Thursday, April 30, 2009

Follow Zack

Get to know Zack by clicking here.

Zack's a 16-year-old guy who's currently suffering PMS. It's a campaign from a few friends of mine at Burnett. Really well done, and pretty funny.

Hard to please the Spaniards

I've recently learned that Spain is a particularly difficult market for advertisers.

We recently received test results on one of our ads in Mexico and Spain. It did very well in former but not as well in latter. I asked how big a factor the cultural differences were, and was told that in Spain, they have a lot more commercials than they do in Switzerland or even the United States, making them super-humanly cynical of advertising.

A co-worker who has a house in Barcelona, and is married to a Castilian, confirmed this. He said even American shows that are translated into Spanish have more commercials packed into them than in the States. An episode of Lost is about 43 minutes, leaving 15 minutes for ads and ABC's promos. In Spain, it would probably be 25 minutes of ads, bumping The Unusuals or whatever comes next to a 9:10 start time. (The Spaniards aren't so die-hard about starting on the hour.) They even have short micro-commercials during the commercial breaks to remind viewers, "You're watching Lost."

So all of those spots (including more commercials before and even after movies in theaters) means the public's deflector shields are up the second the AVO beings, "¿Nunca no consiga a eso ninguna sensación tan fresca?" So if you test well in Spain, you've probably got a very good spot on your reel.

(I've also learned that in France, the TV is government-controlled and they've put limits on how much advertising appears per channel, per day. I haven't had anything tested in France yet, but I'm guessing they're automatically cynical of anything commercial, anyway.)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Feedback? Or threats?

I just spent my lunch on a conference call with a German-based marketing research company. Here are some otherwise innocuous comments that, when spoken with a German accent, become very threatening:
  • Let’s start right now so we don’t waste time.
  • Impact is quite week.
  • It is a more important variable in intrusive impact.
  • Any indication on the diagnostics?
  • If you compare to Coca-Cola, you will lose.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bring Your Kid to Work/America

I have on my calendar that today is "Bring Your Kid to Work Day." I'm not 100% sure today's the day, because I didn't get a company memo this year. Apparently, it's not observed in Switzerland.

Made me nostalgic for last year. So I pulled up some pictures of what I did with my two oldest when I was in Chicago last year. That made me more nostalgic.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Marketing Lesson from the Louvre

Recently, I was in Paris and went to the Louvre. In one room, you can see these paintings...

They're beautiful. They're enormous. And I have no idea who painted them.

At the far end of the room is one of the largest framed paintings I have ever seen...

Again, very beautiful, and impossible to ignore. But no one was looking at these paintings. Because at the other end of the room was this one...

Forgive my using priceless masterpieces to make a gross analogy to marketing, but it made me think of the way some brands attempt to get your attention by spending loads of money on their enormous canvasses and glitzy frames, hoping to be so in-your-face you'll have to pay attention. And how those brands still can't capture the magic that comes from being simple, understated and having a clear sense of purpose.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

My first ad in French

Last weekend, someone stole my son's bike. Bummer. Especially since it was in a locked bike storage that's kept behind the apartment's locked garbage area. (Also, it was locked with a bike lock.)

So technically, this is my first ad in French:

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Cultural Differences in Disneyland

I spent the weekend at Disneyland Paris (Europe’s trip through the Uncanny Valley). Disney’s a great brand, and part of what makes them great is their consistency. But I noticed a few things that just couldn’t quite clear the cultural barrier:
  1. Crowds walking down Main Street U.S.A…eating baguettes. Just seemed a little incongruous.
  2. Frenglish is the official language of Disneyland Paris. The recorded announcements are made in alternating French and English. Rides are a little more haphazard: The pilot droid on Star Tours spoke French while all the communication from the Rebel fleet was in English; Some of the pirates of the Caribbean spoke French, others spoke English (which is probably more realistic, anyway).
  3. Speaking of Pirates, they still chase women in Paris. The original ride featured several pirates chasing women. But this was later seen as attempted rape, and in 1997 the women were given plates of food to carry, suggesting that the pirates were actually just really hungry. But in France, the pirates are still chasing the chicks.
  4. There is a lot of Stitch paraphernalia. Tons. Way more than you’d think for a movie that’s not even in Disney’s top 10 grossing animated films. If you came with no knowledge of Mickey or Minnie you’d walk away thinking Stitch outranked Goofy and Donald. My wife’s theory is that Disney is unloading their ill-ordered Stitch surplus on the Europeans. Stitch is the new Hasselhoff.
  5. It’s A Small World is a very different ride overseas. First of all, Russia’s represented. (The original, built during the Cold War, doesn’t feature the Evil Empire.) There’s also a little Israeli boy, girl and sheep, which I don’t remember seeing in California or Florida. But the big surprise was to see America at the end of the ride. Native Americans, farmers, the New York skyline (complete with the World Trade Center), the Golden Gate Bridge and the Hollywood sign. And, of course, nothing says "America" more than a football player eating popcorn. Funny that I never considered America needed to be a part of the Small World ride. I guess I figured I was representing just by riding in the boat.
  6. In Paris, the Small World boats and canals are not being retrofitted to accommodate fat people.
  7. Frontierland seems to take up much more square acreage. It’s kind of an afterthought in the U.S. “Yeah, yeah. Cowboys and Indians. Let’s keep moving on the Matterhorn…” But I can see how a Wild West-themed area would be a little more interesting to Europeans. It was a little odd to have a stretch of the Haunted Mansion be an old west ghost town instead of a cemetery. But if the Europeans are that into it, that’s cool.
  8. Standing in line for the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, the voice of an old timey rootin’ tootin’ cowboy says, “This here’s the wildest ride in the wilderness!” The phrase seemed a little odd. Shouldn’t it be “wildest ride in the West?” But then I realized that phrase doesn’t mean anything in France. And it could possibly offend the Spanish and confuse the Germans.
  9. In Califonia, there's an animatronic Abraham Lincoln addresses the crowd. In Florida, they have the Hall of Presidents. In Disneyland Paris, they have the Hall of EU Presidents, featuring Jose Manuel Barroso. Okay, they don't. In fact, I had to use Google just to make that joke.  
  10. Three flags flew at the entrance of the park: France, the EU, and Disneyland. The Disneyland was in the center, and raised considerably higher. Talk about brand strength. (Or weaker national laws about flag waving than I’m used to.)
  11. Very, very European, this…

Friday, April 17, 2009

Blogosphere Experiments, Part 5: Bakugan au Combat!

As I've mentioned, this site has received an inordinate amount of visits because of my original Bakugan post.

In fact, if you Google "Bakugan au combat," this blog is still in the top three. Do a Google image search, and my masthead is on the main page. According to Google Analytics, my Bakugan post receives 63.35% of the visits to this site - almost 2,000 visitors in three months.

So as an experiment, I purchased via Go Daddy, which routes viewers to my new blog, "Bakugan au Combat!" Of course, loaded with Google Adwords in case the experiment pays off.

The Bakugan au Combat blog receives approximately zero visitors. And it doesn't come up on any Google searches.

This can't because the content is awful and written when I'm really bored. Because as bad as it is, it has more to do with Bakugan than my original post did. So I'm chalking $9.99 I paid to Go Daddy up as R&D.

Bakugan au combat!


At Y&R Chicago, we had a proofreader. She was the human spellcheck. And she was great.

We don’t have a proofreader in Geneva. We have me. Because English is my mother tongue and because I’m a writer, I’m almost always asked to proof work. Even on copy I don’t write.

Today I was asked to proof copy on a medical brochure. It included lines like this:

Transfemoral and subclavian aortic valve implantations in high-risk patients.

To understand specific technical approaches for ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction.

I’m not even sure which words are nouns. Someone could have slipped in a line about how mimsy were the borogoves, and the mome raths outgrabe, and I’m not sure I would have caught it.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Daily Affirmations

I make a practice of writing daily affirmations. Yeah, it’s a little Tony Robbins meets Stuart Smalley, but the practice keeps me focused. (I began doing this when I read what Dilbert creator and super skeptic Scott Adams had to say about it.)

Anyway, one phrase that I’ve been writing since the beginning of the year is this: "My work will be acknowledged by both our London and New York HQs."

Last week, that happened. Less than four months after I started writing the phrase daily.

A month ago, there was a global assignment that was open to several offices in our network. My creative director passed the brief along to my partner and me, and we sent a couple of ideas off to London. We recently received an email that our Global CD in New York selected five ideas to sell to the client: Two from Paris, two from Dubai, and one of ours. (I’d post the piece, but it hasn’t been sold yet, and I don’t want to jinx it.)

So, I’m not trying to brag. I’m just saying that daily affirmations work for me. Because I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Nope. No Cannes.

Cannes is the most prestigious international award show in the industry (not to be confused with the Cannes film festival, a.k.a. "the real one.")

But even though it's the first time in my career I could attend without shelling out over a grand for airfare, I've decided not to attend this year. It just sounds like this year's festival is going to be a economy-inspired downer. Parties have been called off. Friends have said they're not going. And I'm not really sure I want to spend five hours in a car just to network with people who are too blitzed to remember my name.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Faux Cougar Chronicles, Part 2

I have recently received news that the European reunion of the University of Utah alumni has been canceled.

To ensure I got the message, Muriel van Alsté, President of the Utah European Association, sent me four identical emails.

She claims the reunion is postponed due to "a string of personal problems within the organizing committee."

But I can't help wonder if it's still on and Muriel just read yesterday's post.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Faux Cougar Chronicles, Part 1

A couple months ago, while skiing with our kids, my friend Mark asked me if I wanted to be an officer with him in the Geneva Chapter of the Brigham Young University Marriott School of Business Alumni.

I told him I went to the University of Utah.

Mark said it was no problem. He, in fact, went to BYU but didn’t graduate from the Marriott School of Business.

I reiterated the fact that I went to the University of Utah.

Again, he said no problem. The Geneva chapter rules state that only half of the membership has to be BYU alumni. If I joined, it would just be him and me, so we’d be covered.
I asked if there were any membership dues, and he said they left that up to the individual chapters, and that the Geneva chapter had voted not to have them.

My wife went to BYU, and (it’s taken me years to admit this) my children most likely will, too. But I wanted to know why I should possibly join an alumni group of a school I never went to.

His response was networking (always good), which would happen when the university flew the president (him) and one other officer (potentially, me) to Frankfurt this May for an alumni meeting. His only request was that I help build up the alumni chapter in Geneva.

Before I go on, I should explain something to those who didn’t have the privilege of growing up the Valley of the Great Salt Lake: The relationship between Utah and BYU isn’t so much a rivalry as it is a jihad.

Kids learn to wear red or blue during game week while they’re in elementary. It strains friendships. And it’s no great exaggeration to say that during game weeks, most Mormon congregations along the Wasatch Front are divided between those wearing red dresses and ties (Utah) and those wearing blue (BYU).

When I was about five, my grandma bought a BYU shirt for me. I had no idea what the letters stood for, but the little cougar mascot looked cool, and I liked the color blue. But my fully-grown and otherwise very nurturing parents were Utah Utes and encouraged me to use it as a finger-painting smock.

Joining a BYU alumni group as a former University of Utah Ute is kind of like Larry Bird putting on a Lakers uniform. Or Dick Cheney being Facebook friends with Hugo Chavez. It’s just not done.

But this May, I am being flown to Frankfurt, Germany and put up in a hotel as an official officer of the Geneva Chapter of the BYU Marriot School of Business Alumni.

So why am I doing this?

I think the biggest reason is because the whole idea terrifies me. I’m afraid of my BYU friends making predictable comments about how I’ve seen the light. I’m afraid of my Utah friends accusing me of being a traitor even though I’m sure they don’t really care. And I’m afraid of having to explain to other chapter officers in Frankfurt why I never lived in Helaman Halls, saw an edited movie at the Wilkinson Center, or had lunch at the Cougar Eat.

That’s my motivation: Fear, curiosity, and a trip to Frankfurt. And for that, I’m more than happy to help build up the Geneva chapter of my rival school.

More to come…

Monday, April 6, 2009

Blogosphere Experiments, Part 4: The Results Are In

Thanks to those who voted on my Blogosphere Experiment poll. Per popular opinion, I am going to post a Facebook status update encouraging others to view my page and click on links.

But I'm going to postpone this effort until after May 5th, because I've launched a new effort out involving Facebook. And I don't want to saturate the market with too many egocentric requests.

Please feel free to participate.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Where have all the Innovator's Dilemmas gone?

I'm not sure where you get good business books in Switzerland.

I used to walk into Borders and browse the new release section. There's a decent English section at Payot (Geneva's B&N - complete with white type on green). But they're mostly carrying Stephanie Meyer stuff. I haven't seen any Gladwell or Godin.

I'm not panicking because I have a stack of recommends that should take me at least a year to get through. But I need to ask my co-workers where they get their new ideas. And I've got to ask "What are our clients reading?"

Note to self: When you publish a business book, try to stay away from a white cover.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Verbier on parle français

There's a Facebook Group called A Verbier on parle français (In Verbier, we speak French).

Verbier is a small ski resort town, about 2 hours from Geneva, near the Italian border. It's a gorgeous area that has attracted a lot of tourists and foreign investors. The result has been bartenders, waiters and salespeople who only speak English.

Although the Facebook group was started by a 23-year-old kid "for a laugh," it's grown to over 600+ members, and "A Verbier on parle français" stickers have started appearing around town.

If you've got a message that resonates, it will advertise itself.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Still looking for Sharpies.

As I've lamented before, there are no Sharpies in Switzerland. (None that visiting friends haven't brought me, anyway.)

I was surprised to see Sharpie just pitched its business and three Chicago agencies were in the running. Sad it didn't go to Y&R Chicago. But here's hoping my friends at DraftFCB get a chance to work on it. Shouldn't be too hard to beat the last campaign.