Hey! I love getting a good review from Bob Garfield -- even four years after my last book was published. But try as I might to explain it to him, Bobby still doesn't understand the thesis of "Where the Suckers Moon."
Contrary to his assertion in his March 16 Ad Review ("Beetle would cruise even without fine ads"), "Suckers" nowhere claims that advertising is "irrelevant." It's the agency business' overselling of advertising as a magic magnet capable of singlehandedly luring consumers to a brand against which the book stands.
"Suckers" says that advertising works -- when it works -- by capturing the inner mythology of a brand and reflecting it back to the various constituencies around the brand in a way that turns them into true believers.
That way, salespeople are galvanized to sell harder; line workers and service personnel are encouraged to be more productive; and consumers -- the last ring in the concentric circles surrounding a brand -- maybe, just maybe, will buy more.
It's worth recalling the reality of the original Volkswagen campaign.
Between 1953 and 1959, VW's U.S. sales rose from 2,000 vehicles to 150,000 per year -- "without advertising, without big deals, without fat trade-in allowances and with only 400 dealers," as Popular Mechanics noted at the time.
After Doyle Dane Bernbach's legendary campaign began, sales continued to rise but at a slower pace. As sociologist Michael Schudson wrote, "The campaign caught the crest of a sales wave" -- a wave that began with the right product at the right time.
I'm happy that, 40 years later, a new Volkswagen campaign has brought Bob Garfield closer to understanding this lesson.
Maybe now he's ready to re-read "Where the Suckers Moon." Lucky for him, it's still in print.
JWT's great past
What a difference a "t" makes!
In talking about Thompson's history ("Jones moves to transform JWT," AA, March 23), I said, "There are huge distinctions between being a company with a great past -- which is what Thompson is -- and a company in the past." The reporter heard "grey" instead of "great," probably owing to my rapid-fire King's English.
So, properly, for the record, Thompson's past was indeed great; its future looks very bright; and I will watch my p's and q's -- and t's.
Chairman-CEO, J. Walter Thompson Co.
Kudos for SmithKline
It was refreshing to read about SmithKline Beecham's "non-advertising" effort (Events & Promotions, "Military Challenge" AA, March 9) and how effective, both in terms of cost and share points, they have found that effort to be.
While it's interesting to read how advertising agencies and their clients are spending millions in pursuit of the next Clio Award, it's not clear if any of their marketing departments are in touch with the unique concept that asks, for all the largesse, did they sell anything?
To wit, I have a national grassroots program operating year round in over 7,500 locations on over 630,000 Event Nights that generated more than $126 million in incremental sales last year with 80%+ product placement ratio.
Unfortunately, in presenting this opportunity I've found it falls in the "non-advertising" category, and most marketing types seem unable to come to terms with measurable results when they've existed in a world of smoke and mirrors for so long.
Kudos to SmithKline for coming out of the woods!
McDonald's tag is genius
Reader Lawrence T. Barnett (Letters to the Editor, AA, March 23) completely misses the point of McDonald's new tagline: "Did somebody say McDonald's?"
No, it does not imply that McDonald's is a forgotten fast food chain or that it's "a bizarre and zany choice for fast food?"
Quite the contrary, it gets across the message that McDonald's is such a popular choice that the mere mention of its name grabs people's attention and inspires them to place an order for their food.
I feel it's a stroke of genius to use a sentence that practically everyone has either said or heard with regard to McDonald's and turn it into a slogan that epitomizes what McDonald's is about.
Manhattan Design Studio
In "New Baskin-Robbins ads modernize chain's image" (March 16, P. 8), the ice cream chain's new ad campaign is themed "Serving happiness daily.'