. The Transom .

Monday, July 31, 2006

Something is wrong when $225,000,000 can't convince me to buy a car

Advertising Age released a story about Chrysler and the complete failure of its new commercials with "Dr. Z," Chrysler's chairman, Dieter Zetsche. You would have to be hiding under a rock to miss these spots.

A lot of people will tell you that putting the head of a company in ads will bring some shred of credibility to the message. And in large part, that can be true. The only problem with Dr. Z was that 80% of people believed he was a fictional character and not the head of Chrysler. The response from consumer studies also showed that the message of employee pricing was lost because people were trying to understand his thick German accent and listen to the specifics behind the "German engineering."

And what was the price tag for these ads? $225,000,000

What did Chrysler get for this little chunk of change? How about a 17% drop in sales and 90% decline in profits. To be fair, auto industry sales are off 11% as a group, but that still puts Chrysler 6% behind the industry.

Here's a tip to auto makers and any other company with recurring needs to spend massive amounts of money on advertising: find another way because advertising alone isn't doing it for you.

Monday, July 17, 2006

"Heads Up" - Athletes don't always align reputation and judgment

I knew that Ben Roethlisberger cracked his skull when he crashed into a car last month not wearing a safety helmet, so I wasn't completely surprised by his latest unbelievable comments about helmet safety. Talking to USA Today, Roethlisberger said he has parked his bike for the season, but still believes that "people should make their own decision about whether to wear a helmet on a motorcycle," and that he "doesn't plan on doing public safety announcements for motorcycle or helmet safety."

Atta boy, Benny. Way to be a role model. Why seize the opportunity to communicate directly to the hundreds of thousands of kids who idolize your every move about a way to help save their life? Why actually use your popularity as a way to show that, yes, even superstars make mistakes?

And then there is Zinedine Zidane, the French soccer star of World Cup 2006, who rammed his head into the chest of an Italian player after words were exchanged about the integrity of Zidane's mother. Didn't we learn in gradeschool that saying about sticks and stones? Here is Zidane, arguably 12 minutes away from forever being remembered in the same light as Pele and Michael Jordan, and he can't control his emotion. Now all that's talked about is his temper. Yes, he apologized, 'to the kids,' but not for his actions. He apologized that they saw him do it. That's like apologizing that the cops caught you robbing a bank, but not being sorry for stealing the money.

It's sad for me, as a father, to watch when idol athletes only step up to the plate in stadiums.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Television ads are about to get a lot less expensive

AC Nielsen has announced that starting in November, it will begin to provide TV ratings for commercials. Currently, Nielsen measures a show block in its entirety. If you tune in to watch any part of a show, Nielsen reports you also watched the ads.

This is big news for advertisers. The expected outcome is that many people either change the channel or skip the commercials. Advertisers will then be prepared to negotiate much lower ad rates or will simply put some of their ad dollars where people are going - the internet.

The way I see it, this is good news all around. Television ads are way too expensive given the ROI. Maybe now marketers will look at other ways to sell their products and services that are effective. Internet advertising can certainly be one of those ways, but I see this as a wake up call to many marketing executives and CEOs. Just as print readership has gone from newspapers to the internet, so too are television viewers. It only makes sense that the marketing spend follow the consumers.

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

PepsiCo should be applauded for their no-brainer

Three cheers to PepsiCo for notifying Coca-Cola it had received a letter offering stolen information about a new Coke product. In this day and age of Enron-like corporate ethics, it's refreshing to see a company actually do the right thing.

It is also, coincidentally, the only real move Pepsi could make. Consider if they had ignored the letter or had accepted the offer. Word would have leaked and Pepsi would have been fried. In reality, the Coca-Cola employees who tried to sell company secrets did nothing more than provide Pepsi with an excuse for great free publicity.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Consumer media goes from grade school to graduate school

I have a theory about consumer media (different than 'news' media) that goes something like this: Consumer media is slowing changing from an informer to an influencer.

Early in its lifecycle, consumer media was largely advertising. It told you things and you listened. Advertising was truth. Then public relations came more into the spotlight, advertising moved into the 'art' category and you could recognize the difference between corporate messaging and honest assessment. Today, we've moved into a consumer-generated media stage, whereby consumers are influenced by the information given to them, but they are responsible for creating the messaging, marketing, R&D and promotion of today's products. Think of it like school. In first grade, your teacher knew all the answers. She taught you that 1 + 1 = 2. That was fact. Then as you progressed through the system, you reached college or grad school where your teacher was more of a guide and less of a body of knowledge. They encouraged you to think on your own and decide for yourself whether or not what they taught was fact. (if you took the geeky advanced math classes like I did you learned that, through geometric proofs, 1 + 1 doesn't have to equal 2.)

Hollywood is a great example of this change. In the past, they put out a trailer, you watched it and decided if you wanted to see the movie. Simple enough. Today, they release a trailer on sites like YouTube and encourage you to modify it or create your own spoof of the movie. So instead of trying to create interest or buzz for the film themselves, the studios let the consumers create buzz for them. There could be 1,000 versions of the trailer out there and that leads to more interest, which leads to more ticket sales.

Of course, not everyone understands how to capitalize on the consumer-generated media phenomenon. The Diet Coke / Mentos 'chemistry set' is a good example. Mentos was thrilled with the news that thousands of videos popped up on YouTube with different versions of the Mentos Volcano. Diet Coke was horrified. Sales of Mentos spiked after the news went viral. Diet Coke's sales remained the same.

My prediction: consumers will have full access to R&D and marketing of products in the very near future and the process will be completely transparent. Companies realize that by giving consumers a stake in the outcome, you are creating loyalty and a sense of ownership. You can't spend enough on advertising to create that bond.