Archive for the ‘Agency Biz’ Category

GE presents itself as a disappointment in odd new campaign.

In Ad Creative, Agency Biz on October 20, 2015 at 9:07 am

I should feel proud. I mean, somehow I must fit into some media buyer’s demographic for GE’s new campaign to recruit college grads. I see and hear the campaign constantly, though my first job was, well, a while back. But the campaign strikes me as an odd one. I find several things to like about it, but I think it creates exactly the image that its creative team is apparently trying to dispel.  Here’s Ad Age’s take on it.

The campaign features TV and radio executions that are built around a young guy who seems happy to have just been hired by GE,  But in every case, his family and/or friends seem very disappointed, because they clearly picture GE as an old, very industrial giant that is the furthest thing from their expectations for “Owen”, our  hot young Internet developer.

In TV spots, they seem confused, and don’t understand his explanation of developing a language that will help machines communicate. In one silly overreach, a group fawns over another guy (Owen’s brother?) who is working on a stereo-typically vapid smartphone app that allows you to place hats on animals’ heads. Something much more to their liking. Owen pals

While the sarcasm certainly paints the friends as shallow, it doesn’t serve to elevate GE in the process. Most of us probably don’t think of GE that much at all – so the constant exposure to people who think it’s an industrial dinosaur simply makes us think they’re probably right. In one annoying radio spot, the newly hired guy has a girlfriend who badgers him to portray his new job as “working on a trendy app” and insists he leave out the “machines” and the “GE” part when they meet her parents that evening. Again, we sure don’t like her much. But again GE is considered an embarrassment.

Now, I GET it. I know that’s the point. I just don’t think it works. And the line that ends most of the spots is “GE. The digital company that’s also an industrial company.”  That doesn’t really help. If we have no real image, we don’t know what to think; the whole thing just sounds defensive. And if we do have the old “industrial”perception of GE, we’re not going to change that because you called yourself a “digital” company first.

Find some interesting way to show me “digital.” Show me what you’re doing now. Show me the kinds of things young college Read the rest of this entry »


Radio is alive and well; but where are the creative ads?

In Ad Creative, Agency Biz, Research on October 17, 2013 at 2:15 pm

It’s a little hard right now to link to the actual results, given Arbitron’s recent sale to Nielsen. But one of Arbitron’s last research projects revealed that more than 239 million Americans aged 12 and over listen to radio in an average week, spending an average of more than an hour and a half doing it.  So…objectivity aside….it appears that radio’s viablity as a medium is not one being questioned in today’s tumultuous media landscape.  But it occurs to me that, unfortunately, the creativity that was once a hallmark of  effective radio ad campaigns is missing in action.freeimage-538735-web

When I started in the business as a young writer, things were very different.  There were several legendary independent radio production companies doing exceptional work.   Dick Orkin and Bert Burdis were (not surprisingly) working as “Dick and Bert” -the reigning kings of creative radio, offering their writing and production services to clients of all sizes and scopes, from local car dealers to national brands.  Shortly after, they split to form  The Radio Ranch (Orkin) and Bert, Bars, and Kirby (Burdis).  Both companies, along with numerous other firms designed along the same lines and offering similar services, thrived.

The ability of these companies to coax a lot of memorability out of 60 seconds of air time was admirable. Their creative abilities to come up with concepts was terrific, but I especially admired their vocal talents and ability to produce excellent spots with impeccable timing and editing. I am fortunate enough to have,  on my reel, spots written by me, but performed by Orkin and produced by his company. (This is unusual, because for a lengthy time, Orkin’s company refusedto permit his voice to be used on any spots they themselves had not written.) Read the rest of this entry »

You can’t measure “return on relationship.”

In Agency Biz, Just Thinkin', The Marketing Microscope on May 25, 2011 at 7:40 pm

Attention all you metric mavens out there. In this economy and business climate, I understand a little tendency toward desperation. When you’ve got bills to pay, it’s logical to want an almost instant return on any time, money or other resources you invest in your business. But “logical” isn’t always the same as “smart.”

I just read a wonderful post on the subject by Amber Naslund over at her Brass Tack Thinking blog. She talks about the need to build all your networks before you “need” them. Create and grow your relationships when the only payback is the relationship itself, not a virtual filing cabinet with the many ways the other party can help you get money, business, a job or whatever-  preferably soon.  ROI doesn’t stand for Return on Insensitivity.

Clearly, this discussion is relevant given the attention and special status so many of us marketers are conferring on social media as a marketing channel. We smugly congratulate one another on recognizing the need for two-way dialogue and claim to be comfortable with the fact that we don’t lead many of the discussions any longer. Then someone gets impatient with all that warm, fuzzy stuff and talks about “monetizing” the process. Sigh.

I don’t really think this is about social media at all. Remember the marketing people whose obvious self-absorption and thirst for profit drove you crazy pre-Twitter and even pre-Internet? Those are the same people who are now either driving potential customers away with transparent  efforts in “new media” or staying out of the social media discussion entirely since they don’t have the mindset to accept a payback that isn’t guaranteed to happen at all, let alone quickly. (That doesn’t make it a bad investment – just one they can’t understand.)

Yes, I’m very aware that businesses must manage their resources efficiently and don’t like the idea of paying people to “schmooze” or cyber-surf with no apparent end game. But unless you’re the low-price leader and can get all the business you need by sending out price lists, you’d better learn to deal with it. Whether it’s a potential client, employer, strategic business partner or a potential customer, they’re only human – and if they weren’t important back when you didn’t need them, they won’t have much  use for you when you do.  Marketing is suddenly very human. And I find that a very good thing.

Casting – it makes all the difference

In Agency Biz, Uncategorized on December 26, 2009 at 8:30 pm

Perhaps you’ve seen the new commercials for Ally Bank. The campaign features a sleazeball presenter using various verbal ruses and omissions to trick children as they try to play with various toys; the point is that even kids know what is and isn’t fair – why don’t banks?

It’s a good idea; but  the performers are what really make the spots work – especially the kids, whose sense of innocent indignation is perfect. (Maybe it’s not acting, but that’s beside the point.)

Another campaign that does a good job of casting is the AT&T wireless spots.  The “mom” in the spots is wonderfully believable in her facial expressions and mom-like insistence that her family use, rather than waste, their rollover minutes – a unique AT&T benefit. Her most frequent target – her teenage son –  is equally well played with eye rolls and other typical teen reactions.

You can probably think of some spots that you didn’t like because of poor casting or performances. But more importantly, there are many thousands more that you simply don’t remember because the casting choices were nothing special, or didn’t quite click. (Perhaps if Wendy’s hadn’t recognized the memorability of Clara Peller, it would be a lot further down the fast food pecking order right now.)

I should know the importance of casting from my own experiences. My sample reel contains an inexpensive spot, filmed in Columbus, Ohio, for a small tax preparation service. The spot is far better than it deserved to be, thanks to a wonderful performance by the lead actor.

At the other end of the spectrum, however (and certainly not on my sample reel) was an ill-fated attempt on behalf of Jack-in-the-Box Restaurants (one of my first big-name clients) many years ago. I was certain that Read the rest of this entry »

New boss to GM agencies: no cash for clunkers!

In Ad Creative, Agency Biz on July 26, 2009 at 11:47 pm

Once again, the ad copywriter in me is perplexed. Yes, I believe there are far better ways to trigger behavior-influencing emotions than by simply listing product features. Still, one line in a recent Ad Age article made me laugh.

The article dealt with the trepidation GM agencies are feeling as they await the final verdict on their work and  futures after early criticism from new company Vice Chairman and marketing head  Bob Lutz. Someone familiar with his so called “old school” point of view issued an ominous warning.

“He favors beauty shots of products in ads and talk about the vehicle’s differentiating features,” the former associate said.

Oh, no. Not differentiating features. Anything but that! Read the rest of this entry »

Bet I could steal your “satisfied customers.”

In Agency Biz on June 8, 2009 at 11:46 am

I came across an interesting item in Chris Bell’s blog Customer Think that made me think. He points out that most “customer feedback” mechanisms are tiresome formalities. Customers usually have no real incentive to tell the truth, and the business frequently cares very little about the answer anyway.

That “how is everything?” from the restaurant server is a classic example.  Most people, even if they had just found a golf ball in their guacamole, would simply smile back and say “fine.” Most of us don’t like conflict, and after all, we rationalize, it’s probably not his or her fault!

And the server, who has been told to make this inquiry, isn’t expecting a real answer, either. Unless you send something back or demand to see a manager, it’s doubtful your comments make it to the kitchen door. Everyone just moves on, and no actual information has been exchanged. The restaurant gets a false sense of security. Read the rest of this entry »

Susan Boyle, Adam Lambert, and your business.

In Agency Biz on May 31, 2009 at 10:22 pm

So close.  Both of them with great voices, but in decidedly different packages. Susan Boyle and Adam Lambert each came within a quarter note of winning a major competition, which would have virtually ensured them of fame and financial success.

Now, however, each must figure out how to capitalize on what they have achieved thus far, before falling back in to relative obscurity and having to “start from scratch.” And suddenly, the clock is ticking.

Chances are Susan and Adam have made enough noise that many influential folks will be eager to help them cash in. But if you run an ad or PR agency, you’re on your own. And failure to seize momentum at the right time can be costly, or even fatal. Read the rest of this entry »