ARE YOU HUNGRY YET?
AdWeek has released its list of "The 10 Best Ads of 2017."
I thought, this should be good. These kinds of lists always give the small-business owner a great lesson in what to do--or not to do, depending on the particular advertisement.
And the first ad shown, the tenth of the 10 ads represented, is one heck of a "how-to" lesson in advertising.
The very first thing that anyone who's ever seen 2001: A Space Odyssey thinks is, Hey, that's the neoclassical bedroom from the end of the movie.
And it is. It's an actual recreation of that set with the furniture removed. But the room is still unmistakable in its antiseptic starkness and its under-lit white-tile floor.
BUT DR. DAVID BOWMAN IS NOT THERE
Instead, an elderly woman with short, white hair sits slumped in a chair in the middle of the room, wearing a white hospital gown. There is an odd, orbiting device above her head.
Who is she? Why is she there? What is the odd device above her head? Why does it look like a series of concentric lampshades, and what do the lampshades do as they slowly spin on their axis?
A creepy song plays, discordant and metallic sounding, a cheery voice singing disturbing words about ice cream.
A robot rolls into the frame. Its mechanical, emotionless voice says, "Good morning. It's time for ice cream." Its arm thrusts forward a spoonful of white ice cream.
She tastes it and says, "Oh, it's good! What's--"
"Eat the ice cream," says the robot.
IT FEEDS HER ANOTHER BITE
She takes it, then says, "Where am I?"
"Humans require ice cream."
"What is this place?"
"Eat the ice cream."
"I don't want any more!"
"Eat the ice cream."
"How long have I been here?"
"You're so hungry for delicious ice cream."
THE ROBOT CONTINUES THRUSTING THE ICE CREAM SPOON AT HER
"Get that away from me!" She knocks the spoon to the ground.
There's a shot of the spoon clattering on the floor. One vaguely recalls a similar image in Kubrick's movie.
She says, "Where...where's Steven?"
A door in the front of the robot's body opens, almost with apprehension.
Hesitation. Then, an arm slowly protrudes from the dark space within, holding out...
An ice cream cone.
It slides towards the woman. She regards it with trepidation and recoils ever so slightly.
THE ROBOT SWIVELS ITS HEAD TO ONE SIDE
"Everyone you love is gone. There is only ice cream."
The camera pulls back.
The woman begins to sob.
She slumps her head.
There is a dark and dissonant swoosh and "whump."
Following is a product shot.
The product is Halo Top ice cream.
PUTS YOU RIGHT IN THE MOOD, DOESN'T IT?
This is perhaps the best produced, hilariously dystopian, grimly satisfying, un-motivating advertisement for a food product ever.
And here's the one thing I really do appreciate about the reportage around this commercial.
I've read several stories that say basically same thing.
"Wow that's funny.
"And it does the product no favors."
Yes, earlier I did say that this ad would offer one heck of a "how-to" lesson in advertising.
The lesson is how to not do it.
NEVER COMMIT SACRIFICE
Never sacrifice your message or your product--or your brand--to the self-pleasuring comedy of a message driven by creative ego.
I've seen it constantly in small-business radio advertising.
But not like this epic horror.
Understand, this commercial was greenlit by the CEO of Halo Top.
It was also produced to play in movie theaters before Stephen King's It.
For that latter tactic, you can almost excuse it.
Except that, it lives on in YouTube land.
And plenty of people are seeing it.
And viewer reactions are things like, "That's hilarious. I'll never eat ice cream again."
The Fabulous Honey Parker, who came away from her career in big agency advertising with good rules, and good ways to break rules, has a simple rule about food advertising.
"YOU HAVE TO WANT TO EAT IT"
I showed her this video. She did something I've never seen. She watched with her mouth agape.
Her reaction was something like, "Oh, my God."
There is nothing tasty about the old woman in sinister limbo being tortured by a robot with a spoonful of ice cream.
Where it should be the hero, the product becomes evil.
Granted, "Got Milk" commercials cast the product as the hero absent. But nobody needs to be sold on milk being tasty. They merely need to be reminded to buy milk.
In those stories, the protagonists who were too careless to not buy milk end up paying the price. The lesson is, "Don't let this happen to you."
And it was hugely successful.
Except with the Spanish-speaking community.
Hispanic mothers found nothing quite as insulting as the idea that they would forget to buy milk for their families.
THERE WAS AN EMOTIONAL DISCONNECT
"Got Milk" was a huge failure with that demographic. Which is why Goodby-Silverstein launched a campaign called, "Familia, Amor Y Leche." Family, Love & Milk.
It reversed the emotional disconnect inherent in the sardonic message, "Got Milk?"
But the emotional disconnect of "Eat The Ice Cream" is stunning.
The product is malevolent. It is an antagonist. It is threatening and dangerous. Abandon all hope, ye who eat the ice cream!
Since the video does not appear on the Halo Top YouTube channel, it's safe to assume they really don't want it out there and that it was a publicity stunt designed to create buzz.
But the take away for the small-business advertiser: play to your core customer's needs, wants, desires, or even fears. But do not make your product fearsome and loathsome and sinister. It doesn't pay off.
To see "Eat The Ice Cream" and revel in its dysfunctionality, visit https://youtu.be/j4IFNKYmLa8
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
IS BUD LIGHT STILL THE REAL BREW OF GENIUS?
Because beer always makes you smarter.
The Bud Light Real Men Of Genius radio campaign went away in 2008 after 7 inspired years.
It was epic, it made the brand a market leader, and was parodied endlessly (and badly) in small-business, local-radio advertising.
Since then, But Light has not had such a juggernaut--but today, they may be on the brink.
This morning, I was confronted with a video of a town crier standing inside a craft brewery in Minneapolis. He was reading a "Hear ye! Hear ye!" to everyone in the place.
It was a cease & desist letter from Bud Light to the craft brewer.
So, I thought, "Hold my beer. Watch this. I'm going to find out more."
The story is interesting, and it's a useful brand advertising lesson--even for the small-business owner.
Have you heard that? Have you said it?
I hadn't until this morning. I haven't been watching a lot of commercial TV lately.
But it seems that Bud Light and their agency, Wieden + Kennedy, is drafting off of the zeitgeist. In this particular case, it's the mania around Game of Thrones.
They've done it with a commercial that shows a royal banquet room, and a line of subjects paying obeisance to the king. As people step up and offer sixes and cases of Bud Light to the king, the king raises his own Bud Light and proclaims each person, "A true friend of the crown! Dilly, dilly!"
And everyone in the banquet room responds by raising their own Bud Lights and crying, "Dilly, dilly!"
This happens a couple of times, and then another gentleman steps up and offers a large brown bottle, without a label, and sealed with red wax. He puts it in front of the king, who says, "What, um, what is that?"
"This is a spiced honey mead wine that I have really been into lately."
WHAT FOLLOWS IS A LONG, UNCOMFORTABLE SILENCE
Then, the king says to the gent, "Please follow Sir Brad. He's going to give you a private tour of the Pit of Misery."
The hapless fellow is hauled off while everyone happily toasts, "To the misery! Dilly, dilly!"
The announcer chimes in over a shot of the Bud Light logo rendered in rice, barley, hops, and the head of a beer: "Here's to the friends you can always count on. Bud Light, brewed to be America's favorite light lager."
Oh, boy. Ya know what's going on here?
This is an attack ad.
Very funny. Really well produced.
But it's an attack ad.
IT'S TAPPING INTO THE GAME OF THRONES ZEITGEIST AND ATTACKING CRAFT BREWING
If you don't know, craft brewing has become HUGE.
It's huge enough that there are now three fundamental problems.
One, craft brewers are having a hard time competing with one another because there's so much competition and a limited market.
Two, consumers are suffering from FOMO, Fear Of Missing Out. When they look at a wall of craft beers in the liquor store, they become anxious and don't know what to buy, fearing they may be missing something better than what they'll choose.
And three, craft brewers are eating into big brewers' market share.
And I've got to be honest, as a guy who's been a fan of craft beers since they began bubbling up in the 1990s, even I'm over it. There are plenty of great beers out there. But the preciousness and the overtness and the slam-you-in-the-face-ness of so many of these beers is out of hand.
AND YES, I'M THE GUY WHO LAST WEEK THREW LAURELS TO A NANO-BREWER
Mad Fritz, the Napa Valley nano-brewery, is a brilliant brand.
It's not precious. It's intelligent and arcane and balanced and specialized and scarce.
But so many craft brewers are so clever and working so hard for people who are so pretentious about their beer.
I get it. This is the pendulum swinging the other way after decades of mega-brewery domination.
So...where's the attack?
One, the subject presents a precious bottle of spiced mead (which, if you don't know, is a honey wine).
Two, he presents the bottle with the cliché qualifier, "That I've really been into lately."
And three, the announcer says, "Here's to the friends you can always count on. Bud Light, brewed to be America's favorite light lager."
A POX ON CRAFT BREW HEADS!
Long live the light lager!
Can you imagine any big brewer even five years ago using a line like, "America's favorite light lager."
They'd say, "Beer."
They'd use modifiers like, "light," or "crisp," or "refreshing."
They might say something unqualified like, "Beechwood aged!" (I once read an article by a reporter who called Budweiser to find out what "Beachwood aged" actually meant. The reply from the person at the other end was essentially, "Well, you know, beechwood. It's beechwood aged!")
Beer has been a commodity product.
AND NOW, COMMODITY THINKING IS BEING UNDERMINED BY ARTISAN THINKING
Regardless of how you feel about craft beer (I feel it's a good thing), it's not hard to see how this happened.
A landscape of fizzy yellow beers was infected by variety and flavor and choice and surprise.
Yes, craft beers are surprising. Not always in a good way. A top-fermented, dry-hopped ale that tastes of rosebuds, garlic and old gym socks may not be a good surprise.
Nonetheless, it has become a pervasive threat to the market dominance of brands like Bud Light, a brand whose core, die-hard fan is intolerant of things like craft beer. I know people like this. They are single-beer fanatics and they are angry at craft brewing.
Bud Light is shooting fish in a barrel--and being really funny.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE TOWN CRIER?
Back to the brewery in Minneapolis.
The brewery is called Modist. Not sure how you pronounce it.
Modist very recently released a brew called, "Dilly Dilly Mosaic Double IPA."
Mosiac is a strain of hops. It is known for its complex and broad aromas backed by a clean bittering. If you care.
Modist put this brew in their taproom only. They did not release it widely.
They created a logo that said, "Dilly Dilly" in a blatant rip-off of the Bud Light swirl logo.
ON NOVEMBER 28, THEY ANNOUNCED IT ON THEIR FACEBOOK PAGE
They posted that they were releasing it on December 1.
The same day they released it, they posted a video of the town crier standing in their lobby, reading the cease & desist "proclamation" aloud.
The town crier's message included a request to make sure this ale was a one-time-only occurrence, and offers the brewery two free tickets to the 2018 Super Bowl in Minneapolis.
They next day, Modist posted a picture of the town crier's scroll and the "Dilly Dilly" ripoff logo, with the message, "Come drink this beer before we rename it 'Coat Tails.'"
I smell a publicity stunt cooked up by Anheuser Busch, whose parent company is not known for being so kind with its C&Ds.
Nonetheless, it's fun, it's well-crafted, it bears retelling, it's good advertising, and a good stunt for the press.
WHAT'S THE TAKEAWAY FOR YOU?
One, no business of any size is too small for a publicity stunt. I've done it with a tiny business, getting them coverage in a major metropolitan daily. You need to be creative, relevant, and interesting.
Two, your business can be a threat to the bigger market leaders. You just need to understand how to be different and resonant and offer your core customer a better reality.
And three, never discount the value of making the prospect feel the right thing. "Here's to friends you can count on." That is a simple, unsophisticated, artless sentiment--and it's going to sell a lot more beer than it deserves. It's also part of the Famous Among Friends conceit that Bud Light has been using for over 30 years.
BUD LIGHT APPEARED AT MODIST WITH GREAT ALACRITY
The town crier was on the scene so quickly, and Modist was so on top of the situation, that it smacks of benign collusion.
And the fact that Bud Light is acknowledging Modist in this way (and likely partnering with them) demonstrates that they probably aren't as down on craft beer as their advertising might imply.
Instead, they could be preparing to invest in Modist, if not preparing to buy them outright.
Tell that to craft brewers Goose Island, Blue Point, Breckenridge, Golden Road, Four Peaks, 10 Barrel, Devils Backbone and Karbach--all of whom have been acquired by Anheuser Busch.
Your brand is also never too small to be acquired by a giant.
For a peek at "Dilly Dilly," Click here: https://youtu.be/D8Cb5Wk2t-8
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
A CAUTIONARY TALE OF TWO BRANDS
This week's visit to fire-ravaged Napa is an anti-climax. That is, if you're looking for evidence of what the fire has ravaged.
We've been here for just about 24 hours. The place does not stink of smoke. What little we've seen is very much a normal, everyday, business-as-usual rural town.
However, we did have a poignant experience last night that serves to remind one what a brand really is all about.
We've long banged the drum for the fact that a brand as not a logo, a color, a font, a tagline, a website, or any other manifestation that one usually associates with a brand.
Nope. A brand is Thing One: Your brand is the one way your core customer should feel about your business.
GET THAT PART RIGHT, AND THE REST WILL FOLLOW
Conversely, you can get the other stuff right--the logo, the color, the font, the tagline, the website--and if you haven't figured out Thing One, it's all for naught.
A great example is last night's foray into town.
We'd asked someone for a recommendation for a good, local's kind of joint. The kind of place where you meet the real people who make the community happen.
We took the recommendation, and followed it up--encouraged by the establishment's website. It delivered all kinds of glowing, simple language about how they're steeped in history, how they do so much so well, and how they're fun, friendly and down-to-earth.
The rightness of Thing One seemed to be in evidence.
MARKETING, MEET REALITY
The place had all the right accoutrements.
It was an old building with an old bar, lots of natural wood and plenty of historical funk.
That's where the authenticity ends.
Off the bartender's New York Giants jersey, The Fabulous Honey Parker says, "Wow, Giants? You a Giants fan?"
"What? Oh. No. We were told we had to wear football jerseys. Someone gave this to me."
As a Philly native and an Eagles fan, Honey faces a lifetime of disappointment. Being able to commiserate with a Giants fan over the latter's tragic record this season would have been a natural opening to conversation, rapport, service and eventually, a tips
It didn't work out.
We tried to have some conversation with the woman. She was borderline helpful and disinterested.
IN FACT, EVERYONE WORKING THERE SEEMED BORDERLINE HELPFUL AND DISINTERESTED
Everyone working there seemed to have other things on their mind.
There was someplace else they'd all rather be.
The house-brewed beer was mediocre. The menu was uninspiring.
This was not the local's joint that we had hoped for.
Nor was it the fun, friendly place the branding elements had promised.
They got the down-to-earth part right, if you take that to mean "ordinary."
But they had ultimately failed at Thing One.
NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELTY DIFFERENT
Understand, this is Sunday night in Napa. Things are not exactly jumping.
We left exited the hall of disappointment and turned left.
Across the street was a block of restaurants.
We stumbled across one that looked different and better than the others. A tapas joint.
It was appointed in dark hardwoods with soft, amber lighting. It looked and felt comfortable. A few people were dining.
We stepped inside, ambled back to the bar and took a seat.
Our bartender was welcoming and gregarious.
He was ready and willing to make conversation--despite being the busiest guy in the place. He had other customers at the bar and was also the service bar for the wait staff.
IN THE KITCHEN, A CREW OF FOUR WAS SHUFFLING AND CLANGING AND MAKING STUFF HAPPEN
It was a well-practiced improvisational ballet of small-portion cuisinieres.
We knew we had found our place.
We asked questions. He made recommendations.
We asked about his story. We got details.
A fifth-generation Napa-ite, he is a career food service guy.
When he started quoting Bukowski, it was evident the party had started.
By the end of the evening, we had moved to the end of the bar. A couple from Chicago had sat down next to us.
THE BARTENDER HAD BECOME OUR MASTER OF CEREMONIES
He was making smart recommendations.
He was letting us taste unusual wines.
He was involved in the conversation just enough.
He was the Thing One incarnate.
And he was a raging profit center for that tapas restaurant.
He knows how to make his customer feel welcome, knows how to engage and entertain, and knows how to figure out what next.
He was tipped well.
SOMETHING ELSE HAPPENED WHILE WE WERE THERE
The place became packed.
It was alive and jumping.
The waiters were always moving through the room.
The kitchen was in constant motion.
People were waiting for tables.
All this on the slow night in Napa.
And you know what this restaurant's website promises?
None of this.
THE WEBSITE MIGHT AS WELL BE A BUSINESS CARD THAT SAYS, "FOOD"
It makes very little in the way of promises.
It says very little about what they serve.
It says nothing about who started it and why.
It doesn't say, "We're a fun, friendly, down-to-earth place where you're going to have a great time with our bartender who's been in the business for 35 years."
The website is just not good. It is in no way a reflection of the Thing One that's going on in there.
But without the branding accoutrements that help make for a solid manifestation of the brand's message to the world, it still has a better and more competent brand than the place that has a good website and makes all kinds of promises that it can't live up to.
A BRAND BENEFITS FROM BETTER MARKETING
A good logo and an engaging website and marketing that gets attention and drives response--all of these things are good for business.
But without Thing One, without the foundation of a good, honest and authentic brand behind it all, those other things are for naught.
As David Ogilvy famously said, nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising.
We left a place whose advertising was loaded with brand promise that it failed to live up to.
Going online and reading the reviews for that place, it's clear that our experience is not unusual.
WE THEN WENT TO A PLACE WITH NO BRAND PROMISE
It delivered beyond any reasonable expectation.
Going online and reading the reviews for that second place, it's also clear that our experience at that restaurant is not unusual.
The difference is that the general manager isn't having to routinely apologize to customers who've left lousy reviews--as happens at the first place.
It's possible that the first joint will never be ruined by the lack of brand integrity. This is a bar and restaurant in a tourist town in a location with a lot of foot traffic.
It may well survive.
But it will never be great.
It simply isn't all that interested in how the customer feels about the place.
Be Thing One. Everything else is just stuff.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
DID YOU TRY SOCIAL MEDIA ADVERTISING AND IT DIDN'T WORK?
Just a different twist on the old chestnut, "I tried radio advertising and it didn't work!"
Well, did you know what you were doing?
Or did you ram your own uninformed agenda down the throat of whoever was trying to help you?
That is meant in the nicest possible way, of course.
And it's a rhetorical question not meant to implicate you, personally. You, of course, would never do that.
It's meant as a cautionary note to people we all know who have all the answers despite having none the training, experience, or insight to have an actual, informed opinion.
SO, WHY ARE WE HERE?
Why am I beating on the "I tried it and it didn't work" drum?
Because I'm tired of hearing things like, "Social media advertising doesn't work!"
I was just reading an interesting story from AdWeek.
The headline: "What National Geographic Did to Earn 3 Million Snapchat Discover Subscribers in Just 3 Months."
Subhead: "A new streamlined design plays up more photos and less text."
OK. National Geographic. Talk about a chestnut.
Why on earth is one of the oldest, stodgiest, great-grandpa brands in the world mentioned in the same sentence as a frivolous, six-year-old social media nitwit platform that lost half a billion dollars last year?
BECAUSE MAYBE IT ISN'T AS MUCH FRIVOLOUS AS IT IS EFFECTIVE
The National Geographic Society is one of the world's oldest and largest non-profit scientific and educational institutions. (Thank you for that tidbit, Wikipedia, one of youngest and largest sources of potentially flawed information on the internet.)
The National Geographic Magazine, launched in 1888, has a global circulation of 6.5 million per month.
The National Geographic Channel is available to almost 90 million pay TV households in the US.
What the heck is National Geographic doing on Snapchat, a platform infamous for its use by disgraced US congressman Anthony Weiner as Weinervision?
Simple guess: National Geographic is looking for eyeballs and wants to be relevant to a younger generation.
And instead of being stodgy and poo-pooing social media, they are embracing Snapchat.
AND IT IS PROFITABLE
The article's subhead makes total sense in the age of the short attention span: "A new streamlined design plays up more photos and less text."
You're trying to reach people with no attention span who are watching a tiny screen in the palm of their hands.
More photos and less text just makes sense.
And it has to be pithy and intriguing.
Like the image of a purple microbe with the headline, "What are flesh-eating bacteria and how do you fight them?"
Yikes. Tell me more! Click.
But let's go back to the headline: "What National Geographic Did to Earn 3 Million Snapchat Discover Subscribers in Just 3 Months."
Are those 3 million Snapchat Discover subscribers actually doing them any good? It's Snapchat! A platform that loses more money than the territory of Guam has in its annual operating budget! More money than GEICO spends on their annual media buy!
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC PEOPLE AREN'T STUPID
They hired an expert digital media executive away from digital giant Vox Media and did what needed to be done.
In a nutshell, Nat Geo's revenue from Snapchat is up by 58 percent.
Stephanie Atlas, who leads the Nat Geo digital team, says, "When you're competing against Cosmo and Kim Kardashian, you really have to think about a way to get people interested in what our value proposition is, which is strong visuals and piquing people's curiosity."
OK. My curiosity is piqued.
And I did something that, just 12 hours earlier, I swore to the Fabulous Honey Parker I would never do.
I downloaded Snapchat.
I created an account.
And I went in there.
AND I WAS COMPLETELY BAFFLED!
How do you use this thing?!
I fumbled around for a while. Then, lacking immediate access to a kid, I searched Google.
I found a blog post by one Emily Steck, who was a salve for my digitally frustrated self when she said, "For all the buzz and chatter around Snapchat, it's not a very intuitive platform. It's difficult to discover easily content or simply know where to find everything. Snapchat is a lot more complicated than it lets on."
Anyway, I stumbled through for a bit, and finally found National Geographic.
"Could The Remains Of Santa Claus Be In This Turkish Church?" Intriguing music. Video inside a grand cathedral.
"Is This The world's Most Venomous Fish?" Underwater footage and eerie, dark music.
"Why Are Some Dogs More Aggressive?" A dog bares his teeth as a busy techno track burbles away.
They are being pithy making money.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE SMALL-BUSINESS BRAND?
Can Snapchat work for a local business with a brick & mortar location?
I did some digging.
Found some evidence that yes, it's possible--despite the fact that the typical monthly ad spend on Snapchat is $40,000.
Take a nitroglycerine pill. Using local geofilters, a small business like a coffee shop can get away with an ad spend as low as 5 bucks.
But how do you do this?
I have no idea.
Because I do two things really well.
I HELP SMALL BUSINESSES CREATE EVOCATIVE BRANDS THAT CAN ATTRACT CUSTOMERS
And I can help market those evocative brands in ways that are often considered "Traditional."
For anything else, I go to a specialist.
That's because I'm smart enough to know what I don't know.
I can dabble in digital.
But that's not my expertise.
And I don't want to become that fool who makes sweeping, uninformed judgments about new media platforms and sounds like the guy that used to make us crazy when I worked in a building full of radio experts: "I tried it and it didn't work!"
It didn't work because you are know-it-all whose fear- and ego-driven agenda is standing between you and advertising success.
NOT THAT I HAVE AN OPINION ON THIS
This is just fair warning to anyone who scoffs at social media advertising.
Since good radio advertising seems effortless, many people come at it and say, "How hard can it be?"
It's easy to just slap some random thing on the air. It's very hard to do well.
Social media advertising takes simplicity to a whole new level.
Never at any time in history has it been easier to place an advertisement.
And just because you can log on, open an account, and give them your credit card number and target your demographics to certain death doesn't mean you're doing it right.
In blog post entitled, "Snapchat marketing campaigns: 5 great case studies that produced results," Paul Roberts at Our Social Times says, "Success as a brand on Snapchat depends on knowing your audience, knowing the platform and knowing your product. Find the sweet-spot between all three and you could be onto a winner."
Want to be like a stodgy old heritage brand dating from the 19th century?
Find an expert and embrace social media.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
WHO REALLY IS RESPONSIBLE?
I woke up Monday morning to hear the news, oh boy.
The NBC executive who coined the phrase, "Must See TV" had died.
His name was Don Ohlmeyer.
A veteran of NBC Sports, Mr. Ohlmeyer was also the man responsible for having Norm MacDonald fired from SNL for too many jokes about his friend, OJ Simpson.
What about this smells wrong?
And how surprised is Dan Holm going to be?
DAN HOLM IS THE WRITER/PRODUCER WHO SAT DOWN AND WROTE THE PHRASE, "MUST SEE TV"
Of course, the success of NBC's famous Thursday-night promotion is going to the executive who happened to be sitting in the chair when it all happened.
In TV, nobody celebrates writers.
Except maybe the other writers.
And as the story is told, Mr. Holm didn't exactly trot out "Must See TV" as the powerhouse tagline to promote Thursday nights.
The story goes that Mr. Holm used the phrase in a promotional script. A gentleman named Vince Manze, who ran the network's promotional agency, saw the genius in it and cherry picked it for greater things.
This happens all the time. For one of my own clients, I've written a tagline that began its life buried in a piece of body copy.
THAT TAGLINE IS WORTH FAR MORE THAN THE CLIENT EVER PAID FOR IT
But it also required the ability to recognize its value, and be plucked from body-copy obscurity, and thrust into the spotlight as a defining statement for the brand.
And nobody's going around saying, "Hey, look at the tagline Blaine wrote!"
They're going around, repeating the tagline.
It belongs to the brand, not the person who wrote it.
And that's OK. If I go to my grave being known only for the brand tagline for a specialty product for the construction industry, it's going to be a grand disappointment.
I'd prefer to go to my grave for being known as a fabulous dancer.
But I digress.
Credit for copywriting notwithstanding...
FOR A WHILE, "MUST SEE TV" WAS A BRAND JUGGERNAUT FOR NBC
That was the era of the coveted Thursday-night viewership domination.
Shows like Mad About You, Wings, Seinfeld, Friends and ER all happened during that period.
And certainly, much good did come out of NBC during Mr. Ohlmeyer's tenure as president of the network's west-coast division.
That said, the gentleman also had a reputation.
Mention of that reputation probably won't be popping up in any of the obituaries-and it's a reputation for a trait that is so common in marketing.
The Fabulous Honey Parker has seen it repeatedly in her career in Big-Agency Advertising.
I've seen it repeatedly during my career in Small-Business Advertising.
THAT REPUTATION IS ONE FOR BEING A PREVENTION DEPARTMENT
Depending on the environment, sometimes it's called The Advertising Prevention Department.
In the case of Mr. Ohlmeyer, it might be called the Programming Prevention Department.
According to the Infallible Oracle Of Everything, Wikipedia, Mr. Ohlmeyer's reputation at NBC was that he was "...not the inspiration behind NBC's hits in this period, but was often a roadblock they had to work around to make them happen."
The article goes on to say that he insisted the hugely popular NBC drama, ERwould get destroyed by Chicago Hope at CBS.
Of course, ER went on to win a total of 23 Primetime Emmy Awards, 124 Emmy nominations (making it the most nominated drama program in history), and picked up 116 awards in total during its tenure.
AH, BUT WHAT ABOUT BEING BASHED IN THE RATINGS, AS PER OHLMEYER THE ORACLE?
Besides being a critical powerhouse, ER spent a couple of seasons as the most watched show in North America, and for years fought with Seinfeld, another NBC show, for the #1 ratings slot.
Mr. Ohlmeyer also didn't want to give the go ahead to Will & Grace.
He insisted a TV show with gay characters couldn't reach a large mainstream audience.
As the highest-rated sitcom among adults 18-49 from 2001 to 2005, and winner of 16 Emmy Awards out of 83 nominations, it seems that Mr. Ohlmeyer's nose for what people would buy was not 100% dead accurate.
And this is not a slam at all at Don Ohlmeyer.
Far from it, in fact. He helped make some amazing things happen.
BUT IT'S A CAUTIONARY NOTE FOR ANYONE PUTTING CREATIVE WORK INTO THE ETHER
And the cautionary note is perhaps best illustrated by a line given to us by a CoupleCo interview subject.
If you don't know, CoupleCo is a nascent project being launched by The Fabulous Honey Parker and me.
It will start life as a podcast about and for couple entrepreneurs, and grow into other media.
We were interviewing a couple who have a photography business, and are a raging success.
We asked each of them, "What is the single most important piece of advice you could give a couple who wants to be in business together?"
Without hesitation, he said, "Don't think your opinion is always right. Because 99% of the time, it's not."
AND THAT IS A FINE BIT OF ADVICE FOR ANYONE
Especially in a business where one either has to help create a brand, or has to put that brand before the public (I'm talking to you, all you writers and small business owners-you're all in this together), fear and ego are your enemies.
Again: Fear And Ego Are Your Enemies.
We've talked about this before.
We will talk about it again.
Fear says things like, "Oh, I can't do that, it'll insult someone."
We've literally had a client be afraid of a piece of copy that talked about how hard it is to read a menu in a dark Chinese restaurant.
Without using this exact phrasing, the client said he was afraid it would be considered a micro-aggression against Chinese people.
WHAT HE DIDN'T REALIZE IS IT HAD ALREADY BEEN RUNNING FOR YEARS
We were asking him to approve not the entire advertisement, but just an edit to the advertisement.
It had been on the air for seven years. In those seven years , no one had ever called him on his politically incorrect micro-aggression.
As for Ego, that's the little voice in your head that tells you things like, "Yes, those are the rules for other people, but I'm above that."
Or, "I don't like that so nobody will."
Ya know what?
I love olives. Happy to eat them.
Ya know what else?
Honey Parker hates olives. Will not eat them.
We will never come to an accord over this. It's just the way things are.
ONE THING WE DO AGREE ON IS THAT WE DON'T ENJOY WILL & GRACE
We are not the Will & Grace audience.
But we do not begrudge the TV viewing public its fondness for that NBC sitcom.
And we admit, it was well done.
And one of the brightest spots for us is Megan Mullally's supporting role as Karen Walker. This character is described (in know-it-all Wikipedia, of course,) as "'a spoiled, shrill, gold-digging socialite who would sooner chew off her own foot than do an honest day's work.' She is also a promiscuous borderline alcoholic/drug addict with an often tenuous grip on reality and very few morals."
Really, Ms. Mullally is just damn funny, and a stellar comic actress.
SO, WHAT ABOUT THE SMALL-BUSINESS OWNER?
After all, TV programming is an incredibly complicated big business. What can the small-business owner take away from this mayhem of convoluted mega-business mishegas?
Well, don't be afraid of good creative.
Don't let Fear & Ego rule your decision making.
And ultimately, it helps to turn to one of NBC's iconic leaders, the late CEO and Chairman Grant Tinker, who also co-founded MTM Enterprises with his then wife, Mary Tyler Moore.
Mr. Tinker was known for his distinctive approach to all things business, "First be best, and then be first."
Of course, that requires defining the word, "Best."
What is best?
That's a topic for a whole different screed.
But be guaranteed, it isn't fueled by fear or ego.
If you'd like to know more about couples who are not ruled by Fear & Ego, check out this teaser video for what's to come at CoupleCo...
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
WHO ON EARTH IS RUNNING THE INTERNET RADIO SHOW?
Recently, I'd been sent a solicitation by a major internet radio provider.
They're one of the few online radio platforms that has a distinctive and unique position.
There is no other service like it, and it's one of the reasons I listen to it.
When it comes to music, my terrestrial radio market is marginal at best.
One of the only reasons I listen to commercial radio is to find really awful radio advertising.
But we're off topic.
This major internet radio provider sent me a solicitation disguised as a primer.
How to tell powerful brand stories using audio.
I ADMIT IT: MY CURIOSITY WAS PIQUED
As a longtime writer of radio advertising, and as an award-winning, audio-loving, ROI-producing, brand-story-telling small-business marketeer, I'm always looking for insight into telling brand stories.
In fact, I just saw a terrific little video starring Bo Eason, the former NFL player turned story guru.
He talked about four crucial tips for successful storytelling. He was great.
So, in this mode, I clicked on the link to this ostensible lesson from the internet provider on how to tell brand stories using audio.
Interestingly, they also four crucial tips.
But as I wound my way through the copy to get to the tips, I was concerned. This was not shaping up to be enormously insightful.
AND BY THE FIRST OF THEIR FOUR ESSENTIALS, IT WAS EVIDENT WE WERE IN TROUBLE
1. USE A CONVERSATIONAL TONE
Most audio is consumed through
earbuds, so there is no need to shout
anymore. Consumers will appreciate
you more for speaking to them like
you would a friend.
Let's forget the assertion that it's all about earbuds now.
There's no need to shout anymore?
Friend, I hate to tell you this, but there never was any need to shout.
Shouting out of the radio has always been the province of those with nothing to say.
Have I ever shouted out of the radio?
And it was always in an effort to make fun of the people who feel they need to shout out of the radio.
SPEAKING AS IF TO A FRIEND HAS LONG BEEN AN ESSENTIAL TRUTH
Since the beginning, radio advertising has worked best when delivered as a conversation.
Speaking one-on-one to your listener has sold untold billions worth of product.
Even epic and successful efforts that one might remember as "shouting," when you go back and revisit them, are not shouting at all.
Look at a hugely successful radio ad campaign that ran for years, and created a significant sales increase for Bud Light: The "Real Men Of Genius" campaign.
Double-digit percentage gains in market share, over 100 advertising awards, CD compilations of the commercials, endless parodies (which is ironic, as the campaign itself was a satire), the Bud Light "Real Men Of Genius" campaign was gold.
And announcer Pete Stacker shouted his way through that campaign, right?
If you do...you'd be wrong.
But a lot of folks who like to imitate Pete Stacker's brilliantly deadpan, self-important baritone on those messages get it completely wrong.
One of the reasons it works is because it is larger than life while still being on the down low and part of a conversation that gives you enough credit to be in on the joke.
"But what about all those car dealer commercials that shout at you out of the radio," you ask. "Doesn't that prove that shouting is a viable and necessary approach to radio advertising?"
It does nothing of the kind. It proves only that those messages exist. It tells you nothing about their efficacy.
"But," you ask, "Why would they keep doing it if it didn't work?"
WELL, A COUPLE OF REASONS WHY SHOUTING MIGHT WORK
If you shout and you spend more money than anyone else, you're bound to get some traffic.
You're essentially annoying people into remembering you.
But I once worked with a Los Angeles car dealer on their radio, using the exact opposite approach. Intimate, one-on-one conversation. Honest and real and friendly and engaging.
They had tiny radio budget.
And every month, their new-car inventory sold out.
There is no need to shout. There never has been. And to tell your prospect, someone who's considering using internet radio advertising, that there is no need to shout "anymore" immediately brings your credibility as an audio advertising authority into question.
AND IT MAKES PEOPLE LIKE ME CRAZY
At best, you're stating a truth that never was.
At worst, and I fear this is the case, you have no clue.
OK, so earth-shaking creative truth number one is predicated on a fallacy.
What about the other three truths?
Well, the second truth was about speaking to an individual and making it personal.
Truth indeed! Can't argue. It's not new. But it's essential.
Truth number three, have a clear call-to-action.
Again, truth! Can't argue.
BUT THE FOURTH TRUTH IS MUDDLED
It's about complementing the audio advertising with display.
The internet radio provider asserts that, "In an ideal scenario, audio and display go hand-in-hand. Let the audio message deliver the hardworking information, while the display captures the eyes."
Here's my big, fear, which is probably not the reality: "Have a really good display ad up when your audio message is playing! That's the ticket."
Because everybody who listens to the radio sits there staring at it the entire time, regardless of whether it's an old fashioned terrestrial radio signal pumped out of an antenna farm, or a flurry of zeroes and ones pumped out of your internet provider's server farm.
I suspect, I hope, this is wrong.
I hope that what they really mean is having a complementary media mix. Which is good.
Here's the problem: How on earth does an audio message "deliver the hardworking information"?
AUDIO MESSAGES WORK BEST NOT WITH FACTS AND DETAILS...
They work best by creating a feeling and focusing on a simple, easy to comprehend message.
So, what is the "hardworking information" that this audio advertisement is supposed to deliver?
If it's a focused, emotionally evocative message, right on!
If this is supposed to mean that you want to deliver all the hard facts in your audio message, well...
You need to study radio advertising 101.
So, why are we harping on all this?
BECAUSE I AM ANNOYED
Yes. It's all about me.
That's because I have spent a huge portion of my professional life dealing with the psychology and the techniques behind sales messages.
And lately, I've been venturing into the digital realm to augment my toolbox.
The ongoing problem is that I'm besieged by excited, enthusiastic young professionals who have all kinds of new information to convey-and they are completely reinventing the wheel without ever having understood the genius of the wheel in the first place.
The technology has evolved.
Human beings have not.
YES, PEOPLE MIGHT BE PAYING LESS ATTENTION THAN BEFORE
That just means we need to be even more skilled at the essentials.
And that skill requires understanding what makes people listen (or read, or watch), and then feel compelled to act.
It means looking at and understanding the historical truths about advertising.
Oooh, "advertising" is a dirty word now.
So is "radio."
Get over it, kids. "Radio" is from the Latin "radius," for "beam" or "ray."
AND JUST BECAUSE YOU'RE BEAMING DIGITS FROM A SERVER DOESN'T CHANGE PEOPLE
It doesn't change their psychological triggers.
It doesn't change their need for story.
It doesn't change the decades-old, proven, historical truths about advertising.
And it doesn't change the elemental foundation of branding a business before ever going out to advertise it.
The self-styled digital-marketing geniuses of 21st-century internet advertising need to understand history and psychology and story and brand and stop trying to reinvent and rename everything.
They need to get off their high horses.
Because, at best, they're really just riding around on dogs and ponies.
We have truths, we have vocabulary, and we have people.
Come back to the fundamentals, meet the truth, and serve your client better.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
WHY ARE WE CHEERING A BRITISH INVASION?
Yes, it is July 4, 2017. In the United States, we are celebrating our declaration of independence from the United Kingdom.
Last week, our neighbors in Canada celebrated their sesquicentennial (that's the 150-year anniversary for all you civilians) of their independence from the UK.
No doubt, many Americans today are wishing they could move to Canada for more than just celebration.
But we here at the Mountaintop Marketing Fortress are not going there.
We will not make this a political screed. We never have. We never will. Because politics is just too divisive.
We are inclusionists.
We like to invite everyone to celebrate.
Which explains today's celebration.
WE ARE CELEBRATING A BRIT WHO CHANGED THE SHAPE OF AMERICAN ADVERTISING
Indeed, as creators of advertising, it's hard for us to not appreciate a man who famously said, "Talent, I believe, is most likely to be found among nonconformists, dissenters, and rebels."
And is there anything more American than an appreciation for nonconformity, dissent and rebellion?
Well, yeah, there is the national pastime of banging the drum for nonconformity, dissent and rebellion while making sure it conforms, agrees and complies.
"Let's all be different by dressing alike and indulging fanatical groupthink about the same stupid idea! Woo-hoo!"
But I digress.
REBELLION IS THE GAME THAT GAVE THE U.S. ITS INDEPENDENCE
And this Brit, the son of a Gaelic-speaking Scottish Highlander, was fascinated by the American character.
Back in the middle of the 20th century, in the days before the mayhem and the menace of the over-communicated digital culture, this man was an iconoclast, a subversive, a revolutionary.
He came to the U.S. banging the drum for a sea change in advertising.
In an age of the hard sell, he made a convincing pitch for the soft sell.
And his soft sell built brands with ferocious intensity. He won more major advertising accounts than any ad man before or since.
He never won any advertising awards for creativity. He didn't believe in them.
The idea of an industry's creative people giving awards to each other left him cold. He always maintained that if something didn't sell, it wasn't creative.
I COULD ARGUE THAT IF IT DOESN'T SELL, IT MIGHT BE STILL BE CREATIVE--IT JUST ISN'T RELEVANT
But why parse words with a genius? He'll always run rings around you logically.
And this man's particular genius is responsible for so much of what we do in our business that wins friends and influences people.
He changed advertising using his soft-sell methods combined with research.
Yes, that pox, research, always a nuisance, a bother and a misery to so many creative people.
In a famous quote, he said, "Advertising people who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals."
BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN HE LOOKED DOWN UPON CREATIVE
Remember, he was all about the talented nonconformists, dissenters, and rebels.
In fact, despite being an enormously successful businessman, he disdained businessmen who lacked the ability to be creative.
This man famously said:
The creative process requires more
than reason. Most original thinking
isn't even verbal. It requires "a groping
experimentation with ideas, governed
by intuitive hunches and inspired by
the unconscious." The majority of
business men are incapable of original
thinking because they are unable to
escape from the tyranny of reason.
Their imaginations are blocked.
BLAMMO! TAKE THAT, BLOCKED BUSINESSMAN!
Talk about potentially biting the hand that feeds you.
Who makes the decision to hire an advertising agency?
But then, don't Americans like to imagine themselves as the outlier, the nonconformist, the rebel?
"He's right! Let's be rebellious and hire the creative guy! Yay, we're nonconformists! Let's start dressing like nonconformists and pretending we're the new originals!"
But one of the most significant pieces of ad think propagated by this rebellious Brit regards branding.
And interestingly, "branding" is not a word that you hear him use a lot.
But when you look at his track record of iconic brand development, he was a king.
HE SPECIALIZED IN MAKING THE PROSPECT FEEL ONE WAY ABOUT THE PRODUCT
In fact, he called it essential to winning. He said:
There isn't any significant difference
between the various brands of whiskey,
or cigarettes or beer. They are all about
the same. And so are the cake mixes and
the detergents, and the margarines...
The manufacturer who dedicates his
advertising to building the most sharply
defined personality for his brand will
get the largest share of the market at
the highest profit.
We at Slow Burn might argue that this thesis becomes shaky when applied to various small-businesses with whom we work. Because many of them really are different than the competitors.
Nonetheless, the core concept--that the most sharply defined and most attractive personality wins--is one with which we have no argument whatsoever.
Hands down, we have seen it work for our clients. We have even seen it inspire the competition to scramble and regroup in an effort to redefine their own personality--with laughable results.
AND, THIS BRIT EVEN USED AN EXPRESSION NEAR AND DEAR TO THE FABULOUS HONEY PARKER'S HEART
He said something which is not only similar to a phrase she uses repeatedly, but is an idea which is uniquely American.
Honey loves a good sports story, and likes to talk about helping our clients "Knock it out of the park."
And lemmetellya, that is fun to do.
And this Brit liked to say, "Don't bunt. Aim out of the ball park."
And then he said, "Aim for the company of immortals."
Aim for the company of immortals.
I just got chills.
And interestingly, the Brit was also realistic about this.
He wasn't about winning at all costs. He had perspective and balance.
He also said, "Play to win, but enjoy the fun."
WE HAVE A RULE HERE AT SLOW BURN MARKETING
We've repeated it here before.
We will do business only with people whom we'd look forward to joining for dinner.
Life is too short. We will not take a client just for the money.
It has to be a good fit.
They, like us, have to play to win but enjoy the fun.
Interestingly, this describes not only the person who hired us, but every single person we met when we were engaged in a branding effort for a division of Wells Fargo.
HARD TO IMAGINE--BUT TRUE
And finally, one of the most practical quotes from our British invader.
It is just as piercing and relevant now as it was then.
And it speaks to a mindset seen too often in the hucksterish sales messages that come at us over the airwaves and through the ether.
This man was adamant that, "The consumer is not a moron. She is your wife. Try not to insult her intelligence."
On this Independence Day, a salute to you, David Ogilvy.
Here's to being fascinated by Americans, to burning it up with the soft sell, and to nonconformity, dissension, and rebellion.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
Blaine Parker helps people sell their stuff. An advertising Creative Director and Copywriter at Slow Burn Marketing, he specializes in big-brand thinking for small-business marketing. He has the voice of a much taller man.