..................................................................................................118Madison Avenue, Main Street, and the Arab Street ...................................................................................120If You’ve Been Injured by an Ad Agency... ...............................................................................................122The Home for the Strategically Challenged ..............................................................................................124Taking Size 14 and 36DD Risks ................................................................................................................126When A.D.D. Adds Up to Crapola .............................................................................................................128Stuck on Stupid ..........................................................................................................................................130Directly Speaking, Can We Control Ourselves? ........................................................................................132The French Evolution ................................................................................................................................134Polluting the Mental Environment .............................................................................................................136The Bald Midget and the Furniture Store Owners Daughter ....................................................................138
  • 3. I Want My CA, and I Want My MTV ........................................................................................................140The Super Critics ........................................................................................................................................142Scrubbing Bubbles and Flubbing CEOs ....................................................................................................144Living In the Echo Chamber ......................................................................................................................146Oh, the Humanity ......................................................................................................................................148**This Column is Not Valid in Indiana .....................................................................................................1507-Layer Ads ................................................................................................................................................152 2006Safe, Shit, and Everything Else That Happens ..........................................................................................154This Column Brought to You by People For Stuff .....................................................................................156This Land was Hand-Crafted for You and Me ...........................................................................................158The Interactive Ghetto ...............................................................................................................................160HeadOn--and Production Values Off .........................................................................................................162Hardback Books and Hard Truths ..............................................................................................................164The Consumer is Not a Moron. Or am I? ..................................................................................................166The Tale of Retail .......................................................................................................................................168Be Borat or Be Boring ...............................................................................................................................170Righting the Writing ..................................................................................................................................172Rescuing Lost Brands ................................................................................................................................174Of So-Called Rock Stars and Stage-Hogging Poseurs ..............................................................................176Dinosaurs, Cockroaches, And Guerrillas ...................................................................................................178The Law of the Advertising Landscape .....................................................................................................180The Agency Internal Combustion Engine ..................................................................................................182The Sanjaya Principle ................................................................................................................................184Surrounding Yourself With Breakthrough Nonsense .................................................................................186Harry Potter and the Obtuse Client ............................................................................................................188 2007A Diverse Set of Problems .........................................................................................................................190Turning Chinese .........................................................................................................................................192Shuffling the Deckhands ............................................................................................................................194Getting Back to Your Agency’s Roots ........................................................................................................196When Bad Ideas Happen To Good Agencies .............................................................................................198A Carbon-Neutral Pile of Manure ..............................................................................................................200The Importance of Filtering Actionable Jargon Into Buckets ....................................................................202
  • 4. Striking it Rich, or At Least Striking It Profitable .....................................................................................204Outsourced Outside The Box .....................................................................................................................206Year-End Closeout Thoughts .....................................................................................................................208Primary Lessons, And Secondary Ones Too ..............................................................................................210Chasing a Moving Target ...........................................................................................................................212Obamarketing .............................................................................................................................................214Some Free Thinking ..................................................................................................................................216Where Adweek Meets Businessweek ........................................................................................................218When Weird Works ....................................................................................................................................220Digitally Divided We Stand .......................................................................................................................222Back to the Future of the Past ....................................................................................................................224Interactive Agencies and Passive Mentalities ............................................................................................226 2008The Defense of the Offensive ....................................................................................................................228The Loyal Treatment ..................................................................................................................................230Cutting Off a Campaign’s Legs .................................................................................................................232Read This or Else .......................................................................................................................................234From Wasilla to Madison Avenue ..............................................................................................................236The War On Talent .....................................................................................................................................238A Cheap High and New Lows ....................................................................................................................240The Fantasy of Reality-Based Advertising ................................................................................................242The Advertising Industry Stimulus Package ..............................................................................................244ROI: Advertising’s Dirty Four-Letter Word ..............................................................................................246Why Asking May Be the Answer ..............................................................................................................248Couples Counseling for the Agency-Client Relationship ..........................................................................250Read Globally, Be Pissed Locally .............................................................................................................252Nothing is Dead, So Let’s Bury that Idea ..................................................................................................254The Path To Empathy .................................................................................................................................256But Wait, There Really is More .................................................................................................................258Are You Smarter Than An Ad Student? .....................................................................................................260 2009Wherever You Go, There You Advertise ....................................................................................................262Brands and Stands ......................................................................................................................................264Life is Not a Two-Page Visual Solution Spread ........................................................................................266
  • 5. Capitalism: An Advertising Story ..............................................................................................................268From Cliff to the Abyss ..............................................................................................................................270Giving the Usual Routine the Boot ............................................................................................................272In Ad We Trust ...........................................................................................................................................274Tiger, A Little Tail, and the Marketing Beast .............................................................................................276Houston, We Might Could Have a Problem ..............................................................................................278Thirsting for Originality .............................................................................................................................280The Bigness of Small, Powerful Targets ....................................................................................................282Your Attention, Please -- If You Can Spare Any ........................................................................................284Brand Building, Now 30 Percent Off ........................................................................................................286Spilling the Brand Promise ........................................................................................................................288Tracking the Rise of Tracking ....................................................................................................................290The Irregularity of Regulating the Ad Biz .................................................................................................292News You Might Not Want to Use .............................................................................................................294More Advertising Needs to Smell Like Fun ..............................................................................................296 2010Can One Agency Really Do It All for a Client? .........................................................................................298Happiness in Advertising? Now That’s an Idea Worth Counting ..............................................................300It’s Still the Economy, Stupid -- So We Need to be Smarter .....................................................................302Looking for Transparency in Marketing? Sorry, There’s Nothing There ..................................................304Want Less Government? Then You Might Get Less Advertising ..............................................................306Surely, Ads Can Still Influence Popular Culture ........................................................................................308Do You Have an “Off” Switch ...................................................................................................................310The Rope and the Tug of Advertising. Which Do You Prefer? ..................................................................312The Strange Reality of Working Virtually .................................................................................................314
  • 6. Branding. Religion. Censorship. Office politics. Global politics. Sexual politics.Good ads. Bad ads. Ageism. Sexism. Racism. Art. Science. ROI. CRM. BS. CYA.Think of a topic related to advertising. Chances are you’ll find it in here.I started writing this column on TalentZoo.com in 2002. And since then, I’ve always been thefirst to tackle controversial, newsworthy and provocative issues that advertising professionalsconfront on a daily basis but rarely discuss.Why? Because I believe that advertising, and the ad industry in general, suffers because of thecumulative effect of thousands of dimwitted decisions made every day. I’ve witnessed quite a lotof good advertising business practices. But I’ve also witnessed quite a lot of dysfunction. Andit’s healthy to talk about both of those.Advertising is a business based on communication, yet so often ad agencies do a poor job withtheir own internal communication. Advertising agencies believe they are the “stewards” of theirclients’ brands, yet advertising agencies do a lousy job managing their own brands. These are justa couple of the numerous ironies and idiosyncrasies of the ad industry.Most editorials written by advertising’s so-called “creative superstars” generally lapse into "letsfight and push our clients to break the mold" pseudo-inspirational bullshit. If it was that easy tocreate and sell great work, the One Show annual would be 5000 pages long.So I decided there was a need to question everything about the way the ad industry conductsbusiness. In my columns, I ask tough questions. I dont claim to have all the answers, and I don’tthink anyone else does, either. But I’m happy to be the one who starts the conversation.I possess the ability to see and understand how even the smallest details comprise the big picture.That’s why I call my column “View From the Cheap Seats.” I’ve heard from hundreds of peoplewho appreciate what I write.I hope you enjoy reading these columns. And because I believe in the power of constructivecommunication and feedback, please let me know what you think. Send your comments todgoldg@mindspring.com.© 2002-2011 by Dan Goldgeier. All rights reserved. Articles contained herein originally appeared on TalentZoo.com and have been reproducedwith permission from Talent Zoo Inc. Please feel free to make photocopies of the contents of this publication and tack up favorite columns onyour cubicle wall. Just don’t sell this book to some dude in SoHo who’s peddling movie scripts and bootleg DVD’s from a card table. Wow,you’ve read this far? Amazing. Who says nobody reads body copy anymore?
  • 7. 3/21/2002My Client, The Bait-and-Switch SleazebagsWhy would honest agency people work for dishonest clients?All advertising people eventually own up to a certain amount of self-loathing about the adbusiness. Hucksters, whores, sellouts--we question whether the world really needs thisadvertising shit. For the most part though, ad people perform a service that helps clients andgreases the wheels of capitalism and hey, capitalism is a good thing. But what happens when wework on something that makes us truly loathe the ad business?I started thinking about that question once when I worked on a particular project. Not to get intospecifics, but my clients were truly bait-and-switch con artists. They (with my copywriting help)wanted to advertise a service for a certain price. Then they admitted to me that 90% of the time,customers pay 4 times as much for the work if it’s done properly. In other words, I had topromote a $100 deal that that usually ended up costing $400. All this to a blue-collar targetaudience who needed to keep their hard-earned money. The whole assignment made me want topuke.Okay, fine, these people had a history of working with my agency, no big deal, I just did thework and kept my mouth shut. Then, poking around the Internet one day, I did a search on thiscompany and discovered they had been profiled on a weekly newsmagazine show andinvestigated by the Better Business Bureau in several states for deceptive practices.To make matters worse, my clients really were not nice people. The account represented only atiny sliver of our agencys billings but consumed huge amounts of time because they were sohigh-maintenance and demanding. The account was unprofitable, and the creative was awful,too.I wish I had the power to tell this client to take a flying leap, but I didnt. I was just a lowly CWand there’d be hell to pay if I actually spoke the truth. I couldnt understand why my boss evergave this client the time of day. Why he never told them that running deceptive ads was ahorrible idea that, while it might drive short-term traffic, would kill them in the long run. Why henever pointed out that brand loyalty erodes when they continually screw their customers. No, hejust went along with all of it--even though our agency would do just fine without them. Did thismean our agency was as scummy as our clients?Clients like these are all over the place. Agencies, too. As I found out, even legitimate, honest adagencies run by honest people are all too happy to service the business. But as professionals, weneed to draw a distinction between puffed-up language and dishonest claims. Too often, we knowwhen our clients want to cross the line yet we’re reluctant to call them on it or suggest a higherroad. Is this why so much advertising stinks? Is this why consumers have such a low regard foradvertising and the people who make it?
  • 8. All the truly good work our industry does gets neutralized in the face of crap like bait-and-switchadvertising. Regrettably, faced with my own bait-and-switch client, I didn’t do shit. Maybe Iwon’t do shit next time either, or maybe I’ll take a stand. Maybe now is a good time to begintaking a stand against clients that promote their products and services with deceptive marketing.Who’s with me?©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 9
  • 9. 5/2/2002Why Few People Respect Advertising in the Morning(Or any other time of day)As an industry that assaults the public with unwelcome messages, advertising has a responsibilityto do more than just make, or take, money. So, when I see a high-profile campaign that sucks, itreally pisses me off because everyone sees the greed and shallowness of the ad industry.The consequences are harmful when a high profile campaign misses the mark so widely. I’ll pickone example.You’ve all seen the latest anti-drug ads or at least you’ve heard about them. Teenagers sayingoverly dramatic soundbites like, “I helped kidnap a Columbian judge” or “I helped slaughter aVenezuelan family.”You’re supposed to believe these teens are somewhat responsible for the treacherous state oftoday’s world just because they smoked pot or popped Ecstasy.Give me a fuckin’ break.I’m not going to spew a long-winded political diatribe on the subject. This column isn’t“Hardball.” No matter what I think about the war on drugs or the war on terrorism, the factremains this ad campaign is an untruthful, irrelevant, giant steaming pile of crap.However, I’m willing to be a good, compliant American. If the Government’s new ad strategyinvolves using the threat of terrorism to fix our nation’s ills, I’m on board.In fact, I’ve even concepted the second round of the campaign. Here’s my thinking and theexecution:-What has funded our recent terrorism more than drug money? America’s dependence on oil.-Who in America uses the most oil? Folks who drive SUV’s and minivans.-Who drives SUV’s and minivans? Soccer moms.So I say the next batch of ads feature soccer moms behind the wheel of their Expeditions andLand Rovers, saying their gas-guzzling vehicles encourage terrorism and worldwide carnage.Now, why won’t you see those ads? Simple. Soccer moms vote. Teenagers don’t.
  • 10. The current ads point fingers at teenagers, a group of people who don’t have a registered voice totalk back, and it’s a cop-out to lay the terrorist problem at their feet. Yes, the anti-drug campaignis controversial. It’s being talked about. Fine.Stopping terrorism and drug use by linking the two won’t put a dent in either. Good advertisinghas at least a nugget of truth, believability, or entertainment. The anti-drug spots fail on all threeaccounts.I picked this campaign because it isn’t a Macaroni & Cheese or feminine hygiene account. Weexpect those categories to be filled with bad work. I don’t intend to piss on this one campaignand the campaign’s creators.Simply put, I want to illustrate that bad thinking on a high-profile account in a public service-type category like this is truly harmful to the advertising industry.Admittedly, I feel slightly sorry for the ad folks who worked on the campaign. I know it sucks towork from a ridiculous creative brief, having done it many times myself. Plus, the client is theGovernment. Uncle Sam is well-stocked with guns and search warrants.What are you gonna do, look your powerful client in the eye and tell them they’re wrong? Wouldyour agency (or any agency, for that matter) turn down lucrative government cash on principlealone?I will venture a guess that most ad professionals see right through public service campaigns thatdo nothing to truly serve the public. Ad people have a knack for detecting bullshit even while weare slinging it. If we as ad professionals don’t believe it, why do we think millions of people willbelieve it?Recently, the outgoing Chairman of the Board of Directors of the 4A’s said that the generalpublic doesnt respect the ad industry "as much as they should." Well, duh. I think the anti-drugcampaign is a high-profile example of why.Advertising can be a powerful tool to advance businesses, organizations and certainly causes.Advancing those entities successfully means strategic thinking and execution that comes from anhonest place.It’s not too late to maintain some credibility of the craft of advertising. First, however, we needto stop whoring ourselves to anyone who waves a buck in our face, and then ask to be respected.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 11
  • 11. 5.21.2002Are You Targeting Me? Are You Targeting ME?As long as they don’t know too much about me, Im all for 1-to-1 marketingSomeone in the ad business recently told me, "In a few years, all marketing will be directmarketing." I think thats a likely proposition, and a very scary one.Selling a client on things like CRM and one-on-one marketing is easy. Clients salivate when youmention services that “add value,” and those services tend not to involve breakthrough creativeideas. Clients are attracted to any rational way to justify their companies’ marketing expenses totheir boss. They hunt for quantifiable results wherever they can find them, and theyre quick tovalue data over mass marketing.Most of us are familiar with direct marketing in the classic sense. Publishers’ Clearing House.Ron Popeil’s Spray-on Hair. Telemarketing calls at dinner.However, the notion of creating a one-to-one relationship with every customer is slowly creepinginto every segment of marketing, and taking shape in new ugly ways.So far, Ive been resisting grocery stores so-called "loyalty cards." Its really not loyalty--more ofa Pavlovian method of jacking up prices and lowering them again the next week.The hope is consumers will be attracted to weekly sale prices they can only attain by using theirhandy loyalty card. This perceived “savings” supposedly increases store loyalty. But true brandloyalty lies in the trust a consumer places in a brand. I don’t trust these cards, so these stores sureas hell dont have loyalty from me.If I applied for a “loyalty card,” I’d need to supply my name, address, phone number and otherpersonal info. The card would have a unique ID strip to identify me when I buy something.Im not a conspiracy theorist, but I thought of a scenario that doesnt seem too far-fetched to me.If I go in and buy Twinkies, cigarettes, and beer every week, they know.What if my HMO found out about my slovenly purchases? Would I get a "lazy bastard"surcharge on my monthly premiums? Could an insurance company deny me health care coveragealtogether until I start buying rice cakes and bottled water? Yuck!Even drugstore chains are introducing loyalty cards. Can personal hygiene habits be tracked?Thats even scarier.Maybe technology lacks the sophistication to link people directly to the merchandise theybought. How do I know that? I dont. There’s no telling what information is being collected andhow it’s being used.
  • 12. What would happen if a grocery store chain went out of business and sold its customer databaseto someone else? Sounds to me like that’s a more valuable asset than the shelving and freezers.Every week a news story appears about our increasingly tracked lives. A certain mega giganticsoftware company can track documents written on its software. TV recording devices make noteof what you watch. Websites record where you’ve surfed. Even courts can subpoena bookstorepurchases to find out what you read.Every day, databases around the world collect more and more information about us without ourdirect consent. Although much of our industry embraces these marketing techniques, I’mconfident it will come back to haunt us.The public may not revolt against marketers in protest, but as consumers ourselves, each one ofus will face a day when we realize someone out there knows too much about our habits.The ad industry always struggles with the battle of art vs. commerce. We know that the adbusiness will always be an inexact science, and there’s no precise method of predicting consumerbehavior. The pursuit of data enhances our capabilities, and yes, it often adds value to ourservices. But at what price?Have we entered an era where the only way the ad industry can increase its value to our clients isto resort to Big Brother tactics? As an industry, we have responsibilities to the public as well asour clients. Just because technology allows us to track this stuff, does that mean we should?We’ll never again see an area where a simple TV or print campaign is all a brand needs. Wouldour industry ever decide that certain one-to-one marketing techniques and research methodsshould be off-limits? I wonder if it’s too late to have that discussion. If it isn’t too late, well, I’mhere, and I like Cheez Doodles. Or did you already know that?©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 13
  • 13. 6/13/2002I Got Your Account Planning Right Here, PalDo we really wanna know what consumers think?Admit it: whenever you tell someone you work in advertising, they turn into an instant critic. Ata family gathering last year, my uncle came up to me and started complaining aboutcommercials. In this case, he was bitching about a couple of Wieden and Kennedy’s Miller HighLife spots. We didn’t have a long conversation.Me: “Do you drink beer?”My Uncle (who’s about 60): “No.”Me: “Then what do you care?”Sure, I could have talked his ear off about target audiences, the advantage of entertaining ads, thelack of USPs in beer advertising, but I would have been wasting my time. My uncle wouldn’tcare, he only knows he doesn’t like/get/understand the ad, and “how can a commercial like thatpossibly sell beer?”Wait a minute. Didn’t the Miller High Life campaign win awards? That means it MUST bebrilliant, right? How come my uncle doesn’t recognize that brilliance?If I have to try and defend award-winning spots to people, I will definitely have troubledefending the real crappy ones.What bothers me is I know my uncle is not an anomaly. A lot of “breakthrough creative” goesover consumers’ heads. Not because they’re the wrong target for the ad, or because they’restupid. Consumers just don’t analyze advertising the same way ad professionals incessantly do.Ad people sweat the details most folks don’t notice. But often times, it falls on deaf ears: I hadsomeone tell me once, “I’ve never seen an ad that made me buy anything.” And then she droveoff, to Pottery Barn, in her Lexus, stopping at Starbucks along the way. You know people likethis, right?We ad pros have convinced ourselves that the kind of advertising consumers say they respond toin a survey or focus group does not always correlate to a purchase. It’s an ever-so-subtle way ofthinking we know what’s best for consumers.In order to bridge the gap between what people say and what people do, we’ve invented all sortsof methods to get “inside consumers’ heads.” My question is: Do we really want to know what’sin there?
  • 14. For all the talk about understanding our audience and identifying with their lifestyles, why don’twe get some of them to judge award shows? Boy you’ll get a wake up call then.Let them get in a room with all the work spread out on long tables. Pump them with coffee andlet their eyes glaze over. Let’s see what they come up with.Who would take home Best of Show at a People’s Choice advertising award show—the AFLACduck? The 1800-COLLECT commercial with Carrot Top? The Dell ads with that punk kid?(Actually it might be those truly funny Bud Light “Real Men of Genius” radio spots—I’ve heardmany non-ad people rave about them. Is there anyone on the planet that dislikes those?)We’re living in a time where clients are trying to maximize the effectiveness of their advertisingdollars, and clients don’t correlate effectiveness with what ad people deem to be creativity.Advertising, therefore, has become more pervasive and more ubiquitous. We’ve turned up thevolume to 11, but it’s the same old song. Is that what consumers, like my uncle, want?I would’ve asked him, but by then I’d had a few too many Miller High Lifes. Hey, I’m trying mybest to consume the products of One Show winners. It’s the least I can do.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 15
  • 15. 7/8/2002I’m Not Lying To You Right NowDid corporate America learn the art of lying from advertising?The last few weeks have been rough. See, I’m a WorldCom shareholder. Or, uh, I was. And I’mpissed. Some people need to go to jail. Hell, I want to make a citizens’ arrest.WorldCom is only the latest in a long line of corporate clusterfucks. Seems that many executivesthink it’s perfectly fine to lie straight-faced to the media, stockholders, customers, and mostimportantly, their employees. What MBA program teaches that lying is an acceptable practice?If profit and greed were the motives for all this illegal activity, then the executives who madethese decisions were simply in pursuit of serious wealth. More wealth than anyone really needs,which I wouldn’t ordinarily have a problem with. Except in this case, screwing over other peoplein pursuit of this wealth wasn’t an obstacle.Which led me to think: Did the advertising industry legitimize lying for the rest of the country?Any student of advertising knows that back in the early days, stinky breath, B. O., and lifelesshair were all touted as sure tickets to living a life without friends and no chance of ever gettinglaid. (Those facts haven’t changed, but it really is a little subtler now).Over the years, however, the ad industry upped the ante. Advertising promotes the good life.Nicer homes, nicer cars, nicer stereos, nicer wrinkle-free faces, etc. It didnt matter if a personcouldnt afford the lifestyle, thats what credit cards and second mortgages were for.But corporate executives had other methods of acquiring wealth: cooking the books, ludicrousstock option packages and golden parachutes. It’s possible the corporate thievery and greed werereading about these days have been perpetrated by people who were hell-bent on living thelifestyle that advertising told them was possible.I really hope advertising isn’t the root cause of the current malaise. I like to believe thatadvertising serves a good and valuable service in a capitalistic society. We send the messages,but we don’t coerce people to take action. If a person has a fundamental sense of right andwrong, and some self-control, no amount of advertising can make someone dishonest in thepursuit of wealth or nicer goods.Reading the headlines, however, makes me wonder if anyone has self-control these days. Ouractions have come back to haunt us. The ad industry is in a deep recession because we’re now onthe ass end of a boom our marketing imagery helped create.
  • 16. As a society, do we need to pull back on the relentless pursuit of more and better stuff? Canadvertising agencies and clients survive a change like that? Or are we resigned to a culture ofrelentless consumption and greed?The problem is that the more drastic the economic situation is and the tighter competition gets,the more marketers will do to skirt the rules to sell as much as possible. As a result, the fine printgets longer and the little white lies get bigger. To promote the corporate image, companies willpass themselves off as healthier, more viable businesses than they really are.We can find a middle ground. I believe the advertising industry can promote its clients’ productsin an engaging, informative way without causing consumers to overextend themselves. I believecorporations can market themselves and pursue their profit motives without doing it at theexpense of the rest of the population.Of course, I also believed WorldCom stock was a good investment.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 17
  • 17. 7/23/2002This Agencys For YouThe industry’s sucking wind--maybe advertising agencies should try advertisingAgencies are cutting costs. Cutting people. Freezing salaries. Hocking the foosball tables.Getting rid of the free bagels. All of which are symptoms of a bigger problem.Every week, a new article appears about how advertising is dying or becoming irrelevant. Ingeneral, the industry can’t seem to stop the slide. Most agencies do good work for clients, butthat message isn’t getting out.So why aren’t ad agencies promoting themselves by advertising?Besides the cutesy masturbatory ads you see in Creativity magazine or a local awards showannual, you never really see ads for ad agencies, do you?I actually saw an agency in Texas advertise itself. The shop took out full-page ads in a slickregional magazine. One had a photo of a bull in it with the line “Great ads without the bull.” Ithink another one had a donkey with the line “kick ass advertising.” I know, I know, but they getan A for effort in my book. At least someone’s out there doin’ it. This agency kept up the self-promotion for a long time, too—every month was a new ad. Then I read recently that they had tolay a few people off.You’ll never see advertising agencies advertise themselves often. Is there a secret fear thatadvertising doesn’t work, so agencies don’t ingest their own medicine? Can agencies simply notafford the media? I would say “no” to both those questions.Here’s the real reason why you won’t see ads for agencies: creating those ads would be the mostpolitically charged, fucked-up assignment anyone ever worked on. Donating a kidney would be amore pleasurable experience.Most agencies sound alike in their self-promotion materials. Want proof? Look at the missionstatements you see on agency web sites: “We’re passionate about the power of creative ideas toget business-building results for our marketing partners.” Or some shit like that.I’ve found that most people in agency management don’t have a vision for their business. (Andno, making a shitload of money and screwing employees in the process doesn’t count as a“vision.”) And the fish rots from the head down.Without a point of differentiation, agency self-promotion efforts devolve into the very kind ofadvertising we loathe-- full of non-offensive double-talk and empty platitudes.
  • 18. If you filled out a creative brief to sell your agency as a brand, what would it say? And what kindof creative work would result?Until ad agencies get better at building their own brands--promoting their own services, definingwhat they stand for, and defending their point-of-view and their work, clients will find otherways to spend their marketing dollars.After all, brands either live up to their promises, or they die. Right?©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 19
  • 19. 8/12/2002The Creative TeamstersWhat if advertising people had a union?As a baseball fan, I get really sickened at the prospect of yet another players’ strike. Then I getreally intrigued at the same time.If baseball players, actors, and screenwriters can form unions, why can’t advertisingprofessionals?Advertising doesn’t require heavy lifting, and unless your boss has an X-ACTO knife fetish orfull-time PMS the work isn’t dangerous, but our industry struggles with all the hot button issuesthat unions have traditionally tackled: job security, hours, benefit cutbacks, blatant age and sexdiscrimination, fill-in-yourgripe here.Me, I’ve written TV and radio campaigns that were so effective they were still being aired longafter I’d left the agencies I wrote them for, with not an extra penny or drop of credit to show forthe effort.If I had been a union VO talent on those spots instead of the copywriter, I might have been moreproperly compensated.Let’s also address the current state of staffing in the ad business today. Nothing is more patheticthan ad people who blurt out “I’m slammed” when you ask them how they’re doing. Seems thatnobody has the means to hire additional help, yet “slammed” is a sorry-ass way to live no matterwhat kind of work you’re doing for a living.So what if we all did something about the industry’s current sorry state of affairs, like unionizeand strike?A strike would test the notion of how much impact a “superstar” employee has on the endproduct, how interchangeable ad pros really might be, and how much of a vendor-likecommodity advertising is.Just imagine, if you will, an advertising creatives’ strike. While ad people are off picketing (orhanging out at the bar or Starbucks), agency owners and holding company executives could hirescabs.Maybe the scabs would bring back the puns that were so in vogue 20 years ago. (“Makes PastaFasta” lives again!!) Maybe every ad would feature dogs, babies and big-ass logos. I imagine thework at Wieden would suffer tremendously, but nothing coming out of Grey would be any worse.
  • 20. The weird part is, the more I think about an advertising union, the more, uh, anti-American itsounds. I mean, unions seem like such an Industrial Revolution throwback kind of thing, a 20thcentury solution to a 21st century problem.However, as the ad industry becomes more centrally controlled, with more work being done byless people, and technology making it virtually impossible not to spend all of one’s waking hoursthinking about work, I wonder what the solution might be.Two high-profile books coming out soon are predicting “the fall” and “the end” of advertising.Well, maybe some radical thinking could save the business.Although Hollywood no longer employs the “studio system” that kept people bound for years,the screenwriters, actors, directors, and other groups still receive some form of protection fortheir labor.The ad industry loves to compare itself to Hollywood, with our politicized work environments,our “creative superstar” system, and constant art vs. commerce battles. So, why not followHollywood’s lead and unionize?Hey, at least we’d have picket signs with killer headlines and art direction.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 21
  • 21. 9/10/2002Hey, Luke, Squeeze ThisA plea for some useful adviceIf I see any of the following phrases again Im going to scream:"Push the envelope.""Good enough is not good enough.""Tell the client what they need to hear, not what they want to hear.""Get your book together and quit your measly job if youre not getting into CA."I dont fault ad people for the volumes of books and op-ed columns they write to inspire us. I’djust like to see some advice for those of us who spend our days at agencies where greatness is inshort supply. At shops struggling to get to “the next level,” which are the majority of agencies,the hurdles to producing great ads are much more fundamental.Recently, I was thumbing through my well-worn copy of Luke Sullivan’s Hey Whipple SqueezeThis. It’s a great book. Lukes a genius. I personally just cant seem to use much of his advice.Here are a few of Luke’s tips:“Insist on a tight strategy.”Good one. I’m a big believer in strategic thinking, and on a few occasions, I’ve been allowed tocontribute to the process. So what happens when you don’t have a strategy at all, much less atight one? What should you do when you don’t get a creative brief, and you’re not in a positionto change that? Insisting on a tight strategy is futile when "increase sales and increase awareness"is all the insight you get.“Cast and cast and cast.”Luke’s talking about radio here. I love writing radio, and I know that casting is essential. So whatdo you do when a client wants to record new radio spots, but doesn’t want to pay for uniontalent. Or pay for non-union talent. He simply looks around the room at the two thin-voicedwriters and says “You guys have nice voices. Why don’t you do it?”“If the client says he has three important things to say, tell the account executive the clientneeds three ads.”In my experience, this tends to go over like a lead balloon. I could tell an AE that all daylong,and the AE might be sympathetic, but I’ll still end up with ad that has a snipe on the top, asnipe on the bottom, and a starburst in the corner.
  • 22. “Don’t let advertising mess up your life.”Well, it’s too late for that, I’m afraid. Sometimes I think the sole purpose of advertising is tomess up people’s lives.In a perfect world, we could all throw out a choice Luke Sullivan, David Ogilvy, or BillBernbach bons mots and our fellow co-workers and clients would instantly see the light of day.But the world isn’t perfect. There’s a legion of ad professionals who aren’t doing two-pagespreads with near-invisible logos. Who only have $20,000 to do a TV commercial. Who haveclients that would rather art direct or rewrite an ad than approve one. Who work in agencies thatare understaffed or improperly staffed, which compromises strategic thinking, planning,concepting and execution.Where’s the advice for us?I’ve heard the statement that "90% of all advertising is crap." Lord knows, I’ve done my share.But it’s been my experience that producing “crap” is a group effort, requiring the collectiveefforts of clients, agency management and staff.I’m only one person, with no power over anything other than this column. How can I overcomethe poorly trained yes-men and yes-women who lurk in every facet of the ad making process?Help me, Luke. I need you. Together, we can bring that “crap” percentage down. We should beable to get it to 89% in no time.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 23
  • 23. 9/24/2002The Enemies Down The HallCant the various disciplines all just get along?Even in the year 2002, many agencies keep people of different disciplines isolated from oneanother. While espousing "integrated communications," we have segregated agencies.Maybe you’ve worked in a shop like that. I have.Id only been at the agency a week or two when an assignment came in to write headlines for anew campaign consisting of 15 ads or so. So I wrote a bunch of headlines and taped each one tothe wall of my office. That way, Id take a look, get some reaction from my co-workers, and get asense of which headlines were the strongest. Perfectly normal, or so I thought.Not at this shop. Before me, no one had ever publicly displayed ideas in their gestation stage likeI did. I was treated like a sideshow freak. "You really need to decorate your office better," oneAE smirked.Id stumbled into a nether-nether world where no one collaborated and ideas were not shareduntil it was time to actually present something. Everyone, in every discipline, keeps their cardsclose to their chest.The distrust runs far and deep. Does your agency keep account service, media, and creativepeople separated in different parts of your office? Or on different floors? I suggest an agencystructured so dysfunctionally runs like a prison. You know, where the white-collar criminals stayseparated from child rapists.Physical barriers become mental barriers. Ive heard many creative directors say, "Well, if wedont do such-and-such, well look bad to account service." As if someone in the agency iskeeping score. We couldnt even pitch rough ideas internally without fear of having it killed.Bill Backer once said ideas need "care and feeding." Well, I suppose that means Ive worked atthe advertising equivalent of an abortion clinic.The "us vs. them" mentality of account service and creative people still exists in many agenciesacross the country. Hell, at many places, the media people stay even more isolated than the restof the agency. Terrible.Ive always believed that the many of the best creative executions have involved a unique mediaplacement. Knowing when and where an ad will appear, and using that info to custom tailor amessage, is a powerful tool.Unfortunately, media people arent involved in the creative process. And vice versa.
  • 24. Theres no law that says AEs cant write a headline or media people cant think about creativeexecutions. Theres no law that says a copywriter cant help write an account plan or a creativebrief. Ideas can come from anywhere, and they can be improved by anyone.We all have our respective jobs to do, and areas of expertise. Advertising, however, is acollaborative business. A business where no two products made are alike. In order to besuccessful, an agency needs to welcome an open free-flow of ideas. Let the bad ideas die on theirmerits, not because of fear, ego or politics.Stop the infighting. Stop the isolation. Start working together on every project, from thebeginning. I believe an ad agency can operate this way and still make money.Besides, we all know who the real enemy is.Its the client. Right?©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 25
  • 25. 10/15/2002“60 Minutes” and a Brilliant Marketing MinuteHow Donny Deutsch Made Advertising Relevant Again--For a MomentA few weeks ago, “60 Minutes” ran a segment that focused on network TV and advertising’sperpetual fixation with youthful target audiences. They interviewed Donny Deutsch and alsoshowed some clips from the Mitsubishi campaign.When the segment was over and they went to commercial, guess what the first spot in the breakwas? Yup —a Mitsubishi spot. Brilliant move, Donny.This media buy might have been a coincidence, but I’m willing to bet it was intentional.Seems to me the audience of “60 Minutes” doesn’t reflect Mitsubishi’s target demographics onan ordinary Sunday. In this case, however, the fit was perfect, and the subject matter of the storyput me in the right frame of mind to see the commercial moments later.I use this example because the impression I get is not that Deutsch has savvier media buyers(though they might be) or that Donny Deutsch is a whiz at his own PR (though we all know heis), but that his agency overall is a more creative and effective agency in terms of what they dofor their clients.So much talk focuses on why PR is more effective than advertising these days, but ad agenciesdon’t have to become irrelevant. Perhaps we can learn from Deutsch’s example—an example ofwhy he’s an effective brand steward for Mitsubishi.The fundamental premise of advertising is built on paid airtime or space—agencies and clientscontrol what the message is, who sees the message and when they see the message.Do ad agencies utilize the benefits implied in that premise? Hell no. We have so much controlover a brand’s communications, yet most advertising is still dull, irrelevant, and in ever higherquantities that numb the senses.Can one person, or one creative team, one AE, fix this problem one ad at a time? Sure.While we determine how brands should fit into a consumers’ lifestyle, we should also determinehow a brand’s advertising more closely matches the media environment.As a creative person, I have always made it a point to find out when and where an ad will appearbefore I begin concepting, because all information pertaining to an assignment, including mediaplacement, is powerful. I keep all the information in mind so I create a more creative andeffective ad.
  • 26. If I know the ad is going in the sports section, I write an ad relevant to the people who read thesports section. If an ad’s going to air primarily late at night, I write with insomniacs in mind.I thought this logic could be easily applied at smaller agencies where it’s easy for everydepartment to work closely together, and small clients could appreciate the added value ofstrategic thinking that blends creative, media and PR. Unfortunately, in my experience, smallagencies, in particular, seem ill-equipped to implement such a process.Every assignment for a brand fits into The Big Picture. Every point of communication can furtherbuild a brand. Any client can benefit from integrated ideas (and in Mitsubishi’s case, sharpthinking and good timing) that make budgets go farther.But many agencies don’t encourage their employees to embrace interdisciplinary thinking. Nordo agencies strongly advocate to their clients the benefits of that approach. In the haste to simplyget work out the door, people fail to consider the big picture, big ideas go unrewarded, and ourclients’ money gets wasted.Maybe that’s why people are beginning to think advertising has decreasing relevance. Maybethat’s why small ad agencies stay small. Maybe that’s why Deutsch went from a small agency tonational prominence in only a few years.So here’s to you, Donny. Your PR stunt, backed with paid advertising, worked on me. Just don’tget a big head because I’m giving you props, okay?©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 27
  • 27. 11/5/2002Advertising For ColumbineThe message we send to consumers: Be afraid--be very afraidOkay, I wont make this a movie review, but I recently saw Michael Moores new movie"Bowling for Columbine." The film is a study of violence in America, and a culture of fear thatseems, in part, to be fueled by media hype.Its a great movie, and whether you agree with Moore’s views or tactics, he makes you think. Atleast he made me think--because advertising, though not a central culprit in the movie, plays asupporting role.Has advertising created fear as the primary reason to buy something? Is preying upon that fearthe best method of marketing? As advertisers, can we sell our clients goods and services to anaudience thats too scared to buy?Where I live, the nightly local news is a litany of stories about murders, car accidents, robberies,school violence and health alerts. How can an advertiser transition to happy news of"STOREWIDE SAVINGS!" at a commercial break and expect their audience to be receptive?We preach about understanding consumers’ mindsets, but have you ever seen a creative brief thatdescribes a target audience as “scared shitless?”When people are afraid, advertising loses relevance by assuming everything’s OK. Take therecent D.C. sniper shootings. I dont live in the D.C. area, but I really would love to know howgas stations or convenience stores could advertise as if they were conducting business as usual--sending the message of "hey, come in for gas and soda" when people were afraid to get out oftheir cars.The release of “Bowling for Columbine” couldn’t have been more perfectly timed. In one scene,Moore flashes a montage of reports of the nightly news about everything that we should beconcerned about: contaminated food, poisonous snakes, polluted water, killer bees, etc. As if theworld was safer and healthier 200 years ago.All the bad news has a cumulative effect. If you believe what you read in the paper or see on TV,the world is a very scary place. Whether the threat is legitimate or imagined, the fear becomesreal. And as ad people know, perception is reality. The distorted view becomes the norm. Ifyou’re suddenly afraid to leave your house or pump gas because a random sniper’s on the loose,your abnormal behavior becomes normal.
  • 28. And advertising preys upon that fear. The solution, we say is to buy more--security systems,fences, child safety seats, bacteria-killing handi wipes—to protect against any threat. This, on topof the daily fears of not appearing sexy enough, smart enough, rich enough, or confident enoughin the eyes of friends and neighbors.I think fear is a core tenet of the advertising business. Internally as well as externally.Look at your agency. Are you surrounded by fear? Fear of ideas being rejected, losing clients(who are also fearful), losing jobs, losing money. So the tendency is to fall in line and not makewaves. There’s safety in mediocrity. If you speak your mind, or go against the conventionalwisdom, you could easily be fired-especially in this economy. Consequently, much of the workpanders to the lowest common denominator— fear.If more advertising were life-affirming, and less fear-inducing, would the world around us feelsafer? Would the rest of the culture reflect our positive changes?“Bowling for Columbine” doesn’t have the answers, and neither do I. Unfortunately, I dontbelieve that ad agencies, ad people, the media or consumers are going to stop perpetuating thecycle of fear, because fear sells. Thats what scares me the most.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 29
  • 29. 11/26/2002On Killer Books and Hard-Hitting ExecutionsThe bizarre vernacular of the ad industryAs a writer, I’m perpetually curious about the power of words. Like any profession, advertisinghas its own vernacular. However, since we’re in the business of communicating with the generalpublic, I find the language we use internally to be very bizarre. Let me show know you what Imean.“Shop” Ad agencies are commonly referred to as “shops.” This term has an old-world feel, as ifad people were artisans like cobblers or blacksmiths, crafting great ads in our “shop.” But in myexperience, clients tend to dictate what they want, and get it exactly how they want it, the wayMeg Ryan ordered food in “When Harry Met Sally.” Maybe we should refer to an ad agency notas a “shop,” but as a “diner.”“Killer” Describing any great ad as “killer” always perplexed me. If an ad is a killer, well, doesit mean the ad’s “target” would be rendered dead by watching or reading the ad? Are we talkingabout advertising or quail hunting? Killer diseases are bad. Killer bees are bad. Serial killers likethe Son of Sam are bad. Why are killer ads good?“Hard-hitting” I once had a client who continually requested that ads be more “hard-hitting.”This meant inserting more exclamation points, more use of warnings like “DON’T MISS OUT!”and of course, more starbursts and snipes. The result? My ads were hard-hitting, but they weren’tkiller. Many clients believe hard-hitting ads work and I think I know why. Ads deemed to be“hard-hitting” leave the audience staggered, but still physically able to buy something. However,an audience killed by “killer” ads is dead and can’t use their credit card.“Executions” In advertising agencies around the world, thousands of unsuspecting, innocent-looking ads are executed every day. An “execution” of an idea means a finished version of theidea. Just like variations of the death penalty, there are many ways to execute an idea, whichbrings me to a similar term:“Produced” An idea “produced” means that the ad actually appears on-air or in print. Producingan ad means you’ve brought it to life. What confuses me is in some cases, “execute” means “toput to death” while “produce” means “to bring into existence.” In advertising, though, it’sperfectly acceptable to use the two words together, which makes for some bizarre English--moreon that later.
  • 30. “Edgy” Somebody (Dan Wieden I think, but I’m not sure) already addressed this term prettyeffectively. He said that when something has an edge, someone is bound to get cut. The moralhere is that if you go to present an “edgy” idea to a client, bring some tourniquets. Remember:edgy ideas are not always killer ideas. And if you fall on your sword for an edgy idea, you mightbe the one who gets killed. Or fired.“Book” This word has a strange dual meaning: It describes both a creative portfolio and, moreoddly, a magazine. The first time I heard a Creative Director refer to home improvementmagazines as “shelter books” I nearly pissed in my pants from laughing so hard. A term like thatsounds ridiculous, but it’s a common usage. If magazines are “books,” what do we call actualhard-bound books?Confused about the way people in your agency talk? Don’t be. Just remember these tips:--Any ad can be executed, but killers are usually executed well.--To “kill” also applies when an ad isn’t going to reach the public. You can have a killer ad killedby a client before you get a chance to execute it.--Killer ads tend to win more industry praise than hard-hitting ads. Especially in your book.--An ad that is produced may not be the best possible execution, and your executions may not bewell-produced.--At any moment, your executions may be killed at random by people you’ve never met forreasons that don’t make sense.--If an idea has legs, you may be able to produce many executions for a long time. And puttingall those produced killer executions into your book may land you a great gig doing edgy work ina hot shop.Got it? Good. Now let’s all go out and communicate with our audience.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 31
  • 31. 12/18/2002Screw Unto Others…Religion and Advertising: Two very similar, and sinister, conceptsI was setting up my Beanie Baby Jesus nativity scene when it struck me that no one should gettoo worked up or too surprised about the increasing crass commercialism of the holiday season.In fact, I think Jesus, Moses, Allah and Buddha would all be ad people if they were alive today.What do advertising and religion have to do with one another? Plenty.Advertising and marketing are borrowing basic tenets of religion to increase customer loyaltyand sales. Nike created a belief system around its brand. So did Ben and Jerry’s, Harley-Davidson, Saturn-- all established a set of values their brands were based on. On Sundaymorning, you can go to church to feel a sense of enlightenment and community. You can also goto Starbucks and feel the same thing.A few years ago, an ad agency declared that “brands are the new religion.” Human beings aretribal beings —joiners at heart. Everyone wants to feel like they’re a part of something biggerthan themselves.If Christianity, Judaism, Islam, etc, won’t do the trick, maybe driving a Saturn will. Is it aspiritually empty way to embrace a brand instead of a god? Maybe, maybe not. But advertisinghas legitimized thinking of brands as having value systems one can believe in. Consequently,many consumers have bought into this.What’s dangerous is that positive messages in both advertising and religion always come withnegative implications for disbelievers.You can easily intertwine similar ideas about religion and advertising. Ill do it in the samesentence: If you don’t believe in this deity or buy this product or live this type of lifestyle, thenyou are damned, you will go to hell, you are not a complete person, you are not sexy orsuccessful, you will never get laid.Simply put, "you are not one of us"—that’s the inherent premise of most fundamentally religiouspeople-or brand-conscious people.Too much belief in a certain religion, or brands that represent status, turn rational decent peopleinto intolerant and critical ones. Don’t believe me? Think back to the cliques you saw in highschool—if you didn’t look or dress a certain way, boy you’d get a lot of crap.
  • 32. This isn’t just an abstract concept, it affects our daily relationships and the people we work with.Someone who proudly preaches "Im a Christian" and someone who says "I only date peoplewho wear Prada" share the same holier-than-thou attitude, and look down upon those who dont.Think back: Did you ever have a client tell you to do an ad based on the message, "our product isthe best"? You’re not really given a solid reason why that product is the best--it just is. Myopicclients believe in the basic superiority of their product--no matter what the truth is. Thats alsowhat each religion believes about itself.We, as a society, prefer believers. Take the flip side: In mainstream America, people who don’tbelieve in organized religion and people who encourage others not to buy stuff or conserveresources are treated like outcasts and pariahs.Both religion and advertising risk losing credibility. The perception is out there that they areresponsible for badness as well as goodness. While unwavering belief in a religion contributes tothe destruction of certain groups of people, mass consumption contributes to the destruction ofthe earths resources.I know, its a heavy topic. Its just what I think about when I get stuck in traffic on the way to themall.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 33
  • 33. 1/7/2003This Column is Gold, BabyYour guide to entering awards showsGrab the spray mount! Fire up the interns! It’s awards show entry time again. You’ve got formsto fill out and ads to trim.What’s that you say? You didn’t produce any worthy ads last year? Don’t fret. I’m here to help.There’s always a decent percentage of authentic, truly good work that wins. But here are sometips for the rest of us who don’t work on stuff like that:Get your Creative Director to be a judge in the show. Your agency will be guaranteed to win afew awards just as a quid pro quo. If your CD can’t be a judge, then volunteer to do the inside-ad-joke “call for entries” piece. That always gets at least a merit award.If you went to a portfolio school, chances are you did a whacked out, visual solution, two-pagespread for a product that doesn’t need to advertise—like say, the “Connect Four” board game ormarshmallows. You can enter ads like that in the real world. Just credit your agency as beinglocated in Singapore, Malaysia, or South Africa.Don’t enter any ads with store locations, phone numbers or contact info to get more information.That’s all extraneous and never gets read. Besides, consumers don’t need that stuff--the logo isall they need to go find the brand and buy the product.No body copy should be longer than two sentence, unless it’s a 400 word treatise on thecenturies’ old tradition of hand-crafted Norwegian truffles.Stencil something on the sidewalk outside your agency and take a picture of it. That’s your"Guerrilla Marketing" entry.Don’t submit ads for cigar bars, hot sauce, or sex toy shops. They’re too easy. But organic dogfood stores, discount coffin warehouses, and lesbian bed-and-breakfasts are all fair game.In every awards show, there’s always one good carnivore-oriented steakhouse or BBQ restaurantcampaign. Give it a whirl.All newspaper ads must be four-color, full-page, and have minimal copy. Just like all newspaperads are, right?Judges respond to brand names. Wanna do a Nike ad? Wanna do a Miller Lite ad? No problem—instead of putting the brand logo in the corner, just stick in the name and phone number of a localstore where they sell those products—that’s your real client.
  • 34. It doesn’t matter what your ad’s target audience really is—ads that speak to older or less affluentor small-town audiences never win awards. At awards show time, your audience is a group of 38year-old white guys (and a token woman) wearing lots of black and acting hipper-than-thou.Concept your ads accordingly. (There is a caveat, however: Be leery of anyone in your agencywho walks down the hall with a tissue comp saying, “This ad is a gold winner” or anyone whoevaluates ad concepts based on “What would show judges think of this?” That’s a sure sign of aloser—in more ways than one.)So there you have it. Good luck, and have a good time.By the way, if you take me up on the discount coffin warehouse idea, be sure to ask ‘em if theysell coffins big enough to fit you and all your awards. Remember, the only true measure of aperson in the ad business is how many awards they’ve won, and only gold pencil winners go toheaven.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 35
  • 35. 1/30/2003Chapter 11 in The Book Of AdvertisingIs a clients business failure our fault?I read recently where a former client of mine filed for bankruptcy. Among the reasons cited wasthe failure of its recent "repositioning and advertising" efforts.This client I worked on was a household name, having been in business for 50 years. The clienthad just come to my agency looking for "fresh thinking," in spite of the fact that this clientsbusiness model was truly dated, and in danger of facing extinction. While the work I did for thisnow-bankrupt client won an award, it was a mere drop in the bucket of this companys marketingefforts.Still, I was surprised about the bankruptcy, and a little sad.Companies go out of business all the time, but this one was a new experience for me. During thedot-com boom of the late 90s, I was working on low-tech old-school clients, so my portfolio isnot littered with campaigns for bad business ideas like justgolftees.com.Still, if ad agencies aim to be "marketing partners" and not merely vendors, do we share theblame in our clients business failures?You cant attribute a cataclysmic clusterfuck like Enron to its advertising, but there are scores ofother clients who advertise and are dependent on that advertising to increase sales, awareness,and keep their businesses flush with cash.Increasingly, agency compensation is being tied to a clients sales goals. So exactly what is theagencys responsibility and/or fault if the figures dont come out well? Whats beyond ourcontrol? Agencies are naturally wary of performance-based compensation, because theres just noexact method of determining an ad campaigns influence on sales.Whether a campaign works or not, the fact remains ad agencies love to take the credit and hate totake the blame. Agencies love to produce case studies based on a clients increased sales andawareness. Agencies rarely talk about the clients that spiraled downward--or out of businessaltogether.Successful or not, the fortunes of a client always affect the agency. Certainly, agency principalsand account directors hear about it when their clients businesses arent doing well. But whatabout the "rank-and-file" employees of agencies?
  • 36. If working on one particular client represents most of my average workload (essentially meaningone client pays my salary), do I have a responsibility to not only do great ads, but also care abouthow their business is doing overall, and help influence their marketing strategy?I have the fantasy that if I had still been working at the agency, knowing what I do aboutadvertising and marketing, I could have been a voice of reason that might have steered this now-bankrupt client back on the right path. (I have other fantasies about me and Catherine Zeta-Jones,but thats another story.)When a large client faces bankruptcy, it is often public knowledge--lately Ive been reading aboutmajor retailers and airlines that are fighting for survival. These companies need more than greatads to fix their problems. I dont think ad agencies should be blind to this.By incorporating business-building ideas into our brand-building ideas, we may well boost theimage of the ad business. There has to be a way to build this into an agencys ad making process.If we allow our clients to spiral into bankruptcy, well find ourselves losing clients, and becomingcreatively bankrupt as well.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 37
  • 37. 2/18/2003GeezertisingWill we adjust advertising standards for an aging population?I read recently about a group of ad industry veterans who started a new agency to do the style ofcreative work they used to do—15 and 25 years ago. It was hard to read the profiles and quotesof these dudes without hearing Grandpa Simpson’s voice in my head—“And in those days, typewas hand kerned…”For a moment, I thought it was a silly idea—but then I realized these guys might be just the onesto fill a niche that’s becoming larger by the minute.Americans are living longer, and we’re at a point where senior citizens (and those about to be)are everywhere, and while they still count their change slowly and carefully at the checkoutcounter, they’ve got more change to spend then ever before.The reality will hit us all-just because the baby boom generation is getting older, their vanitywon’t make them healthier. They’ll need their Metamucil and their adult diapers and theirreading glasses and their sensible shoes.Will advertising adjust? How will our industry sell these products to an aging population stillobsessed with youth?For most people, tastes in pop culture are formed in, well, their formative years—teens and earlytwenties. It’s not that they won’t change and experiment with new brands— but there’s lessimpulsiveness. Brands don’t define older people in quite the same way brands define teenage life.However, the ad industry will still have to find ways to position brands to appeal to an ever-olderaudience.An even bigger dilemma looms. Stylistically, much of today’s “edgy” advertising may notresonate. These consumers will seek out what’s familiar. MTV style quick editing doesn’t workfor generations that weren’t weaned on it. 12-point body copy doesn’t work for aging eyes.Ironic humor? Probably not. It’s possible the disparity between breakthrough creative andmarketing effectiveness will get wider and wider.For young creatives (and ad people across all disciplines), bridging the learning gap will take alot of work-people of Generation X and Generation Y can tell when ads that purport to speak tothem dont ring true, and older generations are no different.
  • 38. It’s no secret that for the most part, long careers in advertising are rare. Will the industry retainmore older workers because they understand the needs of this audience or will youth prevail likealways?I suppose if theres enough profit in a certain type of ad technique or market segment, the adindustry will chase it full force. That’s the one thing that never changes.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 39
  • 39. 3/11/2003Leaping to The Dark SideWhy aren’t more ad accounts serviced in-house?I once worked on an account where, every week, a new rumor or thinly veiled threat floatedaround our agency, stating our client wanted to “pull the business” away.We never lost the business, but the fear was always there, affecting everybody. And it’s standardoperating procedure in many agencies. Read Adweek or Ad Age, and you’ll constantly see thenews: Another day, another agency fired or another account in review.I can’t imagine other professional services face this turnover as much—corporations don’t switchaccounting firms or lawyers every 2 years to get a bigger tax refund or lawsuit judgment.With a lack of trust in agency/client relationships, profitability margins of agencies getting everthinner, and clients reviewing their accounts more and more frequently, problems seem to staypervasive. It may just be that the traditional agency model doesn’t satisfy the needs of manyadvertisers.So why don’t more companies set up in-house ad departments?Many companies do have in-house ad departments—particularly retailers. But often times, thesedepartments are for mostly fast-turnaround, unglamorous work.Maybe these companies should consider a department not just for the newspaper inserts orsignage—but for the whole shebang.It strikes me as strange when I read about a client that has an in-house ad department, yet calls areview to parcel out the high-profile glory “branding” assignments. It sounds as if the companyhas no confidence in their own people, and I suppose if I were working in that kind ofdepartment I’d be pissed.Setting up an advertising department that is capable of doing high-level creative work would takesome effort. There seems to be a stigma for many ad people about the idea of working in-houseat a corporation, the implication being they’re not good enough to work at an agency. I believe itcan work, though.Would working in a corporate environment inhibit creativity? No more so than working in abureaucratic ad agency run by fear. Could an in-house agency attract the highest level of talent?If there were sufficient enough high profile assignments, talent would flock there.
  • 40. Given a little flexibility to be creative, and removing the strains common to so many agency/client conflicts, the results could be wonderful. Going in-house would eliminate the notion thatagencies only look out for their own interests, not the client’s. As long as companies don’tperceive ad agencies as being valuable, they’ll continue to look for alternatives to improve theirmarketing—be it product placement, branded content, PR or consulting companies.The solution may be right in a client’s own office.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 41
  • 41. 4/1/2003Getting Embedded With the ClientWhat advertising can learn from a televised warI always take public opinion polls with a grain of salt. But it startled me when, in the first weekof the current war, the percentage of people who agreed with the statement “the war is goingwell” fluctuated DAILY.According to the Pew Research Center, here are the percentages of Americans who agreed that“the war is going very well” during the first week of fighting:Friday 3/21 71%Saturday 3/22 69%Sunday 3/23 52%Monday 3/24 38%Two days of a less-than-rosy outlook sent public opinion spiraling down. The constant stream ofwar news (and the endless spin of cable news taking heads) and our short attention span led tofalse expectations of instant victory. I shudder to think how 24/7 news coverage would haveaffected World War II, when bad news lingered for months at a time.I believe the ad industry can learn a lot from the war coverage and its effects on the public.As advertisers, we are the ones who can shape public opinion for our clients. We have to be theones to ensure that a brand, at every turn, puts on its best face every day. That means beingproactive, especially in the face of forces beyond our control. Public perception is fickle, andadvertisers have to prepare for that reality.Every piece of information about a brand contributes to the cumulative effect of perception. Asale can be jeopardized by bad customer service or rude salespeople. A person talking about abad experience at a store will influence his/her acquaintances. A bad, misguided, insulting ad canturn consumers off for good.What ad agencies also need to accept is that we are ultimately responsible for the consequencesof our campaigns once we’ve executed them, and we must define for our clients what constitutesa “successful” campaign.
  • 42. For every client and every campaign, success is perceived differently. Does your agencyeffectively manage your clients’ expectations or does your agency promise them the moon andstars? Do your clients get nervous if one ad or one month’s ads don’t work as well as hoped? Areyour clients ready to bail on you at the first sight of trouble?Reaching for the panic button is quite common when an ad campaign does not roll out as well ashoped. But look at the war situation--our military didn’t give up after one week, nor were theyever planning on giving up despite the polls I quoted. Adjustments were made because of theenemy’s shifting tactics, not the shifting mood of public back home.If our military leaders take intelligence data and then ultimately make decisions by trusting theirinstincts, shouldn’t advertising agencies be allowed to do the same thing?I actually heard a retired general on TV this weekend say that war is an art (I guess Sun Tzu wasright.) Well, if war can be considered an art, advertising certainly is. No test, simulation, or focusgroup can adequately predict the effectiveness of a campaign. We should not pretend otherwise.By the time you read this, the war might be close to ending. Or the war could be a long way fromover. No doubt, public opinion will continue to shift wildly. However, our leaders are confidentthat the mission will be a success and right now, that’s what counts.As advertisers, we can learn from our military’s example. As brand stewards, we’re in it for thelong haul, and must think long-term. We have to believe we’re doing the right thing for ourclients. We need to start with good raw data. We need to formulate a good plan.Most of all, we need to trust our instincts and stick with them. Otherwise, (bad cliché alert) wemay win the battle, but we’ll lose the war.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 43
  • 43. 4/24/2003In The Belly Of The BeastWhat I learned by spending a few days at Talent ZooThree weeks ago, I decided to hand-deliver my column to the receiving desk on the 34th Floor ofthe Talent Zoo Tower. With a rare few days off, and being a little too old for spring break inSouth Padre Island, I asked if I could hang around a while. As an ad agency employee andsometime job seeker, I wanted to view life from the other side.After signing a confidentiality agreement, as well as enduring a 20 minute interrogation under abare light bulb (outsiders are treated with suspicion), I was given permission to observe the innerworkings of the Talent Zoo empire.I learned a lot. Id like to share my observations with you.There are a buttload of job seekers and not nearly enough jobs for all of them. Given the state ofthe economy, that really shouldnt come as a shock. But when youre actually confronted with aconstant influx of emails, resumes and books, you see how overwhelming it can get, and howtough the competition for every position truly is.The only resumes and books that really stand out are the great ones and thereally shitty ones.Being a naturally curious creative guy, I looked through a bunch of books. Most people fallsomewhere in the middle between genius and hack. After flipping through 5 books in a roweverything looks the same (and for all the non-creatives, all resumes look the same.) Any adsdone before 1995 look very dated now. Nearly everyone has a spec campaign or two thrown in,and some are quite obviously spec. Sticking a book in a metal case wont make a difference if theads suck. Dealing with PDFs, CD-ROMS and online portfolios is a royal pain in the ass. And bythe way, theres no 3/4" machine at Talent Zoo, so Im sure I missed a lot of good (and bad) TVspots.Everyone thinks theyre Gods gift to advertising. Every job seeker claims to be hard-working, passionate, and dedicated. Every creative is conceptual, thinks outside the box and isnever content with mediocrity. Job seekers love to pile on the positive attributes. Believing inyourself and your abilities is truly important, but listing those qualities on a resume doesnt makea lasting impression.
  • 44. Everyone thinks theyre perfect for every open job. People who are not qualified for aparticular position apply anyway, thinking that a shot in the dark is better than no shot at all.These candidates are easy to spot because their name is constantly recycled, and theyre justwasting everybodys time. I noticed one guy had applied for copywriter, art director, creativedirector, and a traffic position--and was not qualfied for any of them.Agencies take their sweet time making hiring decisions, and no amount ofprodding from Talent Zoo speeds the process along. Calling every two hours wonthelp you get anywhere.Everyone sends emails with grammatical mistakes. Even the copywriters. But somecopywriters send books with grammatical mistakes and ads with greeked body copy, and nothingmakes this copywriter cringe more than sophomoric mistakes like those.Nice people dont always finish first, but they stay at the top of the list. Judging bythe correspondence I sampled, most candidates are pleasant and polite, even if they dont get ajob via Talent Zoo. However, some candidates are rude and full of attitude, and everyone atTalent Zoo knows who those candidates are. So play nicely, kids.Not a bad education for a few days of lingering. The staff at Talent Zoo are truly good peoplewho would love to help everyone find a great job, but the law of supply and demand says theycant. So keep that in mind. And dont send them any bribes--it still wont help you land a job anyfaster. Although a little chocolate never hurts.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 45
  • 45. 5/13/2003Jumping The SharkWhy are some shops hot, cold, or dead?Wells Rich Greene. N.W. Ayer. D’Arcy. And now maybe Bates.All these agencies, at some point in the last 10 years, went from being billion dollar companiesto out of business.How does this free-fall happen? Why are some ad agencies able to stay in business for a longtime, while others have the half-life of Uranium?I’m certain the people who ran the agencies I just named did not sit down one day and say,“We’re gonna do shitty work, treat our employees like crap and run this place into the ground.”So what happened??Can we pinpoint any specific times when ad agencies “Jump The Shark?” (If you don’t knowwhat I’m referring to, go to www.jumptheshark.com and then continue reading this column)This phenomenon doesn’t only occur to big behemoth agencies.In my days as an ad school student, I distinctly remember there were some shops, mostlyboutiques, everyone talked about. If you were one of the lucky few to land a gig there, youwould be handed the keys to the kingdom.These days, some of those shops are long gone, and some are still around and doing good work.But they’re not hot anymore. They’ve been replaced a by a new crop of “It” shops, who possesswhatever the “It” factor might be that gets students to drool over them.Did the once-hot shops stop entering awards shows? Did they give up on press releases so younever read about them anymore? Did they take on accounts that lowered their creative standards?Did management changes affect the momentum of the agency?It is true that a shuffle in management personnel can result in a new philosophy, better (or worse)work, and affect the company profile or morale. After all, the fish rots from the head down.
  • 46. I’m sure you have, as I have, encountered agencies that want to become “the next hot shop.”They want to become gold pencil winners. They want to take the work to the next level. Theywant to pursue more high-profile, national accounts. All of which is very easy to say, andincredibly hard to do. Invariably, those things rarely happen when a shop’s cultural DNAprevents it. You can’t polish a turd.But there’s always hope, or another open ad assignment, or another great account up for review.That’s why no two days in this business are ever alike.I firmly believe any ad agency, given the right conditions, can improve itself, make more money,grow, do great work, win awards, and be the kind of agency people would kill to work at. Youragency can be one of those agencies.Just make sure your agency never hires Ted McGinley to be the new Creative Director.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 47
  • 47. 6/4/2003Can’t We Just Be Friends?Dealing with friendly, and unfriendly, co-workers in the ad businessI have a good friend who works at an accounting firm. He’s been there for 8 years, and he’sdoing pretty well for himself. However, his work life is pretty uneventful. So when I told himabout a “liquid” job interview I once went on, he couldn’t believe it.I’m referring to an interview I had with a Creative Director where we spent several hours talkingin the office, and several more barhopping later that night.I truly felt that if I wanted to get this job, which I did, I had to match this guy drink for drink toprove we were compatible co-workers.In advertising, the line between personal life and business life gets extremely blurry. So how doyou determine the boundaries that are acceptable in your agency, and in your life?Late nights, TV shoots, concepting sessions, client schmoozefests--ad people spend lots of timewith each other both in and out of the office. Combine that with a fairly open, casual idea-exchanging business, and you have some tricky situations to negotiate.Can you really be friends with your boss, who can rule over you with an iron hand if he/shechooses? Can you confide in someone who works for you? Can male and female co-workersshare time, personal stories and innuendo without the specter of a lawsuit?Some agencies like to promote the fact that they have a “family atmosphere.” Others don’t. Ionce worked for an agency where a prospective employee came to interview for a media job. Shetold the president that she valued an agency where the employees were friends. The presidentsaid, “Well, I’m not going to be your friend.” Needless to say, the media candidate didn’t wantthe job after he said that.Agencies are never truly like family, no matter how much you want to think they are. In abusiness where people move around quite often, your co-workers can be your first, and mostvital, social network in an unfamiliar city.But don’t get too attached. Maintaining contacts and personal friendships are important but theimpact of a firing, resignation, or layoff can cut off a friendly relationship abruptly andpermanently. Were you ever once good friends with a co-worker only to stop talking with thatperson when one of you left the agency?
  • 48. Working in the ad business means you have to maneuver around the Bermuda Triangle of officepolitics, emotional intelligence and the Golden Rule. Oh, and you probably have a life, family,and friends outside the business, too. Some people have the ability to make this juggling act lookeffortless, while others can’t put their socks on straight with all that pressure.If you have tips on maintaining successful friendships through the choppy waters of the adbusiness, I’d love to hear them. Sometimes I have been good at it, sometimes I haven’t.By the way, I didn’t get the job after the “liquid interview.” But I did make a friend out of thatcreative director, and an enemy out of my liver.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 49
  • 49. 6/24/2003Majority to MinorityAre middle-aged white ad guys facing extinction?The year was 1999. The place: Texas. You couldn’t turn on the TV or walk by a newsstandwithout seeing a certain male Hispanic singer’s face. Everyone was Livin’ La Vida Loca, orknew someone who wanted to be.Everyone, that is, except my hayseed 40 year-old agency Creative Director.“Who’s Ricky Martin?” he asked.I realized that there’s a bigger issue facing our business than just staying in touch with trends.We’re in the middle of a seismic cultural shift.You’ve heard it all before—the face of America is changing, blah blah blah. A report just cameout saying that Hispanics now represent America’s largest minority group. And advertisers knowthey spend lots of money.But our industry still faces a major problem adjusting to demographic shifts. Advertising, andCorporate America in general, remains largely in the control of middle-aged white guys or otherconservative people who act like middle-aged white guys.Will the faces in the ad biz ever really reflect America? Will the faces of our clients?For all the talk of the need for diversity, and one-to-one marketing, advertising lumps people intogroups. Demographics, psychographics, target audiences, whatever you’d like to call it, we don’thave a grasp on the wide-ranging makeup of our audiences.Once again, it comes down to cash.If your client only has the money for one TV spot, or one photograph in a print ad, what are theodds they’ll want to choose a really fat Tanzanian lesbian couple to portray their typicalconsumers? (You can tell I’m really not trying to offend anyone…my readership is really lowamong fat Tanzanian lesbians.)Most likely, clients who need to use people in their ads gravitate toward using a pseudo-diverselooking crowd shot—with at least one African-American, one white, one Hispanic, and oneAsian. Or even better, a few who look ethnically vague.
  • 50. When I see these types of ads, I automatically imagine the conversations held during the castingsessions-where everyone expresses the need to cover all the possible ethnic bases. I bet you can,too.Inevitably though, the efforts look hollow. The reality is we will never truly treat consumers asindividuals in our efforts to reach them. It simply costs too much to create a dialogue that’suniquely relevant to each consumer.So we target just enough different groups to make it cost effective. But even when large clientsparcel out portions of their accounts to so-called minority agencies, the creative that getsproduced may differ widely from the “general market” creative. Segmenting the messagesconflicts with the widely held notion that all communications related to a brand’s need to reflect asingular tone and vision. Ultimately, it may hurt the brand.But advertising will have to find, in both the people entering the industry and the work weproduce, an effective way to stay culturally relevant, manage accounts with ever-changingaudiences, and still remain profitable.I’m not sure white guys like me will be up to the task. I’m not middle-aged, but I feel the creepof cultural ignorance starting to wash over my brain, which may affect my future in the business.I’ll leave you with one example.As a writer, the gradual incorporation of hip-hop language into everyday media is not somethingI can ignore for long. 20 years ago, such language was not considered appropriate English.Now, I might have to start writing killuh adz 2 B successful in da biz.And doesn’t that make me sound really white?©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 51
  • 51. 7/15/2003TelemuckrakingWant consumers to respond? Tell them you’ll leave them aloneA couple of weeks ago, I woke up at around 6:00, turned on the news, and learned about theFTC’s new telemarketing “do not call” list. 2 minutes later, I was on the Internet, and signed up.Does it make any sense for a guy who works in advertising to not want to be advertised to? HaveI turned my back on my direct marketing brethren?I was not alone. In the first two weeks, 23 million Americans signed up for the “do not call” list.To me, that suggests two things:1) Direct response marketing works—when consumers directly respond to the idea of NEVERgetting telemarketing calls again.2) The amazing PR blitz behind the list (it was mentioned in every paper and on every newscast)worked like a charm.I was getting three calls a week from a company, I won’t say their name, I’ll just mention theirinitials— AT&T—trying to get me to sign up for their service. Like surly children clamoring forice cream, they wouldn’t take no for an answer—time and time again.This kind of marketing is what vexes consumers the most—and makes the entire ad industrylook bad. Like junk mail, spam, promotions, and sweepstakes, telemarketing is part of what’stermed “below the line” marketing. Why do they call it “below the line?” Simple—the majorityof it tends to be below the line of acceptable taste, class, responsibility, and creativity.Still, every discipline has its staunch defenders. In various interviews, Tim Searcy, ExecutiveDirector of the American Teleservices Association, has claimed that this new FTC list is aviolation of the First Amendment-and infringes upon commercial free speech rights. And hisgroup is suing the government for that very reason.I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t know if he’s got a case. But it’s a piss-poor excuse to justify intrusivemarketing that people generally don’t want.And that’s the problem with our industry as we constantly struggle for respect. Just becausesomething is possible doesn’t make it a good idea automatically. Spam is not a good idea.Corporate logos and ads on every inch of public space, Internet pop-up ads, gratuitous productplacement, so on and so forth. Many people are sick of this kind of marketing, and when they getan easy chance to stop it, they will.
  • 52. Most ideas that attempt to “break through the clutter” merely add to the clutter. It seems the onlyoriginal ideas left in the ad industry involve marketing tricks and techniques that consumers willeventually loathe.If you’re in the position to green light an idea that you as a consumer would rather not receive,simply do one thing:Opt out.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 53
  • 53. 8/5/2003Paging Richard SimmonsWhy are some ad agencies still considered soft and flabby?There’s an epidemic of obesity in the advertising world.No, I’m not talking about the media department after a gift-basket filled holiday season. Adagencies, in particular the large intergalactic ones and conglomerates, have come under scrutinyfor their lethargy.This time the accuser was C. J. Fraleigh, Executive Director of Advertising and Marketing atGM. In a recent speech, he described agency conglomerates as “soft and flabby,” which alsocould describe the handling on my dad’s old Buick Regal.You know things are really fucked up when GM calls you big and slow.So in the latest trend-of the-moment, clients like GM, Coke and Sun Microsystems are parcelingout accounts and projects to smaller agencies and boutiques—the same types of agencies whowere thought to be facing extinction a few years ago. Remember? The conventional wisdom heldthat boutiques didn’t have the resources to compete with large, global, integrated agencies.What Fraleigh said doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. Holding companies are more concernedwith the bottom line than great advertising, because shareholders are in control, not ad people.Plus, agencies large and small have cut their staffs and expenses to the bone.Obviously, agencies want to maximize profits, and clients want to get the most for their money,so where’s the flab? Is there flab in the costs of simultaneously putting 10 creative teams on aTV assignment? The media commissions? The paperwork? Layers of intra-agency approvalprocesses? The free coffee?Maybe the flab is in the executive pay at the holding companies. You know, the folks who’venever touched an ad in their lives, or at least in decades. The only things integrated in aconglomerate are the payment checks the officers and board of directors collect from theirsubsidiary agencies. Perhaps Fraleigh woke up and realized that the holding company honchosresponsible for the stewardship of his car accounts ride in the backs of limos everywhere they go.I worked in an agency owned by a holding company, and there was plenty of mid-level andsenior-level flabbiness walking through the halls every day. So from where I sit, holdingcompany execs make an easy target. But I don’t think they’re the primary problem, because ifthey were, they wouldn’t last long.
  • 54. The truth is clients can’t have it both ways—bemoaning the lack of “senior-level” talent in the adbusiness while refusing to pay their agency enough to keep that talent while nurturing youngertalent.The higher up people get on the agency ladder, the less time they’re likely to spend sweating thedetails of a layout in a print ad, the sound design of TV spot, or the nuances of the media plan forthe Des Moines market. But does that mean they’re part of the flab?Later in his speech, Fraleigh borrowed a quote from Linus Pauling, saying, “The best way tohave an idea is to have lots of ideas.” Well guess what, having lots of ideas requires lots ofpeople and lots of time to find that elusive great idea clients like Fraleigh want, or say they want.Plus, moving an account from a large, slow agency to a small, fast one doesn’t solve problemsautomatically. Complex accounts are high-maintenance, requiring lots of resources to beproperly serviced. It makes many more man-hours to spend $5 million to implement analternative or below-the-line marketing idea than it does to produce a TV spot and a media buyworth $5 million.So if layers are eliminated, and work is parceled to smaller, nimbler agencies, will the ideas getbigger and the work get better? Time will tell, but the holding companies aren’t getting anysmaller—they’re continuing to gobble up smaller companies even as we speak.I can’t wait to see what GM does if it ditches some of these big agencies. I’m looking forward toall the marketing innovations they’ll spur by demanding efficiency. Knowing GM, it’ll berevolutionary.You know, like taking a Chevy Cavalier, adding leather trim and calling it a Cadillac Cimarron.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 55
  • 55. 8/26/2003Queer Eye for the Ad GuyWhat do we do when our clients, or consumers, don’t want to be cool?Essentially, there are two types of people in America: Wal-Mart People and Target People.Odds are, you’re a Target person. Most ad people are. Target has stylish, affordable merchandisein a clean, upscale environment—it’s the perfect place to stock up on knick-knacks, bric-a-brac,and other little necessities of life.In my town, the nearby Wal-Mart is crowded, noisy, cluttered, and full of seemingly shoddyproducts. Given a choice between the two, I’m inclined to think everyone would prefer shoppingat Target.I’d be wrong.According to Fortune Magazine, “Wal-Mart is the nation’s biggest seller of groceries, toys, guns,diamonds, CDs, apparel, dog food, detergent, jewelry, sporting goods, videogames, socks,bedding, and toothpaste — not to mention its biggest film developer, optician, private truck-fleetoperator, energy consumer, and real estate developer.”If you’ve never been to Wal-Mart, you need to go. Most people I know hold their noses at theidea of a trip there. If you live in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, or LA, you mightnot live within 50 miles of one. But I’ll bet your clients go pretty regularly.Why do I mention this? Advertising, and pop culture in general, doesn’t always mirror the realityof mainstream America. Our business is a very insular business. We tend to surround ourselveswith other like-minded agency types. We think everyone is young, hip, edgy, trendy—or wants tobe.Yes, tastes of the masses have become more sophisticated over the last few decades. It’s true thatyou can walk into the baseball stadium in Pittsburgh or Cleveland and order sushi. And you canget a cappuccino almost anywhere. But most people still prefer their hot dogs and brats at theballpark, and McDonald’s still serves more coffee than anyplace else.Yet, our business continues to latch onto trends and assume everyone else does, too.No doubt you’ve seen Bravo’s “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” Or you’ve heard the buzz aboutit. Basically, 5 swishy guys prance around Manhattan looking for the perfect products to spruceup the appearance and apartment of some poor style-challenged schlub.
  • 56. There’s a big dose of product placement on the show. As a result, cable audiences across Americalearn about hip, Manhattan boutiques. We’re exposed to exotic cheeses, obscure hair pomades,and the best tips to make a 300 square foot apartment look like a Eurotrash showplace.In one hour, the radical change of the “straight guy” has been accomplished. Of course, the“after” always looks better than the “before.” You’d think everyone in the country would bemotivated to toss out their pink flamingoes and ratty furniture.But in America, not every straight guy has a queer eye. Not every family seeks to upgrade theirimage. We are a nation of people with diverse tastes, and yes, some of that taste is downrighthorrible. No amount of queer eyes will ever change that.And no amount of great advertising is likely to change that, either. Which might explain why TheOne Show or the Clios represent a tiny fraction of all the advertising that gets produced. Plentyof clients don’t want subtle wit in their advertising. Or big words. Or sophisticated thoughts.They just don’t want to be edgy and cool, at least the way our industry, or our awards shows,would define it.In other words, they want Wal-Mart advertising for a Wal-Mart world. I know, I’ve been there.I’ve worked on ads for many products and services that were “family-friendly” (read:conservative and lowbrow.) We did good work, and we pushed the envelope as far as it wouldgo, even though the envelope was always addressed to Main Street, U.S.A. For its intendedaudience, the work was quite fresh and intelligent— we knew that lack of sophistication did notequal lack of intelligence. Yet I’d show the work to creative directors in bigger cities, and theseCD’s often didn’t get it. They’re not part of the audience I wrote for, and they don’t understandhow Middle America thinks. But these CD’s could certainly tell me where to stay in SantaMonica the next time I’m on a shoot.We have to confront our own sense of snobbery while maintaining a sense of creative integrity.Otherwise, advertising will become increasingly irrelevant if we continue to talk to ourselves.And it will become increasingly irrelevant if we don’t find ways to talk intelligently toconsumers—gently planting new ideas into the heads of people who still desire a comfortable,non-threatening existence.For most of us in the ad business, learning about consumers in Middle America means trottingout to unfamiliar territory. So if you’re looking to get out of your comfort zone, I suggest thatyou head down to a Wal-Mart in some faceless suburb or small Mellencamp-esque town. Get alook at who American consumers really are. Get a look at what your clients already face.Do it this Sunday--after church, of course.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 57
  • 57. 9/16/2003Just Sue ItTwo ad-related lawsuits you need to know aboutTwo major lawsuits concerning the ad industry were in the news this past week. Interestingly,both cases were appealed many times, and one was settled out of court—so there’s no clear-cutconclusions one can draw from these cases. But you’ll no doubt be affected by them.(I’m not a lawyer, I don’t play one on TV, either—so if I don’t have all the facts exactly right,well, don’t get your panties in a wad—remember, in the ad business, perception is reality, andhere’s the way I perceive them)#1: Lasky vs. NikeThe basic plot: In recent years, Nike has been accused of labor abuses in overseas factories. Anactivist (Lasky) sued Nike, claming that Nike’s press releases, ads, and responses to defend itselfagainst the allegations were untrue. The question is whether such corporate PR efforts arecommercial speech; if proven untrue, those efforts would be considered "false advertising" andtherefore not protected speech. If PR is found to be similar to editorial content, it is free speechand protected by the 1st Amendment. California courts agreed with Lasky’s argument, theSupreme Court refused to hear the case. Nike settled the case out of court.What scares me about this case is it seems, on the surface, as an attempt to prevent Nike fromsaying anything, good or bad, about how it makes its shoes or treats its workers. Which means,in effect, a watchdog organization can make all sorts of wild claims about Nike’s sweatshoppractices, take out ads against Nike in protest, and the company could not publicly respondwithout fear of being sued.I’m not defending the right of slimy corporations to defend themselves with more slime, but I dothink companies have a right to be heard. I’ve dealt with many clients who were dishonestmarketers, if not outright liars. They look upon advertising as a way to lie or perversely twist thetruth, not promote a brand. And they should be challenged in the court of public opinion, not acourt of law, so consumers get to be judge and jury. Plus, in an age of Enron, WorldCom and therest, companies need the opportunity to be as forthright and public as possible, without fear ofidiotic lawsuits like this. If they’re lying about their practices, they’ll be exposed. Let thecompanies hang themselves with their own rope.And, it’s good business for corporations to be open about their values. Ben and Jerry’s, REI,Whole Foods-they enjoy a large amount of consumer goodwill and loyalty because of the causesthey publicly champion. I suppose this lawsuit could mean consumers wouldn’t know whatpositive values a company stood for. After all, those kinds of PR efforts could also be deemed"false advertising."
  • 58. #2: The Taco Bell Chihuahua CaseTwo marketing executives sued Taco Bell, saying they originally presented an idea to thecompany which featured a Chihuahua as a spokesman...er, dog. After several rounds ofnegotiations with Taco Bell, the idea was scrapped. Two years later, along came Chiat/Day andthe "Yo Quiero Taco Bell" campaign, which I’m sure you all remember.Taco Bell defended the suit by maintaining the guys at Chiat who did the campaign came up withthe concept entirely on their own, which is most definitely plausible. It’s not so ingenious aconcept (Mexican food=Mexican dog) that two parties couldn’t have independently thought of it.The difference is: the Chiat guys sold it, produced it, got the credit, the glory, and the money.Until last week, that is, when a jury awarded the two men $30 million, saying that Taco Bell didindeed steal the Chihuahua character. That’s a buttload of burritos and gorditas.(As I write this, the story is still being played out. Now Taco Bell is even suing to get Chiat/Day,no longer their agency, to pay the $30 million. Talk about passing the buck.)Man, if there’s a precedent being set here, I’m on the wrong end of the ad business.I’ve had a number of ads in my book that bore more than a passing resemblance to ads that wereproduced years later by other agencies. I’ve sent copies of my book to dozens of people atdozens of agencies, so I have no clue if anyone saw an idea of mine that influenced them toproduce similar ads at some point. I’m somewhat of a conspiracy theorist, so I wouldn’t besurprised if it happened. But I’m not suing anyone.Copycat ads are everywhere—no idea is truly original anymore. The difference is that somepeople just execute them better, produce them slicker, or with bigger budgets, get in Adweek andCreativity with PR more often, or win more awards with the campaign.In advertising, ideas are floated constantly. What sounds like a great idea one day sounds horriblethe next, and vice versa. Timing and luck play a key role in selling creative. There’s just notmuch a person can do to protect his/her ideas from being pilfered.It’s no wonder agencies run on fear. When it comes to great ideas, the legal department maybecome more valuable than the creative department.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 59
  • 59. 10/6/2003Consult ThisMy new career begins right here, right nowAfter literally days of soul-searching, I have finally decided to leave my agency job and pursuethe path that will ensure a six-figure income with minimal work, constant demand for myservices, and the instant respect of corporate and agency CEO’s everywhere.I’m now Danny G: Marketing Consultant.Of course, I needed a business model first. So I went to the place all business plans are born:Starbucks.I finished it in just 3 lattes. But it’s a work in progress, so dear readers, I will give you the firstlook. I welcome your feedback.__________________________________________DG: The ConsultancyNow more than ever, given the fractious relationships between agencies and clients, there is aneed for a new paradigm for the conduit of constructive dialogue and process application.The mission of DG Brand Consultancy is a simple one: We are dedicated to increasing theholistic, integrated synergies between marketers and their audiences at every point of contact. (Isay “We” to make it sound impressive. It’s really just me--a one-person operation, like allconsultancies are.)What DG Consultancy offers you and your clients:EXPERTISE: At DG Consultancy, we have over 30 years’ experience in product testing andsampling, purchasing, media consumption, experiential experience, and idea generation. All ofwhich has been meted out in real-world, real-time applications both in the United States andabroad.DIRECT INVOLVEMENT OF SENIOR STAFF: DG is committed to providing maximumpersonal attention to all clients. You will always deal with our Senior Consultants. Todemonstrate this principle, when you call DG, you are immediately connected to a principal ofthe organization, thus also proving our dedication to client service. While DG consultancysearches for suitable office space, we are fully prepared to bring our services directly to you orhold off-site consultations at various Third Place locales (i.e., Borders or Starbucks).
  • 60. COMPREHENSIVE MEDIA MARKETPLACE ANALYSIS: The parsed media landscapedemands that all parties involved be fully apprised as to the vehicle options available for furthercommunication dissemination. To this end, DG specializes in cross-platform Internetobservations (i.e., “surfing”), and a complete daily intake of all niche network and cabletelevision programming (i.e., "TV watching"). Given proper lead-time, the consultants at DGConsultancy will also compile competitive clippings in printed media (i.e., "a stack ofmagazines").BRAND OBFUSCATION™: Brand Obfuscation™ is DG Consultancy’s proprietary process. Bycombining our proprietary process with our proprietary knowledge, DG Consultancy willprovide insight into all situations affecting client/agency relationships and/or current marketchallenges. DG Consultancy will make recommendations as to sources of conflict and remedies.With DG’s independent, third-party, impartial and neutral input, all parties involved will benefitand recognize the superiority of DG Consultancy’s expertise. Brand Obfuscation™ will proveinvaluable to client and agency teams as they attempt to maximize value and pursue successfulmarketing strategies.MULTI-MEDIA PRESENTATION: Using the latest version of sophisticiated digital technologyincluding PowerPoint, DG consultancy will produce a matrix of recommendations for furtherreview. All rationales will be substantiated by a series of charts, graphs, and bullet-pointedconclusions using a wide palette of colors and multiple font sizes.FEES: As DG Consultancy is a “Marketing Consultancy,” fees will be, of course, substantial.Since DG Consultancy streamlines the marketing process for all full-time employees of agenciesand clients, its wholly appropriate to allocate funds for our consulting services from the budgetspreviously earmarked for employee raises, bonuses, and health-care benefits.IMPLEMENTATION FLEXIBILITY: The best part of DG Consultancy is our flexibility in theimplementation process. Once we have properly analyzed the market situation and have madeappropriate recommendations, it is incumbent upon our clients to pursue the best course of actionthat maximizes their input and synergies. It is at this point in the process that DG removes itselfto allow all parties involved to combine energies to produce great results. DG Consultancy’sstrength lies in analysis generation, not the substantial human error that often mars the real-worldapplication of such recommendations.__________________________________________Well, that’s where it stands. I hope I’ve differentiated myself from all the other consultants outthere.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 61
  • 61. 10/27/2003Random QuestionsJust some things keeping me up nightsWhen it comes to pondering the state of advertising today. I’m smart enough to realize that Idon’t have all the answers. And I’m wary of anyone to claims to know all the answers. Butmaybe you know a few of them. So here are some random thoughts I’ve had lately:I just saw the shrill, ever-annoying Gilbert Gottfried starring in a new ad campaign. Who are thenimrods that keep casting this guy in commercials? Can someone forward me a focus groupresearch study that explains his appeal as a spokesperson?Why do some clients complain that “no one reads copy,” then 5 minutes later ask for moreproduct info in their ads?Why are Human Resources people generally the crabbiest, most unfriendly “human resources” inan ad agency?Exactly what is different in a Saturn?Who is “loving it” at McDonald’s, and just what exactly is “it” that he/she is loving?Kmart recently awarded their $270 million account to Grey. The world’s dullest retailer hasturned to the world’s dullest ad agency to revive its bankrupt company and its moribund brand.Can someone explain this to me?Could a group of ad executives, given complete and total creative freedom and using the bestprinciples of brand building, take a Presidential candidate and get him elected solely on thestrength of great paid political advertising?If a fat person can sue McDonald’s for causing obesity, can a debt-laden person sue an ad agencyfor causing them to max out their credit cards buying stuff?What is the click-through rate for women who get spam e-mails for penis enlargement pills?Why do higher-level people (ECD’s, CEO’s) answer their phones more often and return voicemails faster than most middle managers?Will American ad agency jobs ever get outsourced to India like computer programming jobs?
  • 62. How can a client-side marketing director with 20 years’ experience still not understand thedifference between a rough cut of a commercial and a completed version?Has there ever been a paid product placement in a porn film?How come I’ve never once been chosen to be a Nielsen ratings participant, or been part of apublic opinion poll? Have you?Is anybody reading this?©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 63
  • 63. 11/17/2003Im the Best Columnist EverWhy am I so superior? I said so, that’s whyI believe I’m the best columnist you can read on the Internet. No other columnist is as insightfuland witty as I am. Because when it comes to Internet columnists, only one has proven to beconsistently original and in tune with today’s advertising marketplace. That’s me. Which meansyou wisely spend your time and expand your knowledge when you read my columns.Do you believe that shit? No, of course not. I don’t expect you to.But I’ve got a reason to be so pumped-up. You see, I’ve been fortunate in my advertising career.My clients have included the best casino, the best hotel, the best vacuum, the best all-you-can-eatbuffet, the best homebuilder, the best wireless phone service, the best mover, the bestconstruction equipment, the best convention center, and of course, the best used car dealeraround.How did I know they were the best? Simple. The clients told me they were the best. So “we’rethe best” was part of the strategy for the ads I created for those clients. Regardless of theirmarketplace position in terms of sales, quality or innovation, these clients simply believed theywere the best.Just by claiming superiority, we’d make the phones ring or move product. That’s what theywanted me to write. And the creative briefs basically called for a clever regurgitation of thatposition.But inevitably, a strange thing happened once I wrote the ad. These clients realized they didn’twant me to write that. Because they were afraid that their competitors, assumed to be inferior,might get upset when they’re actually called inferior.“Well, we still want to make the superiority claim, but without the chest-beating. And we reallycan’t make a definitive superiority claim because it can’t be substantiated. But we are better. Solet’s find a way to say ‘we’re great’ without saying ‘we’re great.’”I’ll bet you’ve heard that from one of your clients, too.
  • 64. Client-side marketing people live and breathe their product. That’s the environment they’re in.So I guess it’s easy to drink the Kool-Aid and assume everybody in the world is just waiting forthat product or service to change their lives. Clients are stubborn that way.Conversely, advertising people live and breathe advertising, and often socialize with other adpeople. We believe our unfettered vision for advertising will change the world. Ad people arestubborn that way, too. So it goes without saying that these two worlds often clash.One of the worst assignments a creative team can take on is one where the client chooses simplyto boast without any semblance of wit, intelligence, tongue-in-cheek humor. Because itsimpossible to say anything meaningful. And such ads always ring hollow.So how do you convince a client that simply claiming “we’re the best” is not enough? In an erawhen consumers have better bullshit detectors than ever before, how can we sell a more relevantstrategy? Can a client admit that his/her product is not the best, yet still make a convincingargument for someone to buy the product?I’m still trying to figure out the answers to those questions, because I keep running into clientslike this. They’re everywhere. And they’re breeding rapidly.If you can help me solve these dilemmas, let me know. Thanks. You’re the best.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 65
  • 65. 12/8/2003This is Your Holding Company on DrugsWhy do sister agencies end up in new biz catfights?Let’s role-play for a minute here.You’re 8 years old. Your dad comes up to you and your two brothers and says, “Okay, you guysare gonna rake leaves today. But we’ll make it a contest. Whoever rakes the most leaves bydinnertime gets $500. The other two of you will be grounded for a month.”Doesn’t sound like an appealing idea, does it?But in a sense, that’s what happening to some of the biggest agencies and the biggest accounts inthe ad world.Advertising, much like the rest of media world, is feeling the effects of major industryconsolidation. The top 4 ad agency holding companies control a large percentage of the dollarsbeing spent. The actions of these companies affect everyone in the industry, be it directly orindirectly. So I think it’s only proper that these companies get their fair share of scrunity.I’m not out to bash the holding companies. They have every right to exist and legally pursuetheir quest for world domination. But I did see something recently that could use an explanation.A while back ADWEEK, in a haphazard editorial decision, juxtaposed a photo of the CEO ofIPG, (you know, the head shot with the shit-eating grin they always trot out) next to the caption:“IPG Suffers Quarterly Loss of $327 Mil.”Nothing to smile about, in my opinion. Hell, I could run IPG better. In fact, I’d be willing to take$2 million less in compensation so under my watch, the company would only lose just $325million dollars.But OK, every company gets to have a shitty quarter now and then. Time to regroup, take a few“charges” against the balance sheet and get the finances in order. I figured IPG would start beingmore fiscally responsible.However, the next week, ADWEEK ran an article about the finalists in the Tylenol accountreview, worth about $115 million in billings. Here’s a snippet:“The finalists, which emerged from a field of six, are all IPG shops: The Martin Agency inRichmond, Va., Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos in Boston and Deutsch in New York.”What?
  • 66. Wait, let me clarify. What the fuck?Why are these so-called “sister agencies” fighting over this business?These agencies are not working together to win Tylenol. Most likely, they’re conducting separatemarket research studies, creating separate marketing strategies, producing separate spec creative,and kissing separate butt.Do you want to take a stab at how much money and time each of these agencies, owned by thesame company, is spending pursuing this account? And what kinds of financial hits do the loserstake for a fruitless effort?Now, take the investor point of view: Why is a company that lost $327 million in 3 monthspitting 3 of its divisions against each other? Does that sound like a well-run company worthinvesting in?Yes, some accounts are divvied up by a holding company so that sister agencies work in tandemto produce integrated marketing. But for the Tylenol account, we have sibling rivalry. And afairly high-profile example of why the holding companies seem so flawed.Let’s see what I’ve just talked about: Holding companies, quarterly loses, revenue, soundinvestments, internal competition, flawed business models. Did I leave anything out?Oh yeah.The creative work.But that doesn’t seem to matter much these days, does it?©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 67
  • 67. 12/22/2003Slippery Jelly at the Helm of a Dubious IdeaWanna work at Wieden? Pay up, suckerEver hear about David “Jelly” Helm’s famous “check” self-promotion he did when he was an adschool student?He sent a box to The Martin Agency. On the outside of the box, it said, “I understand The MartinAgency is hiring art directors for $22,000.” Inside there’s a check for $22,000 made out to TheMartin Agency, along with a note that said, “When do I start?”Very clever. It made the One Show annual. And it helped Jelly get a job, so the story goes. Butnow he wants students to pay to work in advertising--for real.He’s starting a program called “12.” It’s a 13-month experimental ad school program, to beheadquartered at Wieden and Kennedy’s Portland office. Twelve students will be admitted peryear, hence the name.According to an article in ADWEEK, tuition will be $13,000. When I saw that number, my eyespopped out of their sockets.So what does the $13,000 tuition buy them?“They’ll do everything from answering phones to shipping materials, creative, strategicdevelopment and media work,” Helm told ADWEEK.In other words, students will pay to do things other people get paid to do. With no guarantee of afull-time gig at Wieden, or anyplace else, after completing the program.Is it just me, or does this program sound completely sleazy?This seems quite different than a typical unpaid internship—lured by the promise of runningtheir own ”agency-within-an-agency,” it sounds as if students are selling themselves into a yearof indentured servitude, from which W&K and its clients may profit immensely.Wieden & Kennedy seems to be taking a lesson from its largest client, Nike. Some of Nike’sshoes are made in Indonesia by workers who earn $2.50 a day. But even that’s $2.50 more thanthe Wieden kids will get.
  • 68. It’s reported that over 1,000 people expressed interest in joining 12. Yes, buying your way intothe advertising industry has become an attractive option. We all know that attending an ad schoolis, for creatives at least, a method of getting to the head of the line. Hell, even a college degreecomes with the unspoken promise of a better life.But accredited ad schools (full disclosure: yes, I went to one) offer flexibility so students can getpart-time jobs to defray the cost. Would anyone want a part-time job after working all day (andpossibly night) at Wieden?What about living expenses and room & board—other than sleeping on Dan Wieden’s couch,how does Jelly expect students of “12” to pay for it all? Would any right-minded parents wanttheir kid to do this? And does the tuition (assuming this is not an accredited educational program,student loans aren’t an option) mean only rich kids could afford this?I can’t think of any other industry that recruits young people this way. Maybe Hollywood stillreeks of a “sleep your way to the top” system. But even working in the mailroom of the WilliamMorris Agency is a paying gig.No, agencies don’t train creative people anymore, and no they don’t have time to waste onjuniors who can’t hit the ground running. But one man’s real-world educational experiment isanother’s cheap help. Which means that Jelly will now be leading the newest legal form of slavelabor. And since it’s Wieden, not some direct-mail shop in Indianapolis, he can get away withthis nonsense.I hope there’s more to this “12” program than what has been publicized so far.I’ve met Jelly Helm, and I know he has a deep passion for advertising and a true desire to seeadvertising have a positive impact on society.But this idea smacks of manipulation. Convincing hungry ad-industry wannabe’s that they’re“fearless, reckless, passionate and prolific” (as W&K’s website suggests) when they’re merelygullible, ambitious, desperate, and most of all, wealthy.Perhaps Jelly should return to what he started out doing: making ads. He could art direct a sequelto his “Good vs. Evil” spot. And cast himself in both roles.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 69
  • 69. 1/14/2004The Soul of SolesOne brand breaks all the rules—and the results are wonderfulIt’s the first thing they teach you in ad school:No puns.Puns bad. Puns very bad. In advertising, puns went out with the manual typewriters. I do my bestto avoid them like lepers.Nevertheless, I’m fascinated with Kenneth Cole and his new book, “Footnotes” (get it?). It’s abiography/ corporate history/ad campaign retrospective/ego-boost book. With a shoelace as abookmark bound in the spine.To look back on his advertising as a whole, Kenneth Cole has broken nearly every rule andthrown out most of the conventional wisdom that creatives tend to follow.Kenneth Cole’s advertising is chock full of bad puns, bad wordplays, bad art direction,controversial thoughts and very little detail about the merchandise.And you know what? The work is unbelievably effective and cool.I won’t make this a fawning book review—I just want to highlight some lessons I wish we couldapply to our often-fearful clients.1) Be consistent. The fashion world changes constantly. But generally, Kenneth Cole ads havechanged very little in 20 years. Most have one line of copy, which is made to look as if it’s aquote from Kenneth Cole himself. A singular voice, literally. But from fashion to politics to newstore openings and holiday sales, any point can be made with that singular voice. And usually,one ad=one thought.2) Be relevant and topical. Yes, Kenneth Cole errs on the side of political correctness, but hemakes you think. His ads have addressed AIDS, homelessness, the aftermath of September 11th,political campaigns, abortion, gun rights, crime, etc. All with a dash of wit and intelligence.Much of the ads can be open to interpretation—and in some cases, misinterpretation. But whenwas the last time an ad moved you to think about anything? What do your clients’ brands standfor?
  • 70. 3) Be great. In the book, he says something brilliant:“A bad ad is at best embarrassing and, at worst, damaging to the business; for all practicalpurposes, a mediocre ad is no better than a bad one: you define yourself as a mediocre company,compromising the relationship with your customer and worse, you spend money to do it.”Don’t you wish you had a client who would say that?I don’t believe shoes, in general, are any different from vacuum cleaners, soap, lawn mowers, orhealth insurance. However, the Kenneth Cole brand reflects Kenneth Cole’s personal beliefs. Theadvertising expresses those beliefs. He displays the kind of courage we keep wishing otherclients would have.At most agencies, if you proposed a campaign that was as simple, direct, and potentiallycontroversial as Kenneth Cole’s, you’d be laughed out of the room. And if you weren’t laughedout of the agency, you’d be laughed out of the client’s boardroom.It’s very sad that when it comes to being courageous most marketers have, well, cold feet.Kenneth Cole wouldn’t stand for that.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 71
  • 71. 1/27/2004A Super LessonFootball, the ad biz, and no talk of commercialsThere will be plenty of discussion about Super Bowl commercials. But not here, not now.I’d like to talk about John Fox and Bill Belichick. They’re the two coaches whose teams,Carolina and New England, are playing in the Super Bowl this year.In football, each team has the same goal: to make it to the Super Bowl. Thus, Fox and Belichickhave led their teams to the pinnacle of success this year. And they’ve achieved their successthrough motivation, hard work, discipline, and knowledge.Yet, neither of them ever played a day of professional football. But both of them are widelyassumed to be great at their jobs.Fox and Belichick both graduated from college and went straight into coaching careers. Bothmen have dedicated their entire professional lives to bringing out the best in other people. Thesuccess they’ve achieved has come solely through the performance and output of their players.So basically speaking, a coach who never played pro football may have the skills to coach in theSuper Bowl, but a Super Bowl MVP may never have the skills to coach a team to the big game.If success comes under those terms in football, why does the advertising business assume thattalented performers would make successful managers?Why do we think that prolific or award-winning copywriters and art directors wouldautomatically make great creative directors?I’ll bet you know the kind of people I’m talking about. Smart, yes. Talented, sure. But manygreat creatives can’t manage their way out of a paper bag. Or serve as a mentor to anyone.There’s no correlation whatsoever between concepting skills and people skills.The archives of ADWEEK and Ad Age are filled with stories of folks who got promoted intopositions they weren’t suited for—yet they had nowhere else to go but be “kicked upstairs.”That’s how you get more money, fame, and boost your ego—you go into management, whetheryou’re skilled at it or not.Then there’s the opposite scenario: Some CD’s are great motivators, delegators, judges, yetcompletely unworthy as writers or art directors. And they’re either phased out because they’renot contributing to profitability, or they’re derided as hacks and get no respect.
  • 72. If you know someone who is both a great creative and a great manager, then get him/her cloned.Now. Those people are rare.If you manage people, you’re no doubt pretty busy. Too busy to have read this far, I’m sure. Butare you getting the best work from your people? I bet you don’t know. Odds are, you won’t askthose people you manage, and they won’t tell you. Many managers and workers simply don’tpossess the ability to be so straightforward.And issues that are unspoken stay unresolved. It’s a shame that the ad business throws money atall sorts of consultants—new business consultants, pitch consultants, marketing consultants, yetfew managers take the time to consult with the very people they’re working with.For an industry whose main objective is to communicate with people, we do a lousy job of itinternally.So enjoy the Super Bowl, but this year, pay attention to the game in between the commercialbreaks. Watch John Fox and Bill Belichick wear their emotions on their sleeves. While they’renot the ones throwing, running or blocking, they’ll be basking in victory or wallowing in defeatalongside their players.But on Monday, when you’re sitting around your shop complaining about how lame this year’sspots were, see if you can start a team rebuilding effort. No matter what position you play in youragency, you too can be a better coach. And maybe you too can go all the way.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 73
  • 73. 2/17/2004Trump and ChumpsFor a moment, advertising got a glimpse of realityI’m sure by now you’re familiar with the Donald Trump reality show train-wreck “TheApprentice.” It began with 8 young men and 8 young women forming “corporations” to competedoing various business tasks.In their second business assignment, the two groups competed to create spec ad campaigns forcorporate jets. I believe they had a few days to complete it, and the use of some of Deutsch’sNew York office to help produce the concepts.And with someone’s “job” with Trump literally on the line, the two groups presented theirconcepts right to Donny Deutsch himself.The ads the women created were primarily penis jokes aimed at men. The ads the men madeused boring stock photo yuppie business imagery.It is revealing that these campaigns reflect how tough smart advertising is to create, particularlywith 8 bright minds (and egos to match) in the room.But what scares me is that these Apprentice contestants are all supposedly successful, brightpeople who have a solid future in business.In other words: they’re our future clients.Be afraid. Be very afraid.To be fair, I know that a few days is not enough for any group of people to familiarizethemselves with the nuances of good advertising and marketing.But in spite of all the industry discussion of how jaded/cynical/skeptical most consumers are ofadvertising, the contestants on “The Apprentice” resorted to familiar clichés. And these werebright 20-and 30-something people—the very generation widely purported to be so jaded.In many ways, resorting to clichéd thinking is what lots of clients do. What’s familiar is safe.Since they pay the bills, clients tend to get their way.
  • 74. I’ve seen many ad people (myself included) walk out of client meetings amazed at howseemingly unqualified some clients are to judge marketing concepts. But for many marketingmanagers and other client decision-makers, judging and approving ad concepts represents a tinyfraction of their time—their jobs are often more wide-ranging than we think. Nevertheless, thedecisions they make about ads affect both the brand and the agency.So how do our clients learn about great advertising? Can you actually train a client if they lackexpertise, or is that idea too self-serving?Colleges and MBA programs don’t teach good real-world marketing practices to students. Andon-the-job training is scant if any.The ad industry has to find a way to educate clients and earn their trust. We have to assert thatmarketing creativity and profitability aren’t mutually exclusive. And that the safe route isn’t thebest route, no matter what consultants and the bean counters think.One thing’s for certain:If the next generation of clients is as ignorant of marketing as the contestants on “TheApprentice,” well, for the ad industry, reality is going to be harsh indeed.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 75
  • 75. 3/10/2004Brands Flying BlindWhen advertising seems like a waste of cashI recently did a lot of flying, and found myself facing a delayed flight and the likelihood of amissed connection. I was pissed off. At that point, I’d have ridden in the cargo hold of a FedExplane if I thought I’d get to my destination.Fortunately, I got another on flight on a different airline, but it occurred to me that no amount offeel-good airline advertising can offset the unnerving and unpredictable experience of flying.Flyers face all manner of hurdles: security screeners playing grab-ass at the checkpoints, theroulette of airfares that change daily, weather delays beyond anyone’s control. Flyingcommercial just isn’t pleasant, and that’s not solely the fault of airlines.So how does advertising help? Are there some industries and businesses that simply shouldn’tbother to advertise?I dealt with very nice employees at the airline that night, and the positive experience was worthall the advertising in the world. Plus, I find technological innovations, like the ability to skipcheck-in and print out boarding passes from the Internet, extremely useful.I really wonder if any ad agency would tell a client noted for bad customer service, “You’rebetter off taking your ad budget and training your employees better.” Or suggesting a way tomake a brand experience better that wouldn’t involve advertising. Can any ad agency be animpartial advisor?Of course, I understand the desire for airlines to differentiate their brands through advertising.But on my trip, it simply didn’t matter. More powerful forces were at work.I’ll use another example.Where I live, there’s a TV spot running for a local—and I’m not making this up—“FuneralHome and Gift Shop.” Who knows, maybe the competition in that industry is, uh, cutthroat. Butit seems they’ve got a guaranteed customer base, even if there’s not a lot of repeat business.I can’t imagine any “Funeral Home and Gift Shop” that advertises on TV would specialize incompassion and empathy, which is what I’d be looking for during that time. So what advertisingprofessional would be interested, or even excited, at the prospect of servicing that account? Iwonder if the people involved enjoyed winning the account, making money off the account, orputting that spot on their reel.
  • 76. When advertising simply doesn’t match the real world experience, or promotes a business in acrass manner, the entire industry gets a bad rap. Because the really awful work sticks out inconsumers’ minds. And we dont need to perpetuate the negative opinion consumers have of mostadvertising.This is a creative business; perhaps we should focus our creative energy on other ideas to help aclient when it seems ads wont be a big help.If ad agencies want to position themselves as “marketing partners,” then we must be willing toaccept that advertising is not always the answer. More importantly, as individuals and agencies,we must be evaluated, paid and rewarded for the kinds of ideas that don’t easily fit into acategory at The One Show.But that’s wishful thinking. I don’t think it’s gonna fly.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 77
  • 77. 3/31/2004From a No Show to the One ShowA tale of two creative superstars who weren’t always starsAd people are nothing if not judgmental.Few other industries have such a cult of personality—a well-read person can learn which adpeople are doing what campaigns at a particular shop.And if you’re not fortunate enough to regularly appear in the trade press, ad people will judgeyou more harshly, and think less of you.That can be a problem, because for most job seekers in the ad business, a quick glance at aresume or a few samples will be the only way a prospective employer determines if a person is asuperstar worth hiring—or a hack worth ignoring.Is history destiny?I don’t think so. And to prove it, I’d like to introduce you to Mr. X and Mr. Y.(I will conceal the names and agencies to protect the innocent, the guilty, and the fact they don’tknow I’m writing about them.)I met Mr. X and Mr. Y many years ago at when they worked as copywriters in the Z agency, asecond-rate shop in a second-rate ad town. X and Y were hired by creative directors who werelooking to raise what was obviously a fairly low bar. Despite their talents, X and Y couldn’tovercome a culture of mediocrity at this particular shop. Their efforts were futile. So they didn’tlast long (and neither did their CD’s), and were gone after a year or so.A career of mediocrity, however, was not the destiny of Mr. X and Mr. Y.Their careers have been simple to follow. That’s because Mr. X and Mr. Y are now true creativesuperstars, doing award-winning work.Mr. X went to a shop that was just beginning to make waves. Now it’s arguably the best shop inthe country, and Mr. X is a Creative Director there, doing awesome stuff.Mr. Y took a more circular path. He went to a couple of shops, making progressively bettermoves, until he landed at one of the top creative shops in the country.Both X and Y are now doing the type of work they could never have done at the Z agency.
  • 78. How did they catch those breaks?What did Mr. X and Mr. Y do to convince people that they could rise above their time at the Zagency? A little luck, a little timing, and a lot of persistence I’m sure.I know how frustrating it can be to work at a shop that prevents people from producing the kindof advertising they’re capable of. I’ll bet the majority of creatives and even other types of adfolks feel the same way.That’s why I keep an open mind when I encounter frustrated ad people at second-rate shops. Somany of us work under circumstances seemingly beyond our control.What happened to Mr. X and Mr. Y works in reverse, as well: Many great ad people leftwonderful agencies to take jobs at mediocre agencies. And then weren’t able to produce equallygood work. These people havent lost their talent, but still they cant recapture the magic. Ithappens.For better or for worse, the people in our industry should be tagged with the disclaimer mostinvestments come with:Past performance is no guarantee of future results.Just ask Mr. X and Mr. Y when you see them. You’re bound to find them at the One Show.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 79
  • 79. 4/14/2004FBI, CIA, AAAA, and CYAHow both the government and the ad industry play the blame gameToday I’m going to share with you the findings of the September 11th commission.I’m not a committee member, and as Im writing this theyre still holding hearings, but I’vealready figured it all out:• There were a number of warning memos and reports that were poorly written and not specificenough. Therefore, the memos didn’t scream for immediate attention or call for direct action, andthere was no follow-up.• Top officials didn’t meet, share information, agree on a plan, and then communicate that plandown to the lowest levels— the airport workers, INS officials, border patrols, and even ordinarycitizens who could look out for danger.• No one person will be held solely responsible. A number of people in wide-rangingdepartments ignored the warning signs, choosing to do one or all of the following: Make political points for themselves and get money for their departments Concentrate on matters that seem trivial in retrospect Punch out at 5 p.m. and go home• Loads of people are now looking to place blame and point fingers. We’re hearing “I told youso” and “It’s not my job, it’s so-and-so’s job.” And we’re hearing complaints about beingoverworked, understaffed, and poorly trained. Everyone is covering their own ass, choosing tothrow other people under the bus while trying to look good doing it.That’s the way our government works.In other words, our government works like a typical ad agency.Think about it: Most of the work we do comes in fast and goes out the door fast. Research islimited. Timelines are short. Corners get cut. Major ass-covering happens. And shitty work oftenresults.
  • 80. How many times have you heard, “Let’s just get it out the door”? And once an ad or a projectleaves the agency, it’s gone. We foist it on the general public and we breathe a sigh of relief thatwe never need to deal with it again.That is, unless someone (like a client or distantly removed CD or CEO) isn’t happy with the waythe work turned out. Then the finger pointing begins:“The creatives dropped the ball on this one.”“The AE’s brief wasn’t tight enough.”“The production artist inhaled too much spray mount, so he passed out and we missed thedeadline.”But the odds are, bad work is not the fault of one person or one missed step. Agencies thatstruggle with problems tend to make the same mistakes over and over again, even on radicallydifferent assignments. That’s because agency management doesn’t take the time to collectivelyunderstand how the process breaks down and how it can be fixed. They just look for scapegoats.Why? It’s just easier that way.The advertising world faces a daunting future: Not a week goes by that the trade press doesn’treport some major level of client dissatisfaction with the performance of the ad industry.And, just like we won’t return to the world that we knew on September 10, 2001, the ad industrywon’t return to yesterday’s world of fat network TV commissions and three-martini lunches.We’ll continue to be pressured to perform, and fast. We’ll still have to unearth truths to produceworld-beating great ideas.The doomed ad agencies are the ones that are stuck in the past. Many ad agencies today continueto be managed (and mismanaged) under a structure and process that looks the same as it did 20years ago.So if your agency is full of blame games, office politics and finger pointing, try to rise above it.Be forward thinking. You can’t change the past. How can your agency be a better placetomorrow? Or next week? Or next year?Do people in your agency ask those questions, or do they prefer to point fingers and findscapegoats?I truly hope we’ll find the right answers. Because there’s a whole load of consultants, PR firms,and other folks ready and willing to hijack our clients’ marketing dollars.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 81
  • 81. 5/1/2004Subservient AgencyHow do some agencies get away with stuff that others can’t?OK, I promise this column shall not worship at the altar of Crispin Porter & Bogusky. They getreams of PR as it is. But I would like to use them as an example.Unless you live on Pluto, or in a McDonald’s stockroom, you’ve no doubt seen the “SubservientChicken” web site. And you’ve told the chicken to do the Riverdance or hump the couch orwhatever.Yes, it’s completely weird and a great “viral” marketing idea, but that’s not what impressed meinitially. I wonder if anyone else shared my first reaction upon hearing about the site:How on earth did they convince the client to use the word ‘subservient’?I immediately flashed back to all the clients I’ve ever dealt with, and thought how they’d reacthad my agency presented a similar title.“I think the word ‘subservient’ is a little too sophisticated for our audience.”“Uhh…how about ‘Funky Chicken’? That’d be fun.”“Let’s call it The BeaK—you know, BK? We could give away dolls.”“We should do a focus group and test the word ‘subservient’ against some others.”The point is that CP&B could’ve easily acquiesced to a client request to dumb down the websitename. In other words, they could’ve been subservient. And the site would have still garneredattention. However, some of the goofy bizarre charm would’ve been lost.In cases like this one, the small details mean everything, don’t they?Even as you read this now, some client or nervous agency person is asking for a concept, an ad,or even a word to be changed. Right now, something is getting toned down to be more expectedand conventional. It’s those gradual, habitual patterns that make most advertising so boring. Notone big decision—the hundreds of little ones.As a copywriter, I’ve been known to trot out the SAT words on occasion, and even in agencymeetings I’ve gotten quite a few blank stares using language that at first sounds unconventional.And I’ve dealt with more than my share of clients who steadfastly believe consumers are simplystupid. But I find it nearly impossible to defend work in the face of such ignorance.
  • 82. Yes, we sometimes snicker about the perceived simplemindedness of the “average” consumer.Everyone in advertising is guilty of that; however, it’s not a license to produce bad advertising.So with due respect to the late David Ogilvy, I’d like to adjust one of his maxims: “Theconsumer is not a moron. And even if the consumer is a moron, she doesn’t think of herself as amoron.” If more agencies and clients could keep that in mind, we might be able to turn outsmarter, more provocative work that gets results.Burger King customers are as broad an audience as you can find. So you’d think all the work hasto be pedestrian--and until CP&B took over, it was. But 47 million hits in 2 weeks tosubservientchicken.com can’t be wrong (hell, you’ve gotta know how to spell it right to getthere!)So I want to congratulate CP&B and Burger King for not being subservient to the least commondenominator. And I’d love to figure out how more of us can have it our way.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 83
  • 83. 5.21/2004The Bastards Among UsCan ad people act like true professionals when we’re encouraged to push boundaries?Have you ever taken a picture of your client’s sweaty ass crack?I haven’t, but I know someone who did. I’ve seen the photo. And yes, it was quite frightening,but not for the reason you might imagine.As the story was related to me, the agency once had a client who was a large dude. Like 6-foot-1,350 pounds. A lumbering, stumbling man. That frame, coupled with his perceived lack ofmarketing knowledge, earned him the nickname “Fat Bastard” around the agency.Well, “Fat Bastard” had to attend a TV shoot in Orlando. Outdoors. In July. This recipe forperspiration caught up with the man, so much that the dripping sweat was visibly apparentthrough the rear of his khaki shorts. Thus, an embarrassing moment turned into a Kodak momentfor an agency lackey with a camera.This client’s reputation for heft, and sweat, was the subject of frequent agency coffee klatches.What’s more, the agency staff was egged on by the agency CEO and Creative Director, who notonly tolerated but also encouraged the mocking. And “Fat Bastard” never had a clue what wasbeing said about him. What’s more, with his trusting nature, he thought so highly of this agencyand its people that he continued to give the agency marketing projects even when he switchedjobs.This agency is still in business, trying to woo more clients and develop a reputation for greatideas and superior client service—despite a corporate culture that openly disparages the personalappearances of others, including the very clients who pay their bills.I’ll bet a lot of agencies function with this kind of culture. Yet we wonder why the advertisingindustry doesn’t get more respect.So what kind of behavior is out of bounds? How can some of our dealings with co-workers andclients be deemed “professional” when at other times we act so unprofessional?I’ve worked in agencies where routinely, I’ve heard comments that would make for ready-madeharassment and discrimination lawsuits in any other corporate environment. I’ve always acceptedthat an almost anything-goes environment is a part of the Faustian bargain one makes in order towork in a comparatively freewheeling industry.
  • 84. We work in a business of ideas and thoughts, where bad taste is often celebrated, even financiallyrewarded. We cross the line (whatever that is) with glee. But crossing the line, as the ad industrysees it, doesn’t just apply to ads and concepts. It’s part of daily agency office life, isn’t it?We’re always going to have co-workers and clients who get on our nerves. Since advertisingdepends on a high degree of interpersonal collaboration, friction is inevitable. Add time crunchesand less-than-ideal clients to the mix, and you’ve got a recipe for an environment of pettysquabbling, subtle backstabbing, and frequent bitching. It seems like a primal rule of agencypolitics that you have to tear someone else down in order to build yourself up.Everybody is susceptible to these base instincts. And if the future of advertising is so-calledbranded entertainment---i.e., “The intersection of Madison and Vine,” we’ll be pretending likethe ad business is more Hollywood that it really is. We’ll be taking more of our behavioral cuesfrom “Swimming With Sharks.” That’s not a future I’m looking forward to. Are you?What’s it gonna take for us to curb this behavior? We’re all guilty of it at one time or another.Me, all I can say is I’m working on it. Trying to stay positive whenever I can.What about you, and the people you work with? So your ass isn’t sweaty today. Doesn’t matter.Perhaps someone right now is calling you Skinny Bastard. Or Bald Bastard. Or Gay Bastard. OrJew Bastard. Or Irish Bastard.And unless we all change, the public perception will always be that the ad business is nothing buta bunch of bastards.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 85
  • 85. 6/10/2004Word-of-a-Whole-Lot-of-Mouths-AdvertisingThese days, the world is just one big-ass focus groupEver been to a traditional focus group? With the one-way mirror, the bottomless bowl of M&M’sand the roundtable of “average” consumers? It’s a completely artificial environment, which inmany cases leads to artificial results. There’s a group dynamic that leads people to keep their truefeelings to themselves. Yet our industry still throws billions away at focus groups trying to prythe truth out of consumers.Now, the truth is everywhere.The Internet has given people the freedom to mouth off. Whenever they want, about anythingthey want.I once wrote ads for a client who made household appliances. One of the glorious perks of thejob was that I got a free sample to take home and test. I was quite pleased with it, as it workedfine for me. So I became a believer. And our client, of course, was convinced it was the bestproduct in its category.Then I went on Amazon.com, where they sell my client’s products. Amazon has a feedbacksection for every product where people can rate and comment on stuff. Here’s a sample of thecomments I saw for my client:“I contacted ***** about my problems and they said ‘we dont deal with problems, your onlyrecourse is where you bought it.’”“Needless to say, Ill never buy another ****** again!!!”“Now Im looking for another brand, I dont recommend this product.”“I would recommend this ****** only at a discounted price.”Now, in fairness, there were some really good reviews, but in the aggregate, my client’s productwas considered below average. And the amazing thing was, as a consumer, I’d trust thesereviews more than any advertising or PR.The Internet has turned the world into one big focus group. Thanks to bulletin boards, blogs, andthings like Amazon.com reviews, every consumer has a soapbox. Anyone can praise or scornsomething to their heart’s content.
  • 86. If your client has a bad product, or bad customer service, they’ll likely never admit it to yourface. But now you can find out for yourself. And the ad industry, as well as marketers, had betterpay attention. Because changing consumers’ perceptions about a brand starts with finding outexactly what those perceptions are.And, with “traditional” advertising getting continually flogged for its ineffectiveness, there’s nowa cottage industry pushing the merits of viral marketing, buzz marketing, and any form of word-of-mouth. Savvy marketers are figuring out that trendsetters and influencers can get a productnoticed in the right places, and by the right people. If a woman sidles up to you in a bar and buysyou a drink, chances are she could be a paid shill for a liquor brand. But you’d listen to her,wouldn’t you?Consumers are so cynical they believe anonymous, faceless strangers before they’d believeanything they’d heard in an ad. So, not wanting to miss the bandwagon, ad agencies andmarketers are now starting to manipulate public opinion on the Internet. Marketers are startingtheir own discussion forums, blogs, and even surreptitiously entering chat rooms to talk up theirproducts. Anything to skew perceptions in their favor.But adding some positive spin to the mix can’t stop consumers determined to tell the world aboutbad experiences with a brand. Ordinary people have the power to define and shape brands—asmuch, if not more so, than ad agencies or marketers.Can we muzzle people? Of course not. But what ad agencies can do is bring these consumerperceptions to the attention of clients, no matter how negative or controversial they might be.Perhaps we can create ads that confront these issues head-on. It’s one way the ad business canstay relevant—especially when so many marketers complain that agencies aren’t receptive totheir business needs or problems.So the next time you’re Googling yourself and your ex-lovers for shits and giggles, try doing itfor your agency and your clients. Read the good, the bad, the ugly, and what people aren’t tellingthe focus group moderators. It’s all out there.And it won’t even cost you a bag of M&M’s.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 87
  • 87. 6/26/2004I Cannes Tell You Exactly What HappenedA report from the south of…uh…France, I think(CANNES, France, June 26) – Well, what can I say? It’s truly been a whirlwind week. Mycamera got confiscated by airport security in Nice, so basically all I can do is gather what’s leftof my alcohol-soaked memory and report to you the highlights of this year’s Cannes AdvertisingFestival:--7 Moroccan tourists were reported running and screaming in horror upon the discovery of agaggle of beached whales. They were relieved to be told it was only a few pudgy, pasty middle-aged American Creative Directors out for a swim.--This year’s press Grand Prix (print best of show) contained no words. This year’s televisionGrand Prix contained no dialogue. The copywriters credited for the ads, however, reportedsignificant ego swelling.--Although many countries were represented at Cannes, the language barrier was not a problem.According to international translators, 99.2% of all conversations at Cannes were summed up as:“You’re great.” “No, YOU’RE great.”--1,897 unwanted sexual advances and innuendo-laced remarks were made by advertising mentowards various women attending the show. No reverse scenarios were noted.--29 client representatives reported feeling “cool” for the first time in their corporate careers.--Of those 29 clients, 23 reported that “cocaine and hookers” were not acceptable line items in anexpense report. However, they pledged to triple their “research” budgets in the next fiscalquarter.--After some triumphant award wins, ad agencies in Malaysia and South Africa expect a flood ofbooks from American creatives seeking job opportunities. The Kuala Lumpur Ad Club is nowtouting itself as “The Minneapolis of the Third World.”--Interns and Executive Assistants all across America are now being told to provide hourly dosesof Aloe Vera and Solarcaine to their bosses. Approximately 39 pounds of peeling, molting skinwill be collected in wastebaskets throughout the Omnicom, IPG and WPP networks.
  • 88. --Despite speculation to the contrary, no one at the Cannes Advertising Festival was reported tohave actually said, “The ad industry is doing just fine! As long as I can continue to con myagency into sending me to this all-expenses-paid, week-long, alcohol-fueled, ego-stroking, self-congratulatory masturbation, the advertising business has no real problems whatsoever.”Okay, okay, so I wasn’t really there. But I’m pretty sure I didn’t leave anything out.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 89
  • 89. 7/20/2004Clear Problem, Clear SolutionWhen the 800-lb. gorilla says there are too many ads, we should pay attentionYesterday was a cold day in Hell.I read that Clear Channel, monolithic owner of radio stations and other media goodies,announced it would soon place a ceiling on the number of commercial minutes per hour and puta limit on the length of a typical commercial pod.The news release didn’t get into specifics, but it’s an attempt to curry favor and “increase value”among advertisers who fear their messages are lost amidst a sea of clutter.I love listening to the radio, and as a copywriter, I love writing radio spots. Yet so much of what Ihear on my radio dial, the commercials, talk, and music, is utterly banal and depressing. So Iappreciate that Clear Channel, in a small way, recognizes that they can do better.And they’ve got serious influence. But for both radio fans and media professionals, ClearChannel ranks somewhere between Charles Manson and chlamydia on the likeability meter.Which means until we actually hear a difference, nobody should jump for joy.Making an entire medium more palatable for listeners and advertisers is a start. But increasingvalue by cutting commercials only goes so far. To me, they’d do a lot better tossing out theircookie-cutter playlists and the seamless use of a couple of faceless DJ’s pretending to localizetheir patter for hundreds of cities. More than anything, it’s the sorry state of radio programmingthat’s driving radio listeners to embrace iPods and satellite radio.But if an outfit like Clear Channel takes a “less is more” philosophy towards commercials, willother media outlets embrace the idea?This isn’t simply an issue for the media department. It doesn’t matter what your title is, clutterdirectly affects what all advertising professionals do on a daily basis. Because for many clients,“breaking through the clutter” doesn’t mean, “be more creative.” It means, “be louder, be moreintrusive, be more annoying, and be everywhere.” And use lots of exclamation points to createexcitement!!!!!!!!!Collectively as an industry, clutter is something we ourselves created. It’s not the fault of somesinister cabal of anonymous agencies and clients. We’ll be more effective at our jobs if everyagency and client each does some small part to reduce it. Yes, we need to reach our consumers,and yes, it’s harder than ever, but spreading ads like weeds doesn’t advance the cause.
  • 90. Howard Gossage, the San Francisco ad legend, once said, “I like to imagine a better world wherethere will be less, and more stimulating, advertising.” Amazingly, he said it 35 years ago. Didanybody listen?Perhaps there will be a gradual awakening to the consequences of our industry’s addiction tomessage overload. When a media giant like Clear Channel takes action, others are bound tofollow.After I read about Clear Channel, I wanted to celebrate this newfound embrace of commonsense. Then I saw another news article.This article mentioned that to “break through the clutter,” a new marketing company is placingads on hubcaps. And yet another is hiring models to walk around cities wearing a speciallydesigned T-shirt featuring a built-in 11-inch video screen and speakers, in essence creating awalking commercial.Suddenly, Clear Channel looks like a paragon of restraint. Yup, it may be a sweltering summerday outside your office, but it’s a cold day in Hell.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 91
  • 91. 8/10/2004Advertising Week (or maybe it’s Advertising Weak)Think you’ll get an accurate depiction of the industry next month? Sorry, CharlieI’m sure you’re all as psyched as I am about “Advertising Week in New York City” next month.Because what the ad industry really needs right now is a 5-day opportunity to pat itself on theback and celebrate all the good it does for humanity.The schedule of events is quite a packed one, I’ll admit. Many major industry-relatedorganizations, legendary agencies, and large brands are sponsoring all sorts of panels, luncheons,receptions, etc.At first glance, it looks like a nice representative sample of the ad world. But a few folks won’tbe there.Local auto dealers won’t be sponsoring a retrospective like “50 Years of Tent Sales, Screaming,and Tacky Graphics.” Attorneys won’t offer a panel discussion on the effectiveness of the phrase“Have you been injured in an accident?” And political consultants won’t give advice on how todistort facts and use negative language to elect their candidates. In other words, much of thework that drags down our industry and society (and yet, has the most influence on the public’sperception of advertising) won’t be celebrated during Advertising Week.However, there is something the entire public can enjoy. Right now there’s a contest wherefamous ad characters and critters are competing for the title of “America’s Favorite Ad Icon.”Yes, everyone can vote for this. Charlie the Tuna and the Michelin Man are heavily campaigningas we speak.Remember, these icons are the most impressive, uplifting, influential symbols of our industry.Although I’m guessing that Joe Camel’s invitation got lost in the mail.But since part of the reason for Advertising Week is to encourage young people to pursue careersin the ad biz, shouldn’t we be touting our rank-and-file employees as icons, too? They’re the realsymbols and heroes, I think. I’d love to see Tony the Tiger share the spotlight with “Ashley TheScantily-Clad Creative Summer Intern” or “Rhonda the Token African-American EmployeeWho’s In Either Media or Accounting, I’m Not Sure.” Or maybe accuracy isn’t quite the goal ofAdvertising Week.
  • 92. Perhaps I’m being too cynical about this. After all, Advertising Week is a celebration of theentire advertising industry and the people who make a living in it. So I believe it’s important thatall present and future ad stars attend. I highly suggest you go. Surely the head honchos at yourshop will gladly pony up reimbursements for all the staff, right? Especially in New York City—land of the $200-a-night hotel rooms and $15 cocktails. Or maybe accessibility and inclusivenessaren’t the goals of Advertising Week, either.But while Advertising Week is New York-centric, and perhaps rightfully so, any true depiction ofthe ad industry should start with the simple truth that Madison Avenue isn’t the center of the adworld anymore. And yesterday’s silly animated characters aren’t the answer to today’s marketingproblems.Maybe during Advertising Week, ad agencies across the country should set up webcams andvideoconferences to show what advertising’s really all about—hard working people creatingideas, collaborating on commercials, ads and brochures, greasing the wheels of capitalism everyday in the face of nervous clients, reduced timelines and budgets, and bizarre office politics. Yetsomehow still having a lot of fun doing it.Itd be more valuable to show the business world how great agencies solve real marketingproblems than to have Aunt Jemima give Mr. Whipple a hand job in Times Square.Although during Advertising Week, those two icons might provide a good demonstration oftoday’s typical agency-client relationships.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 93
  • 93. 8/30/2004CorvettroversyWhen an ad or idea gets muzzled, is it act of responsibility or censorship?Last week, GM pulled a Corvette ad off the air. The ad depicted a young boy staring at a parkedCorvette and dreaming of cruising through New York City so fast he gets the car airborne.Now, I’m sure most people who drive in Manhattan think that even reaching 30 MPH is anunattainable dream. So this spot was obviously not grounded in reality, just another car ad withsome cool-looking footage.There was even a prominent disclaimer on the bottom of the screen that said, “This is a dream.Do not drive without a license.” Still, several auto safety and child advocacy groups complainedto GM. And GM acquiesced.Is it bad business to do creative work that garners complaints? Is it so irresponsible that it’sconstrued as a form of malpractice? And if it costs the client extra time and money to deal withthe trouble, should agencies be held liable?I think it’s too flip to just say “Oh, those spineless GM corporate weasels bent over because of afew paranoid soccer moms.” Or “GM planned to get all this controversy and they love all thefree publicity.” The issue is a little more complicated than that.I can speak from experience here. I’ve written 2 radio spots that actually generated complaints.We certainly didn’t set out to get that kind of response, nevertheless I received copies of theletters and tacked them up in my cubicle as a sort-of badge of honor. Our client dismissed it as“well, at least the spots are getting remembered.” However, our client was in the gamblingbusiness, and there’s not a lot of moral high ground there.No matter what business our clients are in, we have to live with the notion that advertisingsimply can’t win a popularity contest. Like music, movies, books and other forms of pop culture,we always run the risk of pissing off somebody. And since most advertising is unsolicited, peopleare most disdainful of ads they don’t like.But here’s the paradox: In advertising, there is always a constant stream of new ideas andconcepts. That’s where the reward—and the risk—lies.
  • 94. New ideas are always controversial simply because they’re new. We have no prior history tojudge them against. And new ideas seek to alter the status quo, which means someone’s currentposition of power, wealth and status gets challenged. Or, if an idea challenges conventionalwisdom, someone will perceive it as a threat, and try to muzzle it. Just ask Salman Rushdie orMel Gibson.Every piece of advertising has some consequence and influence—be it positive or negative. Theonly alternative would be to produce ideas that are completely milquetoast. In other words,guaranteed non-offensive. Tried-and-true. Safe. Dull. Which will lead to messages that areroundly ignored. And creating advertising that’s roundly ignored is a waste of our client’s money.You’ll have to draw your own conclusions about whether showing an 8 year-old dreaming ofspeeding in a Corvette is a dangerous idea that may encourage reckless or copycat behavior. Toparaphrase William Hurt in ‘Broadcast News,’ "It’s hard not to cross the line. They keep movingthe little sucker, dont they?"Maybe GM knew the risks when they approved the spot. Perhaps they thought that the disclaimerwas legally correct and nothing else needed to be done. (The spot, by the way, was directed byGuy Ritchie, who’s married to Madonna--who Pepsi dropped after seeing her “Like a Prayer”video. Guess it runs in the family.)There will always be controversy over ads. There will always be resistance to new, unfamiliar orrisky ideas. We simply have to keep doing them, and ad agencies have to provide a framework toencourage them. Because the moment we stop, that’s when the ad industry will truly be dead.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 95
  • 95. 9/21/2004In the Land of the FeeConsumers keep paying more, but it doesn’t mean less advertisingWho’s more rabid in their devotion: Green Bay Packers fans or TiVo customers?If you’ve met anyone who owns a TiVo, they begin preaching the gospel the moment the topicgets broached. And I’ve got a friend who raves about XM satellite radio. They both sound neat toa media junkie like me, but I won’t get them because they represent 2 more monthly bills that Idon’t need.Can you buy your way to an ad-free existence? Now that we live in an era of ad-free TV and ad-free radio, just how many consumers will pay to live a life without advertising?Advertising as we know it has traditionally subsidized the media. It’s the reason why newspapersstill cost 50 cents or so, a magazine only costs a few bucks and you can watch network TV forfree. But little by little, things are changing. New media and new technology have led to newcosts and new charges.Let’s face it, radio without commercials and TV with instant fast-forward are luxuries. One of thegreat paradoxes of this is that anyone who readily ponies up for services like a TiVo or XM haslots of disposable income—not to mention they’re early adopters of technology. In other words,they’re an advertiser’s wet dream. But if these consumers are avoiding commercials now,budget-conscious consumers are the ones watching ad-supported media —and no audience getscondescended to more by the ad industry than a downscale demographic. It’s why Mercedes adsare always more intelligently written than Hyundai ads.Subscription plans are changing in print media, too. As newspapers and magazines keep losingclassified and other print ad revenue, many now offer content online and charging for access. Butpaying monthly fees for online news doesn’t mean you won’t see ads. Most times you still haveto contend with banner ads and pop-ups. Plus, revealing your email address, home address orother information puts you in their database—making you a target for other services, with, ofcourse, more monthly fees.And guess what--there’s a need for traditional advertising to advertise these services toconsumers. But the clients want to avoid customer “churn,” so all the advertising is focused onhammering the latest deal or monthly price into your brain. Doesn’t it leave you numb?
  • 96. Or maybe you won’t be numb—just broke. “Making ends meet” isn’t what it used to be. Nevermind the rent and water and electricity. If you’re a modern, plugged-in person, chances areyou’re up to your eyeballs in assorted services with monthly fees. Cell phone, Internet access,Cable TV (or satellite), NetFlix, OnStar, TiVo, XM, any number of premium Internet sites, etc.Don’t forget that many of these services feature multi-tier pricing levels which mean highermonthly charges. If you’ve got 3 or 4 people in your household, the monthly bills multiply if youwant to keep them all safe and happy. (Don’t forget the home alarm system with the monthlymaintenance fee).Just thinking about all these options (and the bombardment of ads for them) is giving me aheadache. When will enough be enough for consumers? Can be there such a thing as having toomany choices?I keep waiting for a minimalist movement to take hold. For the masses to revolt and say, “No.I’m going outside to ride a bicycle.” But it’s not happening. Instead, they’re watching LanceArmstrong on satellite TV. Or getting race results delivered straight to their Blackberries.Every new way of getting information, paid or not, is now a vehicle for advertisers to penetrate.For example, some marketers are trying to get their messages through on TiVo or in textmessages. Restraint is simply not in the lexicon of the ad business.Consumers will begin to realize that no amount of money thrown at personalized media contentwill allow them to orbit the giant advertising hairball. And people will hate advertising more thanever if they believe they’re paying to view it.You’ll be glad to know, however, that I promise never to charge a monthly fee for this column.Now if you want to send a donation, well, that’s another story.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 97
  • 97. 10/12/2004Black, White, and Spot ColorWill advertising agencies ever reflect a diverse America?Amidst the little brouhaha of last month, I received an email from a Cheap Seats reader that Icouldn’t get out of my head:“Im an African-American with a Masters in Marketing. I have been in the advertising industrynow for about 6 years. Ive been interviewing at many of the larger agencies in New York City foran Account Services position for sometime now with no success.At every interview Human Resource personnel and Account Service people constantly tell me oftheir commitment to diversity in the industry and within their own agencies. But when I lookaround these agencies everyone, aside from the janitors, is white.My question is why is it so difficult for so many people of color to get ahead at a general marketadvertising agency? With Latinos counted as the largest minority in America and the combinedspending power of African Americans and Latinos, is this pigment less trend bound to change?And why is it like this in the first place?”I felt rather honored that he chose to tell me his story. But how could I respond?Because I, Whitey O’Cracker, am only a few years and a few cheeseburgers away from a being afat old white man myself. As much as I can sympathize with the guy’s job-seeking frustrations, Ijust can’t put myself in his shoes.I didn’t have any easy answers for him, but I did pose a few guesses.First, consider the history of the ad biz. Advertising agencies in the early days were founded onrelationships. In Randall Rothenberg’s “Where the Suckers Moon,” he illustrates how the oldshops like J. Walter Thompson resembled country clubs--sort of WASPs only, so that their clientswould feel comfortable that their account was in good hands. All of which began to change in the60s with agencies like DDB, started by Irish guys and Jewish guys. So as corporate Americaevolved, advertising did, too.But its still a relationship business--read ADWEEK and youll see lots of higher-ups change jobsto work with people they worked with in the past. Which tends to keep outsiders, uh, outside. It’sa cycle that keeps perpetuating itself over the years.
  • 98. I was also under the impression that the largest agencies, especially the big NYC ones, wouldhave the most resources to find, recruit and train more minorities. But according to this reader,that may not be the case. And if NYC is the most diverse city in the world, what hope is there forad agencies in, say, Denver or St. Louis?I’ve never been in the position of having to hire anyone. I have participated in interviewingpeople, and I’ll never forget after an Asian art director came to interview and my CreativeDirector said later, “Well, there’s your diversity.” As if one Asian could balance out 30 honkies.But you have to start somewhere, right?Plus, a more diverse workforce in an ad agency will result in a major change to its internalculture. Advertising people tend to be very loose-lipped and politically incorrect in meetings andconversations. Which is easier to do when you’re not afraid of offending anyone in the room. Inother words, more diversity means more sensitivities to watch out for. Kinda takes the fun out ofstereotyping people all day long, doesn’t it?The bottom line is, well, the bottom line. Ad agencies are too tightly staffed to go out of theirway to recruit minorities the way FORTUNE 500 companies and others might. Plus, there is nojob security for anyone--and agencies who layoff people on a somewhat regular basis might beopening themselves up to discrimination lawsuits if those layoffs include minorities. There maybe some good old-fashioned CYA happening there.Agencies these days are not proactive--theyre reactive. If clients demand that the agency staffreflect the makeup of their audience, then you might see things change. But it won’t happen justbecause some agency CEO makes a speech at an industry conference or some equal opportunityline gets thrown into a classified ad. It’ll happen one person at a time, one interview at a time,one position at a time.Like I said, I don’t think the answers are easy ones. Our society, and our industry, may simplynever be able to truly look past someone’s looks. But it’s important to keep the conversationgoing. Because when it comes to matters of black, white and any other skin color—it’s all onebig grey area, isn’t it?©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 99
  • 99. 11/3/2004Living Under the BusWhen people disagree over creative concepts, does anyone really win?Somewhere in between receiving awards in Cannes, France and writing on-hold messages inDubuque, Iowa, there’s The Never Never Land of Subjectivity Hell. Many creatives spend agood deal of time there.The collaborative, creative process is a messy affair. We’re in the business of solving marketingproblems, yet there is never “THE” answer, never a definitive right and wrong way to approach aproblem. A receptionist can have an earth-shattering idea and an Executive Creative Director canhave an awful one. But all ideas are not treated with equal attentiveness. So how do youmaneuver your way through an agency where your work must get through a layered maze ofapprovals and egos?I found myself in a particularly hairy circle of Subjectivity Hell a while back. My partner and Ihad a brief freelance assignment at an agency in the throes of regime change: They had a newExecutive Creative Director who in turn brought a Creative Group Head along with him. Stick apiranha in a tank full of goldfish and guppies and you’ll get a sense of the unease and unspokentension I felt at the shop.So my partner and I do a few rounds of concepts. The Group Head likes our work and gives it hisblessing. Naturally our work involved getting approvals up the totem pole, but my partner and Iwere feeling good about things. The next day, we present to the ECD. He was too busy to see thework until the last possible minute (at which point our freelance time is almost through.) Sureenough, the ECD hates what the Group Head liked, and decided that my partner and I were givenbad strategic direction. So in front of everyone, the two creative directors start arguing over thevalidity of the creative brief. In the midst of this, my partner and I get blamed for not “solvingthe problem” and boy, are we screwed.As my partner and I sat there afterward, my partner said, “We were set up to fail.” While itsmacks of the Nuremberg Defense--Ve vere only following orderz--what other options areavailable? A couple of freelance outsiders calling 2 CD’s on the carpet are about as welcome ascockroaches.Are incidents like the one I encountered a big deal? Of course. Because they’re the kind ofsituations that occur at agencies every day. Especially the second-rate ones, where doing greatwork gets lip service, but the butt cheeks of the creative directors get the lip prints. Do the math:take one dysfunctional assignment that you’ve personally encountered, multiply it by many timesa year in hundreds of ad agencies, and it’s easy to see why most advertising sucks the big one.
  • 100. (I found out later, after my partner and I were done with our assignment, that the agency endedup presenting some of our initial, panned concepts. So yes, I got a paycheck and a tiny sense ofredemptive satisfaction.)You have to be careful when you’re in Subjectivity Hell. There may be an instinct to pursuecreative concepts that aim to please everybody. The problem is, those types of ideas always endup satisfying nobody. That’s coupled with everyone having their own personal agenda. Plus,there’s no way to read anyone’s mind. Bringing fresh ideas to the table is challenging enoughwithout having to tap dance through a minefield of office politics.And, because every assignment is different, there’s very little emphasis on wanting to improvethe process, or fix communication snafus. If work goes out the door, well, it’s almost nevertalked about again, unless you have a RCD--a Retroactive Creative Director (“Oh yeah, that adyou did and I approved 3 months ago? I never liked it.”)Sometimes, when I read about the genesis of successful campaigns, I’ll see a quote like, “Well,so-and-so really hated it but we kept it in the mix.” I wonder how the creative team managed toget their ideas past the hairball of differing CD’s, or differing AE’s and clients for that matter.Frankly, I don’t want to read useless profiles of the people who come up with successfulcampaigns. I’d love to hear how the little battles to produce those great campaigns get fought andwon.Bill Backer once said that ideas need “care and feeding.” But in Subjectivity Hell, ideas canstarve, and people become roadkill when they’re thrown under the bus. It’s getting to be a roughneighborhood— especially in a business where there’s increasingly less time to think thingsthrough. So let’s be careful out there.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 101
  • 101. 11/25/2004Addicted to AdvertisingIs pharmaceutical marketing benign—or is it a cancer on society?(Warning: reading my column may cause drowsiness, fatigue, and severe nausea. But it definitelywon’t cause a four-hour erection.)Seems like the advertising industry has become addicted to drugs. The marketing of drugs, thatis. But slowly, the intervention is being staged.A few weeks ago, a Viagra spot (the one featuring the creepy blue-horned horndog) was pulledoff the air because the spot didn’t mention side effects. And recently Vioxx, an arthritis drug witha $160 million ad budget, was pulled off the shelves entirely because apparently, its side effectsincluded an increased risk of heart attacks and death.Pharmaceutical advertising is a huge niche—spending on direct-to-consumer ads alone is over $3billion a year. It’s perhaps the highest growth sector of the advertising and marketing business.So is the ad industry truly the nation’s pusherman?We all know that from a creative perspective, most drug ads are bad to the point of self-parody.You’ve seen the spots—montages of blue skies, meadows, happy old couples and a voiceoverreeling off a list of scary side effects. Even The One Club had to create a separate award showfor pharmaceutical ads— probably because the creative bar isn’t as high as it is for other types ofclients, but the awards (and the entry fees that come along with them) are equally as alluring.Now, I’m not suggesting pharmaceutical companies are evil. They’re not—at least not any moreevil than any other industry. Simply put, modern living has given us more of everything—including more sickness, and more ways to treat that sickness. So are we living longer because ofmore drugs? Or do we need more drugs because we’re living longer?I wonder if the ad industry is helping drug makers create false demand, and in this case, reallymessing with people’s lives. I’d like to think that working on medical services clients wouldbring some inner satisfaction, at least more so than working on a car dealer account.Once, I wrote some ads for a company that made medical devices. As I read through themarketing objectives, I started thinking that there was an altruism to the work, and that I washelping people live better lives. But at the same time, I was helping a company suck up todoctors in order to become the “partner” of choice, to the exclusion of other alternativetreatments.
  • 102. Which begs the question: Do doctors share the responsibility for this mess? I never thought itwas my job to ask my doctor about a certain drug. I’ve always assumed it was my doctor’s job totell me about one if I needed it.Now, however, I’m not inclined to believe what a doctor tells me any more than I’m inclined tobelieve what an advertisement tells me. All you have to do is take a look around any doctor’soffice. The pens, the prescription notepads, the clock on the wall—they’re all emblazoned withthe logo of the drug du jour. And that’s only what you see. You don’t see the stacks of trialsamples in the closet. Or the free trips, dinners and other kickbacks doctors get in considerationfor recommending the drugs and writing the prescriptions.What’s dangerous is when the advertising morphs into a professional opinion: Say you go to adoctor for medical services, yet your diagnosis and the doctor’s recommended treatment areinfluenced by an advertiser. How would you know? We trust that years of medical school andtraining won’t be compromised by an all-expenses paid weekend trip to a golf resort.It doesn’t matter what industries your clients are in; you can use the drug industry as example ofhow far marketing can, and does, go to reach consumers from every vantage point. Because thebudgets are so large, every media tactic possible is used to promote prescription drugs.Marketing directors in other industries must be insanely jealous. You simply can’t ignore thesheer amount of branding. It’s everywhere.Not only is the marketing everywhere, sometimes it’s not easy to spot. One of the hallmarks ofadvertising has always been that you could spot it—you knew what was an ad and what wasn’t.Now of course, it’s fashionable to advertise in more stealthy ways—so you don’t know amessage is actually an ad. Which could be relatively innocent if you’re a video game maker, butwith pharmaceutical marketing, the stakes are obviously higher.In an industry where clients are shrinking their budgets, drug advertising is a virtual Brinks truckfull of greenbacks dumped at an agency’s front door. And very few agencies would turn that kindof business away—even ones that would turn away tobacco clients (another legal drug, by theway, but one that many agencies proudly shun.)Don’t count on the government to regulate drug ads out of existence, either. The making andmarketing of prescription drugs is extremely profitable, and the ad business is going have to livewith it.I don’t know about you, but it makes me feel a little queasy.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 103
  • 103. 12/12/2004New Words for the New YearBecause sometimes writers invent ‘em when they’re tired of using all the old onesEvery year, Merriam-Webster adds new words and terms to its dictionary. In 2004, for example,they added “MP3,” “information technology,” and “pleather.”I decided to get a head start on proposing some new ones for 2005. Of course, I write about whatI know, so I’m suggesting these from the wonderful world of advertising and marketing:BrandGasm—A term applied to any ad agency’s proprietary, trademarked process for doingresearch, strategy, and planning for an account. Highly touted on websites and in credentialsbooks but never really used. BrandGasms were invented to fool clients who don’t want to knowtheir million-dollar ad budget is riding on an idea that popped into someone’s head while taking ashower. Any agency can have a BrandGasm, and some even have multiple BrandGasms. But allagencies are faking them.Award Loser—This applies to anyone who hasn’t won many awards, yet likes or rejectsconcepts based on guessing what an award show judge would think of the idea. Award Losers arenotorious for saying things like “That concept’s not an award-winning ad.” “What would showjudges think of that?” “That’s a bronze, but we really need a gold.” Often times, Award Loserswill pull a One Show book off the shelf or find a great TV spot on the Internet and say, “This iswhat we ought to do.”Tagline Dependency Syndrome (TDS)—Describes any highly conceptual, often visually-oriented ad that doesn’t make any sense whatsoever until you read or hear the brand’s tagline.Symptoms of TDS include a justification of the idea such as, “Consumers often like to completethe circle themselves.” Books from ad school graduates are often infected with many cases ofTDS. But just like cholesterol, TDS comes in both good and bad forms.Retroactive Creative Director—Synonymous with the phrase “Monday Morning Quarterback,”the RCD doesn’t offer much feedback or creative direction on concepts—until they’re producedand out the door. Then the RCD comes along a few months later to blame the underlingsresponsible for the concept by saying, “Oh, I didn’t like that campaign you did,” even though theRCD approved it.Creative Diaper—This applies to any creative brief that has way too much shit in it. Like 7 or 8primary objectives. Or a “single sentence” that feels like 3 sentences. Creative Diapers should bethrown away immediately in favor of a fresh, uncluttered one, but like all diapers, no one wantsto touch it.
  • 104. Conceptiwrap—A quick summary of what just transpired in a writer/art director conceptingsession. Often used to validate a 3-hour pool playing session where a few notes got scribbled ona sketchpad. Example: “We got a good start. I think there are some good nuggets here.”Marketing Subhumanager—A client, typically entry-level or mid-level, who possesses theauthority to kill any work he/she doesn’t like or “get,” but lacks the authority to approve anywork. Often they’ll say, “I need to go present this to so-and-so,” which means the concept won’tbe presented with any enthusiasm or skill at all, and will die a horrible, premature death.Pity Patter—The awkward small talk you have to make with the people in your office you don’tknow well —and don’t really care about. Like the nerdy IT guy or the accounting person whosits at the other end of the hall. Pity Patter takes place largely in the office kitchen or duringholiday parties. It tends to involve forced, inane discussions simply because awkward silencesare even worse. Common Pity Patter topics include: sick children; last night’s game; how tiredyou are on Monday and how glad you’ll be on Friday; and “What’s that stench coming from themicrowave?”So there you have it. Now I’m off to go buy a new pleather case for my MP3 player. It’sperfectly acceptable to say that now.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 105
  • 105. 1/5/2005It’s All About the Benjamins--or the BernbachsAre making good ads and making good profits mutually exclusive?I once worked on a very retail-heavy account. Lots of weekly newspaper ads. Once a week, wehad to send the ads went to 3 different newspapers, each on its own Zip disk. Being that ouragency marked up production costs, we marked up the costs of the Zip disks a few dollarsapiece.So one day, our client showed up at our office with a stack of brand new Zip disks, saying shewas tired of paying our surcharges.But her stinginess didn’t stop there. She didn’t want to pay union talent costs for radio spots. Andwhy hire real actors in her TV spot when “my employees can do it free?” 35mm film for acommercial? Just shoot on video, she said, it doesn’t make a difference.Taken individually, the little demands don’t seem like much. But taken as a whole, you can seethat there’s very little money to be made from a client that counts the pennies. And very littleconcern for the production details that enhance the creative product.In one form or another, I’ve seen this behavior countless times. So how do you actually makeprofits in the ad biz?Money matters affect everything and everybody in agency life. Once I told my creative director Iwasn’t happy with a couple of radio spots I had written and that I’d spend a couple of hours thatevening fine-tuning them. “You don’t have any time left,” he said. He was referring to whateverhours were estimated for writing on that particular job—before any idea was even generated. If itwas estimated that an ad would take 5 hours to write, that’s what the client gets billed. After 5hours, I was told, it’s either done, or the agency starts losing money.Or does it? That kind of clockwatching argument goes against everything I’ve ever been taughtabout creative work—that you work on something until it’s right and you’re happy with it. Andas a full-time employee, I’m a fixed cost. Whether I spend an hour on an ad or all day, I get paidthe same. The quality of the end product is what I care about most.More and more, accounts and ad campaigns come down to matters of dollars and cents. Accountsare getting awarded based on what the client’s procurement division decides is the best (read:cheapest) offer. During some recent account reviews, there were clients who asked the agenciesto disclose the salaries of everyone who would work on the account.
  • 106. It’s not a surprise, because clients themselves are getting squeezed. In a world where you cancomparison shop for anything on the Internet and Wal-Mart’s path to world domination comesfrom “Always Low Prices,” profit margins all over corporate America are shrinking.Consequently the expense of advertising, along with the value, is being called into question.Agencies, in turn, have to squeeze their suppliers as well. Use the cheapest paper for a brochure.Lowball a photographer with the promise that “we’ll make it up on the next job.” And so on.I’ve heard many ad people grumble about all this. I bet you’ve heard it too: “Lawyers don’tnegotiate their hourly rates. Doctors don’t discount their fees. We’re professionals, so why arewe so willing to do it?”And most agencies are perfectly willing to cave when a client tries to pay as little as possible forthe work. Mostly, it’s out of fear of pissing off the client and losing the account. So whatever ittakes to keep the agency lights on, it gets done. The trouble is, no one wins. The agency getsunderpaid, which causes the staff to work ever harder on ads that can’t be produced right. Theclient won’t be happy because they’ll always be looking to haggle over the bills and if they can’tdo that, they’ll search for a cheaper agency.I suppose it would take some sort of industry-wide agreement or standard to ensure that agenciesget paid enough to avoid skating on razor-thin profit margins. In other words, it would take afreakin’ miracle.If you’ve got any insight into how to do great work and be profitable in this ever-squeezedbusiness, please chip in your two cents’ worth. That is, if you can spare them.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 107
  • 107. 1/24/2005Wardrobe Malfunctions and Advertising DysfunctionsCan advertising still surprise people when real-life is even more jarring?I was channel-surfing during last year’s Super Bowl halftime show.That’s right, I missed seeing live Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction, or “Nipplegate” if youprefer. Of course, I saw it replayed many times on talk shows. It has become the primarymemory people have of Super Bowl XXXVIII.So, despite the pre-and post-game hype, and the creative triumphs like a farting horse and toiletpaper sticking out of a quarterback’s butt, the commercials didn’t leave a lasting impression.Hundreds of millions of advertising dollars took a back seat to the spontaneous display of a tit.Because of the uproar over last year’s halftime show and the crass TV ads, the early word is thatmost spots this year won’t be aiming to out gross-out each other. I think that’s a step in the rightdirection, but not because last year’s spots were bad.Simply put: Nothing’s shocking anymore. At least nothing the advertising industry can come upwith.I mention this because of the spec Volkswagen Polo TV spot that made the rounds last week—mentioned on blogs in addition to landing in my e-mail box. In the spot, a would-be suicidebomber pulls up to an outdoor café in a VW, and then, from a POV across the street, we see anexplosion confined to inside the car—the bomber dies, but the VW survives intact. “Small butTough” is the payoff tagline.When I first saw it, I just didn’t have much of a reaction beyond a nonchalant “Oh that’s kindaclever.” While it’s possible a small QuickTime movie diminishes the impact of the spot, I justdidn’t find an ad poking fun of a suicide bomber all that funny. But I also didn’t find it shocking,offensive or in bad taste. No, my reaction was worse:I simply wasn’t affected.The ad guy in me says it’s because years of flipping through award shows annuals mean I seefewer and fewer ideas that are truly original, provocative, or stimulating. But the human in mehas a different take. I’ve become desensitized--my brain numbed over constant exposure to real-time tsunami footage, a mudslide, a few Amber Alerts, a lingering war, basketball players whopunch out fans, Paris Hilton’s scandals and Fox’s “Who’s Your Daddy?”And even though I’ve got my own problems to deal with, these events invade my senses—because I am a reader of magazines, a viewer of TV, a surfer of the Internet. Which means I am aprime target for many advertisers and their messages.
  • 108. So when Mother Nature is the one that’s pushing the envelope, and real world events arehappening outside the box, what the hell is so edgy about advertising?Our industry is facing a time where commanding an audience’s attention will require more thansimply making ads that are shocking or outrageous. No, I’m not suggesting a move towards dullor milquetoast work. But we might need to redefine what constitutes cutting-edge work. Maybewriting ads with intelligence can be considered pushing the envelope. Or maybe telling the truthwill now be viewed as edgy.Still, I’m looking forward to seeing what this year’s Super Bowl brings us. We’ll see some funnyads, some clever ads, maybe some gross ads. But we may not recall them a week later if realityproves to be more memorable.Oh, you want memorable? The next time you’re told to push an idea farther to make it truly“breakthrough,” rip your Creative Director’s shirt and expose a nipple. That’ll cut through theclutter for sure.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 109
  • 109. 2/16/2005H-P and the Bigger PictureWhat happens when a great campaign can’t help a troubled client?Miss the business news for the past 10 days? Let me summarize:February 7: Adweek gives Hewlett-Packard its “Campaign of the Year” award.February 9: Carly Fiorina, Hewlett-Packard CEO, gets fired.February 14: Alison Johnson, Hewlett-Packard SVP of Corporate Marketing, resigns.Lest you think an honor from Adweek is a jinx, this is just a case of coincidental timing. Otherbusiness magazines have been hinting at a CEO change for months. And it seems the adcampaign played no role in reflecting Fiorina’s overall performance.However, any change in top management usually foreshadows a change in the direction ofadvertising and marketing. Which would be a shame, because the ad agency (Goodby, in thiscase) did what it was charged to do and did it well. So do recent events mean, in the end, that thecampaign didn’t work, or that the campaign wasn’t the right idea for the company?Once again, we’ll see soon whether an ad agency is treated like a partner or merely a vendor—bywhether the H-P retains the agency and solicits their advice as management forges ahead with anew corporate strategy. Positioning H-P as a leader in digital imaging and printing wasn’t apanacea—the company has deeper problems that ads can’t fix.This paradox is one advertising agencies have wrestled with for decades. A successful, highlypraised ad campaign doesn’t mean automatic success for an agency—or the client. The converseis true as well—a highly loathed, bland ad campaign can prove perfectly okay for a companywhose balance sheet is healthy and whose investors get a nice return on their stock. These aresome of the reasons why many CEO’s don’t place a high value on their advertising.So if agencies are so disposable, even after producing successful work, does this meanadvertising people should still care about how their clients’ business is doing? I say of course.But I’ve met and worked for numerous people who couldn’t give a rat’s ass about their client’sbusiness, so long as they got a nice TV spot out of the deal. Many creative folks wear theirignorance like a badge of honor. And in the ad world, a nice TV spot can take your career a lotfurther than finding other, unglamorous ways to improve a client’s business. The clients go away,the ad people move on to something else, and wheels of commerce keep turning.
  • 110. But our industry needs to change—or perish. We love to bitch that our clients don’t understandadvertising—say, when clients are presented with a humorous concept and take it literally, orthey simply don’t get it. Well, the ignorance works in reverse—we advertising people often don’tunderstand their business or their industry. Although it’s often our detachment that can point outthe opportunities and problems a client has, and we can use that to their benefit to help them. Ifonly we had the opportunity, or took the initiative to seize it.It’ll be very interesting to see where H-P goes from here. And they’re not the only companyfacing this situation. Every high-profile account review seems to reflect something beyond aclient’s dissatisfaction with its advertising. Ad agencies must adjust to a restless business climate.Maybe soon we’ll see the day where “the board of directors” and “stockholders” are listed as thetarget audience on a creative brief. Boy, that’s not a rosy picture, is it?©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 111
  • 111. 3/9/2005Boeing and BangingBoeing’s CEO had an affair and got fired. Maybe a career in advertising would suit him betterThis week, Boeing CEO Harry Stonecipher was fired for having an affair with a female companyexecutive. And once again, corporate policies, ethics and conduct are under scrutiny.Affairs among high-powered people and their business associates are nothing new. Jack Welch ofGE had one. Rudy Giuliani had one as mayor of New York City. Some people are just drunk onpower. But in the advertising industry, it seems, such behavior is more pervasive up and downthe totem pole.If there’s anything the ad industry produces more of than TV spots or junk mail, it’s salaciousgossip. And I’ve heard, as I’m sure you have as well, any number of tawdry rumors of CEOsgetting their swerve on at a Christmas party, or other employees doing it in or out of the office.Our business has all the ingredients for a stew of sexual tension: Long hours, frequent travel,loose ethical standards, young horny employees, heavy drinking, and the general freedom to sayalmost anything on one’s mind in the spirit of “ideation” or “concepting.”Even some ad industry lingo is suggestive:“Can you mount that?”“I think you need to push that further.”“We have 2 good ones. We need a third.”It’s no accident that a disproportionate number of people in the ad biz are married to other adpeople, or creative types in general. Some are legendary: in 1967, Mary Wells married HardingLawrence, who was her client at Braniff. Now that’s superior account service.There are no across-the-board ad industry standards about these kinds of issues (just like thereare no standards for anything else.) Interestingly, I actually know of a few agencies that have apolicy of not hiring two spouses. And there are some agencies that were started by husband-and-wife teams.But it’s also possible that something is seriously out of whack in our society, or in our industry,when there’s no work/life balance. When so much of our energy is spent on our jobs, and somuch time is spent with our co-workers, our families and friends don’t get the attention theydeserve. So it becomes hard to meet people outside of work if you’re single, and way too easy toget involved with people at work if you’re married.
  • 112. There are other potential consequences to a sexually charged work environment. One formerwriter’s assistant on “Friends” is suing for harassment because she was subjected to hearing“coarse, vulgar and demeaning language” in the writers’ room. The defense maintains that suchtalk is part of the creative process. And I’ll buy that argument, but still, some people have lesstolerance for sex talk and we need to be cognizant of that.So in the interest of self-preservation, companies like Boeing, which have more conservativeenvironments, will probably re-evaluate their personnel policies and trying to maintain a zero-tolerance stance in the wake of the Stonecipher incident. But I don’t think we’ll see a lot ofstricter fraternization codes in ad agencies.After all, it’s one way of ensuring where the next generation of ad talent will come from.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 113
  • 113. 3/30/2005Desperate Housewives and Desperate SenatorsIf cable TV gets fined for indecency, will advertising be next?Last month, Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska proposed that cable TV, satellite TV & satellite radio—things you pay for--be subjected to the same “indecency” standards that broadcastprogramming is held to. Which means, much like what the FCC did to Howard Stern, thegovernment would be empowered to impose fines on pay services.“The problem is most viewers dont differentiate between over-the-air and cable," Stevens said."Cable is a greater violator in the indecency arena...there has to be some standard of decency."Frankly, I don’t think an 81 year-old Senator from Alaska has the clarity of mind to make suchpresumptuous statements or determine what a standard of decency would be. His TV dietprobably consists of Andy Griffith reruns and “Antiques Roadshow.” Hell, he is a one-manantique roadshow.But more and more, attention is being turned toward entertainment and the values it reflects. Agrowing chorus of people are claiming that Hollywood doesn’t represent the values ofmainstream America.We’ve seen plenty of recent examples of how Congress wants to stick its collective noses intothe private lives and choices of people—and this is not much different, pay services being achoice consumers willingly make. And if “Madison” and “Vine” are truly converging, it won’t bea far leap to go from enforcing decency in broadcast programming to enforcing decency inbroadcast advertising.So let’s think for a minute: What values does the advertising industry reflect?There’s no simple answer—our industry is a bizarre confluence of both progressive dreamingand ass-backwards reality. Whether you live in a city or out in the ‘burbs, on one of the coasts orin Kansas City, chances are your ad agency is housed in an urban area, or at least the busy part oftown. And although I’ve met a handful of backwards thinkers and puritanistic Bible-thumpers inthe ad business, most of us deliberately explore the edges of the popular culture—because in theconstant quest for new ideas, advertising often co-opts edgy culture and mainstreams it for massconsumption.In the end, the work we do reflects the conservative culture of Corporate America more than ourpersonal tastes. Because our clients are the ones we have to satisfy. And many clients fear greatideas simply because they’re afraid of consequences---like angry phone calls from consumersand idiotic statements from politicians such as Ted Stevens.
  • 114. So the values of advertising are rooted in mainstream business. But you don’t need to be aBoeing, Enron, or ChoicePoint stockholder to realize that corporations, no matter how small orlarge, are not the keepers of a virtuous value system. Which begs the question—what’s indecent,anyway? Mickey Rooney’s bare ass? Or is indecency something more subtle—like selling super-sized fast food meals to blubbery teenagers? How about convincing people to take out a secondmortgage to buy a new Hummer to drive to the grocery store?Advertising is, of course, somewhat regulated right now. There are claims we can’t make andcompetitors we can’t bash. Plus, a media outlet has the right to refuse to run an ad it doesn’tdeem appropriate.But if we don’t keep advertising on a higher ground, treating people with intelligence instead ofcondescension, and protecting the industry from outside attack, folks like Ted Stevens will turntheir sights to more regulation of advertising.Because the more desperate we and our clients get in our tactics, the more desperate thegovernment will be to do something about it.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 115
  • 115. 4/16/2005Maximizing Our Skill Sets to Enable Synergistic CrapWhy advertising people speak like idiotsToday’s deliverable is a best-in-class solution.So why aren’t you psyched about reading more? After all, business people the world over getpaid big bucks to spew that kind of nonsense.That’s what I realized while reading a great new book called “Why Business People SpeakLike Idiots.” A quick and easy read, it implores people to use their own voice at work—becausethat’s what people like and remember, as opposed to using jargon and doublespeak that makesyou sound like everyone else.Of course, that argument made perfect sense to me as someone who writes with a distinct voice.But then, reading the book’s real-life examples of corporate bullshit, I got chills down my spineas the ugly truth dawned on me:Advertising professionals and marketing people use as much meaningless jargon as the mostPowerPoint-addicted management consultants. And even the supposedly best creative boutiquesare guilty of this.I once sent my portfolio to such an agency—one that had a cleverly written web site that evenpoked fun at unnecessarily complex marketing jargon. After an initial inquiry and a few worksamples, the Creative Manager sent me a cheery note that said, “Send it all! We are looking andId love to see the rest of your work. Any format you have. Look forward to seeing the rest ofyour stuff!” Yes, she tossed in the exclamation points for added eagerness and perkiness.Two weeks later, I got a clearly generic cut-and-pasted reply stating, “At the moment we do nothave any openings that match your skill set. However, we will keep your information on file andcontact you if something appropriate arises.”I politely replied, inquiring for specific feedback, but got no response. It was as if aliens swoopeddown and replaced a human Creative Manager with a robotic corporate drone. But even worse,such language ran directly contrary to the agency’s brand “philosophy” as demonstrated on theirweb site.And that’s the point. Ad agencies as a whole, are brands unto themselves, the people at theagency (and their correspondence) an extension of that brand. Treat your employees, co-workers,clients, and all the other people who come into contact with your agency like human beings andonly then will you have an authentic, respectable brand. Pepper your communication with jargonand your agency will sound like an insurance agency, not an advertising agency.
  • 116. There’s no excuse for an advertising agency to hide behind corporate doublespeak. In fact, it’scompletely hypocritical given what we love to preach to our clients about the simplicity ofpowerful, direct language.Now let’s contrast that ad agency with a different service business, a company that gets it.Southwest Airlines doesn’t even accept e-mails from their customers. Because, as it’s stated ontheir website:“Our Customers deserve accurate, specific, personal, and professionally written answers, and ittakes time to research, investigate, and compose a real business letter. We answer every letter wereceive in the order it arrives…to keep our costs low, our People productive, our operatingefficiency high, and our responses warm and personal.”And Southwest is in the airline business (or the ‘freedom business,’ for you GSD&M fans.)Perhaps that attitude is one of the reasons Southwest is making money while nearly every otherairline is losing money even as you read this. Southwest may not be a glamorous brand, but atleast it’s an authentic one.We need some of that authenticity in our business. Advertising is a self-critical, self-reverential,self-absorbed business. We spend so much time talking about advertising to other advertisingpeople you’d think none of us working in the business would be able to tolerate jargon, muchless spew it ourselves. But we embrace it, toss it into our agency website “philosophy” sectionsand cram it into new business presentations—even when we know that what’s being said ismeaningless.I’d love to hear if you’ve been able to resist the temptation to couch your words in meaninglessdrivel. But please don’t reinvent by wheel by ideating a paradigm-shifting holistic manifesto.The ability to swallow that kind of crap simply isn’t in my skill set.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 117
  • 117. 05/10/2005Installing an Upgrade to Ad Industry 2.0How to make sure you evolve—even if your agency and your coworkers don’tIt’s been a month full of upgrades. First, I got a new cell phone. Then I upgraded to the Mac’snew “Tiger” OS. And then the folks at Talent Zoo launched a massive upgrade to their websitewhich needed my assistance. Every one of these was time consuming and sometimes a pain inthe ass, but I’m better off for doing them.Technology is not the only thing that needs regular updating. You have to continually improveyour skills to stay current. So are you upgrading your mind to make yourself a better adprofessional? Is your agency upgrading itself?I suppose there are some professions out there that don’t change very rapidly. Not advertising.Even if you’ve been in business for just 10 years, you’ve seen it change completely. (I alwayswonder whether David Ogilvy, if he were alive today, would send a PDF of an ad to a client forapproval.)Some ad people need to be dragged kicking and screaming into the present day. I can recall beingan intern in 1993, when I helped a 50-something art director use a Mac for the first time. Heresisted getting a computer in his office for the longest time—-and was shocked when I showedhim how easy it was to move margins in Microsoft Word.Later on I encountered the CEO who had no clue how to go about buying and installing aninternal agency e-mail system. The Luddite CD who never read his e-mail. The other CD whofrowned upon office use of the Internet—except when he used it to poach concept ideas and lookat porn when he could get away with it. So when these agencies’ competitors (and their clients’competitors) make forward strides or embrace new technologies and ideas, they were leftdumbfounded.Part of the problem is so many ad professionals devote a lot of time to do their job— and try tohave a life outside of work. There’s little time to improve your knowledge to make yourselfaware of current trends in business or culture.In contrast, young people & college students have free time, open minds, campuses usuallystocked with the latest technology, and friends who are into discovering new things. That’s thepower of junior-level talent. People entrenched in this business or comfortable in their positionsare, for the most part, notoriously reluctant to change. As a result, they quickly becomedinosaurs.
  • 118. Staying relevant pays off—look at Bill Gates. It’s known that twice a year, Bill Gates spends aweek at a secluded cabin where all he does is read. Magazines, books, and reams of internalMicrosoft paper and reports. Tons of stuff. And that’s the week when he thinks hard and makesthe crucial decisions that affect the company’s direction.Does your agency’s CEO do that? Are the people in your shop abreast of how fast the ad world ischanging? Are they aware of what’s going on inside their own business? Or are they still thinkingthey’re one great 30-second network commercial away from fame and glory?Like all human beings, ad people are creatures of habit. However, that’s no excuse. If you wantto remain relevant, you have to keep yourself up-to-date. Discover new influences. Newtechnology. New methods of problem-solving. And if you’re in a powerful position in the ad biz,change can’t simply be something you talk about. Your agency has to actively find new ways tohire people, manage the business, deal with clients and stimulate everybody to produce betterwork. Otherwise you’ll face a downward slide—maybe not a quick one, but a gradual decline forcertain.I plan to keep upgrading myself. Because I know contented people in advertising are everywhere—and if you’re one of them, send your resume over to N.W. Ayer. I heard a while back theymight be hiring folks to work on Eastern Airlines.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 119
  • 119. 05/31/2005Madison Avenue, Main Street, and the Arab StreetTo win hearts and minds, or merely wallets, perception is everythingWe’ve all had tough clients and tough brands that gave us a good marketing challenge. But couldyou successfully market a brand people hate?Recently, on behalf of the Council on Foreign Relations, Charney Research conducted 14 focusgroups among college graduates in Egypt, Morocco and Indonesia to determine sentiments aboutAmerica in the Arab world. Of course, Anti-Americanism sentiments were rampant, but whatsurprised me were the whacked-out misconceptions that served as the basis of their hatred.The focus group participants fervently believed, among other things, that up to 85% of America’scitizens are Jews (it’s more like 2%) who also control nearly all of Congress. In addition, thefocus group participants were unaware that America has given billions in foreign aid to theircountries and other nations. They thought the figure was only in the millions.Remember, these were university-educated people. How could their view of the US be soincorrect?Their perceptions have been shaped in a society that only presents to them a skewed vision ofreality. They know only what their government and religious leaders tell them, or what they readand hear in government-run media.As a result, America is not a brand they can experience or comparatively shop—they can’t kickthe tires, so to speak. Our country’s actions are far from perfect, but as long as the positiveattributes remain ignored in Arab countries we don’t stand a chance to win their “hearts andminds.”Now what does all of that have to do with our job as advertising people? Plenty.In America, even deodorant makers have an easier time selling themselves. That’s because welive in a world where access to information, positive and negative, is infinite. Consumers don’trely on advertising messages to make purchasing decisions. They’re free to buy the products orreject the products. So advertising people have to be incredibly skillful—and truthful--persuaders.But we’re paid to present one side. Our client’s side. Through, empathy, or comedy or fear,clients pay us to move product. Sometimes, all we consider is our client’s vantage point, and notconsumer perception. That’s when advertising sounds like bullshit.
  • 120. Maybe you’ve written an ad saying your client’s product is the ultimate “solution.” Or yourclient asks you to emphasize their “superior customer service.” Even if everyone quietly knowswhat you’re shoveling doesn’t smell too good, you have no choice. At least, not if you want tokeep your job or your agency wants to keep the account.The problem is, people believe what they choose to, whether based in truth or not. As advertisingprofessionals, we must be aware of these perceptions in order to change minds.This is not merely a political or marketing phenomenon. The perception battle is even foughtwithin our industry. I’ll give you another example.Adweek recently took an editorial cue from a high school yearbook and published a reader pollof “Best & Worst” ad agencies in a number of categories. Grey took the dubious honor of “WorstAgency Reel.” Now, I’m sure most of the voters (ad people) don’t know what Grey actually hadon its reel, but since the industry perception of Grey is that they’re a perennial poster child forcreative mediocrity, they took the title.To combat this, Grey put up a website called worstagencyreel.com, where you can actually seethe reel and decide for yourself its degree of wretchedness. Maybe Grey can win some “heartsand minds” by actually getting people to watch the reel. Or maybe Adweek readers are as proneto preconceptions as a focus group of college-educated Indonesians.The lesson of all of these example is simple: We can only do our best work, influence consumerperceptions, change minds, and increase sales if we and our clients know what consumers reallythink—good and bad. The truth isn’t always pretty, but it’s the starting point for any goodstrategy or creative brief.Some minds will never be changed—not in the Arab world, the business world, or theadvertising world. But any advertising or marketing person who doesn’t understand the power ofconsumer perception, especially preconceived notions, lives in a world of their own.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 121
  • 121. 06/22/2005If You’ve Been Injured by an Ad Agency...Can there be malpractice in an industry with no standards and practices?“Can we revisit the copy? The headlines and body copy are a little too creative for thebrand.”That was the change request I received one day while writing ads to promote a bank’ssponsorship of basketball teams—newspaper ads created specifically to run in a specialbasketball-themed insert. Keeping that in mind, I artfully weaved bank services with basketballverbage.Now, I wasn’t going to practice a gold pencil acceptance speech because of these ads; in otherwords, the ads weren’t pushing any envelopes and they were well inside the box. So being called“too creative,” in this instance, was laughable.I have no idea how this decision got made, but I believe the ads were deemed “too creative” by ayoung AE—without showing it to anyone else, least of all the client.Thinking about it later, I wondered what would happen if a client ever found out that its agencywas intentionally making ads that were “less creative” by design. Isn’t that a kind ofmalpractice?Yes, that’s a loaded word, malpractice—it conjures up armies of ambulance-chasing laywers,subpoenas in hand. The last thing any ad agency needs is an accusation of malpractice—but isthere such a thing? Should there be?The spectrum of advertising is a very simple one. At one end is a compliant agency of order-takers, giving the client exactly what they request, clichéd word for clichéd word. At the otherend is an agency of arrogant, self-appointed experts shoving a concept or an ad down the client’sthroat. 99% of all advertising in the world falls somewhere in the middle.The best of us hope a client will recognize that we are using our expertise to make appropriaterecommendations. But if an agency, internally, knows that it is intentionally watering down acreative concept, or not giving a client its best thinking for one reason or another, can that beproven? Or is it always subjective?
  • 122. We live in strange times—even in the last 2 weeks, we’ve seen pharmaceutical companiesvoluntarily holding back the advertising of new drugs, yet BusinessWeek ran an articlesuggesting that Toyota is pursuing a strategy to insert itself into the editorial content ofmagazines. Any ad agencies involved in these decisions are likely working to the best of theirabilities—yet one is pulling back, and one is venturing into unchartered territory. Who can judgewhat’s truly best, or even ethical?The problem isn’t merely that no one can define what great advertising is. No one can definewhat advertising is, period. So “malpractice” would have to be in the eye of the beholder.Advertising will never have the equivalent of medicine’s Hippocratic Oath. There will never be aset of guidelines and principles to aspire to that would be universally accepted. And fear ofcreative and provocative concepts will always be there, whether it comes from our co-workers orour clients.We can only hope that the market is self-correcting, that bad agencies, and bad people in thoseagencies, will be rooted out of the business. Because we certainly don’t want teams of lawyersdeciding what constitutes good advertising practices. Lord knows, they would deem almostanything except the 5-point mandatory fine print as “too creative.”©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 123
  • 123. 07/12/2005The Home for the Strategically ChallengedCan you ever make a great ad from a bad strategy?When my client, the CEO of a well-known widget company, started banging his fist on the table,I knew we were in trouble.“Power,” he said. “That’s what we need to hammer home. We’re the leader in power. Power,power, power.”Only we knew it wasn’t true. His competitors had equally powerful widgets. And a new widgetmanufacturer had just entered the market with impressive technology and a design that one-upped everyone else.But no one from the agency who was in that meeting that day, not the AE, not the CreativeDirector, not the agency president, not me or my art director, challenged him on this assertion,which would become the new strategic direction for our ads.Oh, yeah, and he wanted one more mandatory element: Babies.“Our target audience is women,” the CEO said. “When we’ve used babies in our ads before, thefocus groups remember those ads. We have brand equity in babies.”So off went my art director and I, to concept ads with babies that would reinforce a position ofpower.There wasn’t any recourse. At that point, what the CEO asked for became sacrosanct to the AE.When reviewing the concepts, it was her mantra. “We don’t hit the power message hard enough.We’re not hitting the babies hard enough.” (Okay, she didn’t say that last sentence, but sheimplied it.)Like all other aspects of advertising, strategic thinking has evolved. From the idea of a USP, toRies and Trout’s idea of “Positioning,” to now, when we capture attention by any meansnecessary, be it entertainment, interruption, or sheer weirdness. More, and more, consumersreject what simply doesn’t ring true or relevant to them.So why do so many clients keep resorting to cliched thinking? Why do agencies continue toaccept those mandates? Is there a place in agency life anymore for well-thought-out strategicthinking?See if these platitudes ring a bell: “We don’t give the clients what they want. We give them whatthey need.” “We always show the clients something that’ll scare them.” Somehow, when theCEO is in the room, it rarely happens.
  • 124. Ad agencies can only survive if they offer a service no one else can, and be the impartial thinkerthat aims to make the client’s business succeed. It’s a reason why I believe creative people, theones doing the work, ought to have a say in strategy as early as possible in the process. (If theywant a say, that is. Many creatives simply don’t care, and they’re only screwing themselves ifthey can’t think strategically.) Because when you’re the one making the product, you want theraw ingredients and blueprints to be the best possible. And you need the option to revisit thestrategy if the process doesn’t yield great concepts. Otherwise, you might end up with somethinglike, say, “Fried chicken is part of a healthy diet.”Unfortunately, many agencies still operate on an assembly line approach, where you do only onething, and don’t dare suggest how to do anything else. When Henry Ford did it, he made cars acommodity. Now, many ad agencies have let their strategic thinking, and the work that follows,become a commodity.In other words, for you all who love buzzwords, an agency with a multidisciplinary approachneeds multidisciplinary people. With the freedom to weigh in on something even if it’s notreflective of the title on their business card. If an agency’s employees only know how to do onething, an agency won’t succeed at anything. And, when your client starts banging his fist on theconference room table, no amount of photogenic babies can save you.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 125
  • 125. 08/02/2005Taking Size 14 and 36DD RisksTwo new ads show some skin—but do they show any guts?Just when the summer was passing by uneventfully, leave it to the ad industry to shove someT&A in our faces. Ive got two recent examples Id like to compare and contrast.The first ad, an ad to promote Advertising Week, featured some prominent cleavage with theheadline "Advertising. We all do it." The second is a campaign for Dove Firming Lotion featuredsome real women (not models) showing off their not-supermodel-firm bodies and being proud ofthem.There’s a bit of, ahem, naked honesty in both ads. The Advertising Week ad reminds us thateveryone promotes his/herself in some way (the other ads in the campaign, while less overt, havethe same takeaway message). And until the Amish look comes in vogue, women know dressingscantily will command the attention of men. Like George Costanza once said, "It’s cleavage. Icouldn’t look away!" The Dove ads affirm that its product works for the benefit of so-called “realwomen” by using real women in an un-airbrushed form, as opposed to the models so prevalent intypical beauty product ads.So are either of these campaigns likely to get in CA or win a One Show award?Practically speaking, I know neither one seems likely to win—at least the way shows are judgedthese days. Now, the Dove campaign might win an "EFFIE" for its effectiveness but to creatives,EFFIEs are the bastard stepchild of awards shows.But think about this:Which campaign took more risks? Which one defied conventional wisdom? Which onereasonated more with its target audience? Which campaign brought a new level of attention to itsrespective category?The middle-aged-white-male-overgrown-frat-boy-ad-award-show judge mentality says theAdvertising Week ads would be more worthy of a trophy. But even though theyre funny, theyseem tame in the world of advertising self-promotion efforts. Advertising people like to push theindustry inside jokes pretty far, so there’s essentially nothing too shocking about a little cleavage.In contrast, Dove certainly has put itself, and the women promoting it, out there for the world tosee. Backed by an all-out PR push, The Dove campaign has people talking. Not just ad people.News articles, columnists, bloggers, people on the street, everyones got an opinion. Thebillboards have even been defaced in subway stations. Nothings more successful than an adcampaign so provocative it’s both loved and hated in mass quantities. Plus, its an integratedcampaign—with a significant web component as well as traditional media.
  • 126. So why wouldnt it be worthy of a significant creative award? No catchy British-style wittyheadline? No Singaporean visual solution? Would an ad for something called ‘Dove firminglotion” be better if all you showed was some freaky visual, like a porcupine with silky smoothskin?All the creative directors who preach the importance of advertising that contains "simple humantruths" ought to be applauding the Dove campaign. And anyone who babbles about theimportance of an integrated, consumer-engaging, more than just ads, old-plus-new mediacampaign should be on board, too. Even if theyd never dream of concepting these particular ads.So little advertising actually commands anyones attention anymore, yet Doves campaign hasbeen provocative—good and bad. Hallelujah. Thats the kind of risk-taking we rarely see. Yetaward show judges will avoid it—in much the same way theyd avoid the fat chicks near the poolat Loews Santa Monica.Like I said before, don’t go looking for either of these campaigns to end up in next years awardshow books. But if you judge them with truly high standards, you should look beyond thesurface.Because its not just women that come in all shapes, sizes and forms. In advertising, risk-takingdoes too.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 127
  • 127. 08/24/2005When A.D.D. Adds Up to CrapolaCan short-lived campaigns and small projects lead to long-term success and big ideas?I once worked on an account where our agency wasnt considered the “agency of record” for theparticular client. Instead, we did quite a lot of non-glamorous advertising while another, morehigh-profile shop took the big-budget work.Our AE’s were always hoping the lead agency would screw up an assignment so we could get acrack at the sloppy seconds, hoping that doing a great job at the last minute would convince theclient we could be trusted with all the work.I bring this up because of the growing phenomenon of clients and marketers who are “adding totheir agency roster” by parceling out projects to various agencies. On one level, it’s trulywonderful that great smaller agencies are getting a shot at some impressive pieces of business.But it is healthy for a brand to spread the work around in small morsels, or does it hurt the brandand waste money?Inevitably, project work creates consistency problems. Every agency wants to create a uniquelook and feel for a brand without regard to what was previously done. Or better yet, agencieswant to use their oh-so-special “proprietary branding process” to impress the client. Agencieswho share an account rarely share creative briefs or research. So a multitude of messages spillinto the marketplace. Different strategies, different tones, even different taglines. Half of abrand’s advertising can easily be great, and half of it can be hackwork—at the same time.For better or for worse, we all think short-term now. To do project work for a client means theadvertising needs to cause a quick, sudden splash, even if it’s completely forgotten in a month orso in favor of some other campaign. Results? Effectiveness? No one in the ad world gives a crap,because we move on to some other project so quickly. Agencies who work on a project basis areessentially freelancers. And hired-gun freelancers care about the end result for only as long asthey’re paid to care.Just as A.D.D. has permeated all parts of our society, it’s an inherent part of the way theadvertising agency world does business. We don’t spend time developing coherent strategies.Any body copy longer than a paragraph ends up being changed to PowerPoint-esque bullet pointpablum. The production artists have to get the work out tonight—or else. Technology has forcedus to produce work far faster than we can process the information that enables us to do itproperly.
  • 128. Clients know we’ll jump when they ask us to. Because often, they face the same pressures.Never mind end-of-fiscal quarter results; clients now focus on monthly sales figures or even thedaily ones. And in their desperation to move product, they’ll try their own ill-conceived short-term solutions--like bringing Lee Iacocca and Snoop Dogg together to push backloggedChryslers at steep discounts. (I’ll bet that once the price-break promotion is over, Chrysler saleswill, uh, fizzle, fo’ shizzle.)I don’t see any way that the cycle will get slower. Ad Agencies will have to get faster andcheaper, or else clients and marketers will yank an account from an agency take their businesselsewhere. The trouble is, if the clients don’t plan for long-term success, and agencies aren’tconditioned to care about long-term account lifespans, the quality of the advertising drops andthe consumers tune out.And if the consumers stop responding to advertising altogether, well, that’s when we might startpaying attention once again.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 129
  • 129. 09/13/2005Stuck on StupidAdvertising and PR dont work well if they dont jibe with realityWhen the gloriously badass Lt. General Russel Honore rolled into New Orleans to overseemilitary operations a couple of weeks ago, he was asked why the response took so long. "This isa disaster," he said. "This isnt something somebody can control. We aint stuck on stupid."Well, there are few Russel Honores in the advertising industry. If we think we have absolutecontrol over public perception anymore, were stuck on stupid.Watching TV the last few weeks reminded me that any PR or advertising initiative, when itsimply doesnt match reality, can indeed look stupid.Nowhere was the vacuum so clear than in the news coverage of the damage caused by HurricaneKatrina. The Bush administration choreographs the President’s every piss for maximum imageappeal. So the contrast between deteriorating conditions in New Orleans and the official attitudeof government officials turned into a lesson we advertising people can heed.As the situation got obviously worse, people got mad. And often, raw emotion took precedenceover objective news reporting. Anchors like Anderson Cooper and Shepard Smith rediscoveredtheir testicles amidst the Gulf Coast debris. Elected officials and TV pundits had a hard timeputting on a happy face when they were confronted with reality live on the air. Even PresidentBush needed a DVD compilation of news reports 4 days after the storm hit so he could actuallysee what was happening.Its once again a reminder that advertising and marketing people need to get out of our collectivebubble. Our ability to size up a situation from a somewhat neutral position the only advantage wehave if we want any influence over shaping the images of our clients.More and more, were living in a transparent age. Just because an ad says something, a marketingVP says something, or a PR campaign says something, doesnt make it true. Some recentexamples bear this out:Dells advertised its "award-winning service and support" for years but when a prominentblogger got the runaround from Dells customer service reps, he told the world of his troublesand found many folks whove had similar experiences. In the spring, while Wal-Mart opened itscorporate headquarters to the press in a charm offensive, in Arizona they authorized an adcomparing a new stores opponents to Nazi book burners. And Kaiser Permanente has enlistedBob Dylan in an image-burnishing ad campaign to insist "The Times They Are A-Changin"while consumer-generated websites tell horror stories of their experience as Kaiser HMOpatients.
  • 130. A glossy ad or a shiny happy PR campaign cant completely wash away those contrastingrealities. Ive often heard creative directors say they like ads that reflect little "human truths." Butheres the problem: There is very little truth anymore.Everyone has their own version of the truth, and when it comes to brands, consumers will decidewhat the truth is. Maybe theyll experience something firsthand. Maybe theyll learn it in school.Maybe theyll find it on the Internet. Or maybe, just maybe, theyll get the truth from ad or anews report spun from a PR campaign.And marketing and advertising can still make an impact. With thought-provoking work that bearssome relevance to the real world or provides comic relief that lets people escape the harshness ofthe real world. And by losing the clichéd thinking and marketing buzzwords. Stopping clientsfrom insisting they offer "great service" when they dont. Or pushing the notion that a clientsproduct or service is a "solution" when there really is no real problem to solve, only somethingthat needs selling.We have a messy media landscape right now. With plenty of challenges and opportunities forsmart marketing and advertising. Theres plenty of cleanup work to be done and I think well beable to see the results. That is, as long as we can see for ourselves the reality thats on the ground—and were not stuck on stupid.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 131
  • 131. 10/04/2005Directly Speaking, Can We Control Ourselves?If youre personally affected by bad advertising, maybe youll think twice about foisting it on thepublicMy bank reminds me that Im "special" to them through their TV ads. But Im not feeling sospecial.I left town for 9 days. When I returned, I found 2 disturbing things in the mail from the bank:1) A "CheckCard" I never asked for. Sitting in an envelope so any moron, just by touch, couldfeel the thick card enclosed. And waiting to be "instantly activated” any time of day or night.2) A letter containing my PIN number. Printed in bold. Yes, my PIN number. The one thatssupposed to be a freakin secret.Had anyone other than my trustworthy neighbor collected my mail, a pilferer couldve taken #1and #2, cleaned out my bank account and trashed my credit rating.So I cut the card & the letter up and threw them away. But 3 days after I got back in town, thepiece de resistance came:3) A solicitation from the bank to subscribe to a $9 per month "Identity Protect" service thatwould supposedly protect me against identity theft and credit fraud.Well, guess what. Companies like my bank, and their direct marketing gnomes, cause theproblem in the first place by sending Direct Mail crap that can directly result in identity theft andcredit fraud. Because all this happened to me the very same week the ad industry had a little NewYork City love-in, I was reminded how far our business can sink.There’s no restraint. Anywhere. At least it feels that way.We walk a very thin line in the advertising industry. Consumers tolerate the bombardment ofmessages, because they like cheap magazines and newspapers and sometimes-cheap TV. Andoccasionally, advertising becomes an invited part of the culture.Yet at the same time, theres a whole world of advertising that we rarely celebrate, but we do itbecause our clients demand it. We write it, bill it, and get it off our desks, never to be seen again.That is, until it shows up in the mail with your PIN on it.
  • 132. Unless Direct Mail gurus and Direct Marketing wankers get their act together, the advertisingindustry as a whole will never get any respect, no matter how many icons parade through TimesSquare. And if it seems Im being particularly harsh on that medium, well, youre right. BecauseDirect Marketing is the one area that’s most rife with abuse, with its addiction to intrusive datacollection as well as its utter banality. Target me directly, and Ill respond directly, like it or not.Besides, since I work in the ad industry, I know this wasnt a faceless backroom operation.Someone high up at my bank had the idea to send out unsolicited CheckCards. Someone thoughtthe PINs should be disclosed. Someone had to write and proofread the DM letters. Someone hadto cross-check the customer database. Someone had to coordinate the printing, the mailing, etc.Dozens of people had a hand in approving this marketing clusterfuck, starting with the client.And no one seemed to think it was a bad idea.I spoke to one of the bank’s truly pleasant customer service representatives to make sure I nevergot anything like this again. She gave me the corporate BS: "We sent a mass mailing out to allour valued customers..." Well, if my account had been cleaned out, the value would have beenjack squat. And it wouldve been directly the fault of the banks irresponsible marketing nimrods,not an unsuspecting branch manager, bank teller, or phone rep who usually take the brunt of theconsumer complaints.Fortunately, no one wants to be me that badly, so for now, Im safe. But that could change in aninstant. In the pursuit of more demographic and psychographic information, weve built a beastwith far-reaching tentacles. And the more data we collect, the more we attempt to find out aboutconsumers and store that information on hard drives and servers somewhere west of Omaha, themore things could potentially spiral out of control.If youre in a position of authority over an advertising account, particularly anything to do withDM or CRM, you ought to start paying attention. Because if youre not, one of your peeping tomneighbors might be. You know, the ones who wait for the mailman every day.And then, you’ll get screwed. Directly.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 133
  • 133. 10/25/2005The French EvolutionUnfettered hero worshipping in the ad biz? Now that’s crapThis week, the advertising industry had a public relations problem.Neil French’s resignation from WPP became a news story that was picked up by newspapersworldwide. Hell, I even saw it covered on Fox News. The singular face of the ad industry was amiddle-aged white guy puffing on a stogie.Reading the press’ descriptions of Neil French was quite entertaining.“Guru.” “Legend.” “Celebrated Figure.” “Expert.” (The UK Sun used the phrase “MotormouthBrummie.” I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. I have no clue what it means.)Frankly, Neil French isn’t the problem. The problem lies with the starstruck suckers who treat hisevery utterance like it was the word of Moses or the Dalai Lama. And then insist his commentsare above reproach simply because, well, he’s Neil French and we’re not.The cult of personality that surrounds certain people in advertising is silly at the very least, andin the case of Neil French, dangerous. It was bad for business at WPP where he worked, and it’sbad for the ad business as a whole.I’m always amazed at the aura that surrounds the people who have the ability to match somedecent words with a picture or two and a product shot and then convince a client to say “yes.” Inan award show book, they’re perfect. Genius. Untouchable.Then, inevitably, they open their mouths. They get quoted in Adweek or give an interview inCreativity. Rarely is there any real brilliance in anything they utter. Which makes me think, “thatperson’s full of shit.” Or more appropriately, “that person’s just as full of shit as I am and whydid he end up in Creativity?”I have a friend who’s met many of these people, whereas I haven’t. Usually when I inquire as towhat these “superstars” are like, the report goes something like this: “He’s unimpressive.” “She’sreally not that bright.” “You’d be disappointed.”And yeah, I am disappointed quite a bit when I hear that. Because, starting in ad school, welooked to certain people and certain agencies whose work we admired like: They have thesecrets. They know something we don’t. We have to be just like them. But it was beyondadmiration. It was hero worship.
  • 134. I’ve now been in advertising long enough to see many of the agencies we admired go out ofbusiness. To see the particular people we admired end up doing incredibly average work orleaving the business altogether.With very few exceptions, the people in advertising that impress me are not the ones with themost trophies. They’re the quieter ones. The ones who use their talents boosting their clients’businesses, not boosting their egos.So lets keep things in perspective. Neil French will keep pontificating on “crap” females andsucking on his big brown cigars. Just maybe not on WPPs dime.The rest of us have jobs to do, bills to pay, and clients to serve. And we face a consumer publicwhere women—at least in America, according to American Demographics magazine—control85% of the household spending. That’s $3.5 trillion. Oh yeah, and a lot of them try to balancecareer and family just like female creative directors do.Here’s hoping advertising’s next expert legendary guru understands the audience our industryneeds to be communicating with. I’ll save my hero worship for him.Or better yet, her.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 135
  • 135. 11/15/2005Polluting the Mental EnvironmentWhy TV advertisings effectiveness is melting away like the polar ice capsOn Sunday night, I sat down to watch a Fox News special on the threat of global warming. In avery Fox-like way, all the information was quickly edited, highly graphical and had a greatsoundtrack. But in a very un-Fox-like way, the point of the program was to present the viewpointthat yes, global warming was real, and yes, human beings are actively contributing to itsadvance.So what kind of advertisers would dare to put their commercials on such a controversial show?During the first commercial break, I decided to keep a list of all the spots I saw during that hour.First off, there were 32 commercials in this one hour. Thirty-freakin-two. I wouldnt haverecalled a single one of them if I hadn’t written them down. Thats 16 minutes worth ofcommercials—not counting Foxs own promos. Simply put, theres too damned much advertisingfor any of it to be effective. When will TV networks get the hint?But quantity of ads is an easy fix. What intrigued me even more was that as I was confrontedwith melting icecaps, fragile ecosystems and some very dire predictions, not one marketerthought this program and its subject matter deserved any special attention or special message.The first commercial of the hour was for a new one-use plastic dental floss device thats alreadypre-threaded. So right off the bat, Im hit with a product whose main benefit is that you can use itonce and throw it straight into the garbage. Which, in turn, goes to some landfill somewhere,never to decompose. While this product may have an interesting benefit, the first thought I hadafter seeing this commercial was how wasteful the product is—and how wasted the clientsmoney was placing it on this show.5 car manufacturers were brave enough, or foolish enough, to advertise on Foxs global warmingspecial. 3 of them touted cars with V8 engines. And one was specifically promoting a car with an"air-cooled glove box" - which Im guessing simultaneously keeps your stuff cool in our nowextra-globally-warmed environment and spews more crap into the environment because of theextra needed refrigerant. More wrongheaded media planning.The only oil company that advertised on the show wasnt advertising its cleaner gas, alternativefuel sources or new environmental initiatives, it was pushing a credit card for its gas stations.Another dubious media placement.The rest of the spots seemed incredibly random—beer, investments, assorted pills, deliveryservices, an electric shaver, a couple of dot-coms, wireless service, a diabetes meter. And acouple of hideous local TV spots for extra suffering.
  • 136. After I reviewed the list of advertisers, I wondered: Wheres all this supposed creativity inmedia? Wheres the planning? Is anyone responsible for these ad placements paying attention?Why was I watching a TV show on global warming and no one tried to sell me a hybrid car or abicycle? I was in the mood to listen. Whether a product represented a major lifestyle change or alittle eco-friendly gesture, any advertiser seeking to appeal to an environmentally consciousaudience had their chance—and blew it.Now, Im not a media planner. So I couldnt tell you if there’s a way to always ensure thatappropriate messages match the appropriate TV programming. But as TV ratings come underincreasing scrutiny, the key to television advertisings future effectiveness may not come throughnumbers, but through the relevance and appropriateness of when and where people see thatadvertising. Of course, you can’t convert that idea into an equation and slap it into an Exceldocument to justify your 15% commission.So thanks to Fox, I learned quite a bit about our environment—both the physical and mentalones. If you don’t believe me, do what I did. Sit for an hour and watch TV uninterrupted. Payattention to what pops up during the commercial breaks.The power of television advertising wont die, but its melting away. And while its partially afunction of time and technology, its also partially something the ad industry has brought uponitself. And the time to take action is now. Otherwise, all of our careers could be facing extinction.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 137
  • 137. 12/05/2005The Bald Midget and the Furniture Store Owners DaughterAs media splinters, what will become of local advertising?I once worked on an retail chain account that had a very simple marketing plan: They spent about$1000 total to write and produce 2 radio spots, then ran the shit out of them in a handful ofmarkets, spending about $2 million in the media buy.That was it. And boy, were they known for those spots.In spite of all the discussion about branded content, web movies, and other assorted "media-neutral" stuff agencies-of-the-moment brag about pursuing, the local and regional advertisers aresteadfastly sticking to the old game plan.You know who I’m talking about: The local bank that claims to treat you special. The furniturechain that has a going out of business sale every month. The spa/billiards/dartboard outlet. Thelocal hospitals. The car dealers. The funeral home shameless enough to flaunt itself in a cheesy,bouncy jingle.Will they ever change? Can they embrace new media? After all, these are folks who aim forquantity in advertising, not quality. But if traditional media gets less effective, what will the localclients do?Most every agency that is now doing award-winning national work starting out pushing localadvertisers into new creative territory. Some agencies got famous doing local work for free andentering it into awards shows. But local advertising is rarely sexy. Creative directors never wantto see it in a portfolio. Yet theres real money at stake; its the bread and butter of our businessand incredibly, incredibly tough to do well.Taking on local clients means you either deal with marketing people who arent verysophisticated, or you deal the owners who want to star in their own ads (and put their annoyingkids & dogs in ‘em) no matter what. These clients don’t have large budgets, and consequentlytheir ad agency cant devote the resources needed to produce a campaign thats as nuanced asnational advertisers do. So its mass marketing, plain and simple.Ultimately, much of it is wasted money. Because the President’s Day Sale is competing withNike. The local shoe outlet is competing with Lexus. No matter who you are, your ads still battlefor the same limited attention, the eyes and ears of the consumer. And it doesn’t help that onmost cable stations, the local commercials always look like theyre on 4th generation videotapes,and they’re never seamless with whatever the national channel is showing. So a commercial willoften get cut off too soon and you’ll see the last frame or two of some other spot. Messages canget completely lost when that happens.
  • 138. Someone once proposed that if TV stations wanted to retain viewers, they should reduce theirrates when they air more creative TV commercials. Don’t hold your breath. First off, thecommission system is alive and well in local media, so the incentive exists for stations to sellquantity advertising time, not quality. Plus, how can you tell the carpet outlet owner that hislispy, pie-faced granddaughter just won’t cut it in today’s media world? Or that there’s really nobrand equity in a jingle that screams, “great people, great prices?”I assume there will always be a need for local advertising, and by extension, the local TV, radiostations, and newspapers.So weep not for the chick lying seductively on the bed as the camcorder pans across the furnitureshowroom. Or the bald midget willing to get hit the face with a cream pie for a pizza joint.Their jobs, like those of all the other local yokels, are secure.Ironic, isnt it? Because in the higher-stakes world of national and global advertising, everyoneelse is so insecure.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 139
  • 139. 12/29/2005I Want My CA, and I Want My MTVIs it fair to compare today’s work to what was done in the past?Recently, the Communication Arts Advertising Annual showed up in my mailbox. Like it doesevery December. Ive been a subscriber since 1993.With each passing year, though, I find myself spending less and less time looking through it. Thework thats showcased this year is…well, it’s all pretty good. Nice art direction, a few cleverthings, some cool visual weirdness, a fairly thick "integrated" section I don’t recall seeing muchbefore.But like I said, just pretty good. Nothing more, nothing less. Is it me? Why am I not blown awayby todays work?Then in a flash, I suddenly realized why. Its Huey Lewis fault.Or maybe its Michael Stipes fault. Or maybe Bryan Adams.You see, Im a huge fan of music - and I started buying records when I was 7 years old. To me,nothing will ever replace the music I heard in the few years when I was 13, 14 or 15 - smack inthe middle of the 80s, which many older people considered to be a musical wasteland at thetime. But damnit, I wanted my MTV, and I still wish they had World Premiere Videos. Its notthat I dont like new music. The White Stripes, Franz Ferdinand, Madeleine Peyroux - all aregood, but none of their CDs get under my skin the way "Lifes Rich Pageant" did. Or "TheJoshua Tree." Hell, Ill even cop to being a fan of "Reckless."Likewise, no recent ad has gotten under my skin the way Nikes "If You Let Me Play" or thebeautifully black & white Norwegian Cruise Lines ads with the non-linear, poetic copy did. Forme, those were the seminal ads that showed me what was possible in advertising. I vividly recallseeing those ads, reading them, re-reading them, and aspiring to write something that would riseto that level.I suppose this is why some people get downright maudlin when talking about DDBs Volkswagenads of the 1960s. Those ads were unlike anything else that was being done at the time,particularly in car advertising. The ads launched a creative revolution in the industry. But, let’sface it, they look quaint now (for Gods sake, you actually have to read the body copy tounderstand what the ad is saying!)Getting nostalgic is hazardous to your career. The key to staying viable in the ad business is tostay current. Ive worked with, and Im sure you have, veterans of the ad industry whove simplyrusted, whose skills are outdated, who attack every problem the way they did 20 years ago.
  • 140. This is a wild time to be in the ad business. Technology is pushing us into places, physical andothers, we’ve never been. Some people, and some agencies, will get left behind. And the newwork in CA, well, it reflects where were going, not where weve been: less words, more visuals.Showing more and saying less. Ideas that don’t quite fit a 4-color, consumer magazine spread.Ideas that are worthy of recognition, even if they dont come in instantly recognizable forms.Perhaps the new CA is disappointing cause no new ads could ever stack up to ones done in the"good old days" - and those are whatever days one considers good & old. Perhaps its unfair tocompare today’s work to what was done 10 years ago, or even 40. The ad industry, like the restof the world, has changed since then, and we better keep up.Oops. My "Best of the 80s" mix just stopped. Does anyone know how to rewind an iPod?©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 141
  • 141. 01/19/2006The Super CriticsThe ad world’s biggest showcase is everyone’s turn to weigh inThis column is being posted less than 3 weeks before Super Bowl XL. Just think howappropriate the Roman numerals seem to be this year. Because in the ad industry, the Super Bowlis always an extra-large sized serving of hype, hope, craft and crap.I no longer believe Super Bowl advertisers pay $2.4 million for 30 seconds because they have alarge captive audience. Like any other day, the commercials compete for the viewers’ attentionamidst a host of other distractions. I’ve even been to Super Bowl parties full of advertisingindustry people, who supposedly would be the most interested audience, where few people areeven paying any attention to the ads.Instead, the $2.4 million buys hype—in the weeks leading up to, and after, the game. Most adsare revealed long before the game starts. It’s the added publicity that justifies the price.But with added publicity comes added scrutiny.Go watch TV over the next few weeks. Instant advertising experts and prognosticators will popup everywhere. The ads will be regularly played on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC, followed bybanal punditry. And your local Eyewitness News crew, no doubt, will also have their opinion.Financial analysts on TV and in the paper will weigh in on who’s advertising during the SuperBowl and what their stock will be worth based on how good the ad is.In other words, everyone in America turns into Bob Garfield for a week.The Super Bowl is big business, but the Super Bowl ad business is a cottage industry as well.USA Today has turned their Super Bowl “Ad Meter” into an annual ritual. Supposedly, they get abunch of “average” consumers, strap them in, stick a dial in their hands and let them move thedial up or down based upon how much they like the spot. (According to USA Today, thetechnical term for this is a “continuous real-time focus group.”)CEO’s and Marketing Directors at the companies who advertise do pay attention, though. Withso much cash laid out, no CEO wants to wake up on Monday after the big game, already nursinga hangover, only to find out their commercial has been roundly panned by the focus group.But for the ad industry in general, the Ad Meter doesn’t mean squat. Because deep down, mostcreative people really don’t want to know what regular consumers think. Regular consumers likeJared from Subway. They like the AFLAC duck. They like talking chimps and dressed up chimpsand people imitating chimps. Think of the Super Bowl and its ad winners and losers as thePeople’s Choice Awards for advertising.
  • 142. That’s OK though: the ad industry quickly shakes off the Super Bowl in order to serve up theannual season of self-gratification, the ADDYs, ANDYs, CLIOS, One Show, and other awardshows. The people strapped to the USA Today Ad Meter go back to being comfortably ensconcedin their insurance sales and forklift operating jobs so the self-appointed geniuses of the ad worldcan tell us what rightly deserves to be rewarded. Usually, the USA Today Ad Meter winnersdon’t get Pencils. I’m willing to bet this year’s One Show will be Clydesdale-free.Both the USA Today Ad Meter and the ADDYs have their place in the advertising world.Because we should always strive to be the most unique communicators we can be. But we alsoshould never forget that that the majority of the audience we communicate with doesn’t care ifthe logo is too big, the headline’s a pun, or the visual’s been done before.Pretending that the ads consumers like on Super Bowl Sunday don’t matter is the game we play.And that’s probably a good thing. Our industry can’t handle too bright a spotlight from the rest ofthe media. We hate to subject ourselves to vocal public scrutiny. We can’t deal with a worldwhere everyone’s a critic. Perhaps that’s because we’re self-critical enough as it is.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 143
  • 143. 02/08/2006Scrubbing Bubbles and Flubbing CEOsStrong advertising reflects corporate culture—and outsiders need to bewareWhen William Perez was unceremoniously dumped at the CEO of Nike after only a year on thejob, speculation was rampant that he didn’t fit in with the Nike culture.But as was mentioned in BusinessWeek, Perez committed a greater sin: He didn’t get the ads.An article reported on Perezs viewing of a Nike basketball spot: His concern: The ad explained nothing about the product, and it had minimal brand presence. "I came from a rational world of communications," Perez said.Perez’s background included a 36 years SC Johnson & Son, the home of Pledge, Ziploc,Scrubbing Bubbles, and Raid and all sorts of other household products. So he knows a littlesomething about getting people to buy mass quantities of product. But he didn’t understand theNike brand, or so it seems.For argument’s sake, let’s assume that the difference between Nike and S.C. Johnson can beeasily shown by their marketing. So how do two successful companies both achieve majorsuccess utilizing two very divergent ad strategies?Well, the answer is simple—no one in marketing or advertising can definitely say whetheremotional beats rational; whether entertainment value beats product benefits. There’s no oneright answer and there never, ever will be. And if the Perez case is any indication, some peoplesimply can’t change from one mindset to the other.Most agencies don’t have iron-clad beliefs in this debate. Agencies tend to do what clients want,and therefore end up producing ads and strategies that are a muddled combination of benefits andemotional appeal. The research people get a say, the creative folks get a say, the clients get a say,and soon the ads face strangulation by committee. A feel-good approach with benefit copy pointsuncomfortably crammed in. Combine both successfully and you’ve got a miracle. And miracles,as we all know, are rare.One wonders what would happen if Raid pursued a pest death-is-glory “Just Kill It” strategy, andif Nike pursued a benefit-oriented “now with more cushioning, making you 15% faster thanthose other sneakers” approach. While they could do those types of ads, both SC Johnson andNike would be messing with what, for each company, is a tried-and-true formula.We simply don’t expect to form an emotional bond with Ziploc or Pledge and we don’t expect tolearn why Nike would be better than its competition. At least not in the TV ads. But go to Nike’swebsite and you’ll find more product benefit information than you ever wanted to know. MaybePerez wasn’t willing to give consumers that much credit. We’ll never know.
  • 144. With companies like Nike out there, and companies like SC Johnson out there, both successful,we’ll continue to see advertising that stretches from one extreme to the other. The hard-sell willget harder, the soft-sell will get softer, and the debate over what’s more effective will never end.But don’t worry about William Perez, though. Somewhere, there’s a benefit-oriented marketerwho needs him. And for his 12 months of not fitting in at Nike, he’s scheduled to get $8 millionin severance. That’ll buy a few mansions’ worth of Scrubbing Bubbles and Raid for sure.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 145
  • 145. 03/01/2006Living In the Echo ChamberMeet the new clutter—same as the old clutterOver the past few weeks, quite a number of ad people and press people have turned theirattention to the new Volkswagen campaigns being put out by Crispin, Porter & Bogusky. Sinceexpectations are so high, it’s quite a hot spotlight for any agency or campaign to be in.The funny thing is, I didn’t see any part of the campaign on TV or in print first, or anything thatbe considered my normal daily media diet. Just on blogs. Ad blogs. PR blogs, business andautomotive-related blogs, etc. I consider reading them just keeping up with my job and myindustry. Being a contributor to an ad industry blog myself, I have to admit I’ve lost someperspective with exactly what many consumers actually do see or hear. I mean, I see theDitech.com guy more often on my TV than anyone else, but no ad industry blog would give thatdude 5 seconds of attention.It’s now becoming quite common to “seed” ad campaigns or websites through word of mouth—say, on marketing industry blogs & related websites. And the latest TV spots and print ads getleaked. This often happens before consumers see the work. If this is the new face of viraladvertising, I suppose I’m developing immunity to it.But a bigger problem looms. The ad industry echo chamber is growing louder and louder. Newcampaigns get judged—and given praise or scorn—in just a few days, and before any mediadollars have been spent. No campaign gets a chance to build momentum. It either comes fullylaunched or it gets soundly trashed by online pundits. Which gives campaigns bad early word-of-mouth thats hard to overcome.In addition, today’s campaigns are more integrated—and convoluted. Is that what consumerswant? I’m inundated with ads designed to lead me to seek out more information, or play anadvergame, or direct me to a site that entices me to give out my email address or otherinformation in exchange for the privilege of being entertained. But are the messages we’re tryingto send—the advertising messages—really that complicated, or worth that much trouble?How many people truly want to seek out more advertising? How many people yearn to visit adcampaign-related websites? All of them attempt to provide a modicum of entertainment value,but it seems like there are a few sites that are hits (with a lot of hits), but a whole bunch ofmisses. After a while, keeping up with all the microsites and viral efforts is mentally exhausting,even though it’s an occupational hazard. What, then, is it for people who don’t care much aboutthese sites in the first place?
  • 146. Since the Volkswagen work has been hyped quite a bit, far less attention is paid to the hundredsof other, similar efforts that are cropping up every month. All marketers are exploring them now,whether they’re German car makers or Texas salsa makers. We’re seeing efforts that are trulyintegrated—but often, very convoluted, costing a lot of time and money to create. Are marketersgetting their money’s worth from all these sites?I may indeed make friends with my “Fast,” but I’m taking it slow. I generally don’t like toexpress an opinion about an entire ad campaign based on what I read on a blog, or a smallQuickTime video. For the benefit of Volkswagen and any other marketer’s campaign, I prefer togive it some time to build momentum, or fade away if there truly is no momentum. That’s whatconsumers will do, after all. They simply don’t care as much about advertising as we wish theywould.Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for finding new solutions to marketing challenges. But maybe it’stime I spent more time out of the echo chamber. Because now more than ever, the noise isdeafening.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 147
  • 147. 03/20/2006Oh, the HumanityHas the advertising business losing the human touch?Recently a friend of mine, a marketing manager, was forced to acquiesce to her panicked boss,who asked her to send out an e-mail ad blast to a group of customers at the end of the businessday, in a hurry. So it got done, fast.Only the wrong database received the e-mail. The group of customers who got the message was alarge group, and they received a special promotional offer that could potentially cost thecompany millions because it went to the wrong audience in haste.But this is what the experts call Loyalty Marketing. Or Customer Relationship Management. Orthe age of Integrated Communications, circa 2006. Any marketer who isnt onboard will fallbehind, so it seems.We have the ability to create ad campaigns and communication pieces, online or offline, in amatter of hours, and send them out to millions of people without ever seeing a human face or ahuman reaction. Is that a good thing?One of the knocks on big budget, traditional advertising is that you can buy $10 million worth ofTV, radio, and print, and it’s too general, too non-specific, and it misses the new audience andtheir fractured media habits.But I think advertising, in a rush to embrace everything that is new in new media, is slowlylosing the human touch. We produce work, in ever-larger quantities and at an ever-faster pace,that contain the tone and type of messages we’d never use if, say, we had to sell our productsface-to-face or door-to-door.Going virtual can lead to impersonal, which can in turn lead to antisocial. I have some personalevidence of this: I’m a contributing blogger on AdPulp.com. Sometimes we offer praise for adsand the ad industry, and sometimes we dispense criticism. We also have an open commentssection. Invariably, the nastiest, most mean-spirited comments come from people who hidebehind anonymous names and e-mail addresses.Can we say the same thing about ads that are produced in haste, and behind a mask ofanonymity?But both online and offline advertising can lack a humanistic quality. You can hear the genesis ofthis in agency and client meetings. Advertising and marketing professionals get in conferencerooms and rarely talk the way normal people would, discussing ad strategies without consideringthe desires of the audience on the receiving end. The groupthink kicks in:
  • 148. “I think we need to focus on a service-oriented message… “We’ll just get consumers to visit the website…” “We failed to mention carpet fiber quality…”All the market research, focus group testing, and other planning methods don’t help. We stillhave trouble communicating in a human way. No wonder so many ads seem so irrelevant.But it’ll only get worse. Advertising is an industry that operates at warp speed. We need the Webto conduct business. And every ad agency is rushing headlong to make sure campaigns areintegrated on the Net, and hiring accordingly.I understand. I cant imagine a life without Internet. In the process of moving cities recently, anytime I spent without a fast connection nearby gave me panic attacks. Seriously. Without Internetaccess I felt out of touch, left behind, and at a disadvantage, career-wise. Do accountants anddoctors have this problem?I know I’m not alone in feeling discombobulated despite being so plugged in. This week’s TimeMagazine had a cover story on today’s teenagers and college students who multitask with theircomputers and cell phones, and how this phenomenon is changing life at both school and home.Oh, I didn’t actually see the magazine. I read the story on-line. Which you can do, if you watchan ad first. Don’t ask me what the ad was for, because I can’t recall. I was multitasking at thetime. I don’t think the inability to process makes me a bad person. It just makes me human.I just hope the copywriter in me remembers that feeling the next time I’m writing an ad tosomeone.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 149
  • 149. 04/10/2006**This Column is Not Valid in IndianaWhat the fine print really means for marketers"The large print giveth, and the small print taketh away." -- Tom WaitsSomeone recently asked me what the official rules are for legal marks and disclaimers.“Is it OK to put an dagger right next to an asterisk? Because if you have 2 separate disclaimers,you can’t just put 2 asterisks side by side because it would be confusing, right?”I didn’t know the official rules, and if there are any, I dont want to know them. But I do know ifa client has to invent new Sanskrit-like symbols to accommodate a laundry list of disclaimers orlegal information, they probably have nothing interesting to advertise, or dont want aninteresting way to say it.Once upon a time, 5-point type wasn’t a click in Quark or InDesign away. These days, it’s simplytoo easy to bury the bad news at the bottom of a page.Of course, legalese is nothing new to certain industries: financial, insurance, automotive. Andcontests and promotions all have strings attached, because they’re trying to give something awaybut as we all know, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.But on the radio, it’s getting ugly: There’s a new trend in car dealer radio commercials—put thedisclaimer up front, before the yelling and selling. Some car commercials begin in a hailstorm offast talking legal jibberish that used to come at the end:“Nointerestnopaymentsuntil2007onallnewmodelsseedealershipfor details…THIS WEEKENDWE’RE STACKING ‘EM DEEP AND ‘SELLING ‘EM CHEAP!”Apparently, talking indecipherably fast is the audio equivalent of small type. Once again, we seethe mass marketer’s bad habit: not speaking to customers the way we’d speak to our family andfriends.I say, make the disclaimers the same point size as the headline or the regular body copy. Thatway, no one—not even the client—can escape the absurdity of whatever it is they’re attemptingto bury in 5-point type. And whatever the deal or the promotion is, it’ll be more transparent.
  • 150. Don’t count on that happening. In a world where “buzz marketing” means a stranger can sidle upto a bar and pretend to be your friend while selling you a new brand of vodka, perhaps alladvertising, or better yet all ad professionals, should come with a disclaimer.Because no matter what anyone in the ad industry tells you, on any given topic, some restrictionswill always apply.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 151
  • 151. 05/01/20067-Layer AdsHow do ad concepts survive the chain of client approvals?I once worked on a boutique hotel account. Every month or so we’d send a PDF of a fewdifferent ads to the general manager which he could choose from. Then, we’d get him on aconference call to present and explain the ads.He’d usually like our work, but invariably, during the call, he’d put us on hold. To go show theads to the concierge. He trusted the concierge’s opinion. One time, he took a poll of the entirefront desk staff.We’ve all heard the canard that it’s really the client’s wife (or husband, these days) who makesthe decisions on creative work. But the truth is, whether a piece of advertising actually runs notis nearly always out of the hands of the people who create it.Let’s face it: when you work for an advertising agency creating ads, you’re spending someoneelse’s money. And I don’t believe clients have it easy when it comes to approving or killingwork. They face any number of pressures, from shareholders (who love profits) to pushysalespeople (who love bullet points) to their own bosses (who love themselves). Plus, in othercases, it may be a focus group that decides ultimately what work lives or dies.If an account’s approval process means that you have to present and re-present work graduallyup the chain, from marketing managers to the CEO, a strange phenomenon occurs: All of themhave the power to say no, but only the top person can say yes.Plus, technology hasn’t made the approval process easier; technology has made it harder.Because you can send work to someone you’ve never met, and never get a chance to see theirvisceral reaction to advertising—which every human being has.And that client can, in turn, show the work around to other people you’ll never meet. Hell, itdoesn’t even have to be a spouse or child. Work can get killed by people you’ll never meet forreasons you’ll never know.I don’t think there’s anything more frustrating for ad creatives than putting the fate of their workin someone else’s hands. Even many ad agencies have layers of internal approvals that need to bemet. Sometimes you’re lucky to get a nugget of an idea through before some higher-up decidesto put their personal conceptual stamp on it.
  • 152. Despite the supposed streamlining and downsizing of corporate America, the advertisingapproval process remains more convoluted than ever. But at some point, there needs to be lesslayers, and more trusting of intuition. Because consumers tend to make their purchasingdecisions emotionally much more than rationally. I’m not suggesting that advertising be recklessor foolish, merely that ideas often have a primal power to move people—and we should payattention when we see that power.I’d love to hear from some of the client-side people out there. Do you feel pressured by the adagency to say ‘yes’? Did you ever regret saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a piece of work? Are there timeswhen you’re just not sure?I understand. Try getting 4 creative people to decide where to go for lunch. Trust me, you’llnever get an approval. Ever.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 153
  • 153. 05/22/2006Safe, Shit, and Everything Else That HappensLife isn’t pretty. So how do people handle advertising that isn’t pretty?It’s amazing that, in this age of warp speed pop culture and instant blogosphere controversies,media events of nearly 4 weeks ago are almost forgotten. But two of them popped upconcurrently that are still on my mind.I’m talking about the movie “United 93” and the Volkwagen Jetta “Safe Happens” campaignmade by Those Dudes In Miami. The movie and the ad campaign have quite a bit in common, Ithink.When the trailer for “United 93” came out, and when the movie subsequently opened, quite anumber of people objected. They didn’t want to think about what happened on 9/11, nor did theywant to see it replicated on screen, whether they had a personal connection to the victims or not.Even after nearly 5 years, for some people, it’s ‘too soon.’ And it may always be too soon.Yet the movie has been widely praised, and Oliver Stone is working on his own interpretation ofthe day. Once again, the machine of pop culture will continue to prod our sensibilities, whetherwe’re ready or not. The media (of which advertisng is a component) makes the tragedy a part ofthe collective consciousness, inescapable for anyone who watches TV or reads a newspaper.Which brings me to “Safe Happens.” Not the first ad campaign to show car crashes, but the spotis jarringly well-made. Too much for me.See, my brother died in a car crash. And every time I hear about a fatal accident on the news, orsee the remnants of one when I’m rubbernecking on the highway, my mind goes right to mybrother. I can’t change that. It’s been 4 years, but it’ll always be too soon for me.Given a creative brief to promote Jetta’s superior crash ratings, I don’t know that I would’vewritten a TV spot with a car crash. And if I were the client, I don’t know that I would haveapproved the spot. But I’m not saying that the commercial shouldn’t have been made, orshouldn’t have aired.Conversely, I imagine that there are other commercials that provoke people in various wayswhen I remain unaffected. Maybe you have one of your own; even jaded advertisingprofessionals have personal taste boundaries that can be crossed.“Safe Happens” typifies what many in the advertising business doggedly tout: ads that show“simple human truths.” In the case of the Jetta spots death, or the fragility of life, is one of thosesimple human truths. Which certainly differs from most car ads. “Zero down, no interest and nopayments until 2008,” well, there’s probably not much truth to that.
  • 154. On a grander scale, we’re just beginning to see what happens when the pursuit of “simple humantruths” evolve from silly examples (say, what women really talk about when they go to thebathroom in pairs) to the new ‘shit happens, but Brand X understands’ examples. While morereality may make for more compelling advertising, I believe the ad industry has a responsibilityto not be gratuitous just to sell product. We shouldn’t be eager to shove too much adverse humantruth in the face of consumers, who get bombarded with all sorts of messages they weren’tseeking out.A constant barrage of simple human truths may ultimately be the downfall of advertising, andour culture in general. Particularly if the messages are more provocative than entertaining. Payany attention at all, and you’ll notice the media pushes one shocking pop culture event afteranother. And by pushing one shocking ad campaign after another, our industry is followingtrends rather than creating them.Will consumers find it disconcerting that movies like “Flight 93” and campaigns like “SafeHappens” hit the culture with intensity and disappear just as fast? Ask yourself: could you handlethe intensity of that movie or ad campaign, along with the controversies surrounding them, on aregular basis?We need to ask those questions sooner rather than later. Because people may decide, for the sakeof regaining their sanity, to cut off their media consumption altogether.And the ad business won’t survive if that happens.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 155
  • 155. 06/12/2006This Column Brought to You by People For StuffIs there anyone willing to advocate for advocacy advertising?Today, I plan to ask the oil companies what I can do help them. Yep, it’s on my to-do list,because right now there’s a commercial airing, full of ordinary citizens looking to oil companiesfor guidance and thought leadership during this period of energy instability. I guess I wouldn’t bea good American if I didn’t comply.In the advertising world, advocacy ads and trade group marketing occupy a sort of nebulousterritory where almost any fact can be twisted to promote a biased point of view. And often, thereal sponsors aren’t mentioned in the work.You know this category of advertising is trite because it’s so easy to parody.“They’re Happy Because They Eat Lard.” So says a bogus Cold War era-ad that was circulatedon the Internet, showing a contented WASP family at the beach. Supposedly, it was sponsored bythe “Lard Information Council.”For a while. I thought the ad was real. I can easily picture a old-time breakfast board meeting ofthe Lard Information Council brainstorming more ways to get lard into a 50’s era diet ofTwinkies and biscuit mix. The trouble is, the ad feels authentic because over the years, we’vebeen subjected to so many preposterous selling messages that aren’t the handiwork of onecompany, but of advocacy groups—cartels of companies or special interests that often operateunder names like “Americans for America” or “People for Truth.”Sometimes advocacy groups promote entertaining messages—like the “Got Milk” ads, whichwere originally sponsored by the California Milk Processors Board, essentially a group ofdairies. Many commodity products have groups that pool ad dollars together to get the word out,and at least when you see the work you know where it’s coming from.With advocacy ads that tend to be more controversial, the source isn’t so obvious. These dayshowever, if you do a little digging, you can find out who’s behind the ads. Drug companies, oilcompanies, religious groups, and insurance consortiums are big time spenders. Every group hasan agenda to promote, and often those agendas are promoted though ads that have an ambiguousorigin, especially if politics or current legislation are involved.But the power is increasingly in the hands of people, who have the ability to sort out the truth,and often don’t rely on one source for their information. In this age of increased transparency, Iwonder if advocacy advertising will catch up.
  • 156. And at the moment, no issue is more transparent than our dependency on oil and the effects ofhigh gas prices. The oil companies tell me I can go to one of their websites to get the “facts.” Butlike any other consumer these days, I’ll decide for myself what the facts are.Which is bad news for the entire ad industry, especially if we want our work to be believed onany level. There’s a lesson to be learned from blatant advocacy advertising. By creatingmessages that simply don’t resonate or have any truth to them, we’re burning up any credibilitywe ever had.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 157
  • 157. 06/29/2006This Land was Hand-Crafted for You and MePerhaps we should rename this country the United States of AdvertisingAs this column is being posted close to July 4th, it occurred to me that if there’s anything asAmerican as baseball and apple pie, it’s advertising.Oh, I’m sure the Egyptians may have thrown a coupon in with all their hieroglyphics. And theancient Greeks probably had some sort of corporate sponsors for their comedies and tragedies.We Americans, however, have made self-promotion a national institution.Most likely, it started with Christopher Columbus. Try getting boatloads of people to travel to theedge of the earth without some sort of unique selling proposition or clever tagline. You know,like Royal Caribbean does: “Get Out There!”But it didn’t take long until settling the land in the New World gave birth to all new forms ofshady hucksterism. It’s alleged that British and French soldiers gave Native Americans smallpox-infested blankets. Can’t you picture that? “Here’s your free gift. Yours to keep with noobligation. It’s our way of saying thanks.”And so we created a republic blessed with freedom of the press. Anyone could crank out apolitical screed or daily paper, so long as you could afford the equipment and paper. Thus, togenerate needed revenue, was invented the classified ad. If you were a metalsmith or a cobbler,you could advertise your wares. If you were a slave trader, you could, too. Hey, it’s a freecountry, after all.Through wave after wave of immigrants, one of the promises of America is still that anyone cancome to this country and start a business. Which, of course, means people have to know aboutyour business before they can become a customer. Despite the sophistication of globalism,technology and media, and despite all the, uh, foreigners that win One Show pencils, I firmlybelieve advertising as a basic human ritual has remained uniquely embedded in the culturalDNA of America for 230 years, unlike in any other country.Look around you. Red, white, and blue blend perfectly with any Pantone palette.We live in a land where anybody can stand in front of a camera dressed up like GeorgeWashington, cherry tree in the background and say, “I cannot tell a lie. I’m chopping prices on allsofas and loveseats in the store.” Try doing that in North Korea dressed as Kim Jong-Il.We live in a land where it’s a summer habit to cook meat over an open flame much like humansall over the world have done for centuries. Yet we tell ourselves we’ll improve our self-image ifthe cooking’s done on a $3000 grill with bun warmers and built-in refrigerator so the neighborsin the cul-de-sac drool with envy.
  • 158. We live in a land where terrorists will come here to attack symbolic American buildings in anattempt to destroy our way of life and commerce, but spend the night before shopping in Wal-Mart and eating at Pizza Hut, which as brands are just as symbolic of our country as the WorldTrade Centers were.American advertising, much like the country itself, has long promised the good life to the rest ofthe world. A shiny new car, whiter teeth, a greener lawn. Every day, thousands of people risk lifeand limb to cross our border with Mexico to pursue that dream.Perhaps we’d do a better job of planning America’s future if we recognized that we’re a nationthat markets itself to the world. Of all the brands we’ve created for businesses, America itself isalso brand. Every action our country takes advertises the brand internally along with the rest ofworld. Let’s think of America in those terms: Is our country one that provides service after thesale, or are we a bait-and-switch nation?Maybe that’s a discussion for another day. In the meantime, I hope you have a wonderful July4th. Go get all the fireworks and BBQ fixins you’ll need to celebrate with friends and family. Ifyou go to the grocery store, don’t forget your frequent shopper “loyalty” card. You could save upto 20%.And what’s more American than that?©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 159
  • 159. 07/22/2006The Interactive GhettoAgencies are scrambling for talent to produce web work—and are determined to segregate themI recently ran across a classified ad from an ad agency that’s so highly regarded they rarely haveto advertise to find people.The ad was odd. Here’s a snippet: “We are not looking for someone who thinks ads are the endall be all. Or who are really just trying to get their foot in the door of the (DELETED)advertising creative department. What we are looking for is a writers writer…They must bewildly creative. In other words, a bright, articulate visionary.”When I mentioned this on AdPulp.com, we got an anonymous comment (well, not soanonymous, the commenter’s IP address gave away the fact that they were at the aforementionedagency.) In the course of defending the agency and the ad, the commenter said this: “They wanta good writer, but not one who is more interested in working in the creative department than theinteractive department.”Based on these insider comments, I infer that at this world-class agency, the interactivedepartment is separate from the creative department. I can imagine the interview: “OK, brightarticulate visionary web writer boy, clamp your iPod earbuds in your lobes and don’t bother thepeople writing the TV spots. You won’t do what they do, after all.”I dug a bit deeper, and found a press release about 2 of this agency’s recent hires, which toutedthe team as “a unique combination of enormous creative talent who think Web-centrically.”Oh really? I wonder which department they’ll end up in: the interactive department or thecreative department.All of this may sound like a matter of semantics, but I think it’s very telling that even the mostlauded ad agencies have no intention of truly integrating their departments, and make that factplain to jobseekers. Or perhaps they simply don’t want to integrate, for fear of alienating theprima donnas who wouldn’t dream of writing a banner ad or a page of web copy. I liken it tocopywriters who love to write TV but would avoid radio like the plague.Once again, agencies are asking their creative departments to hire one-trick ponies, or once theyhire them, agencies are determined to keep them that way.Im not suggesting that writing ads and writing for interactive dont involve different writingtechniques. Clearly, writing for the web, and working in rich media, are skills that must belearned and refined.But slowly, the dividing lines are being drawn. In other words, like their direct marketing cousinsbefore them, interactive people are now occupying their own ghettos in traditional ad agencies.
  • 160. Conversely, in primarily interactive shops, creatives with more traditional experience areshunned. It’s now gotten to the point where you cant move from traditional to interactive work(or vice versa) without prior experience, or without an employer questioning your motives. So Iguess it shouldn’t be a surprise the two rarely work together.Trust me, all this territorialism will backfire. Agencies who specialize in “above the line” workare very protective of it and hate to give any of those assignments away to “below the line”shops. More significantly, though, a similar distrust exists between the people who work in thesedifferent disciplines at the same agency.Yes, there still is a line—and interactive is somewhere in the middle, but climbing with a bullet.And the more traditional shops know this, so they’re desperate and scrambling to compete.They’re forced to advertise for interactive creative people, only to stick them in the ghetto.Marketers are scrambling for anything—anything—that will command the attention of the ever-more-elusive consumers. They want ads, they want microsites, they want buzz, and they want itall at once. But they need coherent brand strategies to do this. Which means they need coherentwork from their agency or agencies, who right now are not staffed or structured properly todeliver.Great ideas need to be expressed in all types of media—which can only happen when no one isdesignated as strictly working in the “creative” department or the “interactive” department.Perhaps if we liberate the ghettos, we’ll all work together in a truly collaborative environment.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 161
  • 161. 08/12/2006HeadOn--and Production Values OffThe growing popularity of badly made ads and viral videosBy now, you’ve no doubt seen the commercial for a headache remedy called “HeadOn.” To mostadvertising creatives, it’s the epitome of a bad spot. It defies everything we’ve ever believed goesinto a great ad. It’s monotonous, repetitive, and poorly filmed and edited. And after you’vefinished watching the spot, you’re still not exactly sure what the product is, or what it does.Turns out, the elements of the HeadOn ad were completely intentional. Focus groups who wereshown the concepts remembered this one the most. Apparently, repetition works. And repetitionworks. And repetition works.In addition, what makes this spot so memorable (or impossible to get out of your head) is that itfeels so out of place on television, in a commercial pod surrounded by big-budget, big-brandspots and slick network promos. It looks like something cooked up in a cable-access TV studiocirca 1986. Even local furniture dealer ads look good in comparison.Trust me: There’s more work like HeadOn coming. To your TV screen and your computerscreen.That’s because as a society, we’re getting used to badness. The rise of consumer-generated mediaon sites like YouTube is an indication that we’re getting accustomed to seeing low-level TV &video productions. A cheesy backdrop and a little picture fuzz doesn’t faze anybody anymore.It’s more than a trend—it’s part of the democratization of technology. I believe it started with"America’s Funniest Home Videos." And then spread to the hand-held faux spontaneity of realityTV. Anyone with a camera and a computer has the power to spread a message to the world.And on the web, it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between professional and amateurvideo. Even great ads with great production values can look inferior with compressed computervideo and smaller viewing screens. Which can diminish the impact of a message or concept evenas exponentially more people get to see it.These days, on television, you either have no production values or lots of ‘em. Woe be unto anycreative who’s had to produce a TV spot on a medium-sized budget, somewhere in the middle.Those spots always look cheap next to expensive, big-budget spots, and they doesn’t possess thecoolness factor you can sometimes achieve with spots whose concepts get enhanced by ahomemade look & feel.At a time when TV as we traditionally know it has a diminished effect but video content isexponentially increasing, ultimately we need to decide what matters. The idea? The production?The form of distribution?
  • 162. Creatives can still get great jobs if they have a reel of TV spots featuring million-dollar budgetsand 5-cent ideas. I don’t know how long that may hold true, because outside of our insularadvertising business, the buzz no longer centers on the wow factor of slickly produced TV ads.HeadOn commands attention. The wacky history-of-dance guy. David Hasselhoff’s new video.And so on.Maybe it’s good news that the rise of the web is finally showing us that content matters morethan production values. If it really takes hold, I have a recommendation.HeadOn. Apply directly to your creative director.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 163
  • 163. 09/04/2006Hardback Books and Hard TruthsWhat can you learn from a book about an ad agency?If you look on the web at advertising agency websites, you’ll notice that every agency has itsown manifesto.Some take it a step further: their manifestos are printed in hardback and available at Borders.Take “Lovemarks,” a book written by Saatchi & Saatchi’s Kevin Roberts. Now, I don’t know ifevery Saatchi employee walks through the door each morning with love on their brain and intheir hearts, but it was recently revealed that JC Penney’s CEO was so enamored with the idea ofhis brand becoming a “Lovemark” that Saatchi got the entire account.Books written by and about ad agencies keep coming. Pat Fallon recently wrote one called“Juicing the Orange,” highlighting the accomplishments of his shop. And soon, a fly-on-the-wallaccount of life at Crispin Porter & Bogusky called “Hoopla” will be hitting the bookstoreshelves, too.Frankly, I’m an admirer of anyone with strongly held convictions about advertising or business.I’ve read dozens of books about the advertising business and learned quite a bit from each. I’verecommended quite a few to friends and colleagues.Unfortunately, CEOs of mediocre shops all over the land will buy many of these books by theboxful. They’ll give out copies to management. They’ll Xerox significant pages and distributethem to the staff. All in an attempt to duplicate Fallon or Crispin’s success.Save your money. Save your copy paper. It can’t be done.I did a little research. Crispin has been around as an agency since 1965. For at least 30 of thoseyears, the only thing hot about the agency was the climate outside its building. It took time tobuild a great creative agency & a culture. More importantly, it took the right people—and theright clients.Could reading one book make that kind of difference at your shop? Could you pull off a majortransformation in one year, or two?I once interviewed at an agency that claimed it wanted to be “the next Cole & Weber” –backwhen wanting to be Cole & Weber was something agencies wanted to be. Only this agency was3,000 miles away; from a mindset standpoint, it was even further removed from a west coastethos. Instead of focusing on what the agency could become, they focused on what they wouldnever become.
  • 164. All agencies should strive to improve and to help its employees and clients achieve somethingunique and special. But that begins with an honest assessment of where you are today: Whatmakes your agency unique, if anything at all? What makes you a unique advertisingprofessional?Here’s a hint: you can’t be unique by trying to imitate someone else. Simply put, you can’t hiresomeone who worked at Crispin and expect them to spread the pixie dust at every turn. Muchlike in football or baseball, a superstar on one team can be a bust somewhere else.Right now, many agencies are working to redefine themselves for the new media landscape. Yetthey still utilize processes that are outmoded—in everything from the way they hire people to theway the work flows through the agency. Even in a business like advertising where everythingevolves rapidly, new is always unfamiliar—and scary.It’s easier said than done, but I’ll say it anyway. Your agency could be the next…well, whicheveragency you admire. But it won’t be the same; it won’t feel the same and it won’t look the same.Create a great culture at your agency. Allow the people around you to be their best. And don’t tryto become something you’re not.Then maybe you’ll have a story to tell that folks will pay $24.95 to read about.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 165
  • 165. 09/25/2006The Consumer is Not a Moron. Or am I?If you work in advertising, can advertising work on you?After nearly 150,000 miles, my car is finally starting to act like a decrepit senior citizen. Time tostart thinking about a replacement. With no particular car I really want, I’ve become animpressionable customer, open to looking around.So here I am now, playing Mr. Target Audience. But am I too jaded to pay attention to car ads?When you work in advertising, can you ever really turn off the work valve and act like a trueconsumer? Does advertising work on you?Having worked on automotive advertising at the local, regional, and national levels, I never onceworked on advertising that actually talked to consumers in a humanistic tone. Mostly, it wasclichéd babbling about the car, the dealership, or the year-end closeout event.Like a good media junkie, I started leafing through the auto section of the newspaper. I pokedaround on the web. Even halfway through listening to some local idiot yelling on the radio, I’dperk up my ears and see if this weekend was the best time to head to East Bumble to get aincredible deal on an ’06.None of it worked. No one was really influencing me.Then I grabbed a couple of car magazines, just to see if anything caught my eye. I jotted down alist of all the taglines I saw in the ads.Some of the brands imploring me to do certain things:Acura: AdvanceAudi: Never FollowHyundai: Drive your wayLincoln: Reach HigherNissan: Shift_2.0 (getting clever here with the webspeak)Some talk about their cars:Chrysler: Inspiration Comes StandardSaab: Born From JetsHummer: Like Nothing Else.
  • 166. And many are just meaningless chest-beating anthems:Suzuki: Way of Life! (Yes, there really is an exclamation point!)Chevy: An American RevolutionBMW: The Ultimate Driving MachineCadillac: Life. Liberty. And The Pursuit.Toyota. Moving Forward.Volvo. For LifeBuick: Beyond PrecisionFord: Bold Moves.Mazda: Zoom ZoomMaserati: Excellence Through PassionMercedez-Benz: Unlike any otherNow, I don’t necessarily believe automotive advertising directly correlates to sales. Friends,family, Consumer Reports, the area of the country one lives in—all play a role in what you drive.But now I see the vast amounts of cash automakers are spending--and wasting--trying toconvince me to life the lifestyle their brand says I should.Would buying a Ford Focus really be a Bold Move on my part? Can I truly Advance in an Acuraor Never Follow if I’m in an Audi? Hyundai tells me to “Drive Your Way,” but I sure can’t dothat, because I’d like to run red lights when no one’s at the intersection and drive 85 down asparsely populated highway.Frankly, as both an advertising professional and a consumer with disposable income, I willreadily admit I have been swayed by advertising in the past. I don’t think I’m above its influence—nobody is.Yet my foray into car buying, and car advertising, has convinced me that our industry regularlyloses sight of how we really should be speaking to people. We’re pretty good at identifying andprofiling our target audiences, but we rarely seem to find the right message and tone tocommunicate to them.If you want to know whether an ad campaign is on the right track, just ask yourself this: Would Ireally want to be talked to that way?Believe me, we are part of the audience. And if we ever find a way to rid ourselves of the chest-beating, condescension, and other nasty habits that permeate most of what we produce,advertising will be vastly improved. Now that really would be an American revolution.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 167
  • 167. 10/21/2006The Tale of RetailThe buzz may be online, but stores with doors still need our helpRetail-wise, it’s been an interesting month in my city. Trader Joe’s in. Tower Records out.Since quite a lot of transplants live in my city, Trader Joe’s has been a long time in coming. It’snot the biggest grocery store, nor it is the cheapest. And most of the packaged goods you’ll findthere come under their own private label brand. But it’s got a product mix and a vibe to it thatdraws people there. Amazing for a chain that, as far as I know, does little advertising except forits cleverly written monthly flyers. They’ve built a loyal customer base by building a businessfew others can duplicate.Conversely, Tower Records is now going out of business. Once, Tower was the place you couldgo where you’d be able to find whatever obscure CD you might want, and discover a few thingsyou’d never heard before. But in the end, Tower didn’t have enough customer loyalty. Everyoneknows the confluence of forces that joined together to put the squeeze on music stores.Here’s the rub: I’ve rarely bought anything at Tower in the last few years, but I’m sorry it’sclosing.Advertising and marketing professionals are falling over themselves to increase their presencesonline. So what can we do for our retail clients to help them survive?In 2006 if you truly want to avoid shopping altogether, you can. Most everything is for saleonline, and even groceries can be delivered.But retail stores won’t go away. They do, however, have to offer something not found on theweb.Humans are tribal beings, and we like to get together in groups and engage in commerce in asocial setting. We like to see the merchandise and touch it before we buy. Or we like to watchother people as they do those things. Strange to say, but I’ll often go out to a mall the day afterThanksgiving just to observe the sheer lunacy that is Black Friday.There’s no question, though, that many people simply hate shopping. They hate finding a parkingspot in a crowded lot, rude or inattentive sales clerks, and the frustration of not finding whattheyre looking for.If we’re truly a creative business, then we can help fix this.
  • 168. I believe the ad industry can play a role in helping clients in the retail business improve theircustomers’ experiences when they shop. Bad ads aren’t the problem, bad stores are. Yet most adagencies would rather have their creative teams chained to their cubicles and concepting in avacuum, rather than walking around their clients’ stores to see if there are ways to makeshopping more pleasant. Any research that’s done gets summarized in a PowerPoint deck, and weall know how much creative people pay attention to those.The issue, of course, is that ad agencies make money from advertising, not by suggesting retailimprovements. A store could take half its advertising budget, allocate the money towardsimproving its customer service (or training & paying employees), and make itself moreappealing to customers. But if you work in ad agency, don’t you dare suggest that. The agencyneeds the cash.Perhaps a creative approach to retailing could have saved Tower Records. Perhaps not. But as Iwalked in there last week, perhaps for the last time, it occurred to me that the store hadn’t muchchanged from 15 years ago—only with more DVDs and less cassettes.I’ll definitely toast the memory of many hours spent of Tower Records, and Ill make the toastwith a glass of Two-Buck Chuck. Those of you in the know will know exactly what I mean.What’s most interesting to me is that if you look for Trader Joe’s products online, forget it. Theydon’t have much of an online presence. Rather, you have to go there, get your groceries, and topay—you stand on line. Which plenty of people are perfectly willing to do at Trader Joe’s.Proving that while our industry gains online experience, we can’t forget the value of thecustomer experience.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 169
  • 169. 11/14/06Be Borat or Be BoringCan we ever convince our clients to stop being so literal?I once had a client who made exurban starter houses. Our audience was first-time homebuyers,people who’ve saved and budgeted and are ready to make an investment. When an ad I wrotereferenced the term “401(k),” our client said, “A lot of our customers are truck drivers andschoolteachers. Schoolteachers don’t know what a 401(k) is.” Coming from a family of teacherswho’ve built up some nice pensions, I most assuredly knew our client was mistaken about thesavvy of her customers, whether they had a 401(k) or not.I was reminded of this as I went to see “Borat,” as I’m sure many of you have. Among others, thefilm makes fun of Kazahks, Uzbeks, Gypsies, Jews, feminists, homosexuals, Pentacostals, anddrunk frat boys from South Carolina. I’m quite aware that people don’t see the humor in that,which is fine. It’s not a movie for everybody.But there are deeper controversies surrounding the movie. Before “Borat” even hit the theaters:The Anti-Defamation League released a statement which said: “We are concerned, however, thatone serious pitfall is that the audience may not always be sophisticated enough to get the joke,and that some may even find it reinforcing their bigotry.”In other words, while people at the ADL think they’re smart enough to get the joke themselves,it’s the rest of the population that’s stupid--they’ll walk out of “Borat” thinking Khazakstanicheese is made from human breast milk and they’ll be eager to sponsor their own “Running ofthe Jews.” (For heaven’s sake, don’t ever take them to see “The Producers” or “BlazingSaddles.”)It’s this same sense of “concern” expressed for “Borat” moviegoers that we’ve seen time andtime in again in advertising: Clients who demand ads to be dumbed down so no harm is done ifthe ads are interpreted literally.“Don’t complete the circle for them,” I often heard in ad school. “Consumers like to complete itfor themselves.” Advertising, like music, movies, or any other creative endeavor, is often subjectto interpretation. To me, the Mona Lisa is just a painting of a chick with a smirk. But otherpeople have spent their lives figuring out what she’s thinking about. (Oh, and if you think I’mcomparing the ad on your desk to the Mona Lisa…keep dreaming.)This isn’t about being edgy or risky or taking big creative chances. It’s about giving people thesatisfaction of drawing their own conclusions. It means that people will actually take the time tothink about something if their curiosity is piqued. Tell them something in a straightforwardmanner and they’ll hear it, to be sure, but they won’t think about it ever again.
  • 170. Many successful ad campaigns have an element of exaggeration, tension or dissonance—not tobe taken literally. On the ‘80’s TV show “Night Court,” when Mac, the court clerk found out hisVietnamese-born wife Quon Lee was running up a huge credit card bill. He asks her how thathappened, and she holds up an American Express card. “Don’t leave home without it!” she says.“I thought it was a law.” Now, imagine if that campaign had been killed by a moronic MarketingManager who thought consumers would think there were legal consequences for leaving homewithout an AMEX card.Frankly, any ad professional or client who makes decisions based upon some version of thenotion that “people are stupid” or “our audience won’t understand that” are themselves the stupidand ignorant ones. The smug self-righteousness of the ad industry is only one of the reasonsmuch of the work we turn out is so bad—we’re not nearly as sophisticated as we think we are.And consumers are often able to see an ad or an idea and understand that creativity means nottaking it literally.There’s always the safe route. The ad or idea that clients know they can sell to their bossesbecause it’s been done before and it’s non-threatening. So long as dollars and jobs are at stake,anything open to interpretation is a risk many clients won’t take, and many agencies won’tadvocate.And the safe route isn’t limited to advertising. You could tell that right from “Borat’s” openingweekend at the box office. It was #1. “Santa Clause 3” was a distant #2.I’ll interpret that as a good sign.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 171
  • 171. 12/06/06Righting the WritingWhen clients insist on bad copy—by writing it themselvesI once had a client who e-mailed me some copy—not for any specific ad, just some would-beheadlines and paragraphs to stick in somewhere. Looking at the e-mail header closely, I realizedshe forwarded me something her college-aged son had written.The copy was bad. Freshman Advertising 101-level bad. I couldn’t really use it anywhere. And Iknew she’d resent me if I told her how bad it was. I also knew that later, when she re-wrote aradio spot having sat on it for 4 months after I’d originally presented it, that I couldn’t win.Of all the things in the advertising business, nothing irks me more than having an ad or a piece ofcopy sent back to me by the client, re-written. Because inevitably, the result is a half-assed,watered-down, cliché-ridden mess.I don’t mean asking for changes such as modifying an odd word or sentence, adding appropriatetechnical info, or moving some paragraphs around. On the whole, those are OK. I’m talkingabout instances when the client looked at what I wrote, opened up a new Word document, andbegan re-typing.Clearly, it’s the one bugaboo that writers have to put up with more than art directors. Becauseclients can often ask for idiotic suggestions in designs or layouts, but they can’t whip out Quarkor Photoshop and make it happen. Everyone, however, knows how to use a word processor.Now, we all know that advertising, marketing and business communications in general do notconform to the grammatical rules a high school English teacher would enforce. Writingeffectively or provocatively for a commercial art such as advertising takes a different perspectiveon the use of words and language.But in the last twelve years or so, we’ve seen a massive sea change in the use of English. TheInternet, e-mail, blogs, IMs, and text messaging have led to an explosion in writing—badwriting. For instance, some people misspell words on purpose. Apparently, it’s just cool to do it.Ya know?A whole generation that grew up with digital communications is changing the standards thattypify conversational English, and continue to do so as they assume positions on America’scorporate ladder. So inevitably, the carelessness and callousness creeps into business writing. E-mails become shorter, less formal and punctuation-free. Microsoft Word can spell-check butcan’t tell the difference between “there’s” and “theirs” when it counts. Speed is essential, so weclick “send” without reading what we’re sending.
  • 172. Along with the bad grammar comes inane content. When clients write, they talk to themselves.They’ll substitute the word “solution” when they can’t define what it is a company actuallymakes or does. They’ll take simple phrases and obfuscate language so as to inhibit undue legal orprofessional consequences. In other words, they prefer copy that covers their asses.Clients feel an instinctive need to make their own mark on advertising they approve, andsometimes that includes writing the ads. They do it to try to prove their worth, and they do itbecause they think it’s fun—anytime you do someone else’s job without consequence ormeasurement or having to live up to standards, it’s fun. But if you can’t assemble a clear,coherent paragraph that passes some amount of grammatical muster, what business do you havetelling professional communicators how to do it?How did advertising get to this point? It’s simple. We don’t present ads in person anymore. We e-mail the copy in Word docs for client approval. We’ll send the copy again and again and again ifthe client needs to approve every change. And once clients get in the habit of making endless badchanges, there’s no turning back.I suppose mediocre writing is a by-product of our modern life, where everything needs to bedone immediately, and you can make a thousand tweaks in Word before you ever decide you’vegot it right. I once had an instructor at the Creative Circus who was a writer and a passionatelinguist. We were discussing some copy I’d written that needed re-writing. “What did writers dobefore computers?” I asked in jest. “They did more thinking before they wrote anything,” hereplied. Good answer.We all need to do a little more thinking. The advertising industry has quite a few problems, butwe’d be better off if our clients thought more about doing their jobs better instead of trying to doours. Then, consumers may decide the writing might be worth reading.Ya know?©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 173
  • 173. 12/30/2006Rescuing Lost BrandsWhat happens when brands stray from their core values?Last month at a Home Depot in Texas, a store manager called a customer a c…well, let’s just sayhe dropped the 4-letter C-bomb. It’s a nasty word.How do I know about what happened? Because I read about it on her husband’s blog. Hehappened to be a witness. He also works in PR, so he had both a personal and professional takeon the incident. As the story was recounted later on consumerist.com, I noticed that across theInternet, customers and former Home Depot employees have posted a myriad of “yeah, I hateHome Depots, too” comments. Doing more research, I realized that the Home Depot brand hasproblems—a customer service problem, a PR problem, and even an investor relations problem.It wasn’t always this way, as the Home Depot brand was built with an early emphasis on helpfulservice and its down-to-earth founding executives.So what happened? How did the brand lose its way?I should say this phenomenon is not limited to Home Depot. The recent Wal-Mart/Julie Roehmsalaciousness demonstrated how far that brand has strayed from Sam Walton’s original vision.Other companies, like Starbucks, Borders, Nike and The Gap, have been attacked for typifyingcorporate America imperialism and facelessness despite the fact those companies were foundedby passionate individuals in fairly progressive communities.Nor is it limited to massive chain stores or monolithic conglomerates. Ever been disappointed ina restaurant where the food went downhill thanks to a new owner or chef?Quite a number of companies, and the brands they make, ascribe themselves “core values.”While nearly every company promotes those values internally to its own employees, companiesthat deal with the public like to tout those values as an enticement to do business with them.Sometimes you can read these core values on a company’s website. Sometimes you see them onproduct packaging. But core values are meaningless unless the actions of the company, the way itconducts business, and the behavior of each of its employees match those values as closely andas often as possible.As advertising professionals, we often have to make sure our work reflects our clients’ corevalues, even if those values are only words on a page.Sometimes, advertising invents those values. Many years ago, I saw some Timberland ads thatread like a corporate manifesto, a raison dêtre. The ads were passionate and well-written. Theywere also bullshit. I noted to myself that in all likelihood, these ads would run for a few monthsand then the brand would be on to the next thing. And sure enough, the corporate manifestoadvertising and its key message disappeared almost overnight, as if it had never existed.
  • 174. To me, that’s dangerous. The core values of any brand or any company should be solid enough totranscend one ad campaign, not concocted and discarded on a whim.We’re living in a very interesting age—where companies such as big-box stores grow everbigger because of mergers or consolidation, yet consumers have the power to voice theirdissatisfaction via the Internet, reach a worldwide audience, and find like-minded people. Brandsand consumers don’t necessarily engage a two-way conversation or dialogue, but both sides nowhave large megaphones.So it’s up to us to ensure that our clients adhere to their core values in their advertising,marketing, and PR efforts. We know how to detect bullshit since we’re so good at creating it. Butbeyond that, we’re not helping our clients by promoting their “great customer service” if thatservice is notoriously lousy.Whether our clients are small businesses or large multi-store chains, the perils are the same:When a brand loses its way, customers won’t follow.So let’s make the adherence to core values a core value of our industry. And by doing this,hopefully the ad industry won’t lose its way, either.An update from Danny G.: I wrote and posted this column on 12/30/06. 4 days later, the CEOof Home Depot, Bob Nardelli, resigned. Perhaps this brand can be rescued after all.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 175
  • 175. 01/23/2007Of So-Called Rock Stars and Stage-Hogging PoseursCan we lower the volume of ego-inflating industry hyperbole?“Musically, were more talented than any Bob Dylan or Paul McCartney. Mick Jagger cantproduce a sound. Im the new Elvis." - Rob Pilatus, 1990I’m not sure if Rob Pilatus was either “Milli” or “Vanilli,” but he clearly thought he was a rockstar.So, are you the Milli of the advertising world? Are you the Vanilli of marketing managers? Orare you more like Mick Jagger? How would you know the difference?According to one trade magazine, you shouldn’t waste your time answering those questions.Ad Age recently ran a front-page headline proclaiming “Death of the Rock Star CMO.” Oh wait,excuse me. It read, “DEATH OF THE ROCK STAR CMO.” The all-capital letters mean they’reserious. But you know what the article fails to mention? That the fawning, sycophantic,journalism-free coverage publications like Ad Age bestows upon those people makes everyonethink they’re rock stars.Isn’t it long past time our industry stops referring to marketing and advertising people as "rockstars"? I mean, some people really deserve the moniker.Bono is a rock star. Mick Jagger is a rock star.Middle management marketing executives or group creative directors, however, arent rock stars.Since I work in advertising, I don’t claim to be a rock star. If you’re reading this column, thenI’m your biggest fan, but odds are you’re not a rock star, either.Now, there’s nothing wrong with saying someone has extraordinary skill or talent. Heck, even anextra helping of charm and good looks can help you succeed in the ad biz. But to elevatesomeone to “rock star” status is sheer lunacy. In a business where we seek “universal truths,” theembrace of such poseurs is universal bullshit.What’s even worse, it sets up unrealistic expectations for the person considered to be the rockstar. Let’s face it, it only takes a little time spent working for a bureaucratic corporation,dysfunctional agency, or hack Executive Creative Director to kill off that reputation. And incorporate America, where nearly everyone has a leash-like electronic entry badge and a lengthyemployee ID number, some things are simply beyond the power of one person to change--nomatter how much that person thinks of him or herself as a “change agent.”But marketing and advertising’s anointed so-called rock stars have bigger problems than inflatedegos and pumped-up bios. It’s simply not an illusion that can be sustained for any length of time.
  • 176. Everything a rock star says is said to shatter current paradigms. Every ad they’re involved with ispurported to be genius. Which gives such stars a license to be mediocre because no one dares callthem on their mediocrity. Therein lies the real danger—they don’t truly improve the profession,they perpetuate the downward slide of it. Perhaps it’s why so many of these stars are shootingstars as far as the press is concerned—and why there’s a new round of stars crowned every year.Do you buy into the mythmaking? I hope you don’t. By calling someone a rock star, you not onlyelevate them falsely, you lower yourself in the process. It makes you sound immature. It makesyou sound star-struck.“The hallways in my agency are filled with rock stars.” “She’s a real marketing rock star.” Ifthat’s what you think, then take the metaphor and make it real. You’re a groupie. You might aswell take that rock star aside and offer up a tongue bath in the conference room or have him/herautograph your breasts.It’s OK to admire people. It’s OK to have heroes, although I generally believe someone who’schosen advertising as a profession isn’t all that heroic. Much like creatives are told never to stopafter having their first idea when concepting, dont go bowing down before whoever is onCreativitys cover this month. You have to drill down deeper to find real ad people worthy ofadmiration.Unfortunately, reports of the death of rock star CMO’s, along with those on the agency side, aregreatly exaggerated. There will be more trumped-up press releases, more marketing managerspromoted to demigods, more agencies-of-the-moment and their leaders labeled “hot.” It sellsmagazines. It gets people talking.Just don’t take it too seriously. And for God’s sake, if you are or become of one of these stars,don’t take yourself too seriously. All the adulation could disappear tomorrow.Girl, you know its true.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 177
  • 177. 02/15/2007Dinosaurs, Cockroaches, And GuerrillasAdvertising is all the same—to the public, anywayLately, I don’t think I’ve been doing my job well. Because my ads haven’t pissed anyone offrecently.In case you haven’t been keeping up, here’s a brief recap:When the Cartoon Network decided to get some buzz for an upcoming movie, it hiredInterference Inc., a company known for guerrilla marketing and street-level buzz generatingtactics. So Interference put up some lit displays of cartoon characters in a number of cities. InBoston, a few went up on bridges and overpasses. Someone confused these lights with bombs,authorities were called in, and some of Boston’s streets and trains were brought to a standstill.City, state and federal officials got pissed off about having to investigate a few glorified Lite-Brites, and rightfully so.Then came the Super Bowl. A Snickers ad pissed off some gay people. A GM spot pissed offsome suicidal people—or at least some people who try to help the suicidal people. And themediocrity of the rest of the spots seemed to piss off everyone else.When advertising becomes news, there’s always a “Who’s responsible?” witch hunt in thegeneral media. In the case of the Boston terror scare, Time Warner paid restitution, the Presidentof the Cartoon Network resigned, but the CEO of Interference Inc. went into complete hiding.(Talk about true guerrilla marketing.)And it’s fascinating to watch how clueless the rest of the world is. In the ensuing mediaoverdrive after the Boston incident and the Super Bowl, so-called experts were called in for theiropinion on TV shows, talk shows and in newspapers. Business journalists and reporters glaringlyfailed to learn the facts—or follow the money. Reminding me, once again, that most Americanssimply don’t know how advertising agencies or marketing firms operate: how they’re hired, whopays them, and how ideas get conceived and executed.I’m sure you’ve seen it: whenever you hear talk show hosts or pundits bloviate on advertising, italways boils down to the fact that all this offensive, nasty marketing is the fault of “MadisonAvenue.” Those evil people on Madison Avenue, meeting in those Madison Avenue boardrooms,foisting their Madison Avenue puffery and hucksterism on the American public. This, despite thefact 99.99% of advertising professionals don’t live or work on Madison Avenue anymore.In lieu of finding out the real story behind dubious ads, we get the trite treatments:Cartoon Network: A NoHo based guerrilla marketing firm terrorizes Boston on behalf of anAtlanta-based client—and it’s all Madison Avenue’s fault.
  • 178. GM: Deutschs Los Angeles office films a TV spot for a Detroit-based automaker—and it’s allMadison Avenue’s fault.Snickers: A commercial for the Hackettstown, NJ client made by TBWAChiatDay in New York—which, truly, is located on Madison Avenue. So yes, in this case, it’s all Madison Avenue’sfault.In other words, we’re all in this together.It doesn’t matter what advertising or marketing agency you work for—if you produce some formof paid communications, you’re a part of the machine. And you’re painted with the same broadbrush. A groundbreaking Nike TV spot, a junk mail piece for AT&T, a billboard for the localWaffle House—it’s all a part of one large mass, as far as most people are concerned. And for themost part, it’s an unwelcome interruption of daily life. When you tell people you work inadvertising, they’ll inevitably offer their opinion of their favorite or least favorite ads. If you’veever tried to defend, or even explain, bad advertising you didn’t create to someone who doesn’twork in the ad industry, you know what I mean.Which is why bad work, whether it’s a national campaign or a sleazy guerrilla marketing tactic,always pisses me off. It makes us all look bad. It implants, in the minds of clients and consumers,the idea that bad advertising is acceptable—because its so commonplace.You can rail against big, dinosaur-like agencies, but it’s a part of us. You can roll our eyes atguerrilla marketing stunts, but our industry embraces it most of the time. You can advocatebetter, more responsible advertising, but when people in our industry are called to account forwhat they do, they tend to scatter like cockroaches.So it’s best to keep in mind that the work you do may piss off some consumers, or someorganizations. But it also may piss off the rest of the ad industry, who’ll look bad as well.We’re all in the same ecosystem. We can either evolve together, or we’ll all go extinct.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 179
  • 179. 03/05/2007The Law of the Advertising LandscapeHow much government regulation do advertising and marketing need?Fred Flintstone once said, “Winston is the one filter cigarette that delivers flavor 20 times a pack.Winston tastes good like a cigarette should.”Really, he said it. Of course, if you’re like me, watching a Flintstones cigarette commercial(which, thanks to YouTube, live on) is a completely surreal experience. Congress bannedbroadcast advertising of tobacco products in 1971—before I was born. Now, 36 years later,there’s a serious effort in Congress to enact more restrictions on tobacco marketing, this time onpoint-of-sale signage, print ads, promotions, and other tactics.Which leads me to ask—how regulated should advertising and marketing be?When television and radio advertising for tobacco was banned in 1971, the overall spendingdidn’t drop. Instead, the broadcast ban had a secondary effect: tobacco marketers moved theirbudgets into print ads---along with direct mail, product sampling, promotions, and special eventsponsorships.In other words, cigarette makers found more direct, sinister ways to get their products in people’sfaces. And it worked, big time. In college, I had friends who would literally stop and pick CamelCash out of a crack in the sidewalk if they spotted some.So I’d say that the broadcast ban on tobacco products had some pretty serious unintentionalconsequences, and helped fuel the anything-goes below-the-line morass we’re currentlysurrounded by. (Hey, maybe we should allow cigarette ads back on TV. After all, if the 30-secondspot is dying, and today’s kids are a part of the TiVo/MySpace/iPod generation, well, theywouldn’t pay attention to cigarette commercials, would they?)It doesn’t matter who’s in power in Washington—there are both Democrats and Republicans whowant to impose the additional tobacco regulations. It seems we are living in an ever-growingnanny state, and there are other types of advertising in the regulatory crosshairs, most notablyfast-food, pharmaceutical, political advertising, and anything that kids could potentially see.That’s just for starters.Now, I’m no fan of excessive government regulation, and I find it deeply strange to banadvertising of any product that’s perfectly legal to make and sell. But every time the threat ofmore regulation emerges, the leading trade groups for marketers, manufacturers, and advertisersalong with their attendant lobbyists always say, “We don’t need federal regulation. Self-policingis the best way to go.” Bullshit. That’s letting the fox guard the henhouse, and frankly, ourindustry has never displayed much capacity for trustworthiness or self-control.
  • 180. Another weaselly argument that’s used is the free speech defense. “These regulations would betrampling on the First Amendment. This is censorship.” There is a free speech issue here—sortof. Advertising, as it relates to products and services, is commercial speech and not entirelyprotected by the Constitution. Nor should it be, and I’ll tell you why.Political speech—and as a result, political advertising--is the most protected form of free speechthere is. And with that nearly unfettered freedom, political ads are predominantly negative,misleading, insulting, and do absolutely nothing to advance political discourse or encourageinformed voting. Now, how far would the ad industry sink if every product had that sameleeway? I mean, would Scottissue run ads claiming that Charmin causes butt rash?So we have to walk a fine line, and be careful of anything lawmakers propose. And use the 1971tobacco broadcast ban as an example of both good and bad consequences. Ban pharmaceuticalads on TV and drug makers might take that money and throw it into more golf junkets fordoctors—so perhaps you’ll never know exactly why your doctor is pushing a new pill on you.Ban fast-food marketing on TV and you’ll see more toys, product tie-ins, and marketing directlyto schools. Advertising and marketing is full of smart, dedicated professionals with few scruples,little job security, and sales targets to hit—so we’ll find a way to circumvent any regulation thatgets passed in order to get results.Of course, there is another way: It’d be nice if the ad industry, and the clients we serve, couldtruly learn to regulate ourselves. To practice a little bit of restraint. To have the gumption thateven if an idea is doable and an intrusive tactic might be effective, a brand and perhaps society ingeneral would be better off if we don’t pursue that idea.Don’t count on that happening, though. In our industry, the pursuit of money is the law of theland.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 181
  • 181. 03/21/2007The Agency Internal Combustion EngineIs your shop chugging along smoothly or choking on the fumes?For well over 100 years, one invention has propelled our world forward, literally andfiguratively. And now many people want to eliminate it.It’s the internal combustion engine. Cars have ‘em. Planes have ‘em. And ad agencies have ‘em,too.It’s an ingenious idea. Take a high amount of energy, put it in a small enclosed space, and igniteit. You might get a lot of forward motion. You might also get nothing but noxious fumes. Thesame mechanics apply in the agency world: Depending on where your career fits into thecorporate machine, you may be in for a wild, fun ride, or you might get run over.In the engine that makes up an advertising agency, the parts don’t always work the way they’redesigned to. Because we’re in the business of generating ideas—and generating money. Andmost ad executives can’t agree on the best ways to do one, the other, or both.Nor do all the parts work together seamlessly with one main thrust. Most advertising agenciesaren’t meritocracies. The best idea doesn’t always win. Rather, ideas and concepts are prejudged,judged and filtered in all sorts of ways, from the rank and demeanor of the person presenting theidea to the monetary and or emotional cost of doing (or not doing) an idea.Sometimes, you can pinpoint those moments where you know the engine isn’t built to runsmoothly. I once worked in an agency that simply never presented work internally. No “let’s putit all up on the wall and take a look.” I mean, if two creative teams were given the sameassignment, never did they put campaigns side-by-side to compare. Until one day, when it finallyhappened. Everyone from the account director to the new business guru championed the idea me& my art director (the less experienced team) presented. The other team, consisting of 2 creativedirectors, got upstaged and knew it. But later on they insisted, “well, ours is a slam dunk.” Whichleft me & my partner thinking, “What meeting were you just in?”The engine sputters because everyone in advertising is in the business of self-preservation—andcareer preservation. Particularly when you’re a creative it’s easy to feel threatened by the successof others around you. Because ultimately, you’re judged by your output—what you produce thatthe marketplace and the industry can see and value. So when it comes time to prove your talentand worth, you’re judged not as a part of a team or agency, just as an individual. Unless you havea stake, like a financial one, in the success of your agency, you’ll always have to look out foryourself.As much as the parts of our agencies are interdependent, it only takes one malfunctioning part tobring it to a halt. A Creative Director that green lights everything without much comment looksweak, and a Creative Director that decides to rewrite and redesign everything is a megalomaniac.Account Executives try to please everyone, which often pleases no one. And the CEO often hasno idea how well the engine’s running on a day-to-day basis.
  • 182. It’d be nice all the parts of an agency work smoothly. Some parts need a little extra greasing. Thefuel has to be the right mix. And the conditions outside have to be as optimal as possible. It’shard to get an agency going if everything’s frozen over.But, as we crank up the advertising engine every day, we need to keep some things in mind.The agency will stall if it’s dominated by naysayers and devil’s advocates whose mantra is, “theclient will never go for it.”The agency will spin out of control if there’s always a last-minute scramble to change campaignsbecause someone important didn’t see them early enough.The agency will grind to a halt if one part lacks the ability to effectively work with the otherparts.With every week comes a new conference or survey in which it’s said that the advertisingindustry and its professionals aren’t keeping up with the times. It may be time to face that anagencys attempt to push new thinking or new marketing ideas are subject to old processes,posturing, and personal prejudices. Maybe that’s why, if you think you’re an integral part of youragency’s internal combustion engine, you never want to see it dismantled.Can we eliminate the internal combustion engine? Maybe, but we’ll have replace it withsomething else. Something more efficient. Cleaner, maybe. New fuel. Less moving parts.Something that isn’t designed by the engineers who came up with the last version of the agencyinternal combustion engine.It may take our work to new places we never thought we’d go.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 183
  • 183. 4/09/07The Sanjaya PrincipleWhy does bad advertising, like bad singing, work so well?As I’m writing this, we’re in the middle of the 6th season of the marketing juggernaut that is“American Idol.” But the search and the voting for America’s best undiscovered singer has beenturned on its ass by one of the top 12 finalists, Sanjaya Malakar. He’s the centerpiece of theshow. His success is the lead story all over the media that cover “Idol.”Why? Because he sucks.Sanjaya’s just not a very good singer. Everyone agrees. The judges stopped criticizing himbecause it doesn’t make a difference. Somebody, indeed millions of somebodies, keeps him inthe competition week after week. And no one knows exactly why. He may be getting votesbecause of an attempt to subvert the show by Howard Stern or “VoteForTheWorst.com.” Butmaybe there are hordes of little girls who have a crush on him and gladly take style oversubstance.I think the advertising industry, too, has a Sanjaya problem. As I look out into the ad landscape, Iwonder: Why does so much shitty advertising succeed so well?Let’s begin with the premise that if a certain type or style of advertising didn’t work, it’d beabandoned.If screaming car dealer radio ads didn’t work, they’d be history.If magazine subscription direct mail pieces with multiple inserts and form letters containing lotsof underlining, bolding and a “P.S.” at the end didn’t work, you wouldn’t have them in yourmailbox.Pop-up ads and banners that invade your computer screen are universally loathed, but they’restill prevalent. If they didn’t work, they’d be rare.Anyone who insists that advertising is rapidly dying isn’t paying attention. It’s still alive, bad asit can be sometimes—because many clients still want it out there and gladly pay for it.Even some politicians recognize how much bad advertising pisses off their constituents. In somestates, there’s been a recent movement to establish a “Do Not Mail” list for junk mail, similar tothe “Do Not Call” list for telemarketing. Why the drastic measure? Because flooding mailboxeswith direct mail works—even if it’s 2 or 3% of the time, that’s good enough for many marketers.This isn’t a battle over the aesthetics of art vs. commerce. Bad advertising works because we, asa society, are used to it. We’re comfortable with it, even if we don’t particularly like it. And in aworld where fears seemingly lurk everywhere, we gravitate to that which is familiar to us. Ourclients like the familiarity of bad work too, because it usually means they get to keep their jobsfor another month.
  • 184. “If you present 20 concepts, 19 of which are awesome and one that’s safe,” a teacher told me inad school, “the client will always pick the safe one. Every time.” And for creative people, safeequals bad.But in the ad industry, who decides what’s bad? Who decides what’s good?As we head into the self-indulgent advertising awards season, we’ll see the coronation of a fewideas or concepts that are not Sanjaya-like. In other words, we’ll see award-winning ideas thatdon’t necessarily reflect the taste of the masses, just ideas that reflect the sensibilities of a handfulof people. These ideas may be concepts that didn’t run, or hardly ran, or didn’t lead to anysignificant awareness or sales increase for its intended client. We have to convince ourselves thatbetter or unconventional work is always possible, even if it rarely sees success on a mass scale.Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to produce better work. Quite the opposite; I believe in thepower of differentiation. Never mind trying to sell a One Show-worthy idea: It takes courage tosimply try to convince a client that tried-and-true formulas aren’t the best solution, because muchof the evidence suggests they work. It takes guts to tell a millionaire car dealer that he canactually be selling without yelling.The truth is America still embraces bad advertising—much like America votes for Sanjaya.Mediocrity triumphs, even if many of us wish it wouldn’t. However, Sanjaya could sell a millionrecords, and make a lot of money for himself and Simon Cowell. Is that bad? If the critics, thepundits, and the self-proclaimed experts were in charge, American Idol wouldn’t have TonyBennett week. It’d have Tom Waits or Leonard Cohen week, and do you think anyone wouldwatch?If Sanjaya becomes the next American Idol, there may be a lot of happy little girls. The rest of uswill roll our eyes and pray for the day the rest of America develops better musical taste.Ah, but that’s the trouble of it. The rest of America are also consumers. They’re our targetaudience. As long as they put up with bad advertising, and respond to it to any degree, we’recompelled to keep making it.That is, if we want to get paid to come back next week and do it again.UPDATE FROM DANNY G. 4/22/07: Okay, so Sanjaya got voted off a few days ago. Its abouttime. Now, I watch American Idol pretty much every week, but I can only name you one of thefinal six contestants. For Sanjaya, theres just something about being amazingly sucktastic thatpeople seemed to gravitate to. Its too bad so much of advertising works the same way.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 185
  • 185. 5/02/07Surrounding Yourself With Breakthrough NonsenseAre you communicating with customers or violating their space?That’s it. I’ve declared jihad on certain marketing terms and phrases.Sounds ludicrous to you? Well, if you’re battling for wallet share or implementing guerrillatactics to reach your target, then I can declare jihad.We’re all combatants now, or so you’d think if you were to spend a day in the ad industry. I oncewent to a client meeting where the Marketing Director talked about how to improve hercompany’s “one-to-one” customer communications, and make her brand more “customer-focused.” So this pleasant-looking woman in her mid-forties said, “I want to surround ourcustomers with messaging. I want to break through to reach them.”It was right there and then that I knew she’d never be successful communicating with anyone ina one-to-one capacity. She wanted to “surround” and “break through.”We have other terms for those concepts in our society: “assault” and “trespassing.”Simply put, you can’t use the language of war or criminal behavior and expect people to likeyou. And you can’t spew that nonsense in meetings if you want to be taken seriously, or haveyour agency or your client’s brand to be thought of in a positive light.I know, military expressions are pervasive in our lives. I’m not sure if it originated with Sun-Tzu,or World War II veterans returning home to become The Men In The Grey Flannel Suits, butsomewhere along the line the language of war became the language of business and marketing.You hear it every day in your ad agency or company, I bet: “It’s all hands on deck. We need toadd some creative firepower. That is, if we want to execute some really killer ads. Got it? Alrighteveryone, lock and load!”Am I overreacting? Is it okay to embrace war language? After all, they’re just figures of speech,right? Wrong. It’s too easy to use war as a metaphor for business. It gives everything a falsesense of urgency; it implies that in every business decision there are outright victors and losers.There’s a great cartoon by a fellow named Hugh MacLeod and it has a very simple caption: “Ifyou talked to people the way advertising talked to people, they’d punch you in the face.” He’sabsolutely right. So why do we legitimize such language in advertising? More insidiously, whydo we use that language in PowerPoint presentations, RFPs, and creative briefs? Why do weallow our clients to say it with a straight face?
  • 186. Even in this age of digital and video, words still mean things. It doesn’t matter if you think, theway so many people are now conditioned to believe, no one would read a two-sentence headlineor three sentences of body copy. Wanna buy a house? You don’t sign a picture of the house. Yousign a lengthy, binding legal contract, of which most every word is carefully crafted.Yet in everyday life, in meetings, emails and everywhere else, we’re perfectly content to throwaround needless hyperbole masquerading as forceful language. It makes simple matters seemmore important than they are. And it lessens the impact of really dangerous situations. I’ll giveyou an example.Right now, we have 200,000 soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. Many are spending their daysfinding and rooting out enemy combatants and insurgents. Sometimes, they have to go door todoor, house to house. So what are they really doing at those houses when theyre forced to?Surrounding. And breaking through.I promise you, our soldiers aren’t door-to-door salesman. What they’re doing is really fightingfor their lives. What you’re doing is just advertising. There’s a difference.We have the ability to be uplifting—in the words we use and the work we do. We have anobligation to help our clients communicate better with customers. So when we start saying thingsin more credible ways, we’ll have a much more positive effect on our business and the world.I hope you agree with me. But I’m not looking to emerge victorious in this crusade. I just want tochange some minds.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 187
  • 187. 5/22/07Harry Potter and the Obtuse ClientSo who really are the ones with the short attention spans?Almost 2 months from now, on July 21, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will hitbookshelves. Already, stores are taking pre-orders and planning midnight release parties. Fansare craving every nugget of plot detail they can find on the Internet.According to Amazon.com, it’ll be a 784-page book. Who has time to read all of it? Who has thatkind of attention span? Who reads anything these days?Apparently, lots of people do. Combined, the books in the Harry Potter series have sold over 250million copies worldwide. Somebody’s reading all those words. Words that are typeset on pages.Pages that are bound in book form.So why the hell do my clients think a paragraph with 3 sentences of copy is “too long” for theiraudience?It’s not consumers who have the short attention spans. It’s the clients. Because today’s clientsaren’t concerned with brand equity, customer relationships, or long-term initiatives. It’s a project-to-project, deliverable-to-deliverable existence. They’re worried about their jobs—and survivingin those jobs for one more month.For a CMO, the figure that’s popularly kicked around is 18 months—as average tenure on thejob. Add to that all the underlings who report to that CMO. They all need to kiss ass and meettheir numbers, whatever those numbers may be. Marketing’s middle managers subsist fromPowerPoint deck to PowerPoint deck. So it’s no wonder that they’re smitten with bullet points,three-word sentences and immediate gratification. Context? Forget it. Storytelling? No time.Patience? “Fuck that, we have to get this piece out ASAP.”These days, you can’t even explain to a client the importance of a well-written or well-designedad. Why? Because they’re not paying attention. They’re checking their BlackBerry or stare intospace, preoccupied with that afternoon’s meeting with the boss.That’s why they don’t believe consumers read. Most of us, and our clients, can no longerremember what it’s like to be on the receiving end of an ad message.The problem isn’t that consumers don’t read. It’s that they don’t give a fraction of a shit aboutthe products or services our clients make. Our client’s product is not the solution to someperceived problem. It’s just another widget on the shelf. No one cares, and bullet points aren’t theanswer.
  • 188. The problem isn’t that consumers don’t read. It’s that creatives rarely give them anything worthreading these days. No clever turns of phrases. Nothing to make a reader or viewer think, pause,or reflect. Nothing to make them even go, “What the fuck are they talking about?” No, themessage is dumbed down to the same dull copy points every time.The problem isn’t that consumers don’t read. It’s that we’ve given up on them. The idea thatpeople won’t listen to us has become a self-fulfilling prophecy in the ad industry. They won’tread or listen, so we won’t try to say anything interesting. In turn, the work increasingly stinks,consumers increasingly turn away, and our work becomes increasingly ineffective. Quite a deathspiral, if you ask me.Actually, not everyone believes today’s conventional wisdom. Here’s one example.StrawberryFrog recently placed an ad for itself in Fortune magazine. An ad with no whacked-outvisuals or Web 2.0 components. Just a simple headline that asked a question and 3 paragraphs ofbody copy that answered the question and explained the agency’s core beliefs. It feels so retro itactually seems daring, even more so given that they bothered to advertise themselves. This froman agency often cited as one of the “new breed” of agencies that’ve cropped up lately. Obviously,they’re out to find that rare CMO or CEO who does read.Of course, technology has truncated everyone’s timelines and attention spans. That won’tchange. The massive stream of information has given us all a bit of A.D.D. But it’s especiallybrutal in the ad industry, because technology plays such an integral role in how we create thework we create—and how our work is seen or heard by the public. But beyond our professionlies a world full of people who are living, breathing, eating, shopping and yes, reading withoutthe innate desire to be plugged in to the latest gadget or the latest craze at every waking moment.I wonder if we still know how to reach them.Harry Potter and the PowerPoint Deck? Sure you could sum up a book with bullet points, but itwill be shortly forgotten. Nor will it seep down to readers’ imaginations. And of course, youwon’t sell 250 million copies.Because to do that, you’d truly need to be living in a fantasy world.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 189
  • 189. 6/12/07A Diverse Set of ProblemsWe’re still in an age of mass marketing—and mass mediocrityLet’s try an experiment. I want you to form a mental image of “Joe Sixpack.”Advertising people talk about “Joe Sixpack” all the time. But what does he look like?Picture him in your mind. Look away from the screen until you’ve got him pictured…then comeback and read the rest.Got a picture?OK. Now…let me ask you a question:Is he black?I’d be willing to bet the “Joe Sixpack” you pictured in your mind was a white dude. With a beerbelly, sitting on the couch, holding a beer, watching NASCAR or something like that. Right?It’s not a particularly flattering image, but I’ve heard numerous clients and ad professionals referto the imaginary “Joe Sixpack” as some sort of average typical consumer–and proceed to commitmillions of dollars to messages targeting that very type of person.But in reality, we have no idea who “Joe Sixpack” is. It’s just another condescending stereotype.And stereotypes and prejudices have a special place in the advertising industry. We call them“demographics.”We’re living in an age in which marketers are desperate to reach disparate audiences. Whetherit’s using CRM, segmentation, targeted marketing, or whatever you’d like to call it, the search ison to know as much as we can about every single customer.But it can’t be done.The problem is, most marketing is mass marketing. Even if you break your audience into 200different segments for some direct marketing initiative, you’re still mass marketing. It will never,ever be truly one-on-one marketing, lest you unleash an army of door-to-door salespeople. Wehave to make assumptions. We have to make guesses. Because human behavior isn’t aspredictable as we wish it could be. And we don’t have the budgets necessary to create ideas andprograms that truly treat people as individuals with different backgrounds, tastes, ideas, or hotbuttons.
  • 190. Whatever attempts our industry makes at including different audiences is invariably a tokeneffort, an afterthought to fill some perceived obligation. That’s why any ads that promote acompany’s commitment to “diversity” always depict a carefully blended group of freshlyscrubbed, differently hued people. For example, there are always some African-American people—just not ones that look “too black.” Other things are lacking in those “diversity” group shots:No midgets, no wheelchair-bound co-workers, no really fat chicks. Just a happy rainbowcoalition—oh wait, no gays or lesbian couples either.Advertising, far from taking any risks, is determined to stay as old-fashioned as possible. Of allthe ads I’ve seen on TV that show a typical nuclear family—a mother, a father, and children—Idon’t think I’ve ever seen one with a mixed race couple, adopted kids from a different ethnicity,or a father with a prosthetic leg.It’s amazing how so much advertising seems so disconnected from the real world. Just likesoftware programs such as Excel, Photoshop, or PowerPoint, our industry has default settings,the images clients are most comfortable with. In this business, white is the default setting, notblack. Young is default, not old. Same goes for thin, straight, married, Christian…all preferableto whatever the alternatives are. Anything that deviates is different. And different makes people,particularly clients and agency executives, nervous and uncomfortable.While we fret over how best to communicate with new generations and new media, we need toalso concern ourselves with what we communicate—and how we attempt to portray those we’recommunicating with. I don’t think there’s an easy answer. Real life simply is too imperfect, toomessy, too disordered, and too unpredictable to accurately portray in advertising.We can’t account for the nuances found in everyone’s lives. So we’re going to get moregeneralizations. More middle-of-the road. More work that tries to appeal to mass audiences withmassive doses of mediocrity.Sounds to me like Joe Sixpack isn’t just the target audience. He’s also the client.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 191
  • 191. 7/4/07Turning ChineseThe world of global marketing is flattening, but ad agencies are in for a bumpy rideWhile the judges in Cannes were fawning over Dove’s “Evolution” video, another ad for abeauty product came to my attention.This ad was for a product called “Fair & Lovely,” a skin-whitening cream that’s heavilymarketed in India. The commercial showed a young girl who dreams of being a TV reporter, butas she narrates, “the obstacle to obtaining my dream job was my skin.” Her skin was too dark forher to get hired. So in the ad, she proceeds to whiten her skin, land that dream job, and evenscore a date with a studly cameraman.What’s the problem? Turns out, both Dove and Fair & Lovely products are made by the samecompany: Unilever.The Dove video (part of a campaign which I praised in a past column) shows the effects ofmakeup and retouching and says, “no wonder our perception of beauty is distorted.” The Fair &Lovely ad suggests if you whiten your skin, you’ll get your dream job. So how does a companylike Unilever justify distorting the perception of beauty in India but celebrating “real beauty” inNorth America? Can you really just chalk it up to differing cultural mores, or two divisions of ahuge company that dont interact?I put the ads side by side on AdPulp.com, where people could see the dual messages forthemselves. Then, a reporter for Radio Sweden interviewed me about the Internet’s role inexposing the variations of global marketing. So what is an American guy doing on Radio Swedentalking about a company headquartered in Britain and The Netherlands who approved both avideo created in Canada and celebrated in France along with a condescending ad created forIndia? I demonstrated that the world is getting too small for global companies to hidecontradictory business practices. The advertising industry better wake up to this reality.Global advertising is far more complicated than doing a 2 page visual solution spread ad forlaundry detergent. I know very clearly that every day, my clients are impacted by decisions beingmade on the other side of the world. Your clients are impacted, too, no matter what categorythey’re in.You’re personally affected, too. But only if you buy toys. Or dog food. Or shrimp. Or tires. Ortoothpaste at the dollar store.
  • 192. Have you heard the news recently? When the U.S. Food & Drug Administration decided to warnAmericans against the use of imported Chinese toothpaste because it contained a chemical foundin antifreeze, officials in China excused it away saying, "So far we have not received any reportof death resulting from using the toothpaste. The U.S. handling of this case is neither scientificnor responsible."That’s a great USP to advertise: “Cooldent Fluoride. No one’s died brushing their teeth with it.Yet.”Sorry to say, you can’t use that line for dog and cat food imported from China, which has causedat least 16 pet deaths in America. Oh, and do you have kids? So far this year, 24 toys have beenrecalled for safety reasons. That’s one toy a week. They were all made in China.Or try this one: 450,000 Chinese tires sold here in the U.S are being recalled due to thepossibility of tread separation. Of the recall, a spokesman at the Hangzhou Zhongce tirecompany said, “This is concocted out of thin air.” Someone needs to give the Chinese a good PRlesson.More and more goods being made in China are becoming health problems. And since more andmore goods are being made in China, the problem will get worse and American companies andbrands will get affected. Is your agency mostly catering to clients in service categories? Doesn’tmatter. Those little custom imprinted tchotchkes you order for your client’s trade shows likelycome from China.This isn’t just a health problem. Or an outsourcing problem. It’s a brand management problem.Nothing kills a brand faster than a few toxic ingredients. Imagine if someone had died in a carcrash due to those faulty Chinese tires. There would be a major uproar faster than you can say“Firestone.”Believe me, I’m not picking on China or India alone. American companies, importers, regulatorsand retailers are all complicit. There’s nowhere for global brands to hide. Unsafe products,abusive employment practices, and condescending advertising can’t get swept under theimported jute rug.And thanks to the speed of global business, along with the power of the Internet to instantlycommunicate, consumers can find out what’s going on for themselves and make purchasingdecisions accordingly. Whether its distinct cultural mores, lopsided trade imbalances, or simplylanguage barriers, companies who do business around the world will now get quickly exposedfor duplicity when it exists, like Unilever and their brands.As advertising and marketing professionals, we have an obligation to serve our clients as best wecan, and yes, that often means we must focus on the details of small projects or short-lived adcampaigns rather than fixate on whatever impact we’re making on the world as a whole. But likethe viral sensation Dove’s “Evolution” video became, every piece of work we do for our clientsreflects on us, on them, and the values of our society. We can have a positive effect, and we canhave a negative one.Our industry is all agog over new media and the power of images and messages to reach criticalmass in the blink of an eye. As a result, the whole world is now paying attention. Are you?©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 193
  • 193. 7/25/07Shuffling the DeckhandsCan agencies and clients move forward by moving people around?I once worked on a big, global client who used to rotate its marketing executives on a regularbasis. Like every year or two. They’d take someone in the corporate PR department and then puther in charge of direct marketing. They’d take a brand advertising guy and put him in charge ofsales training.From the client’s standpoint, it wasn’t a game of musical chairs--it was what they did to invest intheir people, to give them a more well-rounded business career. Not coincidentally, many peoplestayed in that company much longer than people do at ad agencies.But from our agency standpoint, it was chaos. We constantly dealt with people with little to nobackground in their current positions, and we were at the mercy of their personal learning curves.So what’s the best policy? Should ad agencies make concerted efforts to help their employeeslearn all facets of the business?I say this because the ad agency business seems as siloed as ever. Among account, media,creative people, and everything else, there’s still a major lack of integration or knowledgesharing. It’s even worse now that interactive is so much in demand. Interactive people are oftenstored away in their own corner—or at one agency I worked at, on the basement floor.So what would happen if your co-workers switched places? Could media planners suddenlybecome Art Directors? Could Copywriters become Account Executives? Could your interactiveteam understand brand-building or point-of-sale if they had to? Even for a day or two, just to doa little role-playing exercise?I’m not suggesting agencies should hire people unqualified for their positions. Some folks simplyare better suited for a particular discipline. I know a fair amount about media, but I’m not the guyyou want negotiating spot broadcast deals. However, I’ve always tried to learn as much as Icould about advertising, business, media, etc., in addition to learning about my clients’businesses. I want to be able to hold my own in any client or industry-related conversation. Butto most people, it makes me a freak, not a valuable resource.Why are there so few really well-rounded people in this business?For one thing, the skills successful ad people need aren’t taught early on. Colleges anduniversities don’t prepare undergraduates for an advertising career other than offering lessons inbinge drinking. Portfolio schools focus on creativity, but primarily for creativity’s sake, not tobuild businesses.
  • 194. Then there’s the actual hiring process. Agency HR people have little ability to discern who mightbe a great addition based upon a resume or a 10 second glance at a book. They look to see theblanks are filled in for whatever job specific checklist they have. The agency business haschanged radically over the last 10 years—but the hiring process remains fossilized.But let’s say you do get started in an agency. Do you think you’re set from then on? Askyourself: Does your agency care about your professional development? Or do they just want yourbutt in a cubicle for as long as possible every day? How honest could you be with the people youwork with that you’d like to spend some time developing your skills—even ones that might beoutside your job description?If ad agencies are going to have any relevance in the future, we have to make sure everyoneunderstands how the big wheel of capitalism turns. “Great ideas can come from anywhere—oranyone.” I’ve heard that countless times but I’ve rarely seen an agency turn that notion into somedaily reality.We work in a business that, let’s face it, anyone can attempt. Consumers are offering up theirown ads and spreading brand buzz. Management consultants are writing brand strategies.Printers are writing copy. Everyone’s getting in on the act. So we have to do it better. One secretis knowledge, and the collective knowledge that exists in any agency. That’s why I have littlepatience for art directors who don’t care about words, or media people who care little for theaccount plan. Or anyone who doesn’t care about a client’s business or industry trends. Ignoranceis not bliss--not anymore.Maybe we could take a page from clients who like to shuffle people around, at least to givepeople a taste of every job in an agency. We may be able to do better work. It’ll take someunderstanding, patience, and dedication to training—three things sorely lacking in the agencyworld.But don’t wait for your agency to start moving people around or helping you out in becoming abetter advertising professional. Because if you’re just sitting on your ass, it’ll get kicked to thecurb sooner or later.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 195
  • 195. 8/22/07Getting Back to Your Agency’s RootsStaff turnover is inevitable in the ad biz—but downcycles don’t have to be“One generation plants the trees, and another gets the shade.”That proverb went through my mind as I walked in the lobby of a recent AAAA conference tosee hundreds of copies of AdAge and Adweek laid out across a table. Both magazines featuredstories about the Chairman of A Certain Minneapolis Agency (let’s call them “ACMA”) on thecover, lamenting the agency’s supposed fall from grace.I distinctly remember seeing the same guy pictured in the New York Times a few years ago.Back then, he was basking in success, the recipient of a profile so fawning that my dad called meand said, “He sounds like a great guy.”So what happened? Although the pump-and-dump hype cycle of the business press sells lots ofmagazines, it masks the bigger phenomenon that occurred at ACMA and other agencies whowere hot one year and not the next: the tree planters left, and shade lovers took over.For those of you who are students of ad history, you know that in the early days, ACMA didn’thire well-known people who had already won creative awards out the yin yang. No, the agencymade people famous along with the great work, reveling in the pseudo-fame that is creativeadvertising superstardom. You know who they are. But those people, having planted the trees,hired a new generation of people content to rest in the shade.That’s not to say there aren’t talented, hard-working people at well-established agencies likeACMA. But somewhere in the hiring and promotion cycles, something goes haywire. I’ve seenhistory repeat itself at agencies near and far: people do great work in relative obscurity and getacclaim and fame for themselves and the agency. The agency gets recognized, earns a greatreputation and starts hiring people who’ve already earned the fame elsewhere. A sense ofentitlement takes over, because the shop, in essence, gets to pick and choose people to workthere.This next generation of leaders decide that since they’ve become famous for planting the trees,they can show up with a gold or silver shovel in their hands, choosing to spend much of theirtime enjoying the shade. Meanwhile, the agency gets too full of itself and loses accounts andpeople, and along comes another group of tree planters at another agency to steal the thunder.The cycle infects the work as well as the hiring process. Agency HR people and hiring managerslook for people with “pedigrees,” the ones who’ve already planted the trees—but have no realincentive to keep doing so. Inevitably, turnover and turmoil ensue—and that’s news everywherefrom Adweek to BusinessWeek to industry blogs, as it has been recently at ACMA.So is your agency full of tree planters or shade lovers?
  • 196. I’ve always believed the best advertising people have an element of hunger and discontent intheir personalities. It’s rooted in a simple desire to improve upon what’s been done before.Which is not the same as being disagreeable or arrogant, although those qualities are easilyconfused. Most people enter the ad biz hungry. But at a certain point, after initial success,contentedness take over: an impossibly cushy gig, a desire for more family life or merely thebelief that one’s shit doesn’t stink. And in the course of an advertising career, that contentednesscoincides with promotions to managerial positions. Many great Copywriters, Art Directors orAccount Executives have no business managing other people as Creative Directors orSupervisors.Look, it happens in many fields—take music. Bands start off young, pissed, inspired and raw.They make great music, sell CDs and get rich. Then they’re not so pissed and inspired anymore.So their subsequent albums aren’t all that good. But they still have their fans, and there are plentyof state fairs for those bands to play at for the rest of their careers.But in the ad industry, we’re in an age in which the trees are getting cut left and right, and newones are planted all the time. The fame, the glory and the reputations that are made can quicklyfade. The Web has given rise to a new dimension in marketing ideas, thinking and executions.Plus, it’s given our industry a whole new level of transparency. We see new campaigns, hearnews and call bullshit on poseurs so much faster these days.To thrive these days, agencies should look for the tree planters. They’re the ones who ensure anagency can grow strong and healthy, provided the roots remain in place.Don’t wait to make sure your agency is doing the right things with the right people. Startdigging.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 197
  • 197. 9/13/07When Bad Ideas Happen To Good AgenciesIf you think ad people love a good confrontation, you’re wrongSo last week, Steve Jobs caused quite a stir by dropping the price of an iPhone by $200 only 2months after it was launched. After hundreds of people complained, Steve issued a mea culpa 24hours later and offered a $100 credit to iPhone owners.As one of those people who stood in line for 2 hours on iPhone launch day to get a phone, I haveto admit I wasn’t pissed off about the price reduction and I’m pleasantly surprised at the $100credit. I’m glad he admitted a mistake and tried to make amends. That’s rare in corporateAmerica.But I have a couple of bigger questions:Did anyone tell Steve Jobs that he’d be pissing off Apple’s most loyal customers and damaginghis brand?Can an Apple employee ever tell Steve Jobs that an idea of his is a bad one?Power struggles, and fear of retribution after those struggles, are pervasive in business andpolitics. And they’re especially pervasive in advertising.Ever been in a client meeting where you’re hearing a client spout a really bad idea or suggestion,but no one speaks up? You know, something’s being proposed, an ad is being changed, or acommittee of clients hacks an idea to pieces, but no one in the agency says a word. It’s all smilesand niceties, and then the minute you get out of earshot of the client you look at one another andsay, “What the fuck was that????”I’ve been witness to many a capitulation. Because in the face of a client’s demands, no one, not aPresident, Account Director, Creative Director, Junior Account Executive, or even me, waswilling to speak up.And I know why it happens. People don’t like to be told they’re wrong. Or even that they mightbe wrong. No one will ever thank you for telling them they’re wrong, even if it’s to avoid acostly mistake. In advertising, our clients are our customers, and we’re often afraid to make themupset.But clients routinely do things that are not just a waste of the agency’s time—they’re a waste ofthe client’s own money. Or they push ideas that damage their own brand.
  • 198. It’s easy to say “give the client what they need, not what they want.” But it’s hard as hell to do it.If you want to keep your job, that is. Standing up to a difficult client is one of the few big risksyou can take in the ad business–because you risk the chance of unemployment, foreclosure,divorce, bankruptcy, and your dog pissing on your leg in disgust.Occasionally, some people are willing to take that chance. The example this year has beenCramer-Krasselt. Faced with the prospect of a mindless and unwarranted account review, theCEO told its CareerBuilder client to take a hike. Later, the C-K CEO said, “There are a few timesin your life when you have to tell someone to fuck off and mean it.”This was such a rarity in the ad industry it became front page news in Ad Age. Lest you think itwould signal to the marketing world C-Ks arrogant, unprofessional attitude, the agencycontinues to win significant new business and increase its profile. Not to mention it’s anattractive quality in an agency workplace, where employees feel so rarely respected by clients.I’d gladly work for someone with that kind of courage.Of course, the CEO of an independently-owned agency is empowered to tell a client to fuck off.You, however, might want to think twice before trying it.But it does give a hint of what might be possible if more ad agencies had the backbone to tellclients when an idea is bad. The best advertising people have innate instincts to know thatsuperior thinking and great creative work can make a real difference for a brand. But you can’tmeasure an instinct. There’s no trackable ROI for a gut feeling. And many of us, and our industryas a whole, havent earned the trust of clients to truly tell them when theyre off-base.I’d love to believe more businesses will learn from people like Steve Jobs and his moment ofunchecked ignorance of brand loyalty. I’d love to believe more ad agencies will follow Cramer-Krasselt’s example and express their objections, develop some courage and tell clients what theyreally think.Yes, I’d love to believe it. But I’d be wrong. I’ve been wrong before, but I’m confident enough tohear you say it to me.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 199
  • 199. 10/02/07A Carbon-Neutral Pile of ManureBrands are going green—because there’s money in it, naturallyOrdinarily, I might take environmental problems seriously, but lately, I can’t. Because the onlypeople imploring me to are advertisers.Every marketer, it seems, wants to prove how “green” they are. As usual, our industry justfollows the herd. And because of the eco-awakening, we’re now lecturing consumers that theyneed to be “green,” too.How? By buying more stuff.In Georgia, for example, the state is promoting environmental awareness via an “Energy Star”tax-free weekend. People are getting a sales tax break when they buy new energy-efficientrefrigerators, dryers, etc. In other words, we have to consume more in order to consume less,throwing away perfectly good appliances in the process.Is consumption always the best answer to the our problems? Is advertising the best voice ofreason?I’m not old, comparatively speaking, but at a certain point I recognize when I’ve lived through aparticular cycle in the pop culture. And environmental awareness, yes, I’ve lived through thisbefore. In the late 80’s, Earth Day got hip again. We banned CFC’s from hair spray andStyrofoam boxes from McDonald’s because of a hole in the ozone layer. We started recyclingnewspapers and plastic, thinking we were saving the planet. That lasted a couple of years, thenthe Ford Explorer came out. Concern about CFC’s gave way to a feeding frenzy for SUV’s.Ironically, all this greenwashing is a result of how wildly successful advertising and marketing is.Ad agencies came into their own in post-WWII America, where our industry routinely sold adream of suburbia: shiny chrome-infused cars, vinyl siding, shag carpeting and frost-freerefrigerators.Comfortably ensconced in our air-conditioned lifestyle, our massive consumption has put aundue strain on the world’s resources. But now, other countries who have fed our largesse (thinkChina, India, etc) want a piece of our energy-thirsty lifestyle for their own. And that’scompounding the problem.
  • 200. So now global warming and fate of the planet is on our front burner, and as consumers we’ll doalmost anything to show we care. In lieu of a real change in the way we live, our clients are morethan willing to hire us to sell the solution. And whats really perverse is that brands are charging apremium for the privilege of feeling good about helping the environment. Brands like Methodcleaning products or beauty products from The Body Shop cost significantly more than otherbrands, and organic produce commands a higher price than conventionally grown. Frankly, manyfamilies whose budgets are stretched to the breaking point can’t afford to buy green when priceis their primary motivating factor. Which is a shame—even if families want to make a difference,they can’t afford to and we make them feel worse for that shortcoming.The ultimate load of environmentally-fueled nonsense, however, is coming via good ol’corporate brand-polishing TV spots for companies who have spotty histories. It’s hard for me tobelieve that global monoliths like Chevron, BP, Dow and GE are going to lead the environmentalawareness revolution, despite their multi-million ad campaigns dedicated to concepts like“ecohumanology” or whatever they’re calling it this week. But agencies, many of them goodones, are perfectly content to shovel this compost on the public.It’s hard not to view all this greenwashing with a jaundiced eye. But maybe there’s a solution.I’d love it if the advertising business was more environmentally-friendly. And I know just whereto start. I’m sick of clients that demand rounds and rounds of pointless changes to their work---changes that require more printouts, more mockups, more electricity for the computers, and moregasoline to drive to and from client meetings. How about we cut out all the layers of clientapprovals and the mass quantities of comp materials needed for those presentations?Of course, I won’t hold my breath waiting for that to happen. Because the ad industry never takesits own advice. We’ll save the real action for someone else. We’re into empty gestures. Which iswhy I’m thinking about purchasing a carbon offset for the electricity I’ve used writing thiscolumn. Maybe I’ll go plant a tree. But since there’s a total watering ban where I live due to arecord-breaking drought, it’ll likely die.Hey, it’s the groupthought that counts, right?©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 201
  • 201. 10/23/07The Importance of Filtering Actionable Jargon Into BucketsMore bizarre vernacular of the ad industryI was getting downloaded on some new deliverables that’d be coming into the shop soon, whensuddenly I had an epiphany: It seems that folks in advertising and marketing have lost the abilityto communicate simply.Somewhere on the road to ideation and proprietary Brandilization™ processes, agency folkscollectively decided that the only way to gain respect amongst the legions of managementconsultants and branding gurus was to imitate their BS.We speak a very unique language in our meetings and daily interactions. It’s a mash-up ofbusiness double-speak and artistic self-importance. And some of the terms are simply laughable.For example:“Killer book” - A killer book is neither a “killer” nor a “book.” It’s a great portfolio. Calling it a“killer book” doesn’t make the work any better. A biography of Charles Manson is a killer book.A bomb-making manual is a killer book. Your portfolio isn’t one.“Buckets” - Sometimes, during a brainstorm, the downpour of ideas becomes such a vast pool ofgenius that someone needs to mop it all up and place it into a number of “buckets.” Hopefullywithout spilling any of that brilliance.“Widows” and “Orphans” – More morbid terms. Real-life killers often leave behind manywidows and orphans. You’d think a so-called “killer book” would have lots of widows andorphans. But if you’re a designer, your work can’t be killer if there are widows and orphans.“Brief” — Never seen one that was.“Loyalty program” - Sorry, there’s no such thing. I save 30 cents off a gallon of milk at Krogerbecause I have a plastic card on my keychain that says I’m a member of a “loyalty program.”Nice discount, but it doesn’t make me loyal. Any store that’s cheaper, closer, or better will getmy loyalty, at least for the day.“Viral” - I don’t know who first looked at their marketing budget and said, “Now, if only wecould be as successful as AIDS or herpes. Let’s do something the great unwashed consumerscould spread without more media dollars.” And alas, viral marketing caught on. No actual viralcampaign has spread quite like the mere concept of doing a viral marketing campaign has. Thereare even people who refer to a viral campaign’s “infection rate,” defined as the ease at which itcan be forwarded and spread. I’m developing an immunity to viral marketing. I suspect mostconsumers are, too.
  • 202. “Change agent” – Change doesn’t need an agent. Or an advocate. Most people don’t likechange. But things just change, whether you like it or not. Go with it.“Direct marketing” – This is a cute euphemism for “junk mail” or “spam.” Somehow it’s moredirectly targeted to me because my name is on a list of double-jointed, PBR-drinking cablesubscribers. Your emails and junk mail may have my name directly inserted into them, butthey’re still mostly auto-generated, and I throw them directly into the trash. Why is it that a 4%response rate on a direct mail piece is terrific? Directly speaking, it’s usually because the creativeis crap.“Thought Leader” - Back in high school, if you told people you were cool, you weren’t. Samegoes for calling yourself a “thought leader.” If you have to go around telling people you are one,you aren’t.“Deliverable” - Actually, this is a bad one. A really bad one. Agencies aren’t paid for theirthinking, or to propose ideas that might improve a client’s business, like beefing up customerservice or retraining employees. No, ad agencies get paid for deliverables, like a pizza parlor.Would you like a direct mail piece with everything in it and extra logos to go? Because you canbill a client for that deliverable.People are under the impression that it’s more indicative of gravitas to use polysyllabicterminology to underscore the imperative nature of an initiative. But it’s not. If you spend anyportion of your day in meetings or presentations, then you’re accustomed to hearingdoublespeak. The problem is when it becomes a game of one-upmanship. Someone in the roomuses jargon, then it’s up to someone else in the room to either agree with what’s been said, orincrease the level of BS.How do you let the air out of a roomful of windbags? There are two good ways.When somebody says something so confusing, so intentionally pointless, give them a quizzicallook and say, ”Huh?”And the other one, when someone uses overwrought language to explain the most simple ofideas, or says something painfully obvious, just reply with a happily sarcastic “Duh!”Those two words will say a whole lot more than any marketing doublespeak ever could. Try it.Who knows, you may find an breakthrough, actionable way to cut through the clutter at yournext ideation engagement.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 203
  • 203. 11/14/07Striking it Rich, or At Least Striking It ProfitableThe ad industry isn’t Hollywood, but we’ve got the same money issuesBeing a creative, I’m curiously following the news about current Hollywood writers’ strike. I’msimply amazed that this particular group of creative people has the actual power to shut downproduction on nearly every major television program.A lot of the dispute, naturally, is related to issues of money. The rise of new media outlets isconflicting with old pay methods. The advertising industry is facing many of the same issues.Every ad agency has a different method of dealing with finance, but it all comes down to onebasic question:Are agencies, and in turn their people, getting paid what they’re worth?The stock answer would be “no,” or rather, “no, you dipshit, of course not,” but the reality ismore complex than that.When it comes right down to it, every ad agency is a factory with an assembly line that producesa different product every time. We don’t truly how much each assignment will cost to make andhow much we should ideally charge for it.Agency accounting and revenue is one of those areas that management doesn’t want rank-and-file employees to go poking around in.I remember working at an agency when they discovered a former employee was cooking thebooks, making it look like the agency was taking in more money than it did. So to remedy theshortfall, a 10% pay cut was instituted for all employees. At the meeting to announce this, whenone person brought up why the revenue was short, the CEO said, “Well, we don’t charge enoughfor our services.” His was the name on the door. So whose fucking fault was that?Or perhaps you’re at an agency that has an efficient job tracking and billing system. Does youragency live and die by accurate timesheets? Great. You’re screwed, no matter what you do. I’veseen it myself.In the past, I’ve been told to put more hours towards a job I didn’t work on so the agency couldmake money. And I’ve been told to decrease the number of hours on I put towards a job on mytimesheet so the agency wouldn’t lose money. Which in reality makes absolutely no sense.Because either way, whether the agency makes or loses money on a certain job on paper, I’m afixed cost. My salary stays the same.
  • 204. If you spend extra hours working to make an ad great because you’re not satisfied with it, inmost agencies that’ll be looked at negatively. Because the more hours you work on a job that’sover what was estimated, the more it looks like the agency is losing money on the job. Creativequality? No one generally gives a fuck about that, because that usually costs more money. Trytelling the agency CFO about the merits of overcharging a client for an ad that you rewrote 5times because you or your Creative Director weren’t happy with it.Since there’s no legitimate quantifiable method to determine the financial impact of a brand’s adcampaign, performance-based models don’t work so well. Because we simply don’t know howwell our work works. So there’s no real incentive to do effective work in advertising. Thecreatives who work for ad agencies don’t get paid based on a campaign’s effectiveness orlongevity. To most hiring managers evaluating creative talent, an award for an ad that never ranis of a higher value than an effective ad campaign that ran for years. I’ve created ads, taglines,and websites were used for years—long after I was gone from the agencies I did them for. Butthat is of little comfort to me. Advertising creatives don’t get residuals or royalties; hell, most ofthe time we’re never even thanked.It’s no surprise that the entire industry is in a downward revenue spiral. Clients are squeezingtheir budgets in an increasing WalMartian fashion, and squeezing their vendors in the process.There’s not much profit to be made slapping a viral video together and posting it on YouTube orseeding it on blogs. We once made money on media and production markups—and those aredwindling.We can, at least fleetingly, look to the Writers’ Guild for some signal of what’s to come inadvertising. If they can’t improve their fortune in the new media age, there’s little hope for adagencies to make more money doing more work in the interactive space. And big, brand-buildingideas that have lots of legs or touchpoints or integrated media components or whatever won’t beworth much.If we don’t fix the compensation issues our industry is facing, the picket line won’t be our fate.The unemployment line will.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 205
  • 205. 12/05/07Outsourced Outside The BoxWhat might happen if creative jobs go overseas en masse?This holiday season, as you’re cruising the malls and big box stores for lead-free Chinese toysand child labor-free Gap clothing, let me caution you: ad jobs are getting outsourced, too.Not all of them, and not immediately, of course. But it’s happening.A recent article about one of the monolithic holding companies touted the benefits of workers inCosta Rica and the Ukraine dedicated to resizing and reprogramming interactive ads. I have asneaking suspicion these offices are a little light on the Herman Miller furniture and foosballtables.Look, it makes perfect sense—more importantly, it makes money. When something stays onlinefor a few hours or days, does the craft and creative really matter?Labor is one of the reasons that agencies, particularly small ones, really face the interactivedisadvantage— but not for lack of labor, just lack of ability to hire the labor. I’ve met more thanmy share of senior management at small agencies that are completely clueless as to how toimplement a major interactive initiative in a quick timeframe. While their clients are asking formicrosites, banners, e-mail blasts and widgets, these agency folks barely know how to register adomain name. “Can we do it in Flash?” is the new “Can you fix that in post?”I’m not saying that foreign outposts are incapable of doing quality work. They are. But yououtsource work, you outsource responsibility. Consider this quote from an agency head in thearticle I mentioned earlier: "Ive got more heavy-duty stuff coming down the pipeline, on a scalebigger than we would do in-house. Now I dont have to have people crunching out 300 Webpages or 50 banner ads." Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but he does have people doing thework, just not in his Manhattan high-rise. People in Costa Rica and the Ukraine are people too.However, between America and the other side of the world, something will fall through thecracks. I imagine that anyone who has to change or resize hundreds of ads from 10,000 milesaway won’t think twice about changing or cutting a visual or a headline to fit a condensed space.In other words, doing their job, and doing whatever it takes to get the work done and uploaded.Which means the meaning of an ad could be radically changed—and what that happens,particularly when it involves specific, offer-driven retail-type ads, there could be serious legaland financial consequences for errors.But digital marketing is largely a commodity. There’s more labor-intensive work, and morevolume involved, than we’ve seen in print or broadcast advertising. Clients demand it more andfaster; and right now, ad agencies don’t know how to deliver it all, nor are they prepared to payAmerican talent for it all.
  • 206. At some point, when marketers ultimately look at the efficiencies they’ve achieved with third-world interactive servants, they may decide to that the writing and the art direction doesn’tmatter so much as long as they’re mashed up quickly. The best and brightest will give way to thefastest and cheapest.If you think your job in advertising is immune to outsourcing, consider this: Many oft-quoted adgurus are fixated on “engaging in a dialogue” with consumers. But every company alreadydedicates a portion of its budget to engaging its customers in a two-way dialogue. It’s called thecustomer service hotline. And despite its importance to customers, I leave it to you to decidewhere that call center might be located, and how well it works for many companies.What can you do to make sure you’re not on the ass-end of this trend? Perhaps you can get betterat the stuff that can’t be quantified in a PowerPoint deck—the client butt-kissing, face-time,relationship-building skills that some people possess. So much of this business is about who youknow, not what you know.You have to be careful, cautious, and courageous at the same time. Do something that makes youindispensable. Or help your agency provide the kind of ideas that a client would findindispensable. Don’t ask me what they are, I’m looking for some myself.But in the end, it might not matter. If holding company honchos are determined to squeeze everydollar out of a worker, they’ll end up squeezing their workforce right off the continent.Inevitably, the work will suffer. Clients will get the marketing equivalent of lead-painted toys.And we’ll watch as our industry gets outsourced to people who don’t care if it survives or not.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 207
  • 207. 12/24/07Year-End Closeout ThoughtsIt’s time to look back—but more importantly, look forward“So this is Christmas/And what have you done/Another year over/and a new one just begun...”I’m not big on Christmas music, but that John Lennon song is one I can stomach. That’s becauseit doesn’t implore you to deck the halls with tacky lights or credit card bills, it asks you whereyou are, existentially speaking, right here and right now.Advertising people, collectively, are a very self-examining and self-critical bunch. So whileyou’re polishing off the holiday leftovers, here are some things to ponder as you begin 2008:Is what you’re doing really worth anything? How do you contribute to the world? Is our industrymaking the world a better place to live?It’s not an easy thing to contemplate. We all make our little Faustian bargains to pay the bills.Advertising isn’t brain surgery, but it isn’t larceny, either.Every year, someone does a survey of the most trusted professions. And ever year, “advertisingpractitioners” rank down at the bottom near “car salesmen.” Believe me, we’re not about to shootup the respectability rankings when they repeat the survey this year.Frankly though, I can’t think of a profession in the industrial world that’s a purely altruisticendeavor. With a simple educational detour, I could easily have been someone in a morerespected field but with questionable motives. Like a doctor who crawls into bed withpharmaceutical companies and insurers. A duplicitous lawyer. Or a professor more concernedwith my tenure track than with teaching.Still, it’s hard to feel that advertising really benefits the world. Clients don’t really appreciate it,consumers try to avoid it, and on the totem pole of commercial art, we’re pretty low. Yet, we’repart of the free market machinery, part of the cycle that keeps goods and services in demand,creating jobs and wealth for some portion of the world.Perhaps in 2008 we can all apply our skills for a good cause. I know I will.Recently, I did some work for a local organization that resettles political refugees. I wrote, shotand edited a video in 48 hours, having only used iMovie once before. I wont win any awards forthis like I would if Id slapped a sign saying "LUNCHBOX" on the side of a dumpster to raiseawareness for homelessness. But thats OK. I got more satisfaction from it than anything else Idid this year. A whole roomful of people clapped in appreciation when I showed the final videoto the organization. Thats gotta be worth something.
  • 208. Does occasionally doing good make the day-to-day grind of the ad business a little easier toswallow? Perhaps. But inherently, I don’t think it’s all that healthy for ad people to walk aroundthinking they do a lot of good. It’s okay to self-loathe a little. Creativity is borne from a desire tomake the world better with our art—our concepts, our words, our ideas that seemingly no oneelse can exactly reproduce. So there’s always a sense of discontent. That what fuels me, and Isuspect it fuels most of you.For us ad professionals, I think the best thing to do is keep in mind that in 2008, everything canchange, and nothing at all could change. It’s up to you. If you can’t move your ad agencyforward or your client forward, move yourself forward—even if you do it in your spare time.You’ll go a lot farther without office politics, dramas, and processes holding you back.2008 going to be interesting year. We’ve got an up-for-grabs Presidential election that promisesto be wild and nasty. The Olympics will shine a light on Communist China—who makes most ofour household trinkets and to whom we owe nearly a trillion dollars. And the economy isteetering on a precipice of subprime-induced chaos. When I think of it in those terms, the myriadof challenges facing the advertising industry seem relatively trivial.So, Happy New Year. Let’s hope it’s a good one. Without any fear.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 209
  • 209. 01/15/08Primary Lessons, And Secondary Ones TooA presidential campaign, if anything, is marketing in warp speedI’m a news junkie, so the Presidential primary and caucus results in Iowa, Wyoming and NewHampshire, along with the attendant message adjustments, are fascinating to me.In a Presidential campaign, politics is theater. It’s entertainment. And above all else, it’smarketing. Can the ad industry learn anything by watching this $1 billion spectacle? I think so.As of January 15th, here’s what I’m learning:A loved upstart brand can beat an unloved brand with deep pockets. Campaign money goesto advertising, but also to staff, supplies, phones, etc. They burn money fast, long before the firstprimary or caucus takes place. That’s a huge gamble with no way to predicting ROI. Already,we’ve seen some campaigns like McCain’s and Huckabee’s win without the most cash.People want something to believe in. Americans are an optimistic bunch at their core—we stillbelieve that our government can work the way Schoolhouse Rock said it could. Which is why somany deeply cynical, apathetic voters are moved by Obama’s message.If you can’t close the sale, no sales pitch, emotional or rational, will help you. There is adifference, though: In politics, you only have to make a sale once or twice—at a primary orgeneral election. On the night of the Iowa caucus, Obama and Huckabee made sure theirsupporters showed up. Otherwise, they’d have been screwed.Consumers don’t like being told what to do. When Clinton was considered inevitable, Obamawon. Then Obama was considered inevitable, and Clinton won.Focus groups and polls can’t tell you everything you need to know. In a campaign, everyword and phrase in every speech and ad is dissected and analyzed to determine its relativeappeal. But as we saw in New Hampshire, the people will do what they want to do.Chuck Norris has very, very, white teeth.Consultants and PR gurus don’t know everything. Mitt Romney was the CEO of amanagement consulting firm. Hillary Clinton’s top adviser is the CEO of a worldwide PR firm.But the two candidates have had to change and retool their campaigns numerous times, perhapsdue to all the overanalysis and calculation.Consumer-generated content can sometimes make or break you. I can sum that up in oneword: “Macaca.” George Allen was supposed to be a Presidential contender this year, but heinsulted a college student with a camcorder, and the whole world found out about it.
  • 210. Style beats substance—much of the time. If that wasn’t the case, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, andBill Richardson would’ve had a chance.Sometimes, just one word can summarize an entire brand. “Change.” “Hope.” “Strength.”“Experience.” Could your client sum up its brand in one word?Timing is everything when launching a new brand. Would Barack Obama be better in 12years? Was John McCain better 8 years ago? The market has a way of deciding when the time isright to launch a product.Make an emotional connection. All candidates have position papers, platforms, and websiteswhere you can delve into what a candidate believes and what he/she wants to do. But peoplerespond to emotion—swirling rhetoric, imagery, and even the occasional tear.Get an integrated campaign. Candidates blow a lot of money on TV, but they also spend forradio, papers, websites and emails, robocalls, and very targeted direct mail. It all works together.Of course, inundating your audience with too much advertising will turn them off.A small test market won’t prove success or failure. Watch as the people who didn’t do well inIowa and NH go on to advocate a wide-open, national one-day primary. For the people who won,the system works just fine. We’ve seen different results in the two test markets. Rudy Giulianiisn’t test marketing; he wants a national roll-out. Will it work?Respond to customer concerns quickly and effectively. One big mistake and a campaign canblow out faster than a Firestone tire on a Ford Explorer. Brands run the same risk when theymake missteps.Predictions aren’t worth much. We can make long-term plans for our brands, but situationschange. A month from now, the Presidential race could look radically different. Similarly,agencies and marketers can’t predict the future of our industry or cultural trends. I’ll offer myFriendster profile as proof of that one.It’s easy to get sick of all the political talk if it doesn’t interest you. But consumers vote everyday with their pocketbooks. Make sure you’ve got the right message you need to keep winningthe races.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 211
  • 211. 02/06/08Chasing a Moving TargetAmerica just might make history this year, but advertising lives in the pastI once worked on an ad for a baby product. As my art director was putting together some compsfor internal review, she decided to put a stock photo of a black baby in one ad. There were noulterior motives, no creative brief mandates—just that the black baby was cute and we rarely sawthem in the publications the ad was going to appear in. We thought the ad would “cut through theclutter” as the cliché goes.As we presented the comps internally, our AE objected to the image. “Well, I don’t know if theyare a large percentage of who our audience is.” The “they” being black parents. In other words,the AE was convinced that an ad prominently featuring a black baby would only appeal to blackpeople.I bring this up because right now, our nation is challenging conventional race and gender notions,the kind of conversation which the advertising industry prefers to avoid.Part of the reason for advertising’s reticence, of course, is fear. By that, I’m talking about theagency’s fear of the client’s fear. In my career I’ve heard a few times, as excuses, that the clientis a closet bigot. Or that the client is a man who doesn’t respect women. Or that the client is awoman who has a problem with men. Whatever the personal idiosyncrasy is, it means “they’renever gonna go for it.” And so, the agency can’t afford to raise the blood pressure of whoeverpays the bills.It’s not hard to understand this mentality. People most identify with and relate to other peoplewho look like them or share their backgrounds. There’s a comfort level there. But this is massmarketing. The world, and the marketplace, is an uncomfortable one. We have to sell productsand services to other people who are not like us.Decades of market research and focus groups have killed off our ability to treat consumers asindividuals, or humans. If the intended audience doesn’t fit into a convenient demographiccategory, we don’t know what to do with them. It’s not something can be solved with 50 versionsof a microtargeted banner ad or e-mail. People simply aren’t predictable in their purchasingbehavior, no matter how much careful research and planning we do.So how long will the advertising industry keep trying to sell work to people who think just likewe do? How long will we keep giving awards and rewards for creative work that speaksprimarily to us?The ad industry doesn’t innovate. We lag behind. You only have to watch the news to see the olddelineations and definitions crumbling.
  • 212. It’s possible the next President could be a Harvard-educated, half-white, half-black Christian sonof an Kenyan Muslim man, who was raised by his white mother and grandparents in Indonesiaand Hawaii. How would you market a product to him? Does he fit into any target audiencedescription you’ve ever seen on a creative brief? Could you make any assumptions about himbased on that profile?The best ad concepts require a leap of faith, and often a leap beyond logic. But most of us in theadvertising industry are not prepared to be so nimble. That’s right – we’re not prepared.The overwhelming majority of advertising agencies don’t attract the best and brightest minds. Orthe most innovative and forward-thinking. The small fraction of outstanding work we do is lostin the sea of mediocre work, which then permeates the mindset of clients and consumers.They’re accustomed to what’s conventional, and we’ve become accustomed to deliver it.But conventional thinking isn’t in vogue this year. I’ve heard, among other things, that today’syoung voters don’t see “race” or “gender” in this Presidential election. Maybe, maybe not. Butthese voters are also consumers. And whether the majority of voters opt for change or not, it’s adaily reality for those of us in advertising and marketing.Markets are changing. Media is changing. And change isn’t easy. It’s not going to be enough forad professionals to understand what changes are taking place. Rather, the key to our success willbe knowing how to turn those changes into strategies, messages, and advertising that will benefitour clients.All of which brings me back to that black baby in the comp. I don’t know if that baby would be amore acceptable choice if America elected a black President or came very close to electing one.But I’d like to think so.After all, advertising professionals have been sometimes called “mirror makers” for our ability tohold up a mirror to the people. Yes, we have that power. But we can’t hold a mirror up to thepeople if we can’t keep up with where the people are headed.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 213
  • 213. 02/27/08ObamarketingLessons from a political campaign can be applied to ad campaignsPutting policies and positions aside for this discussion, Barack Obama has created the mostsophisticated marketing program I’ve ever seen.Decades of GM, Coca-Cola, and Proctor & Gamble efforts can’t compare to what this guy’s donein one year.In the interest of full disclosure, yes, I donated a small amount of money to his campaign. And itgave me a window into a marketing operation that should be a case study in any collegemarketing textbook or agency account planning handbook.It’s a marketing program that’s both run from the top down and organized from the bottom up.Sure, he has a team of advisors and full-time campaign managers and staffers. But millions ofpeople have become involved and engaged thanks in large part to sheer marketing savvy.I’d like to cite a few examples.Obama’s team created a website that not only links to a dozen social networking websites, it is asocial networking website unto itself. Featuring a searchable database of local and regionalgroups. And where anyone can have their own “my.barackobama.com” web page, with their ownpersonal blog and fundraising goals. A friend of a friend of mine had set one up, and that’s thepage through which I made my donation. I’d never met this person—but he contacted mepersonally to thank me. A new connection made.After that, I’d get e-mails from the campaign, regularly. Yes, it’s weird to get an e-mail in my in-box that’s marked “From” Barack Obama. But they’re targeted, sophisticated e-mails. Less than30 minutes after Barack Obama was declared the winner in Georgia’s primary, I got an e-mailthanking me for my support.When Hillary Clinton decided she’d loan her campaign $5 million, I got an e-mail from theObama campaign trying to match the amount. The e-mail had a running total of the moneyraised. And every time I opened up that same e-mail again, the money amount would be changedand updated in real-time. Maybe I’m a bit naïve about rich e-mails, but that was a “holy shit,that’s cool” moment for me that no consumer ad campaign has provided lately.
  • 214. Then there’s the citizen-generated content. YouTube videos, posters, songs – much of itgenerated by ordinary citizens, some created by professional musicians, artists, and ad people.This is the kind of marketing that’s being preached by the “let’s have a engaging two-wayconversation with our customers-as-friends” crowd. With Barack Obama, it’s become fullyrealized. Perhaps it’s no surprise that the least impressive portion of the campaign appear to bethe official TV ads. They’re good, but hardly different from most political commercials.In the face of all this hype, adulation and fast success, Obama supporters have been called a cult.That’s OK. So are Apple fans and Harley-Davidson owners. If you think this is bad for Americaand politics, remember: This is the world advertising created, one where a name or a product canbe made to stand for more than its functionality.But product performance is still the key. Let’s say Obama gets elected President on the strengthof this brand he created. He still has to give good customer service for 4 years. And people willbe disappointed if the product doesn’t reflect the hype.I wish more agencies and clients would learn from the Barack Obama campaign. Yes, it’s anexpensive, unique campaign – but it’s also well-staffed. There are lots of people doing the work,both at headquarters and in the field. It’s a fast-responding organization despite its size.Plus, it appears quite a few of Obama’s people, particularly the web staff, are empowered toreact. They know how to move fast in a way that advertising agencies and clients don’t. Some ofmy clients sit on little jobs like brochures or emails for days or weeks before they approve orreject them. Some have taken a year or more to refine their brand identity. And we can’t convincethem to quicken the pace for their own good. Is it any wonder people think ad agencies are out ofsync with the pace of today’s world?Perhaps someone will create an advertising model that’s built on this type of campaign—onewhere a large, fast, intensive, results-oriented team takes a major marketer’s $75 or $100+million annual budget and creates a national integrated campaign. Then that team disperses andreforms as needed for other major efforts. No, it’s not the most stable of organizational models,but that’s how political marketing works, and Barack Obama showed how it can be done togenerate awareness and results far above and beyond what many ad agencies accomplish today.Too many advertising people hold their noses up at political marketing, and for good reason. Fortoo long it’s been condescending, nasty and pedestrian, and perhaps we should get rid of italtogether. But it’s here, it’s being done well, and the advertising industry should examine thesuccess of the Obama campaign for ideas and tactics.Maybe then we’d get some change we can believe in.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 215
  • 215. 03/20/08Some Free ThinkingCan the ad industry survive the pressures to charge less and cut costs?I once had a job interview, arranged by a recruiter, at an ad agency in a city I wanted to live in. Ihad to fly myself in and put myself up at a hotel for an evening. Then, once I got there, the HRDirector tried to haggle me down on my salary—something the recruiter had already settledupfront. Plus, if I got the job offer, I was told I’d have to pay for my own relocation.It became clear that this was an agency that had virtually no regard for, or investment in, itspeople. For the agency, the opportunity cost to hire me was practically free. I was the only onewith anything to lose. Naturally, I was completely turned off.I bring this up because increasingly, in both the ad industry and business in general, we’re facingpressures to charge less for goods and services — and there’s a constant insistence on paying lessfor the goods and services of others. Even more drastic, we’re seeing a trend toward offeringthings free, or cheap, to entice people to want more.All this free stuff is gonna cost us, big time.As humans, we’re conditioned to want something for nothing. There are no strings attached tofree stuff. But we live in an ownership society. And once you take ownership of something, youdon’t want it taken away from you. You’ll pay to protect it. In recent years, there are people whobought houses with no money down. It’s no surprise they’re literally walking away from themnow that they can’t afford the payments.The trend toward free and cheap is very prevalent in today’s information economy. The Internethasn’t changed the need for people to make money, but it has changed our expectations in termsof what we’re willing to pay for.Knowledge is now becoming a commodity. Even art and music are becoming commodities.People who download songs from P2P sites or burn CD’s for friends don’t see the harm—butthey’d never steal a CD from a store. As music becomes information to be moved betweencomputers, people don’t ascribe to it the value they once did. And the music industry as we’veknown it is suffering. Lots of people praised Radiohead recently for offering musicdownloadable for whatever price people chose to pay. 60% of people paid nothing. Having soldmillions of albums already, Radiohead can get away with this. An upstart band can’t afford to doit—well they can, but they have to find other means of income to support themselves.
  • 216. We all benefit from this free and cheap world. We get to read all sorts of things on the internet forfree—newspapers, magazines, other content we’d previously have to pay for. Wikipediasupplanted a wall full of Funk n’ Wagnalls encyclopedias. A free perusal of NYTimes.comreplaced buying the daily newsprint. Why? because right now, advertising subsidizes most of it.(Interestingly, Wikipedia relies on the unpaid contributions of its editors and on donations. Howoften do you use it, and have you ever donated?) I write this column for free, but that’s because Ihave other means of support, and Talent Zoo has a means of income to pay for the website andhosting.A lot of web content is dependent on advertising, but advertising’s subsidy of new media maynot last. Web advertising has very little time to prove its value or demonstrate its impact. Asmore and more money is being spent, the noise ratio goes up and the impact becomes less andless significant. Ad agencies need to make sure there’s value or impact in online advertising—because if people tune it out altogether, many businesses that depend on the web for income willbe hurting.And the business of making advertising is also being priced as a commodity. There’s alreadybeen a litany of ad professionals decrying the notion of giving away ideas for free in a newbusiness pitch, so I don’t need to rehash that argument. But if you’re willing to find them, thereare web sites that feature already-made commercials that you can customize with a “slap yourlogo here” idea. And stock photos which now cost a few dollars as opposed to a few hundred. Adagencies, our clients and our vendors are all feeling squeezed in the era of free and cheap. It’s adownward spiral.The ad industry, like other industries, exists to make a profit. The pressure to cut costs or chargeshas a ripple effect for everyone. Hopefully we’ll find ways to ensure we do good work and makemoney. You can’t sustain a business doing the former if you can’t do the latter.So don’t get tripped up by all the gurus who tell you free and cheap is always better. If you’rewondering whether a product or service makes a viable business in the new world of free andcheap, think of these two maxims:Somebody’s gotta pay for it. And somebody’s gotta profit from it.That’s just my 2 cents. Hey, advice is cheap, isn’t it?©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 217
  • 217. 04/09/08Where Adweek Meets BusinessweekCan ad people ride out the economy’s ups and downs?If you watch the news, it’s hard to escape talk of a recession, or a downturn—and some peoplehave floated the possibility of a depression.Whatever you want to call it, it’s a real downer.You don’t have to personally be in dire straits to feel the effects. Odds are someone you know, afamily member, a friend, a co-worker, is having some difficulty. Our world is so interconnectedthese days that it’s hard to feel completely removed from the perilous state of our economy.There’ll be a recovery. There always is. But this time, it seems a complete comeback is lessassured. We don’t manufacture as much in America as we used to, so those particular jobs aren’tcoming back and often get replaced with lower-paying ones. But that’s only part of the problem,and the ad industry needs to pay attention.What makes our economy run now is consumer spending. “Consumer confidence” is a importantmetric. Both are, of course, fueled by advertising and marketing. We’re the patron saints ofbuying stuff. So it’s hard not to feel the pressure to keep our clients’ businesses humming.No matter who your clients are, that pressure exists. If gas hits $4 a gallon, people will spend lesson dinner or entertainment in order to fill up the tank. That’s a small behavioral change. But thereare even bigger concerns. As a country, we’re mortgaging our futures to buy stuff now. Ifconsumers increasingly pile up debt, and more people lose their jobs or their homes, I wonder:Who will keep buying what advertisers need to sell? How much more can people spend? Mostimportantly, how much longer can we ask them to keep spending so much and so often?Some people believe there’s no better time for a business to advertise than during a downturn.Which may be true, but you can’t tell your client to pretend that everything’s OK. And it effectsthe nature and quality of the creative work we produce. Strategically speaking, what do you tellyour clients to emphasize during tough times? Trust? Low prices? Value? Remember, clients arenervous and fearful by nature, and now the economy makes them even more so. “I gotta moveproduct” is a refrain I’ve heard quite a few times.If you’ve been in advertising for a few years, then you’ve seen this before. Nothing seemedbleaker than the aftereffects of the dot-com bust in 2000 & 2001. Every economic downturnweeds out bad businesses—and ad agencies are no exception. A few agencies will mergethemselves into oblivion and a few will go out of business altogether. It’s a powerful remindernot to be too content to coast or adopt a bunker mentality until there’s an economic recovery.Yes, it’s a time to try bold new ideas or reinvent the business. You’ll be perfectly positioned toride the next upward wave.
  • 218. On the flip side, we can’t be reckless, either. The ad industry must be careful not to shove toomuch money & resources into unknown technologies and unproven tactics. In other words, don’tpour money down the drain of Second Life if you don’t have your shit together in your FirstLife.Unfortunately, I think for most agencies, it’ll be business as usual. Because few agencies havethe will to do something unusual, like tell their clients to improve customer service so they keepmore of their current customers during a downtown. It’s always sexier to spend a client’s cash toget new customers than to keep the current ones happy.If you can’t be concerned with the big picture, you still need to protect yourself. Maybe youdon’t have the power to change the agency you work in, but you can be aware of the businesssituation your agency finds itself in. Be cautious if you’re working at an agency dominated byone client or one product category. And be leery of working at an agency that only doestraditional work and no interactive. Or vice versa. Clients need all sorts of creative work andtactics to get their message across in tough economic times, and they’re all too happy to movetheir account to the agency that can deliver the right mix.Above all, be ready. For anything. There’s no economist, trendspotter or futurist guru who candefinitively tell you what will happen to the economy this year or next. We all find out the futureat the same time.And if those thoughts don’t lift your spirit, you can always try a good antidepressant. At leastyou’ll keep pharmaceutical advertising going strong.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 219
  • 219. 05/01/08When Weird WorksIs anyone ever qualified to work in advertising?I’ve been writing this column for 6 years. But I’m still not sure if I’m qualified to write it.Such is life in an industry like advertising, where no one, and everyone, is qualified for the jobthey hold.It’s no secret that the ad industry is full of misfits. Smart, yes; passionate, yes; but misfitsnonetheless. We all belong because we don’t belong. To work in advertising, you don’t need acollege degree. And you certainly don’t need some sort of board certification. Imagine if youwill, a test to become a board certified AE, copywriter, or media buyer. What on earth would thattest consist of?I bring this up because I’ve been reading more stories, disguised as agency puff pieces, of newhires that have fallen into agency life from some other unconnected job: folks who were stand-upcomedians, blues musicians, cruise ship bartenders, roadies, etc. Whatever it is they were doingbefore, they’re now supposedly ideal for positions in ad agencies.Our industry embraces a certain degree of weirdness. In America, at least, advertising seems toattract the type of people who want white-collar jobs but eschew typical professions, such asmedicine, law or finance. And some of us are would-be artists who sell out to the commercialarts. Consequently, you won’t find too many 1st generation Americans in advertising—dotingparents tend to push their high-achieving children to pursue something more respectable.So it’s not a new idea that advertising professionals have oddball experiences in theirbackgrounds. What is new is that more and more, agencies are touting those experiences aslegitimate qualifications, or even badges of honor, that give outsiders credibility as they becomeagency insiders. It’s rare to find a profession that embraces people who’ve likely never given itmuch thought before they landed in it.Can you truly be born to go into advertising? Can you practice it as a kid? Other commercial artscan engage young people. Take Steven Spielberg and Quentin Tarantino. Both of them, even assmall kids, were students of film. They lived it from an early age. Can future ad people do that?I do believe there are ways to prepare oneself for a career in advertising. But the path isn’talways linear. I graduated from a 4-year university with an advertising degree, and it didn’t helpme one bit for the reality of day-to-day advertising agency life. Had I studied more Psychologyand Anthropology I’d have been better prepared. Plus a class or two in Animal Husbandry for thedays I’ve spent polishing turds.Why should anyone bother actively pursuing advertising as a career? After all, it’s commonlysaid of advertising, “Anyone can do it.”
  • 220. Yes, anyone can do it. And anyone is doing it. Corporations give us millions of dollars to spend,and we turn around and let people who don’t know the first thing about a client spend it.I’ve seen too many ad people who don’t care much about, or for, their clients. Conversely, I’mespecially amazed how few clients know the people who actually do their work. I mean thepeople who write and art direct the ads, program the websites, and resize the brochures. Maybeadvertising is like sausage—you’re better off not knowing how it’s made.But I wonder if there’s going to come a day when marketers, and ad agencies, start decidingthere’s no room for dreamers who do whacked-out work but can’t solve business problems. In anera of shareholder pressure, it seems that no corporation has the leeway to waste a penny—withthe exception of CEO pay, of course.Hopefully, the makeup of this industry will remain somewhat iconoclastic. It makes life moreinteresting. And that’s why we work in the business. The late Dr. Hunter S. Thompson said,“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”For ad pros, it seems, weirdness may be the only qualification that’s needed.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 221
  • 221. 05/22/08Digitally Divided We StandWe need to remember the people who aren’t as plugged in as we areI recently became acquainted with a new couple. They’re upscale, college-educated folks, both intheir early 40’s. She’s a nurse and he’s a home remodeler. Successful folks by any measure.Except for one major, tragic flaw: They’re not wired.They barely use email, don’t use the Internet much, and needed me to help them hook an iPod upto their stereo and load their digital camera’s pictures onto their computers.It’s not that they wore their technological ignorance on their sleeves; rather, they were perfectlyhappy living their lives without the Internet and Web 2.0 and new media. To them, a “Twitterfeed” means a bag of birdseed.I couldn’t believe it. How do they survive? I mean, my life, and my work in advertising, is socentered around technology that I can’t function much without it. Yet there are millions of peoplewho do just fine without it. And yes, they’re our clients’ customers, too.When I hear talk of a “digital divide,” the discussion centers around rich vs. poor, or urban/connected vs. rural/off the grid. I’m not sure that’s as true as it may have been a few years ago.Rather, there are occupations, lifestyles, and personal preferences that enable a person to say, “Idon’t need all this technology to live my life.”We need to keep in mind that there are still some jobs that don’t keep people chained to a deskand a computer all day. And they’re not all bricklayers or short-order cooks.The same things we find so engaging about the web and other new technologies are the thingsothers find so constricting--complexity, cost, incessancy, and the feeling of enslavement it allinduces. Sometimes it gets to me, too. How did my wireless Internet connection become a leash?I suppose it’s a hazard of the job. It’s very easy to get seduced by technology. The ad industry isalways in search of the newest new thing. And clients are clamoring for whatever new gimmickthey just read about in the Wall Street Journal. I have a client that says “do it in Flash” so muchhe probably shouts it when he’s getting laid.In the rush to embrace the new, however, we can’t forget the old. No, we’re not going to beturning back the clock--not in our society or the advertising industry. But we need to recognizethat reaching consumers on their own terms is always going to involve a whole host of methods—including such ancient ideas as radio and billboards and printed pieces of paper. And thatpowerful ideas, with arresting images and provocative words, are still going to be what movepeople to buy products. Unfortunately, as the new media gold rush spurs innovation, old media isrisks becoming a dumping ground of bullet points, sale announcements and trite productfeatures.
  • 222. Where the advertising industry gets into trouble is when clients spread their marketing across abunch of agencies who rarely communicate with one another. The notion of reaching consumersat “every touchpoint” becomes an exercise in futility if you (or your agency) only touch one ortwo points. Because ideally, we ought to be caring about the whole, not just our slice, no matterwhat part of the business we work on. Can we care about the people who don’t have internet orcheck their email? Conversely, can we also care about the ones who want to receive text messagecoupons?I think its possible for advertising people to keep a foot on both sides of the digital divide.Because thats where consumers are. And my new friends are doing just fine without all thistechnology. Maybe they’re an increasingly rare breed. But it’s still important to remember thepeople on the other side of the digital divide. Perhaps all the money they don’t spend on ISPservice, laptops, and other technology is spent on your client’s products.They’re out there. They’re reachable. But occasionally, we might have to unplug ourselves first,so we can think like they do.Now, if someone can just text my iPhone, e-mail me, or Facebook me and tell me how to unplugmyself, I’ll be set.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 223
  • 223. 06/12/08Back to the Future of the PastAdvertising, like everything else, is full of rich history. Is it relevant?Last year Dana Perino, the White House Press Secretary, admitted she didn’t know what the Bayof Pigs Invasion was. When I heard that, I thought, shouldn’t someone working in the WhiteHouse have a basic knowledge of 20th century American history?Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised. As a culture, Americans have very selective memories,and the past is soon forgotten.Advertising professionals are no different. A while back on AdPulp.com, I got into a discussionabout Apple’s “1984” commercial and its lack of product information. The ad has been lionizedfor 24 years as a shining triumph of advertising and film. But few people remember that inaddition to a great commercial, Apple also bought 40 pages of advertising in one issue ofNewsweek to explain—with long body copy precision—exactly what the computer did. Andeven with all that, the Macintosh wasn’t an instant success.Should we care if our co-workers and clients, as the song goes, don’t know much about history?The history of advertising, pop culture, and business in general is quite vast. I’ve always believedmore knowledge is always better, no matter what the subject. And it’s amazing how a few yearsof experience in advertising, coupled with a good memory, can hone your inner BS detector.Some people just entering the business world and the ad industry may not have a full recollectionof the 1999-2000 dot-com buildup and meltdown. You can see it with new technology beinghyped. When Facebook announced last year it was accepting advertising, its CEO heralded it as arevolution stating, “once every hundred years, media changes.” I wasn’t around in 1907, but I’mold enough to realize he was full of shit.Perhaps that’s why so few marketing concepts captivate me. I’ve seen them before, albeitprobably in a more primitive iteration. And if you’re a student of history, as I sometimes am, I’vebegun to realize that even the most unique ideas today’s agencies produce are built onfoundations erected by previous ad people.Advertising and promotion, in all its forms, has been around for a long, long time. The artistwill.i.am caused a viral stir a few months ago by writing and singing a song for Barack Obama.As citizen-generated political marketing, born of genuine excitement for a candidate, it was acool idea. But it’s not exactly a new one. In the Presidential election of 1840, someone wrote asong called “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too” for William Henry Harrison, a war hero who wasrunning for President. It was famous at the time, the “Yes We Can” of its day. And it got Harrisonelected.
  • 224. Okay, that’s an extreme example. But if you look hard enough, you’ll always find remnants ofold ideas in today’s new concepts. The trick is to avoid using a library of knowledge to shootdown good ideas. And it doesn’t take long to find someone in an agency, usually a grizzled ACDor CD, who uses their memory to make you feel stupid. You don’t want to become one of thoseinsufferable ad people who looks at every concept and says something like, “so-and-so did thatad back at Hal Riney in 1986 and it’s on page 35 of the CA annual.”There is a danger in recalling the past so much. I’m beginning to think my brain resembles a filecabinet. I fear there’s a large chunk of it where memories and history are stored, gathering dustand cobwebs, gradually leaving less and less room for new ideas and thoughts.Yes, advertising is a young person’s industry, and we live in a short-term memory society as it is.But history, when it comes to advertising and marketing or business in general, should serve aslessons for us. Not to discourage experimentation and innovation, but as a building block toalways consider the possibilities and prepare for contingencies.Ultimately, we can use the past to avoid costly mistakes—and sell better work to our clients whocan then sell more of their own products and services. So it’s a good idea to know a bit about thepast. But even once you know it, you have to focus on living in the present and creating ideas forthe future.Because if you’re not forward-thinking, your career in advertising will soon be history.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 225
  • 225. 07/02/08Interactive Agencies and Passive MentalitiesTo get the credit and the power, it’s time for interactive agencies to step upLast week, there was a kerfuffle over the credits attached to the Cannes Lion-winning HBO“Voyeur” concept. Seems the interactive agency Big Spaceship thought it deserved more creditthan the lead agency, BBDO, gave it.Aside from a inside-the-industry squabble over trinkets and credits, the story exposes what israpidly becoming the next battle in the advertising: Where do the interactive people belong?We all know the MO of lead agencies—and by “lead agencies” I mean the brand agencies,traditional agencies, “big dumb agencies,” whatever you want to call them. They want control.Over ideas, money, credit, over everything. They’ll control it all until they die.So it’s time for interactive agencies to step up. And open up. Or step back.How? Start hiring idea people. Hire strategic thinkers. Look at brands from a more completeperspective. And offer more services to clients.It’s gotten to the point where interactive shops hire people who’ve spent much of their careersdoing online work. Which is doable given that marketing on the Internet has been around for 14years or so. Those people are in demand.But there’s a host of people who aren’t given a second glance, and they could potentially be themost valuable people to an interactive agency with dreams of growth and glory. The idea peoplearen’t always still thinking in strictly old media—TV, print, etc. They’re more open to new mediathan you might think, and theyre out there experimenting with everything from blogs to webvideos to social media apps in their spare time.What interactive agencies and the hiring managers within them don’t realize is that most creativepeople in advertising don’t often control the media in which their ads appear. For most creatives,particularly in bigger agencies, it’s the client, or a locked-away-on-another-floor mediadepartment, who often determines that a direct mail piece is needed, or a TV spot, or a printcampaign. Nothing precludes true creative professionals from thinking of ideas across all typesof media if the desire and the budget is there.In the grand scheme of the business and marketing worlds, new media is but one niche tactic.Which makes interactive agencies niche businesses. Marketers need it all—in all media. Ifinteractive shops don’t expand their horizons, they’ll always be at the kids’ table in the corporateboardroom. In 3 or 4 years, an agency that only does interactive work will be as relevant as anagency that only does radio.
  • 226. Now, there’s nothing wrong with being a niche business. But niche agencies will always bedependent on others to set the agenda or share the wealth. And in advertising, the largesse of alead agency to other shops working on an account is sorely lacking. Plus, if they want to, bigagencies can gobble up the little interactive businesses or throw money at their people and suckthem into the big integrated marketing vortex.But interactive firms, like small ad agencies, can be nimble, fast and survive with the rightpeople and services in place. And in revenue terms, it’s a singular advantage of interactive that aclient’s sales are only a few clicks away from any banner ad, microsite or Twitter post. Whichmeans for most companies, interactive will always be an integral part of the marketing plangoing forward.All of which makes interactive shops different from what have been long known as productioncompanies that do film or video. It goes beyond, “here’s a storyboard, now film it.” Interactiveagencies take ideas and make them work—really work. And the ideas have to work in multipleways, with a number of methods of getting into them. Making a microsite or game does you nogood if there’s no method—emails, blogs, press, ads, anything else—for consumers to find it,experience it, or link to it.In the end, marketers will go to whoever shows them results. You can either think it begins withtactics, or it begins with ideas. The most sophisticated tactics won’t be effective if the idea isn’tcompelling. And the best ideas won’t be effective if they’re not executed with new media inmind. Clients don’t have time, or money, to waste on people who can’t do both.The rap on big agencies has always been that if something wasn’t TV, radio or print, it didn’tmatter to them. Now, the same attitude exists in interactive agencies: If it isn’t digital, it doesn’tmatter. Neither position is right.We’re all still learning. That goes for interactive people, too. As long as traditional agencies wantto claim the “idea is king,” interactive agencies will always be the king’s servants. So bring theideas. Beef up your long-term thinking. Recognize how online is affected by offline, and viceversa. You can’t go wrong.Because for a brand, the big picture can’t be measured in pixels.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 227
  • 227. 07/24/08The Defense of the OffensiveAdvertising is very effective–at pissing people off. Should we care?It’s a weekly occurrence. Someone raises a stink about an ad they found offensive. This week,it’s a spot featuring a potent combination of Mr. T, a tank, a Gatling gun, an effeminate powerwalker, and a rapid-fire candy bar assault. Which some people are viewing as a cornucopia ofhomophobia.You know the lifecycle of these debates: Someone gets offended and tells the world they’reoffended. People attack the person who’s offended. Someone comes along and agrees with thefirst person. Then the issue goes away, until another offending ad appears.In the world of advertising, it’s never-ending. Is there a proper response?Let’s take a look at some of the most common responses:“You don’t have the right not to be offended.” That’s true. Way too many people say “I’moffended by that” in response to something they’d simply rather not deal with. But let’s talkabout rights for a minute. The right to advertise isn’t a right that’s afforded complete protectionby our Constitution (I’m talking about America, uh, no offense to you foreigners.) Advertising isregulated commercial speech, not “free speech” as the 1st Amendment defines it. If you have theright to make an ad that offends people, fine. Someone has the right to say it sucks or itsoffensive, and say it to whomever will listen, including your client.“Grow up.” “Get over it.” Sorry, if those are the best counter-arguments you can make to defendan ad, you’re the one who needs to grow up. It’s a characteristic of little kids and teenagers thattheir less-than-fully developed brains lead them to believe their actions don’t have consequences.“It’s just an ad.” This one usually comes out of the mouths of people who’ll otherwise go to anylengths to defend bad work, particularly if it’s their own. In an industry where a gold trinket is aticket to a pseudo-fame and not-so-pseudo fortune, plenty of people will jerk off over somethingthey like, even though it’s “just an ad,” and treat it like the Hope Diamond.Often, the defense of offensive ads is just as irrational and nonsensical as the protests of theoffended people. And for the ad industry, that doesn’t help our cause much.We ought to assume some responsibility for the messages and images we disseminate. Theproblem is, we are rarely forced to. We do what we do, then it’s off our desks. It gets produced,and then it’s out there. How often do we have to deal with the consequences?In particular, creative teams rarely find out the results of what they do—whether it’s in ameasurable medium or not. Unless, of course, you piss someone off. Which I’ve done.
  • 228. I wrote a radio spot where, with sound design, we recreated a mortgage burial and played “Taps”in the background. And we got a letter of objection from the widow of a WW II vet. Our client,one clearly not known for its morality, didn’t care. “Hey, at least it got attention,” was theirresponse. This was before 9/11 and before the Iraq war. Would I write the same spot with thatsame song today? I doubt it. But I did it, and I still like it.It’s impossible to please everyone, particularly when you’re trying to do humorous work, wherethere needs to be some exaggeration in a scenario to make it funny. Plus, we all have ourpersonal buttons that can be pushed. There’s even a group that protests the way straight whitemen are presented as buffoons in domestic scenarios.The constant uproar over offensive ads simply mirrors our general society. Compared to say, 50years ago, groups like gays, minorities, animal activists and other forms of special interestgroups are standing up for themselves, whereas before they were largely unseen or unheard. Andwith more media outlets than ever to get the message across, they’re hard to ignore.So if your agency is on the verge of producing something you think is cutting through the clutter,pushing the envelope and a triumph of “edgy,” ask:Is that the best ad you could’ve done? Could you have come up with a better concept? Is it amalicious ad? Did you do it to get a cheap laugh at someone’s expense?We ought to think more carefully before we produce an idea that might be misconstrued. Andmaybe bring more ideas to consider in the first place. At the end of the day, we’re spending otherpeople’s money. We’re interrupting other people’s entertainment. We are the uninvited guests, thenecessary evils. We should never take that too lightly.Perhaps we ought to concentrate on really offensive things—the bait and switch ads, the yellingcar dealer spots, the special offer ads with too much fine print, the ads that are now in every inchof public space.Oh, wait. I just offended a whole bunch of ad hacks.But they’ll get over it. They always do.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 229
  • 229. 08/13/08The Loyal TreatmentDo we have an obligation to promote and use our client’s products?It was recently reported that when Michael Dell went to go tour the office of his new ad agencyEnfatico, there was a scramble to replace all the Macs on the desks with Dell computers. Now,we all know that creative departments in advertising agencies generally use Macs, but this dog-and-pony show apparently had to be arranged to placate the top client’s ego.Many agencies have a policy of using their clients’ products. Like the Pepsi ad agency where youcan’t be spotted with a Coke or a Diet Pepper in your hand (hint: pour the Coke into a travelmug). Or the Chevy ad agency where the people who drive Chevys or other GM cars get betterparking spots. In some agencies, you can get fired for violating this strict loyalty code.But what happens when you leave work in the evening? In your outside-the-agency life, howmuch of an advocate should you be for your client’s products?I think people who work in advertising are more susceptible to liking or loving brands, not less.We’re all major fans of brands with great marketing and buy into their stories. Apple, Nike,Target, Starbucks, Method–there’s a whole cadre of brands ad people salivate over. So it comesnaturally to want to be a brand advocate for your client, and buy into the brand’s attributes.(Funny how it’s easier to embrace your client’s products when they’re upscale, well-respected orwell-made.)It’s not just good business to use a client’s product or talk it up. If we’re going to start sayingword-of-mouth conversation is the new way to stay relevant, we are personally responsible forbeing part of spreading the word. Plus, I care if my clients do well. Because if they do well, I dowell.Well, in theory that’s true. I’ve worked on dozens of different clients, most of which didn’t makeproducts or services that I was in the target audience for. Nonetheless, I promoted them, andadvocated for them. Until the point where I didn’t work on those accounts in those agencies. Butin some cases, there were some clients that simply stopping earning my respect.There’s no loyalty in the advertising business anymore, if there ever was any. Clients are all toohappy to parcel out pieces of business to eager agencies that kiss their ass. Or throw a 10-yearrelationship into review to “take a holistic look at our marketing parnerships to see if ourcommunications objectives can be better met.”And so the agency/client relationship becomes a constant game of kiss and punch. I’ve neverworked at an agency where, behind closed doors, a client wasn’t cursed, damned or burned ineffigy--in many cases by the people whose names were on the agency’s doors.
  • 230. Such behavior is not usually born of callousness, it’s born of frustration. To good advertisingprofessionals, a certain type of brand advocacy comes in the form of wanting clients to becomebetter businesses overall, regardless of the quality of ads that get produced. I’ve seen too manycases where a client’s wasteful spending and incompetence led me to believe that they don’tdeserve anyone’s business, let alone mine.This is not a desire to bite the hand that feeds me. Advertising professionals are uniquelypositioned to look at a client’s brand from a perspective unlike any other: up close, yetdispassionate. It’s important for me to learn as much as I can about a client’s business. But thatdoesn’t prevent me from being critical. In other words, I take the factory tour, but I don’t drinkthe Kool-Aid when I’m there.When you work at an agency, using a client’s product, or simply advocating for it, isoften something thats forced upon you. Most people in advertising don’t much of a say in whichclients they work on. And most agencies aren’t all that picky about clients if they’re profitableaccounts. So you’re forced to be loyal to companies you might not like all that much. And that’sa shame.But maybe that will soon change. It’s getting harder and harder for marketers to hide behind afalse facade. Consumers are savvier and have access to more information. Which means ifbrands don’t live up to their promises, they’ll be exposed. And that will seep over into ad agencylife, because the same principle applies in agency/client relationships: if the transparency isn’tthere, the relationship is doomed, and forcing agency people to use a product won’t help.Note to all marketing managers and marketing directors: The people who work in youradvertising and communications agencies can be your biggest advocates. And if you don’t treatthem well, or they can turn out to be your brand’s biggest denouncers. We know the good, bad,and the ugly; the big picture, and even some of the dark secrets.So clients and marketers who want loyalty need to reciprocate. By being loyal to good ideas. Andbeing loyal to unconventional thinking. And being loyal to the agencies and people who strive todeliver those.Now that’s the kind of loyalty program marketers would really benefit from.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 231
  • 231. 09/04/08Cutting Off a Campaign’s LegsWill we ever see long-lasting ad campaigns anymore?I once worked for a Creative Director who, for every new account our agency won, set aboutredesigning that client’s logo. It was never requested by the client. But my CD just wanted tochange the logo. And it was never an improvement; just an exercise in ego and a waste of theclient’s money.The things that over the years have come to symbolize brands like logos--and in particular,taglines—are being changed to quickly and so often that it’s hard to keep up. Consequently, noone does.We all know how it works: Every time a new CMO comes along, he/she hires a new agency. Andsuddenly everyone at both the client and agency feel the need to piss on the marketing landscapeand mark their turf. Which means a new campaign, a new tagline, a new logo, etc. It’s change forchange’s sake.It used to be a real virtue to present an ad campaign idea that “has legs.” Now, it doesn’t matterso much. Today, it seems we’re committed to prematurely amputate any campaign that has legs.Is that a good idea?The result of this itchy trigger finger is that campaigns consist of short bursts of marketing thatdon’t make an lasting impact, or make much sense. I recently heard an Audi radio spot with thetagline "Truth In Engineering." I’d never heard it before. What does that even mean? What itmeans that were living in The Age of Lame Taglines. Fine, Audi makes good cars, but “Truth inEngineering?” I suspect there’s little truth to be had there, just hyperbole. What’s worse, even asa consumer I have little interest in getting Audi to explain it to me.Taglines, like all other parts of advertising, are an art. And it’s becoming a lost art. Part of itstems from ad schools turning out students who suffer from what I call “Tagline DependencySyndrome” (TDS). TDS occurs when an ad makes no real sense whatsoever until you get to see,hear, or read the tagline, which purports to explain all that came before it. So every ad in acampaign with TDS, in order to work, must absolutely focus on the tagline. There aren’t toomany ads that can do this for any length of time, limiting the life of the tagline, and thus theshort-lived campaign.If you think taglines aren’t a big deal, then you’ve obviously never had to come up with one, as Ihave many, many times.  It’s an assignment that inevitably devolves into a big, steaming pile ofcrazy.
  • 232. But whether it’s a new tagline or a new campaign, the genesis is always the same. You knowyou’re in trouble when you hear this about a current campaign: “Consumers are tired of it.”Bullshit. We wish consumers cared about a campaign so much they’d get tired of it. No, it’s ourindustry that gets tired—the industry where new creatives, new shops and new campaigns feedthe award-show and business press beast.That’s the problem: It’s not that consumers have the short attention span. It’s that creativedirectors and CMO’s have them. And by not allowing any continuity, taglines become more triteand more meaningless. Collectively, customers simply don’t ascribe to them any value, in partbecause they’re so short-lived.It’s only going to get worse. As more and more interactive work comes along, the only measureof success will be metrics like click-through rates, which rarely take into account anythingbeyond the immediate impact of a message.In all forms of marketing, the analytics nerds are taking over in an attempt to prove once and forall what works: “Let’s test these 50 banner ads with these 10 different taglines, and see whichone works best.” Good to know, except that we still won’t know what works over a substantialperiod of time, just the execution that has the most immediate impact. Nothing has time todevelop, or simply grow on people.Some of the most famous brands had campaigns and taglines than ran for years—decades insome cases. I’m beginning to think those days are long gone. Not because brands can’t benefitfrom long-lasting ideas, but as advertising professionals, our careers can’t be advanced bycontinuing someone else’s great campaign.In a few years, will there even be ad campaigns as we’ve come to know them? Will any idea bebig enough to last more than a month?I suspect we won’t see too many campaigns with legs. Which is one more reason the best legs,attached to the best minds, don’t get into advertising in the first place these days.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 233
  • 233. 09/25/08Read This or ElseExplaining the lasting appeal—or just existence—of negative adsIf you don’t like this column, go screw yourself.And by the way, that’s an ugly shirt you have on. You can’t go outside looking like that. Whathomeless retch did you steal it from?Okay, calm down. I’m just trying to make a point. Or rather, what should be a pretty obviouspoint at this time every 4 years. Because right now, if you watch TV at all, negative political adsare inescapable. Yet so is the call for their elimination.So why do negative ads stay around? They work. They work because they hit a part of the humanpsyche we can’t ignore. Political consultants know this.But here’s the thing: as consumer advertising professionals, we know this, too.It’s worth remembering that modern advertising’s roots are in making people feel inadequate orpreying on their fears. The phrase “often a bridesmaid, never a bride” was originally a headlinein an ad for Listerine; the point being that bad breath would keep a young girl single and lonelyforever.A psychologist could explore the pathology more in-depth than I could, but the basic fact is thatnegativity sticks in the brain. It has an immediate, visceral impact. Compliments are fleeting, butinsults sting for years. You need not have been a high school outcast to understand the long-lasting effects of an insult.While we may have gotten older, we still haven’t outgrown our kid fears. And marketers havedone a tremendous job instilling in consumers a deep-rooted desire to do what it takes toconform themselves in order to avoid those insults or those inadequate feelings.Of course, not everyone buys into this, either strategically or creatively. There’s been a counter-movement to appeal to people’s better instincts. To make friends with customers. To kill themwith kindness, or love. To create communities around brands. The right clothes. The righthousehold products. The right car. Of course, like every community, you’re either in, or you’reout.And again, we’re seeing that thinking echoed in the Presidential campaign, which is driven asmuch by personalities as it is by policies. Simultaneously, we’re seeing passionate supportersembrace their candidates while they slam the opposition and their supporters. As for JohnMcCain and Barack Obama, I get a sense that if they could, they’d avoid the negativity. But theycan’t. Political candidates have one shot at making one sale. So that’s why they throw everythingat your face in the hope that something will stick.
  • 234. But consumer brands have a longer shelf life, so they have other options. They can build overtime. They can make their case. They can be positive, knowing that their time will come, at theright time. Provided that clients won’t panic.Clients, however, are very good at panicking. And in perilous economic times like these, they getdesperate. Personally and professionally, they’re feeling inadequate, therefore they have nocompunction about passing on that insecurity to the consumers via advertising. They’ll beg for asale, insult their audience with condescending messages, or flat-out yell at consumers in theirads, and not worry about the consequences next month or next year.In advertising agencies, we help our clients make these choices every day. Will our ads makepeople feel good about a brand? Or will we make the brand the answer to their insecurities andfears? It’s part of the strategy. It’s part of the creative brief. And yes, it’s part of the executions.At its simplest, think of it this way: for every scenario featuring someone using a product, there’sthe opposite: what happens if someone doesn’t use it.Like everything else in the ad industry, there’s no one right answer. Just like political candidates,you can get very successful going positive. You can get very successful going negative. Thechoice is yours.And if you don’t agree with any of that, you’re wrong. Wrong for advertising. And wrong forAmerica. Right?©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 235
  • 235. 10/16/08From Wasilla to Madison AvenueForget politics—Sarah Palin’s a natural born ad personFrankly, I think that when she’s done in the Alaska Governor’s office, or the White House, SarahPalin ought to start an ad agency.She’s perfect for it. Because she’s living embodiment of what many people have come to expectfrom advertising and in particular, many of the people who make it.I’ve met my share of Sarah Palins in the ad business. The ones who succeeded despite being lighton substance and thick on vacuousness. Funny thing is, many of them were men. The men don’twink at me, though.Everyone over-analyzed the winks she gave during that debate. But spend enough time in agencymeetings and you’ll understand. She winks not because she likes us, she winks because she’sbullshitting us and she wants people believe to believe her BS. That’s upper managementmaterial in ad agencies. So many of us would love the ability to pull that one off on our clients.I’m full of BS a lot, and I’m not always that convincing.I have an idea: Put her on the new business team! She’s got the ability to take a simple questionand spin an answer that, when dissected, is nonsensical gibberish. That’s a highly valuable skill.Come on, who better could spout off on a “holistic approach to best-in-class, paradigm-shatteringmessaging strategies”?Or, we could put her in charge of consumer insights. Lots of people say they like Palin becauseshe’s “one of us.” In other words, she connects with the target audience. But the reality is sheclaims an authenticity that she doesn’t really have. Does living in rural Idaho and Alaska yourwhole life give you the ability to inherent understand all of America? No. But neither does livingin Brooklyn and working in a Manhattan ad agency. It’s a big country and a big world—and weneed to see and experience some of it before we can effectively market to it. But in advertising,as long as you can fake authenticity, you’ve got it made.Palin also seems like she’d be a natural survivor in the minefield of office politics. She’s got agood screwed-on smile that masks the “don’t screw with me” attitude. We’ve heard somerumblings about her abuse of power as Governor. No problem. Many senior advertisingexecutives are much more comfortable developing personal vendettas and secret shit lists. LikeJohn McCain, the out-of-touch person at the top, there’s always a second-in-command or otherunderling who’s entrusted to wield the hatchet.
  • 236. Now, you might be thinking, “But she’s not qualified—she’s never worked in advertising.”That’s OK. In the advertising industry, it’s not as if prior qualifications matter. Plenty of adagencies are founded or run by people who are former TV reporters, jingle-writers, sales weasels,charlatans, and all sorts of other types. Palin is governor of a very significant state, and rightfullyso. She’ll do fine in advertising. I’ve met many an ad exec who got promoted beyond his/hercompetency level. Like a mid-level copywriter suddenly promoted to Executive CreativeDirector. What could possibly go wrong?A lack of depth, coupled with a lack of facial blemishes, gets many people by the ad biz, just likein politics. It’s no accident Palin was chosen over many more qualified but homelier lookingRepublican women. Popularity, whether in politics, business, or high school, can propel peoplestraight to the top. Maybe she’ll work. Maybe it won’t. We’ll find out November 4th.The Palin phenomenon is just like any advertising campaign we launch--we simply don’t knowwhat the ROI will be. There is a target audience of loyal Republican brand advocates she’s beingpitched to, and they’re eating it up. Many people, however, aren’t buying what Sarah Palin isselling. Just like consumers are slowly tiring of insulting work perpetrated by advertisers whodon’t care about the consequences of their actions. Perhaps the notion that some people seethrough Palin is also a harbinger that consumers might welcome more intelligent marketing. Ornot.Advertising, like politics, is a business where superficiality often triumphs. But still, our clientsthese days are much more eager to give ad agencies the boot than voters are to throw politiciansout of office. So maybe Sarah Palin has the right idea. Maybe we’re better off taking a page fromher wink-and-platitude playbook.Besides, what’s the difference between an advertising professional and a hockey mom? Lipstick—placed lovingly on the client’s butt.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 237
  • 237. 11/06/08The War On TalentFinding the right people requires people doing the right way of findingA friend of mine recently attended a conference panel entitled “How to Win the War For Talent.”Maybe you’ve seen this phrase used somewhere, too. I couldn’t believe people still use it inNovember 2008.It’s bullshit.If you read an article or attend a conference panel entitled “How To Win The War For Talent,”trust me: the last thing you’ll learn is how to win the war for talent.Because there is no war for talent. Not in this day and age, not in the advertising industry, andespecially not in this economy. There’s a war ON talent.I roll my eyes whenever I hear some agency exec or recruiter say, “I can’t find good people.” Ifthat’s you, I have news for you: Good people are all around you. Your problems are simple ones,and they’re solvable if you’re willing to solve them.Maybe you’re not looking in the right places or doing what it takes to recruit them. Or you’re notevaluating skills, resumes or talent properly. Or you don’t know how to find the right place forsomeone you can’t automatically peg. Talented people are creating content and developing skillsthat don’t jump out of a one-page resume or 12-ad portfolio. Some of the biggest innovations inadvertising were literally and technologically impossible to do 10 or 15 years ago. New job typesand new job descriptions are being created every day. Are you stuck trying to put new people innew jobs using old evaluation methods?Then there’s the lack of common courtesy. Sorry, HR people, creative managers, and hiringmanagers, but if you can’t return a phone call, an email, or a job inquiry, you’re not properlymanaging your human resources. You should quit the business, or be fired. Period. If you can’ttreat prospective employees with the same respect your bosses treat prospective clients, you’renot helping your company.Perhaps nobody who’s truly talented wants to work for your agency. Maybe the work on youragency’s website is weak or outdated. Maybe the work environment isn’t uplifting and the wordhas spread in your community that conditions aren’t good. Maybe the people aren’t nice or youroffice is politically charged and everyone knows it. Or simply put, you’re not paying enough,although I believe that’s way down on the list.
  • 238. Maybe you’re in New York, Chicago, San Francisco or other market people flock to. Yet youragency doesn’t fly people in to interview or pay even a minimum of travel expenses. Or youwon’t pay to relocate someone. We’re talking about someone who’s willing to uproot their livesand their family to come work for you. Trust me, the money you spend on relocating the rightperson more than makes up for the otherwise billable hours you spend looking at the wrong ones.Agencies with bad reputations are known worldwide for their bad reputations now. Likedisgruntled customers, there will always be a dissatisfied employee. But if it’s a consistentpattern, no amount of PR will help you. The word gets spread, and spread fast. If you wage waron talent, you don’t have the right to expect great people lining up to work for you.Now, for those of you who think this is a one-sided screed, let me now address the “talent”:As Hyman Roth said in The Godfather Part II, “This is the business we’ve chosen.” No one owesyou anything. Like an auto worker in Detroit or a textile mill worker in North Carolina, you’reexpendable.Agencies will dump people at the first sign of trouble, a pending account loss, an anticipatedrevenue drop, or merely if you look at someone the wrong way. That’s nothing new. It’s part ofthe business and always has been. There are still more people wanting to get in and work in thisbusiness than available jobs. And there has never been any type of job security, or linear path tosuccess. It’s your responsibility to show up, be professional and do your best. But sometimes,that simply won’t be enough to keep you employed, and you need to prepare for that. Take itfrom someone who’s lived in 5 states in 12 years.Every day, whether by necessity or dream, people in advertising strike out on their own. If themanager of a Taco Bell can run a business, so can you. The cliche is true: if you’re not the leaddog, the view never changes.But entrepreneurialism isn’t for everyone. That’s why good people apply for jobs in ad agenciesevery day. No one works in advertising or marketing, working for someone else, to get wealthy.It beats manual labor, for sure. We do it for other reasons; because the work is interesting, thepeople are unusual, because the output of the work—an ad, a video, a website—is tangible.Some people safely push papers and balance spreadsheets all their lives. We opted for somethingelse.Good people are everywhere. And it’s like not the ad industry has requirements. There’s nocertification to acquire. No Bar exam to pass. Anyone who wants to get into the ad industry cantry. Many try, but only some succeed. Consequently, it’s not a job seeker’s market and never hasbeen.So if you’re looking for talent, believe me: You can do it. Finding the right talent isn’t easy. Itrequires diligence, time and effort. But it is most definitely not a “war.”Peace out.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 239
  • 239. 12/03/08A Cheap High and New LowsWe’re addicted to low prices--and advertising has to copeLast week, a worker at a Long Island Wal-Mart died as he was trampled by the rush of shopperswhen the doors opened at 5 a.m. on Black Friday. Somewhere in Bentonville, a marketingmanager smiled. Mission accomplished—shoppers showed up in droves for the chance to save afew bucks.Look all around you. Advertising has won. We have finally convinced the public and our electedofficials that consumption is the only way out of our current economic malaise. But we got toogood at our job and too adept at mandating consumption. Now, if shoppers don’t show up andspend, the whole country is screwed. The problem is, cash-strapped shoppers won’t spend if theydon’t think the price is right or they’re getting a deal.Welcome to the Age of Cheap. Brands don’t mean much anymore. Can any industry—especiallythe advertising industry—survive?Price is now everything, and companies are living—and dying—by the cost squeeze. About 6months ago, I discovered a store called Steve & Barry’s. It was sort of an Old Navy-type storewhere all the clothes were about $8 or $10. I thought, “How can they possibly stay in businessselling clothes this cheap?” Well, they couldn’t. Steve & Barry’s is now going out of business.They, of course, are not alone. Stores all over the place are closing for good.But price sensitivity is here to stay. And it has trumped the power of branding. Walk into thecereal aisle at the supermarket or pain reliever aisle at a drug store and you’ll see name brandproducts sitting next to generic products with similarly colored packaging. The message is clear:This is the same stuff, just cheaper.Even the one growth area of our business, new media, is a Trojan horse. The Internet has enabledglobal commerce, instant communication and easy shopping. But on the Net, brand-buildingtakes a back seat to price. We turned the world into a third world bazaar, where prices oneverything are driven down and the cheapest price is only a few clicks away. If you could wait aweek for delivery, there’s no reason you’d pay $30 for an HDMI cable at a nearby Radio Shackwhen you can get it for $5 on eBay.This is the world advertising is left with. And we have to strategize accordingly. Every client willbe looking to us to position them in the Age of Cheap. Naturally, the marketing consultants andstrategic know-nothings will be quick to trot out the useless buzzwords: “Quality.” “Service.”“Save time, save money.” No matter what we try, the pressure is on to make the sale today,because there may not be a tomorrow.
  • 240. We rarely have the luxury of getting consumers to like a brand. Forget about the nonsensicalgarbage like “we can engage your customers with the brand and make them friends.” Customersaren’t looking to make your product their friend. They’re looking for a cheap one-night stand.And that presents an even bigger challenge to brands: Customers aren’t loyal to stores or brandsjust because of low prices. If some other retailer undercut the Wal-Mart price, shoppers would gothere as well. (It’s worth remembering that in 2004, Wal-Mart didn’t have Black Friday“doorbuster” specials and as a result few people showed up that day.)There are, of course, a few brands that can still command a premium price and rarely discount.But for most marketers, in other words most of our clients, they’re stuck—they can’t charge whatthey ideally would like to because their products simply aren’t worth it to consumers. Hence,they pursue strategies and concepts that consumers don’t care about, and the creative work sucks.Unfortunately, the mentality of cheap is now pervasive in the business world. It’s why clients areinsisting you pull images from iStockPhoto that cost $10 rather than pay for a rights-managedexclusive image or actually hiring a photographer. It’s why agencies are scaling back bonusesand holiday parties.For consumers, cheap crap is here to stay. The challenge for agencies is not to produce cheapcrap of their own and pass them off as good ideas. They certainly don’t have to be. A million-dollar idea doesn’t need a million-dollar budget.Agencies may need to learn to survive by producing great ideas on the cheap. I doubt it’s asustainable business model. Don’t ask me how to do it, but it would certainly involve getting ridof layers of do-nothing, slow-thinking management. But trust me, if you could do great ideas on the cheap and still manage to keep your employeeshappy, clients would be killing themselves in order to bust down your agency’s doors, too. ©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 241
  • 241. 1/14/09The Fantasy of Reality-Based AdvertisingHow should advertisers cope with wary consumers?As nervousness pervades the news, Hyundai recently unveiled a commercial where theypromised, "If in the next year, you lose your income, well let you return it."Wait a minute—are they suggesting the car won’t be sitting in your McMansion’s roundaboutdriveway with a big red bow on it, ready for you to cruise along the Pacific Coast Highway withno other cars in sight?Yes, Hyundai actually raised the specter that you may not drive off into the sunset for 7 years or100,000 miles, whichever comes first. It’s either drive it back or get a visit from the repo man,and they’d rather not send a tow truck. But it’s a clever idea. In addressing the economic climatestraight on, Hyundai got refreshingly honest.In recent years, we’ve seen a lot of reality TV. Are we going to start seeing reality advertising?Advertisers always put on the rose colored glasses. Our deepest fears, insecurities or unmetneeds were solved in 30 seconds where everyone was smiling, looking sexy, and clothes cameout whiter than white and cleaner than the leading brand. Whatever your problem, commercialshad the answer. All you had to do was obey.That’s getting tougher right now because advertising subsidizes the media—and these days, allthe news media drums up is bleak economic news. Consequently it’s hard for any advertiser tocome out and push conspicuous consumption. Or is it? We certainly haven’t left our dreams orupwardly mobile aspirations behind, even if they don’t seem immediately attainable.Marketers are hardly altruistic, but a few of them like Hyundai are learning that people needsome assurances right now. Brokerage firms are on TV telling people to stay the course with theirinvestments and not panic. GM took out a trade ad to apologize for their past screw-ups andpromising to do better in the future. You might think the majority of marketers will unveil a newunderstanding, a new empathy for these tough times. Forget it.Actually, you’re going to see more marketers do almost anything to move the product this year.There won’t be any subtlety in the selling. A Dodge dealer in Florida is offering a “Buy One GetOne Free” deal on cars. Subway stopped talking about newly svelte Jared and now pushes “$5footlongs.” If everyone is fearful for their company’s fate—and afraid to lose their job—they’lldo just about anything to boost sales, and the stock price, in the short term.
  • 242. We’ve always had the short-term sales boost in some form: coupons, sweepstakes, etc. But thosewere occasional. I remember when Macy’s used to have a “one-day sale” on a Wednesday everyfew months. Now it seems they have one every week. That’s what shoppers are used to, andMacy’s has no other choice. The focus on moving merchandise immediately will get verytiresome very fast if it’s not done properly.Some of our clients do care about long-term business building ideas. Some don’t. I think the adindustry needs to be very, very careful about kowtowing to the clients who only care about thismonth or this fiscal quarter. Because if you’re asked for immediate results and you achieve thatobjective, you’ll be asked to repeat it constantly while getting better results each time. And if youdon’t increase short-term sales at the client’s imperative, you’re fired. Either way, it’s not all thatfun.One thing is certain: ad agencies and clients have to think fast, and react to the news and theeconomic climate. Even if you have an eye on long-term success, the reality of today can’t beignored. Many people don’t feel like spending on big-ticket items. And they’re trying to cut backon small items that may be extraneous. We have to do everything we can to make sure ourclient’s product or service is not perceived as one of those.But don’t panic. And do your best to convince your clients not to panic. No one makes gooddecisions when they’re panicked. People still need a diversion, a laugh, a way of feeling betterabout themselves. Advertising can provide that.Or, if levity isn’t called for, and your agency floats a creative brief for an assignment thatincludes the words “reassuring” or “honest,” hold yourself and your client to that tonality byensuring your concepts reflect the reality of today’s news and nervous consumers.Because if your clients hit the wrong note in this economy, you’ll both get a dose of reality, and itwon’t be pretty. ©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 243
  • 243. 2/04/09The Advertising Industry Stimulus PackageCongress won’t bail out the advertising industry--but we can do it ourselvesThe ad industry is going through a rough time—just like other industries. But Congress won’tthrow us a bone in a $1 trillion stimulus package. So you’ll be happy to know that I’ve got astimulus package to present. It’ll help us and it’ll help our clients. Best of all, it only took me acouple of hours and cost only the price of a Venti Latte. But here goes:Media outlets should start charging advertisers less for more creative ads. It’s beensuggested before, but the time has come. People are tuning out TV and radio, and badcommercials aren’t helping. Look at the Snuggie commercial. It’s getting a lot of attention. It’s aweird spot, and weird product. In terms of media planning, the buy is heavy and the ads areubiqutious. The ad is so bad, it manages to break through the clutter of “real” advertising agencywork that gets watered down into mediocrity. Do you want more Snuggie-like commercials? Ifnot, start rewarding the better ones. There’s little agreement on what constitutes “more creative,”but someone oughta try.Every advertising agency person should work at their client’s office for 2 days. If youragency positions itself as a “valued partner” for your clients, put your ass where your mouth isand try it out. Sit in a cubicle in some random office park or be an apprentice at the factory wherethey make the widgets. Just two days. You’ll survive. You’ll appreciate your advertising jobmore, and be thankful you’re not daily exposed to your client’s brain-sucking work environment.And you’ll get a good sense of why they don’t care about award-winning creative as much asyou do.Go to the newsstand and buy 4 magazines you’ve never, ever read before. Support thy printmedia brethren and learn something new at the same time. Here’s a start: go grab copies of“Woman’s Day,” “Heeb,” “Smart Money,” and “Fine Woodworking.” At the very least, you’llfreak out the cashier with your unusual taste.Ditch the use of stock photography for a month. Hire a photographer. Take your own pictures.Or use an illustration or just type. It’s getting too easy to do a stock image search. And whilesome stock images are good, many are just humdrum and they always  get force-fitted into alayout. Make a note to yourself to do it some other way—and persuade your client to try it someother way, too.Make your next client meeting a session where you say: “You don’t need ads. You need X.”And make that “x” something your agency doesn’t do,  but something that would seriously helpyour client’s business. What do they need? Cleaner stores? Higher quality products made inAmerica, not China? Better customer service? More attractive packaging? An employeeappreciation dinner? If your client is suffering in this economy, ads may not be the answer. Andif they’re not happy with what they’re getting from your agency, more ads isn’t the answer,either.
  • 244. If you’re a client-side marketer, and your account is currently with an agency owned by aholding company, fire the agency and hire a new agency that’s independently-owned. You’llget more for your money. You may or may not necessarily get better work, but you’ll definitelyget more for your money. In other words, just eliminate the middleman and buy factory-direct.If you’re a small business that relies on a newspaper or magazine staff to design your ads,hire a freelancer. It won’t cost you a lot, and the result will likely be much, much prettier. Youmight even get some new ideas for your business.Spend one day roaming a large state university campus and another day in the clubhouseof a large Florida retirement community. Just get the hell out of your usual routine. Remindyourself that most folks—consumers, that is—don’t think like wanna-be hipster advertisingpeople. But you still have to communicate with them.Remember, this is a stimulus package, not a cash bailout. It might stimulate your mind, yourcreativity, and your co-workers, if not your wallet.Oh, you want a bailout? Well, as screwed up as the advertising industry is, the amazing part is:we havent screwed up nearly enough to get one.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 245
  • 245. 2/25/09ROI: Advertising’s Dirty Four-Letter WordWill we ever be able to prove advertising is effective?As if the advertising industry didn’t have enough problems, now we need to show more  andmore demonstrable results. There’s little accountability for our government, our banks, carmakers, or mortgage brokers—but damnit, the ad industry is asked to show some, or else.Why? Our clients want proof that advertising works.But here’s the not-so-well-kept secret: No one knows if advertising works.Actually, in its most base form, we know that advertising works. You can’t just open a businessand not tell anyone about it, hoping they’ll show up. When you tell the world to do business withyou, somebody will. So yes, advertising works.We just don’t know how it works. Which is even worse.Famously, John Wanamaker said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the troubleis I dont know which half.” His department store is long gone, but that truism lives on.Personally, I think Comcast wastes more than half. Comcast spends hundreds of millions ofdollars on advertising. I’m a customer, but still they bombard me. I get direct mail from themevery week—and last week, I found two different postcards on top of each other in the pile.They’re on TV,  radio, the internet, etc. There’s even a “ComcastCares” Twitter guy whoresponded to my customer service inquiry. Comcast is flooding the zone. So far, they haven’ttempted me with any new offers.But let’s say I finally respond to a postcard. That one mailer gets all the credit. Boom! There’syour ROI--it must have been that shade of green on the postcard or that magic promotional offerthat hooked me. Right?Number crunchers in advertising are looking for pinpoint accuracy. Someone figured out it takesseveral viewings before a direct response TV spot produces a sale. But if more people order aSlap Chop during 3AM reruns of “Iron Chef,” well then they know where the media dollars needto go. Never mind if anyone saw it on YouTube first.With the advent of new media, the formula gets even murkier. Sure, you can track how manypeople click through banners or visit web pages. Does a paltry clickthrough rate on a bannermean its useless. How about social media? Word of mouth? Blogs? Consumer generatedcontent? Apps? All can play a role in the marketing mix—but no one knows exactly how.
  • 246. And the quest for accountability is going even further—by analyzing your brain. Have you heardthe latest buzzword--Neuromarketing? Millions of dollars are being spent hooking people up toelectrodes and trying all manner of techniques to trigger their brain’s pleasure centers. It works—on marketers with way too much money. The idea of neuromarketing triggers your client’spleasure center by attempting to prove how consumers get lured in. Are scientists going toperfect the art of advertising? Don’t bet on it.We have access to more data, more statistics, more slicing and dicing of numbers and tactics thanever. And has advertising gotten any better through the years? Hardly. Has the creative workimproved? Nope. Less wasteful? Occasionally. Is it still mostly wasted money? Absolutely.But you will never, ever hear an agency exec get up in a presentation and say, “We don’t know ifthis’ll work.” They won’t even say, “Well, we think it’s gonna work.” They’ll say, “It will work.”Every proposed campaign is a can’t miss. The producers of ‘Ishtar’ probably felt the same way.If there’s one thing that doesn’t sell, it’s uncertainty. And that’s why the biggest charlatans inadvertising act so confident. Of course, that absoluteness isn’t confined to the ad industry. Inthese days of Bernie Madoff, the permission to be a complete bullshit artist seems to come freewith any order of 100 or more business cards.We have to prove our worth, because so much advertising is worthless. In a desperate attempt toprove ourselves, ad agencies and their clients turn to any analytics, no matter half-assed orincomplete. And in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. Get used to it. We need find away to take analytics and interpret them for the creation of better work—not be a slave toimperfect numbers.Or we could insist on conducting a real effectiveness test. Instead of what clients usually insistupon—watering down a concept and then blaming the agency for poor ROI--let’s compareresults between two campaigns. One campaign produced exactly the way an agency recommendsvs. one that looks the way it looks after the client messed with it.Would that prove the superiority of the agency recommended work? I doubt it. Oh, wait—I’m inadvertising. Absolutely it’ll work!©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 247
  • 247. 3/19/09Why Asking May Be the AnswerClients come to agencies for answers—but we should question everything firstI recently read about 2 motorists who drove off a road and onto a snowmobile path. Their carssunk in the snow and they needed to be rescued. So what happened? They simply followed thedirections their GPS told them to follow.Technology is making us smarter, quicker and more in touch with the rest of the world. It’s alsomaking us dumber, lazier and more ignorant of our immediate surroundings.If you work in an advertising agency, you’ll see evidence of this every day.How many times have you read and accepted a creative brief unquestioningly? Does your agencytreat focus group results or opinion poll statistics ask gospel? Do you believe what your clientstells you about the quality of their products or the health of their business?It’s time to get a little skeptical—and a lot more inquisitive.When I take on a new client, or a new assignment, I scour the Web for every related piece ofinformation I can find—blog opinions, articles, customer reviews, news stories, PR releases andeverything in between. However, I take it all with many, many grains of salt. I hope you do, too.I amass a body of knowledge, apply my own filters to all of it, then I get busy concepting.A little intuition goes a long way. Take Wikipedia, for instance, which is truly great. I use it everyday, and I’ve come to rely on it. But since it’s updated and edited by a mass of people, it’s alsoinaccurate in some cases. So how do you know whether the information you’re getting is right orwrong?Just because something’s in writing, or appears to be the product of statistical analysis, doesn’tmean it can’t be questioned. Behind every piece of information you come across is a flawedsource or a biased origin. TV networks will tell you commercials are effective. Direct mail guruswill tell you form letter sales pitches are effective. Everyone in the world has an agenda to push.And your co-workers or clients may be pushing a different one than yours when they declaretheir expertise on a topic.It’s not easy to be a skeptic or a doubting Thomas. If you’re in a meeting, and you’re the onewho raises an objection or a question, you’ll might be silenced or shouted down if you don’tstand strong. Don’t underestimate the power of groupthink to get in the way of reasonabledoubts. The herd doesn’t like to be challenged when one member questions the direction they’reheading in.
  • 248. We need to ask the right questions. And the tough questions. Not just of ourselves, but of ourclients and others. It’s a bit ironic that just before the company imploded, Enron ran TVcommercials with the tagline “Ask why.” But no one did until it was too late. Only then didpeople ask, “How?” Or, more appropriately, “What the fuck?”Our economy is in a sad shape because not enough people did their due diligence and asked goodquestions. Perhaps that’s why the only person on television that seems to ask tough questions ofinfluential people these days is Jon Stewart—and he’s a comedian.In advertising, the answers to marketing challenges don’t often come easily. You have to dig, toprod, to challenge conventional wisdom. And the beautiful yet exasperating truth is that there arealways many, many solutions to a marketing problem. So be wary of anyone in the ad businesswho tries to dismiss a probing, inquisitive mind. People who are afraid of challenging questionsmight have something to hide—like their own incompetence.But be prepared for a letdown. Sometimes, even if you ask the tough questions, you have toaccept and deal with the answers, no matter how illogical and nonsensical they are. Such is life.Especially in advertising, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense most of the time.So ask the questions. It’s healthy for you, for your agency, and for the ad industry. Be the devil’sadvocate. Be the type of person that doesn’t accept everything at face value. Be skeptical. Youknow, like consumers do when they see advertising. They’re skeptical, and we’ve given themevery reason to be.Am I right?©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 249
  • 249. 4/09/09Couples Counseling for the Agency-Client RelationshipMarketers who want better work need to know the people who can deliver itHave you ever trashed your client in Newsweek?Unless you’re Peter Arnell, my guess is you haven’t. Because that’s what he did last week, in anattempt to diffuse a shitstorm over his Tropicana packaging redesign, which was quickly ditchedafter its launch.He said, "I have my own perspective on it. But its not my brand. Its not my company. So whatthe hell? I got paid a lot of money, and I have 30 other projects. You move on." So what did NeilCampbell, President of Tropicana, say in response? According to the article, he’ll keep workingwith Arnell.So the ad guy publicly says he doesn’t care about the client, and the client doesn’t seem to carethat the ad guy doesn’t care. I guess they deserve each other. But for the rest of us, agency-clientrelationships are under scrutiny as the economic climate forces everyone to rethink everything.It’s no secret that advertising agency folks love to gripe about clients. Its a push-pull relationshipwhere both agency and client often work at cross-purposes. But agencies should strive to expresssome level of gratitude and dedication to the clients they serve. Particularly in public forums.Clients deserve that.What clients shouldn’t do is what Neil Campbell apparently did. Which is to accept and embracethe public trashing of his company by a well-paid agency executive who doesn’t give a crapabout his clients.Clients have more power than ever to shape the future of advertising, and the agencies that makeit. Why? It’s very simple. All across the economy the customer is in control, and clients are thecustomers. For example, price haggling was once limited to cars and flea markets. Now, it’severywhere—appliances, clothing, etc. Everything is subject to negotiation, and advertisingagency fees are no exception.But despite all that newfound power, story after story comes out about the dissatisfaction largeclients feel with their roster ad agencies. Why are marketers, their CEOs and CMOs, stillbitching about ad agencies and the quality of the work they’re getting? I have a guess.It’s because most marketers have no clue whos really working on their account.
  • 250. Any time I worked at a big agency on sizeable accounts, I rarely met with the client. The othercreatives didnt. The writers, art directors, production artists, traffic managers, junior AEs andother people who did the day-to-day work didnt meet the clients either. Client meetings involveda CD, an account supervisor, even the management of the agency who would show up just to getface time.None of that will change unless clients demand it. Agencies are perfectly content to keep theirtalent hidden away--no matter what the color. And its true, some creatives are good with clientsand present well, some arent. Yes, the creative people are sometimes resentful, because clientsare thought to be the enemy, watering down concepts behind closed doors and rarely meeting thead makers. It’s also fomented by agency culture in some places, where the management isperfectly happy with that status quo, parachuting into clients meetings to complete the illusion ofappearing concerned and engaged.Most clients just arent interested in the workings of their agencies, even if the people doing thework can provide better insight on the business or the client-agency relationship--which theyoften can, just from living with the account.The ball is in the marketers court. They need to ask--and demand--to meet the very people whodo the work. Not just the agency people who serve as stand-ins during a new business pitch.Are you a client in a position of power over your roster ad agencies? Do yourself a favor: Scarethe shit out of them—in a good way. Pop into their office unannounced one day. Collect thebusiness cards of the people you’ve never met before. Ask who wrote a particular piece of work,or who produced it.You’ll learn some fascinating things. Like that the people working on your business aren’t rich,slack, or uncaring. They’re ordinary people. If you’re not willing to connect with them, it’sunlikely you’re able to connect your brand to your consumers. And you deserve the ineffectivework you’re likely to get.But if you do it right, with an understanding that creativity isn’t always pretty, simple, or logical,you will build trust with the very people whose hard work can make or break your brand—andoften, your own career as a marketer. Then, and only then, youll know how much sunshine adagencies are blowing up your ass. Plus, you won’t find your brand insulted in Newsweek by thevery people you hired to be stewards of that brand.A successful relationship between an agency and client isn’t one that’s 50/50. It’s one where bothparties give 100%. Just like every other relationship—so if yours isn’t working, a little therapymight help postpone a breakup.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 251
  • 251. 4/30/09Read Globally, Be Pissed LocallyThe Internet has turned little marketing stumbles into big, overblown headachesI was very young, but I do remember the Tylenol cyanide deaths in the early 80s—when everybottle of Tylenol in the US was yanked off the shelves, even though the deaths were only inChicago. That was big, big news.The brand took a few years to recover in the public eye, but it did.Today, it seems like there’s some sort of brand or marketing controversy every week. I wasreminded of this when a video of Domino’s employees doing god-awful things to pizzas madethe rounds a week or so ago. And although no one died, it became instant news and fodder fordiscussion.The incident brought out all the marketing pundits: “Can Domino’s recover?” “Was the corporateresponse enough?” “How will this affect the brand?”The answers are: Yes, yes, and not much.The deal is, few of these controversies are that big of a deal. What happened at Domino’s doesntaffect you, unless you order pizza from that store. Pissed-off, underpaid restaurant workers weretossing snot into your dinner long before YouTube came along.Some incidents become overblown because of instant global communication. In Germany, afrozen food maker manufactured “Obama Fingers,” unaware of the stereotypical connectionbetween African-Americans and fried chicken. Yes, it did, ahem, ruffle some feathers, but it blewover quickly. Prior to the Internet, we’d have never heard about this. Who really cares what theyeat in Germany?I can hardly remember all the supposedly controversial crap I’ve heard about this past year.“Motrin moms” who got upset about a commercial. Something about a Skittles promotion onTwitter that I barely paid attention to. Burger King’s “Whopper Virgins” campaign. It goes onand on.If you’re a casual observer, or an interested observer, of these marketing/PR blowups, keep thisin mind. Not everything that blows up on the news, Twitter or YouTube will do long-lastingdamage. Very little of it will, actually.
  • 252. Of course, brands can be adversely affected. But the new warp-speed controversies don’t need tolast long, or cause long-lasting damage. They do, however, require marketers, their PR folks andif necessary, their ad agencies, to react fast--in a matter of hours rather than days. Make sure theright people are empowered to respond. Don’t waste days in meetings. Just defuse the situation,make amends if necessary, and move on. And it’ll work. Because our collective memory is quiteshort these days.Don’t forget that much of the public doesn’t pay attention to or care about these marketingslipups. It’s important for all of us 24/7 connected marketing and advertising people to keepsome perspective. We think we’re in touch, but we’re often just touching ourselves.Plus, it’s a healthy thing to have some consumers get rattled, upset, and offended over ads andbrands. Marketers need to develop a sense of right and wrong, and learn when the line of goodtaste gets crossed in the eyes of the public. Otherwise,  marketers will never show any sense ofrestraint whatsoever.But sometimes, brands and marketers do bad things. They treat customers poorly, they rununethical businesses, they make awful commercials. So what to do about it? Control what youcan control. It’s a big world, but ultimately, we’re only accountable in our corner of it.If you want change, think of your own life. What matters is you, your family, your co-workers,your community. If you’re a consumer and want to get upset, start with how you’re directlyaffected. Did the Domino’s video make you nauseous? Fine. But what you should be concernedabout is whether your local county food inspector’s office is properly funded and staffed.Is someone you know concerned about how Starbucks is affecting coffee growers in Bolivia orhow Wal-Mart’s worldwide supply chain affects the environment? Tell ‘em to forget it. Tell ‘emto worry about who’s on the city council, whether zoning laws are followed correctly and what’sbeing dumped in the river across town.Unfortunately, big brands are sexy and controversies affecting them are ripe for endlessdiscussion, chatter, and tweeting. So there’ll always be a group of busybodies or other peoplewith too much time on their hands to make a big deal about some brand’s supposedly offensivecommercial or leaked employee video.So maybe it’s no surprise that when it comes to making big deals out of little ones, people won’tgo out of their way. They’ll only walk over to their computers and tell the world what they’dnever tell their next-door neighbors.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 253
  • 253. 5/21/09Nothing is Dead, So Let’s Bury that IdeaAdvertising, old media, and cockroaches -- theyre all sticking around for a whileLast week at the CLIO awards, the worldwide Chief Creative Officer of an ad agency got up andpronounced, “advertising agencies are dead.” I’m sure the 16,000 worldwide employees andtheir blue-chip clients would be just delighted to learn that their million-dollar creative honchothinks his agency is dead.Now, what this CCO went on to explain, once he got past the headline-grabbing nugget, is thatadvertising agencies need to think beyond print ads and commercials. Which plenty of agencies,including mine, already do. But to this CCO, hyperbole and bullshit are obviously not dead.Let’s take a look at what else isn’t dead:TV is not dead.No, Americans aren’t all glued to the same networks and screens at the same time, collectivelytaking in a sitcom like “All in the Family” the way they once did. But if you want yourprograms, you’ll have to pay for them one way or another, in money or attention. Even Huluneeds ads to stay in business. If you think TV isn’t still one of the quickest, broadest ways todisseminate information and make a sale, I’ve got a Chia Pet I’d like to sell you — and I’ll throwin a Clapper for free.Newspapers are not dead.Trust me, they’re not, although they’re paying a heavy price for not adapting sooner to the waywe live and communicate these days. Theyll survive, leaner and hopefully meaner. There’s still aneed for investigative newspeople — who focus on actual events that happen, not some boguslifestyle “news you can use” which, in most cases, is a front for corporate PR efforts.Awards shows are not dead.White male hipster Creative Directors still rule over what they deem is good, or whatever theirfriends did that supposedly deserves a golden tchotchke. Although these days, you don’t needtheir blessing; you can check out one of the dozens of websites that post and share ads fromaround the world and make your own judgments. Though you won’t get the same ego-stroking orparticipate in the latest trend – award shows that turn into week-long conferences (more on thosein a minute.)Magazines are not dead.There are lot of good magazines out there. But there are too many, and too many similar ones.Go look at the ones at the supermarket checkout counter and see if you can tell a difference. Thegood ones will live, and maybe they’ll feature good print ads inside. I like magazines. Besides, Ihate reading news on my iPhone in the waiting room at the proctologist’s office.
  • 254. Banner ads are not dead.And for the same reason billboards on the side of the road aren’t dead, either. They point you in adirection or remind you quickly of something. Whether you obey or click through is anotherstory, but your eyeballs are what counts.Direct Mail is not dead.Be they formulaic sales letters or cute mailers, they still show up in my mailbox every day. Theinternet was supposed to kill direct mail off. High postage prices were supposed to kill it off.Environmentalism and the desire to save paper was supposed to kill it off. No, direct mail is stillaround. And it still works to some degree. Just ask a DM expert about ROI and trust me, you’llnever get them to shut up about it.Radio is not dead.It certainly has a lot of competition, though. But when the power goes out or a hurricane blowsthrough, it helps to have a radio nearby. Plus, local businesses need radio because they needsome cost-effective method of telling people how they’re “stackin’ ‘em deep and sellin’ ‘emcheap.”Industry conferences are not dead.Every week, it seems like there’s some media conference or advertising summit or marketingwankfest. They all have this in common: Ridiculously high registration fees, mediocre speeches,panels full of self-proclaimed experts, bad PowerPoint presentations, and little beingaccomplished except the consumption of lots of bottled water by day and overpriced cocktails bynight. Thankfully, we have people liveblogging and livetweeting these conferences to capture allthe genius we’re missing.And yes, ad agencies are not dead.Not if they’re managed well, that is. There are hundreds of small and mid-sized shops that areholding their own, even expanding. Theyre nimble, in touch with all media, and ready to pounceon agencies that are too old-fashioned or slow to keep up. And for clients, they generally chargeless than big ones. Of course, small agencies dont get covered or mentioned in Adweek or AdAge, while blowhard comments like “ad agencies are dead” always do.Plus, there’s one agency that definitely won’t die when its owner does: Stan Richards plans totransfer ownership of the Richards Group to a nonprofit group that will hold the stock inperpetuity, making it impossible to sell. Perhaps newspapers could learn a thing or two fromStan.Now, I’m not even remotely suggesting that we ignore new, emerging forms of media andadvertising. Ideally, it all works together—with the right creative, strategy and media people inplace and on the same page. So ignore mindless blanket statements like “ad agencies are dead.”It sounds like a ballsy thing to say, but its just stupid. And unless agencies kill themselves, it’snot going to happen. Because nothing in our media culture dies — it gets reshaped, reinvented,remodeled, and resuscitated.And if you’re at an agency that’s able to keep up with it all, then you’ll have a nice fat wallet,full of presidents. Dead ones.  ©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 255
  • 255. 6/11/09The Path To EmpathyIn advertising, a little understanding goes a long wayI once had a homebuilder client who complained behind my back to my boss that I shouldn’twork on her account. Why? Because I rented a loft the city, not the suburbs, and thereforecouldn’t understand the mindset of a prospective first-time homebuyer. Which was nonsense, asmost of my co-workers were already long settled in their McMansions whereas I more closely fitthe target profile.This distant memory popped into my mind because of the recent national debate over SoniaSotomayor and the idea of “empathy.” I have no idea if empathy makes a person a betterSupreme Court justice, but it sure as hell makes you a better advertising creative.Just so we’re all clear, here’s the dictionary’s definition of empathy: “The intellectualidentification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.”  Ithink that’s also a pretty good definition for what’s involved in making effective advertising.Can we write ads for people who we don’t physically or psychologically resemble? Can wereally understand people we don’t share common experiences with? Yes, but it ain’t easy.I have rarely had the pleasure of writing to people who fit my psychographic profile. Or mydemographic profile. But I needed to understand them, identify with them, and find the right wayto communicate to them. So I’ve read, and researched, and ended up talking to people at places Iwouldn’t ordinarily go.In advertising agencies, empathy—in this case, the ability to understand an audience—is a skill,just like Photoshop prowess. It needs to be learned and honed for effective marketing. And yes, itshould be an advantage for someone in advertising, at hiring time and on the job, if they comefrom a different background or upbringing than the majority of their co-workers. If creativepeople are judged by their unique talent, a unique background should be held in positive regardas well.And let’s face it, ad people are a fairly homogenous lot: College-educated, white-collar, urbandwelling, working behind computers in well-lit, clean offices. Sometimes it’s easy to forget justhow many people in the world don’t fit that description. If you want a more accurate cross-section of humanity, go to the DMV or the security line at the airport. Might not be pretty, but it’sour audience.
  • 256. Even if we don’t resemble our target, we can’t leave it up to other people to understand ouraudience. Yes, account planning was designed to do this—pick through the thoughts andbehaviors of people unlike us to find some nugget of understanding. But it’s in our dailyinteractions—writer working with art director, account people working with creative and media,in brainstorming sessions and client meetings—that we need to keep in mind who we’re talkingto. That’s where it’s difficult. We run into trouble when we get into a conference room full ofsimilar people and the groupthink takes hold quite easily.Empathy is sadly lacking in much of the creative work that’s lauded. No wonder advertisingoften speaks to only us in the industry, not the general public. It’s no accident that portfolios ofrecent ad school graduates seem alike. They’re the product of students who’ve spent the last 12or 24 months living and breathing advertising, and hanging out with the same like-mindedpeople. And it’s no accident that awards show books reflect the perspective of the same smallcircle of judges and people who create ads specifically to impress those judges.Clients know their products. We’re supposed to know their customers. When the balance tips toofar and the client gets their way, the result marketing that focuses only on the product and not thepeople who use it. Advertising people need to contribute something else. Which is why lifeexperience, and the ability to relate to people who aren’t like us, are what makes goodadvertising professionals so good.It’s up to us to always be curious about others—and understanding of their lives. Fairfax Cone,the C of FCB, once said, “the inventory goes down the elevator every night.” Ad Agencies needto keep the inventory fresh. Which doesn’t necessarily mean new people, just a freshunderstanding of the world and our clients’ customers.So despite what you might hear on cable news, empathy is a good thing. We all could stand tohave more of it. After all, we’re in the business of communication.Do you understand where I’m coming from?©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 257
  • 257. 7/2/09But Wait, There Really is MoreBilly Mays is gone, but what can we learn from him?While much of the world spent time last week lamenting the passage of Farrah Fawcett andMichael Jackson, I’d like to pay a little tribute to Billy Mays. If you watched any amount of non-prime-time TV, you couldn’t avoid the dude with the dark black beard and the booming voice.OxiClean, Mighty Mendit, Kaboom!, The Hercules Hook--he pushed a lot of products. Hewasn’t the first, and he won’t be the last.It’s easy to make fun of Billy Mays and the other infomercials of the world. They’re loud, they’repushy, they sell stuff we don’t think we need. But they work—to the tune of billions in sales.They’re more successful than anything that crates home the awards we tend to covet. We love topride ourselves on uncovering “simple, human truths,” yet a lot of self-indulgent creative workdoesn’t reflect that.I think advertising people of all kinds can find some lessons in what Mays did:Present the problem, and then present the solution. All in under 2 minutes, too. I’ve had toomany clients that promote their services as a “solution” when there’s no real problem, or whenthey can’t describe what their business actually does. Billy Mays made a career selling theanswer to the perils of middle-class modern living—spills, messes, rips, and the trickiness ofchopping vegetables. He offered real solutions, no matter how mundane they were.Make a promise, not an overpromise. Sure, the yelling and selling makes it seem like theproduct being hawked will save your life, but actually, the promises made in most infomercialsare much more mundane. You’ll get out tough stains. You’ll fix those hard-to-mend rips onclothes. While a lot of advertising implies that consumers will be sexier, happier, more powerfulor more self-fulfilled, the infomercials only promise something tangible and little else. Whichmakes them more honest than most ads.Give me something I can’t get anywhere else. It’s a world of product parity, so much ofmodern advertising has morphed from giving you a unique product to giving you a uniquefeeling when you use the product. There was always something different about the products BillyMays pushed. Or at least he told us there was. It’s not true anymore that you can only get one ofthose products on TV, but the product was always portrayed as one of a kind. Can you still findthat uniqueness for your clients?
  • 258. There’s little need for long-term brand building. You could argue that Mays himself was abrand, that if you saw him (or heard him) you knew what type of pitch was coming. But thecompanies behind infomercial products are all about the sell—make it happen, right here, andright now. Which, for better or worse, is now the mindset penetrating traditional types ofmarketing. More and more clients are gravitating toward this short-term thinking, especiallybecause they themselves have no long-term job security. Clients of all kinds have no patience foradvertising that doesn’t boost sales. We need to get used to it.Be likeable. Even as Billy Mays yelled, he smiled. Yes, some people thought the whole style wasabrasive. And sure, it gets annoying after a while. But look at how much other advertising iscondescending, insulting, or makes someone the butt of a bad joke. Mays was generally likeable.He sold himself just as much as he sold his products. He was an asset, not an asshole. No onelikes buying from an asshole.Infomercials are a classic mashup of naked salesmanship and basic psychology. And it works.Mays and his type of infomercial are a billion dollar business that’s kept many television stationsin business. While we sweat the size of the logo or the subhead that waters down the headline,Mays laughed all the way to the bank. He’s gone, but there are dozens of pitchmen waiting totake his place. And there’ll always be some new product viewers don’t think they need until theysee it. Most importantly, TV stations and cable operators are deliriously happy to have that directresponse revenue coming in.Why do so many creative people loathe this type of work? Simple: There’s no comedy, no deftart direction or beautiful cinematography, no hipster sense of irony. The spots are formulaic andrarely deviate. You don’t need reams of creative teams to do that kind of advertising.But I don’t aspire to do that kind of advertising, and I bet you don’t either. So if you can’t join‘em, beat ‘em. We’re going to have to do better than Billy Mays and his ilk.So what can we do? Keep the work simple and uncluttered. Make TV commercials that are worthwatching, or at least tolerable. Offer something solid and tangible on behalf of a client. Don’tpromise the world in an ad. And while you don’t have to say “buy now” every time, make surethat when someone is ready to buy, your clients have a convenient time and place to make thatsale. No, none of that is easy. It’s easier to yell for two minutes and jam a phone number downsomeone’s ears. We have to be better than that.Act now. Otherwise our jobs will be around for a limited time only.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 259
  • 259. 7/23/09Are You Smarter Than An Ad Student?What entry-level ad pros do, don’t, and perhaps should knowI recently taught a quarter-long a class at a two-year advertising portfolio school. The studentswere just beginning the program, so while other instructors focus on idea generation andconcepting, I wanted to teach them about the state of the ad industry today and how it got thatway.So their first assignment was to do research on agencies they might like to work for someday.Except I originally didn’t allow them to report back on Crispin or Goodby, figuring they alreadyknew about those shops.I was wrong.“Crispin who?” they asked. “Goodby who?” “Modernista, how do you spell that? Where did yousay they were again?”Nor they did they know the basic hierarchical structure of a creative department. Imagine startinglaw school and not knowing the difference between the Supreme Court and divorce court. Orstarting medical school and not being able to name the body’s vital organs. That’s the kind ofmindset I had to help change.I bring this up not to dump on my very bright and eager students, but to question the role ofeducation in our industry these days. And most ad people don’t even get the extra benefit ofspending time in a portfolio “finishing” school. What should advertising’s junior professionalsknow before they start their jobs?Four-year colleges and universities do practically nothing to prepare students for a career inadvertising, particularly as a creative. Most of the professors at these schools have little in theway of relevant, recent industry experience, nor do they provide much insight into how today’sad agencies work on a day-to-day basis.If you come out of college with a degree in advertising, odds are you could land a gig as a juniormedia planner or account coordinator. But no one, in any discipline of the ad business, receivesany formal on-the-job training these days.Despite the precarious economy, there are still plenty of people who want to go into advertising.There’s no stopping them, and there’s no required degree or certification. While that’s littlecomfort to the experienced people looking for any way to hold on to their jobs and advance theircareers, the juniors need help.
  • 260. And I think we need to help where we can, because it affects us all. I cringe when ideas go to anAssistant Account Executive who doesn’t have an informed notion of what they’re helping to selland who they’re selling to. It doesn’t benefit anyone to see a  junior creative team present awonderful, well-crafted idea that just happens to be the completely wrong tone for a target theycan’t seem to relate to.To be fair, students are quite knowledgeable in some areas. Many already think in terms ofintegrated campaigns with online, offline, mobile executions and everything in between. Theyhave good instincts on how consumers these days live a completely plugged-in life. They’ll getvery proficient on all the computer programs they need to know to bring any idea to life.So what else should students be learning? I can’t believe a $100 Advertising 101 textbook helpsmuch. Perhaps a good amount of psychology and anthropology to understand how people think.Recent world history might help a little, too, to understand the global economy. In the post-Enronworld, some business schools scrambled to add ethics classes. Ethics in advertising is clearly anoxymoron, so I don’t expect that to be part of the curriculum anytime soon. But clearly someamount of business knowledge is helpful, too. Throw in a little curiosity, empathy, anddetermination, which you can’t really teach but students should strive to have as well.Then again, maybe too much education and knowledge poisons the well. Maybe the less thesekids learn about award shows, or agencies whose reputations run hot and cold, or why so muchadvertising is based on fear, the better off they’ll be. Maybe they’ll develop a better sense ofwhat they like and don’t like on their own without the arbitrary standards and prejudices sodrilled in to the rest of us. Maybe they bring a fresh perspective to the business simply by notknowing anything about it.But the reality is clients are demanding more from agencies—more accountability, more ideas,faster and cheaper. We can either lament this, or try to make sure everyone in our industry isprepared for it. The juniors will keep coming, and they’ll need our help developing the criticalskills we’ll require of them.However, there is one skill they do learn at college: How to drink.And drinking skills can indeed get you far in advertising. ©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 261
  • 261. 8/13/09Wherever You Go, There You AdvertiseDo you have to be in the best ad cities to do the best ad work?I once judged the ADDY awards in a small market with only a few agencies of moderate  size.From the moment I arrived, it was clear that the awards, and the subsequent show evening, weretaken very seriously. Contrasted with some major markets I’ve seen where the ad communityisn’t all that cooperative or collaborative, it was a quite a surprise. They displayed a pride in theirsmall city’s creative output, a trait missing in so many others.Advertising agencies are everywhere. But can you do truly great advertising from anywhere? Isgeography destiny?Indeed, the Internet has made it easier to do work anywhere. You can work for clients you nevermeet. You can collaborate with multiple people without ever sharing a conference room. Yetthere are still cities where there are concentrations of great agencies, and cities where theadvertising market isn’t prominent. This year, The Rosey Awards in Portland created apromotional website that poked fun of the creative cultures in other cities. All in jest, but there’sa stinging nugget of truth in how the cities are portrayed.In the lifecycle of cities, our new connect-from-anywhere-to-anyone way of working is onlybeginning to make an impact. Richard Florida, the author of “The Rise of the Creative Class,”has made a career out of studying why some cities attract creative people and why others don’t. Ialways get a wide-eyed reaction when I meet someone who’s not from the Midwest, or not inadvertising, and I tell them that Minneapolis is one of the best ad markets in the country. Becausethey don’t understand why talent gets concentrated in one city like that, and the power of a trulyconnected creative community.Despite the rise of chain restaurants and strip malls, America is not as homogenous as you mightthink. I got reminded of that on a recent trip to the other side of the country. Regionalism stillplays a large role in defining our culture. And even if the ad agencies in a smaller market havetheir tentacles out far and wide for new business, many clients still display a provincialism intheir outlook that can creep into the advertising they seek from their agencies.Outside the transient nature of the ad industry, where people move constantly, many people areperfectly content to live and work in or near the cities they grew up in. So there will always beregional agencies who have a deep knowledge of the businesses, cultures, and idiosyncrasies oftheir part of the country. They can, in many cases, deliver better, more effective work than anagency 1,000 miles away could.
  • 262. The ad industry in some cities certainly has a lure. Walking the streets of Manhattan has arhythm all its own. It’s true you can’t always replicate the culture of a dynamic big city, but ifcities like New York and San Francisco become priced so far out of reach of 20-somethings, andadvertising salaries fail to keep pace, you may see more great agencies (much like Crispin did)move to affordable college towns and make the culture come to them.As advertising people, we can’t lose our connection to the cities we live and work in. It’s veryeasy to connect with other advertising people around the world through sites like LinkedIn andTwitter, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore the personal connections we can make throughlocal ad clubs or other organizations. And we can’t simply work from behind screens in ourapartments or alone in the corner of a coffee shop.In any city, the advertising community needs to stick together, bring people together, and worktogether. There’s often a lot of natural, healthy competition among agencies, but unless theindustry promotes itself and its value in its own market, the city’s other business leaders won’tcare. I believe the more an ad community is united, the better the work can be. Workingcollectively, a city can raise its creative bar or keep it low.I always find it worthwhile to attend ad club or other industry-related events, and I’ve done thatin the many cities I’ve lived in. And I recommend others also get involved. Even if you’re in asmall town or small ad market that’s not known for great advertising, you can find like-mindedcreative professionals. Because that’s the great thing about this business: you can concept byyourself, work by yourself, and drink by yourself, but in advertising, they’re always more funwith other people.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 263
  • 263. 9/03/09Brands and StandsIs it good for marketers to get caught up in issue-oriented debates?It’s hard to imagine, but there was a time before modern communication where people didn’tcare much about brands. In the town people lived, they knew the butcher, or the cobbler, or thedressmaker. They knew their families. And they did business with them if they wanted to.These days, it’s rare to meet the grower of our food or the makers of our clothes. So whatrecourse do today’s consumers have if they don’t like the values or beliefs of the companieswhose goods they buy?The health care debate, among other political issues, has racheted up the tension in America, andsome advertisers and brands find themselves caught in the crossfire. Advertisers have beenpulling out of Glenn Becks radio and TV shows, in reaction to customer protests over some ofhis comments. And Whole Foods’ CEO John Mackey raised the ire of many of his customers bywriting an Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal that emphasized free-market solutions for health carereform.In the case of Whole Foods, assuming much of its customer base is left-of-center or progressive,does the CEO have any obligation to mirror their views? Clearly not. Is he damaging hiscompany’s brand by not mirroring their views? That’s another issue.Mackey clearly doesn’t seem to bend his views to conform to those of his customers, and that’sfine. I’m sure he knows what type of people butter his whole grain spelt bread. (Mackey is also aguy who went onto discussion boards anonymously and badmouthed his competitors—a clearbreach of fiduciary duty. So maybe the cheese fell off his cracker a long time ago.) Mackey hasevery right to speak his mind, and customers have every right to boycott Whole Foods in protest.Some people think it’s fine to protest a publicly traded company over the view of its CEO, evenif the real impact may be on its customer-facing employees.It’s rare, but some companies do put their values front and center. Ben ‘n Jerry’s did (in the daysbefore its founders sold the company), Coors, Chick-fil-A, and others make plain where itsfounders stood. And they leave it to the customers to decide whether to patronize thosebusinesses or not. There was, for a time, BuyBlue.org, a site that followed the money anddocumented companies that donated to more progressive causes and candidates.But most companies aren’t very public with their views. And this is where the new “join theconversation” and “let’s be friends and have dialogues with brands” thinking starts to get tested.Because the conversation isn’t going to go as smoothly as marketers want it to. Many of thepeople protesting Whole Foods are big fans, and big spending customers, of the brand. Andthey’re mad because they do feel such loyalty, and the opinion of the CEO makes them think thatloyalty isn’t returned in kind.
  • 264. Conversely, many people think the boycott advocates are misguided. So this is what we’reseeing: Left-wing Whole Foods customers getting themselves in a twist and others writing lettersto Glenn Beck’s advertisers. Right-wingers pledging extra support to Glenn Beck’s ex-advertisers and praising John Mackey. Lots of noise. Lots of vitriol. And marketers gettingdistracted by having to step lightly around a vocal but small minority of their customers whenthey’d rather focus on increasing sales in a bad economy. But to some customers, boycotting isthe only way they think they could make a difference.What role do ad agencies play in all this? Very little, if any.Most agencies wouldn’t dare interfere in the political squabbles of their clients for fear of gettingfired. There’s very little upside to getting involved. It’s true ad agencies tend to foster more opendiscussion internally than most businesses. But you don’t want to spout off about politics withoutreally knowing who you’re talking to. It’s easier not to discuss politics in any context, unlessyou’re really willing to put your balls on the chopping block. So that sort of advocacy doesn’ttend to show up in media plans or creative campaigns.What if there were more overt advocacy from brands?I’d actually like to see more companies take stands on controversial topics, and let consumersdecide where they want to shop and what they want to buy. Every company – even most adagencies – have “core values” of some sort. Whether they live up to them is another thingaltogether. So let them be more vocal and transparent about those values, and matching theiractions to the words.That sort of passion might sway customers, and then again it might drive them away. It woulddefinitely liven up a world clogged with parity products. But it takes a lot to change consumerbehavior. And so far, Glenn Beck and Whole Foods are doing just fine.Plus, as it happens, many businesses and industries lobby both political parties and hedge theirbets to cover themselves no matter who’s in control. Perhaps if more consumers knew whatbrands and the people behind them really stood for and it turned out to be objectionable, thosebrands might see their sales nosedive.And that, above all else, would be the true death panel.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 265
  • 265.  9/24/09Life is Not a Two-Page Visual Solution SpreadPreparing for the new demands of todays campaignsLike a lot of creatives in advertising, I keep a file of ads and printed materials I’ve seen that Ithought were cool. It’s always a good reference to pull out every now and then. And while I stillflip through magazines and newspapers, and I still get a lot of junk mail, I haven’t updated myfile much lately.Now, it’s not because I don’t think there aren’t any great print ads these days. There are. Rather,it’s that I rarely come into contact with great advertising in an “organic” sort of way -- whilereading the magazines I read. Instead, I see great print ads reproduced and mentioned on theweb. I see them in blogs, I get notified of them in press releases, or they’re referenced onindustry websites or in business publications.Is it just me, or does it seem that the best way to get attention and traction for an advertisingcampaign mostly involves other things besides traditional advertising?Now for me it may be an occupational hazard of staying informed about the ad industry, but Ialso believe it’s part of a bigger trend. We’re redefining what advertising is, how consumers seeor interact with it, how well it works, and most importantly for people reading this on TalentZoo, how it should be represented in both portfolios and agency credentials packages.It used to be, a “campaign” that you saw in a portfolio or in an award show annual oftenappeared in threes: 3 print ads. 3 radio or TV spots. The real world doesn’t work that way.Advertising in 2009 is much more tactically based: It’s the e-mail that introduces the iPhone appthat resembles the TV spot that goes with the microsite that’s announced in the press release tolaunch the whole thing.There’s always something attractive and artful about a nice, uncluttered two-page spread orminute-long brand “anthem” TV spot. But the other elements of advertising are starting to do theheavy lifting—and clients know it. In this day and age, that’s what they need and seek.Even the most seemingly mundane tactics play a role in moving the needle for clients whetherit’s through added sales or added attention. E-mails, sales training, banner ads, alternative realitygames, and all sorts of other components are being added to the mix. And to top it all off, seedingthe whole campaign in social media as well as the traditional media – which takes some planningas much as anything else.I think there are deeper questions we need to start asking:
  • 266. Is a website any good if there aren’t any links to it or it’s not seeded with e-mails or tweets or ona Facebook brand fan page? Is an advertising campaign really a campaign if there are only one ortwo tactics involved? Is a campaign effective if it doesn’t garner any added publicity?Even in a sexy, splashy, big-budget ad campaign that’s produced these days, there will always beelements that seem a little mundane. But they’re all needed to get the job done. It’s forcingagencies to change they way they think, staff, and make money.Now, think about how this affects you and your role in an agency. Some people think it’simportant to master one skill. Some people think you need to be more versatile than that. But Ithink doing it all, and well, is a necessity on the job these days.We’re entering an age where creatives need to be well-versed in all the elements that are neededto make an effective campaign. You’ve gotta be able to work on the print ad, as well as the e-mail and the app. You need the creatives working with the programmers. You need the AE’s tomake sure all the elements work together—and get approved by the client in a timely manner sothe whole effort launches in concert. And someone needs to make sure that the press, blogs, andother media outlets learn about the whole thing. At the very least, all the players on an accountneed to understand how each piece contributes to the big picture.Some agencies already do much of this well, and some don’t. The ones that don’t are in trouble.Doing the smaller tactics as well as the ad executions, making sure they’re as good as they canbe, and getting good PR for the client and the agency are the keys to working in the business nowand in the future.Because in the end, dollar bills are roughly the same shape as a two-page spread, but they speaka whole lot louder.©2002-2011 Dan Goldgeier View From The Cheap Seats By Danny G. • Page 267
  • 267.  10/15/09Capitalism: An Advertising StoryHow does advertising survive if people voluntarily -- or involuntarily -- cut back?I have a friend who’s made his living in advertising for 15 years. But he’s a bit of an iconoclast.And at various times, he’s given up driving his car, watching television, eating red meat, gettingfast food, and drinking (that last one didn’t take). And I know a number of urban-dwellers withwhite-collar jobs who are now growing vegetables in their backyards and raising their ownchickens.Some of them are doing these things to save money. Some are doing it as a lifestyle experiment.These days, th