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How Much Have We Really Changed?

In the weeks leading up to the season premier of AMC’s Mad Men, various business publications had a field day showcasing the sexist ads of earlier eras.

As astonishing as some of them are, it’s legitimate to ask just how much society and the industry have evolved, especially when you consider that the percentage of women comprising the advertising workforce has remained flat—holding at 55 percent since 1982, the earliest available data from the 4A’s.

Belvedere vodka recently ran an online ad that was suggestive of an attempted rape.  A steakhouse in Georgia thought it was funny to post on Facebook the name of one of its sandwiches—the Caribbean black and bleu–in honor of Chris Brown and singer Rihanna. And who could forget last year’s Chapstick ad?

In all three instances, the ads went viral, not because people thought them clever, but because consumers wanted to express anger and disgust at words and images that were demeaning or made light of violence against women.

Even though the companies apologized for the ads, it’s tempting to lament that societal attitudes about these issues haven’t changed much. However, the speed with which consumers can and do shame brands on social media regarding questionable messages gives us reason to hope.

Monday Morning Mad Men: Welcome back!

It’s been a long 17 months since we’ve seen our friends at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. We’re back in 1966 and SCDP is still trying to nail new business they desperately need. As we found out at the end of season four, Don has convinced Heinz to give them small piece of their business – the beans division – with the hopes of bringing attention to this often overlooked sub-brand (behind Ketchup). Thus, we find Peggy in the pitch room trying to sell in their first campaign idea to the client.

In the creative presentation, Peggy presents the team’s best campaign idea for the beans – a Bean Ballet. The client is not immediately thrilled (as Peggy expected), instead asking for something more conservative. Don joins the room and Peggy expects him to come to her rescue as her so often does when clients aren’t buying more provocative ideas. Surprisingly, Don simply agrees to come back to the client with something different and more in line with his desires. Peggy leaves feeling deflated from rejection, but that’s because she wasn’t working with the client’s vision.

If we were SCDP’s counsel on pitching new business, we would have made four recommendations to Peggy:

  1. Get the brief right. Briefs are critical to success. They allow clients to share their desires and visions from the outset, while helping to set expectations. When written properly, they are an important tool for both teams to stay on the same page and avoid disconnects along the way.
  2. Understand the way your client thinks, and tailor your pitch accordingly. If you know you have a conservative client that won’t be open to pushing the envelope, present your more conservative ideas first. Over time you can earn your client’s trust for more boundary-pushing ideas. If you can anticipate your client’s reaction, you will have a leg up for how to present your ideas, and how to work with them over time to take more risks.
  3. Communicate with your client. If there is a disconnect between the client and the agency, the work will suffer. Consequently, the relationship will suffer too. Make sure there is an open dialogue between you and your client…not just with your day-to-day client, but with the key decision makers. This will get you one step closer to success.
  4. Learn when to hold ‘em, learn when to fold ‘em. Sometimes (most of the time), a client wants what a client wants. Understanding when it’s appropriate to push for your own ideas, and when it’s appropriate to back down, is an art form, not something that’s learned from one meeting. Sometimes conceding your own ideas in the interim will allow your client to trust you later on.

We’re sure Peggy and the creative team will come back with a winning idea next week. Stay tuned!

HBO Runs out of ‘Luck’

Last week, HBO came under heavy criticism by animal activist groups after three horses were euthanized during production of the drama Luck. The criticism lead to Luck being cancelled almost 24 hours after the third horse was put down. While this situation raises questions about the use of animals for entertainment’s sake, it also presents an example of how organizations like HBO can handle a PR crisis — diffusing the situation before it snowballs into a larger issue.

Let’s face it — there’s always a chance of backlash from animal activists groups when producing a show that involves animals. Groups like PETA are influential and their claims can rarely be ignored as they fight for the rights of animals across situations and industries. In this case, HBO read the writing on the wall. It realized that the show could potentially lose more horses during production, leading to louder and louder opposition by these groups. Cutting their losses now avoids potentially larger problems – and headaches – later.

In this instance, HBO did what was necessary – and right. They avoided a reputation-damaging situation, while managing to keep their brand reputation at the highest level possible. While your company may not face this exact same situation, here are a few questions to consider when facing a crisis:

Can we permanently correct the situation in a timely manner? If not, what can we tell the press we are doing to rectify the circumstances?

When (not if) we come under criticism from the public and press, how do we measure the severity (and possible outcomes) from their claims?

What is more important to our brand? Short-term revenue loss or long-term brand reputation?

Always have a plan in place…And, in crisis communications, always expect the unexpected.

Is My TV Watching Me?

In this űber-connected world, technology’s conveniences lull many of us into a state of denial about its dangerous tradeoffs. This story from HD Guru stopped us in our tracks.

The new 2012 Samsung smart TV comes with the following features not offered (yet) by its competitors: “Internally wired HD camera, twin microphones, face tracking and speech recognition. While these features give you unprecedented control over an HDTV, the devices themselves, more similar than ever to a personal computer, may allow hackers or even Samsung to see and hear you and your family, and collect extremely personal data.”

According to the article, Samsung has yet to respond satisfactorily to the reporter’s queries about data collection and the personal privacy of consumers.

If it’s true, as the article says, that the new technology on the Samsung TVs is difficult for customers to disable, Samsung should take immediate action on the PR front:

1)      Act swiftly to publicly acknowledge the concerns brought up in this article

2)      Launch an informative campaign that fully explains the use of these devices and why customers needn’t worry about privacy invasion

3)      If there is real potential for privacy breaches, Samsung should consider recalling the TVs and fix them to allay concerns

Otherwise, spooked consumers will stay away in droves and the door will swing wide open for competitors to develop and tout the impermeability of their own smart TVs.

TV On The Go: Coming To A Mobile Device Near You in 2012

It happens to all of us. We’re on our way out the door to work and Matt Lauer announces a Breaking News report “coming up next.” We’re on a business trip to Tulsa, Oklahoma when the Giants are playing the Jets. We’re on a road trip with the kids and are one of those families without TV’s in the headrests.

These days, consumers have a device for everything. So why is it that they don’t have a devise for receiving high-quality, live TV, on the go?

At this year’s Advertising Week, Abby Auerbach, EVP & CMO of TVB moderated a panel which featured some of the top names in Mobile Digital Television including; Erik Moreno, SVP Corp Development, Fox Networks Group; Co-GM, Mobile Content Venture, Anne Schelle, Executive Director, Open Mobile Video Coalition and Jeff Minsky, Director Emerging Media, OMD Ignition Factory.

Turns out Mobile Digital Television, via the Dyle app, is poised to make its first major consumer push next year- offering consumers in 32 cities nationwide free, over the air TV directly to their tablets and mobile devices.

So what does this mean for advertisers and marketers? Extended reach and frequency – MDTV allows for an extension of the viewing day- on average consumers increased their daily live TV viewing by 38%.

Here are some of the key takeaways:

  • Daytime is the new primetime when it comes to MDTV-  Consumers loved watching different types of programming during the day, especially local news
  • Consumers were watching live TV at new and different locations – at work during their lunch break, at idle moments waiting on line at the checkout or the doctor’s office
  • Moms enjoyed passing a mobile phone or tablet to kids en route to school or running errands
  • Consumers were staying in-tune with breaking news and weather

Watch Abby Auerbach offer a recap of the panel here.

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