The MTA, going your way (I guess)
Wednesday February 19th 2014, 2:48 pm
Filed under: advertising

ilovenyPoor grammar and word choice in ads generally get me… I just wish it wasn’t annoying me on my daily commute.

Since the logo’s creation in 1977, the I Love New York campaign has been a popular and proud representation of the state and all it has to offer. And if you grew up here, like I did, you couldn’t get the jingle out of your head if you tried.

The latest incarnation of the campaign, though, is weird. “THERE’S MORE TO NEW YORK THAN NY.”   Say it with me: there’s more to NY than NY.

Wait – no there isn’t.

What the ads mean to say is that there’s more to New York State than New York City. So there is, in fact, “more to New York than NYC.”

But “there’s more to New York than NY?” Nope. There isn’t.

And on to a new year
Tuesday December 31st 2013, 4:19 pm
Filed under: stephanie fierman,women,women online

So I was in a hospital yesterday with my mom (because holidays and hospitals: that’s just how I roll) and I thought one of her doctors was cute.

I was trying to be entertaining, so I said to my mom, “Hey, who knows? Maybe I’ll make my dead grandmothers happy, and still end up with a rich DOC-tuh!”

She looked at me and said, “I don’t think they gave a shit.  They wanted YOU to be the successful one.”

Well played, grandmothers, well played.

Another year. 2014. What are you going to do with it? I’ll tell you what I’m thinking about, at least.

Get rid of the fools and assholes in your life… or give them a lot less credence than you do today. Don’t sweat absolutely everything.  Realize that just about anything that feels horrendous and impossible is something you’ve already lived through at least once.  Make sure to find joy even when that seems highly unlikely.  And doing great things is good, too, but those of us who work our asses off do it because we want to and/or because we can’t help it; I’m a little tired, frankly, of all the messages about “winning” and resolutions about what we’re supposed to accomplish. Being a person you like and respect is a whole hell of a lot more important. If you can do both, great, but don’t do the former at the expense of the latter.

Be all you can be? For whom? How about… be all you want to be in 2014.  Do what you want to do.  Be brave.  Having heard Diana Nyad speak at TEDWomen this year, this year-end Microsoft ad really got me.  Nyad’s message was… find a way.  Whatever it is.  Find a way to do what you believe needs to be done.


What’s The Ad Space In Your Head Worth?
Thursday October 03rd 2013, 1:18 pm
Filed under: advertising,identity theft

Came across a “cheesy, seriously cheesy” but fascinating movie called “Hardwired.”

The premise is that – “only a few years from now” – corporations run and do everything, including a form of brain surgery only a marketer could love.

Here’s how it works: “Hope Industries” implants a computer in your brain that enables the company to show you holograms of advertisements for all kinds of products. A dude who no one else can see appears out of nowhere and pitches you on a new watch. A little girl shows up in your own living room (with that fuzzy appearance around the edges that all holograms seem to have in movies) and tries to sell you gum.

It’s a seemingly brilliant strategy hatched by a crazy scientist played by Val Kilmer who says things like, “Subject 373 could expose Project 660,” and “If they erase his hard drive, we’ll have to know how they hacked in. Prepare for surgery.” Ouch.

But I digress.

The point is that Hope has a plan to embed millions of these chips and then sell the “ad space in everyone’s heads for trillions of dollars.” The ad space in my head. Whoa. That’s like… totally deep.

If you’re in marketing, I would highly recommend this movie, if only for the opening credits. All the grand places in the universe have been branded: the moon has a Pepsi logo over it, the Hoover Dam is sponsored by McDonald’s, with a big “M” emblazoned on it… and don’t even ask me about the Washington Monument.

Mimes and moisturizer
Thursday June 06th 2013, 1:25 pm
Filed under: advertising

Are there a lot of 90-pound, hyperactive French mimes who simply cannot get out the door because they’re waiting for their moisturizer to dry? I’ve never encountered this particular affliction…

Help me! I cannot get a man because of… stress!
Thursday February 14th 2013, 8:46 am
Filed under: ad agency,advertising,women,women online

Secret Clinical Strength‘s NEW AD – and direction – bum me out.

How have I survived to the ripe old age I have and not been confronted with “stress sweat” and the havoc it can wreak on my life? My love life, specifically, as this young woman doesn’t appear to be concerned for herself: only the impact her scent may have on her chances to get a guy.

And Secret makes sure this woman behaves like a powerless juvenile by mentioning how her “unmentionables” aren’t “cute.”

Really? Come on – we can do better than this.

Welcome to a new year of bad advertising
Tuesday February 12th 2013, 10:12 pm
Filed under: advertising,Reputation Managment,Wall Street Journal,women

I think it’s fitting that my first “bad advertising” post of 2013 has a lesson in it. A sort of, higher meaning.  A clarion call.  I mean, why not think big thoughts until September or so, when you could fit all my thoughts on the head of a pin?

Anyway… Here’s a full-page ad from the WSJ this week.   Marcus & Millichap.stephanie-fierman-mm

Now, I’d never heard of Marcus & Millichap, so I did my research.  It’s a REIT based in California. That’s the end of my research.

Note that the ad congratulating the company’s “top investment professionals of 2012″ contains 35 photographs: all white men.  35 out of 35.

That’d be – wait, wait, don’t help me – 100%.

A couple thoughts:

1. If you have a company and your top 35 producers are all men, I would advise you not to voluntarily ANNOUNCE IT TO THE WORLD in the Wall Street Journal, because it makes you look like huge jerks.  You may not BE jerks, but it doesn’t matter. You’ve also offended some good number of the female WSJ readers in the universe (online, that’s 42% of readers and, in print, 32% of the sub base).  Not to mention potential female employees, partners, etc.  That is, if you want those kind of people – meaning women.

2. If you have a company and your top 35 producers are all men, you may have a serious diversity problem.

And there you have it.  This is less bad advertising and more “Stupid Pet Tricks Advertising,” but I had to start somewhere.

‘Til the next time…

Interesting Ads This Week
Sunday October 07th 2012, 7:05 pm
Filed under: ad agency,advertising

2 interesting ads for the week:

1) avigilon: Avigilon is a company that makes high-def surveillance systems. I noticed this print ad because I thought it did a nice job of using storytelling to draw the reader’s attention: something that’s far too rare in B2B advertising.

2) Litter Genie by Playtex:  From the company that brought you Diaper Genie comes… Litter Genie! The products even look the same, which is – sort of weird.  Anyway, Litter Genie is a cat litter “disposal system” – the “ultimate” in cat litter odor control – and its new ad qualifies for my “Imagine” award of the week.

The “Imagine” award goes to an ad that makes me imagine that I am the client, sitting in a conference room, and a creative director has just started an ad pitch by saying, “Imagine…”

So I guess this conversation would have started with this: “Imagine cats – cool cats – wandering around under the influence of psychedelic drugs.  There’s groovy music, they’re all kinda wandering around, and then comes the product demonstration. We’re gonna shoot it like it’s a music video.”  Here’s – I swear, this is the ad’s real name – “I Haz A Catnip in Mah Head.”

Alas (as Adweek points out), even tripping cat ads are derivative these days.

Goofy Ads With Which I Am Currently Obsessed
Thursday May 24th 2012, 10:21 am
Filed under: stephanie fierman

Overriding emotion during viewing: confusion
INTERNATIONAL DELIGHT ICED COFFEE.  Hold on: I will enjoy the product because going out for coffee is too dangerous?  As one of the commenters on YouTube says, “International Delight Iced Coffee: For when you’re too much of an idiot to be allowed in public.”

I agree with the ad: #FAIL.

Overriding emotion during viewing: love
Don’t Sell Your Hair to a Wig Shop

I am going to stick with my “love” assessment here because I am so grateful to see some good storytelling, but I wish there was a little tighter grounding in the product (the endings go by in a flash).

Other executions in the campaign:
Don’t Wake Up in a Roadside Ditch
Don’t Have a Grandson with a Dog Collar

I Am Not Your Cupcake
Sunday November 06th 2011, 4:35 pm
Filed under: ad agency,advertising

Wait – what? You’re like a cupcake, or you’re better than a cupcake? And the “Not The Best-Tasting Cupcake” shot near the end means that your cereal is not made of cupcakes (which we know), or that it doesn’t taste better than a cupcake (which we also know)?

And if I am in need of fiber I’m not exactly doin’ a jig, you know, so why mention cupcakes in the first place?

I don’t get this new ad from Kellogg’s:

Enroll at our school, or Granny’s a goner
Tuesday October 25th 2011, 10:37 am
Filed under: advertising,Internet,US economy

Fear-based advertising is nothing new for auto manufacturers and personal injury law firms, but colleges?

Capella University is running a wild TV campaign that shows all the terrible things that can (and WILL!) happen to you if you don’t get a Capella degree.  My favorite is the one that implies that your mother/grandmother will meet at ignominious end if you don’t act now:

Here’s another – this one threatens that your kids won’t reach their “full potential” unless you go to Capella.

And lastly, here’s one that seems to be saying that you will be able to help save people from a terrible tragedy – or maybe stop a terrorist attack (“help prepare our first responders”) if you have a Capella degree.  I love it.

Who knows? Maybe the Ivies should go this route…

Behold The Evil Ear Worm
Wednesday September 14th 2011, 11:07 am
Filed under: stephanie fierman

A lot of advertising has caught my eye lately. Sometimes, I like an ad right away and it stays that way. But there are other ads that get in my good graces, only to have my thoughts of them turn dark and menacing.

Such is the case with tv commercials that produce evil earworms.

earworm (ˈɪəˌwɜːm) – n:  an ear worm refers to any song that is so catchy, and at the same time so extremely annoying, that it feels like a worm has crawled into your ear and eaten the intelligent parts of your brain so that you hum the song all day long, no matter how much you hate it. [From the German word, "ohrwurm," which literally means earworm.]

So, because wormy misery loves company… Enjoy!



Trey Pennington, Social Media And Real Life
Monday September 05th 2011, 8:06 pm
Filed under: stephanie fierman

This past weekend, a leader in the marketing and social media community, Trey Pennington, committed suicide. He went to a church parking lot in Greenville, SC, refused to heed police and shot himself.

Trey left behind a wife, six children and a grandchild.

Since then, Twitter and Facebook have both lit up like Christmas trees on crack.

What I find remarkable is how surprised some are because Trey was so active, positive and popular on the social networking sites. But he had over 111,000 followers on Twitter and an unbelievable number of Facebook friends!  He was on the Web almost right up to the end, sending someone a tweet saying that he’d see the person in the UK in just a few days!  He was all over the place, encouraging and applauding others for their work and ideas!

This has caused many to write that he “seemed fine,” and still others to beat their chests and howl, ”If only he’d reached out to me…” (though it turns out that he was actively leaning on a few of his friends in the last couple weeks).

My goodness: when did people begin to think that all their online “friends” are actually real friends? That connecting to someone online and reading whatever they choose to show you means you actually know something about them – that you know what they are thinking and feeling?

Or perhaps that, somehow, the Web allows us to skip any communication altogether but still somehow be connected?  One woman wrote “I didn’t know  you, but I care about you…” on Facebook.

All this strikes me as not only arrogant, but also just plain weird.  And deluded.

I love social media – I am very active online and it’s helped me both personally and professionally. It’s brought some wonderful people into my life whom I otherwise would not have met.  But I have no illusions about what the macro phenomenon is and isn’t.  When I see people congratulate themselves for, say, reaching the 5,000 or 10,000 or 20,000 follower mark on Twitter, I wonder if they think that actually means something in the real world: how great they are, or how wonderful it is that they know so many people and so many know them.

The only thing it means on its face is that 5 or 10 or 20,000 folks want somehow to be aligned with you, or are interested in whatever you are willing to say publicly on a social networking site.  And if you follow one another, you have entered into a pact to read each other’s pre-packaged messages and spread them to others who might want to hear your pre-packaged messages, too.  Your deepest feelings, emotions, problems, worries? Seriously? Not applicable for 99% of the players involved.

Trey Pennington himself wrote on Facebook that “one of the worst things about social media is we can be surrounded by so many and still feel completely alone.”

Now, do stay on social media – I highly recommend it.  But if you care about someone and want him to know you care, don’t write dumb tweets like [quote]  ”if you’re sad and think you’re alone, please reach out to someone, and know you’re not alone.”

Newsflash: such a tweet absolves you of nothing. The depressed person is alone if he feels alone, and may not run to the phone to tell someone about it.

Instead, it’s up to you to be a friend in the real world – through thick and thin.  Write him (a real card or letter). Call him. Make arrangements to get together.  Build actual friendships. Don’t spend all your time listening to yourself talk (or tweet).

In Trey’s case, some of his friends apparently understood this and were trying to help. I am so glad. They knew there is no substitute for human connection.  Never excuse or pacify yourself into thinking there is.

Makes Me Wanna Copy Something
Tuesday August 09th 2011, 9:28 am
Filed under: ad agency,advertising,branding

I want to give a big hat tip to Xerox and its global ad campaign from Y&R.

Launched in the fall of 2010, the campaign explains that Xerox can handle all of a company’s (your company’s) business and document management needs so it can focus on its “real business.”

These ads are so pitch-perfect that I actually stop and watch them whenever they come on the tube.  Pithy without being obnoxious, demonstrating an exxagerated situation that still gets the point across, fantastically cast with actors whose mere head tips communicate everything you need to know…

Well done. Not everyone agrees, but I don’t have a theoretical issue with two brands in an ad if (a) they’re there for a reason and (b) the supporting brand doesn’t eclipse the primary advertiser. I think we’re good here.

Here are my two favorites.

XEROX AND MARRIOTT: “I can’t hear you because I’m also making you a smoothie!”

XEROX AND DUCATI: “Are you busy!?”

Trump Is Just Being Trumpy

Today, I was asked what effect Donald Trump’s supposed presidential run is having on his personal brand.

In my opinion, Trump’s flirtation with the presidency doesn’t impact his brand value one way or the other.  This is because – whether he originally intended it or not – Trump has had a bifurcated brand for years.

Trump has a business side and a farcical side. The farcical or “personality” side is what’s enabled him to create (and – hellopublicize) entertainment properties, because it drives him to behave in an entertaining way.  In his real life, he’s a paunchy, weird-haired real estate guy, so to be entertaining, he needs to be over the top.  Brad Pitt can just stand still and attract attention; Trump cannot. Donald’s got to jump up and down to draw interest.

This means that people expect to see Trump behaving in an outlandish sort of way, so his “presidential bid” isn’t new news: it’s just The Donald being wacky again.

Therefore, his recent jaunt through Kookytown (a) doesn’t impact people who expect it (and that would be everyone by now), and (b) wouldn’t put off anyone who actually wants to do real business with the Trump Organization (those who ignore stunts and would be interested only in the deal they were getting), so… this is Donald Trump status quo.

Let’s clarify: I loathe what’s happening and agree with The New Yorker’s David Remnick regarding the reasons for Trump’s behavior.  But that wasn’t the question and, unfortunately, our pseudo-celebrity culture – in which many don’t think any deeper about a person’s character than what dress she wore to court – will simply bump along the surface before moving on to its next source of amusement.

The Ad Agency Is Dead. Long Live The Ad Agency.
Monday March 21st 2011, 8:37 am
Filed under: ad agency,advertising,cmo,Internet,social media,Twitter,web 2.0

One of the new business friends I’ve made on Twitter is an agency in Pittsburgh called Fitting Group, run by Andrea Fitting. Check them out at We found each other based on our mutual interest in and work with challenger brands, or big category-leading companies who need to change and can learn from challengers.

Anyway…  Andrea wrote a blog post referring to a January 2011 Fast Company article, “Mayhem on Madison Avenue.” In “Mayhem” (and numerous articles just like it) the author essentially explains how and why digital marketing – particularly social media – will precipitate the extinction of advertising agencies.  And while she did spend four years at an ad agency (during which time I’m sure she saw plenty of function and dysfunction), the writer has never been a client, let alone a CMO.

Andrea called her blog post “Calling All Chief Marketing Officers (or Those Who Play Them on TV)” and asked several CMOs to read the magazine article and offer our points of view. Here’s mine (as posted on the Fitting Group site).


Personally, I think the hype about social media being different, experiential, never finished, “perpetual beta…” is hooey. Or rather, the process of smart learning for a CMO is – at a high level – unchanged.

Every channel, every communication vehicle, every media outlet and interaction capability… each has its own ways and rules. TV had its own ways and rules we CMOs had to learn. Email. Radio. Whatever. Now it’s today’s version of social media – it is a living channel with its own characteristics, feedback loop, expectations, organizational demands – all new to the channel, but not a new way of approach to assessment and action for the good CMO. For the great CMO, everything we do lives in a state of constant learning and improvement – it’s how we work with our CEOs, CFOs and teams every day.

And as with all things new, a CMO will always seek real experts and advisors who understand the organization in which s/he operates, can help build a case for new initiatives, can help shorten the organization’s learning timeframe and get sustainable initiatives up and running. Oh, and help the CMO look and feel smart and confident.

The problem is NOT that ad agencies SHOULD be moving toward extinction. It’s quite the opposite: CMOs need and welcome the help. The issue IMO is that too many analysts and agencies are stalled in the shiny object phase, where social media is new and exciting and OOH! look at that Facebook page, and see how smart I am, etc. etc. – as opposed to truly understanding the client’s brand, objectives, operating environment, organizational/budget limitations, the various stakeholders whose concerns must be addressed… all the factors that make an agency a true partner vs. a hit and run “guru” who has no real interest in the less flashy parts of the world in which the CMO operates.

Agencies that can do that will be in business forever – whether the topic is social media or the next big thing or the next one after that.

Beyaz Creepy As Possible
Monday February 28th 2011, 8:59 am
Filed under: advertising,stephanie fierman,women

Birth control ads are strange. Exhibit A: the Nuvaring ad (see HERE) where the gals take off their clothes and climb into a hot tub with their yellow bathing suits on. Each woman has a… each has a number… one has a bathing cap… and then the hot tub spins like a ride at Disneyland… and there’s, like, a song that makes me hear Satan’s voice urging me to kill (Mommy!).

I don’t know what’s going on, other than understanding that I better use Nuvaring because remembering to take a pill every day is just too much for me. At least I think that’s what is says. 

So in a land of weird, one must rise extra high to be noticed – and I think Beyaz overshot by a mile.  Check out the ad (see below or HERE):

The “it’s good to have choices” is fine, but to put women in a shopping setting, where they can simply choose the men, educations, homes and discretionary incomes of their dreams off a shelf at any time – with as much thought and planning as picking a box of cereal – is offensive.  And what was the general idea here: that because women understand shopping the best, we can make birth control a section of a department store to help the message hit home?

Then there are choices themselves. The home the female shopper chooses is a sweet little purple house, with a car out front that looks to be from the 50s. Is that where women belong, or when women were “best”– in the 50s? Have we already failed if we don’t want the picket fence?

And the stork: the only “selection” that tries to literally follow the woman once it is rejected (a stalking stork, if you will).  All the women in this ad are still in their 20s: are young women supposed to have babies… or else?  Note there are no “and” equations in this ad.  It’s all “or,” as in grad school or a baby. None of the shoppers leave with more than one item.

For me, though, the most disappointing episodes take place over in the Significant Other section of the store.  First of all, the store only carries men in inventory. Being gay is not a choice in this retail establishment.  But my favorite part has to be a woman standing in front of a man, only to have another female come along with a smirk on her face and snatch the man off the shelf.  


The site does a great job breaking down the ad, scene by scene, object by object.  Take a look if you get the chance.

Even in the fantasy world of flying snacks, sodas that never make you fat and perfect hair - this ad is over the top in its disdain for women.

Luxury Auto Ads On Auto Pilot?
Monday January 17th 2011, 9:55 am
Filed under: ad agency,advertising,branding,luxury,market research,US economy,wretched excess

Do you think that Cadillac and Audi know they’re running nearly identical ads?  Cadillac describes its positioning as “red blooded luxury,” Audi “progressive luxury…”

I’m afraid it’s a “you say potato…” kinda thing, at best.

I Guess It Depends
Monday January 10th 2011, 8:11 am
Filed under: advertising,branding,market research,retail,stephanie fierman,women

Disclaimer: I am shooting my mouth off here and have seen none of the research that, no doubt, Kimberly-Clark completed and relied upon before launching this product extension.  Please proceed accordingly.

I saw a couple new television ads recently for “Depend Underwear in colors.” We’re talking about the product that provides an “underwear-like experience” for those who maybe need a little more protection for whatever reason.

Fine, no problem.  I’m looking at this product, its attributes, benefits and other market characteristics as I would any other.

My curiosity focuses on this new product line, in particular, and its supporting advertising.

When I saw the ads, I wasn’t sure what I was looking at, although what I was seeing was certainly derivative.  The ad targeting women looked exactly like a tampon (or “feminine wash” - ick – ad), with gals frolicking and going about their carefree lives, confident that they no longer worry about something going awry.  And the men’s ad looked a lot like a Viagra commercial, with men smiling knowingly at each other on the street, strutting along as if the result of using this product was most certainly going to be an intimate experience.  One of the men actually winks at the camera.  Winks!

My question is this (here comes the “shooting my mouth off” part): assuming the “engineering” in the product is identical to the existing Depend SKUs, how much more market share can K-C expect to gain by creating a Depend line in colors and prints? 
1. It would seem to me to be a product that you buy because you need them (not want them), so how many more units could or would an existing user really buy?
2. Because of the seemingly non-optional nature of the purchase, how many people who would benefit from an adult incontinence underwear product - but who do not currently purchase any - would suddenly be motivated to do so because there’s an option that comes in colors?
3. How much market share is there to be stolen from other manufacturers? K-C claims to be the global leader in the adult incontinence category (a $1.3B category in North America), prices don’t appear to be crazily strewn across the board, and it seems to me that a user of a non-Depend incontinence product isn’t likely to switch just because s/he can now get her protective panties in stripes.  Seems like it could be a high-involvement, potentially scary switch to make.
4. Are you that much more likely to be comfortable taking your clothes off in front of someone else (or your own mirror) because your underwear is blue instead of white?  And how many consumers would view an estimated 50% price hike as being worth it? 
5.  K-C believes that boomers’ product expectations are “much higher than those of past generations.” Good enough, but that doesn’t change the “rational” buying characteristics of the marketplace.
6. An article about the launch says that new packaging provides a more “dignified shopping experience,” but I’m not going there. If that’s the issue, they could have transformed the old packaging.

The company’s VP of North American feminine and adult care brands says that consumers want to stay in their own underwear, so ”we want to make our Depend products as much like underwear as possible.”  

That’s nice.  And it’s possible that the “irrational” or emotional elements of the buying process are far stronger than they would appear to be.  There are also reasons that companies develop line extensions that don’t require the new product to be a home run to be successful.  K-C clearly has some reason to believe that its new fashionable line will help it – as the company likes to tell men – “control the room.”

Now With More Groupon! Gets Your Whites Whiter!
Wednesday December 29th 2010, 10:45 am
Filed under: customer service,loyalty marketing,market research,publishing,retail,social media

Is social buying practicing its shark jump already??  Such was my thought (and mild sense of alarm) when I opened this month’s new Harvard Business Review and found a serious-looking article on the phenomenon titled, “Why Employees Can Wreck Promotional Offers.”

The piece is written by an associate professor of marketing at a reasonably prestigious U.S. university, and it profiles his research into the administration of group buying offers from the likes of Groupon, BuyWithMe and LivingSocial

The article first caught my eye because of its anti-worker title, frankly… and then I read it.  The key insight to be gleaned from this academic research is that employees – not just offers – can have a huge impact on the creation of a “positive customer experience.”  Employees’ behavior, the professor says, can even cause the offer to “backfire” if managers fail to prepare employees properly or there is some other reason (e.g. a diner does not tip on a Groupon restaurant offer) that workers may cause a consumer’s initial interaction to be a poor one.

“In fact,” he says, “preparing employees for upcoming promotions and obtaining their buy-in is the most important factor influencing a Groupon promotion’s success”… “or any promotion['s], for that matter.”

Are we at the point in the shiny-object lifecycle where critical thinking is to be set aside and any piece of content with the word “Groupon” in it can (a) pass as “research,” and (b) make it into legitimate academic journals?

I hope so.  I say that because if, instead, it’s a revelation in our universities’ classrooms that customer service and positive employee engagement are the keys to marketing success, we’ve got a much bigger problem on our hands.

I suspect it is the former, so this too shall pass.

Santa Is The Dude
Monday December 13th 2010, 8:42 am
Filed under: advertising

Read my new holiday-friendly post, Is Santa The Greatest Marketer Of All Time?
on my other blog, Marketing Mojo.  And thanks.