Save a life: explain this ad
Thursday October 09th 2014, 10:59 am
Filed under: ad agency,advertising

In the world of ads, there are those I like and those I don’t like, or ones that I think don’t work, but I can’t remember seeing one that I literally do not understand.

Until now.

Have you seen the new Chevy Cruze Diesel ad? If not, here it is:

Ok, so a bunch of people are hanging out in a hyper-friendly, spotless gas mart (because who doesn’t?) and the Cheers theme song, Where Everyone Knows Your Name, is playing. In the role of Norm today is an average guy named Stan, whom everyone greets by name, including a cop who appears to have nothing better to do.  Much personal warmth and friendliness ensues.  Then another guy comes in, and the music stops abruptly.  There is nothing unusual about this man’s behavior and, as he pays for his purchase, the VO says, “Gas stations.  Where nobody knows your name.”

Let us begin.

Why does everyone suddenly go mute when this stranger comes in?  Are they happy to see him, or not happy that someone has intruded in their lovefest?  Are they angry? Is his presence a good or bad thing? And how about the VO – “Gas stations. Where nobody knows your name.” But the whole point of at least half of this ad is that everyone DOES seem to know your name! So what does that mean? And why do they stare out the window as the guy leaves?  And what does this have to do with a car??

And how about the final VO – “It’s the new efficient.” Is the implication here that hanging out with your friends is the old efficient? Or not efficient at all? 

Makes no sense, no?

From the land of WTF…
Tuesday July 01st 2014, 9:35 am
Filed under: ad agency,advertising,women

Ok. Some ads are so weird that I try to turn away and wait – sometimes months, sometimes years – for them to just… go away.

There’s one that won’t. Can someone please explain?

And here’s a new one from the land of WTF. Hi. My name is WITPF (What is this product for?) and I have WAIITA (Why am I in this ad?). Clearly, they think that this will be a useful memory device, but it just makes me C-R-I-N-G-E.

And finally, this gem for a value hotel chain. She’s an athlete. A marathoner. She’s workin’ out. Sweatin’ to the oldies, or whatever. So WHY is she cheerily selecting a breakfast bagel as big as a baby’s head?!

Eat a sandwich, get a shave and come back to me
Thursday May 29th 2014, 2:28 pm
Filed under: ad agency,advertising,women

There are two tv ads running right now with male leads exhibiting some weird hygiene and grooming choices.  I find it distracting and sort of… weird.

First up is an ad for the Lincoln MKZ.  What’s up with this dude?  Is his stubble meant to look hip?  Are we going for hipster here? Because all I get is kind of grody. Oh, and you’re looking a little… gaunt.  Eat a sandwich, ok?

The second one is for a travel site called Trivago (which I keep wanting to call “Zhivago,” as in “Doctor ___”).

Where do I begin? What’s the deal with his uncombed hair? And his unbuttoned shirt? And his low-slung black jeans? And the creepy saunter (that’s right, I said “saunter”)? How about his “hey baby” verbal delivery? This ad doesn’t make me want to travel as much as it makes me want to… wash.

I guess I’m saying that – if you are going to come into my home, and take 30 or 60 seconds that I’ll never get back – I’d like to see you looking like you a give a s**. Could be just me.

Update – August 5, 2014:  It’s NOT just me! Check out this article on Slate about the actor looking “seedily creased, grayly stubbled, distractingly beltless. [A man who] may be looking for a hotel after coming home at 3 a.m. to find that his wife changed the locks.”

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.

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.

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:

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!?”

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.

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.

Elegance and Permission
Monday November 15th 2010, 9:13 am
Filed under: ad agency,advertising,branding,luxury,US economy,women,wretched excess

In a way, true luxury brands have it easy. There may be reasons that your customers don’t buy, but not having the money isn’t one of them.

But what about upscale-but-not-quite-luxury brands that sell goods that truly are a considered purchase for their target audiences?

Such was my thought when I spotted the Ethan Allen store at 60th Street and 3rd Avenue in New York last week.  Ethan Allen makes very nice, albeit expensive furniture. When I was growing up, my mother sometimes insisted on buying Ethan Allen because it would “last forever” and was, therefore, worth the sticker shock.

What caught my eye was the type in the front two windows. The first said, “It’s ok to buy one piece at a time. That’s how we build it,” and the other said, “A great room starts with a great piece.”

Now, I am so glad that I saw this before I saw the Brandweek article on this new campaign, because it let me have a “pure” consumer reaction – and that reaction was relief, mixed with encouragement.

Relief that I don’t have to feel bad if I couldn’t buy a whole room or house worth of furniture right now, and encouragement that – instead of waiting until I can (NB: at which time I might go somewhere else) – I should start with that one nice thing from EA today.

There are so many thoughtful things happening here.  The brand has turned a negative into something positive.  It has actually made me feel good – smart - for starting with that one great object, rather than beating myself up over all the other items I can’t afford right now.  EA made it ok to walk past a room in my home and see one chair in it:  it’s not because I’m broke – it’s because I’m wise.  And the “That’s how we build it” line draws me in even more, as if we were in on it together.  I’m just like you, Ethan, if I think about one piece at a time because you do, too.

The ECD at McCann-Erickson talks about the campaign as being part of the brand’s continued attempt to reach a younger-demographic, to show that EA’s pieces and attitude are more modern than they might expect. 

I’m glad for that, because all that Paul Revere-ish dark furniture my mom bought from EA when I was a kid made me gag (and to her credit, it finally made her gag, too).  But whether it’s deliberate or not, I think the work strikes a more universal tone that performs a little magic, turning a lack of cash into a moment of affirmation and intelligence. 

Nicely done.

Sometimes Stephanie Fierman Uses A Black Marker

I have to say that I was struck by LVMH’s new ad campaign portraying artisans lovingly creating Louis Vuitton products by hand.  I’ve seen three: one of a (from the ad copy) “young woman and the tiny folds” of wallet leather, another of a “’seamstress with linen thread” hand-stitching  the handle of a handbag and the last – the one that particularly struck me – showing a man painting the bottom of a shoe by hand.

The sole-painting made me pause. I did not feel compelled to run out the door for LV shoes, though… it was more a gentle “Really? They hand-paint the bottoms of all their shoes?” 

Now I know how much Vuitton products cost.  They’re expensive – but probably not as expensive as they’d need to be for LVMH to clear a hefty profit after painting the soles of every pair of new Vuitton shoes.

So I took note when the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority banned the wallet and handbag ads, claiming they could “mislead” consumers into believing that Louis Vuitton products are handmade, when in fact machines are involved in the manufacturing process.  From the agency’s ruling: “We considered that consumers would interpret the image of a woman using a needle and thread to stitch the handle of a bag … to mean that Louis Vuitton bags were hand stitched.”  O&M Paris must pull the two offending print ads immediately. The ad of the man painting the shoe bottom did not draw objections. 


I guess part of my question is, Which consumers?  I’m curious, for example, whether a “reasonable person” in such an instance would be absolutely anyone seeing the ad in a doctor’s waiting room, or whether it would need to be someone for whom the ad would alter beliefs in a way that could misguidedly motivate a purchase.  Would the latter be more likely to be knowledgeable and savvy (and less gullible), or does it not matter?  Vuitton has never been secretive about the fact that it has factories in the U.S., France and elsewhere that some believe are the very representation of modern luxury good production, but I guess the ASA has made its call.

There are a number of fashion/culture tongues wagging online about the fact that the ASA had nothing to say about LVMH photoshopping Madonna until she looked like a 17-year-old.  Perhaps, but it’s probably a good bet that there were no ruling bodies that thought anyone might buy a piece of luggage thinking it would make her look like Madonna (at any age).

Stephanie Fierman Has No Pores. And If You Believe That…
Saturday May 15th 2010, 7:08 pm
Filed under: ad agency,advertising,retail,women,women online

Why does this still happen?stephanie-fierman-glamour-june10-cover.jpg

Take a look at the June cover of Glamour Magazine at right (if you cannot see image, click HERE):

The photo of three attractive models on the cover is accompanied by the headline, “Curvy? Skinny? It’s All Good!” But… which one is the curvy one?  Is it the one on the far right?  The far left?  It’s the one on the left.  Yes, I said the one on the left.  I’ve added a couple other images of said model to this post (HERE and HERE), and let me tell you: any woman whose thighs (or other body parts) do not aggressively touch when at steady state is not “curvy” in my book.

crystal-renn-stephanie-fierman.jpgI truly don’t understand this particular one, because no woman who is overweight believes she is also a thin model.  The average American woman wears a size 14 – and knows it.  She does not think that Crystal Renn is her spitting image.  Hair, cellulite, make-up, the size of one’s pores: the savvy woman generally knows that all of these can be drastically manipulated ad – sadly – some women still aspire to these things.  But chubby and frolicking in one’s bikini in a magazine? No.crsytal-renn2-stephanie-fierman.jpg

Then why the fixation on imaginary weight claims?  Is it advertisers? And if so, go all out so an advertiser targeting a real plus-size girl might actually be able to see a real one.  There is no real-life party that is served well by this kind of activity.

I suppose I should just be thankful that Glamour didn’t pull a Ralph Lauren and get all drunk and stupid on Photoshop: see the related blog post I wrote and lovingly titled, “Can Someone Get That Turkey A Sandwich (you’ll have to read it to know why).   Do you think the average person knows that even photographs of food are fake?

No wonder people still don’t trust advertising.  Sometimes – a lot of the time – we lie.

You Know How Stephanie Fierman Feels About TMI
Saturday May 08th 2010, 12:34 pm
Filed under: ad agency,advertising,branding,cmo,facebook,Internet,social media,Twitter

Pringles has a new funny online campaign that skewers folks who “overshare” on Twitter and Facebook.

A key feature of the campaign’s website – – has a “Best of” Twitter feed that streams some classics: “My arm is itchy,” “Cleaning the kitchen,” and “New shower gel – hooray!”

Amazing: “hurray” is just the utterance I was planning – too bad P&G got to it first.pringles-stephanie-fierman1.jpg

So anyway, the website offers tips for recovering oversharers, a plug-in that allows you to “shame a friend with just one click” (very popular, I’m sure) and even an interactive video into which you can drop some of your favorite inane comments.  And you can buy a t-shirt with a dopey tweet on it.  Of your choice.

The site is accompanied by a utility on Facebook that Pringles’ 3 million fans (and anyone else who feels like it) can download and use to label boring Facebook updates.

To me, the campaign feels a wee bit derivative of Burger King’s 2009 “Whopper Sacrifice Challenge,” which offered a free Whopper to anyone willing to unfriend 10 people on Facebook. That campaign was semi-criticized for being an “anti-social” social campaign – a page that Pringles appears to have torn out of the fast fooder’s playbook. And there have been a number of other brands – like Nestle and Skittles – that have leveraged the riskiness and “nowness” of featuring a live Twitter feed in their promotions.

social_media_overload-stephanie-fierman.jpgBut so far, this has been a conversation focused on techniques and tools – a plug-in, a feed, interactive videos and custom t-shirts.  I love tools just as much as the next marketer, but… what does the Oversharers campaign have to do with Pringles’ persona and the ultimate goal of selling more product? 

If there’s a second phase of this campaign that ties the downside of oversharing online to oversharing your Pringles (because you want to eat them all yourself?), P&G better get moving. It seems like that’d make sense… but I’m guessing and this connection isn’t made at the moment.

So from a business point of view, I don’t get it.  You’re the Pringles brand manager: what consumer insight led to this campaign? What are you trying to communicate? What differentiation would motivate trial, or make an existing Pringles eater feel good about the brand?

Don’t “overshare” social media tools because they’re cool.  It’s tempting – and I recommend social media experimentation all the time – but all of the standard rules of branding, communications and marketing (and revenue and market share and shelf space) apply.

Some Toys Are Frustrating To Stephanie Fierman
Saturday February 20th 2010, 8:40 pm
Filed under: ad agency,advertising

When you’re in a business that relies on trust (meaning all of them), it’s vitally important to assess your words and actions in the context of (a) how they’ll be interpreted by clients and prospects, and (b) how that interpretation may further – or detract from – from your objectives and relationships.

This brings me to ad agencies: frequently the poster child of what not to do IMO.

Witness three stories in just one recent issue of Advertising Age:

(1) Not all clients appreciate the art of marketing and advertising. Some, sadly, have re-assigned the responsibility of selecting and retaining agency work to procurement departments.  That’s pretty bad.  And insulting.  No question. “We’ll take 300 staplers, 500 boxes of the medium-sized binder clips and a global ad campaign that communicates the power and flexibility of our brand.” Ick.

Agency response? I first blogged about this phenomenon and the agency community’s atrocious response back in July, and now TBWA comes up with the brilliant idea of broadcasting (aka signaling) the fact that it has created a Chief Compensation Officer role to negotiate with these binder clip-loving bureaucrats.  AND he’s a “former CPA!”

You want us to negotiate with pencil-pushers? WE’LL show you pencil pushers!

CPA vs. Procurement sounds pretty anti-relationship to me.  And there was no business reason to use a press release to announce this “hire” – the exec in question has been at TBWA for over 25 years.  They moved him from one office to another (if he moved at all).stephanie-fierman-advertising.jpg

Former CPAs?  Agencies that create an “us vs. them” scenario typically become former agencies.

(2) Today’s second flavor of us vs. them: a lengthy article that reflects agencies’ “hardened stance” on the issue of owning all intellectual property created for a pitch if the agency is not ultimately hired.  “It isn’t because clients are a**holes,” says the owner of an agency (a named individual, not an unnamed source). 

In this case, if you have to say what it’s not… you’re pretty much saying what you think it is.  Thanks for letting us know what you really think of clients.

(3)  And lastly, we have a “highly regarded,” “profitable” shop with “an abundance of project work” closing its doors.  Independent NYC-based Toy (the agency who brought us the brilliant “Elf Yourself” campaign) is now history.  One of the reasons: “certain unbending principles of the founders.” Translation: they couldn’t find an office big enough for all the clashing egos.

Very unfortunate. There were bold clients who went with Toy instead of the big holding company-owned agencies.  CMOs/execs who chose an independent shop.  Not typically the safest decision.  Now they must move that business, with all of the dislocation that entails.  And we’ve lost yet another independent voice in the marketing community.

Agencies face a whole new world today.  Even I’m old enough to remember 15% commissions.  It was simple.  Today things are a mess.  But this kind of behavior doesn’t further any kind of positive agenda.

Stephanie Fierman Is Not Offended By The Loofah! Loofah!

I am sensitive to dumb and/or insensitive imagery and statements in advertising and the media – I thought that the “How I Met Your Mother” Frosty the Snowman spoof was a little over the top, for example – but this is pushing it.scrubbing-bubble-stephanie-fierman.jpg

A new commercial for the all-natural line of cleaning products, Method, has already been pulled – and that’s a pity.

Droga5’s “SHINY SUDS” is a silly send-up of Dow’s Scrubbing Bubbles commercials.  Method created the video to support the Household Products Labeling Act, which would require full disclosure of harmful chemicals in cleaning products. Here’s the ad (if you cannot see the ad below, click HERE):

Right after the video was posted online, women began to react negatively – and harshly.  A blogger accused the company of “humiliating women” and effectively saying that – if you don’t know exactly what’s in the products you use – “you deserve to be sexually harassed” in your own home.  A reader of the same blog post called Method to tell them that she was “curious of [sic] their perpetuation of rape culture.”

Rape culture? Sexual harassment? The “pornification” of a dull House act about cleaning chemicals? What am I missing here?

Apparently a lot, as the company received hundreds of calls and emails from outraged women before declaring itself a “values-based company” and pulling the spot.

Of course, there are other interested parties who struck back, most notably (a) the advertising community (which asks when brands are going to – ahem – “grow a pair” and tell zealot “idiots” to bug off) and (b) both men and women who say that this “overreaction” is just another example of why many believe that feminism has become a joke.

I’m not going to lean that hard in either direction… but I didn’t see the danger in this video.  What do you think?

New Balance Balances Oldest And Newest

stephanie-fierman-newbalance-574s.jpgNew Balance has created an online/social media campaign and (offline) line of shoes that marries both worlds in the most elegant way.

The 574 men’s and women’s collection is made entirely of left-over scraps of cloth in the company’s Lawrence, MA factory and, as a result, each pair is just a bit different each has its own personality, you might say.  A very special, limited line deserves equally powerful promotion, and the company’s ad agency, Mother, knew it.

When you buy a 574 pair from one of ten boutiques in the U.S., there’s a special Polaroid photograph in the box.  The owner can then go to, and match the Polaroid to a special mini-film about the shoe.  Once the film has played, the happy shoe wearer can add his/her name at the end of the film.  The film for 106Red appears to show a man dipping a carrot into the shoe (for dip, or course), while 115Green has a lovable furry muppet (with green nose to match) admiring a pair of shoes.  Each is very short and fun check out one or two for yourself, and see if it doesn’t make you want to buy the shoes. also features links to Facebook, MySpace, and Tumblr, so buyers of these unique shoes can tell (and show) all their friends.  The campaign is also tied to sneaker culture blogs like High Snobiety and Nice Kicks.

Anyone who watches Entourage (Episode 3, Season 6) knows how culturally important “sneakerheads” are the (mostly) men who must have the hottest, most limited sneaker available tend to be heavy influencers and leading indicators of pop culture trends and information.  It’s a valuable and in their own milieu sophisticated crowd, and Mother has delivered an equally sophisticated communications plan.  The blending of manufacturing, blogs, web, community, video and product is exceptional.

And now I must sign off – I’m on my way to Reed Space: the only shop in NYC to carry the $75 shoes with the special Polaroid inside…

Skip The Double-Whip Latte On The 6 Train
Sunday September 13th 2009, 7:13 pm
Filed under: ad agency,advertising

stephanie-fierman-nyc-subway-fat-campaign.jpgSo there’s a mini brouhaha in Manhattan these days because of a subway ad campaign created by New York City’s Department of Health.

Subway posters show someone pouring sugary drinks into a glass that, as a result, is overflowing with human fat. 

You know when Dr. Oz goes on Oprah and shows you your fatty liver, or heart, or whatever Big Mac-filled organ he can come up with that day?  It’s a little like that… but really, really gross.

But what’s even more gross – I have to agree with Bob Garfield on this one – is the nasty response from the industry’s lobbying association, the American Beverage Association.

“The ad campaign is over the top and unfortunately is going to undermine meaningful efforts to educate people about how to maintain a healthy weight by balancing calories consumed from all foods and beverages with calories burned through exercise,” said a 300-lb. ABA spokesperson (kidding). The ads will do “more harm than good.”

More harm than good?  How will the campaign do more harm than good?  I doubt the ads will make anyone barf on the train or reach for the nearest non-diet soda – the only two negative reactions that come to mind – so did the ABA really think before it chose to voluntarily and self-servingly stick its nose into this?  The real kicker is the fellow’s claim that the ads “minimize a disease as complex as obesity.” Please.

stephanie-fierman-subway-fat-ads1.gifAnd this isn’t just a bunch of random ads: one of Mike Bloomberg’s harangues has been about healthier eating, specifically in schools, but also as it pertains to calories listed on menu boards and so forth.  A move that got particular attention was his appointment of Snapple as the exclusive vending partner in the schools – as long as the company stocked only bottled water and 100% fruit juices. The Mayor won an award this year for creating programs that increase access to healthy foods and free or inexpensive physical activity alternatives in the city, for cryin’ out loud.  This is not really a good issue to pick on in this city.

As a parting thought, there is one thing about which Garfield and I disagree with regard to this matter: he thinks it’s “obnoxious” for NYC to “assault” subway riders.  I am guessing that he doesn’t live in NY (or at least ride the trains a lot) because if he did, he might feel differently.  If the ads get just a few people to rethink their choices, the campaign will be a success. At minimum, it’s one less Dr. Zizmor greeting on my commute.

Stephanie Fierman Lies For Tappening
Wednesday July 29th 2009, 7:01 pm
Filed under: ad agency,advertising,blogs,branding,environmentalism,Internet,Twitter,web 2.0

Well, my Tappening idols – Mark DiMassimo and Eric Yaverbaum – are back with a new campaign that got a big write-up in The New York Times yesterday.  Boo-yah!

As you may know, Tappening is a grass-roots effort DiMassimo and Yaverbaum started together as a laboratory for a social world marketing experiment focused on the negatives associated with bottled water (which – outside of convenience – turns out to be pretty much everything about bottled water).  I first interviewed them nearly two years ago about the initiative and covered their first ad campaign back in March of this year.  To date, Tappening has sold about $5 million worth of re-usable BPA-free plastic and stainless steel bottles, much of which is plowed back into the effort.

The team’s second campaign turns up the heat.  “Lying in Advertising” includes several treatments featuring such claims as “Bottled water causes blindness in puppies” and “Bottled water is the primary cause of Restless Leg Syndrome.” If you cannot see the posters below, click HERE and check out the bottom of the page.

restless-leg.jpg   polar-bears.jpg   puppies.jpg   add2.jpg

The new campaign has a dedicated website at from which you can easily “spread” your lie about bottled water via email, Digg, Twitter and Facebook (a nice touch).  My first contribution was “Ben Bernanke says that bottled water caused the global recession.”

Hey, it could happen…

Stephanie Fierman’s Peers Are Whining – And It’s Not Attractive
Sunday July 26th 2009, 11:01 pm
Filed under: ad agency,advertising,cmo,stephanie fierman,US economy,Wall Street Journal

Pity the downtrodden marketing services community.  That bad economy-thingy appears to have smacked it right in the face.  No surprise.

And since price pressure should be no surprise, either, I’ve been startled by the snarly response emanating from the ad industry.  I’ve already forgotten a few instances I noticed recently, but the WSJ late last week offered an ok example.  In an article titled “Thrift Darkens [Ad] Industry’s Hopes,” Maurice Levy of Publicis sniffed, “The reality is that clients want more for less.  It’s something that is unfortunately becoming quite common.”

Is that right?  Really? Clients want more of the same quality work that you’ve been giving them all along for a lower price?  For some, this may be the case.  Then again, many of the large agencies in my experience became too big, spoiled and overpaid through the years.  Too many clients have been pithed by the senior staff, and left with inexperienced AEs.  You were supposed to fork over 15% just – I dunno, because.  Because advertising is magic.  Or whatever. 

Times used to be great, no question.  I’ve enjoyed some wonderful agency relationships and learned a lot of my craft from my partners in those shops and others.  We all have.  How many AdAge headlines have screamed about client cutbacks and layoffs in the last year?  More with less? I’d say there’s plenty of pain to go around.

AdAge really lit this match for me whenb I first read an editor’s reaction to a set of business decisions recently made by P&G: business decisions that – for a reason that cannot be justified -touched off a cascade of immature, naive and nasty remarks from this person’s bully pulpit.

According to this editorial, P&G’s decision puts the “still-moist notion that it’s possible to do interesting things for huge, unglamorous marketers” out of its misery.” That’s just embarrassing.  And my personal favorite – that the changes give “the best talent yet another reason to leave the industry… buh-bye, innovators and creative geniuses” – is pathetic.  Wow: talk about turning on someone when times get difficult.  What does this solve?

The editorial concludes by toasting P&G for killing one of the “final drops of joy” (*gag*) left in the industry, and for making the business – and I quote – a “little bit shittier just because it can.”  I’m actually still appalled just typing these words weeks later.  This isn’t about freedom of the press: if the writer has her own blog, she should knock herself out.  But AdAge is a publication read by professionals and aspiring professionals on all sides of the business.  Such bitter statements are grossly unproductive and, frankly, more than a little silly.

I wonder if AdAge believes that this kind of vitriol will help the industry attract the “creative geniuses” whose absence it so mourns.  I doubt it will.

The fact is that agencies and vendors work at the pleasure of clients and – in AdAge‘s case – report on them.  I also believe it’s safe to say that both agency executives and marketing journalists fancy themselves articulate thought leaders… and they should be.  Clients would like them to be.  Throwing oneself on the ground and having an unattractive hissy fit helps no one and only makes a difficult time harder and needless (or at least more) contentious.

Grow up, people.

But It’s Hard For Stephanie Fierman To Wear That Mask On The Beach
Monday June 22nd 2009, 9:00 am
Filed under: ad agency,advertising,blogs,branding,Internet,US economy

Which entities would have a really tough time attracting positive attention right now?  AIG, yes. GM, no question.  Bernie Madoff, no doubt.  

Added to the list are two little words that have to got to shake any agency to its core: Mexican tourism.

Yes vacationers, remember Mexico? That was the place to which thousands of you were headed before the swine flu outbreak… and the resulting fears have weighed heavily on Mexico’s economy. 

The United Nations World Tourism Organization says the country boasts one of the largest tourism businesses in the world, welcoming more than 20 million tourists a year.  It’s the only country in Latin America on the list of top 25 most popular vacation destinations, and tourism is the third largest contributor to the economy.  70% of all visitors come from the United States.

But that was before the cooties came.

President Calderon plans to spend $92 million on new advertising and promotion to bring tourists back.  With t-shirts boasting “I went to Mexico and all I got was the swine flu” in circulation, he understandably feels he’s got to do something.

There’s no real point to this post.  I think I just wanted to express a certain kinship and sympathy for a brand that feels it must include a medical update, the phrase “keep the people safe” and a quote from the dean of the Harvard School of Public Health in its new television ad.  

Oh, well now I’m definitely in the mood for a Cancun vacation! Que es muy terrible.