July, 2012

Soccer Jerseys, Not Bad Advertising Decisions, Cost Gm’s Cmo His Job

The weekend press release announcing GM global marketing chief Joel Ewanick’s abrupt dismissal unleashed waves of speculation in the advertising and automotive industries as to why.

Today, answers began to emerge.

It wasn’t because of bad advertising decisions, though Ewanick made plenty of those in his two-year reign.

It wasn’t even because a grandstanding, take-no-prisoners, bull-in-the-china-shop management style was a poor fit for a go-along-get-along, consensus-driven corporate culture.

No, the reason was soccer jerseys.

You read it right — soccer jerseys.

See the UK in your Chevrolet?

According to various Reuters reports, Ewanick’s work on what turned out to be his final project was the cause of his unceremonious dumping.

That project was an exclusive, seven-year deal to put “Chevrolet” on the back of British soccer team Manchester United’s uniform jerseys, starting 2014.

Man U has an estimated 659 million fans around the world. But in many parts of the world where they have fans, there are no Chevrolets. In the UK, GM sells Vauxhalls. On the European continent, they sell Opels (though not all that many of them; the divison’s hemorrhaging red ink cost two heads of European operations their careers in as many years). In Australia, they sell Holdens. Read more →

Questions Swirl About Gm Canning Ewanick As Global Marketing Head

In a weekend press release they probably hoped no one would notice, GM announced Sunday, July 29, that global marketing chief Joel Ewanick was leaving the company.

The timing didn’t work, because industry and business news media are now alive with speculation over whether he was allowed to resign or was unceremoniously dumped and, in either event, why. “A press release issued by GM states that Ewanick had ‘elected to resign immediately,’ while a report by Automotive News claims he was dismissed,” Autoblog reports.

All that spokesman Greg Martin would say was, “He failed to meet the expectations the company has of an employee,” which raises more questions than it answers.

But the answer may fall into one of three categories — or perhaps a combination of all three of them.

Theory 1: dumb decisions

The first possibility is plain old incompetence, which, historically, has rarely been a reason for getting fired from GM before.

But there’s no mistaking the fact that a large number of marketing decisions made on Ewanick’s watch were really dumb ones.

Ewanick green-lighted the vapid and meaningless “Chevy Runs Deep” campaign, which Autoblog calls “controversial” and “which critics have said falls short of providing an identity or narrative for GM’s mainstay brand,” according to industry paper of record Automotive News. Read more →

Online Yellow Pages Advertisers Put Their Money Where Consumers Aren’t

Based on what advertisers spend, Materials, Equipment & Supplies is the fifth most popular local category on’s online search directory. Based on what consumers click on, it doesn’t even make the top ten.

Financial Services is the seventh most popular category with advertisers, but only tenth most popular in consumer searches.

Restaurants and Beauty Services are, respectively, the third and fifth most clicked-on local categories,  but they’re not among the ten most advertised.

Those are among the findings of the new YP Local Insights Digital Report, as summarized July 26 by the Center for Media Research’s Research Brief e-newsletter.

What consumers want

Consumers have made Family Services (which can include everything from babysitting to elder care) the fastest growing local search category (up 164% in first quarter 2012), with Wedding Planning & Supplies (+76%), Pharmacies (+68%) and Security Services and Florists (each +59%) rounding out the top five.

Where consumers live

The biggest population centers aren’t the biggest centers of either online or mobile search. Read more →

Snail Mail Still Beats E-mail, But Not By As Much As Before

Snail mail isn’t what it used to be, but it still beats e-mail in many important ways.

That’s a key finding from the Direct Marketing Association’s just-released 2012 Response Rate Report.

Bad news and good news

The bad news about paper direct mail is that response rates have dropped nearly 25% over the past nine years. That and higher postage rates make for a lower return on investment.

But there’s good news, too: Snail mail still gets more response than e-mail blasts. Response rates for mailings averaged 3.4% to current-customer lists and 1.28% to new prospects.

Response rates for e-mails average 0.12% and 0.03% respectively.

Some forms of snail mail work better than others

Direct mailers have long believed that a mailing piece that stands out in the mailbox by virtue of being bigger or thicker than regular letters gets higher response. The new findings support this. Read more →

The Real Reason Political Commercials Look And Sound So Much Alike

Elizabeth Wilner probably watches a lot more political commercials than you do. As vice president of Kantar Media CMAG, which tracks and analyzes broadcast TV advertising content, placement and spending, she has to.

The process is to blame, not the content.

But if you’re paying any attention at all to the Romney and Obama television commercials, you’ve probably noticed the same thing she has:

Of the 27 spots aired by big-spending presidential advertisers over the past month, 24 have focused on an economic issue or issues. Seven different advertisers produced them. Yet so many draw from the same checklist. Superimposed statistics, charts and signs. Newspaper headlines and TV talkers. American workers, either stressed out at home (in attackers’ ads) or high-fiving the visiting President Barack Obama at work (in his own). And factories — lots of factories, loading docks and assembly lines, mostly abandoned but some humming (again, depending on whose ad they’re in).

Wilner attributes this sameness of look, sound and feel to a sameness in content; voter surveys show over and over again that the biggest national concern by far is the failing economy. “For the purposes of TV ads allowing mere seconds for explanations,” she writes, “there just aren’t a lot of pictures worth 1,000 jobs, much less millions of stimulus dollars, billions in Medicare commitments or trillions in debt. Not helping matters is that so many advertisers are producing so many ads about the economy that the go-to visuals feel exhausted.”

But is it really just a matter of the content driving the execution?

It wasn’t always this way

Political commercials don’t have to be visual clones of each other, differentiated only by audio track and supers.

In fact, for nearly half a century, they haven’t been.

The 1964 campaign, for example, saw the devastating “Daisy” spot that helped put the final nail in the Barry Goldwater presidential coffin.

Eight years later, the Nixon campaign’s commercials featured such unexpected visuals as the president’s passport and a George McGovern weathervane changing direction with the wind.

In 1984, Ronald Reagan’s campaign featured evocative shots of “Morning in America” to symbolize the nation’s economic and spiritual recovery under his first administration.

And in 1998, the George H. W. Bush campaign used original footage of pollution in Boston Harbor to refute Michael Dukakis’s claim of a record of proven competence as Massachusetts governor.

So if those campaigns could turn out arresting commercials with comparatively primitive video technology, why can’t the Obama and Romney campaigns and their super PAC allies today?

The answer lies not in the sameness of content, but in the sameness of process.

It’s the process, not the content

The great presidential-campaign advertising of the past was proactive. The campaigns figured out their main strategies — usually based on what they perceived to be the opponent’s biggest talking point or biggest weakness. Then they went out and shot their spots, post-produced them, and went with them for most if not all of the campaign.

They had to.

In pre-videotape 1964, for example, color correction, dissolves, titles and supers, and other effects were all done optically, on film — a process that took days, if you were lucky and it got done fast and right the first time. Getting 16-millimeter quantity prints to distribute to television stations took weeks.

Today, what-you-see-is-what-you-get nonlinear video technology, computer generation and a proliferation of “found object” stock and news footage combine to make it possible to produce commercials while-u-wait.

So one reason presidential advertisers churn out commercials that way is that they can.

Another is that they think they have to, for several reasons.

One is avoiding the McCain Mistake. In 2008, John McCain either failed or refused to answer attacks from his opponent. He ended up blowing a post-convention lead. That wasn’t the only reason, but it helped.

Unlike McCain, the Romney campaign commercials answer attacks the same day, or, at worst, the next. Ditto the Obama campaign. That leaves no time to shoot original footage, cast actors, scout locations, shoot — and even to think up non-superficial ideas.

No time or money to do better?

With today’s 24/7 news cycle, failing to respond quickly is tantamount to conceding the opponent’s claims. So speed takes precedence over creativity.

So does money.

Thanks to a quirk in the federal election laws, presidential candidates can’t sgtart spending really big bucks until after their parties’ conventions. Meanwhile, they have to make do with the money they have left over from the primaries. As an uncontested nominee, Obama’s comparatively rolling in dough. But Romney has to make do with what’s left over from an expensively contested primary campaign.

And every dollar that’s spent on production values, shooting original film or video, even paying a top-notch creative team to work for a week or so coming up with great concepts, is a dollar that can’t buy air time.

Like station-produced commercials with better lighting

The process is essentially the same one Channels 6, 8, 12 and 35 and Comcast cable use to produce commercials for local Richmond retailers: Take all of 15 minutes to throw together a script from laundry-list sales points, send a two-man video crew to spend all of two hours shooting talking heads (in this case the retail owners) or show-the-factory B-roll, throw it together in a two-hour edit, and you’re done.

The big difference is that the presidential commercials are properly lit, and a professional audio engineer doing the mix knows how to equalize frequencies so that the voice-over sounds as loud as in commercials produced by professionals who know what they’re doing.

Pick two out of three

There’s an expression in the advertising industry (and probably others as well): “Quick. Cheap. Good. Pick any two.”

In an election on which so much of America’s future is hinging, voting citizens deserve not only good, but better.

P&g’s Olympics Ad Campaign Could Destroy Its Reputation

Over the years, Procter &Gamble has built a reputation within the advertising industry — for producing commercials that are strategically smart but creatively dumb.

This campaign undermines everything Procter & Gamble advertising has stood for. Thank goodness!

Historically, they treated each advertising campaign like a scientific laboratory experiment, where the only variables allowed were ones they could control and adjust to see what effect each would have on the final result in the marketplace.

Creative quality was not such a variable, so they treated it as a constant.

A reputation for constant dullness…

For each commercial they ended up running, they’d commission literally hundreds of storyboards on many different strategies. From this, they’d narrow down to a handful to submit to focus group testing, then cull further to produce two or three to run in test markets. They’d determine which parts of which commercials worked best, then play mix and match to end up building a final commercial the way Dr. Frankenstein built men.

The results were just what they wanted: constant. Constantly safe, constantly middle-of-the-road, constantly predictable, constantly boring. And if they were constantly too dull to catch consumers’ attention, well, as the world’s largest advertiser, P&G could afford to keep running and running and running and running them until viewers had no escape.

…shot down in flames


Now P&G has launched what Global Brand-Building Officer Marc Pritchard describes as “the most far-reaching and ambitious campaign” in the package-goods giant’s history.

It covers 34 brands, runs in 73 countries — and breaks just about every advertising rule the P&G has imposed on its agencies over the decades.

And Procter & Gamble should be proud of that.

Zigging when everyone else zags

At a time when television screens are inundated with spots showing athletes doing their thing and glorifying their brands’ roles in making that possible; when the air waves are filled with sanctimonious ads lecturing about such highfalutin’ subjects as Diversity, Physical Activity and Health; when every advertiser is a “proud sponsor of the 2012 Olympics”; P&G’s ad campaign is doing something completely different — connecting with its target audience. Read more →

What If All Ads Looked Like Apple Ads?

Apple Computer has a very distinct approach to print advertising.

Visually, it’s clean, spare, minimalist, practically screaming, “Look how cool and hip I am!”

It’s worked well for them, because — especially since its software has become less intuitive and, for some basic applications, more Windows-like over the years — self-conscious coolness, hipness and non-bulky, non-clunky design have become main selling points.

Unlike other digital products, the way iPads, iPhones, iPods, iMacs, and MacBook Pros look has been an integral part of the product development. So all too often, all it takes is one look to get otherwise savvy consumers eagerly drooling to buy one.

Would that approach work for other products?

A brand-new blog just starting to go viral on the Internet — — shows that it wouldn’t.

It doesn’t say why, though.

While the look of the Apple print ads is the latest cool, their strategy is very primitive, dating back over a hundred years to the turn of the 20th Century, when the “strategy” was, show the product. Period.

That may be okay when it’s the product’s look that sells it. But how many things do you buy for something other than their looks? Read more →

Richmond Chamber Of Commerce Commissions, Then Censors, Outdoor Board

Shortly after commissioning, producing and posting an outdoor billboard along one of the interstate highways passing through Richmond, the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce ordered it taken down — and for the wrong reason.

The whole episode is a classic demonstration of what not to do in an advertising campaign.

Wrong strategy

The billboard was one of several created under the Chamber’s i.e.* initiative, whose stated purpose was “to enliven the drive through Richmond with a fun, creative message that could potentially convert travelers to tourists.”


I’m fighting traffic down the I-95 from New York to Miami, I have motel reservations for a midway stopover, and I’m going to cancel the motel, change my whole travel schedule and rearrange all my appointments to accommodate an impromptu stopover I’m going to make because of four words I saw in ten seconds driving past a billboard at 65 miles an hour.

Wrong medium

The board’s message is nice and short, which is important for outdoor, but all it does is command an audience to do what the advertiser wants it to do. No benefit, either stated or implied. No reason why. Just because. Read more →

Olympic Ad Campaigns Feature History, Politcal Correctness And Hypocrisy

It’s two weeks before the official start of the London Olympics, but Olympics-themed television commercials are already saturating the airwaves from Richmond, Virginia, to Richmond, California, to Richmond, England.

The biggest of the campaigns airing gravitate to one of two themes — Olympic history and political correctness. One, in fact, manages to combine both.

Omega’s twofer

Omega starts with one piece of history and adds another. The first is that they’ve been timing the Olympic games for 80 years. On top of that, they added a piece of musical history, namely, the Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up” as the audio track.

The video supplies the political correctness. It’s a montage of multinational, multicultural, multiethnic, minority and majority, male and female athletes psyching themselves up for the start of their respective events. The athletes include “Chinese diver Qiu Bo, U.S. swimmer Natalie Coughlin, British heptathlete Jessica Ennis, U.S. sprinter Tyson Gay, South African swimmer Chad Le Clos and U.S. pole vaulter Jenn Suhr,” according to Omega’s description of the commercial on YouTube.

The only explicit message is that Omega has been the official timer of 25 Olympic games.

An audience of two

Other major advertisers’ Olymlics messages are less straightforward, but they seem to be talking to a target audience of two — First Lady and anti-obesity crusader Michelle Obama and Michael Bloomberg, the New York Mayor who legally banned transfats, salt and now large sodas from public eating places citywide.

As makers of the number-one and number-two brands of soda (Coke and Diet Coke), Coca-Cola is feeling particularly defensive. Read more →

New Tablet Use Report Has Good News For Advertisers

More Americans are buying tablets, using tablets, and researching and buying products based on advertising they’ve seen on their tablet screens, says a July 4 brief from the Center

More users, more women, more Andriod, more ad response

for Media Research. This creates new opportunities for online advertisers.

That’s the conclusion of a nationally representative online survey of 2,540 people conducted by the Online Publishers Association in partnership with research firm Frank N. Magid Associates.

More users

Last year, 12% of the online population owned or used a tablet regularly. This year, tablet adoption is up to 31% (74 million). By next June, it’s expected to be 47%, or 117 million tablet users.

More women

While last year, women owned 40% of the tablets in use, this year’s percentage — 45% — is one-eighth higher.

More than half of the consumers (52%) who plan to buy a tablet within the next 12 months are women.

More tablet use

Increasingly, owners prefer their tablets over computers, mobile phones, e-readers, printed media and other, larger-format, sources of long-form video. Almost 25 million consumers — 87% of tablet users — check for content and information regularly, while 93% have downloaded apps.

Surprisingly, even though tablets were originally sold for their mobility, 67% of owners use them at home. Read more →