Just as today’s musical artists resurrect the gems of giants from yesteryear (like Jack White’s cover here of Buddy Holly), graphic artists find unique ways to revitalize works from an earlier time.  An especially exciting locally based resource hit my radar when I was Christmas shopping in a local book store last month and so I bought a gift for myself — Fading Ads of Philadelphia by Lawrence O’Toole. This great coffee table chronicle captures some of the city’s surprisingly still vivid outdoor ads from another era. O’Toole has focused on ads painted on brick, some of which have not completely stood the test of time. But others are more than holding their own.

Fading Ads of Philadelphia

Fading Ads of Philadelphia by Lawrence O'Toole chronicles much of the city's advertising past.

Ironically, the same week I picked up his book, I happened to be paying a pilgrimage to Franklin Fountain for ice cream following a family outing to the Philadelphia Orchestra’s exceptional holiday concert. Returning to a rare available parking spot on North Front Street, I noticed some still prominent painted messages about metals on the white columns of the building near my meter. Turns out it had been home to Nathan Trotter Metals, a company that is still in business and operating in Coatesville and featured on pages 50 and 51 of Fading Ads of Philadelphia. Small world.

Just in case you have any difficulty tracking down a copy of O’Toole’s book published in 2012, the great news is that he has been documenting old ads on buildings in this city online for some time via a blog at GhostSignProject.com. Like all good branders and designers, O’Toole gives you many ways to follow the project, including Twitter, Facebook, and even soon an iPhone app that will let you capture your own sightings of old building-based outdoor ads. But I particularly encourage you to read the book, because there are a couple of very good Forwards, one by John Langdon that devotes a lot to typographic history, including somewhat recent history in this city at Armstrong Typography, and another by Frank Jump that touches on early national ad history contributions at Philadelphia’s NW Ayer. It is very cool that old Philadelphia ad history is new again.

One final thought — I am tired of hearing digital-only folks declare that print is dead. As great as digital is, its pixels are a lot more ephemeral than the inks used for books, magazines, billboards, and even outdoor murals. Thanks to Lawrence O’Toole for reminding us and finding so many amazing supporting examples.

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This time of year, it is easy to see need all around. Soup kitchens. Food banks. Underprivileged kids whose family finances cannot otherwise afford Christmas.  As an agency, we’d like to spotlight one more — wounded veterans or the widows of fallen warriors. In other words, those who have already made huge or ultimate sacrifices for all of us.

CNN ran (and is running) a remarkable hour-long special (December 8 and 15) about an inspirational non-profit out of Texas called Operation Finally Home. Dan Wallrath, the founder and CEO, is a custom home builder who was so moved by the needs of a young man returning disabled from military service that he launched this nationwide initiative to put as many deserving wounded veterans and their young families into mortgage-free homes custom built to ease their return home. Wallrath admits he has an impossible dream to hope them all, but he is hell-bent on helping as many of them as possible.

The Butz family, recipients of Operation Finally Home's first home in Wyoming

The Butz family, recipients of Operation Finally Home's first home in Wyoming

Newton first became aware of Operation Finally Home last summer when friends of our agency were announced as recipients of the first OFH home to be built in Wyoming.  James Butz, retired Chief Petty Officer, USCG and his wife Donna, were nominated, vetted, and awarded the mortgage-free home because of their past and continued involvement in helping other veterans coming home. This deserving hometown hero served his nation proudly and was severely injured in the line of duty. Wounded in May 2003 while deployed under OPERATION NOBLE EAGLE boarding a Korean cargo tanker bound for the Middle East (suspected of having weapons components on board, possibly nuclear) off the coast of Hawaii; his right leg was smashed between vessels in heavy seas; he also injured his neck and back. Jim has undergone 19 surgeries and several bone infections, one of which was nearly fatal; he walks with a cane; he faces additional future surgeries and likely amputation in the years ahead. Jim and Donna both actively assist other veterans (injured or not) and their families to settle back into civilian life again.

McClure Custom Builders is managing the building of the first home with support from Wyoming Building Solutions. John and Robin McClure have thrown themselves into the effort full tilt. However, each and every one of Operation Finally Home’s homes requires financial support from the public. And the Butz home is hopefully the first of many in Wyoming and one more in a long string of an ever-growing list nationwide.

Operation Finally Home could use individual donations, as well as corporate sponsors, in its mighty endeavor. In the spirit of holiday giving, we encourage you to contribute here (and specify WYOMING to earmark your gift for Wyoming’s first of many homes for wounded veterans and their families).

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Newton Associates holiday card 2004

This card reprinted an inspiring agency contribution to the 1974 Eagles yearbook and made an amazing link.

We’re coming up on nearly a decade since our agency sent out a holiday card to clients that carried an extra-special meaning and message, linking past with present via an inexplicable moment of foreshadowing. It also chronicles the generosity of Leonard Tose, the Eagles organization, and fans, the vision of Drs. Audrey Evans and Milton H. “Mickey” Donaldson, and the history behind the Philadelphia Eagles’ “Fly For Leukemia” and the birth of the nation’s first Ronald McDonald House right here in Philadelphia. I would normally save this for the holiday season, except I have an ulterior motive. I am hoping any good karma it generates will motivate readers to visit my personal fundraising page for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Light The Night walk to raise money for treatment of all forms of blood cancer. Here is the link if you find yourself so moved:

 

http://pages.lightthenight.org/epa/Phi13/dditzler

 

And here is the holiday card retelling. . .

A TRUE STORY ABOUT THE MOST IMPORTANT WIN IN PHILADELPHIA EAGLES’ HISTORY.

WITH HOLIDAY GREETINGS FROM YOUR FRIENDS AT NEWTON ASSOCIATES

I’d like to share a story with you. It isn’t a holiday tale, but it is appropriate for this annual time of reflection. This story is personal, remarkable, humbling, and downright Capra-esque.

It begins back in the 1970s in the early days of Newton Associates when Jon Newton and Harry Streamer had some high profile local accounts in the Philadelphia Eagles and the Philadelphia Phillies. It was a heady time, especially for the sports fans in the office. But it wasn’t all fun and games. Through the Eagles in particular, Jon and Harry became involved in some worthy charities that the football club was helping to launch. Personal involvement at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia led Eagles executives to start Eagles Fly for Leukemia and to collaborate with McDonald’s on the first-ever Ronald McDonald House, which as you probably know provides a home away from home for families who need a nearby place to stay while their sick child is hospitalized for treatment.

Back then, Newton Associates created promotional materials for both charities. And in the 1974 Eagles yearbook, in an article reprinted here, Jon chronicled the efforts of a lot of generous people, who opened their hearts and their pocketbooks on behalf of numerous sick children and their families.

If you have a moment, I encourage you to read this article; not because it is Jon’s finest prose, but because it is filled with inspirational examples of people making a huge difference. I came across it myself going through agency samples in preparation for a new business pitch. When I read it, I did so with more than casual interest. And by the end of the article, I’d had a genuine epiphany.

For the reasons why, you need to fast forward from the 1970s to September 1999. When my youngest of three sons was a month shy of his first birthday, he developed some unusual bruising on his right thigh. A visit to our family doctor led to testing at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and a diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common form of childhood leukemia. Needless to say, this was devastating news and a difficult time for my family. Thanks to the medical team at CHOP, my incredibly strong and determined wife, Drina, and the assistance of a network of amazing friends, church members, neighbors, and in some cases, total strangers, we somehow managed to complete three and one-half years of chemo treatment for my son. In remission for the start of this protocol, he remains healthy and cancer free today, just celebrated his sixth birthday, and entered kindergarten this fall.

There’s more to this story, however, and I continue to wrestle with it in my own mind to define whether it represents a mind-bending coincidence or my own personal version of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” At the end of Jon’s article, he concludes with a hypothetical example to encourage readers to keep on giving because back in 1974, there were a lot more sick children to cure and many more medical advances needed. He gave this hypothetical sick child a name — Peter.

That just happens to be the name of my youngest son.

I don’t see any point in debating the unfathomable odds of picking that very same name, 24 years apart. I do know that the odds of a child surviving common childhood leukemia increased from 50% in 1974 to well over 90% when my son was diagnosed in 1999. And I know that those statistics didn’t increase by coincidence, but rather through the hard work and generosity of a never-ending stream of people, some of them encouraged no doubt by the early work for Eagles charities done by Jon and Harry.

It doesn’t hurt once in awhile to remind ourselves that we can make a positive difference in each other’s lives in ways we can never ever begin to imagine. And that something good we do today can yield surprising results even decades later. It is in this spirit that your friends at Newton Associates would like to make a donation to Ronald McDonald House Charities. In honor of Jon Newton and Harry Streamer for their early efforts on behalf of that organization. And in your honor as a valued friend of this agency. Best of the season and the New Year to you!

Sincerely,

Dan Ditzler

Newton Associates

 

Philadelphia Eagles 1974 Yearbook

The 1974 Yearbook chronicled the Philadelphia Eagles efforts on behalf of "Eagles Fly for Leukemia" and the first Ronald McDonald House.

And reprinted from the 1974 Philadelphia Eagles yearbook. . .

Reflections In A Passed Hat

by Jon Newton

Maybe you were there.

It happened on Sunday afternoon, November 25, 1973. The Eagles were taking on the New York Giants in front of a Vet full of typical fans.

It was a 100 percent football day. The Eagles had just come off a loss to Dallas. Earlier in the season they were tied by the Giants. The fans definitely — but definitely! — were in no mood for another tie. Everybody was still smarting from the embarrassing 42-41 loss to the Giants in Princeton in the pre-season.

Just before the kickoff, an announcement was made that the hat would be passed during the game. It was hard to believe. In the midst of 20th-century football with all its sophistication, in front of 63,000 hard-nosed fans, the Eagles were passing the hat!

Most of the newer football fans in the Vet that day probably didn’t even know what passing the hat meant. Some of the old-timers probably just smiled, remembering when that’s the way it used to be. Not in pro ball so much, but certainly in semi-pro and neighborhood ball.

The fact is, passing the hat is an American tradition as old as the origins of football itself. When pro ball was trying to get started along the railroad tracks of the Midwest, and on empty lots and high-school fields in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York, passing the hat was it. There was no other team income.

The very first professional football game of record was a hat passer. Latrobe, PA August 31, 1895; Latrobe 12, Jeanette zip. The teams split the hat and divided it up among the players. Latrobe quarterback John Brailier, who was guaranteed ten bucks, went home high man.

Seventy-nine years later, with $12.50 seats, $100,000 ball players, and multi-million dollar television rights, passing the hat — for any reason — seemed pretty bush. But maybe that helped to make what happened at the Vet that day even more significant. Oh there was football all right. Plenty of it. And there really was a collection taken up in the stands. Actually, the two came together beautifully. Because just as the hats were going through the crowd, Gabriel uncorked a scoring pass to Zimmerman. People were on their feet, cheering and emptying their pockets simultaneously.

The Eagles won that day. In a small measure, so did mankind. Because when the game ended it was Eagles 20, Giants 16, leukemia $20,055. Twentieth-century football and traditional American hat passing had gotten along fine. Just fine.

It proved something. It proved that the football fan, the ultimate ball player, is still willing to make the payments. That he is still the greatest source of revenue — for professional football and for charity. Sure, he’ll bitch about what inflation has done to the price of ball park beer and hot dogs. And rightly so. But he still has the capacity to dig into his wallet and contribute this much and more, to help fight some disease that he has trouble spelling, much less understanding. It say something for the football fan. It says something for the American way.

Most of the time the fan doesn’t get any recognition for tossing his well-earned money into the hat of a charitable cause. It is the popular high-salaried player, donating his time to appear at fund-raising functions, who gets the acclaim. Let us acclaim both. Their contributions are equal.

The hat passing was the first really organized move in an effort that has come to be known as “Eagles Fly For Leukemia.” It’s hard to say precisely how the effort got started and who was responsible. Right there from the beginning was ex-Eagles player Freddy Hill. It was Hill who announced that the hat would be passed at the Vet last November. Hill is very close to the whole thing because he’s very close to his daughter. Kim Hill is eight years old. She has leukemia.

Fred Hill, along with his neighbor, Stan Lane, has been trying to raise funds to fight leukemia ever since his daughter was diagnosed five years ago. Back then it was just the two of them — one man with a very personal stake in a victory over leukemia; one friend who wanted to help. They stomped the neighborhoods, put out coin boards with Eagles emblems on them, and gathered players and wives together for fund-raising fashion shows. They did as much as two guys could. And they raised some money.

But leukemia is a big disease. It would take big money to beat it. And that would take Eagles participation in a big way.

Last fall Freddy Hill made his case, as only as man with his singularly heavy burden could, to Jim Murray, Eagles administrative assistant. Murray got involved. Instantly. Completely. In turn, he involved Eagles owner Leonard Tose. Tose involved Roman Gabriel and Mike McCormack. They involved the whole team. Doctors Audrey E. Evans and Milton H. Donaldson, oncologist and assistant oncologist at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, got involved. Some pretty important people and some pretty big organizations also got involved. But greater than the sum of all these, the average Philadelphia Eagles football fan got involved.

Joe Scirrotto is an average Eagles fan who runs a Gulf station at Rising Sun and Van Kirk in the Northeast. He has a great sense of humor. Ask him for a key to the restroom and his eyes narrow in mock seriousness.

“You’re in luck,” he says. “I got one left.”

Joe Scirrotto has an even greater sense of obligation. By the time you read this he will have raised over $10,000 for “Eagles Fly For Leukemia.”

That’s a real piece of work. But then Joe Scirrotto is a real piece of work. He thinks somewhere between Norman Vincent Peale and P.T. Barnum. Last year, just about the time the leukemia thing was getting off the ground, Joe saw some of the fun going out of his business. He had also seen the life go out of six of his customers and relatives of customers because of leukemia. Scirrotto decided to somehow do something about both. “Eagles Fly For Leukemia” became his vehicle.

Scirroto began by donating one cent on every gallon of Gulftane — a brand being discontinued — his station pumped. That wasn’t enough, so Joe started badgering the Eagles office with things to do.

He got the Eagles helmet cart up to his station and charged for kids to have pictures taken in it. He got football players to make personal appearances. He sold Eagles memorabilia ranging from knit hats, to decals, to color photos of Roman Gabriel. He plastered his gas station with so many posters and handmade signs that it became hard to tell it was a gas station. It still wasn’t enough.

When Gulftane ran out, Joe carried his cent-a-gallon donation policy over to the regular brand. . .pretty remarkable since he was already selling it at 49.9, probably the lowest price in the city. But again, it wasn’t enough. Scirrotto began to conduct weekly raffles: a set of radial tires, 100 gallons of gas, 50 gallons of gas. When somebody gave him a load of hot dogs, he raffled them off in 30 pound lots. He raffled off glassware and tableware as well. A customer brought in some stained-glass green and white eagles she had made. Joe sold them at $10 a copy.

Another vendor donated a lot of penny bubble gum for Joe to do with as he saw fit. Joe saw fit to sell it at 10 cents a piece, two for a quarter. The sense of humor never faded. Neither did the drive. He sold all the bubble gum and looked around for more. More of anything. His calls to the Eagles office became increasingly frequent — more photos, more decals, more players. Once he asked for eight players to appear at the same time to sign autographs. Can you believe it? In the middle of an NFL strike he wanted eight players!

Scirrotto set himself a September 15 deadline to raise the $10,000. What’s he doing now that it’s all over? You got to know Joe Scirrotto. For him it isn’t over until there is a cure for leukemia. Right now he’s probably still trying to get those eight players. So what if it’s the middle of the season!

If an average guy with an above-average sense of duty like Joe Scirrotto could raise $10,000 would could some carefully selected high-powered organizations do? Jim Murray and Hugh Ortman, special projects coordinator hired to run “Eagles Fly For Leukemia,” decided to find out.

Murray and Ortman made a pitch to NFL Charities. It was unusual. NFL Charities does a lot of good work on a national basis; getting involved in something as pinpointed as “Eagles Fly For Leukemia” was new to them. The proposal went to the League Office in New York. Murray and Ortman went too, and walked away with $20,000 earmarked to sponsor a fully-qualified doctor to do basic and clinical leukemia research for one year. Dr. Allan H. Arbeter started the job early in September at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, a designated national cancer research center.

Once the Eagles players and fans really began to fly for leukemia they found they were not flying alone.

Bobby Clarke, the NHL’s most valuable player, presented $400 in cash collected from his Flyer teammates. A midget football league in Kensington passed the hat at its championship game and then went door-to-door. They collected $1,000. A mini-bike raffle conducted by a Harley-Davidson dealer in Norristown raised another $300. The South West Used Auto Parts Association asked for Bill Bradley or Po James to appear at their annual banquet. Both appeared and the fund was $1,500 richer. A 24-hour basketball marathon run by St. Bernard’s CYO raised $315. Several Eagles players went to the opening of Dunfey’s Sheraton Inn at the airport. They took a fish bowl along and came back with $700 in it. A Villanova inter-fraternity softball marathon was rained out but still managed to collect $285. Liberty Mutual Insurance raised $200 in a social club raffle. Roman Gabriel and Hugh Ortman worked out a golf tournament with Radley Run Country Club. It raised over $3,000. A gal named Barbara Kuchenmeister took it upon herself to organize a dinner-dance in Glenside. Roman Gabriel made an appearance. So did Steve Zabel and his wife, Susan. So did 450 people. In the end, over $7,000 was raised. The Vet ushers were so impressed by the November 25 hat passing that they donated part of their pay for the day. Pop Warner League football players of the Northeast Suburban Athletic Conference going door-to-door with a goal of collecting $15,000.

Not all the donations to “Eagles Fly For Leukemia” have been in the form of money. They have been no less valuable.

Continental Bank officiated at the Vet hat passing and provided tellers to count the money. It continues to provide free banking services to the fund. Stan Lane enlisted over 500 volunteers to help with collections and various administrative chores. Hundreds of others have called to help.

Everyone who did anything deserves a mention here. Unfortunately, that is impossible — partly because there are so many and partly because many people joined forces as an organization in order to accomplish more than they could individually. One such organization was McDonald’s.

There’s a sign in front of all McDonald’s. You’ve seen it — something about 18 billion served. It refers to the number of hamburgers McDonald’s has served. The Philadelphia area McDonald’s could well put up another sign about the hundreds of leukemia victims they have served through their efforts in “Eagles Fly For Leukemia.”

Remember the green shakes McDonald’s serves every year during St. Patrick’s Day week? This year there was something different about them. For one thing Roman Gabriel went on television and radio to push them. Now any day you can get Roman Gabriel to go on TV and push anything of any color, you have to do something pretty special in return. McDonald’s did. They donated the profit on every green shake served. It came to a fantastic $32,218.30.

Later in the year, Harold Carmichael made an appearance at the opening of a new McDonald’s at 13th and Market. Half the proceeds of the day were donated — another $1,900.

The money raised by the McDonald’s operators and managers who participated in “Eagles Fly For Leukemia” went to purchase a guest house near The Children’s Hospital. The house, now being converted into a boarding-type facility, will be called “Ronald McDonald House,” and will be used by leukemic children and their parents who must travel long distances to the hospital for treatment. It is impossible to image the emotional and financial strain  on parents whose children are stricken with leukemia. The Ronald McDonald House will help relieve both, by providing free accommodations to parents and providing the opportunity for them to share thoughts with people who carry a similar burden.

Up until a few months ago the Ronald McDonald House was just that. A house. The interior needed a lot of work before anyone could live there. John Canuso, a South Jersey builder, heard about the need at The Children’s Hospital. He goes there often. His daughter has leukemia. John Canuso is completely renovating the inside of Ronald McDonald House. Free.

The Ronald McDonald House was based on a concept of Dr. Evans and Donaldson. Jim Murray took the idea to advertising man Don Tuckerman. He took it to the McDonald’s operators and managers. Green shakes became the vehicle to make the idea a reality. It is typical of the many great ideas that have come from “Eagles Fly For Leukemia.”

Jim Murray still had what was perhaps the best idea: to get the Eagles team and the Eagles fans pulling together for leukemia in the first place. If that is true, his second best idea had to be the victory party held after the successful hat passing at the Vet. It proved to be the biggest single money maker so far.

Like everything else in “Eagles Fly For Leukemia,” this victory party involved more giving than celebrating. It was decided to tie in two elements of the party, a $1,000-per-couple ticket charge and a fashion show, with kids phoning in pledges directly to their favorite Eagles players. Some way was needed to get the word out on a broad scale. WIP provided that way. It threw the efforts of the entire station behind the project, including a full night of air time for the victory party “radiothon.” Sixty telephones were installed in the Eagles offices to handle the response. As it turned out that wasn’t enough.

To handle the tickets for the party a committee was formed by Len Tose’s friends — Herb Barness, Sidney Forstater, Whitney Kerchner, Harold Honickman, Billy Hyndman, III, John Taxin, Wally Leventhal, and Roy Peraino — all men who know other men who could afford $1,000 for tickets. Together they sold 40 of them.

The radiothon got an early start with a plug on the Eagles-49ers game a week before the party. The phones started ringing. Along the way Dandy Don Meredith plugged it again on NFL Monday Night Football. More calls came in from that, and from almost incessant mentioning of the radiothon by WIP personalities.

But it really wasn’t until about 7:00 pm, December 5, the night of the victory party, that all hell broke loose. Ever see 60 phones light up and stay lighted for hours on end? It was like an early Christmas with thousands of Santas calling in presents. The party was a long one. When it was over, more than $80,000 had been raised. The Eagles weren’t flying for leukemia anymore. They were soaring!

To date, better than $200,000 has been raised. That’s a lot of money. It might help to know where it’s all going.

It’s all going — every cent of it — to equip the leukemia in-patient, out-patient, and research laboratory facilities at the new Children’s Hospital, 34th and Civic Center Boulevard. Every cent? That means every cent after expenses, right? No. It means every cent, period. All the costs and expenses of “Eagles Fly For Leukemia,” and they are considerable, are coming out of Leonard Tose’s pocket. He wouldn’t have it any other way. And because of the kind of man Len Tose is, we’ll never know the value of his contribution in dollars and cents.

We can’t even guess what his bill will be. The salary of a full-time coordinator. The cost of telephones. The tab for good and drink for hundreds of people at the victory party. Secretarial labor. The cost of thousands of  Eagle souvenirs. The cost of making his players available for personal appearances. It’s all on Len Tose.

The $200,000 raised so far is a lot, but it is not enough. Not nearly enough. What is the goal then? For Dr. Audrey E. Evans, a most remarkable woman who heads the oncology department at The Children’s Hospital, anything would have been a godsend. The day she told Freddy Hill it would cost $800,000 to equip the entire oncology floor it was beyond her wildest dreams that this would become the “Eagles Fly For Leukemia” goal. Freddy Hill never dreamed of it either. Jim Murray saw the possibilities. Len Tose made it definite. This, then, is the goal. $800,000.

And it will take every penny of the goal to do the job. Leukemia treatment and research requires sums of money that boggle the mind.

A simple microscope with a dual-reading head (so it can be used simultaneously for clinical research and teaching) costs $2,500. The hospital has three; it should have twice that many. A refrigerated ultra-centrifuge used to differentially separate the proteins in biological fluids is a basic tool of leukemia research. It costs a basic $15,000. Most of the other sophisticated equipment carries a similar price tag. Still, these are the low-end items. A life island unit, which Dr. Evans describes as “a special area we set aside for the little people who require very special isolated treatment,” costs $50,000. It only accommodates two children.

The treatment of leukemia is also incredibly expensive. The cost of an average visit to the oncology out-patient clinic is over $300. Some current leukemia chemotherapy requires a drug so expensive that it is impossible to buy. The value placed on it is so high that no one could possibly afford it, so the government has to make it available at no cost.

There is no known cure for leukemia, a disease that causes white cells to multiply in number to a point where they displace other normal blood-forming elements. Most of us know leukemia as cancer of the blood. It actually starts in the bone marrow. This year 350,000 people will die from cancer — about one person every two minutes. Of these, over three thousand will be children. most of them will die from leukemia.

Is it all worth it, then? As cruel as that question may seem, isn’t it possible that leukemia is a disease for which there is no cure now and perhaps never will be?

Consider a child with leukemia. Let’s call him Peter. As little as 25 years ago leukemia would have been fatal to him. Anywhere from six weeks to six months after diagnosis. Peter would have been dead. Today, he has a 50 percent chance of surviving for at least four years after diagnosis. By the measure of a healthy child these are still pretty rotten odds. But in the measurement of progress it is nothing short of miraculous. Because for Peter there is now hope where once there was none. Hell yes, it’s worth it.

When the Eagles were Saints. Len Tose and other benefactors help Dr. Audrey Evans battle leukemia in a big and lasting way at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

When the Eagles were Saints. Len Tose and other benefactors help Dr. Audrey Evans battle leukemia in a big and lasting way at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Dr. Audrey Evans knows it’s worth it. She doesn’t talk about curing a child with leukemia, but she never stops talking about the hope for a cure. It is not a false hope. The cure for leukemia has to be just around the corner. But which corner? It will take time and money to find out. For now the best doctors can do for a child with leukemia is achieve a remission — an arresting of the disease and a rollback of its effects. For how long? It varies. The progress made in lengthening remission time has been remarkable. But it is still never long enough.

Dr. Milton H. “Mickey” Donaldson knows about periods of remission and the hopes of lengthening them. He has what must be the toughest job in the world. Mickey Donaldson helps kids battle against leukemia. He never wins. The best he can do is prolong the ultimate defeat. How many of us could do this job — a job that is measured by how long it takes a child to die.

Mickey Donaldson doesn’t see his job that way. He talks instead about how long he can keep a child alive. Because for every minute gained there is the chance that a new drug, a new method of therapy, a cure, will end the fight for good.

Mickey Donaldson’s children are what “Eagles Fly For Leukemia” is all about. They are the reason why the hat has to keep passing. It must stop only long enough to be emptied, and then it must be passed again. And each time you put something in it, a child with leukemia might live a little longer. It is the only way in God’s earth that we can actually buy time. If we spend enough, we may buy that child a complete life.

It’s not so remote to think of it all in a football context. You’re losing and it’s a fourth and inches situation. There isn’t any real question is there?

You go for it.

Philadelphia Eagles Fly For Leukemia

Philadelphia Eagles Fly For Leukemia

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I am about to piss off 1,200 CEOs. Or I will if any of the participants in the “2013 Global Marketing Effectiveness” online survey read this blog. A short article in BtoB Magazine summarizes the results of that study with a gut-punch headline reporting that “78% of CEOs say ad agencies not performance-driven enough.”

But first some advice to ad agency CEOs — get off your asses and start educating prospects and clients what it is that we do. I know you are already spread thinner than private label peanut butter, but prepare to add proselytizing about the power of advertising (not just your agency’s credentials) to that daily to-do list. Advertising is the business of great ideas. Ideas that stop people in their tracks. Ideas that inspire people to take action (including making purchases). Ideas that build brand loyalty. Ideas that cause other shops to subsequently copy and ultimately water down what was original and ground-breaking. Ideas that often scare C-level execs looking for immediate results. Clearly, when 936 CEOs (or 78% of 1,200 for those CEOs who think agency people can’t quantify) believe our business does not focus on generating quantifiable business results, we all have our work cut out for us.

The survey went on to add that 76% of respondents believe agencies are not business-pragmatic enough, 74% think agencies are disconnected from short and medium-term business realities, and 72% say agencies are not as data and science-driven as expected. To that I would add 87% of the same CEOs believe agencies are as worthless as chewing gum (or worse) on the bottom of their shoes. The study noted that the 1,200 CEOs represented small, medium, and large companies globally. So, it doesn’t matter whether they answer to a board and investors or to themselves as entrepreneurs, these CEOs don’t believe agencies have anything much of value to bring to the table. What would John Wanamaker say, who recognized that 50% of his advertising budget was wasted but was satisfied because the other 50% was working wonders?

Don Draper would answer a call for performance results with storyboards that tell stories.

Don Draper would answer a call for performance results with storyboards that tell stories.

More importantly, what would MadMen’s Don Draper do? I think he would turn the tables and ask tough questions of today’s CEOs. Clearly, we are living in the age of data and with so much of it at their disposal, CEOs have become know-it-alls. Miserly, risk-averse, short-sighted, attention-deficit, know-it-alls. Here is a list of additional questions that the Fournaise Marketing Group might have added  to their survey if Don Draper had gotten his hands on it.

Have you ever truly partnered with an agency before? Explained what your unique business challenges are, helped educate them about your business and industry and competitors, and made them an integral part of your team?

Do you realize that if you devalue marketing and entrust it to junior people inside your own company, who parcel out parts and projects to a variety of firms, your branding, corporate identity, and overall messaging will likely suffer and deliver sub-par results?

Can you chart a direct correlation between how little you budget toward branding, marketing, advertising, and PR and how flat sales are?

Are you satisfied that your marketing content and materials look and read like your competitors’ and do you expect commoditization or would you yourself prefer to be excited by on-target creative work that elevates your brand?

How well do you know your own prospects and customers? Are you capable of putting yourself in their skins or do you believe that they will naturally gravitate to the greatness of your products and services? And become aware of them through osmosis (thought I’d throw in a gratuitous science term)?

Do you recognize how truly fragmented the media universe is today? How few shared experiences remain out there from a mass audience standpoint? How much power has shifted to purchasers and how critical it is to hire the best communications people you can find to build awareness, communicate your messaging, your unique selling propositions, and your overall brand value to them?

Can you truly appreciate why the world of advertising is characterized by mad men? Creative geniuses who don’t fit into MBA textbooks? Graphic artists and videographers who can tell your story visually, compellingly, and uniquely? Agency types who willingly work long uncompensated hours because they appreciate clients who put their faith in them?

Are you willing to settle for mediocrity and short-term blips in profits because striving for greatness is scary and carries with it greater public attention and pain in the event of failure?

Does your company’s current advertising/branding/marketing carry your stamp or is it legacy work whose coattails you are riding on?

Are you the market share leader in all of your markets? Any of your markets? Are you a follower of competitors in your marketing efforts or do you blaze your own trails?

Do you honestly believe that most agencies don’t want to deliver performance? What is more important to you, the ability to measure the results of every expenditure or to be surprised and excited by creative that no one saw coming?

What are you going to do with all that additional data? Will it pay for an expansion of your business? Will it convince you that cutting more costs and staff was the right thing to do? Are you constantly checking your smartphone in today’s meeting because someone is telling you something that truly rocks your world or are you just bored?

Are you like 78% of the CEOs out there and the world of advertising makes you uncomfortable because it doesn’t fit easily into a spreadsheet? Where are the visionary entrepreneurial CEOs of other eras who built great products and understood they still needed great advertising and they insisted upon it?

Last one I can truly put in that category was Steve Jobs. Do you want to be like him?

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This past week, trade shows for three clients graced my calendars simultaneously. Since I had gotten to ISC West, I thought I could skip the ESX electronic security expo in Nashville. That’s because I figured I could split my week between the Health and Beauty Aids Expo in NYC and UBM’s bundled packaging, plastics, medical device, quality, automation, and manufacturing events in Philadelphia. Long week, but I learned a few things. Well, one I already knew — there are no shoes comfortable and supportive enough for a day at a trade show. And also, each city and convention facility has its pros and cons. Let’s look at them.

Overall Facilities:

Jacob Javits Center in NYC has been there a long time, far longer than Philly’s Pennsylvania Convention Center. It has been there long enough to need regular renovation, another of which it is undergoing now. I have been at show in Javits when the roof has been leaking into an exhibitor’s booth. The PA Convention Center (PACC) is newer but was built for smaller shows and became a work in progress adapting to fit larger events. Neither one is ideal, but Javits has always been larger-scale and able to go with the flow. Advantage: NYC

Our client HLP Klearfold fortunately had a prominent location toward the front of the HBA hall at Javits.

Our client HLP Klearfold fortunately had a prominent location toward the front of the HBA hall at Javits.

Access:

Both facilities are in the heart of major urban centers. Although NYC is the larger city, Javits is conveniently located on the west side, a block in from the Hudson. It is a short walk from Pennsylvania Station, but an even shorter walk from the midtown ferry of NY Waterways, so you can park on the NJ side and enjoy a nice boat ride getting to the show. PACC is at the very heart of Philly, a block off Market near City Hall. It is accessible from various train, subway, and bus stops, and there are lots of parking lots nearby. Problem is that when Center City Philly traffic is completely gridlocked, things can be bad for getting in or out of PACC. Advantage: NYC

View of space shuttle Enterprise on the flight deck of the Intrepid from the top deck of a NY Waterways ferry.

View of space shuttle Enterprise on the flight deck of the Intrepid from the top deck of a NY Waterways ferry.


Labor:

Be prepared to pay top dollar as an exhibitor at both halls, because both are unionized labor. But I understand at the event in Philly, the requirement did not kick in until your booth was 400 square feet or larger. So, for smaller exhibitors, and at carpentry rates of $200 per hour, it might pay to stay small. Also, good help can be hard to find, so be prepared to supervise your own booth construction. All things considered, things are always more expensive in NYC. Slight advantage: Philly

Food:

While at Javits this week, I didn’t bother leaving the building for lunch. The closest restaurants are a long walk. At a prior show, I made the trek and discovered they were all booked by exhibitors for private parties. That leaves cabbing it to a better meal or the Javits downstairs food court where this week, I discovered subterranean pigeons. I’ll take Philly’s Reading Terminal Market (where Wayne Hayward of Tinius Olsen treated me to a great gyro lunch) and many nearby restaurants any time. Big advantage: Philly

Demonic pigeon from the bowels of the Javits Center subterranean food court.

Demonic pigeon from the bowels of the Javits Center subterranean food court.

Traffic:

Truth be told, that always depends on the quality of show management, the calendar, and multiple other factors. Like print, I keep hearing that trade shows are a dying enterprise. However, where else can companies meet face to face with new prospects and existing customers and vice versa. Expositions typically have an educational component with a full schedule of on-site conference sessions. While attendance seemed very light at both the NYC and Philly shows the days I was there, I don’t think either event or venue was a clear winner in this regard. Tie

Hotels:

Both cities have some phenomenal four-star hotels and both have their share of sub-par properties. New York’s rates (rapes?) are legendary, although Philly’s aren’t exactly a bargain. Both cities have made news in recent years with bedbug reports, but Philly had a fire from a meth lab being operated from a hotel room in Center City. My solution is to stay in NJ and take the ferry. Another tie

Winner:

If you go by my above scoring, you’ll see it is pretty much of a dead heat tie. But in this case, bigger is better (New York), experience counts (New York), and there is the X Factor that New York, like Las Vegas, is a destination city. So, I guess I give a slight edge to New York City with the recognition that trends favor a passing of the baton. Philly hasn’t been at the trade show, convention, and meeting business as long, but with continued improvements on all fronts, might just pull off a coup. Meanwhile, for fans of Elvis, country music bars, cowboy boot emporiums, you can’t do better than an exposition in Nashville.

Elvis lives (outside many storefronts) in the Nashville Expo Center neighborhood.

Elvis lives (outside many storefronts) in the Nashville Expo Center neighborhood.

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Lots of things happen for a reason that isn’t always clear at the time (more on that later). Earlier this year, Mike Bodnar, GM of Security Partners, a Lancaster-based central monitoring station and security services provider, reached out to me to ask if I’d do a presentation on security marketing at their first-ever dealers conference. Impulsive me, I said sure. In April, when I visited their hospitality suite during ISC West in Las Vegas, I asked Joseph Mitton, Marketing Director for Security Partners, more about the event. He told me that they had done a survey of their dealers and marketing was the topic that the majority were interested in. That both surprised and encouraged me.

As the event drew closer, Debbie Stremmel, who was coordinating the conference for Security Partners, shared more details and I was struck by something obvious — the complete event package was a terrific way for Security Partners to market to, and solidify relationships with, its existing customer base.  Smart guys.

Marketing Security to a Short Attention Span World

Marketing Security to a Short Attention Span World

Generous, too — Pat Egan, Principal of Security Partners, paid for accommodations for 50 plus of his dealers from across the nation at the very cool Lancaster Arts Hotel, had presentations and a second day mini products expo at the Lancaster Barnstormers minor league ballpark, wined and dined them at Lombardo’s one night and on a murder mystery dinner excursion on the Strasburg Railroad the next.

The view from the Lancaster Barnstormers' main hospitality suite

The view from the Lancaster Barnstormers' main hospitality suite

Security Partners hosted their dealers conference in one of the Lancaster Barnstormers hospitality suites.

Security Partners hosted their dealers conference in one of the Lancaster Barnstormers hospitality suites.

Scenes from the Accelerate dealers conference of Security Partners

Scenes from the Accelerate dealers conference of Security Partners

Everything was neatly tied with a branded bow under the conference theme of “Acclerate” as in accelerate your business — from PowerPoint templates, to printed conference materials, to even welcome and sponsor messages on the Barnstormers’ digital scoreboard.  There was a nice blend of presentations: from “Trends and Overview of the Security Industry Landscape” by Shannon Murphy, VP of Sales and Marketing for Electronic Security Association; to “Business Growth Strategies” by Rob Pianka, Coach, of ActionCOACH; to “Attrition Management” by John Brady, Principal, TRG Associates; to me with “Marketing Security to a Short Attention Span World.” Day 2 featured that mini product exposition followed by several roundtable discussions with Noah Bilger (Alarm.com), Dean Mason (AlarmNet), Tad Lamb (2GIG Technologies), David Donovan (Honeywell Alarm Security), Alicia Pereira (Video IQ), and Ed Warminski (Videofied). Over the years, I’ve been to a lot of these kinds of events and this was one of the best, which is saying a lot given it was a first time for Security Partners. It surely resonated for all of the dealers who participated locally and from across the country.

A murder mystery dinner on the Strasburg Railroad was a great way to cap off a day of sessions at Security Partners dealer conference

A murder mystery dinner on the Strasburg Railroad was a great way to cap off a day of sessions at Security Partners dealer conference

EC Key, makers of a smartphone controllable/Wiegand compatible access control add-on, was a sponsor of Security Partners' dealer conference

EC Key, makers of a smartphone controllable/Wiegand compatible access control add-on, was a sponsor of Security Partners' dealer conference

The Lancaster Barnstormers' scoreboard is a great promotional addition to events held there.

The Lancaster Barnstormers' scoreboard is a great promotional addition to events held there.

The value for me was sharing a lot of agency history and experiences in security marketing: over 18 years with Linear, several more with SafetyCare, more recently with 2GIG Technologies, Secure Wireless, and Time and Parking Controls; plus, the way that the marketing landscape keeps changing dramatically on all fronts, creating new opportunities, especially through technology. But there is also the benefit of getting feedback from dealers. It was useful to hear how hard it is on the sales side to get access to quality leads, especially in quantity, to do phone sales for a product that most homeowners need but few currently have — a security/home automation system remote controllable from anywhere by smartphone (yes, there’s an app for that). On the business-to-business side, it is equally tough to find the right marketing message and media to reach decision-makers with current needs.

Ironically, the one thing that has stayed with me the most since the conference was a point I made that came back to haunt me the next day. I stressed that when you are building a web site today, you should avoid Flash because most mobile devices do not support it. Of course, a dealer came to me the next day to tell me something I already knew, that our main web site uses a lot of Flash videos that do not play on iPhones. It is a nagging problem we have lived with in recent years, but I decided to see if anyone had developed a recent workaround. A Google search led me to a promising conversion application, so I posed it to George Rothacker, Renaissance artist/marketer, long-time agency friend, Flash expert, and collaborator on our web site. George, problem-solver that he is, saw the process through to a semi-gratifying conclusion. While this app can’t convert large complex files like our web site videos, it can be used to convert smaller Flash-based files that DO play on mobile devices and are consistent cross platform and across all web browsers. George has been able to perfect the technique for a series of Berenstain Bears online games for a credit union client of his. Lemons into lemonade. If anyone out there would like to use Flash on mobile devices to do animation and effects, talk to me. The answer all began with a conversation at another highly effective marketing technique — a dealers conference.

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Sometimes in life, you just get lucky.  You are in the right place at the right time and someone gives you your first break at doing what you love. That was the case with me when I answered a classified ad for an advertising copywriter at Bofinger and Associates, a local agency in Glenside, PA. I was a recent graduate of Susquehanna University with a seemingly useless degree in English (seemingly useless for getting hired for a journalism job unless I wanted to try my hand at writing obituaries part-time for the Quakertown Free Press). However, I submitted my resume and I got a call from the agency owner, Charlie Bofinger. He asked me to come in for an interview for the entry level PR job, also in the same ad. He told me on the phone he was looking for someone with a little experience for the copywriter post. And so, I went for my first agency interview and got hired to write for a living.

Charles Bofinger, former principal of Bofinger and Associates ad agency

Charles Bofinger, former principal of Bofinger and Associates ad agency

I was saddened to read Charlie’s obituary last week, but glad that he lived a long fulfilling life to age 88. Reading it brought back a flood of memories. His agency was small by Madison Avenue standards, but I quickly learned that Charlie had a lot of talented people working for him, each one of which I learned different skills from, including: Herb Smith, Account Service; Bernice Slosberg, Media; Marc Ellis, Copy Chief; and Pat Burns, PR.

As a graduate of the Milton Hershey School, Charlie Bofinger learned how to leverage his considerable artistic talents and business acumen through various connections he had made in Hershey. The result of that was a solid core of accounts from Chocolate Town, USA. The agency handled advertising for Hersheypark, all of the Hershey resort properties (Hotel Hershey, Hershey Motor Lodge and Convention Center, Pocono Hershey Resort), the Milton Hershey School, various HERCO projects, as well as some Hershey Foods assignments, such as San Giorgio brand pasta. On this solid base, Bofinger and Associates built additional account business, including CRC Chemicals, Van Sciver furniture, Malo marshmallow cup candy, and a number of other clients.

Bofinger handled all of Hershey's resorts, including the Hotel Hershey

Bofinger handled all of Hershey's resorts, including the Hotel Hershey

Heady for me was the chance to learn PR on behalf of CRC, whose various cleaning chemicals were staples for degreasing. It is where I learned about brand extensions with one line of formulations for automotive, another for marine, and another for industrial use. One of my earliest assignments was writing regular news releases about CRC’s various market-specific products. Things got a lot more interesting when the decision was made to raise awareness of the automotive line by sponsoring a NASCAR driver. CRC didn’t have a huge budget, so it was looking for a top 10 driver who might crack the top 5. They settled on a good one — a guy who did manage to make the top 5 a few times, but also made a bigger name for himself later on as the head of one of today’s premier racing teams — Richard Childress.

Richard Childress as a driver sponsored by CRC Chemicals

Richard Childress as a driver sponsored by CRC Chemicals

Bofinger press kit for CRC automotive chemicals

Bofinger press kit for CRC automotive chemicals

My recollections of Charlie was a guy who was very hard-working and often out of the office, spending time with his clients, learning their needs and their business challenges. When he was in his office, he was always working hard on ad designs.

I remember doing some of my own market research at Hersheypark in the spring with my college roommate, Bob Nisley, who lived in nearby Hummelstown and had had a thankless summer job during school working as a park mascot in one of those heavy character costumes. We tried out various park rides, including the old wooden coaster and the newest one called the SooperDooperLooper. My own kids just returned from a band trip to Hersheypark on Friday and announced to me that those are now the kiddie rides. I also toured the hotel properties in town and was impressed by how well all the tourism synergy works together there.

"Hersheypark Happy". . .one of Bofinger and Associates' many accounts (and jingles)

"Hersheypark Happy". . .one of Bofinger and Associates' many accounts (and jingles)

I worked for Charlie Bofinger the better part of a year and even got promoted to that ad copywriter job when the original person hired didn’t stay past the first few months. Then, one day, I came into the office and learned a tough but valuable lesson about the capricious nature of the ad business. Van Sciver Furniture, a big broadcast account for us, had decided to take its account elsewhere because sales had been down. Although I never worked on the account, I learned that job security was a lot like the LIFO accounting method (last in, first out). On Friday of that week, I got layed off from the agency and discovered unemployment insurance. Charlie was very sad to have to deliver that decision personally, but was very fair in how he handled it.

I can’t complain because, thanks to the Bofinger experience, I soon landed another advertising job at Provident Mutual Life Insurance Company, where I got to work with a lot of other young hires and eventually met my wife Drina. One day I was pleasantly surprised to read in the Inquirer that Bofinger and Associates had been acquired by Spiro, one of Philadelphia’s largest agencies at the time. Smart businessman that Charlie.

After two years at Provident Mutual, I got hired at Newton Associates, by two other great mentors, Jon Newton and Harry Streamer, who gave me many more opportunities (all of which is future blog material). During the early days of Newton, I would occasionally hear of Charlie. I knew he had loved painting and the Jersey shore. Somewhere I learned that there was a gallery in Stone Harbor that carried his work. Drina and I stopped in one weekend and bought one of his serigraphs. Another is hanging near the front desk at Newton and came courtesy of Charlie’s brother Ken, who used to call on Newton regularly representing many of the area’s printers.

Besides his agency career, Charlie Bofinger was also a talented fine artist.

Besides his agency career, Charlie Bofinger was also a talented fine artist.

Thanks, Charlie. You helped a lot of associates and clients over a long career in the crazy business of advertising. Including a young wet-behind-the-ears kid who now co-runs his own agency and tries to follow life lessons learned from some great mentors, you being the first.

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A fascinating advertising media story broke this morning courtesy of the Philadelphia Business Journal and City Paper.  It encapsulates many of the problems faced by city newspapers struggling with print sales, but has a particularly Philadelphia spin. The brief article in PBJ raises lots of questions, but obviously doesn’t answer all of them, because the issues are far from resolved.

Philly.com has long carried free Inquirer and Daily News content. Now, controversy is brewing.

Philly.com has long carried free Inquirer and Daily News content. Now, controversy is brewing.

Longtime readers of digital content from the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News, both owned by the same newspaper group, have conditioned themselves for years to go to Philly.com. In March, without a lot of fanfare, separate sites for both newspapers were launched, Inquirer.com and PhillyDailyNews.com. Now, reporters from both papers are upset because people are still going to the more sex/entertainment/sports-driven content of Philly.com for Inquirer and Daily News stories co-carried there for free. That last point sounds like either a clear contractual sore spot or a grey area mess for lawyers to sort out. Philly.com has been a long-running web site intended to meld content from both papers. Now, with each paper wanting to establish a separate online identity (separate from each other and from Philly.com), the plot is definitely thickening.

Drop down to the very bottom of the page on Philly.com and you see that the site is owned by Interstate General Media. Under About Us and Contact Us, there are many editorial contact numbers for both the Inquirer and Daily News news and sports desks. There are also separate banks of links for The Inquirer and the Daily News, as well as links to additional media partners, Philadelphia City Paper, Philly DealYo, and Parade Magazine. The former links take you directly to the new Inquirer.com and PhillyDailyNews.com home pages; the latter open new tabs to the partner sites.

On Philly.com, there are advertising links to the Philly.com advertising media kit. On Inquirer.com and PhillyDailyNews.com, there is no advertising information or media kit link. In fact, there are no ads (possibly there are beyond the home page, but I am not a digital subscriber, so I don’t know with absolute certainty). Ads  appear prominently on Philly.com, however.  All three sites carry the copyright lines for Interstate General Media, LLC. How’s that for the ultimate separation of editorial and advertising? What a mess!

Inquirer.com is the new online Inquirer site (playing second fiddle to much of the same content free on Philly.com)

Inquirer.com is the new online Inquirer site (playing second fiddle to much of the same content free on Philly.com)

So, reporters at the Inquirer and Daily News don’t like to have their content or brand diluted through Philly.com. But yet, for years, subscribers have been conditioned to go to Philly.com for Inquirer and Daily News co-content. And Philly.com is where all the advertising resides, along with ancillary sex/entertainment/sports content that seems to be helping to attract additional visitors who are neither Inquirer nor Daily News subscribers.  To that off-kilter branding/business model, you can roll in print versions of both papers. Current cost for an annual 7-day delivery of the Inquirer is just under $250 (while well under a buck a day, it is still a big number on the subscription side).  There are also digital subscriptions for both papers, which can be separate or combined with print subscriptions. When you attempt to go beyond the home pages of the new Inquirer.com and PhillyDailyNews.com, you are prompted to either log-in to your digital subscription or to sign up for one. Yet, that same content can be found on Philly.com for free. Confused yet? As a subscriber or an advertiser? Subscribers can enter promo codes to reduce their costs.  Who knows, maybe there is even a special offer on Philly DealYo.

PhillyDailyNews.com has its own look, but also shares content (free) with Philly.com

PhillyDailyNews.com has its own look, but also shares content (free) with Philly.com

Not sure why the new Inquirer.com and PhillyDailyNews.com sites now exist in their alternate ad-less universes (alternate from Philly.com). All I know is that it currently equates to either a great media buy on Philly.com, where most of the visitors are (because of free and additional content), or a questionable digital subscriber buy on either Inquirer.com and PhillyDailyNews.com where editorial is purer and ad-free but a lot more expensive. This sounds like it was a business model concocted by the best minds at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

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A Branding & Advertising Evolution: 5 in a Series of Musings Sparked by “The 100 Greatest Advertisements,” Julian Lewis Watkins, Dover Books, 1959

Had lunch with Ted Regan again Friday, this time to return his generously loaned books on Ayer and on the 100 Greatest Advertisements. Next time we get together, I’m bringing my notepad and planning to grill him on his days pitching, winning, and retaining the U.S. Army account. He has shared lots of tantalizing details, but it is an amazing and important story that deserves a full treatment.

I told Ted I was good for one more blog post  in the 100 Greatest Advertisements series and that it was going to be about packaging and retail. There were two examples in particular that sparked some sharp contrasts. And not surprisingly, one of them is another Ayer story.

For everyone who has eaten at a Cracker Barrel restaurant, did you know the origins of the name? That country stores and early groceries, at turn of the century (pre-FDA) America, used to sell crackers, as well as just about every other item, out of wooden barrels or open boxes? A.W. Green, Chairman of the Board of the National Biscuit Company, is credited with pushing for a concept that was likely the forerunner of the packaged food business in the United States — selling branded crackers in neat, sanitary, exact quantity packages. Crackers that would always be clean and fresh and protected from moisture, dust, germs, odors, and whatever else that could find its way into an open barrel. Incredibly, Green’s board did not share his vision, did not want to disturb grocers or their barrels, thought the idea would fail, and did not get behind it.

U-Need-A-Better-Place-To-Keep-Crackers-For-Sale-Than-An-Open-Barrel!

U-Need-A-Better-Place-To-Keep-Crackers-For-Sale-Than-An-Open-Barrel!

Fortunately, one of N.W. Ayer’s top execs, H.N. McKinney, saw Green’s vision and raised it with a brand, a plan, and a campaign to entice the public via newspaper and magazine ads, streetcar cards, and posters/signage. And so, UNEEDA Biscuits in boxes were born and promoted by a little boy in a rain slicker (the art director’s nephew).  U-Need-A-Biscuit may be a corny name, but it worked. All of it worked. Together (integrated marketing communications anyone?). It all worked so well that National Biscuit had to build additional bakeries in different parts of the country in order to supply the huge demand that the Ayer campaign and the Green packaging concept created. You can bet that a lot of copycat packaging followed on and that little by little groceries and retail stores, and packaged goods companies, scrambled to entice customers with bright packaging, from folding cartons, to tins, to labeled bottles, cans, and tubes.

The irony is that today, the drive is in the other direction, toward less packaging and a more sustainable future. There are a lot of positive stories, but also mindless zealotry. Packagers keep trying to source reduce to lowest possible but sometimes absurd levels. I’ve had water bottles spring leaks because they have been rendered so weak and flimsy. I have found toilet paper now being marketed as eco-friendly because the cardboard roll in the middle is gone. Many landfills are at a point where they are actually looking for more trash in order to feed trash-to-energy projects.

The Catalog Side of Sears, Circa 1949.

The Catalog Side of Sears, Circa 1949.

The drive is also in the other direction on many retail fronts. I was struck by a couple of things on this page from the 100 Greatest Advertisements, which featured the cover of the Spring/Summer 1949 Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog (where have all the Roebucks gone?). First, the cover didn’t obviously feature merchandise, unless worn by kids and teacher in the classroom setting depicted. Second, in that classroom setting, circa 1949, the emphasis was on Safety with a capital S.  There is a never-ending quest these days to make this the safest of all possible worlds (and that’s a blog for another day), but few people associate 1949 as a safety-focused year. Third, Sears’ message on the front cover talks candidly about higher prices being the norm, then casually delivers good news that many prices inside are lower than the prior fall.  Finally, the catalog came by way of Roosevelt Boulevard (I can still picture one of the Great Northeast’s classic landmarks).

Just as video killed the radio star, e-commerce has been making life very difficult in the retail bricks and mortar world. Sears is still there (but with a lot fewer stores), as are Macy’s, J C Penney’s, WalMart, and a host of others, especially individual specialty stores. While Amazon seems to be online’s 800 lb gorilla, the most successful retailers today are those who successfully bridge physical stores, great shopping experience web sites, and well-targeted catalogs. Know thy customers and reward their loyalty with many options, stellar customer service, and promos, discounts, and freebies. No one said marketing, sales, and advertising are easy.

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A Branding & Advertising Evolution: 4 in a Series of Musings Sparked by “The 100 Greatest Advertisements,” Julian Lewis Watkins, Dover Books, 1959

This week, President Obama made one of those statements he probably wanted to retract as soon as he expressed it. He was lauding Kamala Harris, the Attorney General of California, for her many accomplishments and her legal experience, when he did something guys of another era used to do all the time — he complimented Ms. Harris for being attractive. Instantly, attractive women felt marginalized (He only admires her for her looks.), unattractive women felt even more marginalized (I bet he’d never say that about me.), attractive men were confused (What’s wrong with that?), and unattractive men were also confused (What’s wrong with that?).  Surely, the President got a later earful from the First Lady and his two daughters. All around it was an awkward moment that momentarily tilted the world off its access.

Meanwhile in the world of advertising, super models are the daily norm and sensitivities be damned. Attractive people have always been used in commercials and catalogs to build brands and sell products. When that dynamic is tampered with, as GoDaddy did in their commercial during the last SuperBowl, having super model Bar Refaeli soulfully kiss computer nerd Walter, to illustrate the blending of sexy and smart, something doesn’t feel right (maybe having Danica Patrick announce the moment?). In this case, the situation was meant for comic effect, but there was something cruel about it. I know the young man wasn’t complaining about having to do take after interminable take to get the camera angle right, but he was clearly the butt of a joke in front of that audience of 108.4 million viewers. At times, we are overly sensitive, while at others like this one, we aren’t nearly sensitive enough. Take Target this week and their “manatee grey” plus size dress. Did they think anyone (everyone?) was going to miss that inference?

The Lonesome Girl learns how to make a dress.

All of which brings me back to the “100 Greatest Advertisements” collection, which features some ads that play on sensitive subjects, especially on women’s insecurities. “The Diary of a Lonesome Girl” makes every other copy-heavy ad seem like haiku. But it is worth a read to get a sense of the pitch for the Woman’s Institute, which is a mail order teaching curriculum. In this case, the course is on dress-making and it is the salvation of the Lonesome Girl from the headline. The ad is a diary account of a young lady who is practically destitute, living at home, sequestered in her room because she can’t afford to go to her neighbor’s parties, tormented because she can hear those parties and knows that her neighbor is dancing with Tom, and embarrassed that she only owns that old blue crepe dress. Since President Obama wasn’t around at the time to lift her spirits by calling her attractive, the narrator of the ad has to turn to the Woman’s Institute, which she does, discovers the art of dress making, and eventually she throws her own parties and wows Tom and her neighbor. I’ll never worry about over-promising in one of my ads again.

You may be attractive, but it's actually your breath that's stopping traffic.

You may be attractive, but it's actually your breath that's stopping traffic.

There are two ads that follow, further unnerving women readers who are unattached. An early ad for Listerine reveals why one woman is often a “Bridesmaid but Never a Bride.” Evidently, because she cannot smell her own breath, the thought of halitosis has never occurred to her. The ushers’ shriveled-up boutonnieres from the last 8 weddings never raised a red flag?

Pepsodent was on teeth film long before white strips.

Pepsodent was on teeth film long before white strips.

Meanwhile, if we think teeth whitening strips and treatments are a recent obsession, Pepsodent can remind us that we’ve been concerned with dingy-colored teeth for a very long time. Once again, a woman’s appearance is hugely important to her. And sometimes it is a matter of Presidential importance.

Diamonds. Attracting women since forever.

Diamonds. Attracting women since forever.

Finally, this N.W. Ayer ad for DeBeers was one of many to launch a long association between diamond jewelry and advertising (1939-1947), and the famous slogan, “A Diamond is Forever.”  One thing we can all agree upon when it comes to the word “attractive,” it is safe to say in public that women find diamonds very attractive.

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