26 June 2010

Why I'm Leaving The Age of Persuasion

Today marks the last Age of Persuasion episode of the season, and the end of my involvement in the show.

It's been a privilege and a hoot working with Terry and Keith, creating more than 100 shows, and collaborating with Terry on The Age of Persuasion: How Marketing Ate Our Culture.

It's been the best kind of work- and the hardest. Being the lone full-time staffer on the show, I've logged more than 450 days researching & writing, and more than 1600 hours in production, and a half-year of working full-time, flat-out, on the book manuscript.

Now it's time to see what the rest of the world looks like.

And whatever comes next for AOP, I'm delighted to leave it as it should be- in its prime.

And now? It's kind of you to ask; I've been commissioned to create and produce a one-hour special for CBC Radio One, to air on Labour Day. Please pop back here in coming days and I'll spill the details.

That's in addition to a return to the *other* work I love- creating ads, and giving talks and workshops on creative communication.

So now I wave so-long to The Age of Persuasion with no small measure of gratitude to Terry, Keith, our CBC friends, the great folks at Pirate- and especially our listeners- for such a great ride.


17 June 2010

When Is a Great Ad a Lousy Ad?

It's great when-
  • it stands out from the pack
  • it captures the imagination.
  • it makes you laugh.
  • it makes you want to see it again.
  • it makes you want to share it with friends.
  • it lives on through the Internet- (here, for instance) long after its birth.
It's lousy when it doesn't sell the brand.

Here's an easy test- plug any- and I mean any- cellphone brand in at the end of this spot. Go ahead.  I'll wait.

Still funny, isn't it?

This is great entertainment, not a great ad.  I'm glad I saw it.  I'm glad you're seeing it.  But as at least one great ad sage has noted, when you can remove the brand from an ad without the ad falling apart, there's something seriously wrong with it.

If the brand- it's Kyocera, by the way-  ran this as part of a long series of ads in the same headspace- to a point where that mnemonic at the end was associated with first-rate ads (like a swoosh, and the words "Just Do It"), then this ad could be one piece in a powerful branding machine.  But as a one-off, it's a confection: sweet, delicious, irresistible, quickly forgotten.

Tricky thing, this ad business.

01 June 2010

My New Favourite Website

The Cheese & Burger Society is a marketing vehicle for Wisconsin Cheese. The beauty of it is that it never 'feels' like it's selling you something. Yet it does.

Oooooooooooo, but it does.

Like all great works of marketing, this site's single-minded objective is ever in focus: dress your burger with Wisconsin cheese.

Pop quiz:  it's your job to create a website that incites people to do that. What do you do?

The immediate answer is to create a recipe-destination site, with 'beauty' shots of burgers and easy-to-follow recipes. It's a great idea, which is why a gazillion other marketers have already done it.  Your brand might as well join the Witness Protection Program.  What the Wisconsin Cheese added was a not-so-secret ingredient:


With crisp visuals and deliciously simple design, the site tells the story of dozens of burgers, borrowing the irresistible voice of Patrick Warburton, in that rare class of 'born-funny' people who can generate a laugh with the casual twitch of an eyebrow. His credits include the voice of Joe Swanson in Family Guy, the pie-eating Agent 'T' in Men in Black II, and David Puddy, Elaine Benes' boyfriend in Seinfeld:

To those who are suckers for the Warburton style (your humble servant included), it's impossible to hear just one burger description.  It's so easy to flip from "The Couch Potato"  to "The Lumberjack" to "The Big Ben" for lovingly written 15-ish second descriptions.

The "sell" to the site is tucked neatly in a back pocket, and left there.  No "sign up here."  No being herded to a site listing cheeses, cheese manufacturers. No painfully mandatory "Meet the CEO" page.  Subtle branding like this requires enormous courage: you must hope people are so enamoured of your web content, that they consciously stop to wonder "who did this?"

The URL- www.cheeseandburger.com-  betrays nary a wiff of 'sell'.  Never does this site succumb to the temptation to insert any sort of in-your-face product pitch.  

Don't underestimate the importance of entertainment-driven online content.  The emphasis must be on courting, winning, and keeping each visitor.  The moment a website serves itself instead of its visitor- click- they're gone.  Faster than you can say bored-dot-com.

The site's strategy is so simple: Come for the laughs.  Stay for the cheeseburgers. Leave feeling good about Wisconsin Cheese.

It's a brilliant recipe.