Friday, January 4, 2008

Mediapost's agency of year pick makes rival mad!

So, Mediapost has named Starcom and Mediavest its agencies of the year in a tie that also marks the fourth time in a row that Starcom has won the award. And the angry emails have already started to come in to Mediapost editor-in-chief Joe Mandese. Here's an excerpt of one that Mandese has gamely posted in his letter from the editor accompanying the agency of the year package: "The award has become a parody of itself. It's tragic and quite sad when recognition in our side of the business is so rare and yet so important as we try to create the next generation of leaders and leadership in an industry in the midst of terrifyingly rapid transition." For more ranting, click here. In Mediapost's defense, and in the defense of agency of the year selectors everywhere, it's actually much harder to pick last year's winner again than it is to pick a new one. Just ask the folks at Adweek, who picked Deutsch (I think) for four years in a row. The editors pick agencies for three-peats, or four-peats with full realization that each time they do so, the knives aimed at them only get sharper. I don't know the ins and outs of media agencies well enough to have an informed opinion about Starcom, but if my experience in helping pick agencies of the year is any guide, the bar Starcom had to leap to win the award yet again was probably much higher than it was the first time around.

When good algorithms go scatalogical

There is nothing in my Gmail that would inspire Google's algorithms to give me this as a sponsored link. Nothing. I swear.

Old Spice commercial slides into silliness

This Old Spice commercial is super-silly in a good way. Assume it's from Wieden.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Reflecting on Phil Dusenberry

Like many of you, I've been reflecting over the last few days on the legacy of Phil Dusenberry, one of the few true ad legends that actually inhabited the ad business at the same time most of us have been in it. There's something poignant about his passing away now, and a bit young, at 71. It's somehow symbolic, as though—if any of us needed reminding—here's yet another sign that the days when commercials and network TV ruled are long gone. I've read at least some of the obits, but the one that truly struck the wrong chord, was the one in The New York Times (sorry guys, but it needs to be said), with this almost New York Post-ian style lede: "Philip B. Dusenberry, the advertising executive who oversaw the 1980s Pepsi commercial in which Michael Jackson’s hair was accidentally set on fire, died on Saturday at his home in Manhattan." Even though he wrote a book whose title reflected on that rather headline-grabbing commercial shoot, it in no way represents his career; today's paid announcement in the NYT seems more on the mark. Instead, his career was distinguished from many of his creative peers not just by commercials that often loomed much larger culturally than their allotted 30 seconds, but also by his ability to do this within a massive agency—from the inside. The Carl Allys, the Allan Beavers, the Ed McCabes weren't able to do it that way.
As a reporter for Adweek who at one point covered BBDO, I had an encounter or three with him, and what shined through was his graciousness, even during circumstances that were less than ideal. I'm speaking specifically of the time I "outed" him as the creator of a pro-life campaign he did for the Arthur S. DeMoss Foundation. The ads had been airing for a bit when someone else in the newsroom tipped me off that they were done by him. Forget, for a moment, which side of the issue you're on; the campaign was a high-impact tour de force. The commercial I remember most focused on a group of young children cavorting happily, shot in lingering, soft focus, slo-mo that tugged at the heart strings, and then came the voiceover: "All these children have one thing in common. All of them were unplanned pregnancies . . . that could have ended in abortion. But their parents toughed it out, listened to their hearts and discovered . . . that sometimes the best things in life aren't planned. Life. What a beautiful choice." We joked in the office about how the theme line was effectively a mash-up of the ones for GE—"We bring good things to life"—and Pepsi—"The choice of a new generation" but I think we were stunned at the forthrightness—and the secrecy. Perhaps the strangest thing about the incident to me was that it was so obviously his work that when I called him to talk about it, I never even asked him to confirm he was behind the campaign. Instead, I jumped to the second question—asking why he did it. I don't remember his response, although I do recall that, despite the fact that he was effectively a deer caught in the headlights, he kept his cool. I don't think he ever spoke publicly about the spots again, even though they became such a big story that Newsweek covered it, and also The Today Show, which put me on-air to talk about them, I think mostly because he'd turned them down.
Even though I was doing my job, I never felt quite right about how the story unfolded. After all, this was a part of his private life, not his public life, and he had his reasons for not putting his name on the campaign. Whether it was because of the secrecy of the DeMoss Foundation, or that he didn't want his point of view on the issue known within an industry and city that is heavily pro-choice, is something we'll never know. The irony, of course, is that Dusenberry's work was always undeniably his, so much so that a campaign in which he wanted to be behind the scenes still bore his unmistakable mark.
Here's another remembrance of Dusenberry from my former Adweek colleague, David Kiley, now at BusinessWeek.
George Parker also has a few thoughts including a lively discussion thread here. And a second post here.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Adverganza's first of '08 picks, 12.01.2008

Wherein I scan, the, um, Wednesday morning headlines so you don't have to (unless you're a total wonk and checked out what had happened in advertising over the holidays on Monday, in which case, I have little respect for you).

From Advertising Age (doesn't look like there's a print issue this week. Wait, hold that thought. There's something out called the Ad Age Annual, but, unless I'm mistaken, only some of what it contains is online):

—The obituaries of two people in the business who mattered: the one, the only, Phil Dusenberry at 71 after battling lung cancer, and Conde Nast's Steve Florio following complications from a November heart attack.
—Taco Bell and Starbucks start the new year with light menus. Given how losing weight is still a popular resolution—whatever—some see this as no more than a marketing ploy.
—Presidential candidates prove good for spot TV in Des Moines.

From Adweek:

Adweek's take on the death of Phil Dusenberry.
—A media outlook package, covering most media, except, from what I can tell, advertising in toilet stalls and skywriting. Click here, be patient, scroll down, and you'll find links to all of it.
—The role of citizen brand ambassador becomes formalized.
—Marian Salzman and Ann Mack look into their crystal ball.
Diageo posts an RFP online. Don't get excited; the gig only pays $5000.

I'm time-challenged this week with a long story due. I'll post when I can.