Monday, May 22, 2006

Nothing claims better than...a claim.

All the shit that used to work
Don’t work now.
--Warren Zevon, “My Shit’s Fucked Up

What is it about claims? What is the power of its siren call to clients of all stripes?

Why must everything be stronger, longer and preferred 3 to 1? How is that even possible? Some advertising domains, like wireless phone service, automotive and analgesics, seem to inhabit a parallel universe in which the laws of statistics don’t apply—everything’s above average, like Garrison Keilor’s children of Lake Woebegone.

Back in the day, claims were the backbone of that package-goods stalwart, the Reason To Believe. They were a mashup of engineering and marketing, written to make sense to civilians but still trailing their cloak of numbers and percentages from the lab. And mostly, they worked.

So the claims-driven model was exported out of the world of detergents into other arenas, often with bizarre results. I remember a Procter & Gamble client in the early 80s, during a brief, unhappy period when the company was dabbling in the soft drink business, telling me excitedly he had data to support the claim that Orange Crush was preferred to Coke by Coke drinkers.

Never mind that this was an oranges-to-cola-nuts comparison, or that if it actually mattered, Crush’s market share wouldn’t be one hundredth of Coke’s. No, this finding demanded an enthusiastic Damn-let’s-run-with-it! kind of answer.

“So?” I asked.

Not the best response, but what was true then is (here’s a claim for you) even truer now. Maybe forty percent more!

Now that anyone (assuming they cared to) could get 2 zillion user’s ratings, expert opinions and blog reviews to compare to a company’s stated claim with one mouse-click, “Nothing works better” doesn’t work as well as it used to. You say you have fewer dropped calls? That’s not what CNet says! Or Jacko in the chatroom.

I’m using wireless service providers as an example partly because an article in the New York Times last week pointed to one reason why old-fashioned claims still make%

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Rich off our backs! Wait--we are rich.

You know the guy you meet at your 25th college reunion who forces you through a Bataan death-march of reminiscences you don’t actually share?

“Hey man, remember that killer Michuocan bud we scored before the Jethro Tull concert? Or how about when I puked on your stereo during Homecoming? Good times, man, good times.”

You don’t actually remember any of it because that guy wasn’t really your friend in college—he was just some hanger-on looking to score free dope or pizza. You didn’t like him then and you don’t like him now.

That guy—let’s be frank: that asshole—is back and on our TV. The same bogus memories of shared psychedelic adventures. The same thinly disguised taker’s agenda. Except now he’s called Ameriprise.

Whoever created this disagreeable mess, shame on you.

Shame on you for thinking that showing me a ripomatic with clips from Woodstock, pictures of Che and kids with bad hairdos would induce me to roll my 401K into your outfit.

Shame on you for tarnishing images and music I associate with not caring about money with talk of wealth management.

That was then, this is now. Part of me never left Woodstock, but dude, I don’t remember seeing you there. And besides, I don’t want some stoner investing my life savings.

Friday, May 12, 2006


For the few of you who read this blog with any regularity, my apologies for the lack of new postings.

I’m trying very hard to keep this thing from devolving into an Apple-hating rag, but a hard crash on a Unix-based system, while rare, is not a pretty sight. My spiffy new Intel-chip based MacBook Pro dove off the deep end last week and only emerged, functional but with a slight case of amnesia, this morning after a thorough scrubbing.

This new platform is a buggy little bastard, a lot less together in reality than the hipster holding hands with the PC dork in the new Apple spot. Many perceptive writers have already pointed out that this campaign is one of Apple’s periodic returns to Kool-Aid drinking.

In the commercial, it’s the PC that gets cooties. But if the dude/computer he’s holding hands with is an Intel Dual Core-based Mac, he better wash his hands but good.

P.S. Armando, my muy macho I.T. dude, says don’t install the OS 4.6 patch, whatever that is, in case you were thinking about it.

P.P.S. Yo, Apple: the switch-testimonial commercials directed by Errol Morris were the best Apple computer advertising ever. Make some more of those. If you run out, just run the stoner-girl one again.