Top Ad Campaigns of the 20th Century.

Posted by truecreek on September 13, 2011 under Opinions. Everyone has them. | Be the First to Comment

When you look at some of these, it’s just amazing to see the change in art direction over the years.  Back in the day, copy seemed to be what drove everything.  Then, as time went on, we started leading with visuals and copy was sent to the background.

I have always felt that copy needs to lead the way, with the headline enticing the reader to want more. Most of these campaigns relied on a spectacular headline. 

That being said, the Absolut campaign has just been incredible, with some of the most compelling and imaginative imagery ever used in the business.

Another wonderful slideshow, from Ad Age and CNBC.



Now This is a Real Eye Opener. Men Control the Shopping Cart?

Posted by truecreek on January 17, 2011 under Opinions. Everyone has them., Research | Be the First to Comment

For years, it’s been a given that women were primary decision-makers in most households, especially in the grocery store. They were always the keeper of the checkbook.  But tough times can often change things and this recession has been no different.  We’re spending less and watching our dollars more closely than ever before.  But there is something more to the story.

I would never have thought that more than half of the Men surveyed now think they control the grocery cart.  That is a HUGE shift from most current perceptions and might just mean a sea change in the way grocery stores market.  A new survey from Yahoo is striking in it’s results.

BATAVIA, Ohio ( — Mom is losing ground to Dad in the grocery aisle, with more than half of men now supposedly believing they control the shopping cart. The implications for many marketers may be as disruptive as many of the changes they’re facing in media.

Through decades of media fragmentation, marketers of packaged goods and many other brands could take solace in one thing — at least they could count on their core consumers being moms and reach them through often narrowly targeted cable TV, print and digital media.

But a study by Yahoo based on interviews last year of 2,400 U.S. men ages 18 to 64 finds more than half now identify themselves as the primary grocery shoppers in their households. Dads in particular are taking up the shopping cart, with about six in 10 identifying themselves as their household’s decision maker on packaged goods, health, pet and clothing purchases. Not surprisingly, given that such ads long have been crafted for women, only 22% to 24% of men felt advertising in packaged goods, pet supplies or clothing speaks to them, according to the Yahoo survey.

The Great Recession has thrown millions of men in construction, manufacturing and other traditionally male occupations out of work and by extension into more domestic duties. At the same time, gender roles were already changing anyway, with Gen X and millennial men in particular more likely to take an active role in parenting and household duties.

More about the story here.

Movie Metrics: Cinema Ads Click With Viewers.

Posted by truecreek on April 14, 2010 under Opinions. Everyone has them., Research | Be the First to Comment

By Erik Sass

A new report from the Cinema Advertising Council and NewMediaMetrics details consumers’ emotional attachment to different media, as well as brands appearing in various media contexts. The findings suggest that cinema advertising can compete effectively with television for video advertising dollars.

Movies fared better than most other media in terms of emotional attachment, reflecting their immersive quality, and the fact that consumers will pay a fair amount for such an experience.  CAC found that 44.5% of consumers that buy health and beauty products reported emotional attachment to movies, versus 29.6% for magazines, 21.2% for radio and 20.6% for magazines.  Similarly, 43.9% of survey respondents who buy consumer packaged-goods and foods said they were emotionally attached to movies, compared to 28.9% for TV, 20.5% for magazines and 19.2% for magazines.

The data, summarized in CAC and NewMediaMetrics’ “360 Cross Platform Study,” were gathered in a survey of more than 3,000 people ages 13-54, categorized by the type of products they consume. It asked them to rate emotional attachment to media and brands in media on an 11-point scale, with 9-10 considered “emotionally attached.” The survey compared consumer ratings for TV, magazines, newspapers, Internet, cinema and a variety of other out-of-home channels.

Across all consumer categories, the overall attachment rating of 41.5% for movies ranked ahead of televised sports and major entertainment events, such as the Super Bowl (39.7%), Summer Olympics (26.3%), World Series (22.8%) and Oscars (16.1%).

Last year, the CAC released a study from Integrated Media Measurement showing that cinema advertising plus TV more than doubled consumer conversion rates when compared with TV alone.
The digital out-of-home industry in general has been working to bolster its measurement capabilities with new, more precise metrics in the hope of winning spending usually allocated to cable and broadcast.

A 12-Step Program for Marketing Failure.

Posted by truecreek on March 12, 2010 under Opinions. Everyone has them. | Be the First to Comment

Tongue-in-cheek, but valuable none the less.

By Steve Cuno

We rarely hear about the fourth law of thermodynamics. In brief, it states that whenever a server says, “Careful, this plate is extremely hot,” an invisible force compels the customer to touch the plate. The compulsion grows as the cube of the number of decibels with which the server pronounces the word extremely.

It seems that, given a choice between heeding a voice of experience and sabotaging ourselves, many people do not just opt for, but positively execute, a mad dash for the latter. This can be as true of marketers as it is of other human-like creatures. So, for those who prefer wasting time and money, I offer the following personally witnessed, surefire shortcuts to screwing up your marketing. (I should add that narrowing it down to 12 wasn’t easy.)

Sabotage Tip 1: Don’t set firm objectives. You’re much safer stating that your goal is to “get your name out there” or to advertise because the competition does. That way, even if sales tank, you can sit back and say, “I did my job.”

Sabotage Tip 2: Put the goal where the ball lands. With a little practice, anyone can learn to retrofit objectives to results. Soon after a VP of marketing proudly showed me a new sales video, it became apparent that the video appealed to employees, but offended customers. No problem. The VP promptly claimed that the video was never intended for sales, but for training. George Orwell would have been proud.

Sabotage Tip 3: Write and design for internal approval. Authorize as many people as possible to revise or, better yet, outright veto creative work. This will ensure that creative people avoid trying to connect with the market. Instead, they will focus on creating what is sure to fly internally.

Sabotage Tip 4: It’s all about what YOU want. A major coffeehouse chain lost customers for years by refusing to fill the demand for lattes made with nonfat milk. Why did they resist? Because the CEO liked coffee the way it was made in Italy, and Italian baristas don’t use nonfat milk. Darned customers. What makes them think they should have a say in what they want in their coffee?

Sabotage Tip 5: Misuse research. Herd a bunch of people into a focus group and ask them to evaluate your campaign. Treat their comments, especially the ones you like, as if they’re statistically valid. You can also phone 5,000 people and ask them what they do, don’t, would and wouldn’t buy, and why. Assume they know.

Sabotage Tip 6: Don’t listen to your salespeople. The only thing that salespeople do is interact face-to-face, every day, with real customers who use your products. What would they know about marketing?

Sabotage Tip 7: If it’s wild and creative, go with it. If you have a killer concept that’s destined to take top honors at the next awards show, it would be a sin not to back it with your budget. Who cares whether it’s effective? It deserves to be shared!

Sabotage Tip 8: Avoid valid evidence. Proper testing and analysis let you reliably predict a direct mail strategy’s outcome before risking big bucks. But if nature had intended for us to conduct valid, predictive tests, we wouldn’t have hips to shoot from. Showing the concept to coworkers, friends, family and people in a mall, though not predictive, is faster and easier. And, only in the short run, cheaper.

Sabotage Tip 9: Don’t trust your agency. Your agency may have experts on staff, but you can still hobble them by overruling their expertise with your intuition. You can also focus on minutiae. For instance, make the art director change a border on that mail piece from black to dark blue.

Sabotage Tip 10: Trust your agency. Not trusting experts is self-sabotage, but so is trusting non-experts. Many agencies, figuring they can affix stamps as well as anyone, list “direct response marketing” as a core capability. If you are firmly committed to failure, this is no time for due diligence. Just hand them the checkbook.

Sabotage Tip 11: Mistake a slogan for a brand. Imagine a person who is fast losing friends. This person might do well to take an honest look, figure out what alienates people and make changes. But substance is such a bother. Surely this person could more easily regain friends by learning to say something like, “Hi, I’m Alex—where coolness is Number One.”

Sabotage Tip 12: Disdain proven techniques. For nearly two centuries, direct response marketers have amassed information on what works in the marketplace. Moreover, experience shows that what worked yesterday works today. But learning all that stuff is tedious, and using it might hamper your creativity. Mustn’t let that happen.

There are many ways to sabotage marketing, but this should give you a good start. If you fail to implement these recommendations, don’t come whining to me if your marketing succeeds.

Customers Your Company Doesn’t Want.

Posted by truecreek on January 13, 2010 under More Dam News | Be the First to Comment

Aiming to please too many different types of customers can be a fatal flaw. Focus on your core audience and don’t waste money on the rest.

By Steve McKee

Do a quick exercise: Take a minute and jot down three types of customers your company doesn’t want. Oh, and this is important: You can’t choose people like shoplifters or “sale-hoppers”—the kind of customers that no business wants.

If you’re like most business leaders, identifying customers you don’t want isn’t easy, especially in times like these. But it can be helpful to consider which of your customers are least important, if for no other reason than to help you focus on the most important ones.

We’re all familiar with the old saying, “you can’t be all things to all people.” Yet in business, too often that’s what we end up trying to be. General Motors is a prime example (and look where it got them). There was a time when each GM nameplate was narrowly targeted toward a certain demographic, leaving other company brands to serve their own slice of customers. But over the past several decades, as each GM brand expanded its lineup to serve as many different customers as possible—sports cars for the sporty, minivans for young families, trucks for working people—they ended up stepping on each other’s toes.

Consider one of those famous brands now slated for the scrap heap: Pontiac. Back in the ’60s and ’70s, Pontiac was defined by drool-inducing muscle cars such as the GTO, Firebird, and TransAm. The Pontiac brand meant power, styling and cool. Its appeal wasn’t for everyone, but it was powerful for some. Since that time, however, Pontiac has introduced a host of new models like the Trans Sport (a minivan), Sunfire (a compact car), Aztek (an SUV crossover), and Vibe (a hatchback). It’s unclear who, exactly, Pontiac has not been trying to serve, which is another way of saying it’s been aiming to please too many masters. And soon Pontiac will be gone, as will several other once-proud brands in the GM stable.

It could be that Wal-Mart (WMT) will learn from the GM example. The company has been attracting a lot more upscale customers of late, for obvious reasons. In the first quarter of 2009, 17% of Wal-Mart’s retail visits were from new customers, and they spent 40% more in the store than the average shopper. Will the company accept their business? You bet—branding is about whose business you’ll seek, not whose you’ll take. But if Wal-Mart begins catering more to those customers’ needs at the expense of its core target of “people who live paycheck to paycheck,” it will be making a mistake.

More about Customers Your Company Doesn’t Want here.

The Rise of the Real Mom. An AA Whitepaper.

Posted by truecreek on December 7, 2009 under More Dam News | Be the First to Comment

Real moms still have unmet needs—as women and mothers. Boston Consulting Group estimates that women control $4.3 trillion of the $5.9 trillion in U.S. consumer spending, or 73% of household spending.

Mother with baby.

To reach this demographic, marketers need not just to communicate that the goods and services they offer are practical and convenient; they also need to make real moms feel confident and in charge.

Marketers should empower these female consumers to delegate to others (spouses, children,brands) so they can have more time to be who they want to be—at home, at work and on their own.

And marketers have to use new ways to reach a population that rarely has time to sit down to read or watch or enjoy something without simultaneously doing something else.

Read the entire report about marketing to moms here.

Great Work for Triscuit.

Posted by truecreek on August 17, 2009 under More Dam News | Be the First to Comment

Nice concept.  Excellent execution.

Triscut Great Photoshop

To Reach Boomers, Integrated Media Strategies Are Necessary.

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

We’ve posted about this before, but this strong article by Anne Mai Bertelsen really drives home the the point that it is short-sighted to shift too much of your ad budget to the web if you are looking to reach baby boomers.  They just have not adopted these mediums as quickly as younger audiences have.

By Anne Mai Bertelsen.

Earlier this year, Forrester Research released its five year advertising forecast which found that marketers were shifting substantial advertising dollars out of traditional media and into interactive channels such as mobile marketing, display ads, search, social media and email.

iStock_000008888770SmallYet, marketers who rely too heavily on interactive channels, at the expense of traditional channels, risk losing out on the lucrative Boomer segment that are avid multi-media consumers. In fact, unlike other age groups, Boomers consume a daily, balanced diet of media from multiple traditional and interactive sources with traditional media — television, radio, and newspapers — providing their daily “squares.”

While the media has been focused on reporting the demise of traditional media, Boomers have largely been ignoring their prognosticators and continue to use these mediums as their “go to” sources for entertainment, news and exposure to brands.

Consider these statistics:


* Boomers spend, on average, 9.5 hours a day on “screen” time activities — e.g., television, computer, mobile phones, video games — with the largest percentage of time spent on television.

* 77% of Boomer’s daily viewing occurs between 7:30 pm and 11 pm, when they are most likely to watch The Discovery Channel, A&E, the Food Network, ESPN and Fox News.


* 76% listen to the radio — more than any other demographic — with half listening during morning drive-time and their programming preferences vary from oldies to country to talk shows.


* Time spent on print (e.g., newspapers, magazines, books) is highest among Boomers, with younger Boomers (45-54) spending on average 30 minutes a day and older Boomers (55-65) spending up to 100 minutes a day.

* In addition to national papers, 57% read their local daily newspaper regularly and 68% read their weekly community paper.

These traditional sources provide the foundation of Boomers’ awareness and knowledge of brands. They augment their daily traditional media consumption with time online, spending on average two hours a day.

But unlike other age groups, Boomers — who according to The Pew Internet and American Life Project now account for 35% of all Americans online — use the Internet much more heavily to research and purchase products and connect with friends and family than their younger peers. Typically, traditional advertising triggered their online search.

And, Boomers are researching products and services online because their brand loyalty is up for grabs; they are not brand loyal. Refuting a popular marketing truism that older consumers become more brand loyal, a 2008 AARP/Focalyst study found that 61% of Boomers felt “it didn’t pay to be brand loyal.”

A more recent Nielsen analysis of brand spending corroborated that finding: in March 2009, Nielsen reported that only a fifth of Boomers were more brand loyal than their younger cohorts.

As those who target Boomers well know, this segment offers an incredibly wealthy opportunity for marketers:

* 78 million+ members

* Estimated $10 trillion in discretionary assets – transferred to them by their dying parents and grandparents

* $2.3 trillion annual average spend on consumer goods and services

But, only if marketers shift some of their advertising dollars back to traditional media, creating an integrated media plan, to engage Boomers.

What Will This Recession Teach Us?

Posted by truecreek on July 29, 2009 under Opinions. Everyone has them. | Be the First to Comment

The Great Depression, by far the biggest economic downturn of the 21st century, taught an entire generation of Americans a horrible, yet valuable lesson.  After Black Tuesday, when the stock market totally collapsed, life for many of these people would never be the same.

Jobs were gone overnight.  Banks failed. Entire industries were devastated.   Commodity prices plunged, taking with them so many family farms.  Tent cities sprung up all around our nation.   Life had never been harder.

As a nation, the shock to our collective system was so severe that our grandfathers and grandmothers became cynics. No one trusted the banking system.  People started hoarding cash, hiding it anywhere they could.  We became a nation of savers, simply because we didn’t want to expose our families to a repeat of the disaster.

And they never forgot.

The same shift in our financial psychology is happening again. After seeing their collective portfolios dive 40 to 50%, people are now on the sidelines, watching the market, willing to accept next to nothing in return simply because they are afraid to lose even more.

Savings rates have increased by ten fold, according to some statistics.  Six fold at the very least.   Consumer’s behavior has changed and in my opinion, for good.

My clients are seeing this firsthand.  We are too.  Financial conservation is back in vogue.  The average homeowner is doing everything they can to clean up their household balance sheets.  This popular frugality has permeated virtually all segments of our population, from the poor to the very wealthy.

And we are learning a lesson we will never forget.  Just like they did back in the 1930s.

For those who think that we will bounce right back to the ways we did things before this hard recession started, think again.  We are witnessing a sea change in the way the consumer deals with the economic realities at hand.

I find it very hard to believe that those lessons will be quickly forgotten.

‘Let Me Tell You a Story’

Posted by truecreek on July 1, 2009 under Opinions. Everyone has them. | Be the First to Comment

By Carmine Gallo

It’s the best way to grab potential customers’ attention and warm them to your pitch. Here are some tips:

During a business trip in Reno, Mario Moretti Polegato took a walk in the Nevada desert. His feet began to hurt in his rubber-soled shoes, so he took out a pocket knife and cut holes in the soles for ventilation. When he returned to his home in Italy, he manufactured a special insole that lets perspiration out without letting water in. Polegato is now the chairman of the Geox shoe company. Polegato recounted that story in a recent interview in The New York Times. The same story is told on the Geox Web site, along with a photo of Polegato and the shoes he cut holes in during that fateful walk.

Most business communication is dry, writes David Meerman Scott in his new book, World Wide Rave. “People love to share stories. When someone says: ‘Let me tell you a story…’ you’re interested, right? When someone says: ‘Let me tell you about my company’s product&’ is your reaction the same? It doesn’t sound like a way you want to spend your valuable time, does it? Stories are exciting.” Tell more stories to create excitement. Consider employing the following tips in your next business presentation:

iStock_000006643045SmallTell stories about yourself. Stories can be incorporated into almost any business communication—blogs, Web sites, and especially face-to-face presentations where you have the best opportunity to make a strong emotional connection with your audience. In September 2007, Brad Nierenberg, CEO of RedPeg Marketing in Alexandria, Va., pitched a project to Gaylord National, a massive new resort outside Washington, D.C. He, along with several other members of the team, competed for the account to publicize the hotel’s hiring event the following year.

Nierenberg told me the team members told stories about themselves in the first slides of the pitch, connecting those stories to the roles each would play on the account. For example, the account lead showed a photo of herself as a young cheerleader and discussed how her role is to lead with precision and to keep spirits high. Nierenberg brought a picture of himself as a 6-year old in a cowboy outfit. As the “sheriff” in town, he might not be on the account every day, but he would be available to make sure “all was right in the town of Gaylord.” Nierenberg knew the stories were making on impact on his audience from the smiles on their faces. “They couldn’t wait for the next story,” he said. The attendees even asked for copies of the photos to show the other decision makers. RedPeg won the account.

Tell someone else’s story. “In a mental world, it is ideas that shape behavior, and it is the transformational leader’s job to package the right kind of ideas into a story and to effectively communicate it to the organization,” according to Charles S. Jacobs in Management Rewired. Note that Jacobs doesn’t say that a leader’s job is to tell his story. Personal stories work best in some cases, but not all. Sometimes your clients’ stories are more relevant than your own. For example, Eastcastle Place is an independent living complex for seniors in Milwaukee, Wis. Chicago-based Celtic Marketing, Eastcastles’ advertising agency, decided to use storytelling in its 2008-09 marketing plan. According to Celtic President Marlene Byrne, research demonstrated that seniors were interested in independent living but feared making the move. They assumed the transition would be stressful financially and emotionally. “We felt the best way to show them that moving doesn’t have to be overwhelming was to share stories of Eastcastle residents who already made the move and were happy they did.” Stories of real residents (along with their photographs) appeared in direct mail and public advertising.

The purpose of the Eastcastle ads are not to make a sale over the phone but to inspire prospects to visit the community. More often than not, a story doesn’t make the sale. Stories open the door, making a prospect more receptive to the message. Although I’ve never owned a pair of Geox shoes, on my next visit to Nordstrom, I will probably look at a pair and think about the guy who poked holes in shoes in the Nevada desert.

If you want to connect with your audience, inspire them, and motivate them to action, start telling stories.

New Formats Give Online Video Ads Potential.

Posted by truecreek on June 29, 2009 under More Dam News | Be the First to Comment

By Michael Learmonth

For years, the promise of online video advertising has been just that — a promise. The reality has been a big disappointment: ads that look and feel like TV, and are repurposed from TV creative, only much more annoying.

The reason for this is twofold: advertisers and agencies were reticent to spend money on new creative for online video, and the video market itself was splintered, and lacked the kind of content advertisers were comfortable with.

But with the TV-upfront market frozen and advertisers looking for lower-cost means to reach consumers, a push is on to try formats that could finally realize some of the potential of online video with targeted ads that engage with real interactivity. “As prime-time audiences decrease, it makes sense to go where the audiences are going,” said Chris Allen, VP-video innovation at Starcom USA.

VivaKi, like Starcom a unit of Publicis, is running a yearlong test of different formats for both long- and short-form content known as “The Pool.” Earlier this year Reckitt-Benckiser, marketer of Clearasil and Lysol, primed the market with a $20 million budget shift to the web from TV for campaigns on ad networks like Yume, Brightroll and Nabbr.

Meanwhile, a flurry of innovation is taking place across the industry to move marketers away from static pre-rolls and impression-based pricing to different models that take advantage of the web.

“We’re in this funky transition period in the industry; the lion’s share of what advertisers are doing is repurposing TV creative for video, but some are dipping their toe into new creative and testing new formats,” said Hulu Senior VP Jean-Paul Colaco.

The goal here is to lure more dollars online and increase the size of what IPG unit Magna Global estimates will be a $700 million pie in 2009. Nearly 80% of the U.S. online audience watches video, according to ComScore, but the time spent is just 1% of TV viewing, which is a $70 billion market. So an argument could be made that online video is getting its share, but no one here is making that argument, are they?

Here’s sampling of some of the latest efforts to reinvent online video ads:

# CBS, through its unit, is experimenting with a system that would allow users to earn credits by watching ads. Earn enough credits and you can watch ad-free. It’s also experimenting with bigger ad loads. Typically a half-hour show online has two minutes of ads, compared with eight minutes on TV. CBS is pushing that up to five minutes with no measureable consumer blow-back.

# Tremor Media has rolled out a host of ad units called vChoice that bring interactivity into the player. Viewers can choose the ad they watch, dig deeper into related content, watch a product demo and play a game all without leaving the video experience. Some units allow advertisers to use their existing creative. Others “push the boundaries of what has been done by allowing new, nonlinear storytelling,” said Shane Steele, Tremor VP-marketing.

# Hulu pioneered the choose-your-own pre-roll “ad selector” unit, which allows users to choose an ad, including a long-form movie trailer in exchange for an ad-free episode. The site has also experimented with ad-free blocks where an advertiser such as McDonald’s buys up the ad inventory to make prime time ad-free. The Disney-News Corp.-NBCU joint venture has also tried live ads, like the faux “telethon” for Microsoft’s search engine, Bing.

# YouTube introduced its own variation on choose-your-own-ads just last week. Google’s video site is trying out a system where viewers can choose to watch a pre-roll ad or a “promoted video,” which itself is a media buy. Either way, the view helps YouTube fulfill guarantees made to advertisers.

# Then there are “engagement” pricing models where the advertiser pays for a specific action, rather than an impression. Video-ad network ScanScout, for example, serves rich overlays that allow users to hover over or click to watch an ad or movie trailer. The network did a deal with Universal Pictures for “Fast and the Furious 4,” where the studio paid for a number of completed views of the trailer rather than impressions.

What Are You Packing Into Your (Creative) Briefs? Your Creatives Want Clear, Tightly Written Objectives.

Posted by truecreek on May 19, 2009 under Opinions. Everyone has them. | Be the First to Comment

By Howard Margulies

You are an advertiser, an account director, brand planner or an ad agency executive. And you have come to the conclusion that something is fundamentally wrong with your creative brief.

Your suspicion is confirmed by that gnawing sensation you feel in your gut when evaluating the advertising created in service of the deficient brief. The work feels indistinct or generic, crammed with information, yet devoid of a differentiating message; its tonality is either too quiet or patently overbearing in its desperate need for attention.

Blame must be assigned: It’s got to be the brief.

Changing an organization’s creative brief can be a politically charged, time-consuming ordeal; but that aside, choosing a new form is a fairly simple task. Put the words “creative brief” into Google, and with a little digging, you will encounter 117,000 links, many pitching their own idealized construct. Some forms are verbose, others elegantly concise. Choose one that feels right and run with it. Related: My doctor once observed that if a wide range of products exist to treat a medical condition, one might assume that none of them work notably better than another. What’s true for poison ivy is true for the creative brief. They will all sort of work, more or less.

Here are some guidelines for experimenting with a new, improved creative brief:

* Think simple. The more sophisticated the brief, the simpler it should be. The more glissandi and grace notes the piece has, the harder it is to play.

* More spaces to fill present a greater opportunity for bad poetry. Avoid theoretical definitions; keep the language at the 8th-grade level.

* Write in clear, declarative sentences.

* Test out the chosen version with products or services you know well. If you can get all the key ideas in, you’re good to go.

* Every fact or observation you add to the brief must be useful and actionable. If not, leave it out.

* Does the final brief say what you want it to mean?

* Write a couple of bad ads directly from your brief. What would the headline say? What would be the key visual? Is that the beating heart of your story?

The humbling reality is, regardless of the pedigree of the agency championing a particular style of creative brief, in practice it will fail to result in great advertising if the guidance it provides is merely factual, or unclear and unfocused. The format of your chosen creative brief may well be the least of your problems.

PROBLEM No. 1: Filling out the brief.

The very notion of “filling out” a creative brief should fill you with dread. Because if simply filling it out is the goal of the individual(s) tasked with its completion, it will not end well.

Too often, the creative brief is joylessly “filled out” as if it were the worksheet to an IRS 1040 Schedule C. Values are plugged into fields. Facts substituted for insights. Data dumped in a hierarchical, unfiltered lump. Keep in mind that at the end of this process, no matter how flawed or absent the thinking, it will look exactly like a creative brief.

When you write a creative brief, you’re not filling out a form. You’re crafting the story of your product and its reason to exist and thrive in the world. This is the first, and arguably the most important creative act of the entire process. And yet it’s often approached with all the delight of passing a kidney stone.

Believe it or not, your creatives want the freedom of a tightly written brief. They’re looking to you for inspiration. Man up. Make them care.

Peter Comber, creative director at Italy’s DWA, wants “clear objectives, and clear targets.” “Sell more,” he insists, is not an objective any more than “everyone” is a target audience.

Dallas Baker, creative director of Freed Advertising, wants a brief “to connect [him] with the target on a level [he] wouldn’t otherwise understand … to be taken into a brand and … the challenge that lies ahead.”

It all comes down to this: Are you telling the right story to the right audience? The right story is not merely true, but motivating to any given audience. Often inarguable, self-evident truths are ladled into a creative brief under the guise of insight. This will not go unnoticed.

Your creative teams may dress like slackers, but they have been genetically bred to sniff out a con job. Oh, they may not immediately realize that your core leverageable insight is not really very insightful or leverageable. But know this: After they work with the brief for a while, they will arrive at that conclusion.

The creatives will scour the brief for a declarative message (anything!) delivered with clarity, something they can sink their teeth into. Finding none, in utter desperation, they will reach into their advertising bag of tricks and their instinctive knowledge of consumer motivators to create a marginally interesting way of stating the painfully obvious.

But ultimately, the smoke will clear and the creative work will not stand up to scrutiny. They will come to you for clarification, and you will be frustrated by their inability to crack the code. Be gentle with them.

It’s not the format of the brief, but the story it tells.

PROBLEM No. 2: How will you know when you have written a good brief?

Brevity goes a long way to winning over some of your creative comrades. Creative legend Jackie End’s litmus test for a good brief is “when you can read it without missing lunch and dinner.”

Steve Capp, chief creative officer of Unit 7, has observed that if your brief is too long, “someone didn’t spend enough time on it.”

Surely, when your creatives begin to nod, rather than nod off, you know you’re on the right track. But how do you know you have nailed it?

It’s been suggested that you’ll know you’re onto something big when you can pitch the story in under 30 seconds. Can you deliver an elevator speech for your product? Are you writing it to be read?

Dave Dresden, director of International Promotions at Warner Bros., suggests that “actually speaking the words out loud … lets one sense the potential for an ‘a-ha’ insight.” Distance yourself from the brief, if you can. If you were hearing the ideas for the first time, would you buy in?

In a privately published 1998 monograph, “What’s A Good Brief? The Leo Burnett Way,” a “good creative brief” was defined as “brief and single minded … logical and rooted in a compelling truth … [incorporating] a powerful human insight.” That opinion was echoed by several ad veterans I polled for this article.

Rich Solomon, creative director at C2Creative, senses that a brief is leading into fertile territory “when concepts start to come immediately after reading a single-minded benefit statement.”

DWA’s Comber thinks the clearest evidence of a solid brief is that when he’s “reading it the first time, he reaches for a pen and paper.”

Greg DiNoto, CEO of DiNoto Inc., knows when he’s in good hands “when a brief is dense, when it commits … and [he] can immediately and intuitively sense the truth in it.”

DiNoto has it exactly right. When writing a brief, you must fully commit to an idea:

* This is the time to fall on the sword. Commit!

* Refrain from peppering the brief with ideas; a little bit of this or that. Layering ideas in a painterly way is dishonest. Commit!

* Say one thing, and say it clearly.

* Don’t try to outshine the creatives, don’t let your cleverness show; keep the language simple and clear.

* Anything resembling a tagline should be deleted.

* Support, amplify, clarify, stay on message.

If you have doubts that you have chosen the right path, find another. The universe has an infinite supply of paths; choose one.

It is a faulty assumption to believe that a killer ad campaign was the product of an unusually imaginative creative brief. Quite the opposite is more likely to be true. It is also not inevitable that any given campaign would result from any given brief. This is a deterministic function of the zeitgeist, the talents and disposition of the creative teams, the openness and receptivity of the target audience, and the ability of an agency and client to celebrate the power of a great idea and run with it.

The Goodby, Silverstein & Partners award-winning “Got Milk?” campaign was based on a powerful, single-minded insight: People wait until they’re out of milk to realize that they need to buy more. The campaign’s scenarios were highly entertaining, but the core message was: “Milk enhances the enjoyment of many foods. Don’t wait until you’re out. Buy some today.” In Goodby’s hands, advertising history was made. At another shop, the spots might’ve sounded like infomercials for the ShamWow!

A truly motivating insight is a secret bit of knowledge that you have about your target audience that you can exploit to make them do your bidding. Don’t squander it.

Study the great advertising of the world. Dissect and reverse engineer it. But don’t fall into the trap of equating the creativity or memorability of a campaign with the writing style found in the brief that got them there.

* Keep your creative briefs free of clever turns of phrase, taglines, or ad-speak.

* Fill your brief with brilliant market analysis and motivational insights into your target audience.

* And most of all, write with clarity.

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?

This is NOT What I’m Talking About.

Posted by truecreek on May 1, 2009 under Opinions. Everyone has them. | Be the First to Comment

For those of you who are following the saga of sale or no sale for the automakers:  this is NOT what I was suggesting at all.  This kind of local stuff just gives me the heebie jeebies.

I just sense so much desperation in the art direction.  Agreed?


There’s a Lotta Love Coming From Comcast.

Posted by truecreek on April 28, 2009 under The Work | Read the First Comment

We’ve just completed a very smart campaign for Comcast.  A strong winback message, IMHO.  Honest.  Just the way it should be.  And you have to appreciate the humility of the subhead.  Here are two of four oversized postcards, which will be followed by a letterpak.



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.

At-Home Entertainment and Family Bonding Booms.

Posted by truecreek on March 21, 2009 under More Dam News | Be the First to Comment

(CNN) — When Christopher Moore isn’t jumping rope, shooting baskets or playing the board game Chutes and Ladders, the 8-year-old can often be found at home using his ninja fighting skills, protecting the world from would-be enemies.

“I’m trying to save the other people from being hurt,” he said of his Avatar video game adventures. “And I be beating him bad,” he added with a coy smile and a nod toward his 15-year-old brother.

The Moore household, in Birmingham, Alabama, enjoys a good blend of at-home entertainment, something the foursome is doing more and more during these precarious financial times, explains the boys’ mother, Lisa Moore.

They grill, play outdoors or whip out traditional games that may be decades old, and although she doesn’t plop down at the video console with them, the boys and her husband often duke it out virtually.

“They’re always in competition,” she said with a laugh. “It keeps them busy. It keeps them occupied.” Show us how you’re entertaining yourself on the cheap

Numbers show that at-home entertainment is doing better than ever, flying in the financial face of so many industries that are struggling in this recession.

Netflix, a DVD rental service, has had a record quarter and now boasts 10 million subscribers. With no late fees, a selection of 100,000 titles (outdoing typical video stores by about 97,000), free postage, nine price plans and now the ability to stream 12,000 movies, Netflix’s offerings are resonating loudly with concerned consumers, spokesman Steve Swasey says. VideoWatch Candy Crowley’s report on how lifestyles are changing »

“Netflix has always provided unprecedented convenience and value … [and] has been a growth company for the past 10 years,” Swasey explained. “There’s something for everybody. … Right now we think [the surge in success] is because the value argument is stronger. People aren’t buying DVDs, and they’re not going out as much.”

Bang for the buck and “affordable escapism” is what people want, agrees Scott Steinberg, publisher of That shows, too, in the gaming industry, which has become a $22 billion business, the Entertainment Software Association reported this year.

A movie, concert or sporting event gives several hours of entertainment. But a video game, even if it seems pricey at $60, can offer 40 hours of fun, Steinberg says, and can amount to a “much sounder investment.” And many games can be downloaded cheaply or for free online, from the comfort of one’s home.

“It’s all about instant gratification,” he said, adding that iTunes and streaming video services are two other examples of booming businesses. “You can sit there in your boxers with Cheetos on your chest and have a grand old time.”

The gaming experience, too, has changed with the years.

Five years ago, online gaming was considered a solitary activity, says David Williams, who heads up the Nickelodeon Kids and Family Games Group. And although games can still be played alone, the social component is burgeoning.

“Over a third of families will play games together online,” Williams said. They’re staying home more, and they’re “using games to connect with one another.”

Addicting Games, a Nickelodeon free online brand that caters to teens and tweens, counted 40 million visits from 11 million individuals last month alone, Williams says. Another Nickelodeon brand, Shockwave, has also grown. The free offerings have boomed, but hesaid the subscription business, too, has continued to grow “more than 20 percent year after year.”

When it comes to the games children and adolescents play, many parents such as Lisa Moore may choose to sit it out. But Christina Vercelletto, a senior editor at Parenting magazine, says that engaging in the games with them can do a family good.

“It can be an opportunity to bond with your kids,” she said. If parents express interest, kids “will probably be thrilled. And you’ll get a little window into what has them so excited.”

Plus, by playing the games, parents can determine how comfortable they are with what their kids are doing.

For those who want to get the opinions of others, she points out that the Entertainment Software Rating Board provides feedback and that parents are always learning from one another on, for instance, discussion boards.

Beyond traditional entertainment, people watching their wallets can watch out for themselves while staying home. Take, for instance, the practice of yoga.

Rodney Yee, a nationally recognized instructor, says video and DVD sales are up. Also thriving is the Gaiam Yoga Club, his and his wife’s first of its kind online 12-week yoga practice, which costs $5 a week.

“I really believe that this is an opportunity for all of us to re-evaluate the way we live in the world,” Yee said. “Even though they seem like hard times, they’re reflective times. We can look at our lives and question what we value by what we’re doing.”

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.

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.

Studies Have Proven: It Actually Pays to Advertise During a Recession.

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

A 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.