Wednesday, December 26, 2007

New Year's Resolutions

Find nicer ways to say no to clients.

Find more occasions to say yes to clients.

Use less stock photography, or at least use it differently.

Dress better in the office. It suggests to people that I have my shit together.

Don’t just network when I want something.

Go 100% pun-free.

Make an ad that works on a 2 inch screen.

Be the same person on the business that I was during the pitch.

Re-read Ernie Schenck’s essay in the current CA at least once a month to keep my head from journeying too far up my ass.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

In America, anyone can advertise whenever they want.

I watched the Las Vegas Democratic debate Thursday night, start to finish (and an odd finish it was, going out on the inane diamonds-or-pearls question), but nothing the candidates said could match the accompanying ads for highlighting this country’s weirdness.

I’m not sure if this was somebody’s idea of a joke, but one of the big advertisers was Clean Coal USA, which if you wipe away the light, airy, blue sky art direction, is the same grimy coal industry it’s always been.

That’s right. America’s coal mine owners crawled out of Dick Cheney’s butt long enough to underwrite the Democratic Presidential candidates’ prime-time debate.

Am I missing something? Are all these candidates in the bag already? Have they cut their deal with Big Energy? (Say it isn’t so, Dennis!) Or are the mining interests playing some kind of deep game, hoping that the more Americans watch these people bloviate, the more they’ll be inclined to commit to Mitt?

Oh—there was also a jaw-droppingly cheap and bad :60 DR spot for some sort of CD video bible. It showed a white nuclear family smiling and hugging on the couch as they watched the faux-parchment pages flick by on their big ol’ flatscreen.

Somehow, I don’t think they were TIVOing the debate while they watched.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Meeting cute in the Obituary column

Died yesterday and reported in adjoining obituaries: Peg Bracken, author of the "I Hate to Cook" cookbook, and Vincent DeDomenico, creator of Rice-A-Roni.

Three years before Betty Friedan told '60s women it was OK to be bored by kitchen duties, Bracken showed them how to short-circuit them with convenience foods. And a grateful food industry, Mr. DeDomenico, included, was right there to help.

Bracken, by the way, was an advertising copywriter. There's a shocker. Her recipe for "Skid Row Stroganoff":

Start cooking these noodles, first dropping a bouillon cube into the noodle water. Brown the garlic, onion and crumbled beef in the oil. Add the flour, salt, paprika and mushrooms, stir, and let it cook five minutes while you light a cigarette and stare sullenly at the sink.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What do people see when they look at ads?

Not necessarily what they’re supposed to, as this very cool experiment seems to suggest. Thanks to The New Shelton Wet/Dry blog for finding this fascinating (appalling?) piece of research.

In a rigorous controlled study 52% of the people who were asked to look at this picture could not recall the woman falling to her death.

For every creative who ever fought tooth and nail to keep the composition of his ad just so—which is to say, all of us—this is sobering stuff.

Take these pretty nice lingerie ads, courtesy of AdGoodness, for example. Here's one, if you're too lazy to click:

It's all about controlling the viewer’s eye and directing it to a particular, uh, place.

But what if the headline has it all wrong? What if the viewer remembers only the Tyrannosaurus? Or only the zebra rug?

And we're arguing about the placement of the logo?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Brands come and go, but "Blade Runner" still rocks.

I saw the newly-released "Blade Runner" this week.

Gone is the stupid narrative VO and hilariously inappropriate happy ending.
What remains, remastered and gorgeous, is Ridley Scott's vision of the near future.

And a big honking Pan AM logo glowing through the murk in the evening LA sky.

"Blade Runner" has a lot to say about the fragility and impermanence of life. And, maybe, of brands.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


Yesterday was the finale of a 3-month pitch, the full-on gantlet type: detailed RFP, “chemistry” meeting, interim working meeting, and the ultimate presentation to the CEO and her courtiers.

It was good. Real good. Smoke-a-cigarette-after good.

I quit cigarettes 23 years ago, so this post and its musings will have to do.

Honestly—is there anything better than a clean brief and no process except kick as much ass as you can in the time allotted? Pitches—especially those where agencies are asked to do spec creative—are fubar in many ways, and everyone whinges about it at 4As meetings and such. But looked at another way, it’s what we do in its purest form, and at no point in the agency-client relationship is it going to get better.

And being a principal in a small agency, and having a partner who knows what he’s doing, I know we can leave it all on the field and make some other agency beat us.

I worked at two large agencies where that wasn’t the case.

At both places, there would be this moment at the end of pitches that I dreaded: the CEO Takes Off His Reading Glasses and Stands Up Moment. Otherwise known as the If You Just Shut the Fuck Up We’ll Win This Moment. Where in 5 minutes of pointless bloviation, the guy would demonstrate that a) he hadn’t seen the work or thought about the prospect’s business until right before the presentation; and b) would in all likelihood continue at that level of involvement going forward. And months of work and 2 hours of great presentation would go down the drain.

I don’t know if we’re going to get this business. I think we should. But I’ll have no regrets if we don’t. I think I’m going to go walk the dog now. And smoke a cigar.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Cultural Alzheimer's?

The old cliche is that those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it.
In world affairs, the consequences are usually tragic. In advertising, they're more often inadvertently hilarious.

Last night I heard Electric Light Orchestra's "Hold on Tight to your Dreams" emanating from the TV and I thought, "What the fuck! The National Coffee Association is back on air?"

Because for those of us whose memories stretch back that far, that music is inextricably tied to a cheesy effort to make coffee hip. It was in the pre-Starbuck '80s when coffee sales were tubing and an entire generation was chugging cola for breakfast.

Except now it's the sountrack for the advertising for the new Honda Accord, which is a pretty good looking car from a pretty classy brand and now there's a sonic layer of cheese all over it.

At least in my mind. But here's my question: are the creators (and approvers) of the Honda work...
a) oblivious to the music's prior advertising life?
b) aware but don't care?
c) ironically commenting on it in some meta way that's beyond my comprehension, like sampling crap 70s pop songs in rap beats?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Freelance Envy

I had a bout of Freelance Envy recently, having brought in a team for a project I was just beyond the beyond-o on. They did their thing (very well, I might add), dropped off the files and their invoice and said the magic words, the words only freelancers get to say:

“Here you go. Hope you like it.”

I never had the intestinal fortitude to go freelance full time. Waiting for the phone to ring while writing out mortgage checks was just not something I could handle.

There was a brief period years ago while I was “exploring other opportunities” as the press release put it, when I did freelance, and boy, was it fun. It was good money, too, but honestly, if it weren’t for those pesky mortgage checks, I would have done it for free.

Think about it: an agency pulls freelancers in for only two reasons: 1) they’re short-staffed and the client’s freaking; or 2) the people on staff (or the last batch of freelancers) couldn’t crack it and the client’s freaking. Either way, the agency is desperate and at least temporarily open to a new take on things.

Not coincidentally, those are the optimum conditions for creating great work. Add to that the fact that you don’t have to deal with internal politics or client comments, and it’s a pretty sweet gig. You’re the Gunslinger. You come into town, take care of business, and ride off into the sunset.

But then two nights ago The Seven Samurai was on TV and I thought about those master-less ronin, with nothing but their swords and their honor as they wandered from gig to gig, and thought about all the great work freelancers do that wind up as meeting fodder, or with some other jackass’s name on it for the award shows.

That’s the flip side of “Here you go. Hope you like it.” And it is no small price to pay for freedom.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Ideate this.

I love the new IBM commercials that riff off the stupid jargon infecting the process of coming up with new ideas. One part New Age hooey, one part consultant corporate babble, one part Dr. Phil "everyone's got a good idea" faux-empowerment, it's all captured beautifully in this campaign.

Here's my question: how many people within IBM (those good ol' "internal stakeholders") looked at these ads and didn't get the joke? IBM, like most other big companies, especially in tech, can ideate with the best of them.

A cursory look through IBM's website uncovered the following subjects:
"Expanding the innovation horizon"
"Drive strategic change"
"Transform your workforce"

That's halfway home on Bullshit Bingo, the way I play it.

By the way, if you've never played it, pick up your score cards here.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Please, no more:

Plink-plinky pseudo-Phillip Glass piano scores that are supposed to signal "thoughtful."

Question-themed copy. Don't ask me where I want to go, what I want to do, what my dreams are, what I'm working for.

Sales "events."

Drawings layered onto photography meant to suggest "possibility." Sprint: haven't you seen the Microsoft spots?

Looking off-camera when you're supposed to be looking at me. Sam Waterston (and Bob Giraldi): I'm talking to you. I'd look at you, too. if you were here.

Vodka commercials filmed on yachts not tied up in the marina. If you want to get drunk and be a danger to others on the water, get a Cigarette boat.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

In case you were considering a career in advertising...

...take a long hard look at this article from last week's NYT magazine:

It’s an Ad, Ad, Ad, Ad World - New York Times.

Especially this part:

"The plan is to build a global digital ad network that uses offshore labor to create thousands of versions of ads. Then, using data about consumers and computer algorithms, the network will decide which advertising message to show at which moment to every person who turns on a computer, cellphone or — eventually — a television."

You thought globalization was only about customer service reps and toys made out of lead? Think again!

I don't know what's worse--exploiting cheap foreign labor to crank out endless versions of ads that suck in the first place; or the idea of being replaced by an algorithm. It's not just media planners who should find this prospect frightening. Art directors, writers, planners, we're all grist for the mill.

I'm a short-timer. A few more years and I hang up the spikes. So this shit won't come down on me. But for people coming into the business, it's a whole new reason to march at the next G-8 summit.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The other 28 and a half seconds were just copy mandatories anyway.

Engaging at Any Speed? Commercials Put to Test - New York Times

It's hard to believe this article and the people and activities in it aren't a goof. Desperate media sales types trying to prove that 30 second commercials mashed by a DVR into 1.5 seconds of ultra-high speed gobbledegook still work?

Anyway, is it just us old farts that remember the first appearance of these little nuggets circa 1987 in Max Headroom? They called them "blipverts" then, and they had the unfortunate effect of blowing the viewer's head to pieces. Too much data in too little time, apparently.

That wouldn't be a problem now. Most current spots are so content-less, you could condense 100 of them into a nanosecond and you'd still be safe.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

It's all a blur.

Marketers Struggle to Get Folks to Stay Put for the Commercials - New York Times

"The whole goal here is to blur the line between content and advertising message,” said Hank Close, president for ad sales at MTV Networks."

Listening to a media-sales executive exult that his network’s goal is to completely blur the distinction between content and advertising is like listening to a tobacco-industry executive talking about how cigarettes are nothing more than an optimized nicotine-delivery system.

The difference is, the tobacco guys were talking behind closed doors. This guy’s Tourette’s-like outburst was freely directed at the press.

Every time the firewall between advertising and content is torn down, it ends in tears.
The GEICO cavemen kicked ass in commercials. Advance sneak peaks at the TV series suggest it won’t last 2 weeks. Ham-fisted product placement eventually made series like “The Apprentice” and “Queer Eye” unwatchable. Ad guy Brian Tierney’s takeover of the Philadelphia Enquirer is headed down the same dead-end street.

The same technology that empowers viewers to fastforward past crap commercials also lets them post the good ones on YouTube and leverage the client's media buy by orders of magnitude. The challenge, Mr. Close, is not to pollute content with badly disguised ad messaging, but to make ads that merit watching.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Citi: not so pretty.

Well, it had to happen I guess, but seeing the awful reality of it is almost too much to take. Citibank or Citicorp or Citi or whatever it is has junked its “Live Richly” campaign in favor of ….of….

“Let’s get it done.”

The red arch logo has been wrenched from its context as an umbrella (necessary with the divestiture of Travellers is my guess) and turned into a bridge. Because Citi is your bridge from dream to reality. From a sketch on a napkin to an IPO. From, let's see...from Dick Cheney on a carrier deck to Dick Cheney in a perp walk.

The inevitable anthem intro commercial rounds up all the usual suspects: the simple, repetitive Phillip Glass-like score; the hopeful children; the intense entrepreneurs; the retired couple on the dock; the proud college graduate. Citi’s dead-man-walking CEO Charlie Prince wanted to put his own stamp on the company’s image. In this derivative, clueless effort, he has succeeded wildly.

“Live Richly” had its detractors, and for sure a bank talking about money not being everything in life is an easy targets for cynics, but jeez, at least they took a shot. It avoided most financial-advertising clich├ęs, it appealed to people’s better nature, and it set them apart. In a category where 90% of what you can say is regulated by statute, that’s pretty good. When Sandy Weill comes back to rescue Citi from his own anointed successor, I’ll bet anything that “Let’s get it done” will be done as well.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Period abuse.

Forgot to mention in my last post that this new Travelers campaign ends with this somewhat opaque slogan:

Not sure what it means, but I'll let it go. It's planner BS they had to paste onto the work to put it "on brief". No, the thing I want to focus on is the period abuse. The. Way. An extra period. Is inserted. To make the line. Punchier.

Copywriters do this all the time. I know I have (Weight Watchers. Real food. Real life. Real results.). And there is a hilarious passage in Matthew Beaumont's book E in which the agency's hack Creative Director is ID'd by a former art director partner by the period abuse in his emails.

And no wonder. Maybe as a reaction to chronic period abuse by their writers, most art directors hate putting one period, let alone 2 or 3, in headlines or tag lines. Why mess up nicely kerned type with some random...dots?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Risky business.

I made my own advertising mash-up last night. In my head. No editing software necessary.

I was watching Heroes (itself a pretty good mash-up of comix, sci-fi and nerdy soap opera) and a spot came on with this sleazy character named Risk. Risk wears a cream-colored zoot suit and throws banana peels out there for you to slip on.

I think this spot was a :60. It was lonnnnnng. And, as is the fashion, it saved mention of the advertiser to the very end. Which gave my overly active imagination plenty of time to fill in the blanks. I’d been seeing a ton of new print ads from Marsh (aka Marsh & McClennan before the scandal) that looked like this:

So, naturally, I thought this new spot was the TV translation. Here he is--the Upside of Risk we've been looking for! Except what could be the Upside of a meddling douchebag who looked like Snidely Whiplash? Wow, I thought to myself, where was Marsh going with this?

And then a telltale red umbrella appeared, and the Travelers Insurance logo. And some drivel about how Risk never sleeps so your unsurance needs to keep up, which I assume means minimizing the downside and not finding the up. And, suddenly, my mash-up movie was over. But for 55 seconds, the commercial playing in my head was not the one on the TV.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Oh, the humanity!

I consume a lot of business media, so I’m seeing a lot of human-ness lately.

Cisco is running a campaign about something called “The Human Network” which must be what I’m on right now because my wireless connection speed is dial-up slow.

And a few pages later, Dow (aka Dow Chemical) brings us “The Human Element,” which I guess is...them?

These two outfits must have gone to the same focus group, in which they found out that people think big business is cold, impersonal and amoral. Hence the need to “humanize” their respective brands.

“Human” is one of those words that, when you see it in the context of advertising, is best understood by putting the word “not” in front of it. So, for example, when Dow says it’s all about “The Human Element”, what they mean is “The not-Human Element.” It’s Dow Chemical, for Chrissakes. Better living through chemistry!

Here’s some other terms that, like “human,” pretty reliably mean their exact opposite when used in advertising:

State of the art

Feel free to add your own to the list.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

One stand-up guy.

I’ve always admired Mike Hughes of The Martin Agency, and a recent conversation with him in Creativity (or as they typographically refer to themselves, Creat Ivity), only reconfirms my respect.

Hughes freely admits that he didn’t like the gecko concept when it was first presented, and only relented after repeated pitches by his team—and only because he believed it was just a one-shot.

How many creative directors do you know who will cop to something like that? A lot of history has been rewritten by CDs who claim early support—or, worse, authorship—of ideas that they originally crapped on.

Hughes also volunteered that while he was not initially keen on the gecko he had a lot of heart for an idea revolving around flying monkeys, which was pulled after only a few days on air. Not surprisingly, no one else is trying to horn in on the credits for that one.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Sloppy seconds

Advertising Age - Kmart Hands DraftFCB $200 Million Creative Account

To quote my daughters: Ewwww.

Weren’t DraftFCB’s presentation boards for Kmart still damp from Julie’s embrace?

I’ll leave the Julie-bashing to others. But K-Mart! Have some self-respect. Do you really have such WalMart envy? They’re falling over themselves trying to be Target. And didn’t you see Howard’s video address to his troops? He’s Sammy Glick and Ursula the Sea Witch’s love child!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

These are the End Times.

Nike is falling out of love with W&K.

Altoids dumped Leo Burnett.

Dead people come back to life and talk about popcorn.

What other signs do we need? Lee Clow’s head turning 360% around on his neck?

It’s time to get right with whoever your deity is.

Google, AKQA, R/Greenberg and a few other lucky souls are locked and loaded for The Rapture.

The rest of us will be left here to contend with The Beast, forced to prove ROI endlessly, speaking corporate babble we don’t even understand, locked in a focus-group facility for an eternity while harpies shriek and tear at our work.

In the meantime, we just got a nice new piece of business . Things are looking up!

Monday, April 16, 2007

It's about the work...pause Not!

It’s enough to cause terminal cognitive dissonance.

On one hand you’ve got sad but familiar stories like VW getting pulled from Arnold, or Altoids from Burnett, when newly-installed clients bring in old agency buddies. Relationship trumps the work.

On the other hand, you’ve got Bob Barrie and Stuart D' Rozario taking the entire honking United business with them from long-time agency Fallon, where they created their beautiful campaign. Work trumps relationship.

Or…not? What it’s hard for outside observers to ever know is: did the decision makers at United keep the business with its creators because, bottom-line, it’s about the work? Or were Barrie and D'Rozario, and not anyone in management, the key relationship people?

The easy answer is: both. United likes and trusts these two guys, and appreciates and values their work. And I hope that’s actually true.

But it’s also possible—I know because I’ve seen it—that the United folks have no idea why the work is good. They may have bought total shit work at some earlier point in time and might be capable of doing it again in the future but right now, they believe that Barrie and D'Rozario “get them” and their business and like hanging with them and it’s just a happy coincidence that they can do kick-ass work too.

“Lightning in a bottle” my business partner Matt Seiden calls it. When it happens to you, make the most of it.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

While I was out.

It’s been weeks since I’ve posted to this blog and the readership stats have, predictably, flatlined.

I was warned early on in this exercise by no less a blog authority than George Parker that the key to readership was frequent posting. Clearly this is a lesson I haven’t fully internalized and that’s because I keep mistaking what I’m doing for writing, which it only superficially resembles.

Blogging looks like writing. I use a word processor, I compose, I edit, I search for the right word or phrase. But what’s wanted in a blog is not lapidary prose but frequent electronic stimuli…intermittent reinforcement for people with short attention spans and lots of options.

So having proved to my satisfaction that blog postings, unlike limited-edition sneakers, do not gain in value from scarcity, I’m going to try for a few weeks to post every day and see what that fetches. If I don’t see a readership spike, I will have to confront the harrowing possibility that the problem is content—i.e. I suck at this—rather than frequency.

But I don’t want to confront that idea yet. Maybe I can post my way out of this.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Bill Bernbach would be proud.

Lost in all the schadenfreude about Crispin Porter and its Volkswagen work—the departure of client champion Kerry Martin, the strange “Fast” creature, the proto-Nazi designer—are these two lovely print ads.

Every agency that has worked on VW since it left Doyle Dane has kept the iconic Avant Garde typeface and the spare, white-space aesthetic. But no agency has been comfortable enough in its own creative skin to return to the original, classic layout and copy approach.

Just as it took certified Red-baiter Richard Nixon to finally establish diplomatic ties with Communist China, it took CPB to do these ads. Not just because they have nothing to prove creatively, but because someone there actually knows how to write.

The copy sells hard but gracefully and is 100% bullshit-free. The style is literate and witty but in no way condescending or snarky. If Crispin does wind up losing this business, it will be a shame. These ads are the real deal.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Dogs rule. BMWs suck.

So I'm watching the Westminster Dog Show, which, given nature of its audience, has lots of commercials featuring dogs.

Most of these commercials are for Pedigree, and they're great. Of course, when the brief is to encourage people to donate to a dog-rescue fund, and the audience by definition loves dogs, if you can't do a nice spot you should just give it up. Dogs rule, indeed.

And then this BMW spot comes on. Guy whistles for his Weimariner to go out for a spin. Dog looks dubious. Dog exits frame, reappears wearing a crash helmet. Now he looks dubious and ashamed. Against his better judgment, dog hops into back of BMW wagon. Guy stomps on the accelerator, hurling his dog against the rear windshield as he peels out of the driveway.

Nice creative choice to run on a dog show, guys. Note to dogs waiting for new owners in shelters: if someone comes in and jangles BMW keys at you...bite him. You're better off where you are.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Super Bowl Bench Warmers

I think the big winners and losers have been pretty well documented, don't you?

I'm sickly drawn in this post to the ads consigned to Purgatory, neither praised nor derided. I'm fascinated by the forgettable. If you're going to pay $2.5 MM to air a spot, at least try. Take a shot. Fail Big, like Snickers or Garmin. But no. Anyone remember these?

Ford F 150. Lots of parts coming together to truck. Like Honda's "Cog" with all the coolness stripped away.

Prudential. Rocks are good for skipping. Rocks are good for massage. Rocks are good for...let me guess...I feel it

Ford Edge. Let's see, the vehicle's name is "Edge" so let's have it ride (in clumsy CGI) on the edge. And have some rocker sing "I like to live on the edge." Which means, of course, that he doesn't.

And my grand prix for Forgetability, the least remembered, least-talked about spot on the Super Bowl:

PNC Bank. They ran the pitch mood piece. Aimless vignettes of people walking, children smiling, people tapping on keyboads...what--you don't remember? What about when the AVO talked about helping you meet your goals and your dreams? No? Surely you remember the line at the end:

PNC. Leading the way.

I did. Which is deeply troubling.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Taking it to focus groups. That's the hard part.

You know that scene in “A League of Their Own” where Gina Davis decides to hang up her cleats after hubby Bill Pullman comes home from the war? Where she tells Tom Hanks that playing pro baseball was just too hard? Hanks looks at her in disgust and says “It’s supposed to be hard. If it was easy, everyone could do it.”

Well, I just took a look at the 5 final “consumer-generated” Doritos spots for the Superbowl, and you know what?

Apparently, everyone can do it. As George Parker pointed out, these are not bad spots. (Well, "Live the Flavor” is a pretty bad spot but the other 4 are pretty good.)

And as any number of people have pointed out (and others, including me, predicted), the people who created them are not exactly amateurs. They are art school students, aspiring filmmakers etc.

But as I watched the spots, I was struck by something else. These spots were not only pretty professional-looking, they all had the distinct feel of Superbowl spots…that sort of BBDO/DDB jokey-hyerbolic comedic style. The guy who duct-tapes his roommate to keep him away from the bag of Doritos. The rock climber who loses his grip because he’s clutching a bag of Doritos.

This is old school TV creative. Not bad. But not new. If you showed it to David Lubars he’d kick you out of his office. And this is the future of advertising? Having people who are trying to break into the business do work none of us would view as fresh?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Age and Advertising, Part Two

Literature is strewn with examples of writers creating and inhabiting characters totally unlike themselves. James Joyce’s Molly Bloom... Michael Haddon's autistic Christopher Boone... characters like these are so convincingly wrought, they stand as feats of pure imagination.

And then there’s advertising.

Walk around any creative department and it’s 1955. Women (and gay men) work on cosmetics. Men work on cars. Young men work on beer. Middle-aged creatives, what few there are, are in management or herded off to work on pharma.

Defenders of this caste system invoke the “Write about what you know” approach, saying (if not necessarily believing) that creatives whose age and gender mirror the target group will have better “insights” that “resonate” at a deeper level.

Excuse me, but how insightful do you have to be to introduce a new stuffed-crust pizza? And anyway, aren’t the “insights”--so hard-won in endless rounds of focus groups—already there on the brief?

Off the record, agency managers will tell you that client comfort has a lot to do with it too. I have a very good friend who lost her job working—of course—on a feminine hygiene product account when a new client decided she was too old.
Talk about double jeopardy!

Let’s suppose, just for a moment, that casting by age for different types of accounts makes sense. Let’s say you have the Red Bull business. Do you really want a 50+ creative working on it? Speaking personally, there’s no part of my life that requires knocking back a lethal shot of caffeine at 2 AM. None. The only thing that’s going to give me wings at this point is going to the Hereafter.

So fine: to work on a young person’s product it sometimes helps to be young. But now let’s turn the question around. To work on an older person’s product, does it help to be older?

This is where things get fucked up. Because the typecasting only runs in one direction. No one has a problem with a 28-year-old creative working on life insurance, cognac, luxury sedans or (women only please) wrinkle cream. But maybe they should.

Just as there are ads—I’m sorry, I mean branded consumer engagement content—that are totally five minutes ago for their 20-something target, there are also ads that are hilariously wrong for their 55-year-old customer.

Here’s a good rule of thumb:

If you are someone who still sees a role for Red Bull in your life, you have no insight into life insurance.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The plant tour

Yesterday I got on my client’s corporate jet and flew to Nebraska to take the plant tour, thereby violating Fenske’s Anti-Law #9.

What can I say? Private jets are fun, even when you’re going to a factory in Nebraska in January. It’s like my children, when they were little: they thought the coolest part of any trip, whether it was DisneyWorld or the Berkshires or LA, was room service.

Clients like creatives to take the plant tour because there’s the possibility they’ll see something there to inspire them creatively; also maybe because they secretly delight in seeing smartypants hipsters so far out of their comfort zones. But the truth is, beyond a certain point, additional knowledge about how a product is made isn’t usually helpful. It either bores people or tears away their illusions (e.g., hot dogs).

Still, spending a day with people who live outside the irony zone and care to an incredible degree about making the best product they can, can get a guy pretty motivated about making ads, so going on the plant tour accomplished its goal, if not in the way the client intended.