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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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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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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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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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If anyone wants a lesson on how to protect your trademarked brand, just watch the NFL legal team in action.  This article by Timothy Carney from the Washington Examiner caught my attention. It details how the NFL won a legal battle before it really began over an Indiana man with some foresight and a dream to make some money selling T-shirts. Roy Fox had watched how NBA Coach Pat Riley made some extra cash by trademarking the term “Three-Peat” when the Lakers were on that multi-year championship run.  Either the NBA lawyers are a little more laid back or they cut Riley some slack because he is part of the NBA family (and likely went through licensed NBA merchandise vendors).

Jim Harbaugh, coach of SF, is taking on his brother John Harbaugh, coach of Baltimore in the game affectionately, but controversially known, as the Harbowl.

Jim Harbaugh, coach of SF, is taking on his brother John Harbaugh, coach of Baltimore in the game affectionately, but controversially known, as the Harbowl.

Carney relates Fox’s vision of a SuperBowl (whoops, I mean “Big Game”) between the San Francisco 49ers coached by Jim Harbaugh and the Baltimore Ravens coached by his brother John Harbaugh, hence he applied to trademark the terms Harbowl and Harbaughbowl through USPTO (the United States Patent and Trademark Office) over a year ago, approval coming last February. Fox envisioned making a small killing off the rights to T-shirts, caps, and fangear.

This week, radio host football fan Bill Bennett, in anticipation of Hilary Clinton’s appearance before the Senate hearing on Benghazi, predicted strategy perfectly, “If you’re not playing offense, you’re playing defense.” Hilary did not disappoint. The lawyers who represent NFL brand interests understand this and did not waste any time or energy, going on offense even before the marquis match-up  between Harbaugh Bros. became a reality. Carney’s article details how they headed off Fox’s plans before they really got off the ground.

My initial reaction was Shakespearean (“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”). Then, it was small business sympathy driven (big corporations running roughshod over little entrepreneur with a great idea).  Then, I put my branding hat on. The NFL has a lot invested in its myriad of league and team brands. It makes them a ton of money all season long, and then all over again in the off-season. When gear is sold, they go through an elaborate process of licensing vendors and monitoring the quality of merchandise sold with the NFL brandnames attached.

The NFL did not own or conceive of trademarking Harbowl or HarbaughBowl; however, these marks are obviously related to the NFL product on the field and future products to be sold off the field. They had no control over how Mr. Fox would proceed in his business ventures. If he sold shoddy merchandise, it would reflect badly on the NFL.  As for the Harbaughs and their personal brands, I think they are both a little more focused on the outcome of next Sunday’s game to be concerned with this peripheral controversy right now.

According to Carney, Fox did not have a business or legal background, so when NFL attorneys came at him like the Ravens defensive line, he wisely saw his career as a fangear entrepreneur ending badly and painfully. He worked with the NFL to relinquish his rights to the Harbowl and Harbaughbowl trademarks (not clear if the NFL subsequently picked them up). Think it should have ended with some form of compensation by the NFL to Fox, but hard to say that is wrong from the outside from reading a single news account.

As an Eagles fan, sorry that Andy Reid never got an SB ring before he left town, but cautiously optimistic that Chip Kelly will usher in a new era of winning football in Philadelphia, I will leave you with a local take on next week’s “Big Game” from a young lady who goes by the great brand of PhilaDehlia. She is evidently an expert prognosticator for SB Nation (9 out of 10 playoff picks) and she will tell you why the Baltimore Ravens are her predicted winner since the E-A-G-L-E-S’s are not participating this year.

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Every entrepreneur tries to hit a homerun with branding a new enterprise (name, logo, and entire corporate identity). It is not easy to do, because too often entrepreneurs try to do it on a shoestring. Usually the graphic design side suffers because a friend’s daughter in art school gets the assignment for a couple hundred bucks. Or the entrepreneur has a strong preference for other marks, hence the Nike swoosh craze of not too many years ago.

The naming challenge is in its own way even tougher. For one thing, it seems like there is nothing new under the sun and to find a unique DBA (doing business as) name that gets attention, defines what you do, and will stand the test of time isn’t so easy. Coca Cola, Microsoft, and Apple did not become industry giants overnight and without perpetual advertising exposure.

This is a pretty good overview from Entrepreneur magazine on a naming approach and pitfalls to avoid. It conveys how really hard it is to find that sweet spot that captures everything you want to convey in a first glance as well as a lasting impression. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t swing for the fences.

Yesterday, I was in NYC/North Jersey for a trade show at the Javits Center. While sitting in traffic, waiting to get on the New Jersey Turnpike, I saw a fully vehicle wrapped service van with a name I had never seen before — a name that conveyed a lot. FRSTeam! This name struck me as a unique and well thought out approach to the challenges of saying a lot in a short burst. Plus, it hit upon a somewhat new formula from all of those contained in the Entrepreneur article.

FRSTeam is a corporate name that manages to convey a lot.

FRSTeam is a corporate name that manages to convey a lot.

Immediately, FRSTeam says two things. It implies FIRST in a way that your mind completes the word and fills in the missing vowel. Of course FIRST implies number one, but more importantly in this case, it implies fast response as in the team that is first on the scene to help you. It also says Team, which underscores that you are not dealing with a lone contractor spread too thin. That’s a very good thing, because FRSTeam is in the business of helping homeowners and businesses respond to property damage from fire or flood or mold.  SERVPro and Service Master are the two best-known names in this space.

Ultimately, what struck me about the FRSTeam name, however, is that it also combines an acronym — Fabric Restoration Service — which happens to be the specialty of FRSTeam. As anyone who has ever tried to get smells or stains out of fabric can tell you, that is an enterprise that cries out for a specialist with skills, equipment, and know-how. Their web site suggests that they have all that, plus a solid customer service emphasis. I found nothing that said they do STEAM cleaning of fabric, but if they do, that is yet one additional meaning you can get out of the FRSTeam name.

As for the FRSTeam logo, it is a strong font with a fire and water symbol hanging off it. Interestingly, they split the R in FRST to visually convey the I, but upon closer look, it is also a 1. Clever.

What’s in a name? Sometimes confusion. Sometimes a company that has outgrown its original name and is now an acronym (IBM). But sometimes just the right mix of letters and impressions.

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Hooters is looking to expand their demographics.

Hooters is looking to expand their demographics.

I consider myself a red-blooded American male, but I have a confession to make. I have never set foot inside a Hooters restaurant. Timing was always bad when male friends gathered at one for a round of drinks. I sure never felt unselfconscious enough to drop by alone for a beer and plate of wings. And I knew I might have an uphill battle convincing my wife that we should have a family dinner there. However, I always assumed I was in the minority. This article in Advertising Age about a new campaign suggests otherwise.

There was a time that Hooters totally owned the tacky territory of well-endowed waitresses in skimpy uniforms. They even extended the brand briefly to an airline (no flotation device jokes, please) and to supermarkets with their signature brand of wings hot sauce.

Now, the market segment Hooters invented has a name — breastaurants — and the chain has smaller chain competitors in Twin Peaks and Tilted Kilt. Truth be told, there are very few male-dominated bars in America that don’t follow the Hooters hiring model in selecting waitstaff.

Incredibly, the new consortium of private-equity firms that owns Hooters since the death of its founder in 2006, has brought in a new management team with new ideas. Unfortunately, from the Ad Age story, it sounds like they may know the chain restaurant business, but not the dangers of tampering with brand equity. Hooters, if it can be believed, is in the process of reinventing itself. The chain wants to expand by appealing to “younger people and women” and by becoming “an option for more dining occasions” (maybe now I can convince my wife about family dinner).

But just wait a wing-dipping minute. First of all, you can’t be all things to all people. Hooters is a place guys go to drink and eat man cave food with buddies, while enjoying the politically incorrect outfits of the waitresses. Most women, other than Hooters waitresses, have a visceral reaction when they hear the name Hooters and would never consider entering the establishment unless it was as part of a pitchfork mob. How you suddenly convert this chain into a place for date night or another Dave and Buster’s or Olive Garden is beyond me.

So, whom did the chain turn to in order to tackle this seemingly impossible assignment? Their first lead agency, Fitzgerald & Co., and Jody Hill, the director of that HBO-exclusive Shakespearean drama “Eastbound and Down” have collaborated on new commercials that create an inner dialogue a potential customer might have in his head (or on his shoulder) between an angel owl and a devil owl reminding him of the virtues of Hooters. Sounds funny, and it is clever, but the results are edgy and still seem aimed at the male funny bone. Media buys on ESPN and Fox Sports also skew heavily toward the testosterone crowd.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2Iv7N5qfVY&feature=relmfu

I am pretty damned sure that this new campaign is not going to change anything in the minds of Hooters key demographic —guys who like to ogle while they eat and drink. The danger is that by adding 30 different salads and probably bringing in a decorator who likes ferns but not big screen TVs or just big Ts, the new management team could be tampering with Hooters DNA. If I didn’t know better, I’d say NYC Mayor Bloomberg was behind this politically correct plot.  I promise to keep you updated on this tempest in a D cup.

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Pardon the pun on the ‘70s America song title. Perhaps the ugly nocturnal muskrat is the only remaining animal or anthropomorphic character still unclaimed by a corporation or sports team as a branding symbol. Mascots have been advertising mainstays since advertising has been a mainstay.

Mascots can create a warm and fuzzy feeling between the brand and the customer. Kids are especially susceptible. I know because it was an early age fascination with one Speedy Alka-Seltzer that sparked my interest in an advertising career and indigestion relief.

It just seems like America’s love affair with make-believe beings that embody brand values has no end.

 

GEICO's Gecko is arguably the perfect mascot.

Can you have too many mascots? Ask GEICO. They developed perhaps the most successful mascot of all time in the GEICO Gecko, thanks to clever nameplay and the ideal blend of an engaging accent and light humor. But too much of a good thing is never a good thing. Layering on additional characters and ad campaigns, from too-sensitive cavemen to a thrill-seeking baby pig has helped to overexpose the GEICO brand.

Great mascot moments. There is really no end to the glory days of mascots throughout the course of advertising history. From the Jolly Green Giant, to Mr. Clean, to the Stay-Puft marshmallow man, to Mayor McCheese, to Tony the Tiger, even to the Chuckwagon wagon train.

Ho, ho, ho. . .Green Giant!

Ho, ho, ho. . .Green Giant!

Not-so-great mascot moments.  Occasionally, what seems like a good idea, isn’t. Like using Joe Camel to skew tobacco demographics younger. Or staging a race between meat product costumes at a Milwaukee Brewers baseball game, leading one player to hit one of the sausage characters in the head with his bat. However, worst of all was when Gilbert Gottfried, comic and voiceover actor extraordinaire, whose one-of-a-kind sound won him the gig as the Aflac duck. However, a few tweets in bad taste about the horrific natural disasters in Japan (unknown to Gottfried as a major Aflac market) led to his prompt dismissal.

Mascot rivalries. Locally, we are blessed with the most memorable, well-loved mascot in all of sports — the Philly Phanatic. At least until this year. Forbes magazine recently ran a poll and determined that the Phanatic is now number two. Edging him out of the top spot as a fan favorite was Mr. Met. Hilariously, the Phanatic took to Facebook to congratulate his NL East chum and to warn him to “not let the honor go to his head.”

Mr. Met doesn't mind stitches.

Mr. Met doesn't mind stitches.

Worst mascot ever. Tossup. I know that Burger King got some clever, edgy mileage out of creating a rubberized suit version of the King of Burgers, but there was a creepy weird vibe associated with what amounted to this full-size, silent action figure.

Burger King of bling.

Burger King of bling.

Meanwhile, I hope that the owners of MegaBus never decide to create a live action mascot suit of the cartoon driver who adorns the back of every bus. He resembles a Playskool Weeble and his rotundity looks like it might adversely affect his driving record.

Mr. MegaBus is larger than life.

Mr. MegaBus is larger than life.

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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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