How duct tape became post-it notes

Current advertising campaigns driven by big ideas are about as plentiful today as plug-in stations for electric cars. Geico’s the one big exception that comes to mind. And it’s no wonder they’re an endangered species. Ideas, really good, honkin’-big ideas that take a brand “on their shoulders” and powerfully position them, are seldom recognized or truly understood by today’s crop of marketing mavens. Hey, it’s a tough balancing act making that sales chart grow in the right direction and keeping the bloggers from flaming your product at the same time.

Warning: 20 tweets and a well-liked fan page do not a big idea make.

Fortunately, there is still a real need today for big ideas that adhere like velcro to your brain. Great ones do that. They take a product, make it water-in-the-desert desirable and create a rabid community of brand lovers. They drive brand leadership and bottom line sales. And they spawn legions of imitators. And they’ve been doing it long before the Internet. The stickiness of Bartles and Jaymes and Miller Lite’s “Less Filling/Tastes Great” campaigns (Google ’em) are good examples of iconic, powerful concepts from the late 20th century.

In contrast, Apple’s recent “Mac vs PC” campaign may have been memorable and entertaining but upon closer examination reveals itself to be an excellent example of an execution substituting for a concept. And so is the original iPod television campaign. Visually compelling? Absolutely. Great product demonstration? Dead on. Strategic? Yep. Big idea? Uh-uh>

And when it comes to ideas don’t confuse consistency with concept. Progressive Insurance relies on their sales concierge, Flo, to deliver their brand message but I challenge you to tell me what their big difference is.

When they do surface, big, duct-tape-sticky ideas barely have the time to drive brand equity or positioning in today’s viral, solar-flair-hot, crash and burn, social media online environment. Instead, replacing them is an avalanche of lukewarm, interchangeable, post-it note ideas. Hardly sticky. Easily forgettable. A classic case of quantity over quality. Like technology inmates running the idea asylum. Think Transformers II.

Think it’s a crazy point of view? Well, this big-idea aversion is even infecting some of the big NY agencies. The recent exodus of top several creative directors from top New York shops underscores my point. Most recent is the departure of BBH New York Creative Chief Kevin Roddy. Here’s what he had to say in a story that ran in last week’s ad age: “Creativity used to be put on a pedestal, and I don’t think that’s the case anymore,” he said. “Creative people have become more of a commodity, and I think that takes the wind out of them. The creative ego is a very important thing, because it drives talent. But it’s also a very fragile thing.”

The big idea is dead. Long live the big idea.

Battle of the Brands: Part II

Geico vs State Farm
High Concept vs Down-to-earth
Style vs Stable
Memorable vs Meaningful

Whose creative do you want in your portfolio?
Whose insurance card do you want in your glove box?
Whose advertising is more effective?
Who’s your favorite brand?
3 reasons please!

U gotta problem wit dat?

I love problems. Big problems, little problems, serious ones and stupid ones.

Do you??? I hope so.

After all, that’s what we’re in the business of. Solving problems. Creatively. Intelligently. Insightfully. Powerfully. And all too often, quickly and cheaply. But problems are what I love. Do you?

Sales are down. Problem!

Our brand has lost it’s mojo. Problem!

We’re not being re-tweeted enough. Problem!

We need more visitors to our website. Problem!

We need an integrated, online marketing campaign in 3 days! Big problem!

Lots of problems. And lots of opportunity. Funable opportunity!

Take advantage of the opportunity. Solve the problem. Bingo, you got a job.

Solve the problems, solve them very well, and for a long time, and you’ve got yourself something we call a career.

Avoid problems and you’ve got yourself a… problem!

Mad Men, Beautiful Women and Great Looking Hair

If anyone has yet to avail themselves of the uplifting viewing experience of watching Mad Men on AMC wait no longer. Beyond the outstanding writing and universally exceptional performance lies the art direction and the creative process on display that deals with creativity in a reasonable, if not accurate, way. The staging this past week was to my eye, exceptional, evidenced in the scene which take place in the SCDP lobby. Don is flanked by “The Beautiful Women” (the episode title), Joan, Faye, et. al., who “support” him at the agency as his ex-wife arrives to take their daughter back to her home. It’s a perfect illustration of the issues that tear at Don from week to week.

The Beautiful Women are also beautifully coiffed. So it’s no coincidence that one of last Sunday’s advertisers was Suave, makers of affordable shampoos and conditioners. Which, in fact, brings me to the next class assignment. (And you were wondering where all this was leading.

So, in advance of this week’s class take some time to visit the Suave website and get to know the brand. Maybe even shampoo your hair with some of it. We’ll cover all the details on Thursday.

Bedeviling boredom with “funable”.

Funable. It’s a new word. I made it up. Yep! New word. Not in the dictionary. You can look it up. And you won’t find it. Right there in the New Oxford American Dictionary between fumitory and Funabashi. Right there, where it should be, it isn’t. I looked it up and when I found out it wasn’t there… I created it. Funable. Created at 7:13 am, September 18, 2010.

“An idea is nothing more nor less then a new combination of old things.” James Webb Young

Fun + able = funable. Definition: The ability to take something boring, mundane, pedestrian or uninteresting and turn it into an enjoyable and satisfying experience. Noun, adjective, verb, adverb. Versatile. Easy on the eyes… and easy to use. Except in Scrabble. Just try to sneak it by a hardcore Scrabbler. Busted!

So that’s how I made this post that’s simply intended to give you access to this week’s materials… funable.

That’s right. Creating “funable” made writing this post funable.

Got Gecko?

I know, it’s a bad reference to the iconic Milk Processing Board of California slogan, “Got Milk?’, but the long-running Geico campaign has become just as well known and in some ways even more successful. The Gecko’s most recent campaign ad has his “boss” turning him into a media-star meets trade-show-giveaway. Have they run out of creative ideas for the little green guy named… ?

This is just one of many television campaigns that the number 3 car insurer has run over the years. Some were very good. Others, not so much. Which one gets a gold star and which one is a bust?  All can be viewed… where else… on YouTube. But you knew that already.

Brown Falls In Love & Week Two Materials

An interesting brand change occurred this week as UPS refreshed their entire brand position and strategy. It’s best exemplified by their new brand line. You may remember the tag “What can brown do for you?” Well, its been replaced by the new more consumer-ish “We [heart] logistics.” Check out their website to see how the new positioning plays out.

Ideas need a bit of attitude but just how much ego?

I just finished reading a posting by Eric Karjaluoto of smashLAB in Vancouver. I found it interesting because of his single idea hypothesis to problem-solving design for his clients. While I applaud his methodical and logical process, and involvement of the client in the project development I have to question the wisdom of the all-or-nothing solution approach. According to Eric they do the same amount of creative development work prior to the presentation of the final idea. They just don’t show the creative options.

It’s been my experience over a long period of time and for a wide number of clients that they, increasingly, want to be part of the final decision. After all, we know what we do better than they do. And conversely, they know their business in greater depth than we do. So, it’s a collaborative process where mutual trust and respect are the foundation of a successful relationship.The ultimate satisfaction of our clients rests on the nurturing of that relationship. It needs to weather the good times and the bad. We have to accept criticism with the same grace with which we accept praise. We need to hear their likes and dislikes. We need to understand and empathize with their world. Like any good relationship, it’s not all about us.

Let’s make sure we give our clients choices and that all those choices are great.

Check out the article.

Week 1 Meets White Wine on the Rocks

I encourage everyone to learn more about the founding fathers of the Golden Age of Advertising by Googling Bill Bernbach, David Ogilvy, Helmut Krone, Bob Gage, Roy Grace and George Lois. Their work is iconic and timeless. They are my inspiration and my heroes. And they did incredible work without a single Adobe App!

Oh, and speaking of German wine, check out this link to Comm Arts that showcases a cool label design inspired by the German region and river of it’s origin. This label design stopped me for a moment and I started to consider if there had ever been an advertising campaign that influenced me to buy a particular wine. You know, I couldn’t recall a single one. The only one I could recall was a campaign created more than 20 years ago by Hal Riney and Partners, San Francisco, for Bartles and James… and that was really a wine cooler. The campaign (Google and You Tube it) became a long running success for the Gallo Wine Company garnering great attention and press, much like the recent Mac vs PC campaign. It wasn’t adversarial like the Mac campaign, though. Instead, both characters (named Bartles and Jaymes) were homespun looking, down-home types and sat on the front porch of a farm house. One of them (I think Jaymes) did all of the talking and he ended every tv commercial with the line, “And thank you for your support.” The campaign was “country corny” but it sure sold a lot of wine cooler.