Archive for the ‘Jus’ bitchin’’ Category

What happens when a petroleum company claims to be green, but really isn’t? Putting solar panels on a few concept stations doesn’t offset the environmental disaster in the Gulf.

Of course for British Petroleum it is much more than an environmental disaster, this is a publicity disaster of the highest magnitude, and likely a big hit to quarterly profits.

The lesson for other brands is simple: if you market around values that you don’t have, customers will find out. And they won’t be your customers anymore. When your brand suffers a public relations snafu that exposes such a values-based hypocrisy, the negative perception will only increase exponentially.


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I just noticed that my post on US Airways and the beyond-horrendous experience I had with them has attracted 2,559 visitors since it was launched one year ago today.

I like to think that my blog post might have had something to do with the failure of the attempted merger between US Airways and United. I also like to think that the 49ers only win if I watch their game on TV. And that my poo is actually platinum.

Witness, then, the power of the digital soapbox, which every human now has at his or her command. Bad experiences are not just punished in the afterlife anymore. Ka-pow, US Airways!

– Doug

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I wrote this post on Adbase, a service that blasts emails to agencies on behalf of photographers, back in February 2009. And it has engendered more comments (22) than any other post to our blog. I just got another one today. Here it is, along with my reply:


Hi Doug,

I came across your blog and I must say that I appreciate your honesty. It can be a very tricky business, the art of marketing to creative people who are extremely busy. My question is, Do you have a tendency to notice promos more than just postcards? And by promos, I mean a postcard with a keepsake such as a notepad with the artist’s work.



You know, I only notice really interesting photography when it comes to a photographer’s promo. There are so many photographers out there doing so much similar stuff, what it really takes is something that looks different. That’s all it is. If more photographers put more effort into creating an unusual vision they could put less into their self-promotion, because every promo piece would work harder.

That’s the simple truth. It’s your unique, or at least unusual, vision that will get me to do the single best thing you could hope for out of a promotion: and that’s to not throw it away. To keep it. The really good ones go up on creatives’ walls. And they stay there sometimes for years. And all the while that creative is looking for an opportunity to work with you.

On the wall, in a highly-valued file of photographer’s samples (no one keeps a sample from someone they don’t really want to work with), it doesn’t matter. Keeping it is what leads to the phone call.

Good luck. Have fun.

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GlaxoSmithKline, the pharmaceutical giant, recently launched a campaign against cervical cancer. They built a web site, helppreventcervicalcancer.com, to support this effort. It imparts facts and dispels myths about HPV and encourages concerned women to ask their doctor about vaccines to prevent cervical cancer. The glaring omission is that the site (not to mention the Oscar ad) make no mention of the fact that GlaxoSmithKline are the manufacturers of Cervarix, the leading vaccine. GlaxoSmithKline may be saving lives by creating this “public service,” I don’t know, I am no medical expert. I do know this strategy certainly raises ethical questions about how pharmaceutical companies get information out to consumers. Why should we, the consumer, trust that this information is correct? This tactic is an easy way for GlaxoSmithKline to raise awareness that results directly in increased interest in their product without having an ad that spends the last ten seconds listing off all the risks of taking their drug. Pfizer has recently set up a similar site for Fibromyalgia and, guess what? the company has a drug that treats that. This appears to be the new approach for drug companies to market their wares.

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Put some Dentyne in your purse, bitch!

How many of you were watching the Oscars when they announced they were going to talk about the absolute necessary items which any woman needed that night, and the challenge of getting them into one of those little purses? And how many of you watched with a weird curiosity, with a hope of getting some kind of small human insight into what a person attending might be going through?

And then how many of you were pissed off to discover that it was really just a ploy to plug Dentyne Ice? How many of you felt duped, fooled? I sure did. As soon as she started talking about Dentyne Ice while pulling it out of the purse, I knew this was a commercial.

Fact is, with a bit of thinking the people responsible could have made a really positive impression on behalf of Dentyne instead of making me hate them for insulting me. If the episode had felt like more of an accidental reveal of a product, how much more powerful would the whole thing have been? As long – and this is a crucial warning – as long as the whole little episode was actually a legitimate peek into reality – legitimate yet the breath enhancer just happens to be Dentyne Ice. No verbal plug. Play it as information, rather than a blatant attempt to sell.

You can be pretty sure the women at the Oscars (and the men) were all in fact packing something for their breath. So it would have been essentially true.

Yet I can just hear someone, probably the client, saying “If we’re paying this much to show our product I want her to say our name, too! It’ll sell more gum.”

Right. In your fantasies, you stupid voice.

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I remember one of the lasts straws working in retail. I was selling men’s ties, shirts, and suits at Nordstrom and I was heading back onto the floor when a manager walked past me and said with total seriousness and not a mote of irony, “Smile!”

Snap. I could smell the marrow oozing out of the camel’s back.

I wanted more than anything to work in a place where I could totally be myself and not have Happy Hilda’s running around telling me how to feel. I wanted to work in…advertising! As a copywriter. Where I could be weird. And I didn’t have to smile. Unless I felt like it.

Well, eventually I did get a job as a copywriter and I could, in fact, be weird. As long as I  also worked evenings, weekends, and in my sleep, eating bowls of stress for breakfast and watching twitchy genitally-challenged advertising-illiterate mid-levels on the client side tear out and eat every shred of value in my copy. (Ah, the early years. But that’s another blog post.)

My point is, nobody likes being told how to feel. How to act. How to be.

Grant McCracken, the anthropologist and brand guru, talks about that in context of Zappos in his recent blog entry for the Harvard Business School. He’s talking about the attempt to co-opt the emotions of employees by a corporation. He is greatly annoyed at the honking horns and cow bells and silly clownish artificial joviality that greets every visitor to Zappos.

I don’t blame him. It’s just such artificiality that makes New Yorkers suspicious of friendly Southerners and West Coasters. They wonder if our friendliness is real. I wonder myself, sometimes, especially when I see how I’m treated by my friendly neighbors during the ruthless evening commute.

And here, o my friends on the client side, is an important lesson to be gained. In fact, it just might be the oldest refrain ever uttered by creatives showing work to clients who ask them for something more…well…usually more fake. Usually more “hard-hitting” or results-oriented. Usually something that tells the audience how to feel, how to act, or what to do.

“People,” we say, over and over again, “don’t like to be told how to feel.”

If you ever doubt this assertion, just imagine some manager hopped up on lattes and self-help truisms walking past you while you’re doing your best to wrestle a big marketing problem to the ground and having them tell you to smile.

It’s why we all stopped carrying Colts back in the 1890’s.

So, why do I beat such a very dead horse? Because look around you. We are still surrounded with brand communications just like the tag line at the burrito chain where I buy my lunch. Every poster, brochure, and menu signs off with the same line: “What are you going to love at Qdoba?”

My answer is: your mother.

– Doug

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We’re having a most interesting challenge.

We’re struggling with a term for our agency.

As written here earlier, we’re not exactly a design firm (despite our past), or an interactive firm (despite our capabilities), or an advertising agency (despite all our experience), or a branding firm (despite our name). (more…)

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