Advertising Age

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Sorry for the serious drop in the frequency of our agency blog of late. However, it can be a not-enough-hours-in-the day challenge to generate content for yourself when you are also generating content for others. The old shoemaker’s kids going shoeless dilemma.

Several stories this week resonated in an intertwining way to touch nerves for me as someone in the creative business. The problem is that too many creatives don’t run their businesses as businesses (emporiums of wit and awesome graphics, maybe) and too many businesspeople who purchase creative services realize that and take advantage accordingly.

This Advertising Age article about a panel from a Mirren New Business Conference on agency compensation contained an all-too-familiar anecdote from one of the panelists, Christine Fruechte, CEO of the Colle & McVoy agency. She recounted about having gotten to the last round of a pitch, but losing to another agency because Colle & McVoy elected not to lower their fees in a race to the bottom. The winner of that race went out of business within a year of getting the business. Ironically, the client approached Colle & McVoy again and Ms. Fruechte got the account (and in a rare turnaround for this industry) plus even higher fees than what cost her the nod in the original pitch process.

That story made me feel smug about the agency side of the business for all of a few hours until reading an amusing interview with the Black Keys by Danny McBride in the current issue of Entertainment Weekly. In an especially ironic turnabout, it seems agencies have been blacklisting the Black Keys when it comes to licensing of their music. The reason is appalling — once the Black Keys and their infectiously memorable hook-loaded music became omnipresent on radio and music services, they had to go to court on multiple occasions to stop brands, agencies, and jingle houses from using obvious knockoff versions of their songs.

So, this is an especially galling case of pot, kettle, black. Creative shops have no business whining about clients not wanting to pay them for original creative when they turn around and borrow a popular sound or look from other creative artists but conveniently don’t pay them for it.

Fortunately, some brands are thinking in different ways. It was refreshing this week to see Adweek report on how Chipolte has figured out a new way to attract business by featuring original content from Real McCoy big name writers like Toni Morrison and Jonathan Safran Foer on the restaurant’s cups under the theme “Cultivating Thought.” Hell, I might even pay a little extra for something pithy or witty from a favorite writer while enjoying a taco meal. And that little extra multiplied by the business it brings in might more than compensate Chipolte, Toni Morrison and other featured writers, while building brand loyalty for the chain (and new readers for those writers). Hallelujah. A rare win-win in the creative compensation department.

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Seaside's Casino Pier, post Sandy.

Seaside's Casino Pier, post Sandy.

Hurricanes have a way of disrupting your normal routine even when they barely affect you personally. I am one of the many blessed losing only power (for a half day) and a few shingles vs. losing an entire roof overhead and a warm place to live and a lifetime of memories. Words fail when you see the devastation caused by Sandy last week.  Boardwalk businesses and memories snapped like so many matchsticks. Entire communities in densely populated North Jersey and  the NY and CT portions of the metropolitan NYC area. All of us have our work cut out to offer relief to those who have been devastated by Sandy.

But being at a loss for words over this horrific situation led me to take note that on a very different subject, some writers are absolutely inspired to get their thoughts and feelings across on paper.

Inspiration is in your hands (brain cells?)

Inspiration is in your hands (brain cells?)

The late Linds Redding, author of a remarkable take on creativity.

The late Linds Redding, author of a remarkable take on creativity.

Ad Age’s Matthew Creamer captured my attention first with this lead — “The Best Piece of Advertising Writing You’ve Never Read.  Irresistible, yes, and when you read it, unforgettable, especially if you have worked in the creative services industry.  Creamer’s blog links to the late Linds Redding’s essay online, which captures the drive to produce work that causes others to say things like “Whoa” and “Wow.” It also nails how others easily exploit that drive to get writers (and artists) in advertising to sell their blood, sweat, and tears for pennies on the dollar.

Defender of liberty, Mark Levin.

Defender of liberty, Mark Levin.

There is a certain amount of hubris, however, that allows advertising creatives to falsely believe that we have cornered the market on creativity and ideas. During my drive home one night, I had the pleasure of hearing the impassioned patriot (and Cheltenham graduate) Mark Levin read this remarkable essay from the late Leonard Read on his radio program. It explores what makes production of the humble pencil possible. It is an eloquent case for the free enterprise system as a means of creating commerce, jobs, and work for so many. Those who want to limit use of the world’s many resources, the operation of factories that too many believe are just pollution mills, and the pursuit of entrepreneurial opportunities might reconsider their obstructionism. If we ever want to see a vibrant economy again, we need to allow people to pursue dreams and to use creativity to develop new products and make good products better.

Those who were devastated by Hurricane Sandy need help to rebuild their lives. Creativity and free enterprise make great foundations to get that process moving successfully.


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Last week, I wrote about how even something that we could seemingly all agree upon — fighting cancer —has become politicized. Specifically, how cancer has been divided between cancer types in an effort to attract the most fundraising. Here is the latest on the Susan G. Komen fund’s attempt to recover from its dust-up with Planned Parenthood.

This week, I was struck by a different realization. It used to be that politics and religion were the two off-limit subjects that most people kept in different compartments. Separation of church and state. But since part of the health care debate over the Affordable Care Act has meant staking out coverages and beliefs on sensitive social issues such as birth control and abortion, including at religious-based employers, things have gotten a lot messier.

Personally, I follow politics and don’t mind the free flow of information, but I am suddenly finding myself completely campaign fatigued by the sheer volume of messages, including in some unlikely places. Technically the unofficial start of the Presidential race isn’t until after Labor Day. Right.

Here’s a rundown of places that have now become fair game to insert politics.

Mailbox — Been that way for a long time, but the number of political mailings between now and Election Day will become a tidal wave. And a boon for recycling centers.

Emailbox — The fundraising appeals keep piling up in direct proportion to all the forwarded hot button emailings from friends and family. Some of these are gems. But others turn out to be purposely slanted by their original creators, passed along by hordes of others, and easily dispelled via and similar sites.  The flip side of viral is that too often it is accompanied by a fever and aches and pains.

Airports (And Diners, Restaurants, Bars, etc.) — Because of its 24-hour news format, CNN has become the de facto wallpaper of digital screens everywhere. Even as its overall ratings are in decline. When a major news event actually occurs, people tune in. Otherwise, the round-the-clock talking heads nature of CNN gets into perpetual politics and tends to lead many places to turn the sound way down.

Cabs, Gas Pumps, Bank Drive-Throughs — More screens everywhere. And most play syndicated networks featuring comedy, entertainment news, and sometimes community events. However, I found it really odd that my bank drive-through recently featured news about the Occupy Wall Street movement, given that one of the movement’s goals is to bash and punish banks.

Home Phones, Mobile Phones— The robocalls are coming. If you haven’t heard from candidates or pollsters, it must be because you keep your phones unplugged, on silent, and out of earshot.

Warning: Morning Joe has been politicized and I don't mean Scarborough.

Warning: Morning Joe has been politicized and I don't mean Scarborough.

Beverages — My stop for coffee on the way to the office led to the following eye-opener as pictured in this week’s blog. 7-Eleven has evidently been running this unique promotion during the last three Presidential campaigns. (I must have strictly been hitting Wawa and Starbucks four years ago, because I don’t remember it).  Anyway, now when you purchase a cup with your candidate’s name on it, you are voting in the convenience store chain’s mock election (forget delegates, primaries, registered voters, and Electoral College — this is as much caffeine/ballot box stuffing as you can handle for the next two months). According to 7-Eleven, their coffee cup voting promotion has been right in 2000, 2004, and 2008. Maybe we should give up on voter ID and just register with our favorite barista.

With apologies to Green Day, wake me when November ends.



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No more super sizing in NYC.

No more super sizing in NYC.

Cheers. I would like to drink a toast to your health (with the beverage of your choice), as well as to the land where you are still free to make that choice (sort of).  There is a free enterprise battle being fought, and it is the subject of late night talk show jokes, but it could not be more serious. It is slow. It is insidious. And it is under the auspices of best intentions, but it is really about power and control.

I am referring to the current and pending over-regulation of food and drink by local, state, and federal government officials who say they are interested in controlling obesity and reducing healthcare costs. That sounds like something we should all be willing and glad to get behind. However, all of us individually can do that now for ourselves, and once government starts telling businesses how to run their business, things never end well.

The fast-food industry has been under considerable pressure for years to add healthier choices to their menus. Morgan Spurlock’s “Super Size Me” documentary vividly demonstrated the dangers of a recurring fast-food diet. Often when restaurateurs do introduce more nutritious fare, these items wither away from lack of sales — the market speaks in each case. Today, if you want to eat healthy, there ARE lots of options. Mobile phone apps like EAT THIS, NOT THAT are available to steer you away from calorie bombs and into best alternatives at individual national chains.  But if you want to pig out on an occasional basis, you still can (or should be allowed).

The recent decision by the Bloomberg administration in NYC to ban supersized soft drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces is regrettable. One segment was targeted (for now). Notice the mayor wisely decided not to try to limit over 16 ounce beer sales. He has admitted that he just wanted to make a point and get people to think.

This video produced by tries to make that same point and is disgustingly over the top and again at war with a single segment (the soft drink companies, plus unintentionally, all the small food businesses they help support). It ends with a push toward healthier drinks like water or milk.

So Bloomberg’s office has arbitrarily set 16 ounces as a limit. But concentration and perspective matters.  Even water, if you drink enough of it, can kill you by flushing vital minerals and nutrients from your system. So no more Deer Park cooler bottles. SOMEONE out there could harm himself.

Next up, kid cereals. This week’s Ad Age covers the increasing pressures that cereal makers find themselves under and how the industry’s ad spending is even being closely tracked (now, we are into regulation of free speech, admittedly commercial, but closely regulated). If there are two things government nanny-staters hate, it’s sugar and carbon (or maybe they secretly love them, because they open worlds of regulatory possibilities).

The government has a similar love-hate relationship with tobacco. It loves to vilify the cigarette companies for causing cancer, but would never think of banning this product, because it is so badly addicted to the tax revenue it receives from the sale of each pack and carton.

If the government would limit itself to educating the public about various health risks and requiring food and drink companies to label products clearly so consumers understand immediate and potential long-term risks and benefits, we would all be better off. Unfortunately, when industry fails to lead, the government will swoop into the resulting vacuum. Then, all bets are off. Once again, here’s to our collective health. And to a healthier business climate and national economy.

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Anyone concerned about the imminent decline of Apple following the passing of its visionary leader Steve Jobs can go back to worrying about climate change or the Mayan calendar doomsday. This week’s quarterly earnings report blew the doors off investor expectations: profits up 94% over a year ago; highest ever Mac, iPhone, iPad sales in a March quarter; cash above $110 billion; it’s Camelot in Cupertino.

Even Iron Man in the new Avengers movie sustains more damage than my aluminum MacBook Pro.

Even Iron Man in the new Avengers movie sustains more damage than my aluminum MacBook Pro.

Apple has been top of mind a lot lately. I recently recounted my self-administered laptop damage travel fiasco that occurred at SmartPark (I know, right?). Incredibly, despite running over the edge of my MacBook Pro when the laptop case flopped over as I parked, the tough aluminum case was bent but not broken. The CD drive, which looked to be affected, wasn’t. The display was compromised but only in the upper right corner. Less than 24 hours at the Apple Store restored it to pristine condition. Can you name another product that can take that kind of licking and keep on ticking?

While my Mac was in for repair, I spent the weekend in Manhattan and had the chance to visit the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue. It is just below ground, but by the stairs or glass elevator that take you down, it feels like you are entering the Starship Enterprise. This is a company that knows how to fire the public’s imagination and desire for all things digital.

Beam me down, Scotty, to the planet Apple below Fifth Avenue in NYC.

Beam me down, Scotty, to the planet Apple below Fifth Avenue in NYC.

I am not a huge cellphone guy, but I have had an iPhone for about a year and it’s wearing me down. I don’t need to be on it  all the time, but I find myself using it for so many different things. In the car, it’s my GPS and my iTunes feed. In a long line at the store or restaurant, it’s my e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter access. In bored moments, I find myself downloading really useful apps like the Flipadelphia cup flipping game from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. Obviously, with the explosion of iPhone and iPad users out there (including a burgeoning market in China), Apple’s future is looking mighty rosy. Even a Justice Department investigation over possible book publisher collusion on digital book pricing is little more than a minor distraction.

The cool factor has always been there in Apple advertising. From 1984, through the PC and Mac guys, and the iTunes tunes, Apple has managed to capture attention, set trends, and create demand for its amazing products. Now comes two new TV spots featuring celebrity users of the latest generation iPhones with Siri capability. Although Apple has enough cachet on its own, it doesn’t hurt to trade on the current popularity of Samuel L. Jackson and Zooey Deschanel. Neither spot is ground-breaking, but both are fun and play to the strengths of the actors at quiet moments at home with their digital personal assistant.  The reviewer from Advertising Age found them somewhat misguided and with the strategy adrift now that Steve Jobs isn’t captaining the ship. Still, the spots are scoring well with consumers. Right now, I think you could replace Jackson and Deschanel with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Snooki and it wouldn’t have any effect on Apple sales or popularity. The economy might be hurting, the California economy in particular, but in Cupertino, it’s the gold rush all over again.

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I got a real chuckle out of viral video link my son sent me. It is likely you have seen it already given the speed with which such clips get shared these days. A few days after I saw it, the clip got coverage in Advertising Age and Creativity. And a few more days later, it makes its debut here at NewtonIdeas. Syndication reruns are soon to follow.

In case you haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil the fun. Here is the video:

Now, that the show is over and the dust has settled, I have some questions.

When did Turner Broadcasting define the TNT brand as the “Drama” network? (I have to admit I don’t watch a lot of TV and am partial to AMC because of Mad Men and Breaking Bad.)

Did anyone grasp the irony of selling a network dedicated entirely to weekly dramas by staging a stunt built around a hugely comic premise? (Larry David, Judd Apatow, Will Ferrell need not apply.)

Was this a one-and-done for video only effort? (That’s a rhetorical question, but I can’t imagine being a bystander witnessing the epic results of pushing that button and not wanting to press it again and again.)

TNT's site for Benelux pushes its "Drama" shows front and center.

TNT's site for Benelux pushes its "Drama" shows front and center.

How successful has this been in its core purpose — introducing TNT as a new cable offering in the Benelux countries? (While buzz has definitely been generated, I suspect all those TNT drama shows will have a tough time following this act for ongoing entertainment value.)

Why are European town squares so conducive to planning and executing elaborate viral video stunts? (Here is a link to an early Angry Birds promotional effort.)

What is TNT doing to translate that viral excitement over here? (I suspect Occupy Wall Street has spoiled the chance of any US town squares being taken over for promotional purposes the rest of this year.)

I don’t have answers to any of these questions. I just found myself surprised by how much effort went into a single surprising moment of fun, how that moment runs somewhat counter to the brand message, and how little follow-through in the way of integrated marketing communications is in place to take advantage of all the buzz that’s been generated. No one said the advertising business is easy.

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Conan turns to blimps and digital and tv to build his brand.

Conan turns to blimps and digital and tv to build his brand.

No wonder advertisers get confused about how to allocate media dollars. It is an absolute free-for-all. A day does not go by without another news item suggesting how one medium or platform is overtaking or supplanting another. I routinely remind myself of the progression that TV did not kill radio when it came on the scene, and likewise, the Internet did not replace TV. Every form of media is still in active use (papyrus scrolls and carrier pigeons excepted). I see latest Conan TV ads feature blimp advertising blended with mobile platforms. As a big fan of Team Coco, I am hoping for Goodyear associations, not Hindenberg.

A quick sampling of recent stories should give everyone pause about claiming superiority over another medium or about writing a competing medium’s obituary.

This intriguing story from Advertising Age suggests Facebook is voraciously eating the lunch of major magazine brands. It left me scratching my head about how Burberry, frozen in my own brain as a conservative British purveyor of fine raincoats, has attracted over 8 million followers on Facebook. I visited their pages and came away still scratching my head. This Google search revealed a few clues — fashion launches via Facebook and iPads, free samples of a new fragrance, interactive videos, and easy-to-follow followers like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. Still, that is a staggering number of followers, but more power to them. Whatever Burberry is doing, it’s working.

Next up, two stories from Digiday. One reveals how Google is preparing a full frontal assault on newspapers’ biggest cash cow — Sunday circulars. Imagine a digital version of a circular that gives a retailer all kinds of local control to customize content by store, pricing, and product category. Also from Digiday is a rather depressing, confusing  picture of the landscape of digital advertising tech companies. The bar is low for entrants. The result is a mixed bag of options and results for advertisers. Not sure who is being served by this.

This week, New York magazine devotes an extended article to Twitter and whether it is becoming too big for its 140-character britches, er tweets.

If you’re not completely boggled yet, here is video reporting by the print-based Wall Street Journal delivered online from their web site to explain how tv ad spending can be rising as viewership is dropping. Got that?

My next media recommendation? Burma-shave style billboards but delivered with a twist — constantly changing messaging on a series of digital billboards. The product? Attention-deficit disorder drugs.

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Nerf arsenal in Red Tettemer's interactive department.

Nerf arsenal in Red Tettemer's interactive department.

Today, something very exciting happened. Advertising Age gave national exposure to a Philadelphia shop for the first time in a long time and in a very big way. Not since Gyro tilted the Philadelphia advertising world off its axis has an agency in this town captured national exposure in the long shadows of Madison Avenue. Advertising Age’s new Agency Digs video feature visited Red Tettemer’s awesomely creative workspace. I encourage you to do the same. Not because I like to give exposure to competing agencies in the same metropolitan area, but because you’ll get a fascinating tour of a truly unique and creative enterprise.

Red Tettemer has come a long way from an old house in Narberth to the top two floors of the PNB ( former Philadelphia National Bank) building, complete with rooftop access. On those two floors is an agency workspace that is part Dave and Busters, part CBGB’s, part South Street head shop, part pet shop, and part Las Vegas lounge — in other words, every square inch seems to be conceived to spark the imagination, the funny bone, and the creative drive. It’s the coolest agency workspace I’ve ever seen.

From large to small, most of the agencies, I’ve visited over the years would not find themselves featured in Architectural Digest. Ours included. But these days especially, when great work is being produced on iPads in crowded Starbucks, the digital landscape and end results are what clients care about. Most clients never set foot in an agency anymore. The agency’s web site is as close as they travel.

I remember an early interview at Lewis & Gilman (the mega-shop that later became a unit of Foote Cone and Belding and later Brian Tierney’s firm). There was an air of importance to the place as I sat in the waiting area with my portfolio. Early episodes of Mad Men brought back the exclusive Old Boys Network air of the place.

Later, Philadelphia advertising captured national attention again through the TV show “thirtysomething” where the main characters Michael and Elliot had their own agency and later worked for DAA. The firm’s open workspace and the indoor basketball court were patterned after the offices of California based Chiat Day.

Some of the more interesting spaces I’ve visited in recent years have been creative firms that combine video production and all things digital. Howard McCabe’s firm Blue turned a former Fairmount residence into stylish editing and animation suites and workrooms. JPL in Harrisburg took over an editing facility from Tyco and converted it into one of the Best Places to Work in PA. The other week I sat in on a social media strategy session for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society at Think Brownstone’s great open space dominated by couches and a white board, in a Conshohocken brownstone.

But as exceptional as each of these offices are, none are as mind-bending and fun-filled as Red Tettemer’s featured space. It’s a theme park for left-brained types. Congratulations to Steve Red and everyone at Red Tettemer for creating a great environment for creative to thrive.

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