27 August 2008

Don't Fear 65.

An expurgated email:

Hi Chuck,

symetra I work for Bellevue-based (that'd be Washington State, Seattle area) Symetra Financial, and as we were developing our new ad campaign geared toward retirees, I came across your blog …

The Web site we’ve developed: www.dontfear65.com.

dontfear We’re focusing on empowerment and optimism, as opposed to fear mongering, and in doing so we hope to change the mindset around retirement ...

The theme of the campaign is highlighted in a couple of fun videos that depict seemingly ordinary Boomers before a crowd of retirees, rallying them to face turning 65 without fear:



Well … these folks are practically down the street from me – so I’d better be nice.

conqueredActually, I got a kick out of the site.  The videos are cute.  I’ll take cute over pandering or condescending any day.

Gee. Free consulting. This is a big chunk of what I do for a living. Meaning, I don’t do it for free. Or, I do do it for free because I’m doing it now ...

A few observations and suggestions:

I’m not a big fan of flash microsites. This one is simple and inviting, however

The graphics and layout are fine for the landing – but deeper in, the wishy-washy color contrasts and spongy fonts are dreadful for older eyes.  Also, a good rule to remember: If you think you need a text resize widget, that means only one thing - the text is too small. Bump it and forget about a silly resizer.

Things look much better when you fly out of flash hell and land on a PDF.  True - it's kind of boring, not very fun and sexy in PDF-land (it could be with an extreme makeover), but at least my eyes don't hurt and my pointer isn't fumbling around trying to grab and pull on that flimsy scroll bar.   

Now I’ve done my good, neighborly deed for the day. Back to being cranky.

25 August 2008

Goodbye, Jukebox. Hello, Jennie Chin Hansen.

WNYC Back in May 2007 I was a guest on NPR’s Soundcheck, hosted by John Schaefer. The subject: AARP's new, much-touted and promoted Music Website. Also on the show was Emilio Pardo, AARP’s Chief Brand Officer.

To listen to the show click the tiny arrow on the left:

I wasn’t impressed with the AARP's offering – and blogged about it here:

Music for Grownups?
As is usually the case, AARP’s grab for Baby Boomers is an admixture of good intentions, some top-notch stuff – and cheesy, insulting schlock.

I’d link to it so you could form your own opinion, but …

It’s gone. The link in this press release now redirects your browser to their main entertainment page.

jukebox AARP's music site was a big dud. And for better or for worse, the company that powered the centerpiece of the microsite (AARP Jukebox) may be on its last legs.

Some of the other features are still up – but they’re not linked to anything on the AARP site as far as I can tell. Merely ethereal residue awaiting a virtual dusting. Gehr

The only feature I really liked has survived: Richard Gehr’s Music For Grownups columns.

I’ve blogged extensively about AARP, their advertising, and how they present themselves. The most recent post:

AARP's Chicken Coop Coup?
I hope they develop this ad into a high-profile campaign with more stories and history. If they do, a huge chunk of Baby Boomers might decide to join for reasons other than simply that 15% Discount Card.

jennie_chin_hansen Now AARP has a new president: Jennie Chin Hansen. I can only comment from an advertising/marketing/public relations perspective. Ms. Hansen is a great choice for AARP. Her background reflects what the heart and soul of AARP once was, and should be again:

Ms. Hansen teaches nursing at San Francisco State University. She holds an appointment as Senior Fellow at the University of California, San Francisco's Center for the Health Professions and consults with various foundations. She transitioned to teaching in 2005 after nearly 25 years as executive director of On Lok, Inc., a nonprofit family of organizations providing integrated and comprehensive primary and long-term care community based services in San Francisco.

Like I said about the Chicken Coop ad:

Call me callous, superficial, jaded, deeply character-flawed, whatever - but my initial reaction was: "Great Branding!"

While I think that their Divided We Fail project is rather silly and anemic, I hope Jennie Chin Hansen becomes ‘the face’ of AARP. Here’s the only video I can find of her. She’s down-to-earth and engaging. That’s very good news for AARP. Give it a minute or two - or skip ahead:

I’m hoping all their dumb commercials will fade away fast, and Jennie Chin Hansen and the Chicken Coop ad will now be the focus and inspiration for AARP's marketing, advertising, and PR.
Follow up, September 5, 2008: An article in The Washington Post about AARP. Ken Dychtwald makes some good points.

Actually, AARP isn't attracting Baby Boomers at the same rate as it did with previous 'turning fifty' generations. That's why there's all this hoopla and silliness and sacrificing of their core values. Interesting that the article has no mention of Jennie Chin Hansen.

20 August 2008

World’s Largest Event For Active ‘50 plussers’

50PLUSB3 Last September I was on a speaking/consulting tour in Europe. One of the stops was Utrecht, The Netherlands at a private business symposium coinciding with the annual 50PlusBeurs.

The symposium was running late. Very late.  Just before I was to go on (an hour and a half after I was scheduled) they asked me to do a twenty-minute presentation instead of my usual fifty.  I did (and wasn't happy with the way it went), then headed out of the conference room with Brent Green, Carol Orsborn, and my More-Significant-Than-I-Am Other to look around.

hallWe'd never seen anything like it. I'd heard what it was, but was nowhere near prepared. Ninety-five thousand people in five days. Over twenty thousand the day we were there.  Six huge halls. Five hundred and eighty exhibits. The sheer immensity was overwhelming.  AARP puts on an Expo every year – but it’s one-quarter the size.

And with only an hour and a half to goof off we only saw about one-quarter of the exhibits, maybe.  The four of us were racing around.  That’s how big it was. Nobody could see it all in one day.

For example, there must’ve been fifteen bicycle exhibitors with at least one hundred bikes to check out - and room to ride them in a demo area.  Next, I climbed in and out of about twenty motor-homes – but never made it to the automobiles or motorcycles. No time. 

I never even entered four of the six halls.  One I just glanced in.  It looked something like this: 


Almost every exhibit was over the top, a show in itself.  Click here to watch a Windows Media Video that gives you a good idea of the quality and variety of offerings

What’s really amazing about this event is the return rate for exhibitors: 85%. They make money, they know it’s a great investment, great promotion. They know it's a great market segment.

wiiThe average age of 50PlusBeurs attendees is sixty-one. So the entertainment and general feel is for a slightly older demographic than Baby Boomers. My guess is that this will change over the next five or so years.

Time was up.  We had to fly to Munich. I was working, not playing (I kept telling myself – for practically the whole two-week tour).

I want to get back to 50PlusBeurs someday so I can really soak it in.

plusmagIf you are involved in the European 50+ Market, 50PlusBeurs is something you should see.  And don't worry about waiting a year or two if you can't make it next month.  It'll just get bigger and bigger. This year they'll break 100,000 in attendance.  My guess is that the turnout won't plateau for a decade. 

Download the English version of the 50PlusBeurs Brochure for 2008.

Update September 3, 2008: This post was picked up by the international news service Agetimes.com

18 August 2008

Erickson Retirement Communities Spot

I must still be young and mushy of mind, for I’m constantly surprised by the shenanigans of marketers when they try to target the 50+ Demo. By now nothing should surprise me.

je Erickson Retirement Communities is a major player in their industry. I have a lot of respect and admiration for John Erickson. He's done some incredible things. And I like the fact that Erickson builds communities for the middle-class - while not ‘going for the gold’ like so many AACs.

But their marketing/advertising is pretty pathetic. That might just do them in eventually – especially with Baby Boomers.

Take a look at this latest spot:

Now try this exercise:

Turn the sound off and watch the spot again. Pretend that the voice over is saying something like, “Your financial security is important to you. At Ajax Investments we want to make sure that you have the freedom to enjoy the prime of life and do the things that are important to you, with no financial worries … blah blah blah.”

Now pretend that this is a D2C for a heart medication. “Enjoying a healthy, involved life is what life is all about. If a heart condition inhibits your activities, Ajaxavin may help. Please ask your doctor if Ajaxivin is right for you, blah blah blah.”

How about a laxative? Depends? A vitamin supplement? Come up with other products/services and write and perform your own V.O.’s.

This isn’t a commercial about Erickson. It’s a generic template.

Back to the spot: The voice over is a what? A daughter with kids? There aren’t too many Baby Boomers with kids that young. The largest chunk of Boomers are grandparents. The average age of a new grandparent is forty-eight.

So who's this woman doing the voice over? How old is she (with kids that young)? The child of Baby Boomers? If so, then why are her parents in their seventies? The grandfather looks like he's in his late seventies.

It’s the Baby Boomers who are helping their parents make decisions about retirement communities. This commercial misses the ‘sandwich generation’ by decades.

14 August 2008

Don't Forget The Zwischen Kids und Senioren

I have no idea what I say in this article—but whatever it is, no doubt it's very profound and important:
Don't forget them! Zwischen Kids und Senioren gibt es noch eine Zielgruppe

Was sie für Werbetreibende außerdem so attraktiv macht, ist ihre unerwartete Flexibilität. "Zugegeben, ich habe eine Lieblingszahnpasta, aber sonst bin ich allem Neuen gegenüber aufgeschlossen", versichert Chuck Nyren, Autor von "Advertising to Baby Boomer", und fragt verwundert: "Wie kommen Werbeprofis bloß darauf, dass unser Geschmack bereits festgefahren ist?"
And as with Oprah - anytime I can help boost the careers of stragglers and wannabes like Susan and Julianne (and Paul) by simply having their names associated with mine - it's fine with me. I'm the beneficent type.

10 August 2008

Forgotten Consumers

jm A few weeks ago I was interviewed by Jennifer Mann of The Kansas City Star for an article about advertising and marketing to Baby Boomers.  It ran, and I linked to it in the left column of this blog under In The Media.

Now the piece has gone wide in many of the McClatchy Newspapers, including The Monterey County Herald, The Olympian (Washington), and The Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Here's the piece in The Bismarck Tribune:

bismark There are almost 100 million consumers in the United States who are age 50-plus. They control more than $8 trillion in assets, more than 70 percent of the disposable dollars in the United States. Yet they barely get passing notice from American advertisers.

09 August 2008

Creating A Monster

HST_thumb1Recently I put together a PowerPoint with narration for a Henry Stewart Talks series on Marketing to the Older Consumer. Dick Stroud is the ringleader. There are a handful of other folks from the U.K. and around the world contributing.

bk It was fun – but Dick and Henry (Is there a 'Henry'?) may have created a monster. 

I’d never recorded narration with PowerPoint. That may surprise people who know me, since I can be quite the blabbermouth when prodded.  I casually clicked the start button and without thinking about it thought I'd be creating one big wav file somewhere.  I just kept prattling and clicking without stopping. "One-Take Nyren” is my nick.

caHeadset But while playing it back the sound went in and out between slides. I thought my mic was malfunctioning. 

pilot-reading-directions Then I did something smart – which sounds impressive, but it’s not. Most people ‘do something smart’ by doing something smart before doing something – like reading the directions. I usually wait until I’m completely lost or something royally screws up before I bother with something silly like directions. That’s how smart I am.

PowerPoint handles narration by embedding individual sound files on each slide. This was why my voice was cut off between slides. 

And it's advisable to wait a second or so between slides – stop talking, wait, click, wait, talk. That’s so the wav file can finish up on a slide, and another can kick in for the next slide.

I had to rehearse a few times to get used to it all.

What's good about it: If you mess up the narration you can go back and re-record over that slide only - without losing the sound files on the other slides.  It also makes it easy to rearrange, add, or delete slides. 

What's bad about it: There's no way you can get on a roll.  What you're really creating are separate scenarios for each slide.  I imagine that, with practice, you'll be able to simulate a seamless  song an' dance. 

hlThe monster created: I had so much fun that I want to do more. And more.  Short ones. And publish them here.  

So sometime soon you might just find a few PPPPs (PowerPoint Presentation Podcasts) on these pages.  Dick Stroud, as usual, is way ahead of me.

06 August 2008

Mad Men

mm People are always asking me what I think of Mad Men. That’s because for the last three or four years I’ve included a section in my presentations about the history of advertising creatives, and a big chunk of it focuses on the era Mad Men inhabits.

Now everybody thinks I do it because of Mad Men.

Someone left a comment on an Ad Age article that sums up my take on the show.  It went something like this:

“Mad Men is as much about the advertising industry as The Godfather was about the mafia.”

Great movies, The Godfather I & II. Classic tragedy, genius movie making. And I enjoy Mad Men.

jh However, as a rule I’m not a big soap opera fan – and Mad Men is primetime soap. My guess is that only about a fifth or sixth or less of screen time has anything to do with the wonderful world of advertising. Mostly it’s steamy bubbles. 

And that's fine. Probably better. It's sumptuously produced dark froth, brilliantly performed.  At times it morphs into classic tragedy and very good theatre.  Just as often it sinks into cliché silliness. 

Partly to ride the crest of the show’s success and partly to defend the industry, The One Club (along with The New York Public Library) is sponsoring an exhibition titled The Real Men and Women of Madison Avenue and their Impact on American Culture. AdRants’ Angela Natividad was there for the opening and has a fascinating take on it all

admen While it wouldn’t make good soap – Leo Burnett, Rosser Reeves, David Ogilvy, Shirley Polykoff, Bernice Fitz-Gibbons, Mary Wells Lawrence, Bill Bernbach, George Lois, and others were infinitely more interesting than the stereotypical characters on Mad Men. A series inspired by the lives and work of these real life ad folks would entertain me a lot more. Drama?  Sure. Comedy? Oh, yes.     

However, Mad Men doesn't pretend to be about the greats of 1950s/60s advertising – but about  the others who worked in the industry.  Your normal neurotic types.  They also represent a dying breed. If the series plays out with any nod to reality, they'll be picked off one by one.     

ct So enjoy Mad Men. Sterling and Cooper are good godfathers. Dan Draper is a good Michael Corleone. Pete makes a good Fredo. Betty is the perfect Kay.

And those creative team hit men do scare the bejesus out of me.

04 August 2008

Obsessive Branding Disorder

I linked to a piece in The Huffington Post awhile back because it was about one of my favorite subjects:

What's a Little Marketing Between Friends?
By Lucas Conley

... When marketers mingle among consumers, the results are often more artifice than advertising. Posing as consumers and littering the Internet with bogus comments and reviews, today's unscrupulous marketers champion their wares via fake blogs ("flogs"), artificial grass-roots campaigns ("astroturf"), and surreptitious product placements in every corner of new media.

Then a few months ago I heard about a soon-to-be-released book by Mr. Conley:

Obsessive Branding Disorder

obdThe world is more branded than ever before: Americans encounter anywhere between 3,000 and 5,000 ads a day. Increasingly, brands vie for our attention from insidious angles that target our emotional responses (scent, taste, sound, and touch).

That's another subject I've written and talked about. In my book there's a chapter titled The Branding Circus. It's the one that unnerves ad and marketing folks the most. So you can imagine what they'll think of a book thoroughly researched (and thoroughly entertaining) that's all about branding and how dumb it's become.

LC Lucas Conley takes on even another subject I've discussed now and then: product placement (aka Madison & Vine). Here are a couple of blog comments from 2005 where I yack about all three subjects. (Scroll for the second one.)

So ... Mr. Conley of Fast Company is fast becoming a fast hero of mine.

Obsessive Branding Disorder is required reading. Even more impressive: it's fun reading. A business book with twists and turns, shocks and surprises? Trust me, they're there.

Also, keep an eye on the author's blog.

No doubt Obsessive Branding Disorder will get the "Nyren Bump" courtesy of this post. The book will skyrocket on the bestseller lists. However, less astute media and marketing analysts will likely attribute this sharp rise in sales to Mr. Conley's appearance on The Colbert Report tonight. Pure hogwash. It'll all be thanks to me.

Full Obfuscation: Did the author send me a free copy of his book? I'm not telling.
Next Day Update: