Friday, September 21, 2007

A gallery of horrible agency house ads

So, I managed to scam a copy of the program for Advertising Week, and what I came away with was not so much a full understanding of every event being held next week, but a complete understanding of how unbelievably bad the agency house ads in the program are. (Sorry for the big gaps between each ad ... blame Blogger.) Now, I know that Lee Clow doesn’t break away from meetings with Steve Jobs to go make a print ad for the Advertising Week program, but, really, these agencies should be embarrassed they let this work out the door. While there were many ads in the program that were merely blasé, the four below each stood out in their own way. (The DraftFCB one, I admit, mostly for not featuring a lion. At least it has a concept.) I did the scans of each ad at Staples, and I admit the quality is poor, but maybe that’s somehow fitting. Read on and laugh—or cry.


Description: A strand of DNA made out of lightbulbs with the following caption at the bottom: "What is in Your DNA? Welcome to Advertising Week 2007."
Offense: Moving away from that lion concept.


ion: Rows of monkeys sitting at computers, under the headline, "If a million monkeys typed on a million computers for a million years, eventually they would come up with every great idea and line in the history of advertising. Here's to all the primates who've done it sooner."
Say what?


Description: So banal and readily apparent it doesn't need one.
Offense: Apparently working overtime to dispel the notion that it is one of the best creative agencies in the business. And what does a picture of two people high-five-ing each other have to do with loving advertising? BTW, when you go to you are met with this sentence, and this sentence alone: "You are a loser." How's that for celebrating the ol' ad biz?

AGENCY: Young & Rubicam

Description: Picture of Groucho Marx, or picture of Ray Rubicam pretending to he's Groucho Marx. Hard to tell. It says Ray Rubicam on the bottom border of the picture, followed by equally inexplicable copy: "Advertising. Who knew?" The closing line: "Happy Advertising Week as we celebrate an industry that continues to amaze."
Offense: Where to begin? With a picture that really has nothing to do with the ad business, even it is Ray Rubicam pretending he's Groucho Marx? With copy that's only reason for being is to try to explain the inexplicable picture? No, the real offense is that this is the worst house ad I've ever seen, and that includes DraftFCB's infamous lion ad. At least, that, too, had a concept.

Think "advertising", think "false", "misleading", etc.

As a warm-up to Advertising Week, Max Kalehoff and Pete Blackshaw over at Nielsen BuzzMetrics decided to track what words people most closely associated with the word advertising based on tracking billions of online conversations. As the graph here shows, words like "false," "misleading," ""deceptive" and "subliminal" rank high, with lesser concentration on "spam," "bombarded," "fraudulent" and "soliciting." Ouch. Max, Pete and PhD's Erik Rabasca are hosting a Webinar about this at 12:30 p.m. today, which you can register for here. Luckily, their study isn't all bad news, though in the spirit of journalists everywhere, I've focused on the negative in this post.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

We'll let fake Steve comment on NBC

So I wish I had something really pithy to say about NBC's new offer to let people download TV shows for free, as long as they have a Windows PC and don't mind that the shows include ads they can't skip. Thus, I'll turn this post over to fake Steve (as in the blog really written by Daniel Lyons of Forbes pretending that he's Steve Jobs). Says FS in a post that puts forth the argument against NBC's plan, while at the same time insisting that that FA (fake Apple) is thrilled with it: "Why are we psyched? Because this will let everyone see the kind of world that the media companies would like us to live in. And we're pretty sure people aren't going to like it."

When a sponsor isn't really a sponsor

This American Express ad, appearing today at, is more than a bit disingenous. (Click on anything after the home page and I believe you'll see it. ) The ad acts as though Amex is granting visitors a big favor by making the Op-Ed columns free this week. In fact, as we all know, The New York Times said it was abandoning its paid subscription TimesSelect product on Tuesday—without it being contingent upon direct advertiser sponsorship or anything else. Everyone involved with this ad should know better.

How to play around with a Google Gadget Ad

Per usual, Google got a lot of ink, and bytes, out of its announcement yesterday about its new Gadget Ads, which give brand advertisers and their agencies widgets in which to embed lots of interactivity, which can then be distributed throughout Google's AdSense network. I always find descriptions of these new online ad units confusing—including when I try to describe them—so the best thing to do if you want to know more is to go to the Google Gadget ads home page, where you can learn more about them and also play around with a live version of the Gadget ad I've pictured here. There's also a full page of Gadget case studies at this link.

And the winner is ... Jeff Swystun!

As you may have noticed, I've been all hot and bothered about the lack of posts on DDB's three new blogs, but I'm happy to report that Jeff Swystun, the agency's director of global communications, posted something fairly interesting on Tuesday of this week (go here, click on "DDBlogs" and then "Business Communications.") The agency is currently conducting a poll that sorta/kinda runs off the home page (go here and click on "Be Heard" in the bottom right-hand corner) about whether consistency in the way branding is communicating is becoming more important. Two-thirds of the 175 respondents so far say it is becoming more important, but what's more interesting is Swystun's discussion of how, while important, "it no longer means 100% compliance to confining guidelines." (As for Bob Scarpelli and Frank Palmer, authors of the other blogs, get thee to a keyboard. It's been sixteen days since your last post.)

Anyone seen the Wendy's helium spot?

Haven't been able to find a copy of this new Wendy's spot that shows people breathing in helium and has now created a ruckus with the NIPC (National Inhalant Prevention Coalition). Just as it supposedly is with marijuana leading to hard drugs, the Coalition says that if people find that breathing in helium is so enjoyable they'll start to experiment with inhaling other, more dangerous, gasses. Not sure I quite buy the logic, but I'd love to post the spot. If anyone finds it, let me know. In the meantime, I eagerly await a lawsuit over the red wig from the Society for the Perpetuation of Pippi Longstocking. BUT, WAIT, THERE'S MORE: My wish was just granted, mere minutes after I posted this. You can see the spot at this MySpace link.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Is this ad for Honda, or coffee achievers?

I really want to like this new Honda spot that features the ELO song, "Hold on Tight (To Your Dreams". Unfortunately, it reminds me of another spot from long ago—this excruciatingly funny (in an unintended way) spot for the National Coffee Association, that for me is, apparently unforgettable.

Good Macy's ads ... but too much Martha?

These new Macy's spots from JWT New York actually manage what no Macy's campaign I've seen has ever done before: give the store an actual identity. Of course, it relies heavily on celebrities to do so, ranging from the Donald, to Usher, to Jessica, to Martha Stewart. I've embedded one spot from the campaign, focusing on Martha and Usher, above. Here's the one conundrum I see in the campaign: true, Martha is launching a big new line of housewares with Macy's, but given her long-time (and continuing) association with Kmart, let's hope that when it comes to those next-day recall studies, people don't say these were ads for Kmart.

"Viva Viagra" has Elvis rolling in his grave

OK, so I guess this Viagra ad has been out for about a month now which, um, reworks the Elvis tune, "Viva Las Vegas." If the guy is still alive, he's wishing he wasn't—this is one of the most cringeworthy ads I've seen in years. And, if Elvis, is, indeed, dead, he's rolling in his grave. Never thought an ad would make me miss the guy at right, but now I'm thinking those were the days.

Halo 3 campaign looks for new believers

Mediapost has an extensive write-up this morning of the new campaign for Halo 3 from McCann Worldwide's Tag unit, which definitely seems an improvement on typical computer game launches— which preach to the converted—and aren't all that interesting to the rest of us because how exciting can streams of the game being played actually be? The Halo game series, which pits humans vs. aliens, is, in this campaign, being depicted as a war that has happened with real battles, history, and so forth. The 90-second ad above, which Brentter helpfully posted to YouTube yesterday, is low-tech; it consists of close-up shots of a diorama. Talk about old school! The site,, is said to include documentary-style videos and the like, though I couldn't get it to run this morning on Firefox, or Internet Explorer.

Chevy vaults too far with Volt ads

So let's get this straight. Hyundai is running advertising that doesn't include the car, and Chevrolet is running ads which focus on a car that doesn't exist. The spot above is for the Chevrolet Volt, the automaker's hybrid—which isn't even slated to go on sale until 2010. It's not a bad commercial, taken completely at face value, but the fact that the car is only a concept so far is so subtly put as to be completely misleading. If you hadn't read this post—and I hadn't read this story—we'd probably both think GM was actually selling the car now.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

'Times' slams the door on TimesSelect

As expected, The New York Times is discontinuing TimesSelect, a paid subscription service for some Times content, such as Maureen Dowd, and so forth. The Times says it will realize more revenue by making the content free and swimming in the resulting ad bucks, and so, with that admission, the subscription model online gets a little closer to death's door. I think the Internet would have been better off if more content was actually paid for—if for no other reason than, in the consumer's mind, all of the free content available cheapens the whole idea that any content has monetarily value—but on the other hand, TimesSelect never seemed like it was going to be much of a product. Not only are decisions by content providers usually arbitrary in terms of what should be free and what shouldn't—which makes it hard to determine the content's real value—but, since TimesSelect was available free to any print subscriber, the revenue base for the online product had to be small. Even if newspapers seem, at times, to be withering on the vines of the very trees used to print them, anyone so interested in the Times' premium online content was still probably a print subscriber. Lots of those people still exist, even now.

Berndt leaves agency to start Googlagency?

Ad Age doesn't do the "push" news emails often, but this one was worth it: Andy Berndt, co-president of Ogilvy New York, is joining the dark side ... uh ... I meant Google, to start something that would consult on creative and account services, just like ad agencies do (although it would consult with agencies as well, per Ad Age's story). That said, I don't really believe that Google is the dark side. I believe not being smart about the future of advertising is the dark side, and it's pretty hard to accuse Google of being dumb about that. BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE: Google's Tim Armstrong explains why Google this whole Andy Berndt led Creative Lab thing-a-ma-jig is definitely not an ad agency.

Randall Rothenberg's new clog (not a typo)

If you've missed reading Randall Rothenberg ever since he stopped writing his column for Advertising Age, you can stop your crying now. Randall, now head of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, has started writing what he calls a clog: "It's a column! It's a blog!" at, with the title "I, A Bee—Buzz and Pollination from the Interactive Advertising Bureau." (Maybe he should streamline the shoe/beehive metaphors?) His first entry is about the interactive program at VCU's AdCenter, and it starts with this provocative lede: "If you’re a fabulously successful interactive entrepreneur whose last six startups have made a killing in the market and you’re looking for a new place to park some cash, Mike Hughes wants your money."

Monday, September 17, 2007

BBDO's AT&T ads may be better than most

I think BBDO may be onto something with this new AT&T campaign shot by Wes Anderson. The first thing that makes it so noticeable is the way the five commercials in the series were shot—each as one continuous sequence as sets move in and out to depict the different places each commercial's protagonist does business. The second thing that separates this campaign from the rest of this very tired category is how it gets across what is now a pretty boring idea—that people want to have their cell phone work in all of the different places they do business. In the spot above, an actor who moves between Hollywood, Broadway, Arizona, London and South America describes the place where he does business as "Holly-York-Izona-South-Ameri-Land." Is it a mouthful? Yes. But it's also a whimsical, memorable way to make a point. From what I could gather from the not all that clear press release last week, the next phase of the campaign will contain an e-commerce component where people can create t-shirts and coffee mugs based on where they do business, such as well HollyYorkIzonaSouthAmeriLand. Maybe that's a stretch, but I've seen worse. If you want to see all of the spots in the campaign, go here.

Adverganza now available as a dot-com

This news flash may not mean much to you, but it means a lot to me: Adverganza is now also available at the URL, so you can erase that thing from your memory bank, should you desire.

Is Steve Jobs really Big Brother?

I've ripped these visuals off from a column in the current issue of Forbes entitled "Big Brother." (I spent way too much time on Friday scanning Jobs' big speech earlier this month looking to recreate it myself, but to no avail.) Anyway, the two pictures—one, of course, of the classic Apple spot "1984"—make for a great juxtaposition, and illustrate the point that there's something increasingly cult-like and scary about Apple. Written by Daniel Lyons (aka fake Steve), the column says "... the flip side of Apple's success is that Apple has started to seem scary. Jobs' ambitions go way beyond making computers and gadgets. He's the most powerful figure in the music business and is maneuvering toward dominance in the movie and TV business as well." You can read the whole column here (free registration required). Of course, I've gone on the record as saying that I thought all those people who had to buy the iPhone the nanosecond it came out (and pay too much for it) reminded me of that 1985 Apple spot, "Lemmings."

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Adverganza's Monday morning picks, 09.17.07

Wherein we/I scan the Monday morning headlines so you don't have to. I have a doctor's appointments in the morning—so as to preserve my immortality—so may not complete this post until lunchtime. But here goes:

From Advertising Age:

—Why people invested in old media should start drinking hard liquor.
—Hill Holliday finds life after Jack.
—If you care to find out what an anadiggie is, read this.
—Is the killer app for global advertising?
—Bob Garfield is a fan of Wal-Mart's first spots from Martin.

From The New York Times:

—It isn't retailers and the media that are making you obsess about Halloween six weeks beforehand. It's you.
—The newspaper industry—not that it should be the judge—declares the magazine industry not dead: Page Six becomes a weekly magazine, The Wall Street Journal will launch a monthly.

From Adweek:

—How could Jenny Craig stick a fork in Valerie Bertinelli? Well, maybe the client isn't sticking a fork in her, but it definitely is puncturing JWT New York.
—At Dentsu, they don't talk about climbing Mt. Fuji ... they actually do it.
—Barbara Lippert disagrees with Bob Garfield about the Wal-Mart spots.
—Clients still don't think online advertising is accountable.
—Tom Messner drills deep into the ad blogosphere, but, alas, not deep enough to find Adverganza.

From The Wall Street Journal (subscription required):

—AOL discovers that the advertising industry is based in New York, not Dulles.
—Phew! There's a dropoff in sales of sugary drinks in schools.
SpiralFrog, the ad-supported music download site, finally launches.

From Mediapost:

—A match made in promo heaven ... Hooters sponsors DVD release of "Knocked Up."
—Jim Beam puts the largest ad ever on the side of a casino in Vegas.

What we hear concerning The Delaney Report:

—Tom is sniffing around Dick's Sporting Goods and Mike's Hard Lemonade.