On Target with Howard Davidson

I’m fired up and hopefully on target today with my thoughts about gun violence. A growing number of companies are rethinking their connection to the firearms industry after what seems to be an endless fusillade of stories of shootings at schools and elsewhere. The target most often seems to be the National Rifle Association, the interest group for gun enthusiasts.

Facebook is the latest to score a bull’s-eye in regard to a corporate stance toward weaponry. It just started to limit ads for weapons accessories (rifle scopes, holsters, and that sort of thing) to its audience over age 18 (about 30% of its audience).

The Facebook algorithm enables advertisers to target their audience in any number of ways. Howard Davidson clients ask me about members of certain groups, readers of certain publications or websites, demographic breakdowns (sex, age, geography) – and Facebook can do that.

Where Facebook may have difficulty is where other companies are going to encounter problems – politicizing their revenue stream. Well-known companies like Delta, United Airlines, Symantec, MetLife, Hertz, and First National Bank of Omaha have ended their (primarily affiliate) relationships with the NRA. NRA members are angry and threatening boycotts, and there are quite a number of them – 4.5 million. And they can hit what they aim at.

Often, a client comes to me and asks, “Howard, can I benefit from taking a political stance in my marketing, or will it hurt me?” The answer is – yes. Both. Taking a political stance is no different than any other target marketing. Your product line also can mean it makes sense to ignore particular groups. A pharmaceutical company marketing contraceptives can easily afford to speak out in favor of birth control and take pro-choice positions. A women’s clothing manufacturer can easily speak in favor of women’s empowerment. What a guy like Howard Davidson thinks of their product isn’t important. (And, really, I don’t like very good in a chemise.)

Cause marketing is a tool for marketers aiming at a broad audience. That was why Marriott and the March of Dimes teamed up in the seventies, why so many companies team with the Olympics, and why Susan G. Komen for the Cure clicks – those audiences aren’t primarily political. But choosing to affiliate – or loudly not affiliate – with a cause also reduces your audience. Dick’s Sporting Goods no longer sells assault-style rifles. It will lose customers who shopped there not just for rifles, but other items. Bake shops that won’t bake cakes for gay weddings may gain some customers, but will also lose customers.

As always, know your audience. That’s what the guy at Howard Davidson Marketing would tell you. Wait – that’s me. Well, I’m on target.

Howard Davidson


Howard Davidson Marketing, Formerly HoDaDingoBingo

Here’s the latest on company branding from the more-properly named Howard Davidson Marketing Consultant (formerly HoDaDingoBingo, and almost named Zzyxx, except it turns out that’s a shoe company).

Weird names are gone. No more. Ceased to be. Expired and gone to meet their maker. Stiff. Bereft of life, resting in peace. Pushing up the daisies. History. Off the twig. Kicked the bucket, Shuffled off their mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible.

This is an ex-trend.

You remember the good old days of funky new tech company names. Yahoo! Mozilla. Ask Jeeves. KaZaA. Ruumi. Peeple. Airbnb. Uber. Heck, we’ve only gotten used to Google, but it was as weird as your Uncle Ernie when we first heard it. (Of course, BackRub would have been odder. And maybe actionable.)

What America knew first about tech companies was that, while their owners and employees might have been geniuses, they were terrible spellers and had limited vocabularies.

The graphics are changing, too. Yahoo! and Google used to have funkier typefaces. They were disruptors before disrupting was a Thing. The latest? GoDaddy – a company whose name had nothing to do with what it did and whose logo employed both funky lettering and a weird graphic of a mad scientist (or geek meth head?) – has sans-serifed itself into blandness.

Companies used to have reliable names. Solid names that told you what they did – International Harvester. General Motors. General Electric (sorry about that Dow Industrial thing, by the way). Or you knew who was running them, and that you could rely on them. Young & Rubicam. Ford Motor Company. Boeing Aircraft Company.

I actually blame advertising for this. We’ve gone from NW Ayer & Son to Razorfish, Wexley School for Girls, and G&M Plumbing. It’s as if everyone in the communication business wishes he had started a band. Drummers get all the chicks. (Except the ones who spontaneously combust.)

So yes, during this time, I must confess, I considered branding my consultancy as HoDaBingoDingo. Wait. HoDaDingoBingo. Or was it DingoBingoHoDa? HoDa Kotb?

In the end, I settled for Howard Davidson Marketing. But I’m toying with camel-casing “Davidson.” Or maybe just putting “Howard” in all caps. Or replacing all the vowels with their Greek counterparts and the consonants with hashtags. But then you’ll be able to figure out my password.

Howard Davidson


Be Fearless Or Be Forgotten

Advertising isn’t for the faint of heart. Ad people need to be fearless or be forgotten.

Think about everything you know about advertising. We wage campaigns; so did Caesar and Patton. We invade homes like cat burglars and plan like Hannibal Smith (and don’t we LOVE when a plan comes together!).

And none of that does any good if we aren’t being seen.

According to IFLscience.com (and we FL IFLscience.com!), 2.5 quintillion bytes of content a day is posted to the Internet. How much is that? Well, 90% of the data humans have ever generated has been generated since 2016. Shakespeare? Thomas Jefferson? Erica Jong? Pfft.

So knowing that, you will be heartened, as was I, to learn about Jade Delaney, also known as #FearlessGirlBristol. Delaney, you see, was fearless in her quest to find employment fresh out of school as an ad copywriter.

So she did what no copywriter had done before. She painted herself up like Jill Masterson in GOLDFINGER and sent a LinkedIn message to McCann Bristol managing director Andy Reid advising him to look out his window for a fearless girl (like the statue in New York’s financial district) “adorned in gold” who would make a difference in advertising. It worked. She got the interview. Then her portfolio got her the job.

In advertising, we make pitches, we cold call prospects, we go to ad functions, we buy email lists. It’s all for naught if we don’t get the prospect’s attention. The great advertising copywriter and creative director, Bill Bernbach explained it plainly: “In advertising, not to be different is virtually suicidal.”

The worst that could have happened to Jade Delaney is that nobody at McCann Bristol would have seen her. But you know what? Nobody had seen her, anyway. She had nothing to lose. Frank Miller, the creator of SIN CITY and 300, once wrote the following advertising line when he was creating comic books: “If you intend to die, you can do anything.” Not getting a job? That’s like dying. Not selling a product? That IS dying.

So when I start to work on a project, I remember first and foremost that I have to break through in order to have a chance. Yes, it’s true that, if you don’t ask, the answer is no. But it’s more true that if you don’t get anybody’s attention, you won’t have a chance to achieve your goal. There’s a reason we have lighthouses and not just a small sign at harbor entrances.

Big gestures break through. Even people who never saw SAY ANYTHING remember the image of John Cusack holding a boombox over his head to win back the woman he loved. Even people who never watched a baseball game know Babe Ruth, who pointed to centerfield in the World Series to tell the opposing pitcher where he was going to put the ball. Actresses show up at the Academy Awards dressed to stand out, not fit in. That’s for seat-fillers.

(Hey, sometimes rich guys even shoot sports cars into orbit.)

In advertising, be fearless. Break through the clutter. Because if you’re going to avoid winding up in the email junk box with the other 269 billion emails sent today, being lost among the 656 million tweets, or unwatched among the nearly 6 billion YouTube videos looked at today, you have to stand out. As Seth Godin points out, “By definition, remarkable things get remarked upon.” In advertising, if you’re not remarked upon, you don’t exist.

Jade Delaney, if you’re out there reading this, best of luck (not that you probably need it). And that goes for the rest of you, too. After you read this, do something to stand out. Paint your front door purple. Wear a suit made out of duct tape. Turn your online portfolio into a game show. Do what David Bowie did and promise to not be boring.

Howard Davidson


It’s A P&G Ad! (Or Is It?)

When you’re a ten-and-a-half-billion-dollar gorilla like P&G, you pretty much get what you want.

The ultimate goal of this patchwork thing will be to increase the percentage of P&G advertising outlays for creative work by reducing the spend for everything else on the account. (So, really, fewer dinners.)

The component limbs and organs will be directed by Saatchi & Saatchi New York CEO Andrea Diquez. Everyone will work out of P&G facilities in either New York or Cincinnati. Perhaps it’s like the United Nations, where major powers get together for the common good. Or maybe one of those joint military operations – heck, D-Day worked for the Allies.

Or is it more like when the FBI sends Clarice to meet with Hannibal Lecter?

Inspiration for this type of conglomeration comes from Johnson & Johnson, which has consolidated its work with WPP and Omnicom, having them assemble whole teams in New York to work solely on Johnson & Johnson. McDonald’s did this about a year and a half ago, pulling together two all-beef The Marketing Stores, Alma sauce, IW Group lettuce, T Brand Studio cheese, Facebook, Google, and Twitter pickles, Burrell Communications onions, all on an Omnicom-seed bun.

So, will this trend continue? Will companies that utilize service providers demand they all work together like the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy uniting to battle Thanos? And will the synergy be great, or will we get AOL and Time Warner?

Where will this trend lead? Could Google force McDonald’s and Waste Management to work together to feed its geeks? Could Apple put Kaiser Permanente and Bayer together to keep its employees healthy?

Remember, the customer is always right. Don’t get me started, please.

Howard Davidson


FCB Declares No Meeting Wednesdays

At ad agency FCB Chicago, there are no meeting Wednesdays.

The bustling ad agency whose clients include Boeing, Coca-Cola, Fiat and Discover has decided to axe Wednesday meetings for the foreseeable future. (And no, not Axe, the Millennial gag-magnet.)

Astutely named “Meeting Free Wednesdays,” the company decided to say sayonara to time-wasting get togethers. Why? Not for eliminating greenhouse gases, but because everyone hates meetings. Every Wednesday is meeting free at FCB Chicago. Except for it’s only from 1 to 5 in the afternoon. And if they don’t like it they can bring meetings back – to fill that time they get to do other work, which they hate too.

According to the memo the CCO and CEO sent out to the company, the employees spoke and they heard loud and clear: We are done with meetings! But then again there are those who as so very proud of their filled calendars.

Here’s the memo:

RE: Introducing Meeting Free Wednesdays

You spoke. We heard. As such, we are excited to announce “Meeting Free Wednesdays” at FCB Chicago!

Beginning next month, we are encouraging all of you to go meeting free each Wednesday from 1-5 p.m. This new initiative is in response to employee feedback that too many meetings are interfering with their ability to complete work during office hours—but now, you can! Please do your best to NOT call any client or internal meetings on Wednesday afternoons in April. We’re both very committed to this policy, and will not schedule meetings during this time.

To help encourage everyone to use this time for work, we will be sending out an agency-wide calendar invite blocking Wednesday afternoons. Look out for the first one—taking place on April 4. HR will also be conducting a survey at the end of April to ask for your thoughts on how we can continue to make Meeting Free Wednesday better—and most importantly, meeting free.

We value your happiness and well-being, and hope this new initiative helps everyone achieve a better work-life balance!


Michael & Liz

Nice work Michael & Liz. Those who love kvetching about meetings can fuss about something else each Wednesday.

-Howard Davidson, Arlington, MA


Elon Musk Is Tinkering with His Tesla All the Way to Mars

Elon Musk has been very busy tinkering around launching his SpaceX rocket to Mars. With his personal midnight cherry Tesla Roadster. And a mannequin astronaut called “Starman.” All while David Bowie is in rotation on the radio. Go figure.

Musk makes everything seem Forrest Gump simple. Or Bruno Mars hip. Or Douglas Adams geeky.

Yet he won’t spend a penny on advertising. What chutzpah!

That doesn’t make it cheap. On this mostly harmless planet on the outer eastern rim of the galaxy, Earth’s favorite multibillionaire has still dropped a wad of cash. SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket: $90 million. Tesla Roadster: $200,000. I have to confess I don’t know what a mannequin costs. I was never a fan of the Andrew McCarthy movie.

The February 6 SpaceX test launch of Musk’s Falcon Heavy rocket reminds me of the introduction of Mosaic in 1993. (Remember the Mosaic web browser? Everybody used it for 15 minutes. It made the World Wide Web cool by displaying pixelated pictures on the same page as pixelated type. It made the one guy in your office who wouldn’t go out for a drink with you giggle and snort until he realized you could hear him.)

Musk’s goal for SpaceX is simple. He wants to make it cheap to go to space. He really wants to go to Mars. Not for its bars. Rather, Musk believes it’s an insurance policy for humans should our planet become unlivable. You know, like if nobody’s allowed to surf porn any more. Or you can’t steal your neighbor’s Wi-Fi.

He’s as serious as a pay wall.

But SpaceX doesn’t have the scratch to run a few ads on the Travel Channel and sign people up. (It does get volunteers, though. Two suckers have already made a substantial deposit for a flight around the moon.)

What does a tech genius guerrilla marketer do when he’s got no ad budget? He tells the world he’s going to launch a car piloted by a mannequin called “Starman” in a space suit, and aim it toward Mars.

Did it work? Consider this. For the cost of this SpaceX rocket, Musk could have bought 18 commercials in the last Super Bowl broadcast. Had he flown with the Eagles, he’d have reached a cumulative viewership of 1.8 billion people. (If they weren’t in the john.) That’s way more than 14 million. (That’s how many of you loaded YouTube to watch Musk’s mannequin in the Space Tesla listening to “Space Oddity.”)

But don’t panic! Because it’s all about the brand.

You see, right now, everyone on the planet – from Kim Jong Un to the light-saber kid – knows that the only operation on this planet that can put a car in space is SpaceX. They also know the only car that’s been in space is a Tesla.

That’s sky-high awareness.

Brand equity? Beyond the moon. (Beyond Mars, actually.) Sure, maybe Musk could have powered the SpaceX with the Tesla’s batteries. That would have maxed out the branding. But recharging would have taken forever on the way up from Launch Pad 39A to beyond Mars.

The only thing that remains is for Musk and SpaceX is to do the tie-in promotions. The Falcon Heavy-branded Tesla. The be-a-Starman-in-a-Tesla memes on Facebook and Twitter. The live remotes with Jimmy Fallon. Maybe the only better thing would have been for Musk’s childhood Tamagotchi to have hitchhiked in the glove box. (Does a Tesla even have a glove box? Now I want to know!)

And that’s why this is the greatest car ad, ever. For no media money down.


Axe is telling guys how to quiff with an Instagroom campaign

Now here’s some brand marketing foolishness. Axe had 30 allegedly influential instagrammers be yentas and inspire young guys to start styling with Axe hair products — all packaged up in an Instagroom campaign.

Hair gel for the cool young dude

Axe thinks it’s time young men start rubbing in the goo. The Axe Instagroom site touts to have a “3-step guide to pulling off the perfect look.”

Excuse me, but, perfect look? Is styling your hair into the Messy Man Bun, Rockabilly, Braids for Men, The Comb Over or Modern Quiff considered perfect?

Not quite, because if it was already they wouldn’t need popular internet personalities to showcase their luscious locks. Currently, not many men use hair products in their daily morning routine, which means the Axe-inspired Instagram videos have a ways to go. Influence marketing, however, is growing in popularity, so maybe they have the right idea.

Influencing hair and purchasing decisions

Each of the Instagroom videos walk guys through the hairstyling necessities of the modern man. The Instagram influencers who made the videos were given Axe product to use and the freedom to craft whatever messages they wanted, and their messages will be seen by the collective millions of fans they have garnered on the web. They are writers, producers, actors and umm, hairstylists with the goal to encourage millions of fans to style their hair in that effortless, “I’m 24 and just rolled out of bed” look every day — and of course, use Axe products to do it.

Axe is totally into pushing guy-centric messaging. The videos made by Axe’s “Hair Creators” are entirely chick-free, focusing instead on what most consider guy-stuff, like driving and skateboarding and, in general, just hanging out. Think back to early 2000’s; Axe had a stinky campaign for cologne-like body sprays for young men that were the end-all, be-all of making them appealing. The message to young guys delivered most memorably in spots like 2006’s “Billions”—that if they squirted some of this magic potion under their arms, the babes would come running. Fech!

A hair off the mark

While each video has it’s own unique style, and is unscripted from Axe, it’s still an advertising campaign, and the viewers know. Comments have been somewhat negative, which isn’t surprising considering the appeal of online Influencers is that it’s an unscripted look into the life of an interesting person.

The internet personalities were apparently given the freedom to make their message their own, which explains the lack of continuity between their hair stories. To me though, it sounds more like a lot of mixed messages lost between jokes me and my gel-less hair are just too old to get.

Looks like I’ll be sticking with my own perfect look, thank you very much.

Howard Davidson, Arlington, MA


Apple’s Health app ad makes you want to relax

Apple is using soothing animation and stop motion in their ads in the simplistic new spots show the benefits of being good to your body.

Everyone these days seems to be so busy saying that they are busy getting healthy and/or losing weight. I’m having very little of the fodder. In fact, it’s a pet peeve. Is losing 2 pounds in 2 weeks a milestone that needs to be shared on Facebook? Anyway, I am into this recent ad Apple’ Health app campaign that sedates viewers into believing that using the app will make them feel just as comforted as the ads do.

Tracking steps in the right direction

Fitness tracking apps and wearables are nothing new, and are a standard part of most major smartphone operating systems sold today. Fitness trackers like the Fitbit have hit mainstream popularity, while in-phone apps like Apple’s Health app makes health tracking as easy as lugging your phone around – something most people do anyway.

These apps are just a tool towards taking the first step in getting healthier, something Americans desperately need to do. Apple is taking steps to help by having you think healthy choices can become the lullaby of your day. With this app and just a few small life changes, it appears your life can be drastically improved.

The most relaxing activity

It’s not just the words spoken in the latest Apple Health ads that speak to viewers, but the images and tonality of it. Fitness ads commonly contain high-energy content, like muscle-clad athletes partaking in extreme sports or high-endurance workouts to inspire the viewers to buy their products in hoping they too can reach the heights only the top 1% of athletes ever will. The Apple ads, however, take a different view, without a single hint of neon sweat or top-tier athlete in sight.

The most relaxing activity

It’s not just the words spoken in the latest Apple Health ads that speak to viewers, but the images and tonality of it. Fitness ads commonly contain high-energy content, like muscle-clad athletes partaking in extreme sports or high-endurance workouts to inspire the viewers to buy their products in hoping they too can reach the heights only the top 1% of athletes ever will. The Apple ads, however, take a different view, without a single hint of neon sweat or top-tier athlete in sight.

A dreamy, female British voice speaks over soothing colors and images as the user feels more like they’re entranced in a children’s animation than an ad for an app to get you sweating more. Images in the “nutrition” campaign show colorful, healthy-looking veggies next to vibrant snack and junk foods, potentially asking the viewer “which will you choose,” though everyone knows that cookie will be eaten before the asparagus any day.

It’s not telling viewers they’re bad for eating the cookie, but rather, they should eat half the cookie and eat an apple too – and that’s okay they want the cookie, because who wouldn’t?

Simple as an avalanche

“Everything’s connected,” is the mantra of Apple Health backbone, with explanations of “eating better leading to sleeping better,” and alluding to a few good behaviors escalating into a full-blown healthy lifestyle whether you like it or not. It’s the chilled-out butterfly effect of being healthy.

“Squeeze in a minute here, a minute there – anything to get your heart beating. As long as you’re moving, you don’t need to hit the gym, just find something you love to do.”

It’s a great notion, especially since even a small amount of daily activity can amount to great outcomes in the long run. Making time for that activity in a busy workday, however, especially when trying to pay off the debt of buying the latest Apple device, isn’t as easily explained.

Health, mind and wellness are all interconnected, but with the busy work schedules of many Americans, that tends to take a back seat. While many ads for improved health and wellness tend to shy on the edge of fear-of-obesity, you have to give Apple credit for trying to showcase it differently. However, if working out was as easy as listening to a British lady explain animations in front of pretty colors, everyone would be doing it.

“The less we sit now, the more active we can be later in life,” the dreamy voice says, quietly inspiring viewers to get off the couch and get outdoors. There is another option untold in the ad however – you can always just sit now, and sit later in life, and buy an Android that won’t tell you to do otherwise.

Sweet dreams are made of this. I guess.

-Howard Davidson


Goodby’s Adobe Stock campaign is a work of art

It’s rare when advertising can be called a work of art, but that’s the best way to describe this campaign for Adobe Stock.

If you didn’t know that Adobe had a stock image offering, I’ll forgive you because I honestly didn’t know either. Of course we’re all familiar with the usual stock image suspects – and I say suspects because have you seen some of their cheese-tastic images? Don’t get me started on clip art, BTW.

Well apparently Adobe wants to compete with the likes of Getty Images and shutterstock, so they tasked Goodby Silverstein & Partners with promoting their brand.

Those who use cliches (I would never) might say a picture is worth thousand words, but the Make a Masterpiece campaign says a whole lot more about Adobe Stock. Four digital artists from around the world were hand-picked from Behance to show off their digital brush-work skills by re-creating lost, stolen, or destroyed art using Photoshop and images from Adobe Stock.

So far, four paintings from Frida Kahlo, Carvaggio, Karl Friedrich Schinkel, and Rembrandt have been recreated and showcased in Adobe’s video series. There’s a plan to bring even more masterpieces back to life, and to have “how to” tutorials. Right now there’s a time lapse, behind-the-scenes video of artist Ankur Patar from India recreating “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee” after it was stolen in 1990 from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Goodby’s associate partner and creative director Will Elliott said, “No one can truly replace these lost paintings. But by faithfully re-creating them with Adobe Stock, we can remember them again and reshape what the world thinks about stock photography in the process.”

Goodby managed to take an artist community owned by Adobe (Behance) and combine that with software from Adobe (Creative Cloud/Photoshop) to promote a third Adobe product – Stock. It’s a campaign that matches different pieces better than the most perfect color palette, and truly shows that for a digital artist/designer, Adobe has everything you need.

Visit the Masterpiece site to watch the transformation that happens during this process. You’ll get to see work that’s a thousand times better than some paint-by-numbers watercolor creation.


MTV says “Elect This” to Millennials

MTV is telling millennials to “Elect This” and vote in November.

The network has an edgy campaign to get millennials, who are often criticized for being too entitled, to show that they care enough about politics to take action. This might seem like mission impossible, but MTV had a genius idea: only talk about issues that millennials care about because they’re directly affected by them.

Basically MTV wants to inspire people to go from watching Real World to actually doing something to change it. And yes, I’ve watched the show — many times.

The main spot touches on gun control, student debt, immigration, LGBT rights, and the war on drugs. It’s a very upbeat video that features an “Elect what?” “Elect this!” call-back chant. We’ve also heard (and seen first-hand in some cases) that millennials are narcissistic, so it makes perfect sense that this video ends with a re-purposed Leonardo DiCaprio quote saying, “You are the last best hope of Earth.” Talk about inflating egos, but can someone really go from unpaid intern to the best hope for Earth in under a minute? That’s pretty scary.

If you aren’t sick of the election yet, then you’re really in luck because this campaign is a lot more than just one video. There’s a whole “Infographica” series, which is a collection of 30-second clips featuring quick-hit facts about many of the same hot button issues from the first video. Give it a watch if you care to find out what percentage of millennials support gun control.

I find this interesting because it seems like more of a peer pressure tactic doesn’t it? What happens when you find out that you don’t agree with 80% of people your age? I would think this would make you less likely to want to vote, but then again I think it’s crazy to pay $5 for a single slice of pizza even if it is “artisan,” so what do I know about millennials?

Just when you thought it was over, there’s more! This is starting to feel like an infomercial, but MTV added another leg on to this campaign with a “Robot Roundtable” video series. This is a big shift from focusing on the seriousness of issues, to making fun of them with talking stuffed animals. It appeals to a totally different audience from the first two ideas, so if weed smoking parrots is more of your wheelhouse, then give these a watch.

Finally, there’s a celebrity component that features Melissa McCarthy and Common among others telling the viewer their stance on the important issues. Again I find myself asking “how will this convince people to vote?”

This campaign truly has something for every millennial, but the biggest thing I take away is that neither candidate is mentioned – at all. Not sure if that says more about the mindset of millennials, or the quality of our nominees, but 74% of voters age 18-35 have said that they’re embarrassed by the current election because it reminds them of a bad reality show (and MTV seems to know enough about those).

Every 4 years we can count on MTV doing an election campaign, but do they really work? We see stats about issues millennials care about, but where are the stats that prove MTV actually influenced people to go out and vote? If they’re not making an impact, then they’re just adding more to all this election noise. Maybe MTV should treat these campaigns like they treat music videos now – just not show them.