A Brief Guide to the Ins and Outs of the Ad World in Summer

An Ornery Jonah Bloom Reflects on a Slow News Week

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What's in and what's out?

I know, weak narrative thread, but it's the end of July in New York, and I just jogged back from a meeting on the other side of Manhattan in a suit. I haven't had a vacation this year. And the media and marketing news from the past 10 days seems to be a weak mix of people abdicating responsibility for their own dietary habits; marketers accepting responsibility for people's dietary habits; and Gatorade creating a sports drink for sports people who aren't in the act of doing sports. I'm ornery, and this is all I've got.
AMC's 'Mad Men' isn't such a bad recruitment ad for the business -- at least it makes the industry look like something you'd enjoy more than, say, banking.
AMC's 'Mad Men' isn't such a bad recruitment ad for the business -- at least it makes the industry look like something you'd enjoy more than, say, banking. Credit: Craig Blankenhorn

In: three martinis

I'm not advocating for vermouth-based beverages. Liquor should be brown if you ask me, and those glasses are such bad liquid containers that they'd leave Aquarius himself picking up some guy's dry-cleaning bill. But today's ad industry needs to rediscover the art of enjoying itself. Witness those who took pains last week to tell Ad Age that AMC's "Mad Men" drama, set on Madison Avenue in the '60s, was a bad representation of the industry today because you all work so hard -- yes, that's you, David Lubars. We get it -- it's a $250 billion dollar business that's increasingly critical to increasingly mature economies with all the pressures that brings. But you're not dealing with body bags here. You're getting paid to tell stories and be the guys who create stuff entertaining or interesting enough that people want to interact with it. "Mad Men" isn't such a bad recruitment ad for the business -- at least it makes the industry look like something you'd enjoy more than, say, banking.

Out: "MSM"

Spending a lot of time with media blogs this week, I was surprised to see dozens of authors still using the phrase as if there's some homogenous blob of mainstream media and another homogenous blob that isn't the mainstream. (Where does Drudge sit, by the way?) The blogosphere and all that it has spawned is surely an established part of today's media landscape. Along with the rest of the media world, it's a fascinating and rapidly evolving beast, but it's time bloggers gave up the "them and us" thing as if not being something -- i.e., not a newspaper or magazine, for example -- is an achievement in itself.

In: honest ads

To be fair to the aforementioned Mr. Lubars, he also pointed out the need for ads to be honest. Jonah Disend, CEO of Redscout, also noted the value of honesty when he was interviewed by The Wall Street Journal earlier this month and talked about "anti-marketing" being over. His contention, when I asked him about the remark, was essentially that there are lots of marketers trying to slip in the back door when they could come in the front door. "It's all 'Tide: The Movie' these days," he joked. Actually, Tide is one of the best examples of a brand that's stuck to a straight-up sales pitch. Have you seen the interview spot where the stain on the guy's shirt does the talking? Brilliant, straightforward and a good example of what Disend means when he argues there's an opportunity for brands today to say, "Here's what it does and where you can buy it." Ronseal, a paint and varnish seller in the U.K. -- with the tagline "Does exactly what it says on the tin" -- is the king of this technique, and there are a fair few over here who could do worse than play it that straight.

Out: Strawberry Frogs

Will we or won't we get the story? Is WPP buying this "hot" shop? What about Publicis? MDC? What's it worth? Never in the course of advertising history have so many talked so often about so little. My guess is that no one is buying Strawberry Frog -- unless Ben & Jerry's launched a new flavor. The most interesting question about Strawberry Frog is whether its PR machine was too good. If the agency had a dollar for every line of ink , we might have some serious news on our hands, instead of having to listen -- again -- to how Rice Krispies are killing our kids.
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