Clint Eastwood – the new face of Chrysler advertising is the voice of the US nation

February 4, 2012

Clint Eastwood is replacing Eminem as frontman for Chrysler’s advertising during the Super Bowl this weekend. The ad is to last 2 minutes – meaning an upfront cost of about $14m. And that’s before production and Clint’s fee are factored in.

Still, it’s probably money well spent, since the ad will upstage everyone else’s effort this year. As it happens, Chrysler has got something to brag about. It’s currently doing better than any other US auto manufacturer, posting a 44% increase in year-on-year sales last month. That compares with Ford’s slightly disappointing 7% gain and General Motors’ 6% drop.

The Eminem ad was widely praised at the time and later lionised at Cannes. What Clint will do to surpass last year’s effort is anyone’s guess. But then, that’s the thing about him. He doesn’t have to do very much. Just open his mouth slightly and everyone’s agog. He’s practically the Father of his Country, such is his prestige. It’s certainly greater than that of any living president.

Chrysler is coy about his role, admitting only that he will deliver a “pep talk” to the nation. Should be interesting. One thing we won’t be seeing, I suspect, is a reprise of his last film role, in Gran Torino. Despite the tempting Motown parallel, the movie is about a retired Ford worker who drives about in a classic Ford car. I bet Ford is kicking itself.

UPDATE  6/1/12: And here it is:

PS. Eminem is being sued for $9m by a homeless man, Stephen Lee Pieck, who alleges the rapper stole the above-mentioned ‘Born from Fire’ ad idea from him.

VW’s Super Bowl ads – from “Little Darth” to just plain daft

February 2, 2012

Commercially, it’s the greatest show on Earth, with 30-second spots commanding over $3.5m apiece – an up to 30% increase on the previous season. ITV chief executive Adam Crozier can only gaze upon his 2016 Rio Olympics slots, wish he was at the helm of NBC, and despair.

Yes, it’s the Super Bowl, coming your way (if you have satellite or cable) this weekend – a US sports fest so intense that no advertiser of substance – in cars, beer, movies, softs drinks or snacks – can comfortably afford to exclude itself from the 111 million expected viewers and not-to-be-surpassed Nielsen awareness ratings.

So great advertising too? Frankly, despite the unique showcase, most ads aren’t as super as they might be. That’s for a variety of reasons. Some clients like to play it safe (and can you blame them, with that amount of money at stake?). Others overdo it. Drunk with earlier success, they get too tricksy and self-referential.

I wonder if Volkswagen and Deutsch LA haven’t fallen into that trap. Last year, they stole the show with “The Force” (aka “Little Darth”), which made Nielsen’s coveted annual “Most Liked” list and took a Cannes Gold Lion for dessert.

This year, they’ve stuck to Star Wars but gone for animals rather than children. See what you think:

I’m afraid I’m with the Dark Father on this one. The bloke with the funny prosthetic nose is just plain wrong.

Neogama founder and creative chief upsets the BBH applecart by trying to sell his stake

December 19, 2011

There’s an interesting ownership conundrum facing BBH and its 49% sponsor Publicis Groupe. Here is what I have learned.

It concerns Neogama BBH, the global micro-network’s Sao Paulo agency. Its founder, president and chief creative officer Alexandre Gama wants to cash up the majority stake he owns.

Neogama, set up in 1999, is one of Brazil’s top ten agencies and quite a feather in BBH’s cap. It is creatively highly regarded and was the first Brazilian agency to win at Cannes. In fact, if my recollection is correct, it now has at least 18 Lions to its name.

The agency’s biggest single client is burgeoning Brazilian bank Bradesco, but it also plays an important role in servicing BBH global clients such as Unilever and Diageo.

Here’s an example of Neogama’s latest work for Diageo’s Johnnie Walker, which may well be a Cannes prizewinner next year. It was devised by Gama himself:

As you can see, a slick, confident peaen to Brazil, the awakening economic colossus.

BBH, seeking to increase its profile in up-and-coming Latin America, came about its minority Neogama stake in a convoluted way. Back in 2002, Neogama was 40%-owned by Chicago-based holding company BCom3 – the 3 referring to an alliance between Leo Burnett, DMB&B (now deceased) and Dentsu. BCom3 passed on a part of that stake to BBH, in which it by then held a 49%  share through Burnett. Still there? Because it gets even more complicated. Earlier that year along comes Publicis Groupe, which swallows the lot, including Dentsu’s 20% strategic stake, in a $3bn takeover deal, making it the then fourth-largest marketing services group in the world. The important point to note is that PG ended up holding a direct 49% stake in BBH, but only an indirect one through BBH in Neogama. Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice Lévy and Gama are not thought to be best buddies.

Although the subsequent BBH relationship has been mutually beneficial, Gama is known to have been hawking his stake at other agency group doors. Why now? Nine years is a long time to wait for your investment to mature, but some go further in speculating that he is worried about his agency’s dependence on Bradesco as a client.

The sense is that Gama is engaged in an act of brinksmanship with Lévy, which involves using rival groups as a stalking horse. He well knows his own worth: Neogama is far and away PG’s best agency in Brazil (and one of its best in Latin America).

However, buying him out may not prove that easy. If BBH could stump up the cash on its own, that would be the simplest and most elegant solution; but  the likelihood is it cannot. So why doesn’t the parent group just step in and sort it out? Well, PG is not a bank – it will want something in return. Such as buying a majority stake in BBH. The trouble is – PG is also Procter & Gamble’s biggest agency group. BBH is of course a Unilever agency, but the 51% majority stake held by the partners keeps the relationship at arm’s length. Even in this enlightened era of agency conflict management, full ownership of BBH might not go down at all well with the good folk in Cincinnati.

As I say, it’s an interesting dilemma. Let’s see how Gama, Lévy and BBH group chairman Nigel Bogle sort it out.

Google ads continue to pleasantly surprise

November 21, 2011

It’s good to see Google’s flush of Lions winners at this year’s Cannes International Advertising Festival is no flash in the pan.

Currently, there are two excellent campaigns (or at least, two that I am aware of). They’re concise, to the point, and extremely well crafted. They even manage to make complex, potentially dull, subject matter amusing. Who would have thought technoraks capable of such a thing?

One, which I noticed for the first time in today’s Guardian (although it has been running for a month) is the Good to Know campaign, devised by M&C Saatchi and Glue Isobar (part of Aegis). It’s essentially a public service campaign, endorsed by the Citizens Advice Bureau, which by means of simple line drawings and even simpler text manages to distil such recondite concepts as online tracking, private browsing and IP addresses down to their most basic context. Naturally enough, the tone is upbeat. Those concerned with the more sinister implications of behavioural targeting, “private” browsing and “unsafe” search would presumably be well advised to consult the proffered website, or indeed their local CAB directly. Nevertheless, the campaign performs its function well. I would not (while we’re on the subject) be surprised to find its scheduling has something to do with the high-level discussions going on in Brussels over the regulatory future of BT, which I covered in an earlier post.

Equally gem-like is a Google Analytics offering from Google Creative Labs (the in-house ad incubator that was behind those Cannes winners). The “slice of life” film uses a supermarket setting to skilfully drive home the point about irritating, counter-productive e-commerce security protocol. For you and for me all that stuff about timing out, tedious usernames and unintelligible word-games raises a hollow and knowing chuckle, no less resonant on second viewing. But we are not the audience. The aim is to teach web-publishers the error of their ways. User-friendly sites produce better sales results, and the best way to find out what works and what does not is to check out Google Analytics.

It’s rare to find a B2B ad that really shines. This one should encounter little competition in the “business services” category which it occupies. Sadly, for that very reason, it will probably not receive the wider feting it undoubtedly deserves.

The real winner at Cannes? John O’Keeffe, WPP’s worldwide creative director

June 27, 2011

When you can’t come up with a great idea, do the next best thing – plump for an all-star cast and baroque production values. If the ad is slick enough, maybe no one will notice the difference.

Except we do. And we have, at the Cannes Creative International Advertising Festival. The winner, the crème de la crème, this year’s Film Grand Prix, simply wasn’t up to snuff. Nike’s Write the Future is a tired old trope, made worse by poor judgement in fielding Wayne Rooney. Mind you, it wasn’t as if there was much competition. I liked BBDO Argentina’s Braids and it was gratifying to see Deutsch’s Force (aka Little Darth) also pick up a gold. But they weren’t exactly compelling alternatives to Wieden & Kennnedy Amsterdam’s World Cup hymn. As my chum Stephen Foster drily points out, 2011 was not a vintage year for adland’s finest creative minds.

So who was the real winner this year? W&K? Droga5 (3 grand prix, 2 more than good old GB, which had to make do with AMV BBDO/PepsiCo garnering the new effectiveness award)?

Neither of these. I can exclusively reveal it was WPP’s worldwide creative director John O’Keeffe. He has managed to bag more prizes than anyone else. Not personally, you’ll understand, but on behalf of WPP – whose ecstatic CEO, Sir Martin Sorrell, was able to waltz off with the first-ever Holding Company of the Year award.

Readers of this blog will recall the acrimonious battle between WPP and Publicis Groupe 2 years ago over who had come second at Cannes. Last year, WPP nearly caught up with Omnicom, which regards being top dog as practically a birthright. And this year, O’Keeffe has finally kicked Omnicom’s supremacy into touch. The points-count, for those interested in “statue statistics”, was: WPP 1,219; Omnicom 1,152; Publicis 744.

Must be worth a few bob come bonus time, John.

Creative momentum for M&C, Wieden, Del Campo and – of course – BBDO

January 24, 2011

Just like the business and financial world, the advertising creative industry has its reporting seasons. The Cannes Festival represents the annual benchmark and we are now at the interim stage, with the Gunn Report and AdAge – the industry’s biggest trade paper – issuing their verdicts.

To stretch the analogy a little further, these awards “analysts” heavily favour momentum stocks. That may be because – like their financial counterparts – they’re at heart an unadventurous lot who don’t like nasty surprises. Win at Cannes, and the chances are you’ll pick up a truckload of gongs elsewhere. King of the number-crunchers is the Gunn Report, which resembles Wall Street’s Quants in more ways than one. To quantitative analysis, which monitors an agency’s creative performance over many years and almost every conceivable awards scheme, is added a mysterious proprietary ingredient. We’re never quite sure of the relative weight put on the data. How else explain BBDO’s preeminence as top network for the fifth successive year?

Enough of this. The point I’m making is there are no great surprises at the half-way stage, although some of the results are well worth highlighting (BBDO’s not excluded). Rather pleasingly, M&C Saatchi’s print campaign for Dixons (honourable mentions at Cannes; it also picked up a top award at Epica) was Gunn’s global winner. The art of long copy is not yet dead.

With similar predictability, Wieden & Kennedy was garlanded  AdAge’s Agency of the Year, primarily on the strength of Old Spice Guy. And rightly so. Anyone who can create celebrity out of Procter & Gamble advertising deserves a medal: especially so when the now lionised brand was as hopelessly quaint as Old Spice.

While we’re there, a nod in the direction of AdAge’s International Agency of the Year, Buenos Aires-based Del Campo Nazca Saatchi. Del Campo, which has just celebrated its first ten years, is the epitome of a rolling creative revolution which has now persuaded some premier league clients to consider Latin America as their first port of call when devising a global campaign. In Del Campos’ case, it has just been added to Coca-Cola’s international roster.

The secret of its success seems to be a carefully blended balance of creativity and planning, reminiscent of Boase Massimi Pollitt in the Eighties. Here, at any rate, are a couple of examples of its work. The famous Teletransporter commercial, for Andes beer, which was lauded at Cannes:

And Chocolate Meter, for Kraft, which has apparently resulted in a 50% increase in Cadbury sales:

The Curse of Cannes strikes again

July 19, 2010

They’ll shortly be calling it the Curse of Cannes. Win a gong at the International Advertising Festival and sooner or later you’re bound to bomb.

First there was the Old Spice Guy, who waltzed off with the film grand prix, only to walk slap-bang into a controversy over the brand’s lacklustre sales performance.

Now Lean Mean Fighting Machine, the first UK outfit to have won the Cannes interactive ad agency of the year award, has come a cropper with one of its major clients, Coca-Cola, after an embarrrassing foul-up over a Facebook promotion. I doubt that they will be remaining on terms for much longer.

Coke has had to pull the internet promotion, featuring its Dr Pepper brand, after it was accused of enticing children by making reference to a pornographic movie. From what I can understand, users had to give the company access to their Facebook status boxes, which then filled them with silly (but largely harmless) messages designed to give their internet mates a bit of a rise.

All went well, with over 160,000 people signing up, until a certain Mrs Rickman noticed that the profile of her 14-year-old daughter had been updated with a direct reference to a hardcore pornographic film, Two Girls One Cup (aka Hungry Bitches). Perhaps hardcore doesn’t do it justice: coprophagic fetishism would be a polite description of its main theme. Unfortunately for Coke, Mrs Rickman is an adept of social networking site Mumsnet. Result: uproar and a hasty pledge by Coke to can the promotion and mount a full-scale investigation.

Even then, Coke couldn’t get it right. To quote Mediaguardian:

‘She was offered compensation of theatre tickets for a West End show and a night in a London hotel.

“Fat lot of use to me, we live in Glasgow,” she said.’

Coke has admitted the nominal responsibility (with the extraordinary claim that it had approved the offending reference without realising its true significance). But I suspect it won’t be taking the blame.

For that we must look to LMFM, an offshoot of Tribal DDB which was set up six years ago and is chaired by advertising luminary Paul Bainsfair. You can’t be too careful with internet promotions. Someone is always watching over you. Even so, it was unusually bad luck for an agency which only won the account in spring – after it devised a successful April Fool’s Day ad for Coke. This time, the joke backfired.

AND IT GETS WORSE. I gather Coke, under the guise of reviewing its overall digital media strategy, is now considering sacking LMFM, full stop. Only this week, it landed the digital ad account for the Zero brand. For more insights into Coke’s ineptitude over its LMFM hiring see Jim Edwards’ post on bNet.

Look at the man next to you, now back to me, now look at the Old Spice sales figures, now back to me

July 17, 2010

Flushed with success at Cannes, the progress of Procter & Gamble’s Old Spice Red Zone Body Wash campaign, featuring hunky actor Isaiah Mustafa, seemed unstoppable.

Now the geographical focus has switched from one end of France to the other: Waterloo. Not only has an ambitious foray into the real-time web, involving interactive video, gone into meltdown, but some embarrassing sales figures have emerged. It’s tempting to believe the two things are connected, though that’s doubtful.

“The man your man could smell like”, devised by Wieden & Kennedy, has been an undeniable succès d’estime, but it doesn’t sell product. Not, at least, if we give credence to the SymphonyIRI figures printed in Brandweek: during the 52 weeks ending on June 13, sales of the brand have dropped 7% (excluding the amount sold in WalMart). Bear in mind that the W+K campaign was launched at the Super Bowl in February, so it’s had plenty of time to register a difference.

Taken at face value, this is yet another example of a hackneyed and disagreeable truth. Great creativity may surprise and delight, but often fails to sell product. As Jim Edwards at bNet points out, that’s a great shame because it sets the cause back. Once, P&G was lambasted for its controlling and philistine attitude towards creativity. Now it has changed its ways, it’s probably going to be pilloried for not slashing the price and turning the brand into a moribund cash cow. Or something equally unimaginative. Is Old Spice a dad’s brand, beyond redemption? I don’t know. But it’s certainly possible the marcoms is too sophisticated for the task in hand.

To use a rare (for me) sport analogy, would Germany have won the World Cup had it stuck to its usual, brutally regimented, style instead of adopting the free-flowing, elegant, possession football identified as “gay” by its critics? At the end of the day, it’s all about scoring goals.

UPDATE 27/7/10. Have I been too harsh on the Old Spice Guy’s performance? New sales figures, produced below and printed in Ad Age, suggest a more complex picture than that originally conveyed by the Brandweek article. At first sight, Old Spice seems to have done well, especially in June. On closer inspection, however, P&G’s Gillette has done a lot better. The real winner in the period is probably Unilever’s Dove Men & Care, relaunched in the spring. As Ad Age points out, category uplift has been complicated by heavy couponing and price discounts. Whatever else they may be, the sales figures are not a clear-cut endorsement for Old Spice creativity:

Cannes you believe it? Those winners in full

July 6, 2010

Now we’ve got the Cannes advertising winners out of the way, let’s move on to the competition that really counts: Who Came Second?

Let me explain. This is an annual grudge match between two players – WPP and Publicis Groupe  – and involves creative arithmetic skills of the highest order. Omnicom is excluded on the grounds that it enjoys an unfair advantage (ie, it is the overall winner every year, usually by a country mile).

So, what’s the form? Well, last year both WPP and Publicis proclaimed they were the winner, which led to some acrimonious email correspondence between their two chiefs, Sir Martin Sorrell and Maurice Lévy.

This year, WPP is trumpeting outright victory. Posted on its website is an exhaustive analysis of the results, which triumphantly underpin its claim. Using the Cannes judging system (10 for Grand Prix, 7 for Gold, 5 for Silver, 3 for Bronze and 1 for all shortlists), those results pan out as follows:
1. Omnicom – 1452 points (187 statues)
2. WPP – 1317 points (177 statues)
3. Publicis – 883 points (118 statues)

Surely Lévy can’t be happy with this tally? Yet, so far, I have searched in vain for enlightenment on the Publicis Groupe site…

Come to think of it, John Wren won’t be very happy either, at the prospect of WPP closing the yawning gap with Omnicom. Must be that John O’Keeffe weaving miracles as WPP global creative director.

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