Um, Men’s Wearhouse? You Just Fired Your Only Asset

Not being one to wear tone on tone ties or burgundy shirts with black suits, I don’t spend a lot of time in Men’s Wearhouse. But I had a last minute need out of town once and was pretty impressed by their service. That said, yesterday’s news that they fired their founder and spokesman George Zimmer is astounding.

Apparently, despite a recent company announcement that profits were up an incredible 23%, the board recognized George’s audacious continuation to age. And at sixty four years old, their infinite wisdom deemed him irrelevant in their pursuit of young Millennials. One pundit claimed “An old guy with a gray beard may not provide credibility to the product in the eyes of a 22 or 24 year old.”Dennis Ryan, Olson, Advertising

Indeed. That could never work to drive a brand to relevance and interest, right Dos Equis?

On the upside, this could be an opportunity to energize the brand with aggressive and compelling new advertising… It could be a time to create new relevance with a new voice and look… This could unshackle the brand and allows it to soar to new, unimagined heights for men’s retail…

So why does it feel so inevitable that we’ll soon be seeing some pretty forgettable men’s fashion advertising?

Goodbye George, it was nice knowing you. Say, would you be open to voiceover work?

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

 

B-G-B (Bonus Guest Blog): There’s No Better Time to be Rad to the Power of Sick

Picture 1Guest Blogger: Ross Buchanan

The Lincolnesque Ross Buchanan has been writing and creative directing for over two decades in Minneapolis and Chicago at shops big and small, from traditional to design to digital.  At Campbell Mithun, Ogilvy, JWT, MC Brown, Bagby and his currently freelance gig at Tribal DDB, his thoughtful and comprehensive approach to problem solving and continuing self-education about every aspect of our constantly changing business lend his work a decidedly pointed relevance and impact.  Of course, this flexibility can also generate some internal cognitive dissonance, like when he simultaneously juggled work for one client serving the poor and another selling luxury timepieces.  Ross’ creativity extends far beyond copy to the carpentry and wiring required by his ongoing, six year restoration of the vintage prairie-style home he enjoys with his wife and two daughters.  In an industry of far-flung creative talents, Ross is particularly rangy.  And a damn fine fellow to boot.

Last Friday Dennis introduced you to “The Wicked Sick Project,” the brainchild of two creatives from George Patterson/Y&R in Australia.  Hopefully you carved out four minutes and change from your busy day to view this simple reminder that creativity does, indeed, work.  For those of you who missed this “Rad to the Power of Sick” effort, you have homework and can view your assignment here

Lost in the sheer entertainment of the piece is the motive for the exercise.  These two guys probably wouldn’t have made this video unless they felt like racehorses put in a pen.  They are emblematic of creatives everywhere who feel hamstrung by client constraints.  Sure, such constraints are an occupational hazard to anyone who works on the agency side of the business.  However, the current recession intensified these constraints as clients are now extremely reluctant to put a foot wrong.  In my freelance travels, I find more and more of my peers struggling to produce engaging work for increasingly safety-minded clients. 

If anything is to be learned from “The Wicked Sick Project” it is that any client who still has the financial wherewithal to advertise in any media should make the most of it, not the least.

“The Most Interesting Man in the World” campaign for Dos Equis beer is a fine example of a brand doing the former, not the latter. My guess is the folks who create their advertising are a having a pretty good time, too.  How could they not with copy like, “He’s a lover, not a fighter.  But he’s also a fighter, so don’t get any ideas”?  One TV spot features a scene of our hero as he runs laughing through the woods clutching a red fox.  In the distance, hunters on horseback with their hounds are in hot pursuit.  Hilarious.  And memorable.  Meanwhile, the rest of the category is mired in a recitation of attributes and ingredients.  The big domestics are having a tug o’ war between “triple hops brewed” and “drinkability” they actually expect us to watch.  The result?  Dos Equis sales are up.  Way up.  Double-digits up.  AdAge.com reported that, through mid-June, a period when imported beer sales dropped 11%, sales of Dos Equis rose more than 17%, moving the brand into eighth place among imports. “There’s never really been an import brand that’s been built so clearly through advertising,” said Benj Steinman, publisher of Beer Marketer’s Insights.  Hmmm, could it be that “Rad to the Power of Sick” levels of creativity work beyond tired BMX bikes?

Of course, some brands still insist on playing it safe.  But is safe really all that safe these days?  Slashing advertising spending erodes brand equity.  Not being interesting to people erodes brand equity.   And brand equity is often all the packaged good manufacturers like the Procters, Krafts and Quakers of the world have to offer.  They can farm out manufacturing, but they can’t farm out marketing their brands (although some have tried with those hideous “Brand Power” commercials).  In the end, much like the US healthcare conundrum, there is a big opportunity cost to doing nothing or doing something poorly: the brand can erode to the point of irrelevance.   Right now, the value of the brand is the only thing preventing a switch to private label. “Hey Kraft, see that red dot glowing on your forehead?  Private label holds the gun and has an extremely itchy trigger finger.” 

Since there is no longer true safety to be had, the safety-minded may as well go big or go home.  Toward that end, an old boss of mine used to remind his charges of what he called the Three S’s. “Simplify, surprise and sell,” he used to say, “Not ‘simplify, sedate and sell’ or ‘simplify suck and sell.’”

In other words, be Rad to the Power of Sick. 

By Ross Buchanan, Freelance CD/CW

BTW—that old boss was Dennis Ryan.

Please Someone, Anyone: For the Love of All That is Good and Decent, Pay Attention To Radio

In the past five days, I’ve driven about 1,300 miles: down to Indianapolis, over to Columbus, back to Chicago then a round trip to Grand Rapids.  It was a vast wasteland.

picture-4No, not Indiana or Ohio or Michigan–I’m talking about FM radio and specifically, the endless and indistinguishable :60’s that clog it.  The work I heard was so uniformly uninspired and instantly forgettable, you got the sense that the creatives responsible considered it with as little regard as the eventual listening audience.  How sad.

About ten years ago, I judged a radio awards show in Chicago.  The inimitable Mike Sheehan and I were charged with reviewing work from the financial services sector. After enduring a dozen or so monologues touting leveraged risk debenture asset funds, our ears were glazing over.  But then, something magical happened: a spot came on that sparkled with an idea.  It had a strong premise and it proffered highly personal musings about the future with delightfully engaging language and a rich tapestry of sounds.  It was so remarkably fresh…up until it too took a hard turn into the flat, soul-crushing boilerplate of leveraged risk debenture asset fund talk.  At that point, Mike shook his head and said “They had it going good, then they went and dropped the meat in the dirt.”

Mike’s expression is good radio writing; pointed, colorful and memorable.  Yet this kind of individuality rarely exists on air and that’s a damned shame.  Think of how few accents you hear on the radio, or the paucity of regional expressions and offbeat verbal deliveries.  It’s so bad that when a brilliant radio ad comes along, you can’t miss it.  Consider the spectacular “The Most Interesting Man in the World” ads for Dos Equis: between the antsy-Phillip-Glass-resolving-into-a-Zihuatanejo-boat-party music bed, the ludicrous thunderclap and of course, the pants-wettingly funny writing, you simply can’t ignore these ads.  The announcer’s latest deadpan line “If he disagrees with you, it is because you are wrong” is so pitch perfect, it made me flat out jealous.  Similarly, consider all the comedy that Bud Light’s mined from their “Real Men of Genius” work.  That work’s been remarkable for years.

Actually, it may surprise some but I do like one financial services radio campaign very much.  From the moment I first heard it, the Lenox Financial work made me pay attention.  Founder Jon Shibley talks turkey with his Georgia accent, crowing about eliminating closing costs for mortgages.  And he does this with a zealot’s passion, signing off with something no other mortgage company would dream of saying: “It’s the Biggest No-Brainer in the History of Earth.”  Wow.  That’s writing.  I mean, a lesser person might say “Biggest No-Brainer In History” but adding the entire planet as a qualifier?  Brilliant.

Radio should be joy for creatives; it’s cheap enough that you can rework and revise it until your spot sings, plus you can get more intimately involved with the production process than with any other medium.  Not to mention that at any one time, a major portion of your audience will be driving I-65, hoping you’ll be interesting.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79