All posts tagged Ron Tite

Either you’re cool or you’re not.

If we listen to advertising, consumers have to decide whether we’re one of society’s cool people or humbly accept that we’re not. Well, I’ll just be over here with the uncool people. You know, the party-poopers. The nay-sayers. The “I’m going home” people opposed to the “I’m staying out” people. The warm tea – not the Jolt Cola – of life.

More and more, brands want us to declare which side we’re on. Are we on Team A who’s crazy fun, ultra confident, incredibly free, and comfortable with who they are or on Team B, a squad filled with the sweater vests of civilization? There’s no grey area, either. No place where we can be both. We’re either A or B.

Diesel Clothing

It all started a few years ago with Diesel Clothing and their “Be Stupid” campaign. In their Official Be Stupid Philosophy they point out that, in the world of the two opposing forces, “Smart may have the brains but Stupid has the balls.” Oh. I guess I can’t be ballsy and smart. Damn. Who should I side with? “Be Stupid”, they respond.


Bud Light

Bud Light extended the thinking by explaining the difference between “I’m out” and “I’m in ” be walking us through scenarios like, “I’m out is bright and early while I’m in is still out.” Geez. I love when I channel my inner “up-bright-and-early” self even though it doesn’t happen that often. Naturally, they finish it with, “I’m in has way better stories… and it’s own beer.”

See the spot here.


Recently, Hertz launched a campaign where they opted for a metaphor to define the two types of people instead of a catch phrase: “In life, you’re either the gas or the brake.” And if we didn’t get it, they actually showed a split screen of one kid jumping off a high diving board while the other lies terrified, clutching the end.

They justify the comparison in the end: “You may be flying by the seat of your pants or following a plan. But take it from me, with Hertz, you’ll always find your way. We’re at the airport and in your neighbourhood. The gas or the brake. Which are you?”

Well, does the gas person pick up their car at the airport? Or in their neighbourhood? I don’t know. So I guess I’m not sure which one I am but I hope I’m the gas.


Finally, we can’t wander into this territory without mentioning the grand-daddy of all of this. Apple’s “Get a Mac” campaign (which really should have been called the “Be a Mac” campaign) launched in May, 2006 and divided the world into Macs vs. PCs. Obviously, we all want to be a Mac especially when you see how PC is personified. Even that guy doesn’t want to be that guy. Here’s the very first spot of the campaign that aired.

I don’t know why this side-by- side human comparison thing bugs me so much. Maybe it’s because it just seems so polar with no wiggle room in the middle. And I guess I don’t enjoy having to pledge my allegiance to either one. Sure, I’m adventurous and all but I don’t want people think I’m THAT idiot. And while I turn up my nose at most of what the uncool people apparently stand for, I also find some peace in being totally uncool (as they define it) at times.

Here’s what I’m not saying: I’m not saying these are bad commercials. Hell, Mac’s campaign is legendary and I do like the grit of the others. They’re wonderful pieces of communication. I guess I just think the strategy is off. I think I’m different people at different times so neither depiction really resonates. The premise is choose a side. And I usually can’t choose.


Upcoming Events: I’ll be hosting the Art of Leadership (Toronto) on May 6 and the Art of Marketing (Vancouver) on May 9th. On June 15th, I’ll join Darryl Sittler, and senior executives from Allstream, Ciena, and Sun Life to moderate a discussion on Protecting your Network through Diversity.


We’ve made a horrible mistake.

Yup. “We’ve made a horrible mistake.” That’s how Nancy Vonk, Co-Chief Creative Officer at Ogilvy described the ad industry’s approach to training and development. Nancy was part of a panel I gathered to discuss the lack of training in our industry. Also joining the conversation were Anthony Kalamut, Leslie Ehm, Jeff Potnikoff, and Suzanne Filiatrault. It was all part of XChange, a new online show that I launched in partnership with Cartilage Digital, Marketing Magazine and Dx3.

As you’ll see, the discussion is lively and the content is rich.

Thanks to our panelists for spending the time. And thanks to you for watching.

I welcome your comments and suggestions for topics to discuss or panelists to feature in the future.

The next Apple is…

I’ve been an Apple enthusiast for quite some time. A few weeks ago, I was backstage at a speaking event and I had my MacBook on my lap, my iPhone on my knee and my iPad on the chair next to me. A crew member walked by, shook his head and said, “You’re sad.” Perhaps. 

Obviously, Apple’s a great case study for a wide range of business topics including branding, advertising, design, innovation, business strategy, and more. That being said, I’m a little tired of talking about them. I use Apple in speeches all across the country and they’re kinda becoming a cliché. Mention their name and crowds start to auto-nod as if they’ve already heard it. It’s probably because they have. 

But who’s the next Apple?

I think it’s Dyson.

It all started when founder James Dyson was cleaning up with a vacuum and thought, “There must be a better way.”

There wasn’t. So he invented it.

Interestingly, most other manufacturers chose to ignore negative consumer opinion over vacuum bags. Hell, their business model depended on people buying them by the crate. Why address something that would eliminate a $500 million a year disposable bag business? Not companies focused on the bottom line. So they stayed the course.

Unfortunately for them, Dyson was rather focused, too.
Dyson became the UK’s best selling vacuum in 1995.

Can you say, “Disruption”?

Who doesn’t love the Dyson Airblade? I always wanted to help save the environment by avoiding paper towels in public washrooms but the gerbil-propelled hand dryers took 20 minutes to heat up and I’d only end up wiping my hands on my jeans anyway.

 Then, Dyson showed up.

They created a hand dryer that wiped the water from your hands with purified air traveling at over 640km/h. Throw in the fact that it uses 80% less energy and it’s easy to see why they’re popping up everywhere.

The Dyson brand promise is simple: We’ll make it better.

They made vacuuming better.
They made drying hands better.
They have even made fans better.

What I most like about them is that they don’t restrict themselves to any specific category. Vacuums. Dryers. Fans. I can’t wait to see what they’ll tackle next because I know that at the heart of it will be a well-designed product that solves a real customer problem by just being better. And if all goes well, we’ll line up for it at a Dyson store, book times with the Dyson geniuses, and look to them to save us from our daily frustrations. 

We’re waiting, Dyson. Please keep thinking. 


Thanks to @mylifeonlinenow for forwarding this article on James Dyson from Wired Magazine:


Now with a little of this and a little of that!

Wonder Bread and Hostess Cake, Plate 3

Image by Thomas Hawk via Flickr

We’re this. And we’re that.

I recently saw a spot for Wonder Bread (actually, it was for a whole new Wonder Bread SKU with no additives or something, which left me asking myself “It’s still just white bread, right?”) Anyhow, the spot ended with the line, “Yesterday’s comfort. Today’s nutrition.”

I’m not criticizing the writer for the line because lord knows I’ve written my fair share of similar ones. A lot have. So many, in fact, that my good friend Tony Miller, Executive Creative Director at Anderson DDB, actually has a term for this type of tagline: “Badump Badump”. A bit of this. And bit of that.

It wasn’t always this way.  Brands used to be defined by simpler terms.

Volvo? “Safety”.
McDonald’s? “Fast Food”.
FedEx? Overnight.
FedEx owned overnight so much that their original corporate mission statement was just, “Get it there overnight.” That’s what the promise was and (pun intended) they delivered.

Well, those were simpler times with simpler brands.

Somewhere along the way, Volvo began standing for “safety” and “design”, McDonald’s began serving salads and FedEx got involved with less urgent shipping. A little of this and a little of that.

Need a better example? Go to a grocery store, pick an aisle, and see how many brands promise, “Tastes great & good for you!” I bet you count 200 before your kid can dig out a Kinder Surprise from the bottom of a cereal box (but not before they get it assembled).

Simply put, brands have been diluted. Here’s why:

 1. Growth

Publicly traded companies and the investors they serve are never happy with consistent revenue with flat growth. Hey, Papa’s gotta retire happy so unless you deliver 10 pts year over year, we’ll find someone else to lead the charge. As a result, Brand Managers are under a lot of pressure to constantly grow their business so they create line extensions and additional SKUs to try and get it. It can have significant brand implications. Mercedes used to exclusively promise prestige. Now, you can buy one for $30K. Growth may be good for the short-term bottom line but I think it dilutes the brand.

 2. Competition

Even if a brand shows incredible restraint, it may be forced to extend itself because the growth hungry competition mows their lawn. Or eats their lunch. Or hits on their wife. Use whatever metaphor you want. Before you know it, competing brands have similar promises and everyone starts to act and sound like everyone else. Instead of keeping up with the Joneses, everybody just moves in with them. Consumers are left reading starbursts that say, “We have that, too!

3. Failure to elevate the brand.

If the Nike brand was simplified as “Fast Shoes”, it wouldn’t take long before they added “…and great clothes, too!”. Luckily, it isn’t. At its core, Nike is about the pursuit of excellence. By elevating the brand to that level, they ensure that line extensions are still consistent with the original mission. Stay away from focusing on product attributes and you get built-in flexibility for the future. And the smart ones know this.

4. Change

While most of us in white-collar jobs absolutely despise any hint of change, consumers crave it. Want to get a better Link score for your 30-second TV spot? Say something the consumer has never heard before. Their ears perk up, they pay attention, and they respond accordingly. The result is communications that shout “Now with riboflavin!”, “Now shaped so it picks up salsa!” and “Healthier than corn husks!” We’re all consumers and as Pogo once said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Any doubters can go back to waiting in line for the iPad3.



The end is nigh! Sigh.

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

Last week, I was speaking to a group of people in Ottawa about “Building your brand in the digital age”. It wasn’t a keynote on social media (Mitch Joel and Gary Vaynerchuk already do that splendidly) but I certainly covered the implications that social media can have on one’s personal brand.

One of the participants asked about the speed of social media and Dave Hale, President and Founder of Soshal Group, told a quick tale about looking for office space. He tweeted a real estate agent, gave him 15 minutes to respond and seeing none, Dave tweeted another agent, got an immediate reply and signed a lease later that day.

Some of the group were borderline appalled and thought it was unprofessional to only give someone 15 minutes to respond. “What if he was with another client?” they asked. “It would have been unprofessional for the agent to focus his attention on Twitter opposed to the person who sat in front of him.”

Well, they certainly weren’t wrong. But it does bring up an interesting point.

Clearly, some of us are “all in” on social media. Speakers (myself included) can make it seem like those who aren’t dialed into Twitter 24/7 face imminent career death. Worse, we look down on them like they were carriers of an analog epidemic that combines mad cow disease with the bodily sounds of a Speak-n-Spell transmitted by the Pony Express.

Here’s the thing:

People want to do business with brands that share their values.

And there are a hell of a lot of people who simply don’t value the type of interactions that the rest of us do. They actually want to do business the old-fashioned way and will spend their dollars with those who act accordingly. There’s an actual market of technophobes and I’d be willing to bet that in some categories, it’s pretty damn big.

It’s just that it’s getting smaller. Quickly.

Striking fear and panic into the hearts of people is wrong and it’s probably what creates the mad rush of people jumping into something that they don’t really understand. Next thing you know, we’re clicking “Like” buttons for no apparent reason and desperately asking people to follow us even though we have no idea what it means when they do.

Speakers: Stop screaming “the end is nigh!” and we’ll have more time to do it right.

Listeners: Look at the numbers, believe the trends, and pursue a course of action that’s good for your business, good for your career, and consistent with your values.

Your customers today and tomorrow will appreciate it. 


Media isn’t the new creative.

The current logo for Swiss Chalet

Image via Wikipedia

I see that Astral has just completed a campaign targeting Media Planners. It’s summed up nicely by one of their headlines,

“Media is the new creative.”

I like the people at Astral. They’re one of the few big players who are actively trying to connect with agencies. They’ve done nice work on their re-brand (executed by Juniper Park) and organized a really good OOH creative contest last year. They’re genuinely trying to make the work better and for that, they deserve applause and encouragement.

I just kinda disagree with them.

The media space is changing just as fast (if not faster) than the creative space and I fully support that good ideas can (and should) come from anywhere. Some of the best creative minds work in media and I thoroughly enjoy creating successful initiatives with them. For some reason, I prefer to work with media groups who are in the same building. There just seems to be this constant elephant in the room when your revenue is going to a big international holding company and the revenue from the people you’re collaborating with is going to a different big international holding company, even though none of you really care. All in all, people are professional about it but it’s still not natural. Would Coke collaborate withPepsi? Probably not.

Anyhow, media should and can be creative but they’re far from being the new creative. Here’s why:

1. Workin’ on the Assembly Line

The Big Client-Big Agency assembly line is an automated machine that has distinct roles that need to be filled for maximum efficiency. While the assembly line can produce some really wonderful work, you kinda know what’s going to slide off the conveyor belt at the end of it all. Changing responsibilities is tough because there are so many moving parts in the process – including clients – that depend on you doing the stuff you’ve always done. It’s not a media issue, it’s a systemic issue. Until all the parties on the assembly line agree to explore different routes together, isolating one is unfair.

2. Compensation

While I have awkwardly presented my fair share of blocking charts, I’m not that knowledgable about media negotiations. That being said, I think it’s much easier for clients to pay a media agency a percentage of spend because they get accurate cost projections at the beginning of the process. Print, out of home, TV, radio.. they all have agreed to and expected costs associated with them. Clients (generally) know how much each should be and can provide appropriate feedback because of it. Truly breakthrough ideas don’t come with these convenient little price tags, though. You want to open a branded art gallery? Well, how much does that cost and what should the media agency bill for their time recommending it? It’s going to take some time. For now, a lot of media shops are paid to think a certain way so they do. Would’t you? The faster we truly value thinking instead of negotiating with pre-determined calculations, the faster things will change.

3. Redefining Creative

One of the best ideas I’ve seen in a while was the launch of the 24 hour rotisserie channel for Swiss Chalet. But here’s the thing: You didn’t need to be an Art Director / Writer team to come up with it (even though it may have been). It could have been a strategic planner. Or a media planner. Or an Account Coordinator. Hell, you freelance out the execution and you can generate that idea from reception (in between levels of Angry Birds). When the assembly line redefines itself, business changing ideas will come from all directions. It won’t just be media. And it won’t just be creative.

4. Fear and Politeness

When creatives talk directly to broadcasters and other media outlets, their sales teams get a bit nervous. They don’t like talking about an account without looping in the media agency out of fear that they’ll piss them off. There are only so many media shops in this country and the BellGlobeMedia’s of the world can’t afford to upset any of them. Well, once the media agency is involved, your idea goes back onto the assembly line and before you can say “brilliant”, you’re left holding a 30 second TV spot and a couple of double page spreads. I get frustrated by this but can you imagine what would happen if a media agency contacted a production company directly? Yikes. I’d lose my shit. You can’t march forward without stepping on some toes. Sadly, we don’t. We play nice. We keep everyone in the loop. And the idea takes a back seat to our nice Canadian spirit.

Until we resolve these bigger issues, I fear media teams will be forced to define their creativity with transparencies in magazines and super boards on the Gardiner expressway. Canadian media professionals are better than that and can deliver better than that. We just have to let them.

I’d like to throw a brick through The Brick.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 26:  A shopping g...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

If you go over to furniture retailer The Brick, you’ll see a special event called the ‘Boxing Day Blowout”. Now, either their web development team is too slow to react to calendar realities or they’ve resurrected the Holy Deal Day just over 2 months after the real December 26th has come and gone. That’s ballsy.

Check out Bad Boy Superstore and you’ll see “Our Big Fat Noooo Event.” The materialist in me wonders if the “Noooooo!” refers to focus group responses to the question, “Would you enjoy seeing Mel Lastman in prison attire wedged in between Harold the Jewelry Buyer and micro-commercials for DOT patio furniture?” Sadly, the realist in me knows it probably refers to some combination that features No Payments, No Interest, No Tax, and No Dignity. 

Even though I’m a seasoned advertising professional, I’m still left wondering, “Who the hell is actually buying this shit?” I was told to never cry wolf but I guess crying “Liquidation Sale” every minute of every day is acceptable. I half expect that the next round will feature, “Here’s 10 bucks. We’ll pay you to take this crap off our hands.”

This isn’t just bad advertising. It’s bad business.

Here’s why:
What’s the Walmart brand positioning? Everyday value.
What’s the Bad Boy brand positioning? We always have a sale.

The problem with always having a sale is that, well….you always have to have a sale. And that can be expensive. Every new event has to be bigger, bolder, cheaper, and louder than everything else you or your competition has ever done. That requires a lot of advertising dollars. The only way to make “Boxing Day Blowout” more attractive than the “Noooooo event” is to dial up the intensity, the urgency, and the dollars.

Even if you spend all that money, you risk being trumped by a better deal long after the flyers have been distributed. You launch “No payments for 18 months” and then your competition launches “No payments for 20 months”. You lose. And you wasted a lot of money to do so.

It’s kind of like that great scene in Something About Mary featuring Canadian comedian Harland Williams:

You’ve heard of the 8-minute abs? Well, this is going to blow it out of the water. 7-minute abs.

Well, what happens when someone comes out with the 6-minute abs?

Man, you can’t get a good workout in 6 minutes.

No money down, no payments, no tax? No interest, thanks.