Confessions of a Car Dealer Advertiser.

Okay. I admit it. For a year and a half, I created ads for car dealerships.

It’s funny. When I began writing and directing car ads, I quickly discovered that there are reasons that most car dealers have ads that…how can I put this delicately…um…bite.

First of all, the budget for car ads is about $300. That covers talent, videography, post-production, and everything from script to screen. That’s not much money, and it doesn’t allow for much in the way of wiggle room for talent, props, sets, or anything else.

Next, let’s add to this mix the fact that most car dealers want to use their sales staff in the commercials. It’s been my experience that most sales reps aren’t really comfortable in front of the camera. And it shows. Lastly, lets examine the “we’ve always done it this way” phenonmenon as it applies to car ads. The industry mantra is that the manufacturer sells the car, the dealer association sells the promotion, and the dealer sells the deal. That’s why you see dealers running ads that show one or more vehicles with payments or “off-MSRP” pricing, instead of ads that try to convince you why you should deal with a specific dealer. Continue reading Confessions of a Car Dealer Advertiser.

Impression-ism.

Apple's 1984 ad.I love advertising. There. I admit it. I love the idea of telling a story that results in somebody buying something. I love being able to create ads that move people. But there’s another part to advertising that frequently gets overlooked by creative types (like me) and customers. The two sides of that particular coin are frequency and impressions.

Let’s say your ad agency writes the mother of all ads – an ode to your product that makes grown men cry, women salute, and people flock to your product. Let’s say you decide to launch this ad out into the public – doesn’t matter if it’s in print or broadcast. Now you have a decision…how many times to run the ad.

Pause with me for a nanosecond. Continue reading Impression-ism.

Do Not Adjust Your Set.

Popeye!For a media guy, I don’t really watch a lot of TV. When I was a kid, I did. LOTS of TV. In fact, my folks told me that my first word wasn’t “Mama” or “Dada,” but “Popeye.” They also told me that I used to run out of the room when the programs were on, and run back in to watch the commercials. Frankly, they thought I was nuts. As an adult, I’ve learned that the average network 30 second spot has the same budget as a 30 MINUTE television sit-com. Think about that. second for second, the commercial has better acting, much better special effects, better writing, frequently better story lines, and better directing. I’m afraid, though, that television is changing, and the way advertising works (or doesn’t work) is changing, too. Let me explain… Continue reading Do Not Adjust Your Set.

Media Bias.

Think the only bias you see on TV is in the network news departments? Think again. Last night, Law & Order featured a script whereby the Minutemen were depicted as ultra-right-wing fanatics who find it acceptable to murder to prove their point.

Give me a break.

Let’s see…the Minutemen are a bunch of unarmed volunteers trying to illuminate the wholesale invasion of our country by illegals (sorry…”undocumented workers”) whose ranks include terrorists, drug runners, murderers, and others who would do our country harm. I live in the Texas Panhandle. There are more Hispanics in this area than there are Blacks or other minorities. Think they want the borders open? Nope. They are all for enforcing immigration laws. Continue reading Media Bias.

Uniqueness.

A Wild & Crazy Guy.
Once upon a time, Steve Martin used to do a gag in his stand-up routine, where he’d get everyone to repeat the “Individualist’s Oath.” He’d say, “repeat after me…I promise to be different…I promise to be unique…I promise to stop repeating things other people tell me to say.”

Funny stuff. As with most of Martin’s stuff, there was a serious point underneath the veneer of lunacy. Everyone wants to be unique, for being unique is a great way to be noticed. It’s what Seth Godin talks about in his book, Purple Cow.

Why is unique better, and why do so many people settle for “just like”?

I have a theory. (Big surprise.) Unique puts you apart from the rest of the pack. Unique is uncomfortable – at least until the rest of the pack acknowledges it, and copies it. Unique is…difficult.

Ries & Trout made their careers in marketing talking about mindshare – being first in the public’s mind when they think about a category. Without mindshare you won’t get marketshare. So…how do you go for “unique”? Continue reading Uniqueness.

Everything Old is New Again.

The SKY is falling! The SKY is falling!Most things work in cycles, like the swinging of a pendulm. Hemlines go up and hemlines go down. Pants legs go from flares to straight and back again. The country swings towards liberalism and back to conservative values. Some cycles take longer than many people observe in their lifetimes. To understand those cycles, we must study history. For instance, did you know that there have been several periods in American history where the two sides were as polarized (if not MORE polarized) as they are today? There are periods in our past where politics were even more nasty than what we see today – with more dirty tricks than Watergate, with more scandals than the Clinton era, and with more bile than a Howard Dean speech. Continue reading Everything Old is New Again.

Avoiding the Obvious.

3000 lb. gorilla
What happens when your worldview clashes with reality? For most people, it seems they will go to almost any length to ignore the obvious.

Case in point, Sony. They maintain that there’s nothing wrong with their DRM software – people just misunderstand it. Uh huh. As if we all fail to grasp that Sony is using their goal to prevent (mis)use of their copyrighted IP and just happen to endanger every computer by installing a back door for hackers. They think they are justified in doing whatever it takes to protect their property – even putting customer’s property (their PCs) at risk. When confronted by the folly of their actions, they first ignore, then spin it, then back down but refuse to acknowledge the obvious – they were wrong. Continue reading Avoiding the Obvious.

Talking Tech (Books).

Books.
I’ll admit it. I’m a writer. While I haven’t yet written (or even started writing) the Great American Novel, I have penned two tech books. Of course, my timing being what it is, they were published just as the Dot-Coms were all becoming Dot-Bombs, and the bottom fell out of the tech book market. It’s just now coming back. Lest you think this is sour grapes on my part, I offer up this factoid: In 2001, technical books was the number two category in sales at Barnes & Nobel, nationwide. Just one year later, it was 6th. That’s a huge drop, but it reflects economic conditions more than anything. When you get laid off, the last thing you think about is buying more tech books. Continue reading Talking Tech (Books).

The Five Nines.

phone
Back when you could get any kind of phone you liked, as long as it was connected to a wall and was provided by Ma Bell, phone service was simple. It just always worked. The industry calls it “the 5 nines,” meaning your POTS (Plain Old Phone System) line is expected to work 99.999% of the time. Through power outages. Through storms. Through just about anything. And if it DID go down, you could be sure that it would be working again ASAP. Those boys didn’t fool around. Continue reading The Five Nines.

Future Computing.

Thoughts as I spend day three rebuilding my laptop due to a catastrophic crash of the registry…

Windows Media Center PC
As PCs and televisions merge and PCs attempt to take over our living rooms as “media centers” I make the following observation:

Things are moving in the wrong direction.

I don’t want a PC that plays TV. I want a PC that works like a TV. Continue reading Future Computing.