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.