Friday, May 18, 2007

Here comes BBH's Miller time

The Chicago Tribune is reporting that in moving its account to Bartle Bogle Hegarty, Miller Brewing is going to go back into the product comparison business, quoting a spokesperson as saying that, "We are determined to go back to product intrinsic ads." (Crispin, Porter and Bogusky resigned the account, having produced the not-at-all product-oriented Man Laws campaign.) Even if the positioning will be different, you can expect BBH to also indulge in the same testosterone-fueled hijinks as Crispin. It is the agency, after all, that brought the world The Bom Chicka Wah Wahs for Axe. Can the Swedish bikini team be far, um, behind?

I'll take a grande latte and a Beatle, please

From a marketing standpoint, the most interesting thing about American Idol is watching it gain credibility among acts like Gwen Stefani, Fergie and Maroon 5, all of whom would definitely have shunned it a few years ago. But there’s no denying the power of being able to put your new single in front of one of the largest audiences in television—especially as media fragmentation obscures a lot of singles that not so long ago would have been ubiquitous. In that context, I’m curious to see how the marketing for the new Paul McCartney album, "Memory Almost Full," will play out. True, Sir Paul, probably will never sell again the way he did with that band-before-Wings in the 1960s, but on the other hand, this time around he’s leveraging the ubiquity of Starbucks to, well, make his voice heard. McCartney who is releasing the album under Starbucks’ Hear Music label will be launching it through 10,000 Starbucks outlets in 29 countries around the world, which will play it in those locations on June 5 as part of a global promotional event. No one’s talking American Idol-size numbers here—according to this story, it will reach six million people a day—but it seems a far better idea than simply relying on old channels to sell music.

Shrek 3, HP, together on YouTube, er, YeTube

Haven't been all that impressed with the ways that YouTube is integrating advertising into the site, but this straightforward channel for Shrek 3, which also promotes Hewlett-Packard personal computers is simple, straightforward and amusing, as the visual above demonstrates. This commercial appearing on "Ye Tube", which shows what Fiona has in her computer, is a whimsical way to incorporate the movie into HP's "The Computer Is Personal Again." The other celebrities featured in that campaign, such as Jay-Z, actually exist in the real world. Here's to Ye Tube. Assume this is the work of Goodby, Silverstein and Partners.

Mac vs. PC: the online box

Just found another Mac vs. PC online-only ad. In this one, PC, while trying to break out of the online ad unit that he and Mac are in, exclaims, "My printer, my scanner, I've got to search for them." It's funny stuff. I hope you can find it somewhere.

Only a Microsoft could afford aQuantive

As I was saying yesterday, we should still expect the most valuable ad technology companies to land with the the major online media properties. In case you haven't heard yet, Microsoft announced early this morning that it is buying aQuantive for $6 billion, paying an 85 percent premium for the privilege, and paying twice as much for the company as Google paid for DoubleClick. Though I'm not sure I ever saw it printed, rumors have been circulating for about a month that Microsoft would buy aQuantive, the best way, other than whining about the Google/DoubleClick deal, for Microsoft to fight back against its archrival. It probably also got the better company. What has always been impressive about aQuantive is how it managed its way deftly through the dot-com bust, always steadfastly believing that in the end, strong analytics capabilities and a focus on ROI would win over clients. As for the price, $6 billion is a lot of money, but Microsoft can afford it, especially when one considers what is at stake: Microsoft has had its problems in competing against Google and Yahoo in online advertising, and there just aren't many ad technology companies still on the market that can hold up to aQuantive. It was time for Microsoft to do something dramatic. But let's take a look back at WPP's agreement yesterday to buy 24/7 Real Media for a paltry $649 million—WPP's valuation is just under $19 billion; Microsoft's is almost $300 billion. So, though I'm sure that WPP, and its rivals, may have been eyeing aQuantive (which also, of course, owns the digital agency Avenue A/Razorfish), the value of the company's ad technology simply put it out of their league. One last thought: isn't it somehow a sign of the times, that this flurry of ad technology acquisitions occurred during the same week that the TV networks held their upfront presentations?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

WPP gets its ad technology company

In some ways, it’s hardly surprising that WPP Group has succeeded in buying 24/7 Real Media. Talks between the two companies had been rumored for weeks. On the other hand, it still seems a bit odd. Though old business models are being done away with all over the place, the acquisition marks the first time that one of the big ad holding companies has gotten into the business of selling ads—24/7 handles inventory for a number of sites. And while WPP said when it announced the deal this morning that it was buying the company for the technology, it’s worth asking whether WPP was also buying what it could. Consider that 24/7 competitor DoubleClick was bought by Google for $3.1 billion, and the decidedly second-tier, 24/7 is being bought by WPP for about $650 million. Microsoft also allegedly kicked 24/7’s tires, with at least one report putting the amount Microsoft was willing to offer at $1 billion. If this had come to a serious bidding war between any agency holding company and Microsoft, the holding companies surely would have lost., despite what Motley Fool says. As the consolidation of ad technology companies continues, we should still expect the most valuable to land with the the major online media properties, not with WPP and its competitors.

Saturn not alone in wanting us to "Rethink American"

So the new Saturn campaign from Deutsch, L.A.—its first since taking the account from Goodby, Silverstein and Partners earlier this year—uses the tagline "Rethink American" and asks us to rethink other things as well. It's not the worst tagline in the universe (get it? Saturn? universe? oy!), but it's not the best either. Every American car brand, from Ford to Chrysler to Chevrolet would like us to rethink American cars, so if the goal is to distinguish Saturn from other automakers, this tag fails. You can see the spot here. The most interesting point the commercial makes is that Saturn produces the most affordable hybrids in America, but since the spot is meant as an umbrella that incorporates all Saturn brands, they probably couldn't focus too much on that. Keep working on it, guys.

Weird ad juxtaposition watch: Virgin

Maybe the copy on the Conde Nast ad should read, "Sir Richard Branson, Virgin, dreamer, reader, fire-er of ad agencies." From

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Phil Lesh, guy named Bill, love Reddy Kilowatt

This is kind of odd. Reddy Kilowatt, the mascot that was created to promote electricity in the 1920s, has a blog. It's run by a guy named Bill, who last updated the site three days ago, with a link to an entire alphabet that uses Reddy Kilowatt in every letter. However, he has yet to run a post about how Phil Lesh (of the Grateful Dead, young 'uns), uses Mr. Kilowatt as his own personal mascot, or that if you go here, you'll find some animations created by Lesh featuring Reddy. There's a fan or two for everything, I guess.

I might drink Diet Coke Plus

Saw an ad last night on American Idol (yeah, I watch it, and you should too) for Diet Coke Plus, a new version of Diet Coke that includes vitamins and minerals such as B3, B6, B12, zinc and magnesium. For those of you not immersed in Diet Coke culture, this may seem kind of weird, or just worthy of making the obvious assumption that with products such as Glaceau's Vitamin Water out there, it was time to put something with redeeming qualities into Diet Coke. (Historically, its one redeeming quality being, of course, what it doesn't have, which is calories.) Still, I've realized in the last few years, that I've come, strangely enough, to the conclusion that I view Diet Coke as an occasional treat—I feel somehow better knowing I'm drinking Vitamin Water, or just plain water, or even a latte because it has milk. So, while I admit it's a little odd for someone to decide to drink Diet Coke just for a few lousy vitamins—especially someone like me, who is religious about taking her vitamins—I could see myself choosing it not because I need more zinc, but because it makes me feel a little less guilty for not getting anything redeeming out of my quaff.

Mac vs. PC: the banner campaign

By now, everyone has seen streams of the Mac vs. PC campaign online, but last night on Underwire, I saw the streaming banner ad above, shot specifically to appear on the Web. There's nothing remarkable about the ad, in a sense, but it's the first time I've ever seen a popular campaign repurposed and reshot for a streaming banner ad. When PC starts knocking his head against the border of the banner (taking out his frustrations for upgrading to Vista), he says, "These banners are hard."

Verizon lets you, too, be an action hero

Here's a rather interesting idea from Verizon: offer a movie-rendering tool to show off Verizon's Broadband capabilities. It's called "Action Hero" and allows people to make movies that turn them into the heroes they've always wanted to be. (I admit that on my Verizon DSL this morning, it was moving a bit slow.) Created by R/GA.

Caveman, sans Geico, get prime ABC slot

Maybe it will increase the ad industry's self-esteem to know that ABC is giving its sitcom based on the Geico cavemen a good time slot—8 p.m. on Tuesday night. Though the series features different actors, and seems to have only one creative person from the commercials involved—the Martin Agency's Joe Lawson—who will be executive producer—somehow the attention this thing is getting makes it some kind of litmus test of whether the ad industry is relevant anymore. If the thing fails, expect headlines about how it wasn't an idea that could support endless iterations; and if it's a huge success, expect headlines and pats on the back about how good content is good content, no matter whether it starts as advertising or something else. At the end of the day, though, I don't think the caveman phenomenon should be taken quite as seriously as it seems to be. Every now and then, people in every industry actually succeed in catching lightning in a bottle, and this stuff is watchable over and over, but it's also nothing more than one of those instances.

McDonald's looks to redefine McJob

Ad Age reports today that McDonald's has come out with a new commercial talking about the corporate advancement that is possible when someone takes a McJob, highlighting Karen King, who is now responsible for 5000 restaurants which represent a total of 36 percent of McDonald's domestic revenue. (I've yet to find it online.) Of course, this isn't the first time that McDonald's has tried to reinvent the perception of the McJob—a few months ago, it challenged the mighty Oxford English Dictionary over its characterization of a McJob as any sort of work that is demeaning, and the company has been going on about it on its corporate responsibility blog, recently posting the video above. And, anyone remember the 2005 effort that featured celebrities who'd actually had McJobs such as Olympian Carl Lewis?

Fun, yes, but will it sell Ray Bans?

So here's one of the Ray Ban shorts that's becoming the viral sensation that's taking the nation. I can be a curmudgeon about these things, but this one is actually strangely alluring, even though we all know that there's some editing slight of hand that makes it appear as though the protagonist can really catch Ray Bans perfectly on his face, while in a moving vehicle, standing under a bridge, etc. The agency is Cutwater. It has generated the inevitable spoofs, such as this, and at least one video purporting to show the technique involved. Of course, this is all well and fine, in that, as the agency says, it wanted Ray Bans to become part of the conversation again. Now let's see if the company can actually sell some sunglasses.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Another reason Unilever may shun the upfront

It makes sense that Unilever appears to be on the bubble (per Jack Neff at Ad Age) about whether or not to participate in the network upfront, and not just because, as Neff says, it's predominantly female target doesn't require it to lock in certain programs in order to get the reach it needs. Unilever is that still rare client that has also had several breakout successes in the last year or so in terms of using the digital media to move hearts and minds, and some product, as well. First, there was the integrated Dove "Campaign for Real Beauty," which used voting techniques that heavily relied on digital media to get consumers to vote on what they perceived to be a beautiful woman, and then there was the knockout success of the Dove "Evolution" viral (above), which has had about 3.5 million views on YouTube alone. The company has seen that this newfangled digital stuff can work, and do it—compared to spending millions of dollars on airtime—on the cheap.

AmEx doesn't leave home page without ads

For the (brief) amount of time that I've been paying bills online, I've been surprised that the credit card companies don't use their home pages as more of an ad venue. Until today, when, for what it's worth, I found that American Express had extended its Shaun White campaign to True, if you're going to these sites, it's likely you're already a customer, but a little branding reinforcement never hurt.

'WSJ' lets you publicly suck up to creatives

This can't really qualify as consumer-generated media since it's asking creatives to submit ads (creative-generated media?), but it's damn close. I speak of the contest being put on by The Wall Street Journal asking people to enter ads to, as part of its relaunch of its creative leaders ad campaign. (You know—the print campaign, styled as a completely objective Q&A where creative leaders are treated like business royalty—the main goal being that their clients buy lots of space in the Journal?) The first ad features Alex Bogusky—and is featured on the back of today's Ad Age (but not Adweek). I checked out the site, where it says that the work will be judged "by a panel of former Creative [sic] leaders." In industry parlance, aren't those known as hacks? Let the sucking up begin.