Deconstruction on Madison Avenue
Craig McNamara blogs and podcasts about advertising and working in advertising
Monday, January 26, 2009
Friday, January 23, 2009
3 Network TV Programming Observations
1) The best sitcoms have a lifespan of about 7 years; for drama shows, it's about 5 years.
Representative examples: The Mary Tyler Moore Show (7 seasons exactly); The Bob Newhart Show (6 years); "Hill Street Blues" went downhill after season 5 and "M*A*S*H" had lost most of its edge by season 8.
2) At the start of a series, the actor becomes the character; during the latter days, the character conforms to the actor.
Representative examples: "M*A*S*H" again, with Hawkeye's character gradually taking on more and more of Alan Alda's personality; "Happy Days," which ended its too-long run (see #1) with most of the cast no longer bothering to conform to the fashions and hairstyles of the period.
3) Most TV show creators have one hit show in them.
3) Most TV show creators have one hit show in them.
Sherwood Schwartz ("Gilligan's Island," "The Brady Bunch") once said you need to have two hits -- the second one to pay for litigation for your share of the profits of the first. Unfortunately, most producers aren't that lucky.
For every Gary Marshall ("Happy Days," "Laverne & Shirley," "Mork & Mindy") and Steven Bochco ("Hill Street Blues," "L.A. Law," "NYPD Blue"), there are dozens of producers with really, one enduring show to the their name like Diane English ("Murphy Brown" and, um, "Double Rush," "Love & War" and "Ink") and David Kohan/Max Mutchnick ("Will & Grace" and uh, "Boston Common," "Four Kings" and "Good Morning Miami").
It's just not as easy as producers like Aaron Spelling (and you know his shows) make it look.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Talk about hedging your bets...
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Beer? Who'd Buy That?
For oblivious, uncritical, PR-driven drivel, nothing beats the daily advertising column in the New York Times. Monday's article was no exception. It begins with this headline:
Is Star Power Enough to Sell Beer in Hard Times? Two Brewers Hope SoAren't hard times and beer made for each other? What does star power have to do with it? The article tries to put that bizarre question into some context and fails:
Beer has long been thought to be less affected by downturns than other consumer purchases, but the severity of current conditions has called into question the most cherished of marketing assumptions.
Is the author speaking generally here, or is there some recent beer sales figures he's relying on? No context. If you keep reading, it becomes somewhat clearer that we aren't really talking about beer in general but so-called premium beers:
“Now more than ever, you need to give consumers a reason why you’re worth paying more for,” said Christian McMahan, chief marketing officer at Heineken USA in White Plains, a division of the Dutch brewer Heineken.
Now we're getting somewhere! This is about differentiating your brand with real value. So what do they have planned for their Superbowl competition.
For the flagship Heineken brand, Heineken USA is introducing a tongue-in-cheek campaign that presents the actor John Turturro as a guru whose words of wisdom are composed of more head than beer.Did I miss something here? Did Heineken? Is this really going to give me a reason to pay more for a beer? Hold it -- further down the article, we get more details:
Some sayings offered by Mr. Turturro’s character seem sagacious (“Every man is the leader of his own expedition”). Others sound like double-talk (“But he who wanders with purpose has no purpose to wander”).
The Heineken campaign carries the theme “Give yourself a good name,” which replaces the theme of previous ads, “It’s all about the beer.”
The new theme “has two layers to it,” said Mark Fitzloff, executive creative director at the Portland office of Wieden & Kennedy. “One is about a name on the bottle; you literally give yourself the Heineken name when you order one.”
Yeah, obviously. Tell us about the second layer:
“On a second level, it’s about reputation, how you act in social situations,” he added. “Where beer is around, people are not always carrying themselves with dignity.”
Whoa-- now he's implying embarrassing drunken behavior and telling us we don't have "a good name?" And this is supposed to be convincing me to choose Heineken over some cheaper domestic brand?
There's got to me more to this spot than we're getting from this article. There must be. Never mind waiting for SuperBowl Sunday. Let's watch the whole commercial now:
Wow. Jon Turturro did a great job playing a clueless, pretentious guy with creepy drunken intensity -- but why Heineken would want him to represent their beer drinker is beyond me.
And I'm still waiting to hear why they're worth a few extra bucks.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Why say something when you can say nothing?
In the typical newspaper run-up to the Super Bowl, the New York Times starts running articles teasing the upcoming advertisers and spots. (Sure, it's news, if you don't think about it too hard. Or at all.)
Yesterday's edition had a piece on Denny's upcoming Super Bowl debut. It included this quote:
“If you want to go on the Super Bowl, with that large audience, you better have something to say,” said Mark Chmiel, chief marketing officer at Denny’s in Spartanburg, S.C.
Wow, has this guy ever watched a Super Bowl commercial:
I applaud Mr. Chmiel's desire for substance and marketing savvy. But be warned, the above spot, sadly typical of the vapidness of Super Bowl advertising, comes to you from the same agency now working for Denny's.
Monday, January 12, 2009
Products that sell themselves
There's a saying in advertising, "Great creative sells itself." It rarely does. Packaging overcompensates for the lack of a salesperson by overwhelming the consumer with copy points. It sometimes works.
But for pure emotional appeal and speaking to the consumer's mindset, you could say these brand names really do sell themselves: