Monthly Archives: May 2004

Magazines and Blogs

With so much attention being paid to newspapers and print, there is seldom talk of how viable and versatile magazines are. I am a firm believer in the magazine industry (perhaps because I write for one) so I was glad to see the ‘Annual Report’ on journalism show upbeat trends. (See “The State of the news media, 2004” report published by the Project for Excellence in Journalism)

As we head toward the PR Blog-Week in July, this will be one report would put into perspective what so many bloggers are doing and writing about.

Just 2 interesting facts:

The Big Three (Time, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report) have become less news magazines and more general interest. The Economist, and The Atlantic have seen readership gains, while the Big Three saw readers depart. Surprised?

Research/Fact Checking has reduced dramatically. In 1983, Time magazine had 76 positions in charge of researching and fact checking. By 2003, the report says, there were just 18.

The Project for Excellence in Journalism is part of Columbia University’s Grad School of Journalism, and is underwritten by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

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Posted by on May 31, 2004 in Marketing


Blogfest in July!

Trevor Cook is organizing an online Blog week on PR. I have agreed to handle a topic on one day, July 14th, on “The impact of blogs on PR and Marketing Communications.”

For more information on this global PR blog event, and the program line up, check this WiKi. It will be held from July 12th to July 16th, covering topics such as Corporate Blogging, Interactive PR, Crisis Communications and… well, go ahead, read the Wiki!

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Posted by on May 28, 2004 in Communications


Bob Garfield’s Ad Review Under Review.

Just because you hate French fries and burgers, does that mean you can condemn most of hamburger advertising?

This isn’t a rhetorical question, but one aimed specifically at Bob Garfield, Advertising Age ’s ad reviewer at large, whose recent column of the ‘Im lovin’ it’ ads in the May 17, 2004 issue, are totally off the rails. I must, in the interest of full disclosure and all that, say that I am not even a huge fan of McDonald’s. Also, the company I work for does finance restaurants. However, I have no friends at the Golden Arches, or any other remote connection with the restaurant.

The reason I take up Garfield’s review for review, is that I am a long time reader of Advertising Age, and have always read his column –one of the first things in the mag, in fact. However, there’s something very odd about them now. He’s often whining about things totally unrelated to marketing and advertising. Either he has nothing to say, so he says it in abstract, negative ways, or he’s lost it.

In a recent review of the advertising on NBCs Friend’s finale (May 10 issue), while grudgingly praising one commercial (Dodge), he couldn’t resist taking a shot at the “drippy” last episode of “Friend’s.” What if reviewers of one genre took up the mantle of reviewing everything else around it? Hey Mr. Film critic, why not analyze the popcorn at the theatres while you’re at it?

To get back to this column, I think Ad Age readers deserve better –someone who can do more than throw zingers at marketers, products and ad agencies. Even while delivering a half-baked apology for being wrong and ‘delusional’ about the “I’m lovin’ it” line, he goes on about ‘crappy meals’ and indigestion etc.

If you skipped first half the column (about 6 paragraphs), you would have not missed anything. Ok, so perhaps these were a really bad bunch of ads, but at least a reader has a right to know what are the elements that make them weak/poor/awful.

Take this comment:

“But maybe they aren’t meant to be advertising, so much as jingle-conveyance mechanisms –much as McDonald’s fries convey oil and salt.”

What’s that analogy supposed to shed light on? Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and agree that the ads are excuses for jingles. But does that give him a right to assume that McDonald’s sells fries as a way to make you ingest oil and salt?

OK, I get it:

Garfield’s reviews aren’t meant to be ad criticism, so much as unrelated-wisecrack mechanisms –much as Advertising Age is an excuse to deliver 163 pages of puffy editorials and spicy ads.

Heck, I know many people who can write stuff like this. In fact I just might start doing mock-reviews, just to see if you can tell the difference.

Stay tuned!

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Posted by on May 27, 2004 in Communications


Customer loyalty ‘software’.

She 1: “Hi! Haven’t seen you in awhile.”
He: “Open your eyes…”
She 2: “There you are! Where have you been?”
He: “Busy, busy…”

As a MarCom person my antennae are always up in retail outlets, checking out how employees carry the flame of branding –a job usually ascribed to the media savvy folk rather than those on the shop floor.

Take a guess where I overheard the above conversation?

This was at a Starbucks. The Baristas were unfailingly picking out customers by name and product type.
Later, at the milk-and-sugar counter, I commented to Mr. Popular Starbucks Customer that he’s pretty notorious around these parts. “Maybe I should come here in disguise,” he retorted.

Isn’t it amazing how invisible you are in, say, a grocery store that you visit every week (armed with your loyalty card!) We could be disguised as Elvis, for all they care. Nobody notices if we skip a week, shave our goatee, or suddenly begin buying sugar-free products instead of the weekly box of doughnuts. The data is probably there stuck in a silo, gathering cobwebs.

I say this, because I am working with a variable data digital printer, who tells me that there is no shortage of information available for marketers to use very creatively, if they could only spend a little more time getting to know the people behind the database!

Of course, Starbucks has invested in the most advanced CRM software solution a company can ever want –its employees, who carry their ‘variable databases’ in their heads.

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Posted by on May 26, 2004 in Communications


Note to Ad agencies: Guerillas have wings.

No, not the viral, Subservient Chicken kind! This time it’s ‘guerilla butterflies’ by courtesy of MSN.

Madison Avenue appears to be taking P&Gs Jim Stengel’s think-outside-the-idiot-box gospel to heart. This story on how MSN prodded the TV upfront media buyers with this message captures the new tone of MarCom:

“Friendly reminder: Consumers view multiple screens. Don’t spend it all in one place. An integrated marketing plan isn’t integrated without advertising online.”

Speaking of integrated marketing, and multiple screens, check the story of Nike’s Operation 6543 stunt in New York a few days ago. As for multiple screens, have you ever watched kids instant messaging each other? They can effortlessly chat on multiple windows!

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Posted by on May 25, 2004 in Communications


Ad folk: Pay heed to the wisdom of the ‘mobs.’

If any of you in PR/Advertising/Marketing hasn’t read Howard Rheingold’s “Smart Mobs,” this mind-expanding book will give you a bigger jolt than Al Reis’ death knell: “The End of Advertising.”

Rheingold touches on two areas that I am currently working on :

In the intro, ‘discussing reputation systems’ he observes that the online trust brokers are the equivalent of those in the offline world. In his Alvin Toffler-like purview of the future, he sees reputation systems and gossip intertwined. Ask anyone in Asia how the gossip/rumor connection works. It brings down governments, creates havoc in markets (ask Sonia Gandhi’s party!) and sometimes messes with products (ask Coke about Dasani’s ‘tap water’ story and Bromate problem in England!)

This point was driven home to me when I found this FUNDRACE site that allows you to check people’s U.S. campaign contributions by zip code! That’s right, this is public information, but now searcheble. You can even search by people’s last name! (There is only one person who turns up under a search for ‘Fernando’, but several pages of people with the last name of ‘Bush’ or ‘Heinz’)

He doesn’t use this term (I think it was Toffler who coined it) but he says how the reputation business is impacted because “the consumers are also the producers of what they consume” in these cyber markets. Famous examples are Ebay, Amazon consumer reviews etc. But what about bloggers?

Reminds me of a line from an IBM TV spot: “the game of business changes.”

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Posted by on May 24, 2004 in Communications


Thou shalt not offend!

Remember how bad this year’s Super Bowl commercials were? The flatulent horse et al…There is suddenly a vigilante movement out there making marketers aware how bad things are:

Bob Garfield of Advertising Age was noticably unhappy about Bob Dylan’s appearing in a Victoria’s Secret ad. he said:

“Folk rockers who burst into our consciousness singing war protests should not be doing lingerie commercials in the middle of a war.”

I usually like reading Garfield wacky take on advertising, even though he if off base a lot, but it’s hard to imagine why he wishes there to be a higher standard for lingerie comemrcials, of all things, just because there is a war.

There is a report in the ‘Adages’ section of AdAge that the Percussive Arts Society protested to ESPN about a print ad in USA Today, that had this headline:

“Your kids could learn how to play the drums.
(But then they would know how to play the drums.)

The accompanying visual is that of a youngster swinging a golf club. ESPN cancelled the ad.

This is not of the same magnitude as the offensive Nike Air Goat ad which ran ‘edgy’ copy making fun of people in wheel chairs. See the ad that spoke of a “drooling, misshapen, non-ectreme, trail-running husk of my former self forced to roam the earth in a motorized wheelchair..” Also, check the controversy here.

Bottom line: marketing is about forging partnerships. Not making enemies.

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Posted by on May 22, 2004 in Communications