These days you can’t swing a dead cat without reading about someone proclaiming the death of traditional advertising. Which makes me wonder, why are you swinging a dead cat–– and what exactly are these doomsayers talking about?

Name a brand that became famous without using traditional media channels?

ADWEEK reported that yesterday at the Association of National Advertisers’ Masters of Marketing event, Brad Jakeman, the president of PepsiCo’s global beverage group, lambasted ad agencies for not changing with the times. He thinks we’re stuck in the thirty second TV commercial business (this is a tired saw many CMOs recite when they’re slapping their evil step children).

Jakeman said the age of agencies delivering only big budget TV spots and a couple print ads is over. He thinks the new agency model needs to be pushing out 400 to 4,000 pieces of content a year on a $20,000 budget.

Really? Get 100 monkeys at 100 keyboards stat! Steaming piles of content coming up right away, Mr. Jakeman. (Until procurement comes along and demands that the 400 to 4,000 pieces of content be created for $18,000. Then $17K… $15,000…)

Mr. Jakeman, if you honestly believe it’s about the number of pieces of content created, if you delude yourself into thinking people are eager “to join the conversation” with Pepsi, then you’ll get the crappy thinking you deserve.

Ad agencies have changed, Mr. PepsiCo. We’ve scrambled to keep up with the latest fads and media sensations. Much of it has proven to be fool’s gold, but we’ve learned this together with our clients.

You can bitch about old fashioned ad agency business model, Mr. Jakeman, but frankly, if you’re not getting great thinking on your brand–– thinking that is empathetic to your audience and makes a connection–– well, that’s your fault.

Go hire a team of monkeys and create your ocean of content. That should do it.


Phubbing is all the rage. It’s the rude behavior people have as they are consumed by their smartphone screens rather than the person or people they’re with.

Researchers at Baylor University just released a study in which 46.3% of people said they’d been ‘phubbed’ by a significant other, and 22.6% said that this phubbing has caused problems in their relationships. Naturally, the more someone is phubbed, the less significant he/she feels.

The same study shows that Phubbing leads to depression. Of course it would. Is there anything sadder than seeing a couple at a restaurant and one of them is consumed by his/her smartphone?

Or, a business meeting where people are glancing at their phones, or texting while another is presenting or speaking?

This is rude behavior demonstrating a lack of empathy for the person or people we’re with. We don’t like being phubbed. We don’t tolerate this behavior in our kids, and it’s even less excusable in adults who should know better.

Technology is changing human behavior, but we cannot allow it to deplete us of our humanity for one another.

As a marketer, you need to be aware of this and empathetic enough to realize you can be part of the problem.
Practice safe and smart marketing. Respect your audience, and never, ever, ever phub unto others (lest they phub unto you). Here’s a cool site to help.


You go to visit your new neighbors, and their dog is very happy to greet you. VERY happy. He shows this by attaching himself to your leg.

The owners are embarrassed. You’re embarrassed. “Bad boy, down! Down!!!” the owners command their pet.

You’ve just experienced how consumers feel. They walk innocently into an environment, and anxious marketers are on them like an excited dog. There’s no consideration for the audience, no respect, no empathy for how they are approached.

Just marketing assault. Full frontal assault.

Is it any wonder ad blockers are so popular? It’s marketing kevlar.

Please practice marketing responsibly. Just because you can reach people in a certain environment, doesn’t mean you should. Just because you have a marketing strategy you think is brilliant and compelling, don’t think that’s enough.

Consider people and their mindset. Is your message in context? Are you rewarding people for their time and attention? Are you giving something of value to them?

Or, are you just seeing a leg?


The drumbeat of the death of traditional advertising sounds loudly as more CMOs chase analytics and logarithms in search of proven returns on investments.

They want marketing to be a science–– a repeatable, dependable, secure ROI machine.

And why not? Science is irrefutable. If we treat marketing like science, we can predict outcomes. It doesn’t take a Wharton MBA to know that a certain ROI is a great thing (until the law of diminishing returns takes effect).

But throughout history, sales sensations are not the products of predictable, ordinary campaigns, they’re the result of surprising and extraordinary campaigns. Magical work that catches a wave of Zeitgeist and rides it, becoming a buzz, a meme, a movement.

The VW Beetle campaign. Got Milk? The Old Spice campaign. Apple’s “1984” spot. ESPN’s SportsCenter work. The Most Interesting Man In The World, The Bartles & Jaymes campaign. These are products of art, demonstrating an empathy and understanding of human nature, and respect for people. Campaigns that are relevant to their products and give something back to the audience.

The scientific approach leads to formulaic advertising–– doing the limbo under the low bar you set.

The artful approach may lead to failure and humiliating embarrassment. Then again, the artful approach sometimes leads to glory.

The choice is yours marketer–– will you try and make your mark, or will you be driven by fear?



Why? It’s human nature.

We all view the world through our eyes, filtered through the prism of our own self interest. But just because something’s important to you, don’t assume it’s important (or even of interest) to others.

They have their own selfish perspectives. And it’s only getting worse.

Selfie sticks, anyone?

Before you create your content, before you commit to it, ask yourself one simple question: “Why should the person on the other end care?”

If you don’t have a good answer, an honest answer, rethink it.

Because content is king only if it serves its subjects.


My wife and I were late to the “Mr. Robot” train, the USA Network program that’s the buzz hit of Summer.

So, we went to our XFINITY On Demand section (we pay Comcast a small fortune for this forest of entertainment). We found Mr. Robot: episode one, and hit PLAY.

A title informed us the program would contain commercials that couldn’t be fast forwarded or skipped. We were a captured audience.

The show began. It was captivating, fresh, unlike anything else on TV–– yes, yes, yes–– AND STOP! Commercial break.

A spot for a medicine that treats an ailment neither of us has. Apparently, the people taking this drug lead active, healthy lives and are ecstatic. Good for them.

Let’s get back to “Mr. Robot”… WAIT!

Another commercial, for a luxury car. Beautiful, shiny sheet metal driven by impossibly attractive people on wet streets at night. An announcer recited some gibberish (probably verbatim from the creative brief). The gorgeous couple smiled and exited the car as a crowd of pathetic fools looked on, miserable with envy. Super: logo, inane tagline.

Back to “Mr. Robot”!!! NOPE.

We had to watch another drug ad. We didn’t have that ailment either, but the people who take the miracle drug live very happy lives (maybe I’ll ask my doctor about the drug whose name looks like a bad Scrabble tray–– nah).

Mr. Robot finally returned, for a bit. THEN, there was another commercial break, and guess what? The exact same commercials played again.

So it went. Scraps of fresh and engaging “Mr. Robot” doled out, followed by the same boring commercials we’d seen. Over and over again.

By the end of this ordeal, I went to the iTunes Store and bought the other “Mr. Robot” episodes without commercial interruption. I vow NEVER to buy the luxury car or those medicines who sponsored our forced On Demand showing.

Those stupid advertisers paid money to get me to hate their products.

Be smart, marketers, media buyers. Just because you have a captured audience, you don’t have the right to torture them by showing the same spots repeatedly.

Maybe I’ll be like Mr. Robot and hack those companies who forced me to watch their crappy spots…


Once, adgods Bill Bernbach, David Ogilvy, Mary Wells Lawrence, Leo Burnett and Howard Gossage walked the Earth.

These legends went belly-to-belly with CEOs and captains of industry, people with visions. The ad gurus were trusted advisors who built brands with insightful, empathetic and smart ad campaigns. Iconic campaigns that built companies, fueled economic growth and greased the wheels of capitalism.

“All aboard the gravy train express!”

Today, most big companies are run by financial specialists who forecast profits and cut expenses to make their projected numbers, pleasing Wall Street analysts and investors, and earning the corporate leaders lucrative stock options and incentive bonuses.

The vision of business today lasts one quarter… to the next.

When the company projections are determined, the dictate comes down from on high to marketing. The CMO is like Scotty in the engine room of The Enterprise as the command comes from the bridge: “We need more sales and marketshare with less marketing dollars. Get more for less!”

“It can’t be done, captain,” the CMO says (in a bad Scottish accent).

“Make it so!” the order is barked.

“Aye aye, captain,” the dejected CMO says. He/she then picks up the phone to deliver the order to his/her ad agency(ies).

What happened? Marketing is the Rodney Dangerfield in most corporations: it gets no respect, and is often looked at as an expense rather than an investment.

Why? Because number crunchers can easily see that eight is more than seven. Answers are obvious in fiscal black and white. But marketers deal in gray areas of motivating people, which is more art than science, so they’re viewed as snake oil salesmen believing their ideas will translate into gold.

No wonder many CMOs today are seduced by numbers, enamored with the science of analytics, and put stock in wishful thinking like turning their brands over to social media.

Unfortunately, marketing only gets results by changing human behavior. And that, that is rarely a black and white issue. Because people can be, well, damn complicated.

Remember the wisdom of Bill Bernbach: “We are so busy measuring public opinion that we forget we can mold it. We are so busy listening to statistics we forget we can create them.”

Let’s stimulate imaginations, make connections, motivate action and earn some respect.

The main casino floor of the City of Dreams is one of the largest in Macau.

Money down, hands up! Today marketers have more ways than ever to place their bets on how best to reach potential consumers.

And everyone is looking for the sure thing. We all want that repeatable winner, the slot machine that always pays. The bet that’s a lock. That surefire invest $1.00, get $1.87 return. Bam! Sweet, let’s do this.

Who doesn’t like easy money? If only it were that simple. There are no sure bets.

Your market, your potential market, has countless ways to be reached and communicated with–– some more efficient than others. But they’re all just pipelines to people. And just because you can reach them there, should you? More importantly, what are you giving them? What’s your story, why should they care, what’s in it for them?

Face it, we’re all selfish. We want things that make our lives better, richer, more fulfilling and enjoyable. We want problems solved, curiosities satisfied, needs met, passions fulfilled.

We want what we want–– how exactly does your product or service fit in?

Basic, right? Yet so many CMOs today are looking for sure bets, that magic media delivery channel to an audience they believe is itching to buy whatever they’re selling. They put their faith in the science of technology, the fad of the new, forgetting the art of communicating with empathy, understanding and humanity.

It’s delusional marketing thinking. In their desire to build a better mousetrap, they forget that mice can think. And mice never, ever think of themselves as rodents.

So, what’s your cheese, marketer? What’s your cheese?


After almost 18 years of being a partner in Ames Scullin O’Haire Advertising, the most surprising thing I’ve found is the number of clients who are in miserable relationships with their agencies.

In fact, a recent Chief Marketing Officer survey showed only 33% were happy with their relationships. Which leaves 67% unhappy–– but staying put.

I’ve heard the complaints: “my agency is too slow”… “too expensive”… “doesn’t know my business”… “isn’t creative”… “is unresponsive”… “isn’t strategic”… “has juniors cutting their teeth on my account”… “just wants to rack up billable hours”… “only cares about their P & L”… “just wants to win creative awards”… “doesn’t know new media”… “nickel and dimes me to death”… “doesn’t understand my customers”… “is always trying to sell more services”… “doesn’t understand our corporate goals”… “only cares about paying its global holding company”… and on and on and on.

Still, these miserable marketers remain loyal to their whipping children. Why? I’ve heard their response many times: “The devil I know is better than the devil I don’t.”

It doesn’t make any sense. With that outlook, no matter what you do, you’re still in hell.

My advice to those two-thirds of CMOs in unhappy relationships? Test drive another agency. One that’s done work you like, with people you like. Give them a real project, not some branding assignment jump ball (AKA: “come-play-the-let’s-get-lucky-lottery”).

Be totally open and brutally honest. See how the agency operates under real world conditions. If they’re as good as they say they are (we all say we’re fantastic, right?), then give them some more work.

Or, give them a shot at your whole business. You may not find immediate salvation, but al least you’ll escape the hell of the devil you know.

Annex - Cooper, Gary (Fountainhead, The)_01

It’s not often when an ad agency gets to be a client, but there we were years ago–– the partners of Ames Scullin O’Haire Advertising in the market for an architect to help us plan our new office space.

A friend in the office furniture business gave me three recommendations for great architects, and we scheduled meetings. Each firm brought a small team and a portfolio of projects. The architects took us through samples of their work. Some we liked, some we didn’t.

Each firm explained their process. Our eyes glazed over. What did we know about architectural process? What did we care? We wanted their great ideas and designs, well-executed, on budget and delivered on time.

Finally, every firm expressed its sincere desire to work with us. The lapdogs were licking our faces.

It all felt familiar. So depressingly familiar.

Architecture, like advertising, is a service business. Our produced work is our wares, and judging work is subjective, dependent on the tastes of the audience. Results are nice, but results will not trump a person’s visceral reaction to the work. As for process, process is our business. The people who hire may ask about process, but does anyone make her/his decision based on process?

Doubtful. They want your magic, and process simply tells them your tricks can de replicated.

As for enthusiasm in starting a relationship working together, well, that’s a given for service firms. Of course we want to work together–– that’s how we earn money (and money comes in very handy when you’re running a business).

So how do we make decisions selecting a service partner? By gut instinct. Do you like the people? Have they provided services you think are valuable? Are you confident they’ll be there when you need them? Do you believe they’ll give their all for you? Do you trust them?

Those are intangibles, chemistry. But they’re the stew we use to make our decision.

All three of the architects we met with were terrific. We selected the firm we felt would give us the most attention when there were bumps in the road, because well, there are always bumps.

We chose wisely. They were great partners and we love the space they designed.

Our experience drove home how difficult it is to sell a service. The buyer doesn’t know how good the service will be until the firm is hired and test driven. Until then, all we have is our past performance, process, face-licking and our ability to make a human connection.

And that last criterion is critical. In fact, no matter what your business, you better be able to make a human connection, because when things go south, technology won’t ease anger and frustration.


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