A retired ad agency guy had some words of disagreement about my column on Sara Lee selling off its manufacturing facilities. "I question how smart outsourcing may be to long-term brand building," my friend wrote me.
"I may be old-fashioned, but I still like to think that the products I buy and believe in are not just a result of slick marketing.
"This outsourcing can give the impression that the manufacturing of the product is really not that important, and in the case of some types of products that may be so. However, if I am the competition, I would jump all over the fact that Product X is outsourced while 'we bring you the best from scratch to table, and nurture it through every step of the way.' "
On another topic, my friend wonders what United Airlines' slogan, "Rising," means. Does it mean that United's fares are going up? he asks.
Consultant Jack Trout writes to say "it's to be expected" Cadillac people are defending Catera "with a vengeance." From the big "low lease" deals he's seen on the car, "I can only say it's not flying out of the showrooms on its own. As I've said, long-term any Cadillac that looks like a Chevrolet is doomed."
Discounts have a way of muddying the ad waters. I wrote Jack back that Miller Brewing is giving big discounts on Miller Lite. "No wonder those stupid 'Dick' ads seem to be moving suds."
Reid MacGuidwin, retired sales chief of our own Automotive News, commented on my column about rude advertising. "You mention the ad where Shaquille O'Neal was putting his hands in cement for posterity. If he put them in cement they won't last long. Better if they were imprinted in concrete because there is a difference.
"You were at my retirement party in 1992 when I received a plaque signed by both the Portland Cement Association and American Concrete Institute in recognition of my ability to distinguish the difference between concrete and cement. Misusage of those words could lead to what happened to a word dear to Crain Communications -- tabloid.
"The meaning of tabloid has gone from meaning size in 1913 to also meaning sensationalism by 1988.
"As you can see, retirement leads to 'knit-picking' letters."
Knit-pick anytime, Reid. I wrote him back I'm flattered he is going over my columns with a fine tooth comb. But that got me to thinking: Is fine and tooth one word or two?
But back to cement or concrete. If cement doesn't last as long as concrete, why do gangsters outfit rivals on occasion with cement shoes and dump them in the river? Don't they realize their poor adversaries will eventually bubble up to the surface?
Al Anderson, owner of a black ad agency in Atlanta, wrote me, "This is a critical time in the life of African-American-owned advertising and public relations firms. Because of several issues, many companies have decided they don't need to do any targeting to African-American consumers.
"Many companies think that because there is no language barrier between black and white consumers that we have assimilated. Further, many African-Americans that marketing directors have had contact with are upscale/middle-class persons, which may also cause them to think that we have become, as Tom Burrell says, 'Dark skinned white people.'
"Another issue that has affected the viability of our industry is the fact that there have been some widely publicized failures of black-owned agencies. This is an unfortunate fact of life for all small businesses. However, when it comes to our industry, the majority-owned firms who believe that they can be 'all things to all people' are quick to tell their clients that there is no need to use an African-American-owned firm."
Mr. Anderson noted Hispanic marketing is undergoing "tremendous growth, while many black-owned firms are struggling to survive? Is it because our firms are still owned by African-American entrepreneurs while every major Hispanic agency is owned by a major white-owned agency or conglomerate?" Mr. Anderson stated.
Like I said, I get letters, lots of letters; some are funny and others are