At the beginning of this century, legend has it John Wanamaker, the Philadelphia retailer, made the oft-quoted statement that he knew half his advertising money was wasted, he just didn't know which half. Now, almost 100 years later, the Wanamaker department store apparently still doesn't know: The store, along with its parent, Woodword & Lothrop, filed for bankruptcy.
No less strange is a deci sion made by ad agency D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles to accept business from Miller Brewing Co. while continuing to handle archrival Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser and Michelob brands of beer.
D'Arcy didn't check with A-B to see whether the new Miller job, for D'Arcy's TeleVest unit to buy national advertising, represented a conflict in the mind of its St. Louis client.
D'Arcy itself doesn't see any problem. It told The Wall Street Journal the assignment was from longtime client Kraft General Foods, like Miller a subsidiary of Philip Morris. (D'Arcy will also be making syndication buys for KGF). "If they choose to use their time for Miller, we're not going to know it until very late in the day."
I have no idea what the agency means by that, unless it's that they'll be doing the Miller buys almost as an afterthought when the agency finishes its work on KGF. That explanation might satisfy Anheuser-Busch (although I doubt it), but I wouldn't think the statement would make the people at Miller feel nice and warm about their new relationship.
D'Arcy, in my opinion, wouldn't have been dumb enough to take on the media-buying work for Miller unless they were about to get the heave-ho from Anheuser-Busch.
And all signs point to that. Anheuser-Busch has been doing some very strange advertising lately. The beer price wars apparently have spooked the company into running advertising that almost pleads for beer drinkers' business. "Proud to be your Bud" is the theme for a batch of TV commercials showing Americans at work and at play.
No reason is given to buy Budweiser, other than that the company is busting with pride to serve all these great people, and no words are spoken. A jingle incessantly chants "Proud to be your Bud."
Those empty and insipid ads were supposed to be the main campaign for Budweiser. But several months ago the company suddenly started airing another series ostensibly aimed at the so-called Generation X crowd.
Young people would sit around discussing classic rock songs, cars, etc., and you were supposed to get the idea that what they were drinking was a classic, too.
I don't blame D'Arcy for all this horsing around. The client obviously doesn't know what it wants. The next shoe to drop is when Anheuser-Busch fires D'Arcy and Miller appoints the agency to handle one of its main brands.
As I said, strange things are happening.M