Archive for February 5th, 2007

I was going to wait until next week to post this, but in light of last night’s lackluster lineup of multi-million dollar ads during the Superbowl (most of which were utter wastes of money), here is perhaps the most biting commentary on the relationship between many traditional ad agencies and the role they think they play in building brands… or in some cases, the role they play in hurting the brands they get paid good money to elevate. (I just had a vision of an elephant stumbling through a china store.)

Mike Myatt, Chief strategy officer at N2 Growth posted this gem last week about ad agencies and their typically failed brand building endeavors.

Note: Mike doesn’t say all advertising agencies are this way. He says that many are. And as much as it pains me to say it… he’s right. Here’s a little something to gently eeeeeeease you into his ever so subtle point:

“I would go so far as to say that many advertising agencies are almost obsolete in their approach such that they add very little value to their client’s brands. In today’s post I’ll share my insights on why most advertising agencies just don’t get it…”

Ahhhh… You know this is going to be good. Now… In case you’re already so incensed that you’re seeing red and preparing an epic response, remember that Mike is talking about building brands. He isn’t suggesting that these certain ad agencies don’t get advertising, but rather that in these cases, advertising is really all these agencies actually get. (Though after having seen some of the crap that tried to pass for advertising last night, I have to take my own comment with a big fat grain of salt. Read my previous post to see what I am talking about.) I’ll just shut up now and let Mike clarify his point:

“It is the CEOs responsibility to set the brand vision and then to evangelize and champion that vision. I have observed far too many CEOs and entrepreneurs who abdicate their responsibility by just turning over their brand to advertising agencies and hoping for great creative output. The problem lies in that the concept of “branding” has moved far beyond communicating product differences and building “image.” In order to improve brand performance, marketing experts need to consider product re-design, reengineering the supply chain, refining distribution, reducing costs, introducing loyalty rewards for customers and many other variables. While advertising will certainly retain an important role as a component of branding, it is clearly not the driver of branded businesses that it once was.

“Put simply, ad agencies create brand advertising. They don’t create brands…Put even more simply ad agencies create, buy and place media they don’t develop brand architecture and modeling which are used as a blueprint for all activities and communications for the brand. It is rare that you’ll find ad agencies that will even have the diversification of competencies that will allow them to provide strategic brand direction across mediums. While I have rarely observed a lack of willingness by agencies to dive into a project, I have often observed a complete inability to execute.

“Even within their purported areas of domain expertise (media and mediums) the marketplace is littered with agencies who have huge gaps in competencies in PR, direct marketing, blogging and other forms of social media, interactive media, search marketing, word of mouth marketing and any number of other areas. However it is their lack of experience and ability to deliver on brand strategy, business intelligence, knowledge management, innovation, corporate venturing, competitive analysis (and by this I don’t mean whose TV ad is better), intellectual property and other items that make ad agencies the worst possible choice to take brand direction from.

“Okay, let’s call a spade a spade and bring the ad agency agenda out into the light of day. Ad agencies get paid to sell advertising not to build brands…Reflect back upon your last agency pitch and you may have been wowed by creative talent, and yes even a bit of brand-speak, but at the end of the day you were pitched on buying advertising. Ad agencies speak to your advertising budget, not your brand equity.”

Read the entire post here.

Many ad agencies think, wish, and in some cases truly believe that they are in the business of building brands… yet few of them actually invest in the development of true brand planning teams (and among those who do, even fewer staff these teams with folks who have actually worked outside of the agency world). Big mistake. Huge, in fact. Most of these agencies don’t work with their clients’ designers to actually create the products. They don’t work with customer service or sales teams to design fantastic customer experience. And worst of all, they never have. They simply aren’t equipped to work at that level – nor do they care to be. It just isn’t part of the account service/creative team/media buying formula they know and understand.

Sure, go ahead and feel outraged by Mike’s post, but… you know, if the truth hurts, I’m sorry. Sometimes, the truth is just a hard, unforgiving kick to the huevos, but that’s why it’s so powerful. Unless none of this applies to you, you can either take it at face value and change, or bury your head in the sand and pretend that he doesn’t know what he is talking about.

Your call.

As far as I am concerned… Mike, your website needs a major facelift, but you’ve kind of hit the nail on the head with this one.

Agencies and firms that are making the transition to full service PSFs or have T-shaped brand planning groups get it. Traditional agencies who stick to their half-century-old model will probably continue to thrive… but will soon find themselves pigeon-holed in a shallow creative service no-man’s-land.

Sad but true. Deal with it.

PS: Don’t worry, my next post will be much, much…. nicer. Stay tuned. 😉

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Pre-Game: Ah, it’s Super Sunday in the US again. Football, hot wings, beer, and yeah, the TV ads.

Since I’ll be skipping most of the game tonight, I’ll have to catch the ads on YouTube later. I hope they will be better than last year… and the year before that… and the year before that too.

And I hope they will be a little more adventurous than the half-time show’s lineup. (Don’t get me wrong, Billy Joel and Prince are great performers, especially live… but whatever. It’s 2007. Nuff said.)

Fortunately for people like me, the folks at AdFreak have set up a website specifically to review the ads. Guest reviewers include Seth Godin, Chris Wall, and Joseph Jaffe, so I expect the reviews to be pretty dead-on. The site is called superadfreak and you can get to it by clicking here. I will definitely be checking on it throughout the evening.

Adrants also put together a fine listing of the TV ads with reviews. Click here to go check them all out.

Enjoy the game everyone, and have a great Super Sunday evening. 🙂

Post Game: Congrats, Colts. No congratulations for most of the agencies who took their clients’ money and threw it down the proverbial drain, however. The best Superbowl ads this year were average at best, while the rest languished somewhere between lame and horrendous. But hey, that’s just my opinion. What’s everyone else saying?

Joseph Jaffe:

“Almost nothing has stood out…not even the return of eTrade from the grave (a duet with Orville Deadenbacher perhaps?) Perhaps the line of the Bowl is from Go Daddy: ‘Everybody wants to work in Marketing’ (Maybe) at your company, but for every other marketing Veep at this year’s Bowl, you’re going to be trolling Careerbuilder come Monday morning… If you’ve got nothing newsworthy to say … don’t say anything.

Marc Berman:

“I just overheard my older daughter (she’s 15) say to my 12 year-old son, ‘the ads on The Super Bowl really suck.’ And, sadly, that pretty much expresses my sentiments. The careerbuilder.com spot was clever, and Coke was…well…unusual, but nothing stands out as creative or worth remembering. “

Mark Wnek:

“Overall, a sense of disappointment. The Coke animation was gorgeous, the Bud Light stuff a good group, the Emerald Nuts stuff with Robert Goulet …nutty in a good way, Fedex consistently funny. Where was the genius of the Apple “1984” spot? Feels like the genius is going into different media nowadays.”

Jim Ferguson:

“So far, I think the game is more entertaining than than the spots.”

Tim Arnold:

“Note to anybody considering an advertising career: talking animals have no automatic, built in relevance to anything resembling a real idea. (And it’s still ideas we’re supposed to be about). You’ve seen half the world’s living species so far in this game, and God knows what’s to come. But do not let the industry’s brilliant ability to re-create these speaking creatures on camera confuse you: you still need an idea, despite the evidence to date. And somebody still has to clean up after them, one way or the other.”

Seth Godin:

“I quit.

After watching GM run a 2 million dollar commercial that consists of a robot getting fired, walking the streets and then committing suicide, I’m so confused, so clueless and yes, so ashamed to be even peripherally involved in this line of work, I have no choice but to quit.

If your company was breaking records (in losing money) and was so adversely affecting the lives of thousands, why on earth would you run this ad?

I give up.”

All quotations courtesy of SuperAdFreak.

Personally, I was mildly amused by the Coke Grand Theft Auto, Bud Light Crabs, the Sierra Mist beard combover and the Career Builder spots. Guilty pleasure: The Bud Light monkeys. Nothing imaginative, but the French in me is a sucker for talking monkeys. (Hey, I grew up watching Jerry Lewis flicks. Eh.) The rest was so insipid that I really don’t need to waste any more time writing about it.

Oh, okay. Twist my arm. I can’t resist. In my humble and completely personal opinion, the absolute worst ads of the night (in no particular order):

_ Snickers’ kiss: a) for being creepy, gross AND dumb all at the same time, and b) for ruining Snickers bars for me for at least two weeks. WTF?!

Note: A Snickers bar actually saved me from passing out last week at the end of a very cold and very long bike ride. I was utterly spent and out of power gels, so I stopped at a convenience store, bought a Snickers bar, and devoured it right there. No, really. It was intense. People were staring. And let me tell you something, that was THE BEST Snickers bar I have ever had. Hell, it was the best candy bar I’ve ever had. Since that afternoon, I have been jonesing for another one and was looking forward to grabbing one for my next long ride. It would take a lot to ruin Snickers bars for me right now… but that ad did it. That’s all I have to say about that. It sucked that badly.

_ Sales Genie: At least, the Menthos commecials were cheesy on purpose. That ad was crap. Pure crap. Most of the other ads were obviously trying way too hard – but this one could have tried a little harder. Boring, unimaginative, lame, outdated and smug to the point of being almost creepy.

_ GM’s suicidal robot: Don’t get me wrong – I liked the robot. I liked the way it started. I even liked the way the ad was shot. But it ended in suicide. Hello! Besides, the editing was so horrendous that the finished product made no sense. Yeah, okay, I get it, the bot offed himself because he was sad and all… But taking us through that cheerful little journey of self destruction deserved a little more time, don’t ya think? I’d like to see the full length version someday. I’m sure the director’s cut was better. This one was hacked down to nothing, and that’s a shame.

While we’re on the subject of the suicidal robot, here are a few little pointers for GM… and advertisers in general:

Rule #1: If you can’t tell your story in 30 seconds, find a different medium than the 30 second spot for your concept.

Rule #2: If you’re going to go through the trouble of creating a cute, likeable character, don’t kill it off aimlessly.

Rule #3: Try to avoid suicide as a theme for a 30 second spot. Maybe it’s just me, but it’s generally kind of a mood killer. Unless it ends well… Like… where the suicide attempt fails and something good or cute happens.

One last thing, GM: How many people did you lay off this past year? And your ad was about… what again? Doh. A bit insensitive maybe? Ruh-roh.

Okay, I’m done. I expected this, so I’m not too bummed about this year’s lackluster lineup, but… I kind of wish someone had come up with something cool this time around.


Oh well.

Happy Monday, everyone. It’s a whole new workweek. Let’s try to make it count.

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