30 November 2010


Has “disintermediation” become the newest overused word in the American business world? I seem to hear it a lot these days, and for advertising people at least, it’s probably a bad omen.

“Disintermediation” is an economics term for “the removal of intermediaries in a supply chain”. In the vernacular, it means “cutting out the middleman”. That’s why ad people should listen for this word.

The ways of ye olde marketing are going away slowly, and part of that is the supply chain, if you will, among advertisers, agencies and media owners. Almost four years ago you could read about “Google, Disintermediation and Agencies”.

Yesterday Adweek published an article about Ari Emanuel, the Hollywood talent agent, attempting to disintermediate ad agencies with his new venture, Lverage. The article mentions that talent agents tried this in 1998, but doesn't mention that in 2010 there are plenty of potential disintermediators out there, e.g., business consultants, comms planning shops, and data companies.

If you are a go-with-the-flow type of person, you’ll want to join the crowd using this word. If you are paying attention, however, you’ll want to avoid being the noun in a sentence somebody else uses where “disintermediate” is the verb.

28 November 2010

Modern Retail is Full of Caveats

Marketers today wrestle with how much power consumers have. Consumers can find your product at the lowest price possible, they can mercilessly criticize your product, and they can tune out your marketing altogether.

You might say caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) has been replaced by caveat venditor (let the seller beware). Two stories from today’s news teach us, however, that caveat emptor is a very contemporary phrase.

Caveat Emptor

The New York Times reports at length today on the fascinating and scary tale of DecorMyEyes, an online seller of designer eyewear. The owner, Vitaly Borker, discovered that customer complaints pushed his company to the top of organic search results. It wasn’t SEO. It wasn’t SEM. It was the complaints from people who tried to buy Lafont and Montblanc frames.

Sensing an opportunity, he purposely picked nasty Internet fights with those who complained. Traffic soared. Most of his sales are routine, straightforward – and profitable. Most of his time, however, is spent fighting, intimidating and threatening the customers who are not routine and straightforward. You don’t want to mess with this guy.

Caveat Lector

Walmart made some enemies of their own this weekend. In most of the United States they started their Black Friday sale at 12:01 a.m., but in Massachusetts the sale began at 4 a.m. Hundreds of Bay State shoppers starting lining up Thanksgiving night, expecting to be let in at midnight, and they weren’t happy (see local news coverage here and here).

As of this writing, there’s no official explanation, but here’s my analysis. Walmart stepped up its game for Black Friday this year, announcing it would open the doors at 12:01 a.m. and “leaking” its flyer full of midnight door busters two weeks ago. The big national news headline: “Big Walmart Sale at Midnight!” The small print, including this article from the Boston Herald: “Starts 4 a.m. in Massachusetts.” Caveat lector (let the reader beware).

Caveat Venditor

In both of these cases there are lessons for marketers. The first is obvious, that the Internet has democratized information such that everything is available to everybody. The problem is that nobody digests everything. Therefore a lot of people in Massachusetts got the national news headline but not the local story.

Another lesson is to be careful of who you are dealing with online, especially if you are a business-to-business player. Borker’s eyewear business hurt some wholesalers who didn’t know his m.o. Search may be a science, but it can be abused by mad scientists.

Most of us are not mad scientists; we’re genuinely interested in having consumers love us, really love us. If your company or client doesn’t engage in dialogue with its consumers, the time is well past due.

24 November 2010

TSA's Recuitment Advertising

Much has been written about the latest TSA security procedures, including backscatter X-ray machines and, uh, pat downs. But this is a blog about modern marketing, so imagine my delight upon learning about TSA's recruitment advertising. I wonder what the brief looked like (snicker).

The ads are not exactly new news, having been reported by various news outlets last summer. Given the recent scrutiny, however, they're back in the public eye. A typical headline: "A Career Where X-Ray Vision and Federal Benefits Come Standard." (Travellers weren't amused.)

The latest development is the media plan, which includes the tops of pizza boxes and signs at gas pumps. You can see a series of photos on this radio station's website.

Does anyone know if TSA has an ad agency of any kind? All we could find was this 2009 press release about TSA and The Ad Council. One agency looked into it, came up empty, but thought to ask whether the ads produced a result. Does anyone know?

In any case, readers, our best wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving.

19 November 2010

The Origin of lorem ipsum

I like to think of myself as a Renaissance Practitioner, but this is ridiculous.

According to Mike Keeler, an East Coast advertising executive, we practice a Renaissance Era tradition every time we use what I can no longer in good conscience call Greek text.

All art directors should read this, reprinted from Keeler's weekly quickSilver newsletter:

This essay is just a draft. If it were final, it wouldn't contain the well-known phrase, lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit.

Say what? Okay, an explanation. In the advertising world, when graphic designers create a draft of a layout, they often use placeholder text for the real copy - which has not yet been written - and they almost always use a phrase which begins,
lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit. It's known as "Greek copy" which is odd since it's not Greek, it's Latin, sort of.

We wondered why they all use that same phrase. Turns out that, in the days before computers, a company called Letraset sold blocks of this copy on adhesive sheets to advertising agencies. There, a
lorem ipsum would cut the copy with an X-acto dolor sit amet and stick it on the consectetur for review by the adipisci velit.

And what does it mean exactly? According to the editors of desktop publishing magazine Before and After, "It's not Latin, though it looks like it, and it actually says nothing. Its 'words' loosely approximate the frequency with which letters occur in English, which is why at a glance it looks pretty real."

Oh really? According to Richard McClintock, professor of Latin and the publications director at Hampden-Sydney College, he found it in a passage from a treatise on the theory of ethics written by Cicero in 45BC. Specifically,
Neque porro quisquam est qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit . . . ("There is no one who loves pain itself, who seeks after it and wants to have it, simply because it is pain . . .").

Okay, fair enough, but why would Letraset have chosen THAT particular phrase? McClintock believes it was used by a medieval printer for one of the earliest metal type samples, and it just stuck. "What I find remarkable," he says, "is that this text has been the industry's standard dummy text ever since some printer in the 1500s took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book; it has survived not only four centuries of letter-by-letter resetting but even the leap into electronic typesetting, essentially unchanged."

Lorem ipsum! Over four hundred years of dolor sit amet without a change to a single consectetur or deletion of any adipisci velit!!

Actually, it's not really that surprising. It's just proof positive that, in advertising, there are no original ideas, just shameless plagiarizing of the classics.

12 November 2010

Direct Marketing will continue to influence advertising

Last night the Chicago Advertising Federation honored Howard Draft with its Silver Medal Award for lifetime achievement, which honors contributions to the local ad community as well as the community at large. The venue was a large dinner at The Drake Hotel and it was fantastic to see a lot of people I’ve worked with over the years.

Howard has obviously achieved a lot, including a series of agencies with his name on the door, which was a running joke throughout the evening’s remarks. It’s not all chest-pounding, though; Howard’s myriad agencies have been very successful. (Full disclosure: If you didn’t know, I work at Draftfcb.)

Direct Marketing in the Past

Most of Howard’s agencies were of the direct marketing variety. Back in the day, “Direct” had always been a little too scientific for most of the big ad agencies. Only David Ogilvy called it his “secret weapon”. The other agencies knew it was powerful, but as Rick Fizdale said last night, “What I knew about Direct could fit in a thimble.”

Fizdale, former Chairman and CEO of Leo Burnett, told the story of how he led an effort to acquire Kobs & Brady, the 1980s powerhouse Direct agency, and in the process met Howard for the first time. The acquisition didn’t happen, and I would never do justice to Fizdale’s version of the story, so I won’t try to retell it here.

One line of the speech is worth pointing out, however. Fizdale referred to “The advertising I practiced and the advertising (Howard) had mastered.” He was comparing traditional brand advertising and Direct Marketing, but what I loved about this line was how casually and naturally he declared both disciplines to be advertising.

Direct Marketing in the Future

Howard, in his acceptance speech, told how he failed to get a job at an ad agency when he was first starting out, and instead landed at a Direct agency. “I firmly believe,” he said, “I wouldn’t be here tonight if I hadn’t gone into direct marketing.”

This is true for a couple of reasons. One is that Direct allowed him to be the entrepreneurial guy he is, outside the stultifying structures of most traditional ad agencies. The other is that he prepared himself for the turn-of-the-century shift toward accountability in marketing. Direct had always been accountable.

This trend will continue, unabated, for as far as any of us dare predict. We’ve posted before about Direct, Digital and Data, and how you can’t have one without the others. The Digital Age is really the continuation of the Direct Age. Data gives us the ability – and the burden – to be accountable. In this way, Direct Marketing will continue to influence advertising.

11 November 2010

3 Reasons You Should Care About Shopper Marketing

This blog has always been about the complete range of ways to connect marketers and consumers. The definition of advertising includes all channels: broadcast media, promotion, direct, digital, word of mouth – everything.

Near the top of my list has always been Retail, with a bit of amazement that Digital seems to trump Retail in trade publications, at industry conferences and across the general buzz of Twitter feeds.

This week Retail won a moral victory. According to a Booz & Co. survey, major manufacturers expect Shopper Marketing to grow faster than digital, social and advertising. You can see two articles about it here and here, and the report is available here in PDF form.

Why you should care about Shopper Marketing

There are at least three reasons why advertising people should care about Shopper Marketing.

1. Your clients care about it. If you advertise a product sold at retail, think about the fact that your clients have clients, companies like Walmart, Kroger and Dollar General. Like you, those retailers want to sell a lot of your clients’ products. They also want to drive traffic to their own stores and increase the cash register ring for each customer. All of this is Shopper Marketing. Most advertising sells only the product; Shopper Marketing achieves objectives for the retailer as well as the customer. It’s not just a matter of shelf talkers and floor signage, it’s a strategic approach that approaches consumers when they are really shoppers. The Booz & Co. survey predicts that as Shopper Marketing rises, trade spending will decline. I’m not so optimistic, but if it happens, then retail will become more strategic and much less about pay-to-play.

2. Your competition is using it. If you’re a great advertising person, you’re helping your client identify a clear consumer insight, develop a compelling strategy, write a smart channel plan, and produce creative that’s memorable and persuasive. If it works, your target consumer will go and buy the product. What happens, however, if on the way to the shelf she sees some other offer or information that leads her to buy a competitive product? You will have been outmaneuvered. This is a wide battleground: Shopper Marketing vet Chip Hoyt points out that "the shelf" isn't just in a store, it can be at home or on the go.

3. Consumers take it seriously. It sounds trite but the store, however you define it, really is a medium and consumers engage with it. My colleague Jim Lucas observes that 110 million U.S. households make an average of 120 store trips a year, which means 13.2 billion chances to sell. Especially in a tough economy, consumers will read the circulars, cut the coupons and stop to see the end-aisle displays. In addition, one of the points made in the Booz & Co. study is how consumers research their options before making a purchase, using product information or pricing available on the Internet. Aha! I knew it. Digital does play a role! Yes, it does. If you work in a digital agency, you should be especially mindful of Shopper Marketing.

Take time to learn

Shopper Marketing has a place in the marketing mix just like any other channel. Take the time to learn about it so it doesn’t become a strategic blind spot. We’ve suggested some resources in the past (here, here and here).