28 July 2011

The Press Release Parade

imageI’m on the list.

That doesn’t make me special by any standards. Press Releases are like virtual confetti nowadays.*

imageMost are daft, pointless blather.  While the salutation “Hi Chuck” makes it appear as if the sender has some clue about what my blog is about, it’s usually a tip-off that whatever PR genius it is has never read my posts

And they usually have no idea what they’re writing about. A recent (expurgated) one:

Hi Chuck,
Meredith, the publisher of large-circulation magazines such as Better Homes and Gardens and Ladies' Home Journal, is beginning to guarantee some of its biggest advertisers that major ad campaigns in Meredith titles will actually increase their sales by a certain amount. But will this be a big enough incentive to make advertisers switch to print?

Advertisers aren’t switching to print.  They’ve been using print advertising successfully for hundreds of years. If anything, they may be thinking about switching to ether. 

More from the press release:

The attractiveness of internet advertising lies in its innate ability to track returns and manage spending to a very fine degree due to the immediate nature of response it is able to generate.

Ah, yes.  Tracking returns:

Click this ad. 0.051% do.

The Click: Brand Marketing's Most Misleading Measure
image… a tiny fraction of people ever click on an ad. In fact, 99% of stable cookies examined never click on an ad … optimization of campaigns to achieve higher CTR may in fact be reducing brand ROI.

I won’t comment on Meredith’s ‘guarantee’ and if it’s good  for them, or for advertisers.  My guess is that it’s simply a promotional vehicle that has to do with flattening ad revenue across all media – not a response to web advertising as implied by the misleading press release.  More than likely, Meredith is focusing on major advertisers, competing for print dollars and, perhaps, TV revenue.  Web advertising is actually a big dud:

The Real Thing vs. The Virtual Thing

* Disclosure: I toss handfuls for clients every so often.

Disclaimer: This post is in no way a commentary on the Public Relations industry. Many well-respected professionals condemn confetti press releases.

21 July 2011

The Best Anti-Aging Products, Services, and Activities: Guaranteed!

I was on the phone the other day with Marilynn Larkin:

imageEditing/writing: all areas, but especially health, wellness, fitness, medical (user-friendly interpretations and practical advice in areas listed above), related technologies, informed consumer.

She was interviewing me for a piece in The Journal on Active Aging®, a publication put out by The International Council on Active Aging:

imageThis burgeoning demographic spent 79 billion dollars in 2009 on products and services that claim to slow the aging process — despite the fact that “most of those products and services don’t deliver what they claim to,” says Colin Milner, CEO of the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA).

A bit more about it all:

The sale of putative anti-aging products such as nutrition, physical fitness, skin care, hormone replacements, vitamins, supplements and herbs is a lucrative global industry, with the US market generating about $50 billion of revenue each year. Medical experts state that the use of such products has not been shown to affect the aging process, and many claims of anti-aging medicine advocates have been roundly criticized by medical experts, including the American Medical Association.

I beg to differ.  There are plenty of anti-aging products, services, and activities that are staggeringly effective.  They stop the aging process almost immediately. 

imageFor example: War, pestilences, diseases, famines, natural disasters, and accidents of all types top the list of anti-aging services and activities.  For fast-acting anti-aging, there are pills and/or herbs.  Try cyanide, hemlock, arsenic.  Some exercises are effective. Jump off a building. If you’re anti-aging, they work!

Of course, not everybody is in favor of anti-agingMany are pro-age.  For them, eating healthy stuff and exercising will probably help (I’ve dabbled in both).  Keeping your brain active is not anti-aging, might even be pro-aging (but don’t count on it).  Some modern medicine and public sanitation are pro-aging.  Other than those – and if you happen to have lucky-ducky genes – that’s about all the help you’ll get.

Unfortunately, there’s not much money to be made with pro-aging – so marketers and advertisers ignore it, preferring to push an anti-aging agenda.

Caveat: Personally, I’m in favor of the anti-aging services provided by this admirable organization. Other than that, keep those anti-aging products and services away from me. The more wrinkles I see, the happier I’ll be.

18 July 2011

Foretellings II

From the The New York Times:

Smartphones and Mobile Internet Use Grow, Report Says
imageThe Pew report … found that 87 percent of the smartphone owners surveyed used their device to access the Web or e-mail at least once a day. And 25 percent said they go online on their smartphone more than they do with a regular computer — a trend that will most likely continue as wireless technologies become faster and more reliable.

Sounds familiar:

Foretellings (May 2010)
The visual power of the web will fade as more people use handheld devices … With the exception of the workplace, smartphones (along with iPads and Kindles or something like them) might just make desktops and laptops and the web as we know it obsolete.  If ‘being connected’ mostly means communicating with friends, doing simple search, reading the news - then all that’s really needed is a smartphone. 

Also from the over-a-year-old post above:

That silly retronym “traditional advertising” will remain the premiere force for introducing people to a product or service, along with sustaining its shelf life. Television, print, radio, and billboard ads will continue to have the visceral power they’ve always had – if only for their sheer size, simplicity, and cutting-edge audio/visual qualities.  Advertising on smartphones will be considered an annoyance, invasive, and rather dinky – while marketing (coupons on steroids, and more) will flourish and dominate.

Dick Stroud points us to a fascinating advertising/marketing campaign in South Korea:

Apps for Baby Boomers
A terrific demonstration of the power of smartphones and how they link to the physical world:


Although I don’t think this particular model would work in the U.S. (lots of people love to explore grocery stores), the concept is marketing on steroids.  And (as I’ve said over and over) it involves traditional advertising (in this case, billboards) introducing you to a product or service – while shopping with the assistance of a smartphone.

How revolutionary!  How clever we are in this modern day and age!  Imagine! Using your phone to order from a grocery store and having your items delivered!  What’ll they think of next?


13 July 2011

Non-Diversity = Solipsism

I was watching a commercial.  A twenty-something talked about how he’d moved back in with his parents, but they were sleeping. Then we see them in a car (the spot was advertising the car) and on their way to have fun doing something or other.  He was microwaving his dinner.  A mildly amusing spot.

imageIf a gremlin had whispered in my ear, “What’s the target market for this ad?” I would’ve shrugged.  If the gremlin then put a thinking cap on my head, I probably would’ve said, “Well, the kid. After all, it’s all about him. He should buy one of these cars so he could go have some fun … or something.”

Days later I stumbled on an online industry pub piece about the campaign which included a few more spots with the same theme. One had a twenty-something sitting forlornly, babbling away and staring at her computer while her parents were in their car, having tons of fun.  The other I don’t remember. 

But here’s what was bewildering:

It seems like a bold move, marketing a new vehicle toward baby boomers and away from younger buyers …

The spots were targeting Baby Boomers.  Yet the themes revolved around Millennials, with Boomers portrayed as smiling, vapid – with no real personalities whatsoever. 

Not that this surprised me:

Why does the media think Boomers are smiling, vapid idiots?
Actually, there are two distinct demos – something marketers need to know:
  • Baby Boomers who  scream and jump in the air on the beach
  • Baby Boomers who scream and jump in the air on their motor scooters.

I left a comment attached to the article:

Spots that star Millennials but, at least from what you tell me, are targeting Baby Boomers.  I guess if you want to target Millennials, you should get a bunch of Baby Boomers to star in the ads, and have them talk about their kids.

Someone commented on my comment:

You nailed it Chuck! My reaction (albeit with an agency skew) is that these spots are targeting BOOMERS, but written by 20-somethings? … Young creatives (are there really any other kind?) can't write to BOOMERS…so they write to please themselves. As a BOOMER many of us see right through this common occurrence.

I answered:

Yup.  That's my book, my blog. I first wrote about it in 2003.  Here's a piece from 2006: http://bit.ly/pnL1fC

The 'boomers' in this campaign are vapid, mindless caricatures, simply window dressing for some young creative.

And here’s the best part: In another article, a creative from the car ad actually explained the genesis of the campaign:

***** says a lot of the humor and interplay in the ads came from "All of us [millennials] at ***** having conversations about our own parents…

Well, duh.

This campaign reminds me of another one:

imageBaby Boomers as iPhone window … I mean, screen dressing.
I saw this ad a few months ago, liked it, but said to myself, “Did they ever miss the mark. It should have been done from the grandmother’s point of view...”

Wouldn’t these spots have been a tad better if they’d been from the parents’ point of view?  If the older principals had been interesting and funny? You also would’ve been in and around the car for more time (that’s what they were trying to sell, by the way). 

And here’s a really silly idea: Maybe you could’ve actually worked into the scenarios something about the car’s features.

Take a look at this recent post:
Diversity = Productivity Redux

For more about why most ad agencies are clueless when targeting Baby Boomers:

Introduction: The Geritol Syndrome (PDF)

Chapter One: Why Companies and Ad Agencies Need Baby Boomers (PDF)

10 July 2011

Todd Harff on Generation Reinvention

I know Todd Harff, have blogged about him numerous times:

image10 Ways Marketers Should Grow Up in 2008
Here's a great way to start off the New Year: Todd Harff's PowerPoint Presentation.

Unfortunately, not many followed his advice. 

But advertisers and marketers have another chance.  Todd recently spent an hour with host Brent Green on the internet radio show Generation Reinvention:

imageThe Future of Integrated and Online Marketing to 50+ Consumers
Todd Harff brings a unique perspective to help clients achieve business results. He combines market insight, creative solutions, pragmatic business knowledge, and project management to produce actionable and profitable marketing solutions.

About five minutes in, Todd talks a bit about me.  You can stop listening after that.

Just kidding. That would be a big mistake.  It’s hard to believe, but the show gets better.  Before long Mr. Harff unpacks the real story about Facebook use, the diversity of Adult Communities, how various age groups actually use the web, and his overarching views of marketing to Baby Boomers and older.  His takes are steeped in research and insight. 

It’s an hour well worth your time.