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.”



Faster slather
Monday May 12th 2014, 3:47 pm
Filed under: advertising,market research,women,wretched excess

I’ve written about this seemingly-vexing problem before, but – given that I just spotted an ad for a brand NEW product – I guess Vaseline wasn’t able to handle it.palmers-rapid-spray-stephanie-fierman

Who are these sad, desperately dry people who are held back from living full lives because their moisturizer goes on too slowly? Maybe we should start a support group: PFILM – People For Instantly Luxurious (Likeable? Liquid?) Moisturizer.



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.

 



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…



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.  

Nasty.

The site TresSugar.com 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.



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.”



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.



Tiffany’s Got A Brand New Bag
Tuesday September 07th 2010, 12:00 pm
Filed under: advertising,branding,luxury,retail,US economy,women

by Stephanie Fierman

Tiffany & Co has impressed me over the years.  It’s been able to show some restraint when it comes to mucking with the brand while still responding to shifts in the consumer zeitgeist. 

The company has been particularly wily in its introduction of new non-jewelry items and jewelry pieces at lower price points.  Leather, scarves, fragrance and the like serve multiple purposes: the products expand Tiffany‘s reach among existing customers; they help Tiffany establish earlier brand engagement among the base of young women most likely to become the core Tiffany customer; and I would expect that it’s helped the gift business, as well, particularly as tableware’s centrality in the wedding business wanes.

Its moves in its core business, jewelry, have borne fruit.  31% of the company’s sales last year coming from its lowest-priced merchandise: sterling silver jewelry at an average price of $200.  The silver, in particular, is a good example of how Tiffany has made and executed on long-term commitments that have helped achieve a higher level of market accessibility. Its Paloma Picasso, Elsa Peretti and Frank Gehry lines of jewelry have built their own bases of loyal fans over the years. The company’s website top navigation makes it easy to find these pieces, and the first entry behind the “Designers & Collections” tab is currently “Elsa Peretti $250 & Under.”

Nice touch.

So what’s another potential category? Handbags.  Although it may strike some as odd, sales of handbags priced at $200 or more have actually grown 15% in the year ending this past June. Many of the leaders are the usual suspects, but – if Tiffany wants a model to study – Coach has shown everyone how it’s done.

Coach’s 2009 successful launch of the more youthful, lower-priced  Poppy line of bags and accessories with the positioning “Are You A Poppy Girl?” – but with bag prices starting at $200 – sparked a lot of wonder.  It’s not that there wasn’t a space in the market, but $200? Hardly the “budget” youth collection, as one fashion blog optimistically coined it.  Andy yet: it’s sellingA lot.  Why?

To a certain extent, the answer comes back to the ill-defined but highly desirable “affordable luxury” moniker that so many brands want to claim.  Two thoughts here: (1) If a woman can get her fix with a $300 bag from a favorite brand (when she might have chosen a $1,200 one in the past), she’s more likely to make that choice, and (2) A woman needs a bag every single day.  No one “needs” non-wedding jewelry. So if I’m going to buy a bag anyway, the thinking goes, it’s penny wise and pound foolish to buy an unremarkable bag when I could just spend another $100 or $200 or even $300 and buy a bag from a brand I truly love – a brand that will “show” well on a daily basis.

Sidebar: I have two core daytime bags: one for fall-winter, the other for spring-summer.  The spring-summer bag was $400, which felt expensive.  Now that I get no less than, say, two compliments on the bag every single week – and the credit card charge is only a hazy memory – I’m sorry I didn’t buy two.

And just to finish it off, notice that these purchases are literally BIG: much larger in size than a bracelet or ring that I might get at the same price.  More status mileage for the dollar.

So into this environment comes Tiffany’s new handbag line, created in partnership with the designers of the Lambertson Truex luxury label (which the jeweler purchased post-bankruptcy last year). The products are priced from $395 for a small suede tote to $17,500 for a large crocodile handbag, and all carry the imprimatur of Tiffany, whether it be in the clasps, the colors or the silver. 

I’m waiting to see how they promote the line.  The evening “Holly” bag has gotten a lot of press, but such a bag has limited use cases and narrows the market; I hope to see some creative promotion and messaging that emphasizes day and weekend bags, as well. 

And not to state the obvious, but I know that Tiffany will be mindful of the fact that women already knew Coach as a handbag maker, so Poppy was an immediate “get” for the consumer.  Poppy is to Coach as Elsa Peretti is to Tiffany: an extension of the core business.  Jeweler Tiffany will need to build some real promotion and personality if it wants to move a lot of product. [Paging Christmahanukwanzaakah, come in Christmahanukwanzaakah…]



Mad Men Won’t Keep You From The Rain
Wednesday September 01st 2010, 9:06 pm
Filed under: advertising,branding,luxury,retail,US economy,women,women online

by Stephanie Fierman

If a pop culture phenomenon is white-hot, and you saunter up to it and ask it out to dinner, will you become its best friend?

Check out my second blog, Marketing Mojo, for the answer.



In A Fog
Wednesday September 01st 2010, 8:30 am
Filed under: advertising,branding,licensed content,luxury,retail,US economy,women,women online,wretched excess

by Stephanie Fierman

There’s been a bit of a scramble among brands seeking to leverage AMC’s popular series, Mad Men.  BMW is one of the largest and most frequent sponsors, prompting an auto site to gush, “BMW’s underwriting for Mad Men is mad marvelous.”

Maybe so.  After all, the series is about an advertising agency and the supposed glamour of the post-War period, all glowy and wistful.  It’s an unusual opportunity to create a fresh and fun message… IF it makes sense for the brand.

BMW did two things right. First it aligned itself with the overall  je ne sais quoi of the show: the ambience, the characters, their lifestyles, their appearance, their tastes, the physical environment. That provides a very broad base upon which to construct an association.  BMW is already an upscale, luxury brand, so this association is more of a positive reinforcement than a flat-out creation. 

Second, this attachment is even further strengthened because BMW’s ads run during the episodes themselves.  As the show transitions almost seamlessly from content, to commercial, and back again, the company and its cars place themselves directly alongside the target of their (and your) dreams.  The viewer sees both in the same sitting; the brain experiences both in the same moment. The connection is made in real time. 

London Fog‘s new Mad Men-related ads, on the other hand, miss on both these counts.

Unlike BMW, London Fog’s owner, Iconix, chose to bet all its chips on one single character, Joan Holloway (aka Christina Hendricks).  This demands a plausible or at least believable connection between what the product and the individual represent, which is not present here. 

Today, London Fog is generally utilitarian, functional, male (androgynous?), classic (tired?) and generally unremarkable, while Hendrick’s Joan is nearly the polar opposite: voluptuous, sexy, powerful, womanly, stimulating. She’s brightly-colored cotton candy in a dress.  When you watch the show, her sexual  presence makes her nearly every man’s fantasy at one point or another.  She’s unattainable, like a rare luxury item. 

London Fog is the opposite.  By its own admission, the brand has far-flung distribution and high consumer awareness: it holds little mystery, no magic, no unattainability. Mad Men‘s Joan would not wear a London Fog, and no woman  (consciously or unconsciously) believes that she will be “more Joan”  by wearing the brand.  The effect is double-whammy, given that the clothes (which might look fine on “normal” people) appear boring, dull and awkward draped on Hendrick’s frame.  The two zeitgeists are just too far apart.

Iconix may have thought that Joan’s essence would rub off on the product.  And, prior to Hendricks, Iconix enlisted Eva Longoria and Giselle Bunchen for its ads, presumably with the same objective.  The problem is that consumers cannot make brand connections that aren’t there or – worse – pulling in opposite directions. 

Forcing an otherwise adequate brand into an environment that makes it appear inadequate is sad and unnecessary: an embarrassing kind of brand dissonance that can do the brand more harm than good. 

Lastly, the Joan ads do not have the benefit of being absorbed in the same moment as the story itself. The connection failure is particularly dramatic when experienced in the middle of a fashion magazine, surrounded by circa 2010 fashions, photos and messaging.

Managing a brand – particularly one trying to meld a perhaps very different past with the present – is a fine art. The brand steward must have an unblinking grasp on what the brand is and is not, what it might become, how fast such a change in direction might be made and how to begin.  If that direction is wrong, or the speed too fast, the desired messaging won’t find its target and you may needlessely displace the neutral-to-positive feelings most people have about the brand in favor of all the characteristics the brand does not possess.  It’s work grounded in an almost DNA-level of understanding of brands, consumer desire and human behavior.

Most brands have positive if not wonderful attributes to emphasize.  Show yours in its best light.  Avoid whatever might be hot right this second if it just doesn’t fit, and create an environment in which the product can truly shine.



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. 

Interesting.

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.



Stephanie Fierman Is Thinking Of Becoming A Plastic Surgeon
Friday March 05th 2010, 10:20 pm
Filed under: financial services,luxury,women

Here’s a priceless and hilarious example of how overexposed, over-hyped, over-celebritized and Paris Hilton-addled our society has truly become.

You may have read about the massive insider trading case against Galleon Group.  A former consultant, Danielle Chiesi, was a participant in and beneficiary of the conspiracy.  Her criminal trial begins later this year.

Is she scared? Perhaps, but there seem to be more pressing concerns at the moment.

HERE is Danielle Chiesi last October, on the day the FBI led her away in handcuffs:

stephanie-fierman-danielle-chiesi-before.jpg


And HERE is Danielle Chiesi now (February 2010):

stephanie-fierman-danielle-chiesi-after.jpg

These two photos were taken about four months apart. In between, Chiesi began to morph a la Michael Jackson.  Two months in, The New York Post noted the disappearance of Chiesi’s “bloated face and dumpy sweater” (see first photo) in favor of a “slim new look” that looked like it was “straight out of central casting for a prison flick.” 

I love it. 

Next stop: Dancing with the Stars, or perhaps her own makeover show.  Assuming, of course, she doesn’t spend the next 10 years in prison.

And I would definitely believe, by the way, that Ms. Chiesi is terrified of prison…. because it’s going to be very – very – hard to keep up her new plasticized look behind bars.



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?



My Fake Kid Is Sick – I Have To Go
Monday October 05th 2009, 9:47 pm
Filed under: women,women online

To All The Worthy-Yet-Childless People Out There:

Have you ever felt disadvantaged simply because you haven’t procreated?  Have you ever had to do extra work when a peer disappeared into a junior soccer haze or recital? Have you every suffered through phone conversations between a co-worker and her child that sounded like some demented episode of “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood,” only to have said anguished co-worker give you a back-handed slap by saying how lucky you are not to have kids?the-office-kid.png All that is about to change.


Yes, friends, there’s now a product made just for you:  The Office Kid.  When you buy  The Office Kid  (tagline: “Who picks up the slack? We do”) you get a framed photo of your fake child and some adorable fake-kid artwork to put up on your wall (drawn by one of the right-handed creators with her left hand). It’s like you had a child – only better!


No diapers to change, no private schools to pay for – just the goodness that comes with the kid guilt you can now foist on your co-workers and your boss.  Imagine the possibilities…


So call 1-800-GET-A-KID  and start leveraging your newfound parenthood today!  And if your [apply air quotes here] “parent/teacher conference” takes place on the designer floor at Saks – or in a movie theatre – who has to know?



Stephanie Fierman’s Not Interested In Toothpaste, Either

A new study released by Q Interactive indicates that – while women may be flocking to social networking – they’re not yakking about the favorite baby food or burgers.  While 52% of 1,000 women said that they’d become a “friend” or “fan” of at least one brand, 75% of women in the study overall say that social networks do not influence what they buy.

I had to smile when Q’s president scrambled to make sure that marketers (with money) didn’t interpret the results in a negative way: Q calls the “disconnect” a “huge opportunity” for marketers and says that brands need to catch up to the needs of women online. 

If I were an agency relying on clients, I’d say the same thing!

But what if that’s not true? What if the social media frenzy that’s been whipped up among advertisers is…  overhyped?  What if we find out that women love discovering new ideas and interacting with new people and new communities, but the commercial promise in these interactions isn’t there? What if online engagement doesn’t lead to sales?  What if talking just leads to… talking?

I’m going to watch for new news and information about how women are interacting with social media because – if Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter and all the other social sites do not turn out to be a brand bonanza for advertisers, we could see a major reset in expectations, involvement and, most importantly, dollars.



Stephanie Fierman Likes Uniformity
Thursday August 13th 2009, 9:13 pm
Filed under: advertising,branding,retail,US economy,women

A recent Crain’s New York Business article discussed what many retailers are doing to try to squeeze as much as possible out of what is expected to be a lousy back-to-school season.

One step: uniforms.

Not uniforms uniforms, but rather solid color separates – blazers, pants, polo shirts, skirts, etc. – that parents can mix and match to create multiple outfits for kids age 5-11ish. At stores like J.C. Penney, Target and Children’s Place (even Macy’s…) each piece is priced around $10 or less.  As uniform sales in these stores have increased while sales of children’s apparel overall have been falling for the last two years, this is a step that is likely to help these stores hold onto customers who are trying to get through the recession.

But one thing: please think hard before “putting a small section in and [literally] calling it uniform” in otherwise non-uniform retail locations.  Few parents (or children, for that matter) will assign positive connotations to the word itself… and it’s not all that great in quickly communicating benefits, either.  “Budget smart”-like phrases may be a better way to go. 



Stephanie Fierman Hovers Like A UFO

I have no idea if they’ll sell even one tampon, but P&G’s Tampax is the stealth sponsor of a series of viral videos that tell the story of a 16-year-old boy who wakes up with – uh – “girl parts.” And at least from an art point of view… they’re good. Click HERE if you do not see the ad below.

Leo Burnett created the campaign at Zack16.com.  Its big link to the brand thus far is when our hero, Zack, gets his first period in French class and sneaks into the girl’s bathroom looking for a Tampax vending machine.

P&G calls it “a learning lab out on the net” that’s “not very heavily branded at all.”  Hmm.  And so far the videos aren’t a huge hit, with about 10,000 views in the past week on YouTube and elsewhere. 

I really wanted to dislike this campaign and – if I were a P&G stockholder – I probably would.  I also wonder if the best way to pitch tampons to young women is with stories about young men baking brownies, but what do I know? I hope it sells something. 

The title character, Zack Johnson, wakes up one morning to find his 'guy parts' gone.In the meantime, I’m enjoying the work of a good copywriter and have started following Zack on Twitter at @ZackJohnson16.  He appears to be trying to figure out how to manage menstruating while at soccer camp.

 Note: the “hovers like a UFO” comment is from the Day 3 video.  Really – these are pretty humorous.