Friday, September 7, 2007

Why is retailing sometimes so off-target?

Yesterday's retail adventure was at Target, where I had an epiphany that was, frankly, so slow in coming that it probably doesn't rate as one. Let's set the stage: I was buying something large for my husband's birthday today, but, when I got to the cash register, the UPC code on the item was missing. My mind immediately went into "prepare for massive delay" because, of course, someone was going to have to find the item, figure out what the UPC code was and get the price. And, then, as I waited there, I thought, "Why, in this day and age, does finding the right price and UPC code have to involve someone physically finding the product?" Shouldn't the cashier be able to type the product name into her keyboard, and get the price and SKU? (And shouldn't all of that information be completely cross-referenceable?) Of course, what unfolded was the usual. Some worker was commandeered to walk to the aisle 50 yards away, find the item, and then come back to the cashier. She was carrying a calculator-like device in which she'd input the UPC code, and then, she held it next to the cashier, who typed it into her keyboard. We all go through this routine all the time, but, hey, what year is this? 1985?

David Armano's 10 questions for agency execs

File this under posts I wish I'd thought of first. Critical Mass vp of experience design David Armano, whose blog is Logic+Emotion, ran the following list of ten questions for agency execs the other day:

1. Do you read blogs. Which ones?
2. Do you have a personal blog? What's it about?
3. Do you participate in at least one social network? Which one?
4. Have you ever uploaded a video online? What did you use to do it?
5. What's your favorite search engine. Why?
6. Have you ever used an online classified service like craigslist?
7. Besides making phone calls—how else do you use your mobile phone?
8. Have you ever registered a domain name?
9. Do you use social bookmarks or tagging?
10. Do you use a feed reader of some sort? Which one? Why?

The purpose, if it isn't painfully obvious, is to discover how digitally savvy they really are. To get the full effect, and the conversation it spawned, you really need to go to David's site. All I'll add is that, as I've been running lists of people's Facebook friends, I've only hit pay dirt about half the time when I think of an executive whose Facebook friends I'd like to list. Scary.

So, who are Catharine P. Taylor's Facebook friends?

Occurred to me that if I'm going to have the temerity to run lists of other people's Facebook friends on this blog, I should, by way of full disclosure, say who my Facebook friends are. So, let's get this out of the way and move onto posts full of meaning: Stewart Alsop (he wanted to friend me after my post about Julie Roehm's Facebook friends—I don't know why. He's an FOJ, BTW), AKQA's Tom Bedecarre and Molly Parsley, AdPulp's David Burn, Kipp Cheng of the 4As, a college friend, Avi Dan, Mediapost's Nick Friese, fellow Pelhamite and Nielsen BuzzMetrics exec Max Kalehoff and his lovely wife, Laura, former and current Adweekers Marla Kittler, Brian Morrissey, Tim Nudd, Manuela Oprea, Kathy Sampey, Carly Tushingham, New York magazine guy Jay Wilkins and Nancee Martin (not just because she works at TBWA—we went to high school together). Not impressed with my voluminous list of contacts? You shouldn't be. I've been too busy to work all that hard at my social networking; I mostly passively accept people as friends who hunt me down. That would seem to imply that if I just worked at it I'd have an endless universe of friends, but what if I found out I didn't?

George Lois, Tommy Hilfiger, an unlikely couple

When I first read this post in Gawker yesterday, I thought they couldn't possibly mean that George Lois. I mean, does the George we know really hang out with Tommy Hilfiger, let alone write books with him, and have a party with him during Fashion Week? Well, maybe I underestimate the guy, but apparently, yeah. Tommy and George (well, on the cover it says Tommy Hilfiger with George Lois) celebrated the publishing of their book, "Iconic America: A Roller-Coaster Ride through the Eye-Popping Panorama of American Pop Culture." Oh, wait. Looking at the cover I discovered that they do have a lot in common even if George Lois was never known as a fashion plate—both have a flair for self-promotion. Look closely (in fact, you don't even need to look all that closely), and you'll see that the Hilfiger logo is there in the upper right hand corner. And, although it's a more obscure reference, that picture of Muhammad Ali as Saint Sebastian in the bottom right is from one of George's classic Esquire covers of the 1960s.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

'Mediapost' shows product placement in situ

Just noticed this new (?) feature on the Mediapost Web site: a detailed look at weekly product placement, on TV. Compiled by iTVX, the video snippets currently on the site show placements for Visa (shown at right in a scene from "The Dead Zone"), Windex, Bud Light, Cadillac and Breyer's Ice Cream. As the video plays, it tallies up how long the product was on screen, and rates the quality of its screen time at that moment. The only problem—which I hope they work on—is that the interface is way too complicated (anyone care to guess what a dK Factor is?), and not every data point seems to be delivered, like the promise that it will tally the dollar value of the placement as though it were a commercial. Still, it's worth it for the clips alone, particularly if product placement is your gig.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Will Mac need to choose Drew over PC?

Not that I normally trade in tawdry Hollywood gossip, but I just heard the news that Drew Barrymore has been dating Justin Long (aka Mac). And this is according to that most reliable of gossip sources, People. Apparently they are co-starring in He's Just Not That Into You, along with this obscure actress named Jennifer Aniston and "seemed really into one another over Labor Day in Vegas." If that's not confirmation, I don't know what is. If Mac keeps on hanging out with babes like this, it's only so long before he gives PC the old heave-ho, I guess.

Is this "Lost Weekend" or "Clueless Weekend"?

Thank Tim Nudd over at AdFreak for noticing the unfortunate connection between this Hennessy ad touting a 90-second online film called "The Lost Weekend," and that other "Lost Weekend"the Oscar-winning 1945 film directed by Billy Wilder featuring the harrowing drinking binge of a-nowhere-near-recovering alcoholic. Didn't anyone at the client or agency notice? Or did they notice, and not care? (The fine print on this poster reveals that Berlin Cameron United is the agency, Ewen Cameron the writer.) As a commenter to AdFreak's post said, "Why not do a heartwarming story about adoption and call it 'Rosemary's Baby' while you're at it?"

What would Mrs. Drysdale have said?

Just to ensure we cover everything Geico, here's the other new spot--the one featuring an investigation of how the Clampetts really got all that money. Hint: It wasn't bubblin' crude.

Wells Rich Greene part of 4th grade curriculum

Rather than regale you all with stories of our hellish trip to Staples this evening to buy book covers for our fourth grader's textbooks (summary: that was hard), I'll tell you what I found in one of those textbooks. Right there, in New York: Adventures in Time and Place, on page 300, is the sheet music to "I Love New York" words and music by Steve Karmen. Of course, the textbook doesn't actually mention Wells Rich Greene, but ad agencies are used to that, and there is at least somewhat of a good reason that a jingle is in the middle of the textbook: Then governor Hugh Carey named it the official state song in 1980.

'Business 2.0' dies; we get on with our lives

Well, social networking ain't everything. Or at least it wasn't enough to save Business 2.0, which received its death notice last night and will publish one more issue before officially becoming a dot-bomb. It went out in a way that befits Web 2.0—the first report came last night on Brad Stone's New York Times blog. They're sitting shiva right now over at the "I Read Business 2.0 —and I Want to Keep Reading" Facebook group, but even it seems to indicate that the loyal supporters who garnered headlines when the group first got started had thrown in the towel by the time the publication was officially closed. The group stood at 2000 members as of July 29th, after about two weeks, but only gained another 325 or so over the course of August. (I know it's vacation time, but a magazine's life was hanging in the balance!) Not that anyone is asking, but the idea of a magazine built around the new economy seems like an anachronism to me. My husband happened to bring the current issue home from the office last night, and—as it has before—the issue seemed oh so 1999. The new economy is simply the economy now.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Gangrene ad giving my kid nightmares!

So this anti-smoking ad, which originally aired in Australia from what I can gather, is probably giving my son nightmares as we speak. It's been airing a lot in New York lately, and opened up a lovely discussion tonight with my 9-year-old son on the perils of gangrene. The good news is, based on this and other strong evidence, he swears he'll never smoke. The bad news is school starts tomorrow and I'm afraid he's still trying to figure out why gangrene makes your toes turn black. Sweet dreams.

Traditional ad industry discovers interactive!

OK, so the headline is an overstatement. But it probably shows what a cruel person I am that I actually find it laughable that many traditional agencies still haven't managed to build a decent digital capability. Yeah, I've been in this game since G.M. O'Connell was putting the final touches on the original, but how could an entire industry—that I hope no longer prides itself on being cutting-edge—be so out of it? But the industry's attempts to catch up, a mere 13 years after, are all the news these days. So add to the hiring of Colleen DeCourcy by TBWA, yesterday's news that Mullen hired Ross Dobson, a former Digitas exec who had most recently been working for an agency in Little Rock, as its fourth managing partner—to oversee direct and digital. Keep those hires coming, folks.

Is there any end to these bogus Google suits?

You may have read that Google dodged yet another of the trademark suits lobbed against it by companies claiming that it's illegal for other companies to "buy" their names as a keyword term. This time around, the loser was American Blinds and Wallpaper Factory--which dropped its suit after four years--but no matter who is doing the suing, these plaintiffs have always seemed fundamentally out of it. Though I noticed that the company does, in fact, buy its name as a keyword these days, it always seems as though the way most of these companies must end up suing is because they were once so naive about search advertising that it wasn't until a corporate higher-up Googled the company name that they realized another company could "buy" their name. But I've long felt that to term this kind of media buy as purchasing another company's name is essentially a misnomer. What the advertiser is buying is an adjacency to its competitors name, which is no different than a Ford buying a billboard next to a Toyota dealership. But the lawsuits continue. Next up on the court docket? American Airlines.

xBox ad so confusing my head exploded

Video: Xbox Live Vision Ad
Barbara Lippert at Adweek critiques this 60-second ad for xBox Live Vision in today's online creative newsletter. It's certainly memorable to have the commercial star a woman whose head is a box, but I agree with Barbara--it's confusing. AKQA would've been better off scrapping the allegory and explained what in hell Live Vision does. (It allows you to insert your face on the head of the character you're playing in xBox games.)

Monday, September 3, 2007

Adverganza's post-Labor Day picks, 09.04.07

Where I scan the Monday and Tuesday morning headlines, so you can continue to weep over the end of summer:

From Advertising Age:

That Wendy's story (see below).
—AT&T drops fewest dropped calls claim. What? I can't hear you.
—This story takes media prognosticators to task, and boy is it fun ... unless you work at Forrester or Veronis, Suhler.
—In yet another shocker, advertisers don't want to buy time on "Kid Nation." What I wouldn't give to see an ad on this show for Willy Wonka Nerd Rope. I mean, if the kids on this show are running their own world, why can't they pick the advertising? (Here's a link I found on YouTube to the preview.)
—Bob Garfield calls the new campaign for Grey Goose vodka from Radical Media "screamingly obnoxious." Really, having just gone to that link and streamed it, I think he's being kind.

From Adweek:

Goodby used scrap paper to promote a Sprint Nextel promotion. Seriously.
—Andrew McMains on WPP's plan to buy Blast Radius, and what traditional agencies are doing to fix the fact that they still suck at interactive.
—Here's the answer to the question "Whatever happened to Robin Raj?"
—ABC leads the buzz in the online world for fall, and also has what many believe will be the worst show—you guessed it, "Cavemen."

From Mediapost:

—Will the subprime mortgage debacle kill the online advertising market? Henry Blodget says yes, which may mean it won't kill it at all.
Omnicom shutters PHD St. Louis.

What we hear from The Delaney Report:

—Is IHOP mulling a move from McCann-Erickson because it doesn't want two company-owned restaurant chains at the same agency?
—You might check into

From The New York Times:

—Giving new meaning to the term "Sensurround", movies in the future will really stink.
—Giving new meaning to the phrase, "Have You Driven a Ford Lately?", Ford has owners of other cars swap their rides.
—Keep yourself from downloading AdBlock Plus, which "whites out" online ads.
Reckitt Benckiser goes green.

From The Wall Street Journal (subscription required unless otherwise noted):

—Sony plans to enter the video downloading business (free).
A Q&A with TBWA's Colleen deCourcy (this is from Friday, but you were away, weren't you?).
—Looks like Mattel is going to find itself in another PR debacle (free).

Wendy doesn't like Wendy's campaign

During the car ride home from Massachusetts, my husband suggested I read this free story that ran on Friday in The Wall Street Journal about the failed turnaround of Wendy's. For people in the ad business, let's cut to the chase, which can be found in paragraph 36: "As an 8-year-old, the red-headed Wendy Thomas posed in braided pigtails for the picture that now adorns Wendy's 6,600 locations. At the suggestion of her sister, Ms. Farber, executives arranged for Ms. Thomas, now 46, to do a television screen test in the company's corporate kitchen [Ed. note: in spring of 2006]. Chief marketing officer Ian Rowden says executives gave the screen test 'very, very, very serious consideration,' but no 'Wendy' campaign ensued. This spring, the company launched a television ad featuring a young man wearing a wig of red, braided pigtails. Wendy Thomas says she took the spot as a personal affront." Ad Age has now picked up on the Journal's story, with a twist: Wendy's says that the "That's right" campaign from Saatchi has done more in eight weeks than the old campaign did in 18 months; the story also points out that the Thomas family's influence is waning, with it owning only 15 out of about 6000 restaurant and having a minimal share in the company. Who knows what putting Wendy's on the block will do for its agency relationship, but for now, look for more guys to run around in red wigs, I guess.