Wednesday, September 21, 2011

This research has a bad aftertaste

A few months ago Burger King dumped its ad agency. About a month ago it debuted this well-shot, if extremely ordinary spot.

And now a research company, YouGov says that consumer's perceptions of the number 2 burger chain have nearly doubled on their "BrandIndex."

Two things.

First, As much as I hated the previous campaign, I find it hard to believe that dumping the creepy king character and running 30 seconds of food shots would really push Burger King's image past McDonald's. The folks at YouGov had better check to see what the people on their survey panel have been smoking over the past month. That may explain their increased appetite for Whoppers.

Second, even if the results are accurate and people think Burger King's food is more appetizing than McDonald's, they'll be sorely disappointed once they get into the store. I haven't been into a Burger King that looks either like a) it has been updated in the last 30 years or b) anyone in the place knows how to use a mop.

As McDonald's continues has proven with same store sales increases throughout the recession despite burgers that have as much appetite appeal as a bag of nettles – fast food is about much more than the food.

Until the franchisees that operate their restaurants get this, Burger King will continue to be a distant number two in the category.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Why Netflix will flame out

Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix messed up. Now he's apologizing for it. If you're a subscriber as I am, his mea culpa email was in your inbox yesterday morning. If you're not a subscriber, you can read his it here on Netflix blog.

The problem is, he's apologizing for the wrong thing to the wrong people and taking the wrong steps in an effort to correct the problem.

He's apologizing to customers for not communicating about the service and pricing change that caused over a million of them to leave. And in response he's splitting the company in two and making it harder for people who want access to both DVDs and streaming video.

First of all, he doesn't need to apologize to his customers. He needs to provide them with the service they want at a price their willing to pay and all this will be over. Too many businesses overestimate the power of social media and how it can help them maintain a "relationship" with their customers. Here's a clear demonstration of what that relationship is really about. Give me the service that I want and I'll give you money. Period. End of story.

Stop wasting so much time and money trying to be "friends" with your customers.

The people he needs to apologize to his investors who lost half their money when Netflix stock price plummeted over the past two months thanks to their inability to anticipate consumer rejection of their business decisions. He will also need to apologize to those who will be losing the rest of their money in the coming months thanks to the incomprehensible business model they've created moving forward.

How did this happen? Just read the blog post and see how many times the pronouns "I," "me" and "we" are used versus "you." (It's funny the only time he uses "you" is when he describes the inconveniences of the two company structure).

Netflix is operationally focused around what's best for them, not their customers. and that's ultimately why they will fail. Not because they communicated a pricing change badly. If that were the case most companies would be in trouble.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Things die for a reason

This week a production company called Oink Radio announced the winner of its 14th annual Dead Radio Contest. It's going to a script written by a freelancer to promote the power of radio, which will now be produced for free by Oink. If it's like any of the spots from past winners, the client may have been right to kill the script.

The few that I've listened to, though funny, were either off brand or didn't succeed in communicating a relevant message that differentiated the client's business from its competition in any meaningful way.

Like any writer, I have a file folder full of scripts I've written that clients didn't buy for one reason or another. Many are scripts I still think would have helped move the needle for their brands. But I've never been a fan of these types of awards.

First of all, it's my responsibility to sell my best work to the client. That's what separates great agencies from good ones.

You have to know how to present your work in a way that makes it easy for your client to buy what you're recommending. If you find clients are killing a lot of your great ideas, then stop blaming them and get some help. There are a lot of good training programs that will help you become a better presenter. Here's my favorite.

Second, Dead Radio Awards, and others of this ilk, only reinforce the "us versus them" mentality that runs rampant inside the walls of most advertising agencies. Clients are not the enemy. Entering work in competitions like this says "you were too stupid to see the greatness of my idea." I can promise you, that attitude won't endear you to them.

And finally, the only reason competitions like this exist is for the ego gratification of the idea's creator. This is advertising. It's a business where we make money by selling things of value to clients. If you want to make stuff for yourself without pay, become an artist.