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Danny G lets loose with controversial, often hilarious and on-the-mark anecdotes about the advertising biz.

When An Advertising Assignment is Truly Unhealthy

Are agency employees truly empowered to make principled stands?

Is Michael Bloomberg An Ad Professional’s Dream Client?

Let’s face it: it's a testament to the lure of a big-spending client. Ad folks can't resist those easily.

A Spark of Creativity in a Surge Protector Instruction Sheet

Great writing, especially in the most unexpected of places, deserves praise and encouragement.

Fighting Climate Change Puts Heat on the Ad Industry

We’re good at creating campaigns that hector people into recycling and such, but for the most part, even modest collective sacrifices prove to be beyond our industry’s capability.

Why Spec Work Won’t Go Away — For Anyone

We live in a world where past performance doesn’t predict future results.

Thanks to Marketing, Now Every Day is Black Friday

Like a game of whack-a-mole, marketers haven’t gotten rid of Black Friday. In fact, we’ve spread it out to every day. Even in this age of the so-called “sharing economy,” consumer sales are what fuels our economy, and our industry.

At Last, Can We Stop Using Famous Songs to Prop Up Bad Ads?

Sometimes a great song choice will add depth and meaning to the narrative or storyline of a commercial. But when the song is a substitute for an idea, that’s when it falls flat.

Everyone is Not Our Target, But They Still Hit Back

It wasn’t too long ago that some of the most provocative ad campaigns were local or regional, and if you didn’t see it “in the wild” you never saw it, period.

Is Advertising Flying Over the Heads of Flyover Country?

Advertisers and agencies don’t get the heartland because many people live aspirational lives there, too — but they aspire to different things.

I Hope IHOP Has Patience — Because Most Marketing People Lack It

We’ve become too quick to judge, too quick to condemn, and too quick to yank a marketing effort when it doesn’t immediately spike sales.

When Advertising Will Just Do It — Without Asking Hard Questions

No corporation is going to have a perfect track record that mirrors the purpose-driven images and messaging that advertising and marketing creates for it.

When Sales is the Purpose That Drives Advertising

Call it a sales funnel, call it a customer journey, call it whatever you want — brands either grow through increased sales or they die.

A Closer Look at One Agency/Client Fissure

You can say “Kendall Jenner Pepsi video” all you want but it won’t stop the tide of marketers building in-house creative capabilities.

Six More Quotes for a Deeper Understanding of the Ad Industry

Pay close attention to those red flags: They tend to get cleverly concealed by rose-colored glasses.

How to Understand the Ad Industry in 6 Quotes

As Abe Lincoln said, “The problem with quotes on the Internet is that it is hard to verify their authenticity."

The Long And Short of Today’s Lengthy and Brief Ads

The limitless constraints of YouTube combined with a pervasive disdain for advertising in general is pushing marketers and ad agencies to try anything that seems different.

Advertising Is Becoming Part of The Gig Economy

Job-hopping, perpetual account reviews and general listlessness have always been a part of the ad business to some extent. These days, though, lots of ad professionals have decided that full-time employment isn’t for them. And it just seems the rest of the business world has now succumbed to short-term thinking.

When Right-Brained Creative Needs Left-Brained Justification

It’s one of the hardest things anyone in an ad agency can do, whether it’s a creative or account executive: Give a logical, backed-up-by-rationale reason for a piece of creative work.

In Advertising, Does Grammar Really Matter?

In advertising and marketing, sloppy grammar is becoming more and more of a problem. Or is it a problem? Do grammar, spelling, and punctuation matter? Or do we have creative license to let them all slide?

Advertising Is Becoming Part of The Gig Economy

The feverish pace of “advertising is dead” clickbait blog posts conveniently overlooks the thousands of ad agencies and marketing firms doing the gritty, unsexy work for businesses all over the world day after day, year after year.

Could Ad Agencies Be Liable for Lying Clients?

History is filled with products and services advertising promoted that eventually turned out to be harmful. Asbestos. Cigarettes. Thalidomide.

Should Creatives Care About Results?

It’s incumbent upon agency leaders to stress the importance of a client’s business success.

Cybersecurity and the Ad Industry’s Insecurity

Our clients are relentlessly pushing their technology, and we have little choice but to obey if we wish to continue working on their accounts.

In Advertising and Marketing, Does Grammar Matter?

It’s no surprise that typos and bad grammar are so pervasive given the speed at which we work these days.

The Most Interesting Dilemma in the Ad Industry

The “hard sell” still works in many cases. But it’s a turnoff to many consumers and it’s particularly nauseating to most creatives.

Should Ad Campaigns Be Open to Interpretation?

You won’t find many creative briefs where the objective is merely “get everyone talking and debating.” That may be the implied hope, but it’s not the directive.

The Lingering Aftertaste of the Pepsi Ad

We’re confronting a lot of change in the advertising and marketing industry and quite a bit of it was encapsulated in this episode.

Working Fast and Furious Is a Tricky Advertising Strategy

There’s always a sense of urgency and shortened timelines. With such time crunches, are we shortchanging ourselves and our business?

Brands Have Always Been Political. What’s Different Now?

Even the brands we love will let us down. No brand, no corporation, no politician, and no person are perfect.

When Opening Up the Kimono Reveals Little

When there’s a constant clamor to see work in progress, it can be a huge barrier to real progress.

Five Awful Words Ad People Shouldn’t Utter

That’s the rub with gaining experience in the ad industry: The good news is you’ve seen a lot and tend to know what to expect. The bad news is that you’ve seen a lot and tend to know what to expect.

A Consultation for Agencies Wishing To Compete With Consultancies

Management consultancies are just getting started building what agencies already have, and they’re willing to spend a lot of money to get there.

In Advertising and Marketing, Does Grammar Matter?

It’s no surprise that typos and bad grammar are so pervasive given the speed at which we work these days.

Freelancers Understand Your Agency’s Culture Better Than You

Short-term projects and freelancers are becoming the norm. But it requires agencies to pay attention to the operational details.

Why Advertising is the Original 'Post-Truth' Business

If we can’t agree on any facts for news or current events, how can we determine whether any message in advertising or marketing is true?

A Modest Proposal to Make Advertising Great Again

Advertising shouldn’t be open to interpretation like a Dali painting. This isn’t an art museum. This is salesmanship.

Should Creatives Care About Results?

It’s incumbent upon agency leaders to stress the importance of a client’s business success.

In Marketing, Understanding Always Trumps Ignorance

As advertisers and marketers, we are in the business of understanding people who are not like us. Or at least we used to be.

In Advertising and Marketing, Does Grammar Matter?

It’s no surprise that typos and bad grammar are so pervasive given the speed at which we work these days.

If You Let Me Rip Off an Ad Concept

Many people currently working in advertising and marketing simply don’t bother to learn about anything that was produced even a few years ago.

When Firing an Agency is a Chickens--t Move

Clients who don’t show loyalty to their marketing partners shouldn’t be surprised to discover that consumers have no love or loyalty for their products and services.

Summertime, and the Buzzwordification Blows Hot and Thick

I’ve never seen a marketer’s sample “customer journey” document in which the outcome was a customer buying a competitor’s product or service.

Why It’s Hard for Agencies to Just Say No

In advertising and marketing, there’s always someone willing to do the work other people won’t.

Why Agencies Don’t Play Nicely in the Brand Sandbox

If you’re a CMO who can command a mid six-figure salary and have multiple agencies do your bidding, then you can afford a few assistants who can juggle the hairball you created.

We’re in the Business of Adversplaining

We’re so busy these days, we hardly take the time to fully understand and review the information that’s presented to us.

To Specialize or Not to Specialize

Part of being a creative in advertising means that in general, you have to know a little bit about everything.

Your Career Ought To Be One Long Lunch and Learn

No one can afford to fully develop their skills early in their career and then relax.

What My Dog Reminded Me About Marketing

Too often, we speak of “consumers” as a foreign, separate entity. But we should always remember that we buy products and services in much the same way as everyone else does.

Is There a Mass Exodus out of the Ad Business?

There isn’t any talent shortage in advertising or any other media-related business. More people want in than there are available positions.

Freelancers Understand Your Agency’s Culture Better Than You

Short-term projects and freelancers are becoming the norm. But it requires agencies to pay attention to the operational details.

Best of TZM: Let’s Stop the Mass Use of Artisanal Language in Advertising

Leave it to advertising people to bastardize the terminology and cheapen what might be a truly unique benefit for a product.

Thanks to Marketing, Now Every Day is Black Friday

Even in this age of the so-called “sharing economy,” consumer sales are what fuels our economy, and our industry.

Marketers Need to Put Their Budgets Where Their Mouths Are

If you want more diverse faces, or older faces, working on your account you need to insist upon it.

When Good Marketing Meets Bad Business Decisions

Despite our desire to be business partners or consultative experts for our clients, we’re still on the outside.

Lessons for a Copywriting Instructor

The basics aren’t necessarily the basics anymore. Or are they? What do aspiring copywriters need to learn first?

Drinking the Kool-Aid in Advertising’s Cult of Personality

That we all know the intricacies of who works at which agencies, and on which accounts, is somewhat bizarre.

Putting the Whole @ss into Every Assignment

The subtle message that we’re sending amongst ourselves is: Don’t try to do it well.

Always-On Marketing Shouldn’t Mean Always Panicking

Can brands, or any of us, be forgiven for transgressions in a world where everyone’s so quick to jump on the slightest slip-up?

Best of TZM: Branding in a World of 7 Billion Opinions

The “conversation” many brands say they want to have with consumers can turn into megaphone-like shouting contests in a flash.

Advertising Isn’t Business. It’s War.

If it’s a hard-hitting ad, it’s not necessarily killer. And ads with copy consisting of mostly bullets don’t tend to be killers.

Agency Positioning is Quite Contorted These Days

In an industry like advertising where the output is different every time, finding a consistent position is especially tricky.

Clever or Clear — Today’s Copywriters Don’t Have a Choice

More often we’re seeing our work on small screens that feature less space and thus require quicker thoughts. Many copywriters focus more on crafting ideas or content which don’t involve lots of conventional writing.

When Brands Become, and Control, The News

Brands and companies deserve scrutiny over their business practices when it’s rightly deserved.

Five Awful Words Ad People Shouldn’t Utter

That’s the rub with gaining experience in the ad industry: The good news is you’ve seen a lot and tend to know what to expect. The bad news is that you’ve seen a lot and tend to know what to expect.

Yes, There Are Still Some Digital Resisters

As much as I try to keep up with the latest and greatest, I also have to keep in mind that many people are simply content not to keep up.

Love and Death In The Advertising Business

With great power comes great responsibility. If you want to inject your advertising with deeper themes, you owe it to the audience not to be crass, cynical, or exploitive.

Advertising’s Biggest Bowl is Too Mushy

Just as we can never predict the outcome of the game itself, I wish we’d get back to more of the mystique of Super Bowl advertising.

Branding in a World of 7 Billion Opinions

The “conversation” many brands say they want to have with consumers can turn into megaphone-like shouting contests in a flash.

Best of TZM: Producing Mass Quantities of Content Might Be The New Normal

Is the endless production of little projects enough to keep people interested in advertising as a career?

Marketing Effectively From Sea to Shining Sea

Getting out of your time zone and getting out of your comfort zone are two different things.

Would Your Professionalism Get a Five-Star or a One-Star Review?

Whether you’re an agency, or a person, every point of communication or contact is an ad or a piece of marketing for yourself. Every unreturned call or email, every blow-off, every unfriendly conversation adds up to a reputation.

Don’t Rely On Karma To Steer Your Advertising Career

Despite what Satya Nadella might want people to believe, faith in the system won’t get you more money, respect, or promotions.

When Did 'Advertising' Become a Dirty Word?

It doesn’t matter if you produce customer engagement tactics, digital experiences, or integrated marketing solutions — it’s advertising.

We’re All Somewhere Between Trusted Partners and Disposable Vendors

When so many agencies turn to freelancers for everything from creative to strategy to yes, recruiting, it’s no wonder clients see agencies as interchangeable.

Bad Advertising: We’re Stackin’ it Deep and Sellin’ it Cheap

The reality is, no matter what our best intentions might be, there is always someone that’s willing to do bad work for money.

Producing Mass Quantities of Content Might Be The New Normal

Is the endless production of little projects enough to keep people interested in advertising as a career?

Yes, Advertising Works — Except When it Doesn’t

The inability to specifically pinpoint what triggers a response or a sale is what makes this business so maddening for many clients and agencies.

When An Agency/Client Relationship Goes Publicly Stale

While marketers hold the purse strings, changes in personnel, market forces, and the overall subjectivity of advertising can wreak havoc with any agency/client relationship.

Holding Companies Don’t Hold All The Cards

The good news is that small ad agencies and marketing firms are thriving. Everywhere. You can do business from anywhere in the world on behalf of clients who might be halfway around the world.

Let’s Stop the Mass Use of Artisanal Language in Advertising

Leave it to advertising people to bastardize the terminology and cheapen what might be a truly unique benefit for a product.

What if Ad Agencies Banned Work Emails After 6PM?

Unless you’re managing people halfway around the world in a different time zone, few issues are so pressing they can’t be dealt with at a reasonable time.

For Complex Products, Using Simple Language Is A Value-Added Solution

When a client can’t describe it’s own product well, it’s hard for us—even the ones good with words—to describe it to prospective customers.

How Brands And Agencies Can Fly Like Seahawks

Simply put, it’s hard for any brand — or any ad agency, for that matter — to sustain a high level of momentum for a long period of time.

12 Years a Columnist (and What I’ve Learned)

There’s a continuous struggle between doing great work, keeping clients happy, and making agencies profitable, attractive businesses to work for. We’re all a part of that struggle.

Can Marketers Ever Publicly Embrace Privacy?

As a society, we trade our personal information for convenience every day. Consider it the Terms and Conditions of living a modern life.

Why the Marketing Pie is Becoming Mush

Not every client has the wherewithal to hire a slew of different firms for its various marketing pieces. Consequently, they’re left cluelessly trying to figure out who can solve their problems.

A Little Less Conversation Might Actually Be On Brand

Technology makes it easier for brands to pull the trigger on even the most mundane of sentiments. Unfortunately, the nice posts are forgotten in minutes, but when they go wrong, they can have dire consequences.

With Advertising Effectiveness, the Results are Always Mixed

Clients want, and deserve, to know the money they spend on marketing and advertising is worth it. But no matter how much agencies promise, we don’t have total control over results or effectiveness.

When Did 'Advertising' Become a Dirty Word?

It doesn’t matter if you produce customer engagement tactics, digital experiences, or integrated marketing solutions — it’s advertising.

Brands Need to be More Canine, not More Human

With a little training, many dogs learn from their misbehavior. This is a good lesson, as many brands need a good swat on the nose with a newspaper.

The Macro Problems of Micromanaging the Creative Process

I imagine for a CEO, talking about casting choices in a commercial beats listening to a PowerPoint presentation outlining AMEA regional sales strategies.

The Underworld of Below-the-Line Advertising

Most marketers need below-the-line work as much as sexy branding ideas. For a client’s sales team, it’s a dream. They love little PDFs they can email to prospects or brochures and sales sheets filled with shiny promises and benefits.

Is Marketing an Act of Love or War?

Whether we’re suggesting people show affection for inanimate products or faceless corporations, or whether we’re in a battle for hearts and minds, we have some very sophisticated tactics at our disposal.

Quiet Doesn’t Work In Ad Agencies

I wonder how many bad ads, or how many brand problems, could’ve been avoided had the quiet people had the courage or the internalized permission to speak up and say, “You know, that might not be such a great idea.”

Marketing Hyperbole is the Absolute Worst Thing Ever

Fewer and fewer people believe the empty-minded claims brands make when declaring superiority over their competitors. So it’s hard for me to comprehend why we perpetuate so much business-related hype when we talk amongst ourselves.

Targeting is Futile When Our Audience is Everyone, Everywhere

I know I’m not a teenager, a mother, a senior citizen, a millionaire, or a farmer. A large amount of the ads I see aren’t intended for me. Yet I see them, and I react.

Authentic Brands Attract, and Deserve, Authentic Scrutiny

If you’re going to elevate your brand into something that stands for a higher purpose or speaks to a larger cause, you need to be willing to accept the increased scrutiny and criticism that comes with it.

Advertising Could Use Some Farm-to-Table Thinking

Just like clients are often not trained to evaluate creative concepts, creative people are often not trained to talk business. The problems persist on both sides of the conference table.

In Advertising, You Don’t Need Money to be Part of the 1%

Money isn’t the only way to insulate yourself from other people’s realities. When you work in marketing in advertising, it gets pretty easy to stay in the bubble.

Can Analog Thinking Shake Up Our Digital World?

What would happen if the staff of an entire agency couldn’t use a computer, tablet or phone for 24 hours. And just had to think out loud, write in longhead, design on paper?

Brand Storytelling is Just a Fancier Way of Lying, Right?

We’re competing for attention. And with real life getting odder every day, and more people confusing real news with stories from The Onion, we’ve got work to do.

Automated Creativity is Coming But Its Success Won’t Be Automatic

For marketers, the promise of automation is that we can get infinitely better at personalized communication with customers. Which is kind of ironic when you think about it.

Marketing Buzzwords I’d Love to See Gone in 2013

Remember, we’ve gotta make room for the all-new 2013 buzzwords!

Big Data Might Make Creative People Feel Small

Why do most creative people stay blissfully ignorant about data? Because they’re not exposed to it, not trained to understand it, and not interested in how to use it to their advantage.

I Would Write Anything for Cash, but I Won’t Write That

It’s easy to feel queasy about refusing to work on a piece of business, knowing there’s a distinct possibility that in this economy, five other people are willing to step up and work on it.

Marketing is Stuck with a Permanent State of Temporary People

As advertising increasingly becomes a business of transient people and short-term gigs, your brand is being passed around like a beer bong at a fraternity party.

Advertising Is A Business Full of Generalists, Specialists, and Listlessness

Some agency cultures are supportive of employees seeking to expand their skills. Many, stuck in the age where the precious billable hour is king, are not.

In Advertising, All We Can Plan for is Chaos

What’s ironic is that the sheer unpredictability and constant change of the advertising business are two of the things that make it so interesting and fun.

Generalizing About Generations is Generally a Bad Idea

For every age group, there’s certainly an income gap, a culture gap, and a political gap. Travel throughout America for a bit and you’ll become acutely aware of the differences.

You, Your Agency, and Your Brand are Not Special

We all want to feel special. So if we don’t have the self-confidence to feel that way, we look to others to validate our specialness.

Consumers are Everywhere — Forgetting That Will Get Us Nowhere

Advertising and marketing professionals are more mobile than most of the population. We’ll move most anywhere for a great opportunity. It’s important for us to remember that most Americans aren’t nearly as mobile.

The Future of Marketing Words Don’t Look So Purty

Texting, Twitter, quick emails, and status updates have forced us to become more efficient with our words. R U with me?

All this F---ing Cursing Makes the Ad Business Look Sh--ty

The prevalent use of cursing gradually desensitizes us. And if our job is to perpetually push boundaries, where do we take our work from here?

Can Boycotts Be Good for Advertising?

Hardly a week goes by that some group of consumers isn’t worked up over something. We need to get used to each complaint, each protest, and each boycott as having at least some legitimacy.

Only Ad Agencies Can Put Themselves Out of Business

Nothing is guaranteed in this world. Any death of advertising agencies will be the product of self-destruction, not “creative destruction.”

In Advertising, There’s No Substitute for Experiencing

I recently met some people who run a local advertising agency. But I didn’t meet them at their office — they were at a Saturday morning farmer’s market in my neighborhood. Turns out, they had begun a side business selling organic tomato sauce. Since their agency specialized in sustainable brands, they were getting first-hand knowledge in building one of their own.

Should American Brands Wrap Themselves in the Flag?

I once had a client that manufactured hand tools, which they proudly made in America. So when I had to write a holiday-time radio script for the brand, I slipped in a line about how buying these tools would also help their based-in-Pennsylvania workers have a happy holiday season. My Creative Director questioned it, but I knew the client would appreciate the nod, even if it sounded a bit jingoistic. Which they did, and the line stayed in.

Are the Fundamentals of Advertising Fundamental Anymore?

No doubt, it takes more than simple print ads to advance a brand these days. But in a rush to keep up with technology and trends, have we simply given up on the art of perfecting the basics? Can we skip the simple concepts and go straight for complex, multi-layered ideas? Isn’t that like saying you can get laid without learning how to kiss first?

The Ad Industry is Quite Cold to Brands That Aren’t Cool

Choose a Media Diet That’s Full of Both Nutrition and Junk

Don’t forget: advertising relies on knowledge of lowbrow culture just as much as anything that’s considered classic literature or art. Sometimes keeping up requires that you watch or read things you really don’t care for.

Hurry Up and Add ‘Slow Down’ to Your To-Do List

We’re conditioned to expect an instant response from the world these days: instant shopping and payments, instant customer service, and instant entertainment. Anything less makes the brands that can’t provide those things seem inferior.

Are We Perfectly Content to Occupy Our Laptops?

Several hundred thousand people liking something on Facebook don’t cause the same visceral reaction several hundred people protesting in a park do.

Would Advertising Go Postal if the Post Office Disappeared?

I’m not here to defend all direct mail — it’s often called “junk mail” for good reason, and it’s got plenty of other people willing to advocate for it — but it’s a fallacy to say it wouldn’t be missed on some level.

Sometimes the Ad Industry Gets an 'F' in Decorum

In some fields — sports, entertainment, politics — it’s common for performance criticisms to be made in public. But how did it get that way in advertising?

Copywriters Without Borders and Customers Without Loyalty

Here's the real truth: My Borders Rewards Card, like all these loyalty cards, had nothing to do with loyalty. I wasn’t loyal to the store. I was loyal to the discounts the card came with.

Too Much Pressure Blows Creative Tires

Some people think that being uncomfortable is a motivator. Or that employees need to be kept off-kilter to be productive. That’s a common management style in many ad agencies and marketing firms.

Let’s Have a Chat About All These Conferences

For many people in advertising and marketing, we’re substituting information gathering for real training. Hence, the rise of all these conferences.

We Need an Effective Definition of Effectiveness

No matter what anyone says, advertising and marketing is rife with uncertainty. One thing is for certain: Clients want results. And they’ll determine exactly what results make a marketing campaign effective.

7 Tips for Navigating All the Marketing Advice on the Web

We’re living in a Golden Age of Advice. Or perhaps it’s the Dirt Age, since dirt is much more plentiful and cheaper than gold.

Ad People Need To Follow The Money — If There's Any Left

When it comes to execution, the ideas themselves don’t seem to have the intrinsic worth that actually making them does.

Groupon, and Why Clients Don’t Get Their Trust On

Advertising is one of the only businesses I can think of where there’s a common belief that in order to succeed, our work has to make clients nervous and a little uncomfortable.

The Strange Reality of Working Virtually

What’s the key to success when you’re miles away from co-workers? Even now that technology has improved, is working remotely the best solution in an increasingly fast-paced, collaborative business?

The Rope and the Tug of Advertising. Which Do You Prefer?

Let’s face it: some people are just trying to justify their salaries or their jobs—they have to be seen and heard having an opinion.

Do You Have an “Off” Switch?

Human beings are not physiologically built for the always-on communication world and the constant stream of information. We’re doing our best to keep up—but it’s getting harder and harder for most of us.

Surely, Ads Can Still Influence Popular Culture

I’d love to see the best of our work be as beloved as a Leslie Nielsen quote, talked about for years. We’ve got a 50/50 chance of making it happen. Though there’s only a 10 percent chance of that.

Want Less Government? Then You Might Get Less Advertising

The reality is that government-funded advertising initiatives, whether it’s for cheese, shrimp, lotteries, or Woodsy the Owl, spur commerce in some fashion.

Looking for Transparency in Marketing? Sorry, There’s Nothing There

Companies and marketers aren’t in the business of being transparent. In a lot of cases, they’re simply incapable of being completely truthful.

It’s Still the Economy, Stupid -- So We Need to be Smarter

There needs to be action, not just conversation. I can hit the “Like” button pretty easily. The “Place your order” button is another matter altogether.

Happiness in Advertising? Now That’s an Idea Worth Counting

There is, for some people, the opportunity to sell out and make more money, even if the quality of the work won’t be the highest.

Can One Agency Really Do It All for a Client?

Forget the endless debates about whether agencies of one kind or another are “ready to lead.” It’s about whether they’re ready to serve.

More Advertising Needs to Smell Like Fun

These days, it’s hard to sell clients on fun ideas. They want results, and they want them now. Not many marketers are willing to risk their jobs, or their brands, for the sake of a little levity.

News You Might Not Want to Use

We’ve moved from beyond just making and releasing ads to filling the media pipelines with all sorts of information. Whether it’s one-way communication or two-way dialogue, brands are putting more authoritative voices out there, with very little real accountability for the quality or accuracy of them.

The Irregularity of Regulating the Ad Biz

If advertising gets regulation, it’s because some, but not all, marketers have done something to deserve it. Of course, the problem with our government -- federal, state, and local -- is that regulation is not uniformly applied and sometimes simply not enforced.

Tracking the Rise of Tracking

Most consumers, myself included, have no idea how much information is collected on me. Frankly, I don’t mind until it’s used against me, abused in a criminal way, or until messages become uncomfortably familiar. Marketers determine my habits but can’t tap into my feelings. They know my needs but not my paranoia over my privacy.

Spilling the Brand Promise

If values don’t mean much, or we expect companies to break them, then why do we bother injecting unsustainable values into brands? What good are they?

Brand Building, Now 30 Percent Off

It’s a large part of what’s making social media tick. Groupon, Scoutmob, and other sites offer one-per-day localized deals en masse that you opt-in to buy, along with making it easy to spread the word to your friends. Add to that Facebook fan-page offers, Twitter offers, secret coupon codes -- everyone’s looking for a break, and businesses large and small are happy to oblige.

Your Attention, Please -- If You Can Spare Any

ADD is everywhere. I’ve had dinner with six friends where we all kept looking at our phones constantly during the meal. It’s becoming normal, but it’s not natural. As human beings, we’re simply not physiologically wired for a constant stream of information and images the way we get them now. I think most of us are struggling to cope, no matter how much we say we embrace this type of change.

The Bigness of Small, Powerful Targets

It’s possible that a range of social change ideas, grass-roots ballot initiatives, and political candidates could have nearly unlimited corporate-funded advertising budgets behind them. Corporations and unions know that from a business standpoint, influencing politicians is often more vital to the well-being of their brands than influencing the public. Do most advertising agencies know it?

Thirsting for Originality

Frankly, most clients don’t care about whether an ad contains some sort of truly original concept. They’re not the ones with an encyclopedic knowledge of what ran in California years ago or what’s running in another country. They’ve got their own problems, like sales, market share, stock prices, and their competition to worry about. Clients want answers to their marketing issues, period. As long as they don’t get sued, most won’t give a crap where the inspiration for an idea came from.

Houston, We Might Could Have a Problem

Quite often, it’s a question of what “legal” will let an ad say. Many a campaign has been born around a specific product benefit or claim, only to be killed at the last minute because a client’s legal department won’t allow it. Perhaps it’s better to beg forgiveness than ask permission, but few clients risk their necks for that principle.

Tiger, a Little Tail, and the Marketing Beast

Celebrity endorsements in advertising are a strange beast. They’ve been around forever—even Ronald Reagan pushed Chesterfield cigarettes as a Christmas gift when his acting notoriety carried a little clout. You gotta wonder about the origins of these campaigns and sponsorship deals.

In Ad We Trust

There is good news for ad people: “Advertising practitioners” finished ahead of Senators, insurance salesmen, stockbrokers, Congresspeople, HMO managers, and you guessed it, car salespeople.

Giving the Usual Routine the Boot

All the technology that’s opened up new possibilities for marketing also constricts us. You can immerse yourself in all the social media you want, but it’s amazing how the pressure to keep up it all, and the time it takes, can make you anti-social. Nothing replaces the feeling you get when you experience a phenomenon for yourself.

From Cliff To The Abyss

Most agencies attempt to do it all, style-wise: serious-minded work, goofball humor, sophisticated humor, “edgy work” (whatever that is), and every now and then a real sentimental tear-jerker. Few, if any, agencies do it all equally well. What would you need to create another agency like Cliff Freeman? Well, I’m not sure, but I’ll take a guess.

Capitalism: An Advertising Story

There will always be big brands competing for global dominance. But as we saw with GM and Washington Mutual, no brand is too big to fail. Maybe though, the advertising industry shouldn’t be thinking bigger, but thinking smaller. Did you know over 43% of the American workforce is employed by small businesses, defined as 500 people or less? Many of these businesses are brands that could use some dynamic creative thinking.

Life is Not a Two-Page Visual Solution Spread

Advertising in 2009 is much more tactically based: It’s the e-mail that introduces the iPhone app that resembles the TV spot that goes with the microsite that’s announced in the press release to launch the whole thing. There’s always something attractive and artful about a nice, uncluttered two-page spread or minute-long brand “anthem” TV spot. But the other elements of advertising are starting to do the heavy lifting—and clients know it. In this day and age, that’s what they need and seek.

Brands and Stands

So this is what we’re seeing: Left-wing Whole Foods customers getting themselves in a twist and others writing letters to Glenn Beck’s advertisers. Right-wingers pledging extra support to Glenn Beck’s ex-advertisers and praising John Mackey. Lots of noise. Lots of vitriol. And marketers getting distracted by having to step lightly around a vocal but small minority of their customers when they’d rather focus on increasing sales in a bad economy. But to some customers, boycotting is the only way they think they could make a difference.

Wherever You Go, There You Advertise

Despite the rise of chain restaurants and strip malls, America is not as homogenous as you might think. I got reminded of that on a recent trip to the other side of the country. Regionalism still plays a large role in defining our culture. And even if the ad agencies in a smaller market have their tentacles out far and wide for new business, many clients still display a provincialism in their outlook that can creep into the advertising they seek from their agencies.

Are You Smarter Than An Ad Student?

If you come out of college with a degree in advertising, odds are you could land a gig as a junior media planner or account coordinator. But no one, in any discipline of the ad business, receives any formal on-the-job training these days. Despite the precarious economy, there are still plenty of people who want to go into advertising. There’s no stopping them, and there’s no required degree or certification. While that’s little comfort to the experienced people looking for any way to hold on to their jobs and advance their careers, the juniors need help.

But Wait, There Really is More

It’s easy to make fun of Billy Mays and the other infomercials of the world. They’re loud, they’re pushy, they sell stuff we don’t think we need. But they work—to the tune of billions in sales. They’re more successful than anything that crates home the awards we tend to covet. We love to pride ourselves on uncovering “simple, human truths,” yet a lot of self-indulgent creative work doesn’t reflect that. I think advertising people of all kinds can find some lessons in what Mays did.

The Path To Empathy

In advertising agencies, empathy—in this case, the ability to understand an audience—is a skill, just like Photoshop prowess. It needs to be learned and honed for effective marketing. And yes, it should be an advantage for someone in advertising, at hiring time and on the job, if they come from a different background or upbringing than the majority of their co-workers. If creative people are judged by their unique talent, a unique background should be held in positive regard as well.

Nothing is Dead, So Let’s Bury that Idea

So ignore mindless blanket statements like “ad agencies are dead.” Unless agencies kill themselves, it’s not going to happen. Because nothing in our media culture dies — it gets reshaped, reinvented, remodeled, and resuscitated.

Read Globally, Be Pissed Locally

If you want change, think of your own life. What matters is you, your family, your co-workers, your community. If you’re a consumer and want to get upset, start with how you’re directly affected. Did the Domino’s video make you nauseous? Fine. But what you should be concerned about is whether your local county food inspector’s office is properly funded and staffed.

Couples Counseling for the Agency-Client Relationship

Most clients just aren't interested in the workings of their agencies, even if the people doing the work can provide better insight on the business or the client-agency relationship--which they often can, just from living with the account. The ball is in the marketer's court. They need to ask--and demand--to meet the very people who do the work. Not just the agency people who serve as stand-ins during a new business pitch.

Why Asking May Be the Answer

Just because something’s in writing, or appears to be the product of statistical analysis, doesn’t mean it can’t be questioned. Behind every piece of information you come across is a flawed source or a biased origin.

ROI: Advertising's Dirty Four-Letter Word

We have access to more data, more statistics, more slicing and dicing of numbers and tactics than ever. And has advertising gotten any better through the years? Hardly. Has the creative work improved? Nope. Less wasteful? Occasionally. Is it still mostly wasted money? Absolutely.

The Advertising Industry Stimulus Package

The ad industry is going through a rough time—just like other industries. But Congress won’t throw us a bone in a $1 trillion stimulus package. So you’ll be happy to know that I’ve got a stimulus package to present. It’ll help us and it’ll help our clients. Best of all, it only took me a couple of hours and cost only the price of a Venti Latte. But here goes:

The Fantasy of Reality-Based Advertising

Marketers are hardly altruistic, but a few of them like Hyundai are learning that people need some assurances right now. Brokerage firms are on TV telling people to stay the course with their investments and not panic. GM took out a trade ad to apologize for their past screw-ups and promising to do better in the future. You might think the majority of marketers will unveil a new understanding, a new empathy for these tough times. Forget it.

A Cheap High and New Lows

We rarely have the luxury of getting consumers to like a brand. Forget about the nonsensical garbage like “we can engage your customers with the brand and make them friends.” Customers aren’t looking to make your product their friend. They’re looking for a cheap one-night stand.

The War On Talent

Good people are everywhere. And it’s like not the ad industry has requirements. There’s no certification to acquire. No Bar exam to pass. Anyone who wants to get into the ad industry can try. Many try, but only some succeed. Consequently, it’s not a job seeker’s market and never has been.

From Wasilla to Madison Avenue

I have an idea: Put Sarah Palin on the new business team! She’s got the ability to take a simple question and spin an answer that, when dissected, is nonsensical gibberish. That’s a highly valuable skill. Come on, who better could spout off on a “holistic approach to best-in-class, paradigm-shattering messaging strategies”?

Read This or Else

So why do negative ads stay around? They work. They work because they hit a part of the human psyche we can’t ignore. Political consultants know this. But here’s the thing: as consumer advertising professionals, we know this, too.

Cutting Off a Campaign’s Legs

It used to be a real virtue to present an ad campaign idea that “has legs.” Now, it doesn’t matter so much. Today, it seems we’re committed to prematurely amputate any campaign that has legs. Is that a good idea?

The Loyal Treatment

In some agencies, you can get fired for violating a strict loyalty code. But what happens when you leave work in the evening?

The Defense of the Offensive

Often, the defense of offensive ads is just as irrational and nonsensical as the protests of the offended people.

Interactive Agencies and Passive Mentalities

Last week, there was a kerfuffle over the credits attached to the Cannes Lion-winning HBO “Voyeur” concept. Seems the interactive agency Big Spaceship thought it deserved more credit than the lead agency, BBDO, gave it.

Back to the Future of the Past

Advertising, like everything else, is full of rich history. Is it relevant?

Digitally Divided We Stand

It’s not that they wore their technological ignorance on their sleeves; rather, they were perfectly happy living their lives without the Internet and Web 2.0 and new media. To them, a “Twitter feed” means a bag of birdseed.

When Weird Works

It’s no secret that the ad industry is full of misfits. Smart, yes; passionate, yes; but misfits nonetheless.

Where Adweek Meets BusinessWeek

Can ad people ride out the economy’s ups and downs?

Some Free Thinking

Can the ad industry survive the pressures to charge less and cut costs?


Lessons from a political campaign can be applied to ad campaigns

Chasing a Moving Target

America just might make history this year, but advertising lives in the past

Primary Lessons, And Secondary Ones Too

A presidential campaign, if anything, is marketing in warp speed

Year-End Closeout Thoughts

It’s time to look back—but more importantly, look forward

Outsourced Outside The Box

What might happen if creative jobs go overseas en masse?

Striking it Rich, or At Least Striking it Profitable

The ad industry isn’t Hollywood, but we’ve got the same money issues

The Importance of Filtering Actionable Jargon Into Buckets

More bizarre vernacular of the ad industry

A Carbon-Neutral Pile of Manure

Brands are going green—because there’s money in it, naturally

When Bad Ideas Happen To Good Agencies

If you think ad people love a good confrontation, you’re wrong

Getting Back to Your Agency’s Roots

Staff turnover is inevitable in the ad biz—but downcycles don’t have to be

Shuffling the Deckhands

Can agencies and clients move forward by moving people around?

A Diverse Set of Problems

We’re still in an age of mass marketing—and mass mediocrity

Harry Potter and the Obtuse Client

So who really are the ones with the short attention spans?

Surrounding Yourself With Breakthrough Nonsense

Are you communicating with customers or violating their space?

The Sanjaya Principle

Why does bad advertising, like bad singing, work so well?

The Agency Internal Combustion Engine

Is your shop chugging along smoothly or choking on the fumes?

The Law of the Advertising Landscape

How much government regulation do advertising and marketing need?

Dinosaurs, Cockroaches, And Guerrillas

Advertising is all the same—to the public, anyway

Of So-Called Rock Stars and Stage-Hogging Poseurs

Can we lower the volume of ego-inflating industry hyperbole?

Rescuing Lost Brands

What happens when brands stray from their core values?

Righting the Writing

When clients insist on bad copy—by writing it themselves

Be Borat or Be Boring

Can we ever convince our clients to stop being so literal?

The Tale of Retail

The buzz may be online, but stores with doors still need our help

The Consumer is Not a Moron. Or am I?

If you work in advertising, can advertising work on you?

Hardback Books and Hard Truths

What can you learn from a book about an ad agency?

HeadOn--and Production Values Off

The growing popularity of badly made ads and viral videos

The Interactive Ghetto

Agencies are scrambling for talent to produce web work—and are determined to segregate them

This Land was Hand-Crafted for You and Me

Perhaps we should rename this country the United States of Advertising

This Column Brought to You by People For Stuff

Is there anyone willing to advocate for advocacy advertising?

Safe, Shit, and Everything Else That Happens

Life isn’t pretty. So how do people handle advertising that isn’t pretty?

7-Layer Ads

How do ad concepts survive the chain of client approvals?

**This Column is Not Valid in Indiana

What the fine print really means for marketers

Oh, the Humanity

Is the advertising business losing the human touch?

Living In the Echo Chamber

Meet the new clutter—same as the old clutter

Scrubbing Bubbles and Flubbing CEOs

Strong advertising reflects corporate culture—and outsiders need to beware

The Super Critics

The ad world's biggest showcase is everyone's turn to weigh in

A Super Lesson

Football, the ad biz, and no talk of commercials

I Want My CA, and I Want My MTV

Is it fair to compare today’s work to what was done in the past?

The Bald Midget and the Furniture Store Owner's Daughter

As media splinters, what will become of local advertising?

Polluting the Mental Environment

Why TV advertising's effectiveness is melting away like the polar ice caps

The French Evolution

Unfettered hero worshipping in the ad biz? Now that’s crap

Directly Speaking, Can We Control Ourselves?

If you're personally affected by bad advertising, maybe you'll think twice about foisting it on the public

Stuck on Stupid

Advertising and PR don't work well if they don't jibe with reality

When A.D.D. Adds Up to Crapola

Can short-lived campaigns and small projects lead to long-term success and big ideas?

Taking Size 14 and 36DD Risks

Two new ads show some skin—but do they show any guts?

The Home for the Strategically Challenged

Can you ever make a great ad from a bad strategy?

If You’ve Been Injured by an Ad Agency...

Can there be malpractice in an industry with no standards and practices?

Madison Avenue, Main Street, and the Arab Street

To win hearts and minds, or merely wallets, perception is everything

Madison Avenue, Main Street, and the Arab Street

To win hearts and minds, or merely wallets, perception is everything

Installing an Upgrade to Ad Industry 2.0

How to make sure you evolve—even if your agency and your co-workers don’t

Maximizing Our Skill Sets to Enable Synergistic Crap

Why advertising people speak like idiots

Desperate Housewives and Desperate Senators

If cable TV gets fined for indecency, will advertising be next?

Boeing and Banging

Boeing’s CEO had an affair and got fired. Maybe a career in advertising would suit him better

H-P and the Bigger Picture

What happens when a great campaign can’t help a troubled client?

Wardrobe Malfunctions and Advertising Dysfunctions

Can advertising still surprise people when real-life is even more jarring?

It’s All About the Benjamins--or the Bernbachs

Are making good ads and making good profits mutually exclusive?

New Words for the New Year

Because sometimes writers invent ‘em when they’re tired of using all the old ones

Addicted to Advertising

Is pharmaceutical marketing benign—or is it a cancer on society?

Black, White, and Spot Color

Will advertising agencies ever reflect a diverse America?

In the Land of the Fee

Consumers keep paying more, but it doesn’t mean less advertising


When an ad or idea gets muzzled, is it act of responsibility or censorship?

Advertising Week (or maybe it’s Advertising Weak)

Think you’ll get an accurate depiction of the industry next month? Sorry, Charlie

Clear Problem, Clear Solution

When the 800-lb. gorilla says there are too many ads, we should pay attention

I Cannes Tell You Exactly What Happened

A report from the south of…uh…France, I think


These days, the world is just one big-ass focus group

The Bastards Among Us

Can ad people act like true professionals when we’re encouraged to push boundaries?

Subservient Agency

How do some agencies get away with stuff that others can’t?


How both the government and the ad industry play the blame game

From a No Show to the One Show

A tale of two creative superstars who weren’t always stars

Brands Flying Blind

When advertising seems like a waste of cash

Trump and Chumps

For a moment, advertising got a glimpse of reality

The Soul of Soles

One brand breaks all the rules—and the results are wonderful

Slippery Jelly at the Helm of a Dubious Idea

Wanna work at Wieden? Pay up, sucker.

This is Your Holding Company on Drugs

Why do sister agencies end up in new biz catfights?

I'm the Best Columnist Ever

Why am I so superior? I said so, that’s why

Living Under the Bus

When people disagree over creative concepts, does anyone really win?

Random Questions

Just some things keeping me up nights

Consult This

My new career begins right here, right now

Just Sue It

Two ad-related lawsuits you need to know about

Queer Eye for the Ad Guy

What do we do when our clients, or consumers, don’t want to be cool?


Want consumers to respond? Tell them you’ll leave them alone

Majority to Minority

Are middle-aged white ad guys facing extinction?

Can’t We Just Be Friends?

Dealing with friendly, and unfriendly, co-workers in the ad business

Jumping The Shark

Why are some shops hot, cold, or dead?

In The Belly Of The Beast

What I learned by spending a few days at Talent Zoo

Getting Embedded With the Client

What advertising can learn from a televised war?

Leaping to The Dark Side

Why aren’t more ad accounts serviced in-house?


Chapter 11 in The Book Of Advertising

Is a client's business failure our fault?

This Column is Gold, Baby

Your guide to entering awards shows

Screw Unto Others...

Religion and Advertising: Two very similar, and sinister, concepts.

On Killer Books and Hard-Hitting Executions

The bizarre vernacular of the ad industry

Advertising For Columbine

The message we send to consumers: Be afraid--be very afraid

“60 Minutes” and a Brilliant Marketing Minute

How Donny Deutsch Made Advertising Relevant Again--For a Moment

The Enemies Down The Hall

Can't the various disciplines all just get along?

Hey, Luke, Squeeze This

A plea for some useful advice

The Creative Teamsters

What if advertising people had a union?

This Agency's For You

The industry’s sucking wind--maybe advertising agencies should try advertising

I’m Not Lying To You Right Now

Did corporate America learn the art of lying from advertising?

I Got Your Account Planning Right Here, Pal

Do we really wanna know what consumers think?

Why Few People Respect Advertising in the Morning

Why few people respect advertising in the morning (or any other time of day).

Are You Targeting Me? Are You Targeting ME?

As long as they don’t know too much about me, I'm all for 1-to-1 marketing.

My Client, The Bait-and-Switch Sleazebags

Why would honest agency people work for dishonest clients?

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