July 29, 2005 by Colin
Procter & Gamble’s Alan Lafley discusses managing organization-wide change in a CPG company with The McKinsey Quarterly.
“Currently, 25 percent of new products and technologies come from outside the company, but Lafley wants to raise that to 50 percent, so that “half would come out of P&G labs and half would come through P&G labs, from the outside.”
Lafley is pushing for more exposure to the outside world in other ways as well—for example, by establishing strong relationships with external designers, distributing product development around the world to increase what P&G calls “consumer sensing,” and even bringing John Osher, who invented the Crest SpinBrush electric rotating toothbrush, inside the company for a period to help make it more innovative.”
July 28, 2005 by Colin
Ooops. Petro-Canada, a significant production and retail oil and gas concern, had to rush its quarterly release and earnings call after Canada Newswire mistakenly posted a draft of the company’s second quarter financial statement late Tuesday.
I understand that providing a preliminary draft can help a newswire queue up a release, but I still won’t do it for major announcements. One, because it creates a lot of grief in the executive suite and, two, because it means looooong nights:
“We had very good attendance and good help and cooperation from board members. They obviously understood the gravity of the situation,” said Petro-Canada spokeswoman Helen Wesley, who checked out of the company’s head office after 3:00 a.m. EDT.
(Even if Petro-Canada’s offices are in Calgary, which would have been 1:00 am Mountain Time. Does it count as a long night if the bars are still open when you go home? Was someone exaggerating for effect?)
July 28, 2005 by ColinWhen you’re flipping through the Wall Street Journal, reading bland quotes about marketing plans, office expansions and corporate growth, is this the face you imagine staring out from behind the text?
” If not for Lance, we wouldn’t be expanding our factory and we wouldn’t have new offices with carpeting and windows and a gym …” said Zap Espinoza, a company spokesman for Trek Bikes. (in the WSJ)
I remember Zap from his columns in Mountain Bike Action. It doesn’t surprise me that he works for Trek now – because the biking community, even worth hundreds of millions of dollars, works and plays differently. The independent and adventurous ethos is never abandoned. (or else you’d end up like Schwinn or Raleigh)
(picture of Zap from trekbikes.com)
July 27, 2005 by Colin
No – I’m not talking about Spinal Tap. Far from it. Tom Brake, the Transport Critic for the UK’s Lib Dem party pulled a funny one when discussing the latest plans around the monolithic monument.
“Stonehenge bypass review must leave no stone unturned in bid for a solution- Brake”
I think Nigel Tufnel had a better perspective on transportation planning across the Salisbury Plain.
“Nigel Tufnel: In ancient times, hundreds of years before the dawn of history, an ancient race of people… the Druids. No one knows who they were or what they were doing… “
Thanks to the Guardian Backbencher newsletter for the pointer.
July 26, 2005 by Colin
As a records promotion person, you know your career has gone to hell in a handbasket when you’re threatening radio station program directors over the playtimes for a Celine Dion song – one that is running concurrently in car ads. Just take a look at this example cited by Eliot Spitzer in the Sony payola scheme:
“A promotion employee unhappy with the times assigned for spins of the song “I Drove All Night” by Celine Dion wrote this internal email:
“OK, HERE IT IS IN BLACK AND WHITE AND IT’S SERIOUS: IF A RADIO STATION GOT A FLYAWAY TO A CELINE [DION] SHOW IN LAS VEGAS FOR THE ADD, AND THEY’RE PLAYING THE SONG ALL IN OVERNIGHTS, THEY ARE NOT GETTING THE FLYAWAY. PLEASE FIX THE OVERNIGHT ROTATIONS IMMEDIATELY.”
What sort of a dj looks for a flyaway to a Celine Dion show anyway? They should have their thumbs removed, so they can never use slide switches again.
July 26, 2005 by Colin
The August 8 issue of Fortune takes stock of today’s advertising environment, and comes out sounding like the Fast Company of 1998: the old guys are good, but aren’t quick to change. The new guys, with their metrics and new technology, will overtake them all!
“Give it ten years, say the tech gurus, and everything you watch will be high-definition, interactive, and brought to you via the Internet—you’ll love it! But today’s big ad agencies might not. As descendants of the firms that invented modern advertising, they face the buggy-whip-manufacturer problem: the fact that full-on paradigm shifts are rarely kind to incumbents.” (Daniel Gross)
Given that Fortune is a general-interest business magazine, I have to wonder about the long-term effect of their analysis: will managers favour specialist boutique advertising and marketing firms, having been slowly convinced that the largest firms are only concerned with lions for the mantlepiece and fat commissions on media buys?
For instance, in “The Scramble on Mad. Ave.,” Gross cynically suggest:
“Naturally, the visionaries in agency-land are cooking up ways to grab their share of the pie, and that may mean not just reinventing the 30- second TV ad but remaking the agencies themselves. They present their plans–some genuinely creative, some redolent of snake oil–with all the fluency you’d expect from people who pitch for a living.”
“Microsoft. Stop. Being. Bland.
Now all you need is some uninspired-but-really-expensive Madison Avenue ad campaign (e.g. “What do you want your Vista to see?”) just to seal the deal. With an RSS-free, Flash-intro fake blog designed by a hotnewyorkcreativeshop. Rock on.”
I’m sure MS’s campaign will not disappoint. It will be full of bells and whistles, hooks and gimmicks, old-school MSM and new-school technology. But, in the end, it will still be saddled with a lame and uninspiring name. That’s the price you pay for being inoffensive (and unoriginal) in dozens of markets.
For the multinational holding companies, this new focus on targeted electronic communications presents an even more threatening challenge: quantifying your agency’s worth to the client, as expressed in incremental sales, overall revenue growth, and customer retention. Agencies have already been chafing at increasing contract oversight by procurement departments (those damn accountants!).
The real problem, as PR folk know, is quantifying the effects of new media campaigns. Yesterday, Kevin Roberts commented in the FT about the challenge facing traditional advertising agencies:
“A transformation is under way. But so far the revolution has been conducted in tiny steps. Industry executives say big advertisers are hesitant to move more decisively without better systems of measurement that enable them to test, track and price new approaches.
As a result, while marketing money is moving away from television, much of the alternative spending is being done as part of tests in the hope of gathering data for decisions that could reorder the media world.
“We are all testing our way into it – testing quietly,” says Kevin Roberts, chief executive of Saatchi & Saatchi, an ad agency unit of Publicis. “This is about covering our ass.”
The problem for marketing executives is that the numbers they have been trained to use are losing relevance.” (shorter version available online)
Well, it’s not the numbers that are losing relevance – it’s just that now they’re associated with media that continue to lose audience and mindshare.
July 26, 2005 by Colin
Kevin Roberts has seen the future for Saatchi .. and it’s retail design?
“Everyone you meet is talking about ‘doing retail,” Roberts writes in [a new chapter of his 2004 book] Diamonds in the Mine. “Some start with consumers,” he observes. “Very few are starting with shoppers.”(WWD)
Sure. Except for Paco Underhill. Maybe you’ve heard of him? He dabbles in the retail experience.
July 23, 2005 by Colin
I’ve always felt ambivalent about the adult contemporary stylings of David Foster and his stable of pop stars. I might have railed about his work with Celine Dion or – god forbid – his work on a Michael Bolton (wav) album, but my natural Canadian reticence has always held me back. Still, I can’t supress a nagging thought that David Foster + Clear Channel = Ryan Seacrest.
Thank god you can turn to the JEFITOBLOG for a proper analysis. A sample:
“For all of the above, this is not an anti-David Foster post. As much as he might suck, I am absolutely unable to divorce my childhood memories from his synth-laden hits; much as I might be embarrassed by this, I can’t blame him for it any more than I can blame REO Speedwagon for the fact that I put “Can’t Fight This Feeling” on a tape for Tiffany Hansen in fifth grade. In fact, if I could assemble an all-star band to play in my living room and help me relive the years of, say, 1984-1988, it would have Foster at the helm. He’d be playing piano, manning the boards, and taking 50% of the mechanicals. The rest of the band would be rounded out thusly:
-Dann Huff on guitar
-Phil Collins on drums
-Fee Waybill on vocals
On bass? Nobody really played bass in the ’80s. You got your low end — like your “woodwinds” — by pressing a button. Foster could do it. Or maybe Jeff Bova and Jimmy Bralower. They’d play all the hits, like “Man In Motion” and “Will You Still Love Me”, and there would be a few special guests, like Richard fucking Marx. Everybody would have a mullet.”
July 23, 2005 by Colin
Late last night (or early this morning), I woke up to discover that I had sent several unintelligible emails from my BlackBerry – while asleep.
In that spirit, I present “Vegematic” by Steve Goodman:
Fell asleep last night with the T.V. on.
Oh, what a dream I had.
I dreamed I answered every single one of those late night mail order ads.
And four to six weeks later, much to my surprise, the mailman came to my front door, and I couldn’t believe my eyes
When he brought the Vegematic, and the Pocket Fisherman too,
Illuminated illustrated history of life, And Boxcar Willie with a Ginzu knife, A bamboo steamer, and a Garden Weasel too,
And a tie-dyed, dayglow souvenir shirt from Six Flags Over Burbank.
The doorbell rang all morning and into the afternoon. I shook with fright as it rang all night to the light of the Master Card moon. There was Parcel Post in the pantry, and UPS in the hall, COD‘s to the ceiling, and I just couldn’t pay for it all.
I got the egg scrambler, with a Seal-a-Meal carrying case,
A set of presidential commemorative plates
So I could eat my eggs off the President’s face,
A Minute Mender, and a needle that’ll knit or crochet,
And an autographed photograph of Rin Tin Tin at Six Flags Over Burbank.
I remembered I was dreaming, so I gave a mighty cheer.
When I awoke, it was no joke, ’cause all that shit was here.
So if you fall asleep with the TV on, let me tell you what to do:
Tear the telephone out of the wall unless you want it to happen to you.
You’ll get the Vegematic, and the Pocket Fisherman too,
Illuminated illustrated history of life,
And Boxcar Willie with a Ginzu knife,
A bamboo steamer, and a smokeless ashtray too
And an all expenses paid weekend for three at Six Flags Over Burbank.
Little-remembered fact: the Seal-A-Meal was also used to package Atari diskettes back in the day.
July 22, 2005 by Colin
Today we hear from a different retail species: the frustrated movie theatre employee:
“To the mothers who ask me if the crappy ass kid film you are seeing is good…you know it’s not. You’re just toying with me now. Spy Kids is not good. What do you want me to say? It has the beginnings of a resigned Felligni, but really the diplomatic pace is more akin with such classic tales as seen from Weir? No, I’m sorry. Even if I were to say “Yeah, it’s really good” the words from my mouth would burn a hole in my very soul. Don’t ask. Just don’t ask. You know the reason you’re going is to shut your kids up or buy their love. That’s all. That’s it. Suck it up. It’s very awkward, and I dislike lying.
Yeah, it’s great! And think about it, I’m an early twentysomething guy. There would most likely be something wrong with me if I got really excited about the movie your kid can’t stop hopping up and down about. OH MY GOD! Sharkboy changed my life in ways I can’t describe. Really. Except I’m lucky if I remember the name of the film you’re seeing. You just want validation. You want me to tell you that that thirty bucks you just spent wasn’t for nothing. Well it was and you’re just going to have to live with that. Next! “(Craigslist)
July 21, 2005 by Colin
I suspect The Two Fat Ladies had something to do with it. They introduced me to the idea that cooking could be as interesting – and as much of a guilty pleasure – as reading about Richard Nixon trying to undermine the government.
July 21, 2005 by Colin
I wonder: in New York, is it a positive brand attribute for Whole Foods to have food demo staff that are knowledgeable but irritable?
“Whole Foods: We particularly like the one in Union Square … You can always count on the fish griller to be lining up plastic ramekins filled with swordfish or wild salmon. But we warned. If you take seconds, he will hate you. Really, with him you can do no right. If you ask what he’s cooking he’ll grumble the answer.
If you cower in fear, afraid to ask what you’re eating he will say accusingly, “Don’t you want to know what you’re eating?” We recommend that you keep a low profile, take your sample, give a nod of thanks then go.
However, you will want more than one sample. With this in mind we suggest that you show up with a few disguises. Hats, sunglasses and wigs are recommended.”(Cakehead.Com)
No, really? If there was an effervescent ray of sunshine handing out the carp on a stick, would New Yorkers feel poorly served? Is there a place for the Soup Nazi in NY’s retail food experience?
For more information on moving the samples off the shelves and into the carts:
Retailwire hosted a valuable discussion on “dazzling them with demos.”
As Cooperative Grocer tells us, an effective sampler should have these qualities:
-Is friendly and outgoing
-Has good appearance (no faux Elvis)
-Has good health (*cough*cough*)
-Speaks the language (whaaa?)
-Can memorize three paragraphs of information
-Is attentive to details
-Is a teacher and a booster — has a positive attitude
-Can effectively promote foods the sampler does not eat (have you tried the jalapeno poppers in aisle 23?)
(Thanks to Free Williamsburg for the Whole Foods link)
July 20, 2005 by Colin
From Sweet Blasphemy:
“Memo To Music Magazines:
Because you are all a bunch of cheapskates and don’t pay me enough money or in a timely fashion, I am reduced to temping. It is, in fact, fairly hilarious that I am sitting here in a blazer and black slacks in the headquarters of JP Morgan on Park Avenue working as a “receptionist” (I have answered the phone approximately four times in two days). …
I don’t want to end up being an investment banker so could a few of you up your freelance rates a few cents a word?!? Also, if you could get me my checks within five months of me penning some lame story about a rock band that sounds just like every other damn rock band, that would be fabulous.
P.S. Spin- If you put The Arcade Fire on your cover at any point in the next year I am going to be officially done with you. You suck as it is; don’t make it any worse.
P.P.S. Spin.com, on the other hand, does not suck. I write for them now and anything I do can’t possibly suck. Just for the record.”
The difference between writing screeds for music mags and writing for corporate publications? There’s a much greater possiblity your music writing will end up beside a fold-out picture of a half-naked starlet or a direct mail ad for male “enhancement” products. No such luck for my work.
Well, maybe if I worked for the Spanish government.
July 19, 2005 by Colin
I don’t know about you, but the pamphlets I found in the career counselling office never had titles like:
- Sandra Kendall of the 4-H: The Career Story of a Young Home Demonstration Agent
- Loveliest Librarian
- Space Secretary
- The Girl on the Bookmobile
- Tune in for Elizabeth: Career Story of a Radio Interviewer
- Jan Marlowe, Hospital Libariarian
I understand the historical significance of such “career romance” novels for young women entering the work force in the 1940s and 1950s – but they still sound like postings on a.s.s or r.a.m.e (oh, you know what I mean).
“Since she had decided to take the job as library assistant at the college’s huge old main library, Katie had met and made many lifetime girl friends, had acquired an apartment with color TV and a tiny balcony, bought and paid for a used red Porsche, and had been in and out of love—all within the brief space of seven months.
The light changed, and Katie walked briskly across the main street. Decidedly beautiful, Katie carried with her that continued air that lovely girls often do. Katherine Anne Dugan had long ago realized that being pretty helped her to be a better librarian, actually stimulating interest in learning and reading.”
Still, there are passages that remind me of graduate school:
“The microfilm reader fascinated Anne. It had been so helpful in the libraries where she had worked the last two summers. But she had never before had the responsibility of a machine, as she did now. She arrived early on her second day and went to the metal cabinet beside the machine to study the films which the library had collected. It still seemed a miracle to her that the contents of a whole book, or a big issue of a newspaper, could be recorded on a small roll of film less than two inches wide.”
Yes – I am old enough that I did research on a microfiche reader. With microfilm I ordered from the National Archives in Maryland. By mail. With stamps. Are you familiar with the concept?
July 18, 2005 by Colin
7-11 is moving back into the Manhattan market, and New York magazine “spoke with CEO James Keyes and his PR director-chaperone, Margaret Chabris” about the chain’s strategy.
Imagine the setting: You’re a multinational convenience chain, establishing a beachhead in a market dominated by local bodegas and immigrant-owned groceries. You’re trying to have a light-hearted, but on message, conversation with a magazine aimed squarely at the sort of NY’er who might chafe from 7-11 driving out their favourite Korean grocery. On top of it all, the PR director is in the room.
Q: 7-Eleven strikes some urbanites as hopelessly suburban. Is your brand hip?
Keyes: We believe 7-Eleven is the ultimate hip. We tuned in a few years ago, and Jason—I’m sorry, Justin—Timberlake is shooting a video in a 7-Eleven parking lot. We were really pleased …
Q: Have you taken into account New Yorkers’ need for condoms?
Heh-heh. Uhhhhh . . .
Chabris: He’s blushing. Let’s say the gross is really in fresh foods.
Actually, I think the gross will be in the manga and DVDs you’ll find customers will be requesting. That’s the reason the bodegas and groceries scrape along: they will cater to the quirks, habits and perversions of their regular customers. That sort of “focus on the customer” may prove difficult for a publicly traded behemoth.