Monday, April 21, 2008

Agencies Need to Sell Ideas. Just Ask Jay.

The landscape is changing so rapidly in the ad biz. From the growth of new media to the predicted (it'll never happen) death of traditional media, entire ad agencies are now involved in the creation of ideas. It's no longer just the crazies in the creative departments who get to play with the big ideas. Today, ideas come from such formerly staid departments as media and brand strategy, for Google's sake!

Agencies have even renamed some of the jobs within their halls. For instance, the account people who previously were considered the nemesis of the creatives have been relabeled content managers, project managers, engagement managers—anything but boring account guys and gals, the suits. Because big ideas come from them, now, too.

And of course, agencies today are trying to figure out how to make money in this brave new world.

In the '80s, agencies started getting bigger, buying up the promotional agencies to keep on top of the trends and look competitive to their clients. Today, it's digital that's driving the conglomerates to purchase hot interactive shops to add to their menu of client services. But bottom line, agencies have to figure out how they're going to get paid for this new media and the expensive new players they've added to create it.

Which brings us to selling ideas instead of hours. Why do that? Well, Staples' "Easy" button campaign was created by their agency McCann. A very big idea. A successful media campaign. Staples' sales continue to soar. The campaign has legs. Staples is now manufacturing and selling Easy buttons instore—an additional profit item and awareness generator. And what did McCann get? A creative award or two. Some billable hours. Less than 15% media commissions, I'm sure. And the right to say, "That was easy." At least until Staples hires a new agency.

Always the innovator, Jay Chiat of Chiat/Day pioneered the selling of ideas instead of hours back in the '70s. Jay believed in taking on a new brand like the strange little Japanese Honda being introduced to America and writing his contract so that his agency received a percentage of Honda's success. Jay counted on extending a brand's reach through ideas so creative that everybody made a lot of money. And great brands were built. So at least when the client fired him—and they always did, eventually—at least he had a sizeable chunk of their success.

Maybe today's agencies aren't that sure of their work. Or maybe they think they must devise a different model since it's "different times." But it's not really all that different. Great work is great work that builds great brands across all media—traditional, new, soft, experiential, digital, you name it as it comes along. So why reinvent the wheel?
You want to make money, just channel Jay.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Your Rights. Use 'em or Lose 'em.

While we have a revolutionary, history making election in progress, the US Senate just passed a bill Tuesday night, 2/12/08, granting retroactive immunity to telecom companies that helped spy on Americans, without a warrant.

Fun stuff, huh? Congress just sanctioned the single largest invasion of privacy in American history. So much for the Constitution which our officials in Washington were elected to uphold.

But it's not over, if Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont and others in Congress have their way. And if we speak up. The Internet makes it oh, so easy to do, too. Senator Leahy urges citizens to email your home state Senators and Representative and ask them to insist on a House-Senate conference that produces a fair FISA bill.

To get email contact info on your senators and members of congress, I like this link:

According to Leahy's email message Friday, 2/15/08, "We may have lost the first FISA fight on the Senate floor this week, but I'm not backing down -- and neither should you.

President Bush and his allies blocked our efforts to improve civil liberties protections and remove telecom immunity from the bill that passed the Senate. Without those fixes, the Bush-Cheney Administration's FISA bill is unacceptable.

There's still time to fix FISA and do it the right way -- providing the balance we need to protect national security, preserve civil liberties, and refuse retroactive immunity to phone companies who went along with Bush-Cheney Administration lawbreaking. But I need you to join me in speaking out, right now, to make sure we get a fair FISA bill."

So speak out now or forever hold your peace. No, I mean, really, hold your peace. Your wires and wirelesses just might be tapped.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Gals, Reach Out & Touch the Glass Ceiling.

The equality of women in the workplace has been an important and debated issue forever. Today, even in an industry as progressive as advertising, most ad agencies fall way short of fair hiring and promotion practices.

This is blatantly apparent to any reader reviewing the work and the credentials of the winners posted monthly in Creativity magazine, a sister publication to Advertising Age. While the editor is female, there is seldom a woman's name attributed to any campaign, awarded ad, spot, or Agency of the Year lineup of principals. In a year, you can count on one hand, the number of women even mentioned.

According to DIMA@NYU quoting, ("Human Rights Commission Releases Agencies' Minority Hiring Goals," 2007), on January 11, 2007, 15 advertising agencies in New York City released the first set of goals pledged to increase minority hiring and retention. They were all major ad agencies. This pledge was the result of The New York City Commission on Human Rights' probe into their hiring practices. However, there was no definition of minority and each agency chose their own percentage of minorities to be hired—all different numbers.

"One agency executive said the working definition is 'non-white' (meaning that white women won't count toward the goal)." Huh?

This is only the tip of the iceberg. When it's an industry that caters heavily to women consumers and a city as progressive as New York being held accountable, there's definitely more to uncover here. I find it fascinating that this is the status quo today, when skilled men are growing older, fewer men than women are entering college, and women in the workforce are younger and represent a large percentage of the employed.

In the '70s and '80s, in response to the glass ceiling, it became the thing for women to found their own ad agencies, doing some of the most pioneering advertising that's ever been created. Adrienne Hall (who just passed away on February 7), Joan Levine (Adrienne's partner), Janet Marie Carlson, Mary Wells Lawrence (first person to take an ad agency public)--these were my mentors as I opened my little-shop-that-could in LA. But the boys were my inspiration. The boys who would hire me, but wouldn't give me the title or tithe to go with the talent. So I gave it to myself and Medlin & Associates was born. I loved that baby and it grew to be a thing of beauty.

Gender discrimination is happening at some of our biggest and best companies, too. According to the Global Learning Resources, Inc. web site ("No Women at Apple's Top?" 2007), "Over 77% of women between the ages of 35 and 44 are working today, versus about 39% in 1950. Similar increases are found at every age level. It should be the dawn of the age of women if you look at the impressive statistics and trends." But company employment statistics prove otherwise.

In 2008, when the first woman ever is running for president of the United States of America, surely there should be more CEOs and CDs named Shirley.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Si Se Puede. The Election Continues.

Let me preface this by saying, my intent is to remain unbiased as I continue to post my comments on probably one of the most important elections in history. I'm a political animal, always have been. I can't help it. I find it fascinating. That said:

Another primary, another great Obama speech. The man is unbelievable. I can feel him channeling Martin Luther King, JFK, RFK and yes, Ronald Reagan as he works his magic at the podium and in front of the cameras. His numbers in South Carolina today, Saturday, 1/26/08, were amazing. As was Caroline Kennedy's New York Times endorsement of Barack Obama as the candidate who most reminded her of her father. Heavy words of praise, for sure.

Yes, today, the state that started the Civil War gave Obama a more than double win over Clinton. A true smack down for the Clintons' recent race-as-politics issues. I think it clearly proves voters are beyond these hateful tactics and want to move in a new, cleaner, more wholesome direction. We're so over that old school stuff.

It was surprising to me that Edwards made such a poor showing in the state he calls his own. But it's culling-of-the-Democrat-candidates' time, folks, and we all know that everyone wants to ride a winner. Edwards is a powerhouse with great ideas—actually, he is the candidate with the most substantive ideas for lifting America out of our dire straits. And he has done much to help push the two front runners in the correct direction. He's smart, decisive, and extremely instrumental in whatever change happens in November. You gotta give Edwards his kudos for that. When asked hard questions, he gives real answers and not platitudes. Refreshing, but it won't get him to the White House, I'm sure. Whether he's running, pushing, or simply hoping for a position in the next cabinet, he's doing something. At great expense to him and his family. Nobody rides for free.

Watching the returns on I was inspired to see the numbers of viewers and the percentages of Boomers, near Boomers, and older who were online and participating, while the younger viewers were posting comments saying the older generation was "out of touch" and didn't understand "the issues" confronting our country today. Obviously, BraveNewFilms is a young, hip, progressive site and their coverage should naturally skew to the younger generation. But the older generation is still way interested and involved. And very much a web-savvy group, as noted by the numbers below. (I would say this is a heads up to web marketers—but you already know that.)

Today's South Carolina Coverage/BraveNewFilms online viewer numbers by age:
Under 21: 6%
21 to 30: 22%
31 to 40: 14%
41 to 50: 17%
51 to 60: 24%
61+: 17%

To me, this substantial number of older viewers (58%) could say that younger voters simply aren't as interested as their older counterparts in election results. Not true. As election returns show, the younger constituents are turning out, getting involved, and voting in the primaries in unheard of numbers, which is a great sign for us all. Keep it up, Millenniums. We need your voice and your ideas. We need real change in politics and in the direction of this country and the world. You bring that to the table.

As for the Republicans, I don't even go there, as it's a mind-numbing blur. Staying the course. No change, no deviation. Business as usual. As if the American people aren't rising up and screaming for change. Do these guys even poll? No matter which candidate is in the media spotlight at the moment, the Republican candidates are not giving up the battle cry even if substantial numbers of Americans are tuned out—and switching horses. Good for change; bad for them. Also interesting that CNN had so many Republicans on camera today when they didn't even have a Republican caucus. "Equal time?" Whatever. And it wasn't just FOX doing this.

Finally, "Si Se Puede" is the Spanish translation of Barack Obama's mobilizing cry, "Yes, We Can." Which will be Obama's next move—to prove to the Hispanics that we are one people, one America. (His mantra.) More on that as we continue with the most exciting and important election we've had in generations. Or as one 30-something California voter stated, "It's the first time I've ever had a reason to vote in a Primary." Let's hope we all do.

Film at 11.