Ad Question Driving You Crazy?

Now You Can Simply Ask Rance

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Do you ever wonder about the story behind the commercial -- who did the music, whether it was a tough shoot with a lot of outtakes? Well, so do I. And I'm trying this Q-and-A format to answer questions about marketing strategies that have piqued my interest and, I hope, yours. Of course, these questions are my own, but I'd be very pleased to try to answer yours in subsequent columns.
Honda's new Accord spots are set to ELO's 'Hold On Tight.'

Who does the music for the great new Honda Accord spot, "Hold On Tight "?
The song was written and performed by Electric Light Orchestra for the band's 1981 album "Time" and was ELO's last major hit single. Why ELO, who last we heard did commercials for Ameriquest and the Coffee Achievers? According to Gary Paticoff, senior VP-executive producer at RPA, Honda's agency, and Joe Baratelli and David Smith, both senior VPs and creative directors at RPA, they were after material and "people with attributes that line up with your brand." They liked how the "dream" part of the track -- "Hold on tight to your dreams" -- matched the upbeat but dream-like appeal of the new Accord and gave the commercial an aspirational feel. Kevin Spacey, by the way, is the voice-over for the third year, following in the distinguished company of Burgess Meredith, Jack Lemon and Richard Dreyfuss. They are all intelligent and funny, just like the car, the RPA trio said.

Did AT&T forget the "halo effect" when it ditched the Cingular brand?
Just as in the auto business where a hot car can juice sales along the entire line, if AT&T had allowed Cingular to remain its wireless brand and hooked it up with the iPhone, Cingular would have provided a powerful boost for AT&T's integrated services. As columnist Al Ries says, the more narrow a product line, the more it's possible to come up with "a powerful conceptual idea."

But with AT&T now standing for all the company's services, it's harder to differentiate it from rivals. AT&T should function not only as the name of the company but also as the name of all ancillary services (since it's already associated with land lines). And, of course, it should have kept the Cingular name for wireless.

Why do private investors gravitate to consumer-product companies?
Unrealized brand equity is key for PE folks, who view consumer brands as underleveraged assets worth paying a premium for. A strong brand, said Anton Levy, partner at General Atlantic, brings "audience, trust, reputation that you can leverage against." Often, he told the ANA conference, brands in public companies are held back ("underleveraged" in investor-speak) by conflicts with other brands in the same company.

The frustration in public companies trying to integrate their various brands with myriad media choices seems to be growing. Becky Saeger of Charles Schwab complained about the "intense fragmentation" among media and ad agencies and said: "You've got to get a handle on how to manage all these partnerships more effectively. We've decided we'll just do it ourselves."

As a former sports editor of the Daily Northwestern, what's your take on Joe Torre's turning down the Yankees' incentive deal?
I don't think Joe understands the business world. CBS Corp. President-CEO Leslie Moonves just signed a new contract that cuts his salary by $2.4 million per year, while giving him additional dough if CBS's stock price goes up. Mr. Moonves' annual salary is $3.5 million -- $1.5 million less than Joe would have earned even with the proposed cut from $7 million. Besides, if Torre's players love and respect him so much, why do they all quit hitting in the postseason?

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Got a question for Rance? E-mail him at [email protected]
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