A modern-day tale about confidence, respect and expertise.
We are blessed to work with many inspiring and intelligent clients. Some are accomplished marketers. Other are successful professionals from other fields like law, medicine, academia and religion.
Our clients would NEVER make mistakes; they’re all perfect. But we hear rumors of other clients who can develop bad habits.
Here are the ones cited most often:
I learned early on that nothing kills a bad product faster than great advertising. When you think about, this oxymoronic statement makes complete sense. Good ads drive trial. And if the product is lousy, trial is the kiss of death.
A classic example of this was the Piel’s campaign from the 1950s. An animated campaign featuring two cartoon characters, Harry and Bert Piel, piqued interest in this local eastern beer. However, when people tried it, well, they didn’t want to try it again. Sales dropped.
Now, here’s a cousin to this concept. “Great ads kill themselves.”
Now, most copywriters and art directors think only clients and testing kill great ads. And that can happen. But great ads also kill themselves.
From time to time, we find it important to question some of the basic tenets of advertising. By challenging assumptions, we push the norms – and ourselves – to provide better, fresher solutions.
One such advertising sacred cow is the notion of “car guys.” They’re ad men who have specific expertise in the automotive category. Car guys know how to shoot sheet metal at a ¾ angle. The know acronyms like APR and MSRP. They know how long it takes to go from drawing board to show room. And they understand the complicated relationship between factory and dealers.
Mind you, these industry experts are not exclusive to cars. There are “Health & Beauty” people in the cosmetic world. There are experts in the Financial, Pharma, Education and Medical categories. And because of their category expertise, these specialists all cost more. Usually 25% to 40% more.
Now, many agencies and clients take comfort in the knowledge and experience of “car guys.” After all, car guys “know the drill.” “They’ve done it before, they can do it again.” And “it’s not their first time at the rodeo.”
But, for the last 20 years, we’ve sat and studied the phenomenon of Car Guys and other so-called industry experts. And here’s what we found:
I am a proud Irish-American. 3rd Generation. I grew up with an appreciation of – if not complete indoctrination in – Irish-American traditions like Catholic school, “Danny Boy,” and corned beef and cabbage.
New York’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade is the linchpin and keystone of Irish-American pride. It is a day to paint the town green. Millions wear wool cable-knit sweaters and declare, “I’m Proud to be Irish.”
And yet, I often feel just the opposite.
Computers, the Internet and social media are the great equalizers.
Now, just about anyone is empowered to be a marketing whiz, copywriter or art director.
Which is great. Well, except in some cases.
One such case is the increase in blatant rip-offs of other well-known advertising lines. You know what I’m talking about. While this may seem cute or clever at the time, it’s not. It shows a lack of thoughtfulness and creativity. So, unless “lazy and un-original” is what you want to communicate about your brand, don’t do it.
What’s more, you’re really just helping the idea originator. Every time someone rips off the “Got Milk” slogan, they’re just reminding me to drink more cow juice.
I read last month that Ed Ney died. Ed was in his 90s, so I imagine most people in advertising today never heard of him. But, he was a giant. He ran Y&R when it was the largest agency in the world. But, even beyond the industry, he was an important figure. He was on a number of prestigious boards. He was a trusted marketing consultant to President Ronald Reagan. In fact, Reagan even named Ney to be the US Ambassador to Canada.
My father, Jim Jordan, died ten years ago today. His death was covered in Time Magazine, NPR and CBS News. Like Ney, he was the president of a large New York ad agency (BBDO), was on a number of boards, and was a frequent guest at the White House. He helped Gerald Ford in 1976 win the GOP primaries against Ronald Regan. And when the US celebrated its Bicentennial, my parents were invited to the White House party alongside the Queen of England.
All of which makes me wonder. Why were ad men – and women – more important back then? Or, perhaps the question should be, why are we less important now?
I have lots of Bs in my bonnet. With the shorter days and cooler weather, I’ve been watching more TV lately. And some ads just rub me the wrong way. It’s nothing majorly offensive; just annoying little things that no one in the world probably notices besides us advertising geeks.
Ch 1. The Creative Dividend
For years, I have been intrigued with Sabermetrics. As you may know, Sabermetrics is the statistical analysis of baseball inspired by Bill James. This objective, scientific approach to judging talent was used by Oakland A’s GM, Billy Beane. Then, Beane’s success was immortalized in Michael Lewis’s 2003 book “Moneyball,” which was turned into a 2011 hit movie starring Brad Pitt.
The premise of the book and movie was: in order to compete more efficiently, sometimes you have to categorically challenge the way you view things. And while it was a book about baseball, it really could be about anything. Football. Investments. Life. Maybe even advertising.
I have often wondered what would happen if we applied this thinking to the advertising creative process. What would we do differently? How would we judge talent? Who would we want on our team? How could we work more efficiently? Who should go into the new business room? How can we remove emotion from something that is inherently all about emotion?
I am sure over the next week you will hear mention of the 40th anniversary of Secretariat’s memorable win at the 1973 Belmont Stakes. They’ll reminisce about that Saturday afternoon at Belmont Raceway when the heralded three-year old in blue and white checked silks won horseracing’s elusive Triple Crown. That seminal moment is the inspiration behind the name of our agency. You see, where as most horses win by a nose, a head or a length, Secretariat won by an unprecedented 31 Lengths.
People have often asked why I started my own agency. If you know me, you probably know the long list of reasons: freedom. Fun. Self-determination. Desire to right the wrongs of advertising.
But, actually, I find stories more indicative of why I felt the need to create a different kind of agency.
Here’s one such story.
Six months before I launched the agency, I was told to skip lunch because I had to “receive a very important briefing.” And sure enough, at noon, six professionals filed into my office and filled my sofa and chairs. For the most part, they were all smart and delightful co-workers. There were 3 planners and 3 account people, all in their 20s. Combined, the six of them had about half of my advertising experience.
When I left home for college 30 years ago, we had a family room with a big TV console. It was an electronic altar surrounded by a couple of sofas and chairs. For as long as I could remember, our television set had 7 channels: the 3 networks, 3 local stations and PBS. (We were lucky – seven was a lot because we lived in New York!)
The TV controlled our lives. Dinner was scheduled around the start times of our favorite shows, or, as we called them, programs. TV Guide dictated when we did our homework and chores.
When I came home after graduation four years later, there were three new objects in the family room. Three rectangular black boxes of varying shapes and sizes.