Monthly Archives: November 2004

TiVo could create a new interest in Opt-In ads

TiVo is at it again, reinventing the format, the medium and environment it works in. A easy-to-miss news item talks of how TiVo will have ‘tags’ that appear as small icons on the screen, so that a viewer can click on them with a remote, to find out more.

If advertisers are smart, they will plan for segments when they can create interest in products –like the iPod– on TiVo. Wouldn’t it be ironical if people were to freeze a program in its tracks using TiVo, to watch a demo, or a ‘micro-episode,’ of a product in the storyline?

I like the idea of being able to ‘opt-in’ to advertising. It’s not often that we see a piece of (excuse the phrase) paradigm-shifting technology that could make marketers AND consumers happy.

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Posted by on November 29, 2004 in Advertising & Branding


Monicagate, Rathergate. Bias or obsession?

You can tell that the media is under the microscope in the same week that Bill Clinton chastises the media and CBS announces that Dan Rather will resign.

It’s not as simple as it seemed before the U.S. elections, when the big 3 networks, with Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings were cast as the anti-Bush liberal lobby that was automatically pro-Kerry. (see cartoon of the CBS logo!)

People tend to forget –and Clinton reminded Peter Jennings– that the networks did relentlessly chase after every angle of the Monica Lewinsky story.

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Posted by on November 23, 2004 in Marketing


Search for advertising: Yahoo finds Ogilvy.

Yahoo must be taking Google seriously. Notice how it has just hired Ogilvy to do its advertising. Actually, with the new interest in Search –with the entry of Microsoft– both Yahoo and Google would be looking hard at communicating the larger strategic values of their brand.

There is another way, too to market your brand using advertisng: Get close to the ad community! Google, as this story shows, has moved to not just hire great agencies, but turn ad folk into evangelizers of the brand.

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Posted by on November 17, 2004 in Advertising


Election Advertising

Lest we forget, amidst the embarrassing campaign ads we had to stomach during the U.S. elections, there were some high points.

Take this copy for Mini Cooper:

“Let’s always be law-abiding liberals on the gas pedal and ultraconservatives at the pump….Let’s lobby Capitol Hill for more twisty highways. Let’s all skip the mudslinging and stick to the road ahead. Let’s motor.”


Then there was the 7-eleven coffee promotion, called 7-Election. It was as simple as offering customers a choice of a John Kerry or George Bush coffee cup in the chain’s 5,800 stores in the U.S.

The race, predictably, was neck-and-neck –with 65.4% of coffee ‘voters’ undecided. But when the results were tallied, Bush got 51.08% of the votes! It may not be a scientific poll, but as this story shows, considering that a million people a day drink 7-eleven coffee, it’s a promotion that’s got some clout.

As for Brand Bush and Brand Kerry…

Since several other marketers had joined the brand-wagon, Landor Associates interview 1,262 registered voters and found that:

Bush was associated with Bud Light, IBM and Ford (“reliable”, “humble”, “heritage”, “solid”)

Kerry is associated with brands such as Heineken, Apple, and BMW (“high-quality”, “high-performance”, “hip”, “young”)

Among undecided voters: Kerry was Starbucks while Bush was Dunkin’ Donuts.

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Media Bias: Why would advertisers care?

Here’s a different angle on last Friday’s post on Ads and politics, about attack ads and the ‘attack media.

It shocks me that so many are so shocked at media bias. It’s about time people stopped complaining about media ‘agenda setting’ and started accepting the reality of media ownership. It’s not just elections that bring this up. People questioned the BBC’s ‘objectivity’ in on his hostility concerning religion, and coverage of the Iraq war.

A recent Bivings Report looks at it from the perspective of advertisers, and essentially says that frankly, my dear they don’t give a damn.

Frankly, it does not ultimately matter. People have become accustomed to hearing advertisements for day-to-day, politically neutral products in all kinds of contexts that are biased. How many people have abandoned a company because it runs ads during NBC’s liberal drama on the Presidency, “The West Wing?”

Frankly, the media –be it cable, satellite radio, AM radio, NPR, or network TV– always throws in a dose of opinionated commentary, hate talk, political bias, and disregard for social norms. If advertisers are so upset by all this, they should be rushing for the exits from the Fox network (because of such fare as Trading Spouses) and the ABC (not because they don’t see eye to eye with Nightline, but because of fare such as Desperate Housewives.)

Just for the record:

Here is a top-10 list of media distortions, from Conservative Web site, MediaCenter.Org/

And here’s a link to Journalism.Org‘s study about people’s attitudes to media. (Increase in the percentage of people who believe the media is inaccurate, biased etc.)

If this is the reality of the media, no wonder advertisers hold their noses and continue to slot their ads.

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Posted by on November 12, 2004 in Marketing


Product Demos work wonders.

After my post on Monday about the power of Brand Voice, and Southwest Airlines, I made a serendipitous discovery of an article (at by copywriter-turned-psychotactic idea man, Sean D’Souza (who also calls himself a cave guy and fire starter…)

His site,, is a wealth of ideas about ideas on marketing, including access to books with Tom peters-like titles (Lessons from the Cave, Brain Train etc) 

Check him out!

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Posted by on November 10, 2004 in Advertising


Southwest Airline’s Brand Voice

Hard to beat Southwest Airlines for examples of how employees build the brand. Scene: A busy flight from Phoenix to Las Vegas on Sunday morning (11/07/04)  The usual snafus: passengers late to the gate because of long lines at security chokepoints, etc.

As the plane doors were closed, a flight steward came on the PA system delivering her chirpy welcome, and reminder about seatbelts and cell phones etc. However she prefaced it with: “I can’t believe we’re on-time!” Passengers laughed. Then, as the plane began to nudge out of the gate, the captain, in an equally cheery voice said “She better believe it! We are always on time! I know because I keep the log book in here!”

In most companies, a lesser mortal saying something not so complimentary about the brand would probably be fired! Not Southwest, where employees –and not just marketing people—manage the brand!

Such exhortations of the airline’s ‘brand voice’ are what differentiate products and services. For frequent fliers for whom short, no-frills, crampy flights are as uneventful as a bus ride, it’s these little things that make a difference. So many marketers forget this and are carried away with cool, predictable (excuse me for using this awful word) ‘touchpoints.’ So yes, I print my boarding pass at home before I leave for my flight, and yes, I subscribe to a customer-retention plan known as Rapid Rewards, but the thing that keeps me flying Southwest is how human and normal the brand is, free of hype, and overblown promises that most marketers adopt.

Imagine an alternative scenario. The flight steward makes an announcement that “It’s 8.30, and, as usual, Southwest is always on time! At Southwest Airlines, we are (extra chirpy voice here)dedicated to the highest quality of customer service and have been consistently known for on-time departures and arrivals. Please sit back, and relax and enjoy the flight…” That, by the way, is a part of the airline’s mission statement, but it rings so hollow, when compared to the real brand voice –those unscripted moments, from the mouth of its employees. Often this is the best PR of all –reaching 200 (captive) customers at a time.

See a similar example of ‘customer loyalty software’ here.

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Posted by on November 8, 2004 in Media


The Attack Ad In Politics.

Bob Garfield’s   ad reviews may be sometimes out of whack, but this week he was spot on. In a column in Advertising Age (November 1st, 2004) that’s much longer than his regular weekly staple,

Garfield deconstructs a broad range of campaign tactics as seen through the lens of Bush and Kerry’s ads. His conclusion: the uber negative campaign has a toxic effect on America, and not just on our politics.

Interestingly, his column was penned before the results, so he sides with an Annenberg study that found how attack ads reduce voter turnout. Bush’s ability to get the popular vote, despite many predictions to the contrary–especially after 2000— is an indication of something else that neither advertising nor academic theory could explain. Maybe, just maybe, attack ads actually work, and all our nice ideas about brand image and consistency, and brand equity are irrelevant. Maybe politicians, not being boxes of detergent, do appeal to people because of something that works at a more visceral level. Speaking of brand equity, Bush yesterday spoke of the ‘political capital’ he has earned, and intends to ‘spend.’ Maybe the inarticulate one has a smarter understanding of his ‘brand’ than we think!

Both campaigns –and I refer to ads, speeches, debates, Web sites etc– made one thing clear: they didn’t give a hoot about traditional branding. They waged their campaigns, not as a cola war, or a beauty pageant, but as something more basic. We may have been appalled and made to feel queasy, whether it was the ‘wolves’ ad or the cheap shot about Mary Cheney, but the net effect was that we were spending less time thinking if the candidate was the fixit man for the economyhealthcarewaroutsourcingterrorism problem and more time wondering if he was on our wavelength. My personal stance was I was angry at both, and longed for someone with more common sense — like John McCain.

After listening to several Republicans and Democrats friends, and the respective media in the post-result whining/gloating phase (Hannity and Air America radio ) I got the feeling that both Bushies and Kerry huggers were struggling with the same queasiness because the two candidates were so unlike them, and their values. So, IMHO, the attack ads served the purpose of one thing alone: to ‘prove’ (with lies, damned lies and statistics) just how off base the opponent was, and what a terrible thing it would be to vote for him. Which explains the big ‘undecided voter’ phenomenon. Or, to put it another way, the attack ads were effective in giving the undecided voter a reason to vote with his/her gut –rather than heart. So, yes, I abhorred Kerry’s position/non-position on abortion, and gay marriage, and yes, I was appalled at Bush insisting on spending an insane amount of money on bringing democracy to a country that never asked us to deliver it. Neither was on my wavelength!

Thomas Friedman, in his November 4th column, seems to say it best, always drawing on an analogy that everyone can relate to when making a political comment.

"This was not an election. This was station identification. I’d bet anything that if the election ballots hadn’t had the names Bush and Kerry on them but simply asked instead, "Do you watch Fox TV or read The New York Times?" the Electoral College would have broken the exact same way."

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Posted by on November 5, 2004 in Advertising


When ad agencies pitch from the left field

Greg Brooks’ post about how stupid it is for an ad agency to pitch for an account using an ‘unauthorized’ commercial, makes an important point: that it is bad business practice, no matter whether it falls under marketing (selling the agency) or business development.

If you want to find out what a guerilla marketing tactic looks like when it loses focus on the goal, read this. It’s a sobering thought to anyone who thinks that setting up a special web site, will ‘send a message’ to the client. The site, called Project Hijack (how smart is that, when the agency declares that it wants to ‘hikack’ the process?) states they want to:

“hijack the pitch process so that our little agency can get our big idea on the table.”

The agency, Vaughn Whelan & Partners, was pitching for the Molson beer account. They actually ran a TV commercial they created, and paid for the airtime, according to the New York Post story (linked from the agency Web site.) Maybe they are really, really short of a strategic planner, and a copywriter. How else could someone have the guts to write that:

“Rather than pitch to the boardroom, VWPA elects to make positive noise.”

Clients –and I can speak as one, even though I tend to speak for the other side more often– don’t want ‘noise,’ for sure. Even when accompanied by very ‘edgy’ tactics.

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Posted by on November 4, 2004 in Advertising


Voting Booth


I’m not a big fan of the cameras in camera-phones, but since it was a beautiful –and very important–morning, I took this while standing in line to vote. As any photographer knows, sometimes the subject compensates for the bad camera or cameraman.

Today was my opportunity to vote for the first time in the U.S. As a new immigrant, this is indeed an exciting day for me. Too many people tend to take voting for granted. It annoys me that people complain about the long lines outside voting booths, but have no problems spending as much time in a queue at Starbucks. The line this morning at Starbucks was much, much shorter, so one hopes that some of that lost traffic was queuing up elsewhere…

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Posted by on November 2, 2004 in Published Articles


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