New York City

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

Overall Facilities:

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

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

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

Access:

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

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

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


Labor:

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

Food:

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

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

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

Traffic:

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

Hotels:

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

Winner:

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

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

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

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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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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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Hurricanes have a way of getting your attention. Being part of the Mid-Atlantic path of Sandy has made me aware of many things out of the normal course of daily business. Storms of all sorts are increasingly opportunities for local news stations to push weather expertise and project themselves as round-the-clock regional communications centers. The result is typically a lot of supermarkets benefiting from bread and milk sales and a lot of snow shovels and sidewalk salt sold at Lowes and Home Depot.

Erie Insurance and State Farm took to the air pre-Sandy promoting emergency preparedness.

Erie Insurance and State Farm took to the air pre-Sandy promoting emergency preparedness.

However, the potential for serious flooding, property damage, and power outages with Hurricane Sandy over such a wide path of the Eastern seaboard has upped the ante in many directions. Yesterday, a number of smart retailers like Wal-Mart and Office Depot had moved essentials to the front of their stores, including bottled water, flashlights, batteries, etc. Perhaps the only exception — portable generators are still tough to be had at a time like this.

Especially surprising were some smart radio commercials yesterday by two different major property/casualty insurance giants — State Farm and Erie Insurance. Both spots were direct, full of good preparatory advice, and reassurance that they would be there for policyholders. That is a solid message for corporations to send ahead of what will be a costly quarter for them as they help customers settle claims post hurricane. The media buy was expensive, but likely more than offset by the new customers they will gain from competitive property/casualty insurers who don’t treat their insureds well in the days ahead.

Travelers sent a safety email to customers in advance of Sandy.

Travelers sent a safety email to customers in advance of Sandy.

I wondered about my own company, Travelers, but found a similar message emailed to me, along with important details on storm preparedness and claim follow-up. This is a terrific use of a Customer Relationship Marketing database, and while it may seem like a no-brainer, it requires advance planning on the part of the insurance company’s marketing department, along with coordination with all the departments within the company to ensure accuracy of information.

One of the biggest concerns related to Sandy appears to be about loss of electricity from downed trees taking down transmission lines and water affecting the power grid. I had one unexpected level of assurance from my friend Steven Brush posting to Facebook on Sunday — he snapped a smartphone picture of electrical crew trucks traveling north from Alabama via I-95. Now, that’s emergency preparedness and much appreciated out-of-state assistance even before it is officially needed.

Power crews from Alabama already headed north in advance of Sandy.

Power crews from Alabama already headed north in advance of Sandy.

In the information age, all of us are getting better prepared to handle whatever nature throws our way, certainly following painful lessons learned during Katrina. And government, utilities, media, non-profit relief agencies, and businesses are getting smarter in helping citizens weather these storms.

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It was painful and haunting to go through old photos and find the World Trade Towers.

It was painful and haunting to go through old photos and find the World Trade Towers.

It’s been a very sad week in America. I don’t need an anniversary date on the calendar to remind me of one of the worst days in American history. There hasn’t been a day that’s passed since September 11, 2001 in which I haven’t thought and gotten angry about how our country and the world have been changed since our nation was attacked by radical Islamists and thousands of citizens died violent, horrible deaths. I did not lose any family members or friends that day, so I can only imagine the pain and emptiness that victims’ loved ones have had to endure this past decade.

It was with some trepidation that I waited to see how this eleventh anniversary would be marked, now that there was the distance of ten plus one years since that infamous attack on our shores. It didn’t take long to be disappointed in how 9/11 perceptions are changing. Good friend and client Wayne Hayward forwarded me two tone-deaf marketing e-mails he’d received, both of which purported to honor those affected by 9/11, but quickly followed those words with a commercial sales pitch. Ugh! What next? 9/11 mattress sales and car dealership discounts?

Later, in the day, we took out-of-town client Secure Wireless (in-town for the ASIS security show) to the Phillies-Marlins game. A few rows below our section was an energetic young lady in a string bikini  top and body paint with the message 9/11 and “Always Remember” on her back. Mostly, she was posing in hopes of appearing on the scoreboard cam. Given that she was probably 10 when the planes hit the twin towers, I don’t think she intended disrespect, but there was a profound disconnect between the event and her freestyle attempt at commemoration.

As for the ASIS show in Philadelphia,  aimed at corporate, academic, governmental, institutional security, I was amazed at some of the latest advances in everything from CCTV analytics to armored bulletproof vehicles, guard houses, and much more. And then came the news about the mob attacks at our embassies in Egypt and Libya and how the latter in Benghazi was a makeshift affair with contracted security and no Marines assigned. The world is still a dangerous place and the bad actors are always poking for signs of weakness.

This explosion of Islamic rage and anti-American hatred should be a wake-up call to those who look at 9/11 as some sort of historical event in the past. Who delude themselves that a continually expanding TSA will protect us from global conflicts such as a nuclear Iran.

The murders of Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans at the Libyan embassy, and the anti-American hate mobs in a growing list of Muslim nations should be enough to remind Americans that we are still engaged in a War on Terror. We are being told that a pathetic, badly made YouTube video incited the carefully planned and coordinated attacks on our embassies. This common sense article hammers home the point that this is about Islamists trying to undermine our most basic freedom — freedom of speech.  The fact that Americans aren’t united about an act of war — the outrageous murders of Ambassador Stevens and his associates — represents a terrible way to mark the anniversary of 9/11. On some matters, we should NEVER be a nation divided. And yet, we are.

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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 NYC.gov 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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Just prior to heading to NYC for the weekend, I got an email from Mike Sisti with the following New York Times story link as possible blog fodder. I found it to be a pretty interesting example of why price wars, in this case between rival pizza parlors, have a tendency to cause pain for all involved.
A temporary race to the bottom can permanently harm multiple competitors and skew consumer perceptions about quality, service, and other differentiators. Being the low cost leader in any business is not necessarily the best position because customers are often left with the impression that corners must be cut in order to achieve the lowest of the lows.

Gray's Papaya is advertising 99 cent pizza.

Gray's Papaya is advertising 99 cent pizza.

While walking around the Village south of Washington Square yesterday, I saw evidence of the cutthroat battle between the non-chain pizza purveyors. I did not come across any 75 cent postings. Gray’s Papaya was glad to have a sign in the window advertising 99 cent slices. Then, I turned a corner and saw a remarkable commitment blending branding and pricing strategies. Between raw materials, cost of labor, rent, and other overhead and fluctuating variables, I am not sure I would ever name my business 99 Cent Fresh Pizza, but I’ll bet for the moment, things are working well.

When you're 99 Cent Fresh Pizza, you are committed to a pricing and branding strategy.

When you're 99 Cent Fresh Pizza, you are committed to a pricing and branding strategy.

In other restaurant news, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (Mental? Why not Dental?), since July 2010, has decided to enter Zagat’s realm and is now requiring food establishments to prominently post letter grades received following most recent spot inspections (A, B, or C). At first glance, I noticed nothing but A’s around the Village and assumed it was not mandatory and only those getting top grades would post (however, all are required by law to post their grades). Soon thereafter I came across a posted B grade (lone cockroach spotted?). This is an unusual blending of carrots and sticks to get restaurants to clean up their kitchens. Most people if given the choice between an A or a B or even a C are not going to want to risk food poisoning and are going to opt for the top grade. Having been a dishwasher in a couple of kitchens early in my working life that were not always pristine, I can see where this regulatory approach has some merits and built in incentives to keep things more toward spotless than spotty.

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