Friday, March 5, 2010

Free Idea Friday

Ideas are easy. Execution is hard. Every Friday I will share an idea that's been rolling around in my head that I have neither the time nor the where-with-all to execute. Remember, it's free, so take it for what it's worth. 

The NFL Over-thinks Overtime
If you know me, you know I'm an NFL junkie. So when I heard that the NFL was contemplating changing the overtime rules, I was thrilled. The current system is biased toward the team that wins the coin flip and it's just plain boring. A couple of first downs and a field goal and we have a winner, with no chance for the other team to match the other.

As of now, the NFL is considering changing the rules so if the team that wins the coin toss scores a field goal, they have to kick off to the other team. That team then has one drive to score a touchdown to win or kick a field goal to tie. If they tie it up with a field goal, the game continues and next score wins.

However, if the team that wins the coin toss scores a touchdown on their first possession the game is over. This doesn't solve everyone's big problem. There's still a chance that only one team will touch the ball in overtime. And it just seems convoluted.

A proposal has been floated to add an 8-minute overtime, but the NFL Players Association is against it, saying that adding so many extra plays to 10 to 15 games a year will increase the risk of injury too much. Understood.

So here's my thought.
Eliminate overtime for the regular season. Instead of crediting both teams with a tie, however, penalize them by giving them both a loss. This will make the 4th quarter more exciting as teams gamble on both offense and defense as the clock winds down. Nobody will play for the tie anymore.

In the playoffs where we must have a winner, then we go to a shorter, more exciting version of the college overtime system. Put the ball at the 10-yard line. You have four downs to score a touchdown. No field goals allowed. If you score a touchdown, you must go for a two-point conversion. Each team gets the ball at least once. Continue until we have a winner.

Simple, effective, and it keeps extra playing time at a minimum for the NFL Players. Best of all, real football players decide the outcome of the game, not the kickers.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

There's no hiding place on the web

Yesterday, my wife came home from Whole Foods with a box of Back To Nature California Lemon Cookies. They're made with 100% natural ingredients, have really nice packaging that's made from 100% recycled paper, support the Nature Conservancy and they're pretty darn tasty.

I was reading their story on the package and saw their 50 year heritage, then looked at the short ingredient list on the label when I noticed the line "Distributed by: Back To Nature Foods Company, Madison, WI 53704 USA"

Now, I lived in Madison for 17 years, worked in advertising and knew just about every company in town that I might like to do business with. This is definitely one of them. So how is it that I never heard of them?

It turns out Back To Nature was quietly purchased by Kraft Foods in 2003 and based on the address on their website, the business is run out of Kraft's Oscar Mayer headquarters in Madison. But you'd never know that by looking at the package.

It's a smart move by Kraft on a couple of fronts. First, putting Back To Nature in Madison, a town that boasts more Birkenstocks and bicycles per capita than just about any other place in the country gives the brand tons of counterculture cred. Second, downplaying the fact that it's a Kraft brand keeps the stink of corporate food off of it.

But still, this feels funny to me. Like they're hiding something. Especially when I read some of the consumers comments on their website, like this one from Kathy in PA...

"Incredible! 1,000x's better than Kraft chem-chem mac/cheese. I keep the single-serving cups at work. Just a microwave, water, and couple minutes gives you...presto...210 calories of heavenly satisfaction!"

It's pretty clear people have no idea that Kraft owns Back To Nature and think it's run by a small cadre of true believers who are using natural and organic ingredients and being good corporate citizens. My fear is that when they find out that Back To Nature is a division of Kraft and run out of the very same building where they make Oscar Mayer hot dogs, bologna, pimento loaf, and Lunchables, there will be some backlash.

Lying to your consumers is never a good idea, even a lie of omission. I'll be watching to see how this one plays out.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Great insights drive great advertising

It's the hottest spot on TV. Everyone seems to be writing and talking about it. And not just in advertising columns. Last week, I heard the phrase "I'm on a horse" used on the ESPN program PTI. And just yesterday Rainn Wilson tweeted "Will someone please give that Old Spice "I'm on a horse!" guy his own TV show? Dude is brilliant."

Great writing, great acting, great production (the spot is all one take and the only CGI work is the bottle/diamonds effect at the end). It turns out all this buzz was started by a simple insight uncovered by researchers doing a little dirty work. 

According to Barbara Lippert in Adweek, "The backstory for the category is that men who move away from bar soap to body wash do so mostly by trying out their girlfriend's stuff in the shower. Hence the dude-smells-like-a-lady theme resonates for both guys and girls."

That's some mighty fine digging for a fresh insight into the category. And without it, the creative team might not have arrived at such a cool solution.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Let them eat (cup)cake

New opportunity comes when you challenge the conventions of the category. There's no better proof of this than Butch Bakery.

Everyone knows what cupcakes are, right? They're light, pink, girly and magical. And they're for kids. Then David Arrick, a former Wall Street real estate lawyer and founder of Butch Bakery, asked the simple question, "why?"

Why can't cupcakes have a masculine sensibility? Why can't they have names that read more like a drink menu: B-52, Side Car, Old-Fashioned? And why can't they have bold flavors like Rum & Coke, Kahlua soaked cake with Bailey's Bavarian Cream filling, and whiskey with orange? The answer of course is, they can.

Mr. Arrick created a successful business by questioning something so fundamental to the category that no one had ever questioned it before.

So if you want to find new opportunities in your industry, ask yourself what everyone knows to be true about it. Then ask yourself what a business might look like if it broke a few of those rules. It might just look like success.

Monday, March 1, 2010

And the gold goes to...

At the Olympics, the competition was not only on the slopes, the rink, the half pipe and the track. It was also on television among the Olympic advertisers. Unlike the Super Bowl where the competition is a sprint, Olympic advertising takes place over weeks so the advertising has a chance to grow, or grate, on you. This year, the winner was...

P&G took a universal insight – your children are always your kids no matter how old they are – and wove it into a campaign that started strong out of the gate. The campaign is also supported by the microsite,, where you can see videos from Olympic moms, send a thank you note to your mom, and yes, this is about selling products after all, participate in a promotion for a $100 coupon book for P&G products.

More than the typical brand campaign, there are also really sharp :15 second product spots that you can see on the microsite. But what I really liked was this spot that they cut together to run during the last couple of days with footage of Olympic moms at the games.

As many commercials as NBC ran during the games, it was nice to have a few that were actually worth watching.