Stories of the Year

Plus Marketing Follies

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THE DIGITAL TIPPING POINT
This will be remembered as the year everybody quit kvetching about digital and started doing something about it. Serious marketing budgets were directed online; agencies desperately tried to ramp up their digital capabilities (and even when they couldn't still claimed to be digital); and holding companies and the digital-media giants paid silly multiples for digital additions; media companies sang the digital refrain in an effort to sound like they had a future.
NEWS CORP.'S ACQUISITION OF DOW JONES
It never seemed possible that the Bancroft family, which for generations controlled Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal, would cash out to the media mogul behind Fox News and the New York Post. But that was before the new-media world left the Bancrofts unsure how to proceed -- and before Rupert Murdoch offered $60 a share. Will WSJ drop its online-subscription fees, broaden its coverage, raid its competition and generally make life that much tougher for The New York Times? Yes, it looks that way.
THE BOOMER BOOM
Two words: baby boomers. You'll be hearing them a lot more about them in the coming years, as marketers suddenly have discovered the once-neglected generation. Those 77-million-plus consumers, who hold some $1 trillion in their collective fists, are now in the sights of marketers from Martha Stewart, who is planning a magazine for them, and Ann Taylor, who is investigating a clothing store for boomer women. Then there's the new Retirement Living TV; Grandparents.com; and, of, course, that old standby, AARP.
YEAR OF THE FACEBOOK
Facebook's trajectory in 2007 ran the gamut. In May it launched an open development platform that transformed it into the darling of the Valley, and a $1 billion valuation soon became $1.5 billion, which soon became $15 billion. Of course, it still needed to prove it could make money. In early November, it rolled out an ad program billed as revolutionary -- but the only revolution it sparked was from consumers from users who deemed a tenet of the program, Beacon, invasive and privacy-infringing.
THE GREENING OF EVERYTHING
While some politicians are still keeping their heads in the sand about climate change, marketers, ad agencies and media outlets have jumped on Al Gore's bandwagon. It's no wonder. According to a November survey by public-relations firm Edelman, 78% of the 5,609 participants from nine countries like to buy brands that have an eco-conscience. Everyone from Wal-Mart to NBC got in on the act. But marketers beware: Consumers and consumer groups are keeping an eye out for greenwashing.
CHINA POISONS AMERICA'S CHILDREN AND DOGS
China -- and greed -- made the flat world a dangerous place for marketers and consumers in 2007. Cheap-but-tainted pet-food ingredients from there may have killed thousands of pets. Then came counterfeit toothpaste with an antifreeze ingredient, lead-laced toys played with by millions of kids and AquaDots that metabolized into the date-rape drug. Consumers found a new use for search: checking daily recalls. And marketers found a new use for search ads: hawking nonlethal pet food and unleaded toys.
THE WRITERS STRIKE
Marketers use TV to reach big audiences, but what happens if TV networks aren't able to air lots of stuff people want to watch? That's the conundrum facing advertisers with the writers strike. Should the impasse last beyond January, it will affect development of fall programs and could delay or end the upfront market, when marketers commit about $9 billion for prime-time space. The strike could spark the idea of launching more programs year-round, helping marketers and networks spend their money more precisely.
THE IPHONE
Steve Jobs did it again. It's hard to say what was more impressive: the tough deal Apple negotiated with AT&T, wresting control in a business relationship where Motorola and Nokia could not; the marketing and PR effort that drummed up more media coverage than the first moon landing; or the phone itself. Sure, lines around the block disappeared within minutes, and there was a scandal when Jobs dropped the price so shortly after launch, but Apple sold its 1 millionth phone just 74 days after the iPhone's U.S. debut.
'EVOLUTION' WINS AT CANNES
Imagine if a decade ago someone had told you that an ad that didn't even run on TV for a non-beverage U.S. package-goods marketer would take the film Grand Prix at Cannes in 2007. You might have said the person was nuts. Or maybe that Procter & Gamble Co. must finally have delivered on its long-stated ambition to embrace creativity. Wrong on both counts. Turns out, the ad was "Evolution" from legacy agency network Ogilvy & Mather for once-stolid Unilever's global megabrand Dove.
THE MILLERCOORS DEAL
In a deal that, if approved, will transform domestic beer marketing, Miller and Coors announced plans to form a U.S. joint venture, MillerCoors. The entity would boast a 29% market share (Anheuser-Busch, at about 49%, would remain No. 1), and a diverse stable of brands, including Miller Lite, Coors Light, Blue Moon and others. If it is blessed by regulators, the venture will allow Miller and Coors to stop jostling over the distributors they share and, like A-B, enjoy the benefits of a nearly exclusive wholesaler network.

Follies

By Dan Lippe
MOONINITES OVER BEANTOWN
The Mooninites briefly joined al-Qaida and the Taliban in the terrorist pantheon. Signs featuring the cartoon characters giving passers-by the finger sparked a terrorism scare in Boston. They turned out to be an innocent stunt backing Cartoon Network's "Aqua Teen Hunger Force."
IS IT THAT THEY'RE ANTI-PIG?
The Trojan pig failed to make it through the gates of CBS and Fox, which rejected a spot for the Church & Dwight Co. condom brand from Kaplan Thaler Group, New York. It portrays men in a bar literally as pigs -- until one buys a Trojan and transforms into a human hunk. Both nets have accepted Trojan ads in the past.
MOUSEKE-TERROR
You don't exactly expect to see any purse-totin' Teletubbies on Palestinian kids TV, but Hamas did have its own version of Mickey Mouse. Dressed in a costume resembling the Disney icon, the actor urged kids to take up armed struggle against Israel. In the last episode of "Tomorrow's Pioneers," the character was beaten to death by an actor portraying an Israeli official.
'RATA'-TOO MUCH FOR CALIFORNIA WINERIES
Disney, meanwhile, was having its own rodent problems. A promo with Costco for a wine linked to its Pixar release "Ratatouille," an animated flick about a rat that aspires to be a chef, was dropped after the California Wine Institute and underage-drinking watchdogs cried, "Eek."
FIELD OF DREAMS
Air travelers were treated to the sight of a 100,000-square-foot pole dancer painted onto a field near London's Gatwick Airport. Sports Media Gaming created the silhouette in a campaign for My Private Dance, a website offering "erotic lap dances direct to your mobile and PC." Local officials objected, but the agency planned similar ads near other British airports.
AIR TRAVEL SUX IN IOWA
Officials in Sioux City, Iowa -- long vexed by their airport's abbreviation, SUX -- have started marketing apparel with the slogan "Fly SUX." That's certainly catchier than the airport's official name, Sioux Gateway Airport/Col. Bud Day Field.
HEARTLESS IN VIRGINIA
Virginia is for lovers -- not gangbangers. The Virginia Tourism Corp. revised creative for its "Live passionately" campaign in which people made the shape of a heart with their thumbs and index fingers; some viewers noticed it resembled a gesture used by the Gangster Disciples street gang.
QUIZNOS' PAW-THROUGH
Last spring, a wild coyote ambled into a Quiznos in Chicago. Exec VP-Chief Marketing Officer Steve Provost said the animal "must have been attracted to our new prime rib on garlic bread and its above-average portions of meat."
DEATH BE NOT AN AD THEME
Things are bad in the auto industry, but that's no reason to use suicide as an ad theme. GM re-edited a spot from Deutsch, Los Angeles, that showed an assembly-line robot contemplating suicide after screwing up. VW scrapped "Jumper," from Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Miami, in which a man comes off a ledge when he learns VW has models under $17,000.
DOGGING THE WIENERMOBILE
Chicago police ticketed the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile for parking illegally on tony Michigan Avenue. Police would easily be able to remember the scofflaw's Wisconsin license plate: WEENR. In Arizona, police erroneously suspected another Wienermobile of having stolen plates. They read: YUMMY.
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