Thursday, August 31

Killing The Message

Sometimes watching what our peers are producing in the advertising industry is akin to witnessing brand-assisted suicide. And it happens all too much.

This week, we witnessed two more message massacres: Ikea could have used Photoshop to pull up the covers and CBS used Photoshop a bit too much on Katie Couric. For all their years of building brand, it only took a few minutes for Ikea to move from 'cool furniture' to 'pet sexploitation' and CBS from having a 'fan-friendly' Katie Couric to a 'Celebrity Fit Club candidate.'

I cannot even begin to comment on Kyra Phillips' credibility crusher here. Frankly, it deserves its own post, not because she made a mistake when she forgot to turn her mic off, but because her candid sister-in-law commentary wasn't even fit for toilet talk.

It's a shame. And it happens all too much. Augusten Burroughs, former ad copywriter turned self-degregating but entertaining confessional author, paints a pretty good picture of how it happens in his book Possible Side Effects.

Burroughs shares a story about how he and a colleague came up with a not so strategic but what would have been a reasonably effective ad campaign for Junior Mints. Their idea was to create a montage spot with people reaching for Junior Mints when you least expect it — while driving in a convertible, riding on a roller coaster, even watching a good movie — and then superimposing a play on words 'Refresh ... mint,' Excite ... mint,' 'Entertain ... mint,' etc.

While the idea is hardly industry earth-shattering, it is cute enough to grab attention and smart enough to solve several of the major problems the client claimed to have: Junior Mints are likened to being a boring movie candy.

It takes less than a single client review meeting to melt the idea. Burroughs humorously conveys what happened at the meeting and how the client strips the concept down to showing a bunch of people standing in a supermarket munching mints right there in the aisle. As funny as it reads in the book, I also found it tragic. It's tragic because the entire chapter is nothing less than being unable to avert your eyes at the scene of an auto accident.

One of the very few rules to consider in advertising is that "nobody is as interested in a product as the company who makes it." Endless product shots and people popping mints is boring. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a guy watching a poll-dancing Burger "King" is, frankly, the quickest way to kill any appetite.

So there you have it. Ikea could have pulled up the blanket (or at least picked a different shot). Couric could have used a new photo shoot (though the color correction would have been okay). Junior Mints needed to add some excitement to its spots. The Burger King creative people are allowed to run amok too much.

At the end of the day, what they all seem to be missing is one simple truth: the answer to most advertising dilemmas lands somewhere in the middle: creative ideas that change people's behavior, giving them a real reason to buy one product over another. Crazy.

Tuesday, August 29

Breathing Life From Blogs

After ''Snakes On A Plane'' saw an opening weekend that didn't rattle anyone's cage, movie critics and insiders speculated that maybe, Internet buzz will never translate into big bucks. Bloggers are setting out to prove the entertainment industry wrong by latching onto ''Till The Sun Turns Black'' and driving up a sudden interest in Ray LaMontagne.

If this sudden blogger buzz translates into a sales surge for album producer Stone Dwarf Music, LLC, then maybe bloggers can restate their case. The bottom line: whether or not you think Ray LaMontagne will carve a place in history like Ben Harper or The Black Keys, you have to admit that this is a 'blog influence' case study worth watching.

Connecting The Dots In TV

Broadcast television is about to change forever and not in the way you might think. Well, maybe in the way you might think, but not in the way some business insiders do. They need to connect the dots.

We immediately saw the writing on the wall last week when BusinessWeek reported that YouTube broke the 500 million video views mark in seven months, which is only a chip shot away from overtaking video view leader MSN Video. Most people raced to the site to see what the buzz was about. Even BusinessWeek reporter Rob Hof noted his surprise when YouTube reported serving 30 million video streams per day.

''I assumed they meant 30 million a MONTH,'' Hof wrote. ''Nope, 30 million a day.''

For most people, the YouTube buzz is about offering mainstream shows from the current season (except those with pay-to-view podcasts), clips from TV's earliest days, and homemade movies from around the world. YouTube has even resulted in some aspiring production talents getting placed with big companies and broke a few political foot-in-mouth stories.

On its own, it is hardly earthshaking. Until, you, let's say, take a peek at what AT&T has been up to for months.

In June, AT&T made its U-verse TV service commercially available to 5,000 homes in San Antonio and the company has said it plans to spend $4.6 billion through 2008 to bring television and high-speed Internet services to almost 19 million homes.

If you don't know about AT&T U-Verse, it's about time you did. Although it's still being perfected, U-Verse provides all-digital television on your TV and home computer at the same time. Of course, that's just the beginning. It also blends in Internet and telecommunications too. In fact, San Antonio already has some 150+ channels to choose from, including local stations.

Connect the dots.

As entertainment turns digital and communications is combined, traditional broadcast producers will see a brand new competitor emerging from the ranks. It might even be you.

You see, right now, YouTube amateurs are just starting to get their acts together. It won't take long before a few ambitious YouTubers begin producing full-length shows beyond the mini-clips and parodies that are currently out there (sure, there are a few already, but I'm talking about the ones people will watch). If they can pull off something that smacks as a pilot, then why not a seasonal series?

How about a few seasonal series? How about an entire network of seasonal series? How about a few news stations too?

If they can do it, and attract a viewership online, how hard do you think it would be for AT&T U-Verse to add a channel with convenient and/or exclusive content to create another unique selling point?

There is no doubt that there exists the potential for independent Web TV producers to forever change the entertainment industry by competing head-to-head with traditional media.

If you don't believe it, then you must not believe some blogs have more readers than international mainstream media (they do) and Napoleon Dynamite never grossed more than $44.5 million (it did). In fact, Dynamite did it despite not having the one advantage that independent Web TV producers are about to inherit — on-demand distribution.

Simply put, the improvement and development of tools for mass media creativity — camcorders and video editing — gave talented amateurs the opportunity to become overnight producers. And now, the future collaboration of content providers like YouTube and potential Internet distributors like AT&T U-Verse will likely open a whole new world of entertainment, video news, and, yes, even advertising.

Saturday, August 26

Adding Automotive Experience

We've added Copywrite, Ink.'s first pdf portfolio page on our main site. As mentioned in our previous post, Sneaking A Promo Peek, each pdf portfolio page includes an industry-specific sampling of work, mini-history or experience overview, and select case study highlights.

Visit Copywrite, Ink. for a glimpse of our work in the automotive industry or download our select account experience lists. Our next pdf portfolio page, featuring B2B experience, will be released on or before Sept. 4.

Friday, August 25

Consulting Across The Aisle

Two days ago, John Weaver, chief political strategist for 2008 presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), surprised some political insiders and bloggers by confirming that Nicco Mele, former webmaster for Howard Dean, best known as the early favorite to win the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination after serving as governor in Vermont (1999-2003), is now courting a Republican.

Mele was largely responsible for the Dean campaign's extensive use of the Internet to reach out to its supporters. They frequently "blogged" on the campaign trail and even delegated important campaign-related decisions to polls conducted on the Website, creating a populist-like movement that shattered fundraising records.

Since, Mele's Internet strategy group EchoDitto has had more than twenty major Democratic and liberal firms and candidates as clients (some of which are considered far left), which sets the stage for controversy inside the Republican party. Generally speaking, political consultants are shunned when they cross the aisle.

On his blog, Mele had made a case that he has ''long admired Sen. McCain's work on campaign finance reform and his independent streak. This is a personal decision for me ... I like Sen. McCain--I think he should be president!''

Not surprising, McCain's decision to hire Mele has led to some political fallout on both sides. Questions regarding McCain's more liberal political ties have resurfaced and Mele, despite being named the "best and brightest" by Esquire, is alienating some of his Democratic clientele.

What's the big deal?

Perhaps the first campaign manager I ever worked with, my friend and retired political consultant Benay Stout, who worked closely with late Nevada governor and senator Chic Hecht, and is responsible for the political start of Sen. John Ensign (R-NV), said it best when she said ''never cross the aisle and never work with kooks.''

Kooks aside, the reason is clear enough. When you start working on political campaigns for opposing parties, people will naturally begin to question your convictions much like they might question a candidate who switches parties. And that is precisely why Mele and McCain are coming under fire.

In some ways, Mele's decision will play out like Steorn. If McCain wins the Republican nomination, Mele will earn certain political inoculation. If McCain doesn't win, then Mele will be caught in the middle without much of a safety net. In sum, if you sacrifice political convictions for a paycheck opportunity, it becomes a question of credibility.

While I suppose there is nothing wrong with being a true ''hired gun'' in politics, every consultant sets their own threshold. For us, we've always been proud of the people we've supported, most notably former state Assemblyman David Brown and state Sen. Bob Beers. While it is virtually impossible to agree on every issue with every candidate, we only work with those who stand to do the best for our state.

We apply the same principles to other accounts as well. We only work with those that we can believe in, and pass on those more questionable offers along the way. We turned down high paying jobs from ethically challenged Bum Fights and questionable Yucca Mountain supporters.

And therein lies the Mele dilemma. Too many people are scratching their heads, wondering why someone who seems to stand by the far left convictions of someone like Dean can suddenly embrace (not far right, but significantly further right than Dean) McCain. For many, Mele's decision appears to make him disingenuous. But even more ironically, it won't be if McCain wins.

Somehow, everyone has an easier time sticking behind a winner.

Thursday, August 24

Tuning Into YouTube

YouTube is the hottest net entertainment out there, growing from a few hundred video views a day (Aug 2005) to more than 500 million per day. BusinessWeek online is now asking whether or not this advent internet company is worth a cool $2 billion.

You can read the BusinessWeek write up at BusinessWeek on YouTube

What does this mean, if anything, for traditional media? We'll add our two cents to the commentary next week.

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