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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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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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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 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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=EQTyxNTQTtk&noredirect=1

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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A Branding & Advertising Evolution: 3 in a Series of Musings Sparked by “The 100 Greatest Advertisements,” Julian Lewis Watkins, Dover Books, 1959

Today’s digital/Internet/mobile/social media world is indeed a modern marvel, but we have a tendency to lose sight of how far technology has come in the last century plus.  Data, data everywhere at the drop of a hat, with apps that entertain and inform and guide is remarkable and ever-morphing, although it has the capability to trigger an ADHD epidemic as youth gets used to multi-tasking  by multiple devices and disengagement from the real world grows.

A trip through some of the 100 greatest ads reminds us how enormous a part transportation played in growing industrial America, connecting our vast country, and helping to create the global economy we all enjoy today.

A car card promoting the elegant travel of the coal-powered Lackawanna

A car card promoting the elegant travel of the coal-powered Lackawanna

For those who have a hard enough time remembering when air travel was a pampered, glamorous experience, and that coal once enjoyed a heyday powering transportation and heating our homes, this car card for the Lackawanna Railroad will seem very mysterious indeed. There was a time when train travel was the epitome of sophistication and a dramatic way to see the country. I doubt Joe Biden’s boosterism and California rail subsidies can ever take us back there.

A ride on Boston and Maine. Take it or leave it.

A ride on Boston and Maine. Take it or leave it.

Eventually, as this ad for Boston and Maine shows, train travel was so prevalent that weather and usage demands created real world problems and PR issues. The ad is an acknowledgement, but an underscore that in spite of it all, Boston and Maine always runs.

This tribute to the young men serving in America's armed forces in WWII really resonated with the public.

This tribute to the young men serving in America's armed forces in WWII really resonated with the public.

Overbooking of train berths took another wrinkle during World War II when the nation’s young men received orders to report for duty on short notice. The Kid in Upper 4 for the New Haven RR was one of the earliest and best of ads in support of our military — everyone who read it had a young son or brother and they could instantly relate to the ad’s poignancy.

The Ford Model A was rolled out without any images of the car, but a lot of selling copy.

The Ford Model A was rolled out without any images of the car, but a lot of selling copy.

Moving to America’s roadways, it is hard to imagine being able to sell a new car with 1,500 words of text, no image of the vehicle, but a head shot of its inventor and manufacturer, Henry Ford. However, this announcement of the arrival of the Model A in 1927 was one in a series of five such ads produced by the N W Ayer agency. It must have been pretty heady stuff to have Henry Ford himself arrive in Philadelphia to approve the low-key copy in a series of low-key meetings. It must have resonated because within a few weeks of the new campaign orders for the new car reached over 800,000.

It's a bird. It's a plane. Oh, it IS a plane!

It's a bird. It's a plane. Oh, it IS a plane!

Ironically, one year later, N W Ayer and Ford collaborated on another series — for Ford Air Transport. Lift Up Your Eyes was the first ad in the first ever campaign to sell air transportation to the general public. It included tributes to the Wright Brothers and Charles Lindbergh. The dramatic shadow over the landscape emphasized that American transportation was about to change in a big way.

Ask the Man Who Owns One

Ask the Man Who Owns One

By 1938, another car company exec made some history of his own. J. W. Packard not only built a sought-after automobile, he penned one of the most famous ad slogans of all time — Ask The Man Who Owns One. Young and Rubicam were smart enough to recognize that it doesn’t matter where great ideas come from, so long as they’re great. They concentrated on the nostalgic copy and the rest was history.

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A Branding & Advertising Evolution: 1 in a Series of Musings Sparked by “The 100 Greatest Advertisements,” Julian Lewis Watkins, Dover Books, 1959

I’ve written about tobacco industry and government overreach before (here, here, here, and here). My feeling is that as long as tobacco is a legal product, and the government chooses to collect ever higher taxes from smokers, and as long as there are age restrictions and programs in place to educate young people, then there should be a balance. However, with the cost of employee health care guaranteed to keep rising, there will be ever-increasing pressure on people not to smoke, not to over eat, not to eat unhealthy foods, not to drink sugary drinks or those with artificial sweeteners, not to drive except to work, school, or essential errands, not to step off curbs. . .well, where does it end or does it ever end? The other day, I heard that some state is thinking of introducing legislation to prevent the public smoking of electronic cigarettes, the ones that produce no harmful byproducts or second-hand smoke, only steam. So, now it is the sight of someone deriving pleasure from an electronic device that simulates the smoking of a tobacco cigarette that is enough to cause psychic harm to bystanders? We have really lost our way.

When Ted Regan loaned me his copy of “The 100 Greatest Advertisements,” and began sharing Ayer stories, he didn’t know he was going to re-ignite the great tobacco/smokers’ rights debate again. This is rich territory that MadMen has visited in various episodes and might again this coming spring.

N.W. Ayer's introductory campaign to launch the then-new Camels brand.

N.W. Ayer's introductory campaign to launch the then-new Camels brand.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that one of the most iconic of cigarette brands began life as an N.W. Ayer account. When R. J. Reynolds blended a new cigarette that they wanted to roll out as a national brand, they acquired the Camel name from a small independent company in Philadelphia for $2,500. They then budgeted 10 times that amount, so Ayer could introduce it. First, there was testing to ensure the public liked the new cigarettes — many cartons were distributed and sold through the best retail stores in Cleveland, prominently placed on top of counters. Secondarily, it was moved to parts of stores where it competed for sales with regional brands. It did well in both areas of these stores. Ayer then developed a newspaper teaser ad campaign, coordinated with the implementation of new distribution, to create interest in demand for Camels (“Tomorrow There Will Be More Camels in This Town Than in Asia and Africa Combined”). The rest is brand history. Later on, a billboard painter was quoted as saying “I’d Walk A Mile For A Camel.” That was the genesis of one of the most famous slogans in advertising history.

This Lucky Strike campaign was aimed squarely at women and against candy.

This Lucky Strike campaign was aimed squarely at women and against candy.

Long before there were Virginia Slims, developed specifically to market as a women’s cigarette brand, the American Tobacco Company decided that Lucky Strikes could be effectively marketed (against the protests of the confectionary industry) as “Reach for a Lucky Instead of a Sweet.” Motion picture starlets were hired as spokespersons to pitch the dietary cravings advantage of cigarettes over candy to women. It was a huge success, and many believe that the campaign may have been the single greatest effort leading to creating women smokers.

Hedy Lamar continued the Lucky Strike trend of movie star brand spokespersons.

Hedy Lamar continued the Lucky Strike trend of movie star brand spokespersons.

Conversely, the tobacco brand forever most associated with men is Marlboro, thanks to the efforts of Leo Burnett, where the marketing effort began. Ironically, Marlboro already existed as a high-priced exclusive cigarette sold to sophisticates and women at hotels, cigar stores, and nightclubs. Philip Morris wanted to take the brand for a new entry into the popular-priced filter field. They wanted to appeal broadly to men, and secondarily to women.

Long before the "most interesting man in the world" there was the Marlboro Man.

Long before the "most interesting man in the world" there was the Marlboro Man.

The filtered segment began in response to health concerns (more on that in a minute), but flavor was still critical in brand decision-making. Burnett realized that image was critical. And so, the Marlboro Man was born — the cowboy who bought a new brand of filtered cigarettes because he liked the taste and they came in a distinctive crush-proof box.

The Emperor of All Maladies, A Biography of Cancer, is the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Siddhartha Mukherjee

The Emperor of All Maladies, A Biography of Cancer, is the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Ironically, the other book I’ve been reading concurrently with Ted Regan’s loaned Ayer and advertising volumes is the exceptional, Pulitzer Prize-winning,“The Emperor of All Maladies” by Siddhartha Mukherjee, subtitled “A Biography of Cancer.”  Two later chapters touch on the battle to beat lung cancer, and the subsequent start of the government’s own battle with the tobacco industry. At that time, the tobacco industry was far more dominant than they are today. When Richard Doll and Bradford Hill published a ground-breaking study on lung cancer in 1956, the adult American population had reached a peak of 45 percent who smoked. On average, Americans smoked 11 cigarettes per day. Hard to imagine those numbers today.

"A Frank Statement," American tobacco's first salvo against medical studies linking smoking and cancer.

"A Frank Statement," American tobacco's first salvo against medical studies linking smoking and cancer.

The study’s results for the first time strongly linked smoking, tar, and tobacco with lung cancer deaths, especially when contrasted against non-smokers. With bad publicity spreading, the heads of U.S. tobacco companies decided they could not sit back and ignore what would be increasingly damaging reports. The result was a counterattack that began with a full page ad in 400 major newspapers entitled “A Frank Statement.” The text cast doubt on the quality of the science (experiments on mice vs. humans, which actually was not the case in the Doll/Hill study) and disagreements in the medical community. The topping was the announcement that the industry would be conducting its own research by the Tobacco Industry Research Committee (no conflict of interest here). A recent trip to a Baltimore antique store hammered home to me that Big Tobacco’s efforts to assure the public of the safety of cigarettes didn’t end with “A Frank Statement.” Although it never evolved into a lasting brand, Country Doctor pipe tobacco may have been the ultimate attempt to mislead the public that cancer risks from smoking were minimal to the point that the medical profession had their own preferred pack.

Country Doctor brand cigarettes. To your health!

Country Doctor brand pipe tobacco. To your health!

     Any trip to Wawa will tell you by the number of tobacco products behind the counter that Americans are still smoking, chewing, pinching, and spitting. But you’ve come a long way, baby, from a market share of half the adult population. Smoking is still a pleasurable, stress-relieving activity for a lot of people, but those who partake do so with the knowledge that they may face a bevy of health risks or early death down the road. If ever there was a product that the phrase caveat emptor was invented for, it’s cigarettes.

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It all started in December at the annual Warriors holiday luncheon organized by long-time Newton friend, Art Niedosik, just retired from a distinguished career in b2b ad sales, most recently for SDM magazine. The Warriors are made up of many other b2b ad sales reps like Art, members of the now-defunct (or in dormancy) Philadelphia Advertising Golf Association (PAGA), a number of b2b clients, and agency folk like yours truly. This was my second year attending and it was a good way to catch up with old friends and make a few new ones. That was the case this year when I had the good fortune to be seated next to Ted Regan, whom I assumed was there on the b2b side, but came out to the Warriors as a long-time Merion and PAGA  member. More importantly, I learned he was a kindred spirit — before he semi-retired, Ted was a creative director and copywriter for the legendary Ayer Worldwide in New York (and while still based here in Philadelphia).

Ted Regan, CD, Copywriter, and local N.W. Ayerthority

Ted Regan, CD, Copywriter, and local N.W. Ayerthority (photo courtesy of Chuck Lubking)

After trading creative war stories and business cards, Ted and I agreed to continue our discussion over lunch in the New Year. I was dying to know more about Philadelphia’s greatest advertising story (before there was Madison Avenue, there was N.W. Ayer) and Ted wanted to hear what causes thrills and ulcers in the agency business in 2013. When we got together last month, Ted brought along a book, “The 100 Greatest Advertisements” by Julian Lewis Watkins, this edition published by Dover in 1959.  He followed up by mail with another, “125 Years of Building Brands,” a commemorative published upon the 125th anniversary of the founding of N.W. Ayer. Between these two volumes, and two lunches worth of stories from Ted, I realized I had been graced with a treasure trove of advertising history, particularly Philadelphia advertising history, most of it blog-worthy. Over the past few weeks, I’ve wrestled with how best to present what I was learning, and I realized that there was enough material here for a series. So look for some familiar hits and some surprises in the weeks ahead. This is a decidedly rich vein.

Ted had many great lunch stories, including what it is like pitching memorable slogans to the U.S. Army. Also, how creative presentations go at the Department of Defense, where rank and eye contact are well defined. Sounded a lot like the high level conference room scene in “Zero Dark Thirty” when the certainty/uncertainty of Osama bin Laden’s Pakistan whereabouts is officially presented to Leon Panetta.

What surprised me is how much I thought I knew about N.W. Ayer but really didn’t. We are talking about an advertising agency that all but invented the agency business. In the process, they helped establish and build some of the best known brands in the world. Agency years are like dog years, so for multiple generations of owners and managers to take a shop far past the century mark, you are talking about one of the great American business success stories. For a pretty good Ayer chronicle, Ad Age published this history. And here is the Wikipedia version. And for some sense of Ayer success, here is an excellent video tour of the exterior and interior lobby of the majestic Ayer building in Philadelphia (now condos) at 210 West Washington Square.

To me, what’s sad is the legacy loss of Ayer as an agency entity, which officially occurred in 2002 when then parent Bcom3 (there’s a name that rolls right off the tongue) bundled agency assets into the Kaplan Thayer Group but discontinued the Ayer brand. Ten years later, Kaplan Thayer itself just got bundled into Publicis at year-end creating Publicis Kaplan Thayer. Well, at least Ayer is still resident in the last four letters of that new mongrelized brandname.

In the coming weeks, look for some historical ground-breaking work from Ayer and other top agencies, along with some thoughts on historical context and cultural changes and/or continuity.

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A Mad Men partner meeting that isn't going well.

A Mad Men partner meeting that isn't going well.

This agency blog was started with a note of appreciation to Matthew Weiner for doing such an amazing job of capturing the highs the ad business can deliver when things are going well — there is nothing like the buzz you get from a great campaign coming together, a perfect blend of strategic and creative. As season five of Mad Men winds down to a final episode next week, Weiner and company have achieved so much more. I can’t say the series is hitting its stride, because from the very first episode, it took off like a rabbit and lapped other dramatic shows long ago. It’s just that in the last two weeks, Mad Men has plumbed the moral (or amoral) depths of business in general, and advertising specifically. It has taken its two central female characters and shown how women are too often treated and what they have to do to succeed. It has delivered jolts worthy of Shakespearean tragedy.

For every guy who has ever wanted to be Don Draper, you might soon need a liver transplant. Alcohol can only begin to numb the pain when you get what you want — a car account (Jaguar) — only to know that it likely wasn’t the creative that won the day. Also that you have told one of the guys with his name on the door (Lane Pryce) to tender his resignation on Monday morning following a forged check and embezzlement, only to have him make another type of exit. And you have watched as Peggy, the woman you’ve mentored (but mistreated) through five seasons has finally flown to another agency, while Joan, the office manager who has helped keep the agency together, has unexpectedly become a partner, by accepting an offer that would help land the agency its biggest account while sending its moral compass spinning in all directions.

Joan helps the agency land Jaguar for a big price.

Joan helps the agency land Jaguar for a big price.

I have no idea what next week’s season five final episode holds, but I expect it to resonate just like every other before it. Weiner has created an incredibly rich tapestry about advertising’s golden age, the tumultuous sixties, and the changing dynamics between men and women, as well as family and work. Bravo!

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My friends and I have had a running gag since senior year of college, every so often suggesting names for the rock band we never got around to forming. This article from A.V. Club renewed the conversation last December and revived another round, still nothing topping our default choice — Insipid Ostrich.
Two memorable songs from the late Jim Croce and the late Johnny Cash underscore the importance of selecting the proper moniker.

Not surprisingly, ad agency naming bears more than a passing resemblance to the rock world, which would help to explain some of the memorable names featured in this Adweek story. Here are the 40 strangest names in the global ad business; the article gives the background on each.

40. Taxi
39. Odopod
38. Bonehook
37. Big Spaceship
36. Droga5
35. The Bank
34. Razorfish
33, Naked
32, Wikreate
31. Steak
30. Creature
29. Lean Mean Fighting Machine
28. High Heels & Bananas
27. Blammo Worldwide
26. Omobono
25. The Chopping Block
24. Captains of Industry
23. The Glue Society
22. Farm
21. Adam & Eve
20. Elephants & Ants
19. Victors & Spoils
18. David & Goliath
17. For Office Use Only
16. Walrus
15. Mother
14. Mistress
13. G&M Plumbing
12. Moosylvania
11. The Barbarian Group
10. Omelet
9. Big Kitty Labs
8. Hello Viking
7. High Wide & Handsome
6. Barton F. Graf 9000
5. Kids Love Jetlag
4, Pocket Hercules
3.StrawberryFrog
2. 72andsunny
1. Wexley School for Girls

In the past week, I’ve taken calls from two creative production houses whose catchy names were carefully chosen to set them apart — Fat Chimp Studios and The Nerdery.

Yesterday, I was reading an industry story on The Pitch and saw a banner for Gyro, the edgiest, buzz-worthiest branding/advertising agency to ever call Philadelphia home. When I clicked through, I realized it was not Gyro Worldwide, but another agency now using the name. A Google search for Gyro Worldwide led me to Quaker City Mercantile, a surprisingly mellow but still memorable (by comparison) rebranding.

The traditional agency nomenclature direction is a lot like the method followed by the legal profession. The name(s) on the door belong to the principals: Ogilvy and Mather; Doyle Dane Bernbach; Della Femina Travisano & Partners; even the fictional Mad Men shop, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.

That’s the model followed and continued by Newton Associates. Yes, Virginia, there was and still is a Jon Newton. We continue to collaborate, lunch and kibitz with Jon regularly. In 2003, when Gerry Giambattista and I purchased the agency as long-time employees from Jon and his account service business partner, Harry Streamer, we made a conscious decision to retain the name, carry the torch, and honor the high standards set by Newton Associates. We’ve never regretted our name decision and we’re proud to soon be coming up on marking our first decade.

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