This industry needs to take a hard look in the mirror. When times were good, people were too busy to be distracted with the gossip that flies around this business. Now times are tough (yet again), and the ugly side comes out again. I'm afraid it was always there. When we were distracted by healthy revenues and profits, it was just further below the surface.
How does this ugly side manifest itself? Think about it. How uncommon is it to hear or witness the celebration at the loss of an account from a respected competitor? How uncommon is it to hear and pass on a rumor that ended up being nothing more than just that?
Let me give you a recent example of just how ugly this industry can get. At the end of last year, it was reported that Adidas had consolidated its worldwide business with the global network of TBWA in conjunction with 180 out of Amsterdam. No fewer than four employees at our agency were contacted by headhunters, who told them they had better look for jobs since they heard our office was closing. A new business consultant on a major global review told his client our agency should not be considered due to the "concerns over the viability of the office." At least three colleagues who run other agencies in town were calling wondering if we could refer our clients to them following the closure of this office.
The truth-if anybody cared to seek it-was our San Francisco office hadn't been working on Adidas North America for over a year. We hadn't forecast Adidas revenue in our 2002 budgets. We had already replaced that revenue with a significant new business win, and our operation was profitable.
The vultures circled, nonethe-less, obviously more interested in capitalizing on perceived misfor-tune than in anything else.
This kind of behavior has become more the rule than the exception. People in this business feed on spreading bad news, factual or not. Their pulse increases just by reading about someone else's problems.
It's not too late to bring an end to this crap. There is still a chance we can bring some integrity back to this gossip-driven industry.
The ads played a role in Sizzle & Stir fizzle
Ad Age's editorial on Sizzle & Stir ("Why Unilever is a smart client," Viewpoint, AA, Jan. 21) should have come to the opposite conclusion: Why Unilever is not a smart client. While the advertising may not have been the only reason for the brand's failure, it was certainly one of the reasons.
The brand was at a major disadvantage from the get-go because its primary positioning was based on irrelevant advertising creativity rather than the product's differentiation. No matter how humorous the spots were, consumers needed to hear how the brand's benefits related to them-not how family dynamics have changed.
Sure, some consumer trial was achieved. But it was due to the price discounting and merchandising, not advertising.
Introductory advertising must do more than create awareness or be the talk of the town. It must convince consumers that this is the right product for them. Just ask Infiniti or Cingular.
For Unilever's sake, I hope they don't find ways to extend this advertising or they'll send another one of their brands down the tubes.
Waste in advertising: We're caught in a trap
Re: Randall Rothenberg's column "Internet/TV can help CRM answer accountability issue" (Viewpoint, AA, Jan. 21):
Seasoned marketing executives have been recoiling from the waste they see in mass advertising since the 19th century. What they painfully learn is that they are caught in the trap of maintaining their promotion spending levels, whether they want to or not, if their competition continues to spend at a high rate.
Market share inevitably plunges whenever an advertiser in a competitive category tries to cut back (usually in the first and/or second quarters) if the competition keeps on spending.
Professor of Marketing and Media Studies
New York University
Studebaker owed credit for quality automobiles
In response to Bruce Kaplan's claim that Studebaker had "one shining moment of automotive excellence; the `63 Avanti," ("Give Studebaker credit," Letters to the Editor, AA, Jan. 7), all I can say is: "Oh yeah?"
Tens of thousands of members of the International Studebaker Drivers Club would beg to differ. Stop by one of their regional meetings (yes, there is one in Studebaker's hometown of South Bend, Ind.) and you'll see people of all ages proudly showing off their Larks, Hawks, Presidents and Champions. Even an Avanti or two.
To be fair, I should admit that my grandfathers, father and uncles all worked for Studebaker. They were craftsmen who made quality automobiles, almost by hand in comparison to today's robotic production lines.
And, for the record, it wasn't bad cars that sunk Studebaker. It was mediocre marketing and bad management.
Director of Advertising & Media
Old Town School of Folk Music
* In "Biz news on the fly" and "WSJ.com: leading the online pack" (both Feb. 11, P. 42), it was incorrectly stated that The Wall Street Journal Online operated a MyJournal.com site. The new Online Journal's enhanced personalization is integrated into the WSJ.com site.