Random thoughts, dubious rants, curiosities and worthy citations on the media, politics, marketing, music, inanity, and animals, among other things. Words and pictures and stuff, mostly from south central Wisconsin USA
We had a saying at the ad agency I worked at when it came to crappy advertising: "Behind every bad ad campaign, there is a client who approved it."
Sure, it's a cop-out. Ad agencies, PR firms and marketing communication consultants go to great lengths to convince clients to approve campaigns the clients themselves might be a little nervous about. The agencies use arguments like "Edgy is good!" and "Don't worry that you don't like or get it. You're not in the target, so you're not supposed to." Of course, often the folks selling the campaign aren't "in the demo" either, but they claim to be able to think as if they are.
Such may well have been the case when Drake University partnered with Stamats, a firm that allegedly specializes in higher education marketing, to create their Drake Advantage campaign. You might be thinking, "Drake Advantage? That sounds like it is a good thing... a positive thing." Apparently, so did Drake and Stamats when they decided to go with a graphic to capture this concept of the Drake Advantage: D+
Wait, what? D+? No! Really? Are you f***ing kidding me?
There are probably some really great reasons why Drake let its ad agency sell them on this idea. There had better be, since Drake quickly made national news -- and not in a favorable way -- over this campaign. [Update: Make that international news.] Faculty, staff, students and alumni didn't exactly react with great enthusiasm, nor do they seem to be lovingly embracing the new campaign. Maybe that might be due, in part, to the fact that the admissions folks failed to share the campaign's concept and materials with their faculty and staff before letting it fly. Thus the admissions team had to send out this letter trying to explain that...
hindsight, introducing the concept and the testing that was conducted
with the target audience may have minimized some of the concerns that
have been expressed, and we are very sorry that many of you were
caught by surprise as a result.
Oops. The people at the Stamats agency must have forgotten one of the most important rules in successfully selling a campaign to a large organization: seek internal buy-in first. If the client's own people -- beyond the immediate client contacts -- aren't supportive or at least ambivalent toward the campaign, you're in for trouble. You'd think this agency would be aware of this need for internal acceptance and understanding, since they suggest they are experienced in higher education marketing. But you'd also think they'd see a red flag with D+ regardless of what surveys and focus groups told them. I gather they didn't. And at the very least, Stamats should have anticipated some media razzing and been prepared to meet it head on rather than allow the university to quickly become the subject of ridicule. The headline writers had a lot of fun with this story. Agency FAIL.
The aforementioned letter goes on to explain all the reasons why the Drake Advantage campaign and D+ icon are all good things. Focus groups, copy testing, on-line surveys and all those other research tools suggest this is a "unique" approach that "conveyed that 'attending Drake would give me a distinct advantage
that might not be available from other colleges and universities,'
three-quarters of the participants responded affirmatively."
But it still screams D+ on the view book cover and on the admissions home page.
I have to wonder whether the admissions staff ever thought to take a walk over to Meredith Hall in the center of campus. That's where they would find the offices of the faculty of Drake's award-winning School of Journalism and Mass Communication. That would be the school that offers degrees in advertising and public relations. Most of the faculty have real world practical experience in things like campaigns, branding and the like. I'm not sure, but I am willing to bet they would have been willing to consult... maybe even for free. At the very least, I hope a few of the PR professors are helping the admissions people fight their way past the waves of alumni and staff anger and embarrassment not to mention the media folly over this campaign. But I doubt they were asked.
One Drake alumnus opined that high school students smart enough to get into Drake would appreciate the irony of the D+ campaign. (Incoming freshmen reportedly average a 27 ACT and a 3.7 GPA.) I hope so. I am just picturing certain parents who may see the campaign and think: "Finally, a real university for our idiot child!"
I probably wouldn't give this any more than a passing laugh if Drake wasn't my alma mater, where I earned a bachelor of arts degree... in advertising. When I finish my PhD, Drake is actually a school whose faculty I would love to join. I want to teach really smart students. As such, I hope Drake's D+ campaign proves all the critics wrong. Stamats Inc. hopes so too, since this has become their leading case study, whether they like it or not.
It would seem, based on popular culture, that the advertising business is all about the creative. Indeed, as noted in a post [on Mediated Communication, the J-school blog] earlier this week, over 100 million people tuned into the Super
Bowl, as much for the ads as for the game. Consider one of the
most-mentioned things about those Super Bowl ads: the price. Was it
worth $3 million for one of those :30 ads? Hard to say; that would
depend on the advertiser’s media strategy.
Three times in the past two weeks I have been approached by
undergraduate students in the J-School who said they hoped to land a
job as advertising media planners. As one who spent a few decades as a
media planner, I couldn’t be happier. For too long, it seemed media
was next to no one’s preferred ad agency job. For whatever reason,
media planning — the mix of art and science that guides the strategic
deployment of advertising dollars –still seems to be overlooked or flat
out dismissed by young people looking to enter the advertising
business. And yet, in the 21st Century advertising industry, it’s not
the creative product that gets all the attention from clients.
Clients care most about making their money work as hard as
possible. How hard that money works is closely tied to the media
strategy, which is why these days the media strategy informs the
creative strategy instead of the other way around. Broad-based, mass
reach media is rapidly becoming a wasteful marketing luxury, and simply
shoveling a budget in the direction of the television networks doesn’t
cut it anymore. Media plans are far more targeted, measurable,
transactional, experiential and flexible. Advertising is about
changing behavior, and nearly all behavior is circumstantial to some
degree. It’s the job of the media strategist to find the optimal
circumstances to try to change that behavior. The best ad in the world
won’t sell a damn thing if it isn’t exposed to the right person at the
right time in the right circumstances, whatever those may be.
Given the increasing importance of media strategy and its precise
execution, it’s no surprise that media agencies are growing and
diversifying while traditional advertising agencies are withering.
Client relationships with media agencies are more stable than
relationships with their creative counterparts. Creative assignments
may be divvied up among several shops, but media planning and buying
tends to be consolidated with viable long term partners. To the
entry-level advertising job seeker, this should make media strategy and
execution a whole lot more appealing, especially since that’s also
where the job growth seems to be.
Core media planning and buying functions — what the old agency model
lumped into the “media department” — are only one part of the today’s
media agency model. Specialty media agencies have emerged to handle a
wide variety of client media needs, often at the expense of traditional
creative agencies. A look at Omnicom’sOMD Media network provides a good example. Among OMD’s strategic business units
are agencies that specialize in sports marketing, entertainment
marketing, digital direct marketing, branded entertainment, programming
and content creation, and search marketing to name a few. These are media agencies that lead the development and implementation of media-driven
ideas, sourcing and managing ancillary support elements (like creative)
along the way. Clients have come to realize that while it may be fun
to make TV commercials, the vast majority of their marketing dollars
are spent on media, not creative. Clients are focused on the money.
If I had my way — which I don’t… yet — I would like to see our J447
course, Strategic Media Planning, be required of all students who wish
to major in advertising. Since it’s not, I can only suggest most
enthusiastically that if you are an undergraduate, and you think you
want to work in the advertising business, be sure to take J447 and
learn as much as you can about media strategy. Don’t stop there.
Read the media trade publications and web sites. Develop opinions about media campaigns you admire.
Know what goes into a good media plan, and be able to identify media
strategies that miss the mark. Recognize that nearly anything can be a
media opportunity… and not just by slapping an unsightly ad on it. Be
knowledgeable about industry leaders and innovators.
In today’s world of rapidly converging media channels,
user-generated content, and multi-platform entertainment options,
creative is no longer the undisputed king of the advertising hill.
Clients have limited marketing resources and great expectations. They
place a very high value on feeling confident they are spending their
advertising money wisely and effectively. And that money is entrusted
to the media strategists.
[Originally posted on Mediated Communication, the blog of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.]
A quick look at trending topics on Twitter has "Duke" at number five. Probably because there's a lot of stuff like this tweeting around...
Suck it duke!!!!! Go badgers!!!!!!!!!!! [from BenKj]
The Wisconsin Badgers hosted the Duke Blue Devils here in Madison tonight, and kicked their collective ass. It was a beautiful thing.
From Rob Schultz of the Wisconsin State Journal...
One of the most hyped nonconference games in the history of the
Kohl Center certainly did not disappoint Wednesday night.
The University of Wisconsin men's basketball team got a
career-high 26 points from senior point guard Trevon Hughes and
upended Duke 73-69 in a Big Ten/ACC Challenge game that ended with
the student section emptying out on the court in a wild
Wisconsin (5-1), which never trailed in the game, improved to
5-6 overall and 3-1 at the Kohl Center in Challenge games. The
Badgers also won their fourth straight game over an ACC team.
Duke (6-1), who got 28 points from junior forward Kyle Singler,
lost its first Challenge game (11-1). The victory also propelled
the Big Ten to its first win in the 11-year series.
The Badgers never trailed. Never. Hahahahahahahaha! I'm not a huge basketball fan, but even I know this is huge. Nice job, Bucky! And the crowd goes wild...
[Wisconsin State Journal photos by Craig Schreiner]
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse student Adam Bauer has nearly
400 friends on Facebook. He got an offer for a new one about a
month ago. “She was a good-looking girl. I usually don’t accept
friends I don’t know, but I randomly accepted this one for some
reason,” the 19-year-old said.
He thinks that led to his invitation to come down to the La
Crosse police station, where an officer laid out photos from
Facebook of Bauer holding a beer — and then ticketed him for
The police report said Bauer admitted drinking, which he denies.
But he did plead no contest in municipal court Wednesday and will
pay a $227 fine.
A cursory glance through Facebook photos yields immediate examples of kids drinking beer. Conveniently, most Facebook profiles include birth dates with years. Add it up and it will cost you about $227, at least if you're a student at UW La Crosse. And doesn't that suck.
The article allows that the local police justify their actions, saying...
“Law enforcement has to evolve with technology,” Iverson said.
“It has to happen. It is a necessity —not just for underage drinking.”
Consider that next time you decide the beer bong pictures taken before the football game are ever so hilarious and must be shared with the Facebook universe. Even more, consider that you don't even have to post those pictures. If one of your friends does, and then tags you in the photos, you may end up like hapless Adam Bauer.
One thing I was wondering, though, is how can they prove it's actually beer? Last time I poured an O'Doul's into a glass, it looked just like Budweiser. Of course, the legal fees to have some attorney argue that will easily exceed the $227 no-contest plea.
One of the places I like to go on the UW campus when I have a lot of reading to do is the card catalog room in Memorial Library. Since most current undergraduates never used card catalogs in their young lives, all that thankfully being on computers now, it's not a busy place. I'm not sure if they maintain it for posterity or because some people still use it... although I have yet to see a single card drawer be pulled in all the time I've spent there so far.
One of the nice things about the room is that it has this big open space with large west-facing windows. Lots of natural light makes it a great reading spot. It's quiet. And it has the best furniture for sinking into whatever you have to read.
People tend to move the furniture around a little to catch the light, get near an electrical outlet, of otherwise meet some small need. It's easy to do on the tile floor. Some patrons get a little more into the space than others. I watched one young woman drag a couch about 30 feet, then turn it around and pull it close to a facing chair. She unpacked her various items, stretched out, read for about ten minutes, and then spent the better part of the hour taking a nap...
For whatever reason, I found this amusing... enough so that I had to take a few photos. She reminded me of the sorority girls on the show Greek, right down to the extensive collection of pink items (bags, shoes, sweater, and binder). It's not like she was keeping others from using the furniture, since the room was nearly empty. Too much weekend must have spilled into Monday. Maybe a little too much fun watching the Packers game the night before.
I wonder if she knows that she snores loud enough to be heard through that poli-sci textbook.
In hindsight, I guess it shouldn't have come as that much of a surprise that the man who gave us the first presidential campaign television commercials also gave mankind the sales pitch, "Melts in your mouth, and not in your hand." Rosser Reeves was that man, and he was known in his day as the dean of the school of hard-sell advertising.
I came to know Mr. Reeves, who died in 1984, in an oddly personal way this spring by spending days sifting through the extensive collection of his personal papers archived at the Wisconsin Historical Society. The treasure hunt was a part of an assignment for a graduate school course in the history of mass communication. One of the course requirements was to research and write a paper about an event or historical figure using primary sources... archives.
My original subject was Bill Bernbach, one of the most important figures in the advertising business and founder of the company where I spent most of my career. Unfortunately, Mr. Bernbach's papers reside at Columbia or somewhere back east, and grad school has no travel budget. But in reading up on him, I came across an interview with Mr. Reeves, whose papers were to be found in Madison. Once I found out he was the first to use the now standard :30 television spots to sell America a presidential candidate, I knew I found my subject.
I mean, c'mon, how could I pass up a chance to learn about the man who gave the world this:
[Embedding has been diasabled for this Anacin spot but it can still be viewed HERE.]
To look at any or all of these spots is to understand what television advertising was like in the early 1950s. As Reeves said years later, “We were all new to television in those days, and we did not know what a thing we had… what a powerful medium we were working with.” One of the things they learned right away was to focus on a single key point, what Reeves called the unique selling proposition (USP... a term still used today). He had noted that, "Eisenhower was a singularly inept speaker," but knew that with the right wording limited to the three most important issues of the day, he could sell Ike to the public. (Reeves actually wanted to go with a single issue, but the Republican National Committee wanted three. Since they were the client, they won that battle, as is often the way in the advertising business.)
He poured over campaign documents, lifting phrases and ideas and crafting them into what were actually :20 "chain break" spots that would run between prime time programs. Then Reeves booked the General some studio time. Ike knocked out over 30 spots that Reeves ended up writing on the fly; he had figured the candidate could get through maybe ten but was apparently a quick study. Only after all the "answers" were filmed did the ad agency go out and recruit people to ask the questions. As we say in the business, they fixed it in the edit.
The result was "Eisenhower Answers America." Note the very similar production style and values in the Ike spots compared to the packaged goods spots also done by Reeves...
I love that woman. Add some drama, a little war footage, plus the convention money shot and you have your :60 version:
Democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson felt putting himself on camera was undignified. Perhaps he knew he'd read cue cards even less artfully than Eisenhower. Here's what the boys over at the Stevenson campaign put together as a comeback to the Eisenhower Answers America issue-oriented ads:
All right, then. Got it. Now what the hell does it mean?
Ike's team easily trumped them by hiring Irving Berlin to score and Walt Disney Studios to animate:
What I found amazing was that most of what I read in the Reeves archives about the 1952 election was found in two file boxes that represented less than half of one of the dozen or so cubic feet of papers and other files available. It took me five trips to the Wisconsin Historical Society to get what I needed, mostly because I kept getting sidetracked by stuff that was irrelevant to my research but too interesting to ignore. My media history professor, Jim Kates, told our class this would happen, and I thought he was kidding. He wasn't. The more I read, the more I wanted to dig deeper. By the end of a day of reading Reeves' letters, handwritten notes, speeches, and phone messages, I would feel like I had been hangin' out with the dude.
I turned in the paper this week as the semester came to an end. This was a project that was both fun and satisfying to do, and in some ways, I'm sorry its over. I'm gonna miss you, Rosser, ya big lug. I may have to have a double martini -- up -- in his honor tonight.
It's Monday. By the end of the week, I will have completed the final exams in the two remaining classes I have to take to complete my masters degree in procrastination, I mean in mass communication. I will also be handing in two papers which are, charitably put, works in progress at the moment. One is just about ready to come out of the oven; the other is still mostly ingredients spread over the dining room table. No worries. I do my best under pressure.
One thing that will be set aside is daily posts here on Kerfuffle. Unless something really incredible happens -- like a giant condor snatches up Dick Cheney and drops him into a volcano or something like that -- I'll be back by the weekend to begin dispatches from our trip to San Francisco.
Meanwhile, take a look at the Twitter Feed just to the left. I'll still toss up the occasional missive and some linky goodness over there. I can't go completely social network cold turkey!
Yesterday I had the pleasure of speaking to a class of seniors at UW Madison. The class, an elective course in the advertising program, deals with media strategy... a subject near and dear to my heart. Giving guest lectures is good practice for me, given that I plan on teaching once I get the degrees I am chasing.
Something that one can't help but notice when teaching a class is the texting, web-surfing and emailing that seems to be going on. I see it as a student as well, most often in classes that include undergraduates. Now, I'm not slagging undergraduates... just pointing out that it is, in my opinion, a generational thing.
In yesterday's lecture, I tried not to let it bug me. Maybe I was boring. That's certainly a likely cause for a student to seek a diversion. But the thing that remains most surprising to me is how blatant the texting and surfing is. I mean, c'mon. I can see the phone in your lap and see your fingers moving!
Admittedly, I take a little pleasure in calling students on it. Being that I am talking about the competition for people's attention, it's easy to say something like, " A lot of times people are doing multiple things, like watching TV and texting... like you are." Then I pause and look right at the offender. Boy, did I get a dirty look from one student yesterday.
I've learned from making lots of presentations in my career that it's best to work the room... walk around a lot to better engage the audience. It's also a good way to get to see the laptops screens of students who are trying to appear to be taking notes. Taking notes on a guest lecture? Uh huh. I positioned myself by one student who was Facebooking away, until she realized I was essentially reading over her shoulder. Yeah, I was being a dick, but I was having a little fun. Since I was doing the lecture for free, I figured I was entitled.
Funny thing, though. As I left the campus and was thinking about this subject, I found myself recalling a class way back in my own undergraduate experience. I've long forgotten the professor's name, but he was a nice enough guy who was teaching a physical science elective about the technology and physics particular to energy. The class was held in one of those big lecture rooms with theater-like seating. At the end of class one day, he wrapped it up, then said he would like to "speak with Mr. Wilcox." Uh oh.
When I went up to see what the professor wanted, I figured it must be something about a quiz or paper or whatever. I was wrong. "I would like to know why you were reading a newspaper during my class," he said plainly. Shit. I gave him a brutally honest yet highly inappropriate response: "I was bored." I still remember the look on his face when he simply replied, "Oh. O.K."
I immediately felt like a total asshole, and that's because that's exactly how I acted. I was blatantly reading the newspaper, in plain sight, during his lecture. That's every bit as bad as blatantly texting or web-surfing in class.
As I thought about this, the thing I realized was that I was no better then than some students are now. In some ways I was worse, since I more or less offended the professor to his face... something I have never forgotten. I hope that professor has, but I was still an ass that day.
Technology is so commonplace now that I guess this is just the way of the world. I've watched clients tap away at their Blackberries while we were presenting work to them, and I've seen people casually answer their phones and leave a meeting with no apparent guilt, regret or apology. And, myself, I have an app on my iPhone that deliver's a bogus call complete with convincing screen graphics... just in case I need to bail. Rude? Yes. Of occasional helpful utility? You bet.
One skill I developed years ago as an undergraduate, as I have noted here before, is the art of procrastination. I totally mastered it in my years in the ad agency business. Why do now what you can do in a panic later on?
It's finals time in graduate school. Three research papers and a final that is mostly about research statistics. Much fun! Many in my cohort of fellow grad students have been n constant contact with one another, offering help, suggestions, proofing and crying towels. My friend Joe, an accomplished television news reporter that is, like me, an "old" guy, sent me this late last night in response to my inquiry about his Research Methods class final project/paper...
My paper reminds me of an exchange between Donald Sutherland (Professor Jennings) and Pinto (Thomas Hulce) in National Lampoon's Animal House while referring to the professor's novel:
Pinto: "How long you been working on it?" Jennings: "Seven years." Pinto: It must be very good." Jennings: "It's a piece of shit."