Thursday, July 30, 2009

Audi Makes The Case For Diesel

They say it can reduce (eliminate?) our dependence on foreign oil, by using less.

It’s a “good” message both politically and environmentally. And they’ve somehow wrapped performance in there as well (HERE). It’s a fascinating strategy, and it just might work. (Cue watchdogs crying "greenwash" anytime now. The "clean diesel" debate continues.)

The creative is reminiscent of Goodby's Saturn work, but still very solid in its own right. Mad props to Venables Bell, SF.

(And to Mr. Greg Bell, who’s moving beyond the agency now, congratulations and good luck.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Keep California Beautiful dot org

One great thing about getting a “good” message out there is the free stuff.

Better directors, better talent for less, people donate their time, their costumes, props, and even air time.

BBDO West made this spot look like a million bucks, though I doubt that was the budget. Kudos for that.

Here’s my critique. It’s a cute spot. Entertaining. But will I get involved? Will I schedule a clean up? Probably not.Here I was, ready to join an online group to stay in touch. But they didn’t ask. If I had joined a group, and if a clean-up was happening on some lazy Sunday, maybe I would’ve gone.

It seems the world is outgrowing the traditional clever spot. It’s not enough to entertain. Especially not for a cause.

So while this spot is very entertaining, has my behavior changed? Honestly, no.

Even if someone sees this spot and goes to the website, the website doesn’t convert. There’s no next step, besides a small Facebook button at the bottom.

Point is, there is a MISSION here. Let’s keep California beautiful. In my humble opinion, this spot doesn’t so much engage that mission as it just makes fun of kitsch.

To quote Gareth Kay (formerly of Modernista!, now of Goodby Silverstein, congrats Gareth) … “Do stuff, don’t just say stuff.”

And here’s one of many useful slides from Gareth’s most recent presentation… I didn’t hear him present, so I’m assuming this chart outlines the old way of evaluating good creative (on left), and the new way of evaluating good creative (on right).*

When you have a cause, don’t just entertain me. Enlist me.

(* A few great thoughts from Gareth Kay are posted on Just search his name.)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Fiji Water: So Good, Yet So Bad, part 2

Something weird has happened since I started this blog. A lot of people find it by searching for Fiji Water. Specifically, “fiji water bad,” and “fiji water good.”

I think these people are looking for an answer to a question like this; “If Fiji keeps claiming to be green (“carbon negative” in fact), how can it still have a controversial reputation?”

Here’s my hunch, presented humbly to you in a completely non-scientific graph.

The Fiji Water source is limited, and they’re taking so much of it as to throw the local ecosystem out of whack. Add to that the transportation impact of their water, and you’ve got a product with a pretty big enviro-impact. (Ironically, many local Fijiians have trouble finding clean drinking water, and Fiji Water has a history of unhelpfulness. So add bad karma.)

To fight that reputation, they’ve decided to buy their way out with carbon offsets. Not that it’s a bad practice, but offsets are no substitute for corporate responsibility. Their impact is still massive, and so their offset expenses are as well (a fact reflected in the price per bottle, perhaps).

By contrast, one of the most eco-friendly bottled waters is Icelandic Glacial. Like Fiji Water, it’s imported from a unique source. But since Iceland has to import most of its goods (other than fish), there are a lot of empty ships leaving the country. Icelandic Glacial can export its water on ships that would otherwise return empty. They’re not adding traffic. Their shipping is creating zero NEW emissions; their shipping impact is happening whether they export their pure water or not.

Further, the Icelandic Source is a gigantic under-island glacial “river.” A source so massive, the company’s annual output is about 1% of what flows through the source in a single day. So the water they take doesn’t impact the local environs in the least. But here’s the best part. The country of Iceland derives most of its energy not from oil, but from water. Steam. That’s right, Icelandic Glacial’s bottling plant is powered by – (wait for it) – water.

Yes, Icelandic Glacial still buys carbon offsets to account for its small impact on the earth. And that helped make it the world’s first carbon neutral product.

Fiji Water claims to have caught up, now being “carbon negative” thanks to its egregious greenwashing. Icelandic Glacial is carbon neutral, and is truly a greener product.

I just like to imagine the ad campaign they could run.

(See the earlier posts that are getting this site so much traffic, HERE.)

(PS – another fun fact about Icelandic Glacial is the mineral makeup of the water itself. It’s so pure, it’s the only water that freezes perfectly clear. Neat-o.)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Snickers: Bar Hunger

Hello textbook strategy. If your brand position is “don’t go hungry,” then guess what your charity of choice will be?

So. Snickers is donating at least 3 million meals to Feeding America, fueled by customer participation. It’s simple, smart, strategic, and beats the heck out of just giving candy bars to those who can’t afford a meal. Nice work, Snickers. (I'm not sure how much TBWA/Chiat/Day New York had to do with this, but it seems they're at least involved, since they're Snickers' lead agency.)

It must be noted here – AGAIN with the Feeding America!

They’ve partnered with Quaker/Goodby/Edelman, and Mullen’s Bread Art Project, and countless others. Whoever’s in charge over at Feeding America is kicking ass with the brand participation. Someone give that do-gooder a candy bar.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Saatchi S’ Blue Ripple

Kevin Roberts is the worldwide CEO of Saatchi&Saatchi, and author of their Lovemarks books. He shoots out a daily-ish missive on what the marketing world looks like from his perch, and I think it’s darn good. Anyway, his latest trumpet-toot is about Saatchi S blasting some sustainable knowledge out into the marketing world. He says:

“This week Adam Werbach’s book Strategy for Sustainability: A Business Manifesto, was launched on the world. Adam is CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi S– Saatchi & Saatchi’s specialist sustainability agency, and a great guy, who shares my belief that sustainability is the most realistic strategy for long term business success and business growth. His book comes from the heavyweight Harvard Business Press, so it’s been worked over by the business management pros …”

Sounds like it’s worth reading, at least for other agencies who want to bring more to their campaigns than the cleverest headlines on earth.

Two things strike me. One, that such a huge thought-leading commitment is being championed by an ad agency (most agencies aren't so visionary). And two, that with this book, they are giving their knowledge away to other agencies. They must truly be more concerned with the planet than just making ads, and they know that this is how the can lead the movement. Smart.

Kevin Roberts, again: “At Saatchi & Saatchi our North Star Goal is to ‘help a billion people create their personal sustainability practice through the products and people that touch their lives.’”

Crazy.* Most agencies North Star Goal is to win awards.

Not coincidentally, one of their biggest clients is WalMart, who is changing their bad reputation into green leadership one (see below). Kudos to Adam and his superfriends.

(For more on Saatchi S, read a Marketing+Good exclusive interview with their VP of Strategy, HERE. Or watch their little video, HERE.)

* And when I say “crazy,” I mean crazy good.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

WalMart’s Green Ripple

This just in. Today’s Wall Street Journal reports that WalMart’s green initiatives are becoming martial law. The retailing giant is telling its 100,000 suppliers that they MUST report their green stats to consumers on their packaging.

Holy crap. If they can pull it off (i.e. make it simple and meaningful), this move could wake up a whole lot of WalMart shoppers. They walk in for the price, and might make decisions for green reasons instead.

And, holy crap. This is going to be expensive for suppliers to update their packaging.

Good luck, WalMart. There’s nothing quite like throwing down the green gauntlet, especially if you’re the biggest retailer on the planet. This is going to wake people up, fo sho.

(Read the full WSJ article, HERE.)

Some lucky brands will be able to take full advantage of this, perhaps making their green credentials a major message in their ads.

(And stay tuned for the Saatchi S part of this equation. They are the Robin to WalMart’s Batman.)

Friday, July 10, 2009


Today, I got an e-mail from the Bread Art Project, an online campaign for the Grain Food Foundation that supported Feeding America. It said, “Together We Made A Big Difference,” citing the earnings of $25,000.

Cynical guy that I am, I instantly guessed that the site must’ve cost at least twice that. It’s a very cool site, created by Mullen (see earlier blog post HERE).

So wouldn’t they have done more good by simply giving the marketing budget to charity?

This logic makes me think of the RED campaign. Converse, Target, Motorola, Gap, and many other huge retailers participated, not to mention celebrities. Critics of the RED campaign have said that they spent more on marketing than the amount they raised for charity. “They should’ve just given the marketing budget straight to charity. It would’ve done more good,” the critics say.

My response: that option wasn’t on the table. At the beginning of the project, they probably had a choice. The retailers could either send postcards to their databases, asking for donations, and maybe donate some themselves. (And they could’ve blown the whole budget that way.) Or, they could do something bigger. Something that invented new products, that let retailers own the campaign in a bigger way, something that consumers make a statement, and join a movement. They decided to do the latter.

If there’s a marketing budget, it’s a marketing budget. It’s supposed to get spent. And the more good it can do in the process, the better. Is it wasteful? Possibly. Maybe the ROI isn’t there. Maybe Gap should stop paying to make clothes, and use that money to eliminate AIDS in Africa instead.

I don’t think that’s gonna happen.

We can’t evaluate a “marketing+good” campaign on pure ROI for the charity. It’s a muddy mix of Goodwill and revenues that comes back.

Using marketing budgets for “good” is a win for the world. And if it’s also a win for the brand, so what? That's great. It encourages them to do it again and again.

Perhaps the cost of getting famous brands and celebrities to raise $200 million for Africa is $500 million.*

Even if it is, I still say do it. Because the alternative is to spend the full $500 million on a regular ad campaign with zero going to Africa. And maybe fewer people lining up to buy.

* these numbers are completely made up.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The “Bolt-On.” Microsoft Internet Explorer 8: A Browser For The Better

This is what’s called a “bolt-on.”

In its efforts to get “hip,” Microsoft has been running all kinds of ads. And it’s well-known that Crispin has the Windows portion of the business (with their “I’m a PC” work). In the past, Crispin has famously launched multiple campaigns for a single brand (Burger King, VW and Microsoft come to mind, not to mention when they had Mini).

So when you see an ad for the new Microsoft browser that’s pretty damn strange, you might think, “Was that Crispin?” I did.

Well, the answer is no. This campaign is from a shop called Bradley and Montgomery ( And it gets stranger.

Guess who directed it? Bobcat Goldthwait (aka, Bobcat Goldthwait, Commercial Director).

But this blog post isn’t about any of that.

It’s about the “bolt-on.”

By “bolt-on,” I’m talking about a campaign that has an auxiliary component – another spot, website, sidecar of a campaign to go along with it - one with a charitable spin.

In perhaps one of the least strategic examples of this, Internet Explorer 8 is doing good by donating to Feeding America. (Is it me, or have they become the cause-du-jour lately?)

They say, "One in eight Americans struggle to find enough to eat. Download Internet Explorer 8 and we’ll donate 8 meals to help feed the hungry." It's a Browser for the Better. And apparently the connection is ... the number eight?

If Microsoft Internet Explorer wants to do some good, how about putting computers in inner-city schools? Or something – anything – to do with technology, or enabling access to information, or privacy issues? Feeding the hungry is 100% worthy, and 0% strategic.

Don’t get me wrong. I love it when the hungry get fed. But this choice made a lot more sense when Quaker Oats did it with Goodby and Edelman. Sure, that was another “bolt-on” campaign, but one that was a lot more strategic and closely tied to their main campaign.

Complicating matters even further, is the main campaign inventing fake ailments that IE 8 cures. Okay, that's not entirely original, but still funny. So, if you're going to add a charitable component, maybe you could help cure a REAL ailment. Hm? Just a thought.

Bolt-ons aren't bad. But this one is a missed opportunity to do something that's strategically aligned with what the brand stands for. When choosing to do some good, that's always a solid place to start. Decide what the brand/campaign stands for. Then the choice of what charity to support reinforces the core identity of the brand.

(Thank you Brandon Murphy, Director of Strategic Planning at my agency, for coining the term “bolt-on.” You can read his blog HERE.)