Archives for posts with tag: Advertising


My first job in advertising lasted two weeks. I was assigned to a dog food account, had to rewrite can copy, trade ads, brochures – almost everything. I was dreaming of creating amazing commercials and the reality was a 80 words of can copy.

There were no concepts, no strategies, no deep thinking. Just shipping work, hour after hour, day after day. Later in my career, I spent sometimes months to develop one campaign. The first two weeks of my advertising career, I shipped more than 50 items.

4 days in, I had to write an ad for a national pet magazine, my first chance to communicate with hundreds of thousands readers. I worked on this ad for 3 days, spent the weekend in the office. When I showed the ad to my Creative Director it was a huge mess. He dropped on my desk and muttered : “You worked it to death.” He asked me to start fresh.

I never forgot this advice. I’ve worked on web sites that felt like they were worked to death. Commercials that were worked to death. Copy, projects, campaigns.

When your creative product feels worked over, it is not good.

I was happy to leave after 2 weeks to start my career in a creative agency, including pay cut. I felt more at home in my new home. But I never forgot the lesson I learned in my first advertising job.


How many times did we hear outcry about tenure of CMOs? It’s somewhere between 12 and 24 months. In short: pathetically short. There are groups on various social networks where CMOs talk with each other and share information. I joined a few of them and was saddened by the content: a lot of echo chamber jargon, opinions and little substance. Anyone existing outside the marketing community wouldn’t understand a word.

There’s a lot of junk and cheap talk, nothing relating brand status to financial consequences. Anybody involved in the marketing and advertising world is responsible to nail down some factual benchmarks that smart business people understand. Many of the reports marketers produce are just fluff and hot air (Unaided brand awareness, anyone? Facebook likes. Do I have to continue? Thanks.) At my first agency job, we commissioned a client satisfaction survey each quarter. It gave us information agency staff couldn’t get internally. We used it as a way of giving the agency goals and every six months executives presented the results. It removed all opinion by giving us measures we needed to address. We tried to manage the agency brand through the eyes of our clients. The outcomes were fabulous when it came to retention, organic growth and new business.

The curse of marketing is jargon combined with unquantified opinion

That’s the real cause so many people in marketing and advertising believe to be visionaries and almost nobody is. When they lead the way, they might lead us to nowhere. Or Second Life. Let’s face it: most of us are challenged in the vision department. However, we all talk like Steve Jobs and Seth Godin. They communicated substance, most of us hot air.

Now, there are some real visionaries in this business. People that know the past, understand the present and learned from both to look at the future. The problem for agencies and clients is to work out who is the person with the jargon and glossary, and who is the one that is thinking and talking intelligently.

Any new client needs to agree on a form of measurement to track performance. Most brands still  don’t want to invest in the most elementary tracking. They rather focus on listening and defensive tactics, rather than understanding the real perception of their business and brand. Some brands spend millions of dollars on media but they don’t bother to spend 0.5% of their marketing budget on tracking important KPIs. “Let’s do that next year.”

CEOs should be brand managers

CEOs should ask for this data on a monthly basis. In terms of brand management at the top of any organization, the CEO cannot rely upon the input internally as it has a vested interest in all things  being pink unicorns. CEOs need some form of external intelligence communicating honestly how his brand is doing in the real world. Good intelligence gives the CEO the time to adjust the business. When he has to fire the CMO to correct strategy, it’s too late. The horse has already left the barn.


In 5th grade,my history teacher was a relic with a red book and pencil. At the end of each lesson, he gave us homework: “Memorize page 23-25.” At the next lesson, he would open his red book, close his eyes, drop the pencil on one student’s name. The remainder of the hour, that student was questioned for 1 hour. The outcome of that questioning determined the the grade for the remainder of the semester. When your name was called early in the year, you never opened the book again. When your name was called late, your short memory was on fire for 6 months. None of us really learned anything during that year. None of us liked history.

In 6h grade, a new history teacher was introduced. In the first hour, he recreated in vivid details life in ancient Rome: How the upper class lived, how the slaves suffered, what it was like to walk the streets of Rome. On that day, history became my favorite subject.

There are teachers who teach subjects. And teachers who teach students.

The same division can be found in advertising. Most brands teach subjects. They have an agenda, a curriculum. They need you to know about the torque of their cars, the silkiness of the product, their fat percentage. They look at the world like the relic teacher: You listen to what I have to say and you will learn.

The second category of brands are concerned with what their audience wants and needs. They develop a narrative, they are involving and entertaining. They care to educate their audience in ways that suits them best.

What’s mind-boggling about our business is that we all encountered terrible and great teachers, representing the most basic rules of communication and salesmanship. Still, the majority of us act like relics.


It’s all about Big Data, right? Targeting, gathering information, using that data to deliver relevant messages, correct? Not so fast says Millward Brown, conducting an analysis of winning case studies from the IPA Effectiveness, Effies and Cannes Lions awards.

“This analysis serves as celebration of creativity. Advertising which is enjoyed, found involving, and stimulates the emotions in a way that other advertising doesn’t, should be encouraged and rewarded. But that doesn’t mean advertisers should pursue creativity at the expense of all else.

It has long been known that advertising needs to be underpinned by an appropriate strategy. This analysis adds another factor: branding. It is all very well for an ad to leave vibrant memories, but do these memoires link to your brand uniquely?

Branding has nothing to do with repeating the brand name and showing packs; it has everything to do with making the brand the centre of, and the reason for, the creative idea. The Marlboro Cowboy, the Hovis delivery boy freewheeling down a hill to the strains of Dvorak’s “New World Symphony”, the Andrex puppy and the Clio-driving Nicole and Papa, are all excellent examples of well-branded advertising.

There are many ways to brand an ad but, ultimately, it relies on creativity to integrate the brand, or an established branding cue, into the ad in an engaging way. This analysis suggests that advertising should also stimulate emotions; but there is no single emotion which works better.”

An important 180 by a company that brought you the “Awareness index”, a key metric that assumes that achieves its effect primarily by impacting memory – awareness and recall. Come to find out, emotion is pretty much everything.

As a professional that worked on the creative, media, accounting and planning side, I can assure you that creative work is not everything. You need to have a solid planning foundation, providing a platform to develop brilliant creative. And you need to have advanced communications and media planning to get your message heard, activate the audience and get the most of your owned platforms and earn media.

Problem is, the digital marketing industry has been in the grip of technologist, data nerds and spread sheets. They own digital marketing. That needs to change. Or we will continue to live in a world of tiny boxes being overlooked by customers. Guess works masqued as metrics.

Advertising was always about emotions. How come we forget about that?

Time to remember.

In yesterday’s post, I featured Dan Wieden who believes advertising is about creating provocative conversations. Well, sometimes advertising goes too far.


Art or rape? Many people were reminded of a rape scene. Billboards were pulled in Spain and Italy. And D&G discovered the fine line.


“Sixt accepts Drachma again!”, says this ad for a car rental company. Clearly, making light of the depression in Greece and it’s possible switch from Euro to Drachma.

A few laughed, the vast majority cut up their membership cards and some even threatened the CEO’s life. He had to apologize to the Greek public, promised never to muddle in politics and tame down future advertising.

Sometimes, timing is everything: This great commercial was created for the Trade Union of Craftsman in Germany. They imagine Berlin without the work of craftsmen: explosions, ruins, disoriented people.
The campaign was launched on the day of the Haiti earthquake, disrupting news coverage with these commercial images didn’t work well.


An advertisement placard of German companies Esso and Tchibo. The German coffee chain Tchibo, promoting its coffee varieties, stopped an ad campaign that featured the slogan “Jedem das seine.” (To each his own.)



Because the ancient, Roman slogan was co-opted by the Nazis for the use on the gate to the Buchenwald concentration camp.


Oh, and the evergreen.

445599bb189e54c71f605bd87d6f0f4b1cd6efcc_m I always loved markets. In the town I grew up, we had a farmers market from Tuesday to Sunday. Compared to supermarkets, every vegetable and fruit was fresher, bigger, better and there was virtually always something, some new thing you’d never seen before.

During the holidays, I spent 10 days in Morocco and I loved to explore to markets in the Medina. There’s something about a great market that gets me going. In a great market they know many of the things great clients and great agency people know. They know how to display products attractively, they know how to innovate in the marketplace, they know how to create effective and, most importantly, they know to engage with people. On top of that, they know how to make shopping fun, convenient and, yes, exciting. You get that feeling at the Medina in Marrakech, the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul or an Apple Store. Now think about the majority of e-commerce sites: antiseptic, efficient but not welcoming. Exactly the opposite of successful retailers.

How to hire in advertising Since I grew up, I loved to go to supermarket or store and walk around. I loved to take in the products, display and marketing. I get excited by that.

Next time you want to hire the next marketing/advertising superstar, take them to a store. If they don’t gush about the marketing tactics, don’t get lost in the selling of things, tell them ‘Thank You’ and goodbye. You need to find somebody who loves it.

Sometimes I see something so bad, I need to share it. Especially when a brand tries to be funny, self-deprecating and different – failing miserably. I can see the creative team during their brainstorm:

“The script is super duper.”

“Why not add some cup cakes? That always works.”

“Make them gluten-free. We can’t risk anything with the anti-gluten crowd.”


“How about the guy gets tackled by a security guard.”

“In a library. By a fat security guard. Now, that’s funny.”

“I met this girl last night. She wants to be an actress. She would be perfect.”

“We need a cat in a funny costume.”

“That’s why they call you Creative Director.”

As you would expect, they don’t allow comments for the original posting on YouTube and embedding is limited (that’s why I embedded the Russian translation).

Need to cringe more? Go to TheBrowserYouLovedToHate and experience the sadness of forced humor.

From what I hear, the new Internet Explorer is good. Reviews are good, people are raving about it.

It doesn’t matter.

People will forgive when you have one product iteration that is mediocre or even bad. People don’t forget when almost all of your previous iterations were terrible, filled with security flaws, slow and badly designed.

Amazing advertising might have helped to change our perception of IE incrementally. This terrible advertising just reminded us of how terrible the IE experience was and why we never want to go back again.


Watch this clip: The Kodak Carousel pitch by Don Draper. (Sorry, AMC doesn’t allow embedding.)

Pitch with emotion and passion

Sure, it’s fiction. Still, it’s amazing. He mixes his own experience with a fresh idea and delivers this new concept with raw emotion. The fearlessness of tapping into his own emotion and passion brings his audience to tears.

As I said, it’s fiction. But you can bring this concept to life whenever you present. Share a new idea. Add emotion to the mix and top it off with passion. See what happens.

Marketing doesn’t equal advertising

In reality, advertising is a small slice of what marketing is today. Any successful product or service is the result of smart marketing thinking first, followed by a great product/service that makes the marketing story come true and allows the advertising to tell a story. If the Kodak company hadn’t invented the Carousel, slide projector, Don Draper could never have developed the story. Good advertising can’t bail out bad marketing. Both need to be good to work well.

Sunshine from American Buffalo on Vimeo.

In honor of ‘Mad Men’ starting its 5th season, do yourself a favor and watch this endearing portrait of a modern day ‘Mad Man’. An American advertising producer in Shanghai tries to sell fast food to the Chinese.


I grew up in a small town in Germany. Everybody knew each other, everybody knew everyone’s business. Many people had dreams to leave that little box they called home. They dreamt of living in amazing places like New York or Acapulco. They wanted to experiment with different professions, life styles and learn by traveling the world. 99% of these dreamers were not good in executing any of these ideas. They were extremely good at bashing the ones that tried: “Why would he leave our town to study art? You can’t make money with that.” or “No wonder he ran out of money in San Francisco. What was he thinking?” When people that walked the walked returned, they were embraced with an implied “You learned your lesson: Stay home and stick to what you’re good at. Don’t bother trying again.”

The advertising industry is like a small town where 99% talk the talk and 1% walk the walk.

And the 99% talkers can’t wait to start bashing the 1% walkers when they fail. The last example is the #shamrocking meme by McDonald’s, that followed the #McDStories bashtag revolt. Before that, Honda paid bloggers to write positively about the Honda Civic. the “Homeless Spots” by BBH, J-Lo’s Fiat campaign, etc.

I’m not defending the specifics of these campaigns. What I’m defending is that the client and their agencies tried. They came up with ideas, they executed them and we were waiting behind the bushes to bash them.

Attend any media/advertising conferences and you’ll be inundated by talks about innovation, fast failures and quick innovation. While talk is cheap, it gets cheaper in the hallways while the advertising community bashes any campaign/initiative that didn’t turn out to be the next Old Spice or Apple’s ‘1984’ commercial.

Every time people create something, they stick their head out. They risk something. Sometimes they succeed, sometimes they fail. Bringing out the big hammer to put them back in line doesn’t help anyone. It just ensures that less people and brands will take risks.

“The essential part of creativity is not being afraid to fail.” – Edwin H. Land

Have we created an environment where people are afraid to even try?