Saturday, February 28

Christopher Guest for Pet Smart

There was a little gem that snuck into the Oscars this year that I fear fell off of people's radar...but not mine!

I love mashups, and this one takes the cake.

Pet Smart unleashed the creative genius of Christopher Guest, of Best in Show fame, to create its new campaign. It's nothing short of brilliant, whether you are familiar with him or his infamous movie.

It's called "Partners in Pethood"and it shows how crazy us pet lovers are, and how we treat them like kids...maybe even better! :)

I'll say no more, and just let you soak it in....


You just gotta love it!

What's your experience? JIM.

Friday, February 27

2D SWOT Analysis

I've been writing a continuing series of articles at Entrepreneur about how to write an annual marketing plan.

This week is about the classic SWOT analysis...with a twist.

Click here to give it a read.

What's your experience? JIM.

Thursday, February 26

Dodge Wisdom

My daughter sent me a text the other day, asking if I'd seen the new commercial from Dodge that features the people over 100 years old. She's a senior at Penn State and I'm a lucky dad because she actually pays attention to what I do for a living!

"Yes," I replied, "it's from the Super Bowl." Truthfully, I had forgotten about it and never even covered it in any of my Super Bowl recaps. I guess it fell under the radar for me.

But not for her, and it took me a bit by surprise.

I would have assumed that the spot was attempting to reach an older demographic. Perhaps not centurions, but certainly the younger baby boomers and Gen Xers. I think I may have been wrong.

I think perhaps the spot was targeting Millennials. We know they respect those that came before them, and have a much smaller generation gap then those older. I've experienced that myself with my two millennial children.

Perhaps the "wisdom" being extolled in the copy is for the newest generation to enter the workforce and hit the roads. Perhaps this was aimed at them.


100 years of #DodgeWisdom. Indeed.

What do you think? What's your experience? JIM.

Wednesday, February 25

Fashion Statements from the Oscars


Let's face it...the Oscars are just as much about the fashion as they are about the awards. Many a trend has been launched at the Oscars.

I'm not sure that there was much new this year, but there were certainly a few "looks" that got cemented into pop culture that I think we'll see for a few fashion seasons to come. And just a few weeks after Fashion Week here in NY, it's fun to see the looks in action.

Statement necklaces. This is not the first night we've seen big, chunky neck-wear...but Cate and Scarlet made wearing them a trend that will hang around.


Short hair. Thank you, Julie Andrews, for making short hair forever chic, inspiring those after you to model the look.


The red dress. The red carpet must have been seeing red this year...it was the color of the season. Very Hollywood.


The tuxedo. With multiple costume changes, Neil Patrick Harris ushered in the dual-color, dual-texture tuxedo. I went out and bought a pair of tuxedo pants myself after seeing his combinations.


No rocket surgery here. Just a solidification of what we've already been seeing. Conservative? Maybe. Wearable? Definitively.

What's your experience? JIM.


Tuesday, February 24

Oscar Night Acceptance Speeches




For the last several years, and maybe even my entire adult life, I've been complaining about acceptance speeches at awards ceremonies...particularly the Oscars.

The winners are huge pop culture icons, snagging the award of their lifetime...with a global platform for three minutes to actually say something important.

To be honest, most of the time the winners drone on and on trying to thank everyone on their mental list. The really awful ones actually pull out a folded piece of paper. C'mon, you're are actors...you know what to do when you are in the spotlight.

Sure, there have been some highlights through the years. Like Tom Hanks when he won for Philadelphia, bringing overnight empathy to the AIDS crisis when very few were acknowledging it. Last year, Jared Leto stole the show early in the night with his moving acceptance speech honoring both his mom and the transgender population. Very few followed suit.

Which is why when Patricia Arquette spoke about wage equality when she won Best Supporting Actress for Boyhood, I wasn't holding my breathe for any more inspiration. She said it well, I will say that, and completely understood the power she possessed for those three minutes. But I thought that might be it.

It turns out that she set a trend.

We finally finally finally had a number of acceptance speeches that tackled cultural issues that we are facing. Finally the acceptance speeches reflected us and what we are all going through, collectively.

Like when John Legend and Common won for their song from Selma. They didn't waste their time thanking all of the musicians...I'm sure that they've already done that. They took the stage and sent us a message about justice and equality. Unbelievably articulate and inspiring.

Then we got a surprise from Graham Moore, when he won for Best Screenplay. He bravely admitted that he had once attempted suicide, and encouraged us all to "stay weird." Look how far he has come...look how far any of us have come. Brave indeed.

I just knew in my heart of hearts that Julianne Moore would win for Best Actress...it was her turn IMHO. While her speech did get admittedly jumbled, she spoke brilliantly about understanding Alzheimer's disease, as portrayed by her role in Still Alice. A very misunderstood disease that needs a little more understanding. Ok, a lot more understanding but it's time like these that propel us forward. Thank you.

So sure, the opening number from NPH was fantastic and the musical numbers were breathtaking (not a dry eye in the house after Legend/Common), but it was the string of acceptance speeches that left me inspired.

Just as they should. What's your experience? JIM.

Monday, February 23

The 2015 Oscars, As Tweeted



The 2015 Oscars were alive with the sound of Lady Gaga.

From the very first note, she had us all pulled right in. It is no easy feat to sing a medley of beloved songs that have been made classic by an iconic singer, but she nailed it. Fans and non-fans alike took to Twitter to sing her praises. Trust me, I was hosting my annual Twitter party at #OscarExp and while there was complete silence during her performance, the tweets started flying two seconds after the last note.

Lady Gaga needed a little rebranding, I must say, and she gave the film's 50th Anniversary a proper salute for sure. She delivered on both accounts.

Honestly, all of the musical performances were amazing from Adam Levine to Tim McGraw to The Lego Movie to Selma. There was not a dry eye in the house after the stirring Selma performance...which then went on to win the Oscar.

As for the rest of the show, my Twitter crowd seemed underwhelmed.

I personally loved the opening performance, but then again anything from NPH is a winner in my book.

In terms of brand activity, the winner of the night was probably Lego. That highly successful movie took the brand to a whole new level of "entertainment" -- a classic brand extension. The celebs holding Lego Oscar statues was a nice touch. The brand buzz of the night definitely has to go to Lego.

I have to give a shout out to Dove, who took a page from Coca-Cola and Honey Maid with their new #SpeakBeautiful campaign...looking to take negative messaging from social media and turn it positive. Beauty should always be about being positive, and we should support each other every way possible.



My favorite brand campaign of the night, however, came from American Express who launched the "Journey Never Stops." The brand is highlighting stories of highly successful people who once struggled in their lives, noting that every successful person has had a failure at some point. We can all relate.



For me, the Oscars never disappoint. It's a night of fashion, film, and fun...celebrating our pop culture in a way that doesn't exist anywhere else. Bravo for that!

What's your experience? JIM.

PS - I do have to say that I was a bit upset that Joan Rivers wasn't mentioned "In Memoriam." So I mention her here...I still miss you, Joan. Not only did you have a few movies yourself, you transformed how we view and enjoy the red carpet.

Friday, February 20

Turning Data into Lessons Learned

We're data geeks at our agency...we know how to get it, interpret it, and use it.

Here's the latest installment from my series at Entrepreneur about writing an annual marketing plan. There's a big role for data in any plan, provided you use it the right way.

Give a click here for my take.

What's your experience? JIM.

Thursday, February 19

Maxim Grows Up


The magazine Maxim debuted not only a new look this week, but a new direction on content and a whole host of new advertisers.

It's a more mature take for the men's magazine, that has been historically called a "lad mag" with "frat boy" content and humor. The scantily clad women and the ads for chewing tobacco have been replaced with more fashion-oriented photography, articles on selecting beef from the local butcher, and ads from Marc Jacobs. Even the paper quality has been beefed up.

I guess the Maxim reader has grown up...so too must the publication in order to keep up. Sales have been on the decline, as with many in the genre (in fact two of its competitors closed down last year).

It'll be fascinating to see if the strategy works. In my initial read, the quality was certainly there and it felt like a fresher, younger take on the kind of content that older millennials and even their older peers might like. A younger GQ or Esquire?

Frat boy gone professional? Bachelor gone weekend host? Shorts and t-shirts gone layered sweater look?

Maybe. Time will tell. What's your experience? JIM.

Tuesday, February 17

S-E-X in the Empty Nest

Trust me, it's not what you think.

Here's an article I wrote for Huffington Post about how life has changed in the empty nest. I'm surprised by it a bit, actually.

Click here to give it a read.

What's your experience? JIM.

Monday, February 16

Targeting Customers for Your Marketing Plan

I been continuing with my series at Entrepreneur...breaking down the elements of an annual marketing plan. This week we tackle the topic of targeted customers.

Click here to give it a read.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Friday, February 13

Valentine's Day

With all the hype of the Super Bowl and the Grammys behind us, I feel like we're taking a little marketing break from all of the intense activity. Not so fast...

...it's Valentine's Day.

You can't go online anywhere without getting inundated with reminders and promo codes to buy flowers and chocolates...is there nothing else important for this holiday? Despite all of the activity, I have to say that the branding is quite sparse making it almost impossible to tell one brand from another. Is it ProFlowers or 1-800Flowers or what not?

But there is one brand that is distinguishing itself for this major holiday, and I have to imagine that this is prime time for them...Hallmark.

The brand has been creating videos of couples of all flavors and types, asking them to describe their "partner" without using the word love. And they've literally used couples of all flavors and types.

The campaign is called #PutYourHeartToPaper, and you can click here for their YouTube channel.

The couples reflect an amazing range of our culture, which to me is the best part.





Well done Hallmark!

I also have to give some props to brand classic Oreo for coming out with Red Velvet Oreos, just in the nick of time! And to Dunkin' Donuts for their annual heart shaped donuts...with heart sprinkles.



You gotta love a little love...spread it around!

What's your experience? JIM.

Wednesday, February 11

Who's Your Competition?


When writing your annual marketing plan, you must take a close look at your competition. But you may be surprised when you really look at who most competes with your business.

Here's an article I wrote for Entrepreneur that examines the topic, as part of my series on the annual marketing plan.

Click here if you'd like to give it a read.

What's your experience? JIM.

Tuesday, February 10

Authenticity in Healthcare

When describing the healthcare industry, "authentic" isn't often on the top of the list.

Using results from my agency Cohn & Wolfe's recent study on Authentic Brands, I examined the notion of healthcare brands and companies being and becoming more authentic for the magazine DTC Perspectives.

Give it a click here if you'd like to read it.

What's your experience? JIM.


Snickers Swimsuit Issue

We talk all the time about how a little bit of paid media can really pave the way for generating a lot of buzz, and how social and earned media can amplify it even more. We've actually seen a few online "pr campaigns" that went virtually wild suddenly turn on a little bit of paid media to extend their reach. Witness Whirlpool and Always #LikeAGirl with their recent paid efforts on the Grammy Awards and the Super Bowl.

Now along comes Snickers, continuing its "Not Yourself" campaign for a few years in a row. The brand ran a new spot on the Super Bowl and the Grammy Awards as well, and now has done what I would call a "paid media stunt" to generate even more buzz.

The annual "Swimsuit Issue" from Sports Illustrated certainly generates enough interest on its own. This year is no exception with what some are calling a cover photo that is just a bit too revealing. I pay no mind to tell you the truth...this is just their "brand" in action.

But I did notice the back cover, from Snickers. The brand spoofed the real front cover using campaign elements from "Not Yourself" to likely capture just as much attention. The media has picked up on it, social media is buzzing about it, and consumers are passing it around like well, it's a Snickers bar.

I guess this is what a super model looks like in a swimsuit when she's hungry!?! Well done, Snickers!


What's your experience? JIM.

Monday, February 9

Grammy Awards 2015, As Tweeted



I held my annual Twitter party during the Grammy Awards this week...we talked about the marketing for the most part, but we also got in lots of commentary on the celebs, and fashion, and in this case the music.

We started out on E! for the red carpet, where it was the year of product integrations up one side and down the other. In fact we could probably start calling it the "brand carpet." The spokespeople were on script, touting product features much more prominently that I've ever noticed it before. It's usually more subtle I have to say, but this year they put it right out there!

Many of the brand mentions were timed to an advertising spot as well, which then also kicked in the social media. The most deliberate came from Degree, AFLAC, Crest White Strips, Herbal Essences, and of course Cover Girl who utilized its spokesperson Katie Perry to the max. She actually put a shot of her makeup artists applying the Cover Girl mascara up on Instagram right before her red carpet appearance, right before the advertising spot ran...and then it ran over and over again throughout the night. The mascara may not have been running, but the branding certainly was!

Pharrell showed off his fashion collaboration with Adidas, strutting his stuff and staying on message on the red carpet.



And of course, who could forget Gwen Stefani and her contest/endorsement for MasterCard and their "priceless surprises."



Despite the heavy branding, It was feeling a little slow to tell you the truth, but then the show kicked in and so did the messaging...of a different kind.

For the Super Bowl, I had predicted that we'd see brands promoting unity, diversity, acceptance, and everyone taking care of each other. We actually never saw that at the big game, but it came shining through last night at the Grammy Awards.

Early and eventually frequent winner Sam Smith said it best when he accepted his speech...it wasn't until he became himself that he started making good music.

A befitting trio tackled the issue of domestic violence: President Obama, an actual victim, and Katie Perry...showing the NFL how to inspire people to come out and seek help. Help is out there!





"Artists have a unique power to change minds and attitudes! It's on all of us!"

On a lighter note: McDonald's reran an advertising spot from it's "Lovin'" campaign...all about historical archenemies finding a way to get along. "Love is endless."




The biggest surprise of the night, from a marketing perspective, came from Whirlpool. Whirlpool! The brand's approach and messaging was nothing short of a WOW, completely altering what many of us would have thought about the brand in our lives. It was the culmination of the "Every Day, Care" contest where applicants could show how every day caring (like doing the laundry) changes people's lives. The campaign has been on for a few months, but last night it took center stage. The winner was a WOW, that's all I can say.

Click here to see it. But grab a tissue first.

I'm going to leave it at that.

What's your (Grammy) experience? JIM.

PS - Props to my girl Madonna. Girl still has it, I don't care what anyone says.




Friday, February 6

Super Bowl Social Media

We've been talking for weeks about all the Super Bowl advertising, and rightly so...it's a lot of fun and it's the one time in the year where we really relish in marketing. It's the most wonderful time of the year, actually!

But this year, more so than ever, there was a lot of activity off the field and off the big screen in social media. The brands came out in full force to support their broadcast advertising. And non-advertisers used social media as a way to get into the game without the hefty $4.5million price tag.

I thought I'd put a spotlight on a few standouts.

McDonald's Lovin'.  From the minute the brand's spot ran in the Super Bowl, social media activity kicked in giving away lots of 'loving. After many of the big advertisers ran their spots, the brand had a contest giving away prizes tied to that advertising. So for a simple RT, followers could win a BMW, a classic arcade game like Pac-Man, a Mercedes, and even tickets to the movie Ted. I was lovin' it. This one really got me...


Doritos "Airplane Guy." Doritos continued its crowd-sourced campaign with a crowd-pleasing spoof on choosing airplane seats. Southwest Airlines picked up on the parody, and offered a free drink and a bag of Doritos to anyone who took a selfie from a middle seat.



Coca-Cola erases hate. The best campaign of the night for me came from Coca-Cola where the brand continued its "happiness" campaign by tackling negativity on social media. The campaign moved online where it sent fun happiness visuals to followers who tweeted "hate" that needed to be erased. The online campaign backfired a bit when some folks decided to test the waters, shall we say. USAToday wrote an article about it where I'm quoted as well. I still think the campaign was fabulous, with or without the drama.



I think this year, more than ever, we proved the power of social media when used in conjunction with great advertising...and we proved that not all the action and drama happens on the field!

What's your experience? JIM

Thursday, February 5

Why Advertise on the Super Bowl?

Year after year, game after game...one question remains...Why advertise on the Super Bowl? Is it worth it? What's the ROI?

The truth is that no one, to my eye, has been able to prove ROI on what is now a $4.5million Super Bowl :30 slot. That's a lot of profit to create, even if you're a $75,000 car. In fact, the data probably stacks up against running a spot, if you were to only look at the return on the financials.

So the question remains...Why advertise on the Super Bowl?

The answer is completely dependent on what you are trying to accomplish as a brand. If your goal is to move product and generate quick sales, then I'd argue that this is not the venue. If you're looking to drive an immediate impact of some sort, then I'd also argue that this is not the place to place an ad.

But if your goals are a bit softer, then it might in fact make sense to advertise on the Super Bowl. The audience is about as massive as you can get in one shot, and the ramp up and ramp down are becoming more and more effective for additional reach surrounding your campaign.  So if you are looking to:
- raise awareness...
- change perceptions...
- weave yourself into pop culture...
...then I could easily put in a play for the Super Bowl.

Let's take a look at some examples.

Always #LikeAGirl. This was a viral campaign that has already logged in great success. It's only natural to take it to a big venue like the Super Bowl to give a quick reminder for those who have already experienced it, or to open up a whole new audience among those who have not.



McDonald's Get Lovin' campaign. The brand took a significant detour, in my mind, in setting itself up in people's minds differently. This is advertising meant to alter the positioning of the brand, and I'd argue that it does an amazing job. Lob in some social media to support the Super Bowl presence, and you just might have a winner during the big game.



Budweiser equity ad. We've come to expect great storytelling and great entertainment value from Budweiser at each and every Super Bowl. The Clydesdales are every bit a part of the brand as they are the Super Bowl as they are America itself. It wouldn't be the Super Bowl without the brand and the equity they've built through the years. So of course they are going to advertise again and again and again!



Will these brands get an ROI on their Super Bowl investment?  Yes, in the long run I believe that they will...because they have the right objectives in mind.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Wednesday, February 4

Super Bowl 2015 Advertising - Hidden Gems

It seems like every year at the Super Bowl that a few pieces of advertising get all the attention...and in the blink of an eye the others pass by us in thirty seconds. And if the game is good like it was this year, some of the advertising really goes by unnoticed in all the hype of scoring and interceptions and bad calls.

So while this year there was lots of commentary on the Budweiser puppy, Always #LikeAGirl, and the Doritos "airplane guy," there were a lot of other spots worth noting that didn't get a lot of attention in the moment.

Here's my attempt to give them a little more time in the spotlight, because I think they're worth it!

T-Mobile with Kim Kardashian. I'll admit that I'm not a big fan, but I have to say that this spot was quite clever. I'm a sucker for self-deprecation, and coming from someone unexpected makes it even better. Plus it was actually tied to a key message point about the brand, tackling an issue that many of us face...an issue that many of us get annoyed by. Actually well done, surprisingly.



Weight Watcher "Take Back Control." While we're used to seeing weight loss advertising on January 1st, the Super Bowl isn't really the time to count calories. I love how Weight Watchers approached weight loss from a different angle, hitting right at the heart of our struggle with food.



Jeep "This Land." I was dying to see something that would pull on the American heartstrings. It's the Super Bowl, after all! It finally came, late in the game, when the only thing viewers were paying attention to was the score. So this little ditty bears viewing again now. I just love it.


I love how it played on the Grand Canyon, just a stone's throw away from where the Super Bowl was being played!

Go Daddy gets real. The king of controversy finally showed us something real, and gave us a real depiction of what the brand actually offers. While not as exciting as a race car driver or a super model kissing a nerd, it made for much better branded advertising, doing what advertising should do...motivate us and tell us something about the brand.



Hopefully we'll see these spots live on for a few months in other venues, because they are worth being enjoyed over and over again. And I hope they do well for their respective businesses.

What's your experience? JIM

Tuesday, February 3

Super Bowl 2015 Advertising - Fan Favorites

There's always lots of speculation about the value of Super Bowl advertising...is it worth the $4.5million investment? But let's put that aside for a moment and remember how this all started: people love to watch entertaining television advertising. It's a form of storytelling and filmography so let's just enjoy it!

Here are a few fan favorites from this year...at least as discussed during my Twitter party and in all the commentary since the big game.

Fiat "Blue Pill." At first it looked like a spot for Viagra, which I think was the point. As we followed the journey of this "little blue pill" we discovered that it's a spring board (literally) for launching a new car model. I love the break from the formulaic car advertising which has been so obvious and expected. Bravo!



Doritos "When Pigs Fly." Doritos continued its crowd-sourced campaign again this year, with a couple of spots that were met with great delight. This one actually had pigs flying, leaving many to say that it was the best of the night. Not sure about that, but it was fun to watch.



Snickers "You're Not You." Snickers continued its long-running campaign with yet another installment, using a classic scene from The Brady Bunch. It's was no "Betty White," but still, what's not to love?


Let's face it...it's fun to take a break from life and enjoy a little advertising. Sometimes we don't need to analyze it more than that!

Did you have a favorite? What's your experience? JIM.

Monday, February 2

Super Bowl 2015 Advertising, As Tweeted


For the first time in my personal history, the Super Bowl game itself actually overshadowed the advertising! For me it's always about the advertising, but I have to say that the game was a nail-biter!

I, of course, had my annual Twitter party...#SuperBowlExp...the Super Bowl is generally my biggest party of the year. People love to talk about the advertising! Last year we reached 7.7 million people! We started out in the first half with lots of energy commenting on the commercials, but we all lost a little steam as the game got closer and closer. Actually, I think that most of the great advertising was in the first half anyway. Most.

As I predicted, we marveled at the focus on Dad. Multiple brands highlighted Dad's involvement in the family, including this one from Nissan that used a classic song to tell an engaging story #WithDad.



Cats in the Cradle! Purposeful that the singer Harry Chapin died in a car accident? This spot was a stand-out among the many car ads. Early reports called for fewer spots from the auto brands this year, but it sure didn't feel like it as the night rolled on.

True to form, the entertainment value was on full display from many of the brands...like this spot from Budweiser as part of their #UpForWhatEver campaign. Pac-Man live!


What captured most of our attention, however, was how many brands were tackling issues about the human condition. Brands showcased sexism, gender bias, domestic violence, and special needs, among other issues. This one from Always struck a cord with my Twitter peeps.


As a Dad, it was eye-opening the first time I saw it online last year...on the Super Bowl stage it was even more meaningful.

One brand even tackled childhood death....and it was probably the biggest bust of the night. The spot was from Nationwide, and it quickly grew criticism for its morbidity. I guess we are not up for that at a family event like the Super Bowl. I have to say that it was a bit of a downer.



IMHO, and many agreed, "Best in Show" came as a bit of a surprise. It wasn't trendy Apple or flashy Samsung...it was Microsoft! In its #Empowering campaign, the brand demonstrated how its technology helps to empower people...whether they are dealing with special needs or helping other people. To me, the brand did the best job of actually bringing together a meaningful story, tying it to the features of the product, in a way that we will remember the brand....shaping our perceptions about what the brand does for people. Great advertising! A social media campaign ran along the high-profile campaign, and on-the-field Surface devices helped the players get through the game too.


It was a night to remember, more for the edge-of-your-seat game than the advertising, but still a lot of fun. The best part is that we get to re-live the commercials over and over again on social media, and I'm betting we'll see a lot of it on the large screen again too.

What was your favorite? What's your experience? JIM