30 June, 2008

Intern Sweatshop: American Automakers’ Last Gasp Is Passing Gas.

This gas crisis seems to be one of the few times in my memory where the industry has become responsive to the plight of their consumer base. Car makers who have been going green for many years, like Honda and Toyota, were quick to boast that their cars have always been gas-friendly.

American auto makers on the other hand are stuck with their true red-white-blue guzzlers. That’s how we do it in America: bigger, faster, and stronger. But Chrysler and Dodge can meet the needs of their drivers too—they will pay for your gas. You will never again have to pay a cent over $2.99. What, what, what?

It’s nothing new; the gas deals are everywhere. You can get gas cards at supermarkets, baseball games, and even a Nevada brothel (oh yeah, no kidding).

Car companies push sales gimmicks like these all the time. Rebates here, cash back there, and zero percent APR all around. So, how does this particular gimmick work?
Apparently when you buy the car, you link up a credit card account with a brand-spankin’ new “Let’s Refuel America” card, which you can then use at the pump to your heart’s content. So how can they afford to pay for your gas? I decided to investigate the fine print.

America is built on the fine print. Every major deal in history has its own little restrictions and loopholes (*cough* The Constitution *cough*). First of all, let’s look at what qualifies one for this deal:
-The program only covers three years of gasoline and only up to 12,000 miles a year.
-It only applies to “eligible” Dodge, Chrysler, or Jeep models, specifically ones that take regular 87 octane fuel.
-You can only use your Fuel Card with MasterCard or Visa.

Let’s do the actual math. What exactly will you be saving? Most Dodge and Chrysler cars, depending on the model, get anywhere from 19 (Chrysler Aspen) to 30 (Dodge Avenger) mpg highway. For this example, let’s settle on 25 as a nice midpoint.

Now, with 12,000 miles being the limit of your free gas, that’s 480 gallons per year. Right now, we’re teetering on the $4 mark in the Baltimore area, so we’re talking $1,920 being spent on gas every year. At $2.99, you’ll be spending $1,435. So what’s the final number on what you save?


It doesn’t even break triple digits. Over the three years the deal lasts (assuming the impossibility of gas prices NOT going higher), you’re saving $1,455.

The fact is this deal is really nothing more than the standard rebate and cash-back offers the car makers are giving all the time. Chrysler and Dodge actually save money through this scheme, by spreading out this incentive over the course of three years as opposed to an upfront lump sum.

Of course, we Americans are far too savvy to fall for the old $2.99 gas trick, right?

--Aditya Desai, Intern

Previously from the Intern Sweatshop: Hulk-a-mania

Intern Sweatshop: American Automakers’ Last Gasp Is Passing Gas.SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

27 June, 2008

Friday Ad Haiku: Viral Marketing

Viral marketing is still one of the hottest trends in advertising, but its success rate is completely hit or miss. Sometimes, it draws in viewers like the ice cream truck passing a fat camp. Sometimes it simply leaves people scratching their heads. And even the most interesting/entertaining virals still may not move a product.

So for your Friday Haiku pleasure: Viral Marketing

You'll save thousands. You'll
Reach millions. Your warehouse--
empty tomorrow.

A squirrel College?
We spent $80,000 on
That? I'm so fired.

Last Week in the 5-7-5: Celebrity Endorsements

--Captain Awesome, Project Specialist

Friday Ad Haiku: Viral MarketingSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

26 June, 2008

As Advertised: Restaurant Has Low Self-Esteem

In bucolic Harford County, Maryland--land of the Decoy Museum and...the Decoy Museum--comes the latest approach to point-of-sale advertising: lower the consumers' expectations.

Perhaps the call to action's a little off-strategy though.
I recommend they replace "Stop in" with "F#$% you!".
Go big or go home.

Thanks to my beautiful wife for the tip.

Previously in As Advertised: Soup companies getting pretty cocky.

M.M.McDermott, ACD/Copywriter/Hot Coffee-Lousy Writing.

As Advertised: Restaurant Has Low Self-EsteemSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

23 June, 2008

Hard Times at Douglass High

Friday I had a chance to attend the premiere of the new HBO Films documentary "Hard Times at Douglass High" at the Silverdocs Festival, sponsored by AFI and The Discovery Channel.

A little back story: Anyone who's seen my bio may have noticed that I left advertising in 2002 to pursue a teaching career in public education. Chalk it up to a mix of post 9-11 do-goodism and the English degree burning a hole in my pocket. A program through Johns Hopkins assigned me to Frederick Douglass High, the second oldest historically black high school in the country--and alma mater to Thurgood Marshall and Cab Calloway.

For nearly three years, I abandoned the ad biz, and was transformed into "Mr. McDermott" (or " 'ey, yo, Dermott" to my students), a bald, white English teacher in a struggling public high school in Baltimore City. Without turning this into a diatribe on the perfect storm that occurs when economics, society, family morals, and education break down simultaneously, I will say that it was the most painful, the most challenging, and at times, the most rewarding job I've ever had.

And it provided the setting for Academy Award-winning documentarians Alan and Susan Raymond to chronicle a year in the life of minority education. Coincidentally, it happened to be the year I made the decision to leave education. I returned to advertising shortly thereafter.

So what's the point of all of this? Why the post? Honestly, I'm not sure I know. The two toughest decisions I've ever had to make were the choices to begin teaching...and then to leave it. Perhaps it's the chance for folks in our business to look at themselves - their organizations - and get some perspective. To celebrate the diverse experiences of the staff. And to look at ways in which we can make a difference beyond just the ad du jour, the creative brief, and the media buy. There are bigger things at work here.

Or maybe it's just an opportunity to see how good we really have it.

If you've got the chance tonight, check out the film. HBO, 9pm. The Raymond's cinema-verite style ensures that you'll get as close to the day-to-day as is physically possible. It won't always be easy to watch, but I promise it'll give you insight. Into what? Hell, I guess that's up to you to figure out.

M.M.McDermott, ACD/Copywriter/Teacher

Hard Times at Douglass HighSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

21 June, 2008

Friday (Saturday) Ad Haiku: Celebrity Endorsements

Apologies for the day-late draft of this little blog here: I'll clarify why on Monday.

Back to business: I was struck by Taco Bell's publicity stunt to cajole rapper 50 Cent into changing his name to one of the prices on the chain's value menu (e.g. 79 Cent) for a day in exchange for a $10,000 donation to charity. And while this fiasco hits on a number of points--from the stupidity of some agencies' stunts to cross-marketing to brand integrity--I couldn't help but think about the celebrity endorsement aspect. Personally, I see most endorsements as useless wastes of money that could be better spent on a more effective ad execution. The problem is simple: there's usually little to no connection between the celeb and the product they're shilling. What the hell do I care that the chick from Grey's Anatomy drives a Cadillac? So what if Eric Estrada believes I should buy swamp property in Florida?

Where's the connection? Where's the real ethos? You want me to buy something, Mr. Big Shot? You better know what you're talking about, you better use it, and you better live and breathe it so much that you'd do the commercial for free if they asked you to.

Previously in the Friday 5-7-5: Recruiting Millennials.

Friday (Saturday) Ad Haiku: Celebrity EndorsementsSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

17 June, 2008

A Creative Confession

A couple weekends ago, many folks from Renegade and friends participated in Baltimore’s 48-Hour Film Project. Our team was given a character, a line of dialogue, a prop and a genre, and we had exactly 48 hours to write, cast, prep, shoot, edit and deliver a 4-7 minute film. It’s a lot of work and a lot of fun, and a chance for creative types at Renegade (who spend most of the time thinking up creative ways to sell someone else’s wares) a chance to really stretch our creative muscles.

Wait, are you saying your needs as creative minds aren’t fully met writing :30 screamer spots and commercials featuring the product, the offer and the phone number, each three times? I’m sad to say, not always.

*Please note, neither of these are Renegade-produced, and creatively have no link whatsoever to Renegade prior to this blog post.

Yes, sometimes, a client sees a script and it’s perfect, not a word out of place. And sometimes, supermodels marry old, bald, short, fat guys.

Let’s face facts. This is a business, and clients and agencies alike are both in it to make money. A creative type like myself, who dreams of one day writing the next Bull Durham or The Usual Suspects, takes a job at an advertising agency because it pays the bills and it’s a chance to use my talents to pay the bills while Hollywood waits to decide how great my current screenplay is. (I don’t want to give away the plot, but let’s just say it features zombies, extraterrestrials and surfing—Dawn of the Dead meets E.T. meets North Shore. I know what you’re thinking, and yes, it’s just as awesome as it sounds. Hollywood, please ask for ex. 267.)

Not that Hollywood.

But for creative types, who want to make the most interesting, catching, effective product for a client, the process can actually be hell. Even after 17 revisions and multiple reviews by multiple committees, you still may not have it right.

There are so many places you can go wrong:

It’s too expensive. (Someone should’ve told me that before I proposed my first “post-apocalyptic” cable advertisement.)

The client doesn’t get it.

It doesn’t feature the product enough.

“How will this make the phones ring?”

And sometimes you just completely miss the mark.

This conflict can easily occur when more abstract minds intersect with more directed minds or more simply, when two groups just aren’t on the same page.

However, it can be even more difficult when you take 30 or so creative minds and tell them to come up with one simple, short story in the span of only a few hours.

The story should be about this.

The story should be about that.

The story should be about an ear ring that turns the wearer into actor/comedian Chris Tucker, who needs to return the ear ring to a certain church or risk being stuck that way forever.

And even once you’ve decided on characters and a story, there are still more issues.

The dialogue’s flat.

That’s a cliché.

That isn’t funny.

Why would the character do that?

Why does it have to be so raunchy?

What’s so wrong with raunchy?

The audience isn’t gonna get it.

The audience isn’t stupid.

You’re gonna get it.

You’re stupid.

Put even a handful of people in a room who are passionate about creativity and who want to produce the best product, and people are going to butt heads. Because each one has a vision, and each one has a case to make as to why they are right. After all, they do all do this for a living.

In the end, we forged our creative efforts into what we thought was a pretty good, pretty funny story. And then, on the day of the shoot, the story changed even more. Sigh.

So clients, when you get a pitch or a script or a comp, and think, What the hell are these guys thinking? Rest assured, we like this idea. I’ll bet we feel pretty passionate about this idea. And we didn’t just go with the first idea that stuck to the fridge. We think this idea works for a reason. Your audience is going to get it. And it’s going to sell your product. Of course, if we ever miss the mark, we can simply blame our Creative Director. You're welcome, Ken.

But remember, sometimes short, bald, fat guys can be endearing. Just look at Danny DeVito.

I think I’ve made my point.
--Captain Awesome, Project Specialist

A Creative ConfessionSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

13 June, 2008

Two-fer-One Friday Ad Haiku: Recruiting Millennials

In this industry, excellent communication is essential. And, apparently, not present when the Cap'n and I decided who was going to do the blog post today. Enjoy both, I guess. -ed.

We stumble across reports about the issues presented by Millennials (individuals born approximately between 1980 and 1995) entering the workforce every few weeks. For more information, check out this report from 60 Minutes, one from the Washington Post and another from BNet.

Supposedly, Millennials need to be coddled, want to work more flexible schedules and don't like wearing suits. And they're probably the smartest, most adaptable generation that has entered the labor force.

So for your Friday Haiku pleasure, our thoughts on Millennials.

Quit whining. Go back
To your cube. Yes, you're still a
beautiful flower.

--Captain Awesome, Project Specialist


Been reading some recent articles on the new crop of talent graduating from college: they may be ready for the business recruitment harvest, but they're setting my old man sensors off. Depending on which source I go from, I'm either a last-hour Gen X'er or a pioneering Millennial. Either way, I find it hilarious how most of these articles advocate this touchy-feely kid-gloves handling of incoming entry-level kids. They tell us how we should go above and beyond to accommodate these recent grads, many who demand to be given higher level work immediately, push back when given menial tasks, and call for flexibility in schedule, dress code, work flow.

The sense of entitlement that I've seen from too many grads entering the work force, both as a teacher and now as an ad guy, is a hot fart in the face of work ethic. The idea of building your career one step at a time--getting in low, and hoisting yourself up--is a key component of building character and taking ownership of your role. I've seen this concept erased in the educational realm. If we coddled students any more, we'd have to breastfeed them in homeroom. And now it's creeping into the business world. Radar featured a great op piece by an angry--and hilarious--Rob Lanham.

As a side note, one of the best aspects of our agency is the fact that we don't tolerate the babying mindset. New grads (often, they're former interns) get hired here because they bust their asses, have as much humility as they do creativity, and understand the beauty and purpose of the blue collar work ethic. They'll have ample opportunity to contribute...they have to earn it first, though.

I wasn't hired
to make copies. I've got skills.
My mom told me so.

M.M.McDermott, ACD/Copywriter/Get off my lawn, you punk kids.

Two-fer-One Friday Ad Haiku: Recruiting MillennialsSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

12 June, 2008

Intern Sweatshop: This summer, Robert Downey Jr. IS Tony Stark in...The Incredible Hulk?

This nod-slash-wink to comic book fans across the globe is one of many steps Marvel is making in their movies to bring all their big-screen characters together into the same movie universe, much as it is in the books. It’s the promise of a very, at the least, interesting movie-going future.

Most people who stayed through the end credits of Iron Man were rewarded with this scene featuring the holy badass himself, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury:

And Monday, the comic-movie powers that be released a new Hulk TV spot featuring Downey as Tony Stark making some shady deals with William Hurt.

This all adds up to one hell of a marketing strategy. So far, Iron Man sits as the reigning box office champion of 2008. With the introduction of Nick Fury, Marvel introduced another character, one that does not have his own film, but possibly may in the future. Downey has also been relaunched as a major leading man with bankability. His presence in The Incredible Hulk only solidifies the movie as being a Marvel brand title. The first Hulk film, directed by Ang Lee and released in 2003, had a less than spectacular performance at the box office or with fans. It was the same story with Daredevil, Ghost Rider, and The Punisher; all coming from different studios and different producers with varying views on the material.

Iron Man was the first movie to be directly produced by Marvel, as are all other adaptations set for the future, meaning Marvel exercises total creative control over the content, unlike before, when studios snatched rights to keep titles to themselves. This is the reason why we never got to see Tobey Maguire’s Spiderman fight evil-doers side by side with Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. Different studios means “hands off!” in Hollywood.

By bringing all of their heroes under their creative control, the films can have stronger continuity between one another, ensuring audiences, “keep your butts in your seats!” The writers, directors, and stars may change, but coming from the same people who hold the source material so near and dear insures a sort of quality control. The idea is to put on the screen what has been in the books for years--the heroes fighting side by side on one cinematic canvas.

DC, that other comic publisher, has been poised to make this kind of move for years. All of their major characters, including Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are copyrighted to Warner Brothers. No red tape there. But Marvel got to it first.

It is quite a feat as well for Marvel as a company, moving ahead into the movie business full steam ahead. Authors have trouble retaining any control over movies based on their books once the rights are signed over. Marvel however is an entity, a name that stands for superheroes and all the cultural fanboy-ism behind it. So I’ll give Marvel a pass on a Ghost Rider. Finally, they’re beginning to get it right.

--Aditya Desai, Intern

Intern Sweatshop: This summer, Robert Downey Jr. IS Tony Stark in...The Incredible Hulk?SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

11 June, 2008

As Advertised: Cock Soup for the Soul

I'd always chalked up the "Cock Flavoured Soup Mix" product as being, at best, one of those third-world Engrish off-brands you only see for sale on the blanket of some legless guy on a skateboard in Chinatown, arranged between 2-litre bottles of Mountain Thunder soda and lead- painted My Little Ponies. At worst, it was an urban legend like the Chupacabra or a coherent Gary Busey interview. Scores of folks have posted sightings on the Internet. But this is one of those things you have to hold in your hands and see with your own peepers to fully appreciate the frat house double entendre goodness. Anyway, found it last night at the local supermarket in the International Foods/Feminine Hygiene aisle.

The most interesting thing about it is the fact that it's manufactured in Jamaica. Perhaps the marketing folks partook in the country's most popular bumper crop before deciding to push this through to America under its current branding. Or, maybe they understood full well what they were doing.

If I were in charge of their North American marketing, I'd make it my number one priority to set up distribution to every store within bike-range of a college campus.

That, and I'd market it as a rub.

M.M.McDermott, ACD/Copywriter/Cock Soup for the Soul

As Advertised: Cock Soup for the SoulSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

06 June, 2008

Friday Ad Haiku: Mergers

With news that Coors and Miller have been given the go-ahead from the Justice Department to form the Voltron of hoppy adult beverage companies, I can't help but wonder if this isn't more likely to go the way of other ill-fated mergers like Time Warner/AOL, Oil/Water, and Roseanne/Tom Arnold.

(Click to enlarge...and fight evil.)

Alone, we both suck.
But, together, we've attained

M.M.McDermott, ACD/Copywriter/You complete me

Previously in the Friday 5-7-5: Advertiser Narcissism

From the Beer Files: Behold, the power of Beer; Rest in Pabst; Bud TEE-VEE; Guinness as muse

Friday Ad Haiku: MergersSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

03 June, 2008

Peel N' Lick

Apparently Welch's hit it big with their peel and lick campaign, as reported by Ad Age. According to their numbers, 59% of people who chose to rip the grape juice flavored taste strip from the People Magazine advert and actually lick it are more likely to purchase. What Ad Age didn't mention is that these consumers are also:

  • 82% more likely to watch American Idol.
  • 18% more likely to purchase and enjoy Paris Hilton branded merchandise.
  • 207% more likely to get paper cuts on their mucous membranes.
  • 73% more likely to eat lead paint chips from the windowsill.
  • 51% more likely to arm wrestle you.
  • 35% more likely to have gotten a plastic army guy stuck in their ear canal as a child.
  • 15% more likely to have gotten a plastic army guy stuck in their ear canal as an adult.
  • 56% more likely to fight a raccoon.
  • 24% more likely to roll their cigarettes in their sleeve.
  • 62% more likely to use the term "irregardless" when telling someone how stupid they are.
  • 10% more likely to take bets on how long they can stare at the sun.
  • 42% more likely to punch a parking meter after a fight with his stupid girlfriend because she won't get off his freakin' back about getting a job already.
  • 8% more likely to dislocate a finger while picking their nose on a roller coaster.
  • 64% more likely to Scratch n' Sniff...themselves.
  • 35% more likely to taunt a kid in the grocery store.
  • 12% more likely to think Al Qaeda is a Mexican country singer.
  • 18% more likely to "totally hit that, dude."
  • 23% more likely to take part in the Renegade Agency Confessional "Leave Your Car Running in the Garage N' Sniff" promotion.

Of course, this was just a partial list. I'm generally busy doing important things and/or stuff and rarely finish what I start. That includes report reading. Anyone who gets a chance to peruse the whole thing, feel free to post your findings in the comments section. It's 100% more likely you can come up with something better than I can.

M.M.McDermott, ACD/Copywriter/12% more likely to give 110%

Peel N' LickSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend
The Renegade Agency Confessional - Blogged

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP