June, 2012

Norman Out, Alexander In As Martin Agency Creative Head

It was front-page news in the Richmond Times Dispatch this morning (albeit in the lower left-hand corner).

After less than three years as The Martin Agency’s chief creative officer, John Norman was leaving the ad agency, and Joe Alexander, executive creative director and Norman’s second in command was replacing him, at least temporarily.

Out as Martin CCO

According to the agency’s statement, the decision was mutual and the two parties were just “parting ways.” Citing personnel issues, the statement went on to say that “Norman has been with the agency for two and a half years and he has had a considerable, positive impact on this company. We absolutely wish him the best.”

Did he jump, or was he pushed?

As you might expect, tongues are already wagging about possible stories behind the story.

The disappearance of the digital version of the story from got them wagging even faster.

Lawyers aren’t amicable

According to, Norman’s departure was “amicable.”

But when things are amicable, do you call in a lawyer?

According to the Times Dispatch‘s Louis Llovio, Norman did. “‘I can’t comment on whether it was mutual or not,’ [Norman] said Thursday, adding that he was speaking with an attorney but had not decided to pursue legal action,” Llovio reported. Read more →

No Matter How The Supreme Court Rules On Obamacare, There’s An Ad For That

Regardless of how the Supreme Court rules this month — whether the justices repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) that 53% of likely voters hate,

Helth insurers have been poreparing for this Thursday

whether they uphold it, or whether they throw out just some parts (such as the individual mandate), health insurers’ advertising departments are ready.

These differing scenarios have “driven some companies to nearly double their research and PR budgets during the past six months,” Ad Age reports. And those budgets were already nothing to, um, sneeze at. Atlantic Information Services notes that the five biggest for-profit health insurers — Aetna, Cigna, Humana, UnitedHealthcare and Wellpoint — “alone spent a collective $366.8 million on advertising in 2011, up 51.6% from 2010.”

Different outcomes, same objective

They’ve used that money to develop different consumer advertising campaigns — one or more for each contingency.

As different as the possible Court outcomes may be, though, the contingency campaigns will have two things in common.

First, they’ll all be complying with the Association of Health Insurance Providers [AHIP] policy of creating a unified message.

Second, the unifying element in all the different messages will be to persuade consumers who didn’t have — and in millions of cases didn’t want — health insurance before Obamacare to start paying for it. This will bring in tons of added premium income, in many cases with little or no payout for benefits.

Contingency #1: Obamacare’s overturned

If the Court declares the whole law unconstitutional, some of these contingency campaigns will target market segments that Obamacare would have mandated coverage for.

One such segment will be young adults up to age 26, who would have been put on their parents’ health policy. Read more →

Snail Mail Beats E-mail In One Important Marketing Metric

Slow and steady wins the race, according to a DMA report.

Advertisers have been running away from traditional media and towards digital channels like lemmings headed for the nearest cliff. But according to a new Direct Marketing Association (DMA) report, maybe they shouldn’t.

Combining data from an online survey of 481 direct marketers and e-mail data, the DMA study came to a startling conclusion: The older medium is far and away the more effective one.

Snail mail’s more effective

With response rates averaging 3.42%, physical direct mail — snail mail — generates 10 to 30 times the number of results that e-mail does.

“[F]or every 1,000 existing customers receiving a direct-mail piece, 34 will respond on average,” the report says. “For email, the average response — measured by taking the click-through rate and multiplying the conversion per click — is 0.12%.”

So while a 1,000-piece paper mailing could be expected to draw some 34 responses (“responses” here being defined as sales, not just leads), only one e-mail blast recipient out of 1,000 would go from opening the email solicitation to clicking through to buying.

This is because, data mining and behavioral tracking techniques notwithstanding, traditional mailing lists give advertisers exponentially better Read more →

Just How Long Should A Campaign Slogan Be?

"Short enough to tweet" – a bug or a feature?

At a June 12 fundraiser in Maryland, Barack Obama criticized Mitt Romney’s campaign message for being too terse. “You can pretty much put their campaign on a tweet and have some characters to spare,” he declared.

Without getting into the merits of either campaign’s message, his charge is worth exploring. In messaging, political or otherwise, is less really more, or is less less? Is a terse message a bug or a feature?

There are several ways to look at it.

Good company

To begin with, America has a long history of successful presidential slogans that could have fit not only in a tweet, but on a bumper sticker, if either had existed at the time:

  • Tippecanoe and Tyler too (Harrison, 1840)
  • Don’t swap horses in midstream (Lincoln, 1864; Roosevelt, 1944; Bush, 2004)
  • Vote as you shot (Grant, 1868)
  • Four more years of the full dinner pail (McKinley, 1900)
  • He kept us out of war (Wilson, 1916)
  • Return to normalcy (Harding, 1920)
  • Keep cool and keep Coolidge (Coolidge, 1924)
  • Who but Hoover? (Hoover, 1928)
  • Happy days are here again (Roosevelt, 1932)
  • Give ’em hell, Harry! (Truman, 1948)
  • I like Ike (Eisenhower, 1952) Read more →

More Proof That Standout Advertising Works

Our television campaign for the Richmond Raiders indoor football team, running on cable remnant time, increased season ticket sales by 60% over previous year and home-game attendance an average of 33%.

Will Political Spots Squeeze Regular Advertisers Out Of Virginia Television?

The hurricane season started early this year. So did a perfect storm of factors that will inundate the Richmond and Virginia airwaves with commercials — a rising wave of political commercials that threatens to wash regular advertisers out of the picture, at least until November 7.

So much demand, so little time

What with local television buying on the upswing, national advertisers switching to spot buys, the Summer Olympics and the winter holiday gift-buying advertising, it was already going to be a very crowded year on the tube.

But now, thanks to two new factors, it looks like political advertisers could very well squeeze everyone else out. According to Washington Examiner staff writer Steve Contorno, “candidates and outside political groups are already scrambling to lock down television airtime for millions of dollars’ worth of campaign commercials that won’t hit the airwaves for months.”

Use it or lose it

Generally, television air time is sold by the rules of supply and demand. When demand is lax, prices go down. When it’s tight, they rise.

Except for political candidates’ commercials.

Federal law requires broadcasters to give candidates first priority when selling available air time, and sell it at their lowest rate-card rate. Political campaigns can’t bump commercial advertisers from time they’ve already bought, but they do get first crack at whatever’s open. Read more →