Archive for the ‘The Agency Business’ Category

Until now, Cadillac has proven the adage: “Nothing hurts a bad product more than good advertising.”

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

This morning Cadillac introduced a new campaign from its new agency (Adweek 12/1013). The good news is that for the first time in a decade and a half, the product is as good or maybe better than the advertising.  The new ATS and CTS are getting rave reviews from the industry pundits and there seems to be broad agreement that finally, the Cadillac product is up to the job of moving the brand into the rarified air of Tier 1 luxury where Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Lexus and Audi compete.

The Cadillac brand has been through a lot of marketing fits, starts and shifts over the last decade and a half. Messaging has been inconsistent and no real brand values established. That said, there have been some terrific ad campaigns that have gotten the brand noticed, unfortunately the product wasn’t as good as the advertising.

In the 2002 Super Bowl, Cadillac introduced its “Breakthrough” campaign (from Leo Burnett) hitting the heart of the boomer generation with Led Zeppelin:

The Breakthrough campaign really helped Cadillac get noticed again after years of being ignored by boomers who were buying Mercedes-Benzs, BMWs, Lexi and Audis.

In the mid-2000s Cadillac changed agencies (to Modernista) and produced this commercial for its “Life. Liberty. and the Pursuit” campaign:

In 2008, Cadillac introduced Kate Walsh as a spokesperson and raised a few eyebrows:

(more…)

“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

Simon Sinek spoke at TED in September, 2009 and he offered this wisdom about leaders and powerful brands: “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

I was reminded of this in a conversation with a colleague in the automotive industry.  He asked me what I thought of his most recent advertising.  There was nothing decidedly wrong with the advertising but it fell into the trap of doing what Sinek called speaking from the outside-in.  In other words the advertising basically said we sell luxury cars that have these mildly interesting features.

I told my colleague that I felt that the advertising didn’t have a point-of-view that came from the brand and therefore it fell short of having the power to change perception.  I spoke about the need for “core values” that in turn would shape the brand’s perspective.  I suggested that he needed to find the 2 or 3 immutable truths about the brand without which it wouldn’t be the same brand.

Sinek gets at the same issue by asking:  “What is your belief? What is your cause?”  Another way to express it is: What is your company’s or brand’s ethos, what are your guiding principles?

People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.

How can it be that in an industry where we expect people to make the second largest purchase of their lifetimes (a home being the largest) the “why you do it” piece of strategy gets so little emphasis.  We know this to be true because so much of the marketing in the category is uninspired.  Most of it emphasizing features and pricing in mildly entertaining executions.

But there are a few great automotive brands that do understand “why they do it.”  Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, Jeep, Suburu, Lexus all come to mind.  Each of these brands have a defined “why they do it” that truly shapes what they make and at their best how they market it.

Despite from time to time losing their way, these great automotive brands always seem to come back to their “why they do it.”

Recently, Mercedes-Benz introduced their latest S-Class.  The S-Class has always been the epitome of what Mercedes-Benz represents.  True to form, the S-Class marketing overtly expresses the brand’s “why they do it:”

While I don’t love the line “The best or nothing,” it is a literal translation of “das beste oder nichts,”  the company’s “why they do it” in the founder’s own words. Somehow editing the translation seems inappropriate.

Just today Jeep announced the introduction of the new Cherokee and despite having seemingly lost their way in recent years, here comes a new campaign about the joy of adventure and exploration, values that have always been at the heart for the brand: (more…)

1st post in 18 months…been busy creating an agency, reintroducing Lincoln and winning 2 Gold Lions and 1 Bronze at Cannes.

Monday, July 8th, 2013

It has been a long time since I sat down to write a post on my blog. The fact is, I haven’t had time until now. Eighteen months ago I accepted a job as President of what would become Hudson Rouge. The mission was to create an agency for Ford’s Lincoln brand in New York City.  I was employee number one.  Our goal was to “introduce” Lincoln to a whole new audience who knew very little about the storied brand and mostly thought of it as something their grandparents coveted.

Over the course of the first year we hired almost 50 people in New York, created great space in New York City and eventually named the agency Hudson Rouge.  Hudson Rouge was a reference to the fact that the Lincoln Agency Team would be located both in New York City and Dearborn, Michigan. Both cities happen to be on rivers that played a major role in their development, the Hudson River in New York and the River Rouge in Dearborn.

While hiring the team in New York, getting to know one another, getting to know our colleagues in Dearborn, getting to know our clients, and developing the agency’s eventual home, we also dug into Lincoln and figured out strategically how to re-present the brand to America.  The new brand was launched on December 3rd, 2012 with this commercial:  (more…)

Super Bowl XLV–Will the auto industry carry the day?

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Last year, I asked the same question and I think the answer was “no.”

Audi’s terrific A3 TDI commercial led the automotive pack, ranked 6th of 65 by USAToday but all the others were also-rans. Here’s how the automotive participants ranked in last year’s advertising beauty contest:

A dismal showing by the auto industry.  Despite being one of the highest interest product categories with some often fantastic products, we seem to be unable to captivate the Super Bowl audience.

To be clear, getting highly ranked in USAToday’s poll has nothing to do with judging a TV commercial’s effectiveness, it simply is a measure of a panel of consumers’ reactions and “how much they liked each ad.”  But it is without question, ‘the game within the game.’  As a Super Bowl advertiser you spend $3MM or so for 30 seconds and the chance to get noticed and liked. It’s an opportunity to get tongues around the world wagging about your ad, your brand and maybe even your products.

But to make that happen, you have to do something amazing. (more…)

Cadillac breaks new ground in auto industry marketing with an old idea.

Friday, August 6th, 2010

I was speaking with a colleague the other day and we were trying to think of an instance where an automobile manufacturer (or any brand for that matter) looked back into its own history and re-introduced a brand tagline that had been thrown in the bin.

We couldn’t think of any and we began to talk about what a mistake that was.  We were able to rattle off a number of instances, where great automotive brands walked away from positioning or taglines that perfectly encapsulated their brands.  Mercedes-Benz left behind “Engineered like no other car in the world.”  Volkswagen threw away “Drivers wanted.”  Chevrolet moved away from “Heartbeat of America.”  A few months ago, BMW, one of the most consistent marketers in the industry, looked as if they were moving away from “The Ultimate Driving Machine” in favor of  “Joy.”  In the case of BMW, this has been hotly denied and “TUDM” still appears at the end of the ads but it has certainly been demoted.

Why does this happen?  Why does it seem so difficult for marketers to realize that they have a real asset that needs to be protected and nourished?  A lot has to do with the constant pressure to increase volume and the find something new to “take the brand to the next level.”  The other factor is the constant churn of marketing management and agencies.  New marketing leadership needs to demonstrate that it is moving the business forward and that means doing something new.  Every agency is genetically coded to do something “new and unexpected” to burnish their reputation.  Bringing back an old idea can also be seen as a copout.

So it struck me this morning when I read an article in Advertising Age where Joel Ewanick was interviewed and he said that Fallon (Cadillac’s new agency) had developed the brand’s soon to be introduced tag-line: “The new standard of the world.”

(more…)

We should be embarrassed: Thoughts on the documentary “Art & Copy”

Friday, March 12th, 2010

Who should be embarrassed?  The auto industry and their communications agencies.

If you haven’t had a chance to see the documentary “Art & Copy,” you must.  Last night I saw it for the second time and enjoyed every minute.  If you have worked in the advertising business or are responsible for advertising on the client side it is well worth seeing.

It’s a chance to see some of the most talented people in the agency business talk about what makes great communications.  Hal Riney, Mary Lawrence, Jim Durfee, Lee Clow, George Lois, Jeff Goodby, Rich Silverstein, Dan Wieden and others talk about what they think represents great work and what inspires it.  They talk about great ideas: Braniff’s End of the plain plane, Apple’s 1984 and Think Different, Got Milk, Reagan’s re-election campaign, Nike’s Just Do It and VW’s Think Small among others.

At the end, these people and the work leave you inspired.  You’re reminded that at its best, advertising can change opinion, entertain, move people emotionally and to action.  Great work respects people and treats them decently.  Great work can build brands, companies and value.  Great work is really hard to create, get approved and execute, but when it all comes together, it can move mountains.

Here’s why we should be embarrassed.   (more…)

Super Bowl XLIV: Which automotive manufacturer got it done?

Monday, February 8th, 2010

The sentimental favorites won the Super Bowl…at least the football game part.

Generally speaking I thought the advertising game within the game was just OK, not great.  Within the automotive segment, six manufacturers stepped up for the Super Bowl:

As I said in an earlier post, the tough part about advertising in the Super Bowl is that while the football game is the primary draw, the advertising contest comes in a close second.  As an advertiser you have to be willing to do work that will stand out and entertain because the very next day the “results” of the ad contest will be published in USAToday.

I always watch the Super Bowl hoping that one or more of the automobile manufacturers will break out of the category mold and amaze us.  Here’s my take on the automotive commercials, from best to worst:   (more…)

Another brand bites the dust.

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

brand

News that Penske has backed out of the deal to purchase Saturn will ripple through the industry in a myriad of ways.  Detroit’s economy will be effected, thousands will lose their jobs, dealers and their employees are left scrambling.  These are the serious consequences of the deal blowing up.

Less serious, but no less real, is the fact that another automotive brand will disappear.  There was time when Saturn stood for something: “A different kind of car company.”  The promise of no haggle pricing and a dealer experience that was customer focussed and positive.  These attributes were foundation stones of a remarkable branding campaign:

These ideas and brilliant marketing created the essential ingredient of an automotive brand…brand advocates…..lots of them:

(more…)

Looking for a new agency partner? 8 critical things auto manufacturers should consider.

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

bw_200x42

The following article first appeared in BusinessWeek’s “Brand New Day” blog on September 7, 2009

Volkswagen has announced that it is looking for a new advertising/communications partner.  Chrysler has just announced that they are considering non-roster agencies for projects.  Bob Lutz at GM has said that the agencies for the remaining GM brands have six months to demonstrate that they have the chops to remain part of GM’s stable of agencies.  A rash of car companies re-evaluating their agency partners.

So what should these companies, or for that matter any automotive manufacturer, look for in an agency?

The next five years are going to be the most competitive in a generation.  The “new normal” annual sales volume for the US will be 14-16MM units, nowhere near the 18MM the market achieved a few years ago, let alone the 20MM+ some forecasters anticipated.   The “new normal” is a mature market where the fight for share will be intense, the risk of commoditization ever present and the winners will be those companies who recognize that the only thing standing between them and commodity status is terrific product and a carefully crafted brand reputation.

The “winners” will be those companies with clearly differentiated brands.  Those companies that make establishing and/or nurturing their brands a priority will see their share of market grow, those who focus only on retail will be treated like commodities.  Automobile manufacturers do need agencies that can manage the retail side of the business but more than ever they need to take brand building seriously.

So here are some suggestions on what to look for in an agency:

1. An agency must demonstrate the ability to build a brand over the long term. Look for relationships and case histories that span years not months.  Look for strategic consistency that is grounded in a deep understanding of the client and its customers.  Make sure that knowledge turns into core values that form the bedrock of the brand’s communications.  Look for the “red thread” that holds all the work together.  Ask 2nd and 3rd level questions about the company and its brand.

(more…)

VW & Crispin. It was only a matter of time.

Monday, August 17th, 2009

vw

VW of America just announced that it is reviewing its advertising business currently with Crispin.

VW is truly one of the world’s most loved automotive brands. While there have been a number of clever and in some cases intrusive commercials from Crispin there has been little that has built or even sustained the VW brand.

Crispin is without question one of the most talented creative agencies in the country but while they did a wonderful job helping to create the Mini brand, they never succeeded in bringing that power to Volkswagen.

At times the work was startling, stopping you in your tracks:

(more…)