Sunday, February 28

Healing, Parenting -- Piece by Piece

(this article also appears on Huffington Post so you can click here if you want to read it there)

"And all I remember is your back."

I just watched one of the most important live performances i have ever seen, of one of the most important songs I have ever heard, with the most rawest of emotions I have ever shared.

Piece by Piece, by Kelly Clarkson on American Idol.

Kelly wrote the song when she was pregnant with her daughter, and now she's singing it when she's again pregnant with her son. It's about her childhood; it's about their childhood.

Piece by piece.

The lyrics describe abandonment by her father, restoration from her husband, and the care for her daughter. While the hurt pains, the love flows. I can literally feel my heart get heavy as she compares and contrasts her father with the man who is now in her life, her husband and her daughter's father. It's also a not so subtle message that she was able to stop the cycle of abandonment in her family.

"But piece by piece he collected me up off the ground where you abandoned things. And piece by piece he filled the holes that you burned in me at six years old." Whoa.

"He restored my faith that a man can be kind and a father could stay." Wow.

Piece by piece.

I could barely get through the song, so it's no wonder she struggles. I have a feeling she'll be struggling every time she sings it; it won't get any easier. But maybe the pain will, for her and for others also suffering.

Piece by piece.

While I didn't experience her journey, I can relate as a father. I've always been responsible for the physical and emotional well-being of my two children (a daughter and a son too, in that order) ... honestly I think more now than ever as they become adults.

The responsibility never subsides. Nor the worry. Nor the love.

Piece by piece.

I was raising my children when fathers weren't as visibly active as they are today. As an always present, single caregiver, I was an rarity. Not so much anymore. I see fathers of all flavors embedded in their children's lives, shaping and raising them to be healthy, confident adults just like my children. Some on their own, some with co-parents, some with spouses.

Piece by piece.

I wouldn't know how to care for my children any other way, yet I've known many who have had different experiences. Like Kelly.

And while we have collectively come a long way, I know we still have a long way to go. So many children face the uncertainty, abandonment, and feelings of worthlessness as a result of parents who leave them.

Which is why songs like Piece by Piece are so important. They raise our awareness and help people cope in similar situations. Which is why sharing our own story is so important as that others can see themselves and realize that they too can make it through.

Just like I did on my own journey, with my own struggles.

Piece by Piece.

I have such tremendous respect (and pride) that Kelly could turn her pain into a moving lyrical story that I know will bring healing. There's nothing more important than that, for children and for adults.

I hope it all brings some peace, piece by piece.

What's your experience? JIM.

P.S. And then there's Gaga at the Oscars...

Thursday, February 25

Ariel #ShareTheLoad

(this article also appears on Huffington Post, 
so click here if you'd like to read it there)

I am intrigued by this spot from P&G global laundry brand Ariel.

Intrigued because on the one hand as an active father, who was a real active father back in the day, I shake my head in disbelief. Total disbelief. Especially as I see active fathers of all flavors taking care and raising their kids today.

But also intrigued on the other hand because I know that active parenting in reality isn't universal, and not universal all around the world. Not yet anyway.

So I have to applaud the messaging, and quite honestly applaud the execution, of this piece of content from Ariel...encouraging men to #ShareTheLoad. Not to mention the subtle inclusion of the category, yet resisting the temptation to throw in product attributes.

Such restraint, such reality, such inspiration. #ShareTheLoad.

Turns out there's more than just the video. The brand has a fully integrated campaign to get men to do the household laundry, including a pledge, some rewards, and a partnership with Whirlpool. Talk about being "direct!"

Let me tell you, there were many days when I was carrying the burden and I could have used someone to #ShareTheLoad, so I can relate. (and yes, I am a man!)

I'd like to think we are past all of this family role stereotyping and I'd like to think all fathers (and all mothers) are instrumental to the daily care and emotional support of their children, but I do realize that we have some way to go.

Brands doing work like this will certainly help. Bravo!

What's your experience? JIM

PS - and then there's we need any proof of the importance of active fathers?

Come From a Place of Yes

Here is my latest installment at Entrepreneur .... Come From a Place of Yes. Click here to read it!

"Yes" is so much more empowering and productive than "no."

Don't you agree...what's your experience?  JIM.

Wednesday, February 24

Can Persil Beat Tide?

This little ditty from the Big Game this year has been cropping up on programming ever since kick off.

It's a "new" laundry detergent (at least to my naked eye) that is taking on the big guy...Tide, with a direct performance claim based on research from a "leading consumer testing publication." When you did into search a bit more, you find out that the publication is the one and only Consumer Reports, which has placed Tide at #1 in the category more than any other brand.

It's not easy taking on the market leader, especially one that is so firmly entrenched. And Persil is taking on Tide right where the category

As I've written many times, I'm not a believer on fighting against functional benefits. Unless of course the product has a real, meaningful, enduring advantage that is hard to overcome. I personally believe that the war is won on emotional benefits.

Not an easy feat against Tide either, because I'm betting that it has traditionally won in the functional and emotional space as well. I just wonder how long it will take for a competitor, or for Tide itself, to come back with yet a better functional claim. That's how it generally works, each product comes back and ups the one before.

Generally not a game that can be won on function alone. Where's the emotional quotient in this equation, in this attack?

We shall see. What's your experience?  JIM.

Tuesday, February 23

Facebook Fights the Zika Virus

A few weeks ago, just as news of the spreading Zika virus was hitting our conscious awareness, Facebook announced a partnership with Abrasco Divulga in Brazil to help fight the virus by raising awareness about how to avoid it.

For the most part, it's about avoiding mosquitoes and the awareness campaign, delivered on Facebook, gives some very practical advice especially for pregnant women who are most at risk.

The campaign caught my eye because it shows the power of using social media to quickly share news and information, in a culture (Brazil) that is extremely socially active.

I love how Facebook is using its power and influence to do more than just connect people, but to help them as well. Makes all those photos of people's meals and vacations, and cute kids have an extra special meaning.

If you'd like to view the video, click here.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Wednesday, February 17

Event Television - As Witnessed by the Grammy Awards

(this article also appears on Huffington Post - click here to read it there)

Something very interesting happened on the way to the Grammy Awards this year.

The new age of event television has conditioned us to only watch network television when it's live...Super Bowl, Golden Globes, and even a live Broadway Show.

So it's no surprise that the Grammy Awards this year was all about event television...watching the action live and in real time so that you can also comment on it via social media.

First there was Adele...sound issues ended up showcasing her as a true consummate professional. But we knew that all along.

And then there was Gaga. We knew she'd be doing a tribute to David Bowie. Based on her Super Bowl performance and her Sound of Music medley, we knew we'd be in for a treat. But then Itel got involved with teasers indicating a breakthrough in technology via her performance. While many were left scratching their heads, the collaboration did set a new expectation in live musical performance...and the technology that brings it to life.

Finally, there was a big surprise that ultimately ushered in a new era of brand engagement for live television...Gwen Stefani's live video with Target. I for one am still trying to figure out how she pulled it off, especially after falling on her roller skates, but it was a moment to remember as she brought back her voice and tied it to retailer Target.

Oh what a night for live television, appointment television, event television...and branding.

What is your experience?  JIM

Divide and Conquer

This article appears on Huffington Post - click here to read it there!

What's your experience? JIM

Tuesday, February 16

Podcast ... Super Bowl 50 Roundup

I recently did a podcast with Arun from The Holmes Report, recapping the advertising from this year's Super Bowl. While we couldn't help but talk about reactions to the creative, we spent most of our time discussing the missed opportunity for more digital and social surround sound.

The Super Bowl provides such a massive stage for great marketing, not just advertising. I'd love to see more brands take advantage of it.

Click here to listen!

What's your experience?  JIM

Friday, February 12

Sexiest Dad Alive

While I was standing on the subway platform this morning in New York, I caught a glimpse of it out of the corner of my eye on the news stand.

A picture of Ryan Reynolds. On the cover of People Magazine.

I wasn't surprised, since his movie opens this weekend and he's been the king of all media lately. But the headline made me take a double take..."Sexist Dad Alive." Not "Sexiest Man Alive," but "Sexiest Dad Alive!"

I started to beam.

Not because I'm a big Ryan Reynolds fan, although admittedly I have liked many of his movies.

And not because I think Ryan Reynolds is sexy, although he is indeed quite the man these days.

It was the headline..."Sexiest Dad Alive." I'd never seen "sexy" and "dad" in the same phrase.

You have to realize that I was raising my (now) adult kids during a time when being an active dad wasn't so attractive, or accepted, or discussed. It certainly wasn't sexy. I was often the only father at the children's events, and certainly the only father shepherding children to doctor and dentist appointments. I carried the burden of parenting with pride, but often alone.

And as a marketer, I've also witnessed year after year of dad being portrayed as the bumbly, fumbly fool who can't be trusted with the kids. Certainly not alone. And certainly not changing diapers.

I changed many a diaper, let me tell you! Ryan Reynolds says he changes diapers, and he takes it very seriously. I guess that makes him sexy. Sexy indeed.

We have come a long way, especially in the last couple of years. Dads of all flavors are taking an active role in child care, and they are talking about it. They are sharing their experiences and supporting each other. They're even joining support groups like the one I belong to...City Dads Group. Many are changing their careers to be around for their children, and many are even staying home. #SAHD.

But sexy? Indeed a whole new level of acceptance and admiration.

I never thought I'd see the day.

What's your experience? JIM.

Super Bowl 50 Advertising -- Hidden Gems

All week we've been reading people's commentary on their view's of the Super Bowl advertising and of the Halftime Show. It certainly feels like those two things have captured more attention than the game itself. Certainly for me!

While there's been criticism (to say the least), there has also been some admiration. I wanted to take a moment to salute what I think were some standouts in the field of advertising this year. In particular, I wanted to mention three spots that for me didn't get as much attention, but are worthy of a shoutout.

Axe. The spot from Axe came later in the game, and perhaps there was some fatigue at that point. Or perhaps viewers had written it all off at that point. But the messaging here is very powerful and very insightful, so it's due a little applause.

Who needs a six pack when you got the ....!!! Everyone has their own magic.

Death Wish Coffee. Intuit QuickBooks gave this "small business" the stage during the big game. Very creative, very engaging. And I've now heard the brand name every single day ever since. If building awareness is a goal of a Super Bowl spot, then this one scored.

Who doesn't want an extra dose of caffeine?!?

Coke Hulk vs Ant Man. While this spot definitely falls into the big brand and big budget category, it was able to break through the clutter of what many perceived as otherwise just noise, with some surprise and delight for viewers. It was indeed a refreshing alternative to some spots that started to feel, well, spotty.

With just one mini.

The Super Bowl has been called "the marketers holiday," and "Brand Bowl." It is fun to take a moment and celebrate our industry and revel in a little creativity, magic making, and consumer targeting.

These three stood out as hidden gems IMHO.

What's your take? What's your experience? JIM

Thursday, February 11

Super Bowl 50 Advertising - Public Messaging

Ok, so my advance predictions for this year's Super Bowl advertising were way off. Way off. Couldn't have been farther off. Footballs fields apart.

I thought I had it! I predicted a lot of messaging around "one world," and "we are all in this together." The world is a tough place, and I just assumed that brands would take the opportunity to send a positive message of unity.

I was way off.

BUT...I will say that there were a few brands that stepped away from their products and offered up a higher order message. A public service message if you will.

Domestic Violence. For the second year in a row, the NFL tackled its biggest issue. Through yet another creative device, it communicated the need to support those who face domestic violence. Proving once again that you don't need big celebrities and big production budgets to send a clear and compelling message.

Drunk Driving. So many brands have tackled this public issue, honestly with great success. But none quite as classic as this one with Helen Mirren from Budweiser. The biggest question people had, by the way, was if she really does drink Bud? She's pretty cool, so I have a feeling that if she's in the spot then she's drinking the beer.

Save Water. Full disclosure, this is one of my clients. But I just love how Colgate pulled away from its product features to highlight a key issue when using its product. Brilliant, if you ask me. And very compelling.

So in a sea of PuppyBabyMonkey characters, car chases, and hyper-produced Hollywood productions, it is refreshing to see and hear messaging that rises above it all.

I just wish there had been more of it.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Tuesday, February 9

Super Bowl 50 Advertising - What's Missing?

(this article also appears on Huffington Post - click here to read it there)

There's been pretty vocal criticism that this year's Super Bowl buffet of advertising didn't quite cut it.

Sure, there was creativity (Puppy Monkey Baby), technology (New Money), and sarcasm (TJ Miller), but was there true entertainment and engagement? Entertainment and engagement certainly are goals for any spot, among other things.

So what was missing?

There wasn't a lot of insight, at least not to my eye. Great marketing is based on a true, unique, and emotional insight about the target audience. I honestly didn't see much of the creativity grounded in an insight. Even great entertainment is rooted in an emotional insight. There were very few emotional triggers to pull viewers into the message, and to get them to react and engage. Insights were a missing link IMHO.

There also wasn't a lot of social engagement, at least not as much as there could be. Sure, there was commentary and sharing, and many brand analysts have ranked the spots based on social impressions. But there wasn't a lot of social activity back and forth across multiple screens and multiple social outlets. We know people are using multiple screens, but we didn't see many brands leveraging that behavior. It's through multiple screens that you can drive a deeper relationship with the entertainment and the messaging, ultimately moving viewers to take action. Like to buy a product. I didn't see much of that kind of activity.

Finally, there wasn't an overall message to inspire. The Super Bowl is a huge stage, a global stage. It's an opportunity for a brand to make a statement, and to say something motivating and inspiring that can bring us all together. I didn't see much...except at the Half Time Show.

Now I realize that it's easy to criticize and there was a lot of good work in the mix. I just believe it could have gone even higher.

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

Monday, February 8

There's a Dad Movement Afloat

This article appears on the site "Mens Movement." Click here to read it there.  JIM

Lessons Learned from This Year's Super Bowl Advertising

This article appears on Entrepreneur ... all about what small business owners and entrepreneurs can learn from big brand advertising in the Super Bowl.

Click here to give it a read.

What's your experience?  JIM

Sunday, February 7

Super Bowl 50 Advertising - As Tweeted

(this article also appears on Huffington Post - click here to read it there)

I held my annual Twitter party #SuperBowlExp during the Super Bowl again this year…not to sweat out the game but to comment on all of the brand activity. We collectively rate the advertising and evaluate the marketing, and then take breaks when the game is actually in play!

Most years there is a universal theme or two that shines through, but I have to say that this year was much more of a mixed buffet. Nothing in particular stood out.

But my Twitter Party goers were vocal nonetheless. Here are a few takeaways:

Longing for Nostalgia. Throughout the entire game, people were asking what happened to the Clydesdales? They are a beloved Super Bowl tradition and there was just but a small peek. The Super Bowl is about tradition…and people were longing for it. Which is why the Halftime Show montage resonated so well, as did the commercials featuring classic music from David Bowie and Queen.

It’s Tough to be Funny. The humor wasn’t so funny this year, or certainly not in comparison to prior years. The Doritos spots didn’t disappoint nor did the Heinz dogs. But outside of the dogs, there wasn’t a lot to laugh about. People are looking for some entertainment and they are hoping to ROTFLMAO. It wasn’t really there this year.

Technology is Changing Our Financials. Brands like PayPal, SoFi, Rocket Mortgage, and even Esurance showed modern ways to pay, borrow, and protect. All online, very fascinating and all about new/modern money.

Context is Everything. No offense to anyone in the healthcare industry, and by the way I am in the healthcare industry too, but I’m not sure that the Super Bowl is the right venue for discussing health issues. People are just not in the right mindset. Folks in my Twitter party were immediately dismissing the multiple placements. I think there’s a time and a place for such personal and serious topics, IMHO.

My personal favorite was the little ditty from Pantene, showing football players doing their daughters hair. Amazing content that has been continually shared before and after the game. Brought a huge smile to my face. Dad-Do indeed!

Social media was alive and well, with everyone commenting their opinions and brands interacting with each other. Brand analysts were calculating winners with the most impressions and the most positive of sentiment. It's become a game unto itself to make sure your brand is scoring with consumers on the big screen and on all the others as well.

But without a shadow of a doubt, the night belonged to Lady Gaga who set a new standard for singing the National Anthem. We have not gotten goose bumps like that since, well, Whitney Houston.

WOW.  What were your favorites? What's your experience?  JIM

Thursday, February 4

Tuesday, February 2

Super Bowl 2016 - Advertising Previews

We are just a few days away from the big game, and all the Super Bowl advertising is started to roll in...into YouTube for advance previews! Let's take a look at a few that are hitting viewers' radar.

There looks to be no shortage of star power, that is for sure. I applaud this effort from Budweiser featuring Helen Mirren. Helen Mirren for Bud? Well, in this case she has a special message...

I'll listen to anything she says!

"Don't Drink and Drive" isn't the only serious message this year. First timer SunTrust has a universal message as well...we all suffer from financial stress and it's time to cherish the moments instead!

Let go and breathe!

OK, time to have some's the Super Bowl after all. We can always count on the crowd-sourced work from Doritos. Here are the three finalists this year:

Who are you voting for?

And finally, this one seems to be an early fan favorite. From Heinz, a bit of a staple at Super Bowl parties I would imagine...

Some have said, "this is what advertising should be." I agree.

For me, the advertising is the best part of the game. Ever since I was a kid. So much so that I started doing Twitter parties five years ago to comment and celebrate the craft. Join me during the game and tweet on at #SuperBowlExp.

I'll be asking...what's your experience? JIM

Monday, February 1

Evolution of Barbie

(this article also appears on Huffington Post - click here to read it there)

By now we've all heard the latest evolution of the new Barbie body shapes. Of course, as a marketer and a father, I applaud the move.

As Celine would sing....Hallelujah!

But seriously, the evolution has been amazing.

Not too long along, Barbie was in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, just to make a point.

And right in time for the holidays, out of the corner of our eye we saw a boy in a piece of Barbie advertising.

Barbie has spent much of her over 50 years telling girls (and boys) that they can be anything.

And now she is just confirming that she can look any way that's appropriate for her, no matter who she is!

Bravo! What's your experience?  JIM