Public Opinion of Toyota’s Quality Plummets in New Survey.

Posted by truecreek on March 24, 2010 under More Dam News, Research | Be the First to Comment

There are times when no amount of advertising and marketing can pull you up from the floor.  The issues facing Toyota right now are monumental in their entirety and really do have the potential to damage the brand beyond recognition.   We’re talking years here, I believe.

USA Today:  Yet another survey points to bad news for Toyota:  A pollster says findings show Toyota has crushed its quality reputation.

In two short years, Americans having a positive perception of Toyota’s commitment to building quality cars has plummeted to 21.8% from over 80%, according to the findings of the latest survey by Britt Beemer at the

Only 31.8% of Americans believe Toyota can rebuild its quality image, the verdict is still out about their ability to recover. Some 22.1% are undecided whether they can rebuild the quality image and 18% don’t think Toyota will be able to do it.

“While their reputation is on the line, Toyota’s problems don’t stop there because buyers are now wary of the Toyota brand,” says Beemer.  “Toyota has some real selling to do just to convince current Toyota car owners to buy another one.”

But will current Toyota owners save the day?

Maybe, the survey finds. The survey revealed that consumers who have purchased Toyotas in the past are evenly divided about whether they will buy another one in the future or not. Of these potential buyers, 52.6% will no longer consider buying a Toyota car in the future.

American car manufacturers may ultimately be the benefactors of Toyota’s quality issues, according to Beemer.  Due to Toyota’s quality issues, 69.1% of car buyers are more likely to purchase an American made automobile.  That number is up from 38% two years ago.

The survey comes from 1,000 telephone interviews conducted Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, March 12, 13 and 14, 2010, at ARG headquarters in Charleston, SC.  The error factor is plus or minus 3.8%.

Newspaper Circulation Down 10.6 Percent. It’s Accelerating.

Posted by truecreek on October 26, 2009 under More Dam News | Be the First to Comment


The decline in U.S. newspaper circulation is accelerating as the industry continues to struggle with reader defections to the Internet and tumbling ad revenue.

New figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations show that average daily circulation dropped 10.6 percent in the April-September period from the same six-month span in 2008.

That’s greater than the 7.1 percent decline in the October-March period.

Sunday circulation fell 7.5 percent.

As expected, The Wall Street Journal has surpassed USA Today as the top-selling newspaper in the United States.

Newspaper sales have been declining since the early 1990s, but the drop has accelerated in recent years. Circulation revenue has largely held up, though, because of price increases.

The Very Happy Client-Agency Relationship.

Posted by truecreek on August 28, 2009 under Opinions. Everyone has them. | Be the First to Comment

Great article from Milan Martin.  He speaks of the truth.  If cultures don’t mesh well, it’s going to be a challenging creative business relationship. Been there and done that.

By Milan Martin

For the past several months, we’ve been in the throes of a pitch. A big pitch. We really wanted to work with this client, so we threw ourselves into it. Multiple creative teams across several offices, customer focus groups, brand videos — the whole nine yards.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned about pitching over the years it’s that you absolutely have to show your true colors. With this pitch, we went to great lengths to give these prospective clients a taste of what life would really be like for them if they chose us.

Client-Agency Relationship

When they visited our agency, did we take them to Chez Francois for lunch? No. We had Shake Shack brought in. Double cheeseburgers, black-and-white shakes and fries. On paper plates. Because that’s us. We’re burger-eating, jeans-wearing, show-you-an-idea-even-if-it’s-not-completely-baked-yet kind of people. And that doesn’t work for everyone.

Misrepresenting your agency culture or your personality in a pitch would be like convincing a beautiful girl to marry you based on your common love for Michael Bolton. You may have won her hand, but you’ve got a lifetime of Michael Bolton ahead of you. And if you weren’t a Michael Bolton fan to begin with, the thrill of “victory” will soon fade with each rendition of “When a Man Loves a Woman.”

On the same token, we asked as much from them. How do you see agencies in the context of your marketing organization? What would your current agency say about you? Talk to us about how you like to work. SHOW us a day in the life!

So throughout the pitch process, we made several visits to this prospect’s corporate headquarters. It was a nice building in a corporate park in suburban New Jersey. At first glance, nothing out of the ordinary. But each time we drove into the parking lot we noticed something strange: large groups of people in business suits walking in gang-style through the parking lot, some engaged in gregarious conversation with each other, some more stoically focused on some unknown mission.

We never really said anything to each other about it, but each of us, we later found out, was trying to imagine where these people were walking to. To us city folk, we can’t imagine not having at least two Starbucks within a half-block walk, so maybe these poor suburbanites were walking to the closest Starbucks, three miles down the road. Or were they on a “Blues Brothers”-style mission from God?

The big pitch day came and went. Two questions rested heavy on our minds. Did we do everything we could to win? And where the hell were all those people in the parking lot going?

Well, we won the business, and in our first, much more casual, immersion meeting with these great, shiny, new clients, they opened the floor to us for questions. At this point, one of our account guys raised his hand with a furrowed brow. “Here we go,” I’m anticipating, “a smart question, maybe about the detail behind their segmentation or their CRM program.”

“So, uh, yeah. Where are all the people in the parking lot walking to?”

Keep in mind, the contract’s not even signed at this point, so for a brief moment in time I was a little worried our first question of this newly christened relationship wasn’t more … strategic.

“Where do you think they’re going?” the head client responded with a grin.

(“Don’t say mission from God. … Don’t say mission from God.”)

After a minute or two of us awkwardly trying to guess, they finally revealed that it was simply a part of their corporate culture. They drive to and from work, have desk jobs and work long hours — this just gets their heart rates up for a few minutes a day.

Logical enough.

As luck would have it, just then our new clients realized that this was their team’s scheduled “walk” time. “You want to see our culture, do you?” the head client offered. So off we went. Walking. Around the parking lot. In 91-degree heat.

And you know what? It was an amazing way to get to know each other, cut through the formality established by the oak in the conference room and have a “date” out of school. One last chance — for both parties — to “speak now or forever hold their peace” (or at least for the length of the contact).

Fortunately, we don’t mind getting a little sweaty. But if we were the type of people that were worried about staining our Louis Vuitton shirts or scuffing our Prada shoes (we’re more Gap kind of people), we wouldn’t exactly fit within their culture.

They invited us into their culture. And we fit into theirs the way they fit into ours (they’re big fans of Shake Shack).

Since then, each time we’ve visited, there’s been time allotted on the agenda for a “walk around the parking lot.”

And so far, it’s a very happy client-agency relationship.

Now, you’ll no doubt ask: “If you had won the business and in that pre-contract meeting found out that you had nothing in common and didn’t really like each other, would your agency have walked away from the deal?”

Maybe, maybe not. I guess it would depend on the severity of the culture riff. But what I will say is that if you’re looking to establish deep, long-standing relationships with your clients, sharing your culture, honestly and openly, in the courting process is critical.

Otherwise, you may be in for a whole lot of Michael Bolton. And nobody wants that.

Out of Bounds.

Posted by truecreek on July 20, 2009 under Opinions. Everyone has them. | Be the First to Comment

Seth tells it like it is.

By Seth Godin.

Sometimes people push back on posts of mine they don’t like by telling me I’m out of bounds. Somehow, they say, I’ve crossed the boundary of what I’m allowed to write about. They are angry that I’m now writing about something outside my defined area.

I’m usually taken aback by this, because I didn’t realize I’d actually agreed to any boundaries.

dont do it!Brands run into this all the time. Consumers give them boundaries. Nike isn’t allowed to make a computer, for example (unless they partner with Apple). It turns out, though, that marketers decide to believe in these boundaries a lot more than consumers do.

A beautifully made product or service (one that we agree with) gets a lot of slack, regardless of its source. Virgin is a great example of this. Branson can market cola and airplanes with the same brand, largely because we like what he makes. In Korea, there are a few massive brands that are ‘allowed’ to market anything they like, from dishwashers to cars. Google is allowed to market the very cool new Squares, of course.

The real problem is that when marketers believe they are going out of bounds, the work they do tends to be lousy. Starbucks attempt at chocolate, for example, wasn’t as good at being chocolate as their coffee is at being coffee.I think that’s because the marketers at Starbucks feel they have permission to care about coffee, but chocolate is merely an extension, an additional profit center, not a passion.

I’m not arguing for carte blanche craziness with your brand. American Express can do travelers checks and credit cards and could have done PayPal… but no, they probably shouldn’t launch a line of whiskey any time soon. I am, however, arguing that once you have permission to talk to someone, finding new products or services for them is a smart way to grow.

MTV Nets Touts Shorter Web Video Ads.

Posted by truecreek on July 16, 2009 under More Dam News, Research | Be the First to Comment

By Mike Shields

MTV Networks believes it has found a better answer for short form online video advertising than the much-derided 30-second pre-roll: a very short video spot (five seconds long) accompanied by a corresponding, though slightly-delayed display ad.

The company on Wednesday (July 15) announced the results of an elaborate study on online video advertising called Project Inform—one that sought to find a better ad standard for the burgeoning medium which combined brand effectiveness with user-tolerance. The extensive project, conceived as far back as early 2008, was conducted in partnership with with the researcher InsightExpress and employed the services of the Web video technology firm Panache.

Starting with over 20 possibilities, by early 2009 year MTVN says it had boiled its list of potential video ad formats to three, including the classic pre-roll. The others included a unit called the Lower 1/3 Product Suite—which combines a five second pre-roll with a transparent flash ads that takes over a the bottom third of a users video screen only after ten seconds of content has streamed, and a newer unit dubbed The Sideloader Product Suite—which also utilizes a five-second spot and a delayed animated display ad appearing on the side of the video player.

Then, from January through April of this year MTVN began testing the three placements on its collection of sites, from to to, using 50 million streams worth of ad inventory for three different advertisers, including a studio, a packaged goods brand, and a grocery brand. The results indicated that while pre-rolls faired OK, the “Lower 1/3” scored best when it came to classic branding metrics like unaided awareness, aided awareness and purchase intent.

That approach was crucial, according to Nada Stirratt, MTV Networks’ executive vp of Digital Advertising—who told Mediaweek that Project Inform was specifically designed to study the power of brand advertising—and not direct response advertising—in Web video. Yet it also had to yield actionable data. “The premise was to find out what do you need to activate a consumer response to a marketer’s message,” she said.

And MTV deliberately zeroed in on short form video and casual games—content types that continue to explode in user popularity but have often fallen short when it comes to monetization. “Everybody talks about long form,” Stirratt said. “That was our bias – ‘how do we make these [shorter] experiences work for advertisers?’ The goal was to find the perfect balance between an ad unit that is effective in moving the needle and an ad unit that is likeable.”

Why do people like the “Lower 1/3” unit?  It’s hard to say definitively, but Stirratt’s theorized that it has something to do with the lag between the short five second pre-roll and the display unit, which comes 10-seconds later, when “you already have a favorable impression of a brand, and people are really engrossed in content. And they are still able to interact if they want.”

MTVN’s goal with Project Inform in some ways mirrors the research work being done by Publicis VivaKi and a host of prominent partners on The Pool —which is also aimed at establishing a better industry standard for Web video. But MTVN has declined to participate in The Pool, instead pushing forward in search of its own answer, one that Stirratt believes is desperately needed.

“Obviously we need agencies and clients on board [creating original online video ads],” she said. “The win for the industry is when people start creating things for this medium instead of for other media.”

Buying a Schedule on TV is Cheaper Than You Think.

Posted by truecreek on under More Dam News | Be the First to Comment

Retro TV CommercialIt was just a matter of time.  Back in the day, a rep could easily count on three or four local auto dealers to make his/her budget.  No more.  The media gravy train at the local auto dealer has stopped. Now the real cold calling begins.

Bloomberg:   U.S. TV broadcasters, struggling to replace a 20 percent drop in automotive advertising revenue, are turning to pawn shops, plastic surgeons and other nontraditional sources to fill airtime.

Local station owners like Nexstar Broadcasting Group Inc. and Gray Television Inc., whose revenue dropped after bankrupt General Motors Corp. and local dealers slashed marketing, are selling mortgage brokers and even landscapers on the notion that TV is affordable.

Across the U.S., the price of an average 30-second local TV commercial tumbled as much as 20 percent last year from 2007, according to the Television Bureau of Advertising, a New York- based trade organization. Auto ad revenue at local stations, down a fifth in 2008 from the year before, plunged another 52 percent in the first quarter, the TV Bureau said.

“A lot of local retailers, like the portrait shop or the pet store, haven’t advertised on TV before because they think they can’t afford it,” said Robert Prather, president of Atlanta-based Gray. “We’re out just beating bushes that we should have been doing a long time ago.”

A half-hour of prime-time TV typically contains 22 minutes of programming and eight minutes of ads, two of which are for local commercials, according to the Television Bureau. Rates depend on how many viewers are watching.

The price of an average 30-second ad placed on a local TV station last year ranged from $6.66 per 1,000 viewer homes in the early morning to $27.29 in prime time, according to the TV Bureau. Prime hours, when stations usually have their largest audience, are generally 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. In 2007, the same rates were $8.09 and $34.12, the bureau said.

“One of the pitches made by stations is that it’s cheaper than you think, particularly if you were looking at prices from a year ago,” Gary Belis, a spokesman for the New York-based TV Bureau, said in an interview.

Nexstar, which said auto ad sales dropped about 40 percent in the March quarter, has sold airtime to pawn shops and mortgage businesses in the Northeast and to ranches in the West, Chief Executive Officer Perry Sook said in an interview.

“The greatest opportunity in all of our markets is local businesses not currently doing business with our TV stations,” said Sook, whose Irving, Texas-based company operates or provides services to 63 stations in markets including Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Jacksonville, Florida.

Nexstar’s new-to-TV advertisers include Snare & Associates Mortgage Services LLC in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh.

“I started a new business and needed to get my face out there,” Chief Executive Officer Anthony Snare said in an interview. “It worked.”

Snare said he bought packages of 30-second spots from Nexstar at $1,000 to $4,000 a month.

Gray, whose 36 stations in markets including Madison, Wisconsin, and Augusta, Georgia, received 19 percent of ad revenue from automakers and dealers last year, is now booking ads from landscapers and plastic surgeons for the first time, said Prather. He declined to predict how much Gray would make this year from first-time TV advertisers.

The new ad sources aren’t likely to entirely replace the decline in auto revenue, analysts and TV executives said.

“The big issue is that it takes 10 or 12 small ones to make up for some of the big car dealers we’ve had in the past,” Prather said.

Increasing Marketing and Advertising Spend is a Good Thing. Trust Us.

Posted by truecreek on May 6, 2009 under Opinions. Everyone has them. | Be the First to Comment

Time and time again, we’ve heard the  story:  Increase your marketing and advertising spend.  Now.  Not only to keep your brand top of mind but to assure that when everything settles down and we’re back in business, you will be too.  And in a big way.

Folks will remember you were there when the proverbial crap hit the fan.  That you were strong enough to keep the fires burning so that when the time comes for them to need your company, you will be there.  Better, stronger and leaner than ever.

Seize the opportunity now.  Start thinking positive about things and get back in the game.  Add weeks, don’t cut them.  Print the entire quantity, not just a segment.  Use better paper.  Shoot in HD.  Raise those production standards.  Buy more media.  Shoot, how about running some great print ads?  The newspaper community needs your business.

Better yet.  Hire a great Northern Virginia Ad Agency by the name of True Creek and we’ll help your company put it together.

picture1A few months ago, Mike Matson wrote and article that merits another post.

MarketSense study during the 1989-91 recession demonstrated that brands such as Jif Peanut Butter and Kraft Salad Dressing increased their advertising and experienced sales growth of 57% to 70%. During this same period, most of the beer industry made cuts to their ad budgets, but Coors Light and Bud Light increased their budgets and saw sales jump 15% to 16%. Among fast food companies, Pizza Hut sales rose 61% and Taco Bell’s 40% due to strong advertising support, reducing McDonald’s sales by as much as 28%.

MarketSense concluded the study by reporting. “The best strategy for coping with a recession is balanced exploitation of ad spending for long-term consumer motivation, plus promotion for short term sales boosts.”

Strategies to help your business thrive in this economy.

• Don’t cut your ad budget, increase it. Let your competition cut their budgets. When you increase your spending, you increase your share of voice. If your competitors cut back, your message grows even stronger.

• Have a strategic marketing plan that is well thought out, so you don’t waste money advertising the wrong message in the wrong place to the wrong audience.

• Keep your loyal customers by keeping in touch with them and letting them know what you have to offer.

• Maintain your brand awareness. Advertising works cumulatively so you have to remind people frequently about your brand or they’ll forget you.

• Achieve greater media efficiency by taking advantage of more negotiable rates and special promotions.

• Don’t degrade your advertising by trying to save a few dollars on creative or production costs. Your customers will notice and will perceive lower quality not just in your advertising, but in your products and services.

This is one time to stress quality—and value. “All great enterprises move forward in a recession, and the weaklings move backward. The dumbbells cut back on advertising. The smart people don’t.” -Ed McCabe, founding partner of Scali, McCabe, Stoves advertising agency, a legendary Madison Avenue agency of years past.

Whether or Which.

Posted by truecreek on May 4, 2009 under More Dam News | Be the First to Comment

By Seth Godin.

Most marketers are busy trying to persuade people to buy their product. Confusion sets in, though, when you compare a pitch designed to get someone to buy any product in the category (you need an mp3 player because you can listen to music) vs. buying your product instead of the competition (ours is cheaper and bigger and better).

Are you trying to make the market bigger, or just grow your share?

Retro TV CommercialWhen competing against a market dominator, your marketing generates more bang for the buck when you try to steal people who have already been persuaded to enter the category by the other guy.

This is the Newton running shoe story. Nike sells fitness, running, camaraderie, effort, glory. Newton sells “buy us instead of Nike.”

It doesn’t pay for an insurgent energy drink to sell “thirst” because much of that marketing will just get people to go buy the brands they’ve always bought. The opportunity instead is to provide leverage at the last possible moment in the buying cycle.

Getting new people to enter your market is hugely expensive. There’s no way I can persuade a non-book buyer to start buying books–I don’t have enough time or enough money.

This thinking rarely grows the market, though, so it falls on the market leader to figure out how to market well enough to get people into the category itself. The critical issue is to decide which one you’re doing. Are you working on whether or not someone should buy, or on which one they should buy once they realize a need? Do your employees have the same answer?

From the Archives. Spec That Never Saw the Light of Day.

Posted by truecreek on April 27, 2009 under The Work | Be the First to Comment


How to Get the Most Out of Social Networks and Not Annoy Users.

Posted by truecreek on under Opinions. Everyone has them. | Be the First to Comment

By Emma Hall

Welcome to social-media message overload.

The constant barrage of invites to sign up for this group or download that app are starting to wear on social-network users, presenting big challenges for the brands and marketers who are looking to use these sites to aggregate fans and cultivate relationships with customers.

Nearly a third of social networkers say they are fed up with the constant requests to join groups and try new applications, according to research by the Internet Advertising Bureau in the U.K. That means marketers will need to work harder and keep innovating if they want to harness the consumer power of social networks and persuade people to join their sponsored sites or pages.

istock_000001281196smallWhen asked “What do you dislike about social networks?” by far the highest response, at 31%, was that there are too many invites to install applications, followed by 16% who said “when advertising isn’t relevant to me.” Slightly more than 5% complained about messages from brands and another 5% actually lamented the addictiveness of social networks. About 12% said they had no complaints. The research showed that 7% of respondents sign up to find out about brands.

“From a marketer’s perspective, social networks look brilliant on paper,” said Alistair Beattie, head of strategic planning at AKQA, London. “It’s a switched-on crowd with a huge amount of time who hold brands close to them. The difficulty is that they regard this as their space. We have all become our own source of entertainment. But there is a resistance to being advertised at in our own spaces.”

Amy Kean, IAB senior marketing manager, said, “Despite [social networking’s] popularity, this study shows that respect for the user is just as important in social media. Users will not respond to spam or irrelevant advertising.” And controlling those intrusions will have to become a higher priority for social networks, said Union Square Venture’s Fred Wilson at Ad Age’s recent digital conference.

“One of [social networks’] biggest costs is ‘environmental mediation,’ or keeping the bad people at bay,” Mr. Wilson said.

AKQA had success with a Marmite group on Facebook. The savory spread’s advertising message is “Love it or hate it,” so the group works well as a discussion topic for social networkers. Fans post recipes, discuss weird and wonderful ways to enjoy the sticky black spread, tell tales of conversion to the taste and share frustrations about not being able to purchase it outside the U.K.

Too often, Mr. Beattie said, advertising on social networks is “still a traditional interruptive approach where brands are piggybacking on content that people value.”

The IAB research found that exclusive content, which appeals to 28% of social networkers, and a genuine interest in the message, which attracts 37%, are the keys to a positive response from consumers on social networks. And because only 5% say that they actively dislike messages from brands, there are big opportunities for marketers who can hit the right notes.

“To be popular, brands need to have a personality and be someone that people want to be friends with,” Mr. Beattie said. “The guiding principle is to offer things that are not available elsewhere, things that give social kudos or bragging rights. Brands are part of the fabric of people’s lives and ultimately most are happy to be identified as friends of a brand.”

The IAB study of nearly 2,000 internet users also showed that social networks are taking on extra relevance in the current economic climate. Forty-one percent of members say they now place even more value on ratings and reviews from family and friends on a social network. Mobile social-networking is also on the increase. Updating social-network sites via mobile handsets is increasing, with 25% of all respondents logging on to check or update their pages.

GM Plans A Major Summer Shutdown. Once Again, What About A Sale?

Posted by truecreek on April 23, 2009 under Opinions. Everyone has them. | 2 Comments to Read

General Motors — facing a deadline to restructure its beleaguered operations — will shut down 13 of its 20 North American plants for several weeks this summer to allow its dealers to sell down overstuffed inventories. The shutdowns will reduce GM’s planned North American output by 190,000 units.

As I said in my previous post on the topic, “If Retailers Can Do It, Why Not the Automakers?”, it’s time for a sale.

According to CNN,  GM has about 767,000 vehicles in U.S. dealer stock. While that’s 12% lower than the inventory last year, GM sales are about half what they were last year at this time.  So they have a lot of cars on the dock.  Even more on dealer lots and on the tarmac.  The need to get rid of all that excess inventory is now the rationale as to why they are shutting down 13 plants this summer.

To me, that inventory is an asset that can, and should, be sold.  At a price that will MOVE THE MARKET. The company should be doing everything in its power from a pricing standpoint to move those vehicles to add cash to their bottom line. Instead, we get ‘value add’ satellite radio for a year and an extended warranty.

Does anyone really believe that the margins for the automakers are so minute that they cannot develop an aggressive retail sales strategy based on percentage discounts?  We’re in the midst of a virtual depression in the auto industry, so it just seems to me that now is the time for GM to whip out the big guns.

This is a company that would rather put thousands of people out of work over the summer rather than offer up their product at a sales price.

Think about it.

Do Some Good: Create Newspaper Ads.

Posted by truecreek on March 26, 2009 under Opinions. Everyone has them. | Be the First to Comment

newspaperI love newspaper.  Always have.  It’s just a wonderful creative medium that allows clients to not only project their brand image in a tasteful manner, but it allows for the communication of additional points of importance without destroying the creative at hand.  It’s artwork.  And it can really work for the client.  Martin’s Mike Hughes thinks the same.

By Mike Hughes

It’s time the advertising industry did something important.

For our own self-interest — and for the common good — we need to start paying attention to newspapers again.

To begin with, it would be good for our business. For our own selfish reasons, we need a medium that targets the well-informed. We need a medium that lets us tell our whole story — and not just the 30-second version. With each passing month, we need more media that target people where they live. We need more media that let marketers build a brand and ask for the business. We need more media that let writers, art directors, photographers and illustrators practice their crafts.

We need a medium with the immediacy and importance of newspapers. Lee Clow says, “Newspaper is a special medium. It’s urgent, not yesterday or tomorrow but today. Sitting with a newspaper and a cup of coffee in the morning will always be one of the most intimate media experiences there is.”

Online or in print, we need newspapers. There are no substitutes. Magazines, TV channels and websites don’t do the same things. Not even close.

Our industry needs newspapers — but just as important, so does humankind. The world needs the kind of journalism practiced by newspapers when they’re at their best. The local investigative pieces. The foreign correspondence. The war reporting. Without them, news goes unreported. Viewpoints are narrowed. Governments can run amok.

That kind of reporting is expensive, and right now no one knows how it will get paid for in the coming years. With newspapers cutting costs every day, who will pay to man a substantial bureau in Baghdad? Who will spend the money to report the atrocities in Africa? Who will find the resources to blow the whistle on the next Watergate?

Even at their best, magazines, TV channels and websites don’t come close to giving us that kind of reporting.

Of course, humankind’s problem isn’t necessarily the advertising industry’s problem. If online and print newspapers weren’t proven effective, no one would say our industry needs to address this important problem.

But decades worth of evidence — including evidence gathered in 2009 — points to the uncommon efficacy of newspaper advertising. You know how excited our industry gets about the Super Bowl? Well, every single day of the year, more American adults read a printed newspaper than watch the big game once a year. And in 22 of the top 25 markets, the local-newspaper site is the No. 1 local site in town. And the newspaper-website audience has grown 80% in the past five years.

So why aren’t we creating more newspaper advertising? Part of the answer is undoubtedly fashion. Twenty-five years ago, an advertising campaign usually meant “TV and some print. Maybe radio.” That was the fashion then. Say “campaign” to ad people today, and their minds leap to “TV and digital.” We say we’re media-agnostic, but our behavior often says something else entirely. How many agencies aren’t selling newspaper advertising to their clients as hard as they should? How many advertisers are overlooking the medium that still has unsurpassed credibility with its audience? It’s time for a wake-up call.

No less an authority than Jeff Goodby reminds us that far from being out-of-fashion, a good newspaper ad is actual art. “The art is the part that gets people to look. Show outrageous things that don’t belong there. Shock people with a new logic,” he says. “If we all do this, it will become very difficult to find which newspaper page we want to wrap the fish in.

“I will like that day.”

Let me be clear here. I don’t think the newspaper industry is going to die anytime soon. With some well-publicized exceptions, most papers are surviving the economy’s near collapse. They might be holding on by their fingernails, but at least they’re holding on.

But if the newspaper business is going to give us the content our industry feeds on — and if it’s going to give us the journalism the world needs — newspapers need to be robust.

If we don’t give them a fair shot at our budgets, they might never be healthy enough to do the job we want them to do.

And we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves.

Ad Recession Brings on the Belly Fat.

Posted by truecreek on March 10, 2009 under More Dam News | Read the First Comment


Sites Stop Fighting Those Ubiquitous Direct-Response Ads as Publishers Reluctant to Forego Revenue

by Michael Learmonth

NEW YORK ( — The recession is having a slimming-down effect on media businesses, but it’s feeding the proliferation of pot bellies and muffin tops across the web.

The belly-fat ads may be unappealing and jarring on some of the higher-end sites that are running them, but they work, and can bring more revenue than a display ad sold on a cost-per-thousand-viewers basis.

The ubiquitous “belly fat” ads, placed by numerous direct-response marketers, including some of the web’s shadiest advertisers, are finding welcome homes across the web as publishers grow more reluctant to leave any available ad budgets on the table, even those attached to unappealing ads.

These ads, which typically link to sites with names such as Becky’s Weight Loss or Helen’s Weight Loss, often use the same exact creative — a before-and-after photo of a woman’s belly — and tout some secret to getting rid of a gut. Users, of course, have to click on the ad to find out more.

Online advertising start-up Rubicon Project estimates that different versions of the “belly fat” ads are now being served by half the ad networks in the U.S., sometimes accounting for as much as 30% of an ad network’s total revenue.

It’s all part of a larger shift toward direct-response advertising as brand dollars become harder to come by. The belly-fat ads may be unappealing and jarring on some of the higher-end sites that are running them, such as, but they work, and can bring more revenue than a display ad sold on a cost-per-thousand-viewers basis.

“Ultimately, the economy is what it is, and ad networks are finding that it is easier for them to get direct-response ads right now than it is to get brand dollars,” said Rubicon VP J.T. Batson.

But here’s the bigger problem: The process of blocking belly-fat ads for publishers that don’t want them is proving particularly difficult for ad networks. The creative gets placed by numerous corporations using different tags, URLs and toll-free numbers, making them hard to track and stop automatically.

And when ad networks have unsold inventory, they’ll often tap another ad network to fill it, giving belly-fat ads another side door onto websites that might not want them.

New Jersey-based ad network AdBlade is placing some belly-fat ads, including smaller placements on MSNBC, but CEO Ash Nashed said he turns away about 60% of the belly-fat ads out there, including those with forced upsells in the fine print and those where a person doesn’t answer the toll-free number. “They do perform well; a lot of people click on those ads, quite frankly,” he said.

And it’s not just belly fat. Direct-response ads of all kinds, such as those for lowering bills, avoiding computer viruses and checking credit scores, are flooding into unsold ad inventory. Windows that open underneath a page — the so-called pop-unders of the late ’90s — are making a comeback, and ad execs say they’re seeing more in-text ads from the likes of Vibrant Media and Kontera as publishers attempt to squeeze incremental dollars from each page.

“It signifies a shortage of alternatives and a hunger for revenue,” said Andy Atherton, chief operating officer of “This isn’t a new issue, but in this climate it’s harder to say no to any ad if there is money attached to it.”

In their quest for hard-to-find ad dollars, publishers are paying more attention to their international traffic, which many used to ignore. A typical U.S. web property gets 30% of its traffic from overseas, but it’s difficult to sell ads against those visitors without doing a deal with an ad network based in, say, Germany, to sell to a much smaller German audience, or working with companies such as Adconion or AdGent 007, which can serve international ads to those visitors.

General Mills Thrives on Increased Marketing Spending

Posted by truecreek on February 18, 2009 under More Dam News | Be the First to Comment

By Emily Bryson York

BOCA RATON, Fla. ( — General Mills, one of the package-food industry’s top performers, laid out a number of recent marketing successes at the Consumer Analysts Group of New York conference this morning, and offered a preview of the rest of its fiscal year.

The company has staunchly supported consumer-marketing spending increases — 19% in the first half of fiscal 2009, which began in June — while competitors, including Kellogg and Kraft, have begun to scale back on the heady marketing outlays of 2008, instead preaching bundling and greater return on investment. General Mills estimates that its consumer-marketing spending will be up by “double digits” for the full fiscal year.

CEO Ken Powell has repeatedly said that it’s particularly important to support well-known brands during the current economy.

“We’re meeting here in Florida at a time of great economic uncertainty around the world,” Mr. Powell said. “General Mills has weathered the storm due in large part to the strength of our product categories and the strength of our brands.” He underscored that the company has a number of well-known 50-year-old brands, such as Cheerios and Pillsbury, as well as 30-year-old brands such as Yoplait and Nature Valley, that consumers trust.

Positive response
General Mills’ sales have responded well to increased marketing support as consumers are eating more at home. Sales grew 11% in the first half of fiscal 2009, to $7.5 billion. The company has raised guidance with each of the first two quarters. General Mills is doing so well that analysts had been expecting the company to raise its earnings guidance again this morning.

For the balance of 2009, the company said it is planning a broadcast blitz for its cereal brands. Ian Friendly, chief operating officer of U.S. retail operations, said he expects the ad program to generate the biggest bump in sales. The company’s Cheerios, Honey Nut Cheerios, Multigrain Cheerios and Lucky Charms have been faring particularly well. General Mills is launching Banana Nut Cheerios, Cinnamon Chex, and Fiber One Frosted Shredded Wheat cereals in the coming months.

Some of these products are likely to be advertised to baby boomers, who Mr. Friendly noted will make up about half of the U.S. population by 2010. “When I started here in 1983, we didn’t do much advertising to baby boomers,” he said, adding that boomers are eating more cereal as they age. “We’re targeting them directly now.”

The company is also working harder to target Hispanics, with Progresso products such as Menudo being tested in Texas. Mr. Friendly said the company credits Hispanic-targeted advertising for Honey Nut Cheerios with a 35% increase in year-to-date sales with those consumers. Bromley Communications is General Mills’ Hispanic agency.

Online growth
But while the bulk of the company’s spend remains on TV, Mr. Friendly said in a conference with reporters that it has begun to see significantly higher return on digital investment. General Mills has been diverting funds online, driving traffic to recipe sites such as The company’s cooking sites had about 8 million visitors last month. General Mills also recently launched a free Betty Crocker iPhone application, which offers meal suggestions based on what’s in a consumer’s pantry.

“We are seeing very high returns from digital than broadcast,” Mr. Friendly said, declining to give the percentage of spending that’s moved online. “It’s not that our TV ads don’t work, but when you’re watching TV you’re doing it for a different reason. When you go to a website you have a very specific purpose.”

General Mills’ agencies include Saatchi & Saatchi and Cassanova.

Infomercials Find Their Way to Television’s Prime Time.

Posted by truecreek on February 16, 2009 under More Dam News | Be the First to Comment

By Stephanie Clifford
Published: January 26, 2009

THE last two Saturday nights, CBS’s prime-time lineup included “Game Show in My Head,” “48 Hours Mystery” — and lots of infomercials.

The two-minute commercials, for a DVD set of “The World at War” and a CD of relaxing classical music, both from Time Life, ran during almost every show on the network’s recent Saturday nights.

It is a sign of just how bad the advertising market is: infomercials are running during network prime time, filling slots that automobiles and banks once owned.

“The economy is the No. 1 focus for everyone, and it affects the advertisers and the rates,” said Pat Boos, the senior vice president for broadcast, acquisition and marketing at Direct Holdings Americas, which licenses the Time Life brand.

“When someone pulls off the air, like a pharmaceutical or medical company or a sports company, the networks sometimes find themselves with last-minute dead space,” she said. “We can come in and say, we’ve got a tape ready, we’ve got the product ready.”

Ms. Boos said that Time Life was running double the number of prime-time spots that it did a year ago. Networks try to avoid infomercial advertisers, because they pay “a fraction of what general advertising costs,” said Nancy Duitch, the chief executive of Vertical Branding, which runs infomercials for its products like the Steam Buddy and the Nicer Dicer. Although her rates vary, she said she often paid as little as 5 percent of what a general advertiser would.

A Very Brief Creative Brief.

Posted by truecreek on February 10, 2009 under Opinions. Everyone has them. | Be the First to Comment

Here’s a good start for your next creative brief.

Background/Overview:  Why are we advertising?

Target audience:  Who are we talking to?

Target audience:  What do they currently think?

What is the objective, the purpose of the ad?

What do we want to say?

What distinguishes us from the competition?

What are the supporting rational and emotional ‘reasons to believe?

What type of relationship do we have with our customers, stated in human terms?

What have we done in the past that has been the most productive?

What do we need and when do we need it?

Is the Ad Business Gonna Get Any Help?

Posted by truecreek on February 2, 2009 under Opinions. Everyone has them. | Be the First to Comment

Well, I guess the question had to be asked these days. With all of the dollars being smacked around in D.C., what are your thoughts on how the stimulus package currently in front of Congress will (or will not) help the advertising and marketing industry?