Friday, April 6, 2012

Artisan, defined craftsmanship, dies at 474

Artisan, a word that meant: one that produces something in limited quantities using traditional methods, has lost all its meaning over the past six months when international restaurant brands Domino's and Dunkin' Donuts began selling "Artisan" products.

Born in 1538, from Middle French and Northern Italian parents, Artisan is best known for defining craftspeople like silversmiths, cheese and wine makers, luthiers and other highly talented individuals in the culinary and visual arts and trades.

Artisan has been suffering from overuse for several years, beginning with its adoption by Starbucks in 2007, but its demise quickly accelerated in 2009 when Wendy's introduced its Artisan Egg Sandwich "Made with fresh cracked Grade A Eggs, natural Asiago cheese, freshly cooked Applewood Smoked Bacon or all natural sausage and Hollandaise sauce all atop a honey-wheat artisan muffin toasted to order."

In 2010, Artisan was put on life support when the world's largest snack food company introduced Tostitos® Artisan Recipes® tortilla chips. Mass produced, but formed and packaged to look hand-made, these chips opened the floodgates for other non-artisinal applications.

Artisan is survived by the words craftsman, handworker, handicrafter, tradesman and artist.

There will be no memorial service, but family members request purchases be made in Artisan's name at local bakeries, restaurants and other independent retailers.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Improve baseball in an instant

I wrote this post in 2010 after Armando Galarraga was robbed of his perfect game by a blown call at first base. A call that could have been easily reversed in less that 90 seconds by using available technology. As the Major League baseball season gets underway, with a few changes based on input from others, I again make the case for expanded use of instant replay to protect the integrity of the game I love. The objective is simple...

Get Every Call Right Every Time

On June 2, 2010, Armando Galarraga's perfect game was taken from him on a bad call by one of the best umpires in baseball, Jim Joyce. 

This is not the first bad call that's ever been made. In the 2009 playoffs there were at least six clear umpiring errors, including two in one game by Tim McClelland, another umpire many call the best in the game. And in 1985, the St. Louis Cardinals had a World Series title taken from them by Don Denkinger's missed call on a put out at first.

When even your best umpires consistently make egregious errors, it's time to do something. And on that night in 2010 when Major League Baseball and its fans were robbed of a bit of history, the National Hockey League showed them how it should be done.

Somebody already does it right

The NHL places cameras on the crease so an independent official can review every goal to determine whether the puck completely crossed the goal line or not. On Philadelphia's second goal, on ice referees blew the call. It was a tough one, as the puck was on its side spinning, but replays clearly showed the puck had crossed the line. Before the next face-off, the replay official notified the head referee he wanted to review the play and less than two minutes later a goal was awarded to the Flyers.

The biggest argument against replay that I hear is that the games take too long as it is and this will only make them longer. This is a red-herring.

Games have gotten longer because pitchers and batters take an inordinate amount of time between every pitch. Adding two or even three replays per game – which is a generous estimate of its use – would add less than six minutes to the game's running time. (And for the record, the Galarraga perfect game was a brisk 1:44. I think they had time for replay on that one.)

Fixable mistakes should be fixed

The second argument I hear is that human error has always been a part of the game so we should keep it that way. Accepting errors and poor judgement as a standard business practice is what drove Chrysler into bankruptcy. You really want to follow their lead?

The key is to set up a system that works quickly, efficiently and effectively without disrupting the game or adding to the manager's burden during the game. So there will be no challenge flags. No limits to the challenges so people have to decide whether or not a particular play should be reviewed. It should happen automatically and be consistent with the pace of play.

The Gallaraga Rule

So here's what MLB should do to institute instant replay, starting as soon as they can get people trained and the technology set up.

1. Put two hi-definition monitors in a booth overlooking the field in every stadium, manned by a replay official. Run a feed of every camera directly into one monitor with a switcher that allows the official to call up any camera on the other monitor to see it full screen. The official will be able to blow up the image, run it frame by frame, etc.

2. The booth official looks at every play in real time and have only the time between pitches to determine whether a play warrants review. Reviewable calls will be limited to:
        a. Safe/out calls at every base
        b. Fair or foul balls along the boundaries
        c. Home run calls
        d. Tag up calls on pop fly outs

3. If the booth official sees an obvious blown call or a play that's close enough to review, he immediately contacts the crew chief through a wireless earpiece that the crew chief will now wear. The umpires stay on the field while the booth official reviews the play. If the official cannot find evidence to overturn the play in 90 seconds, the play stands as called on the field. If the play is overturned the official notifies the crew chief, the appropriate changes are made and the game resumes.

Umpires are right with their calls a huge percentage of the time so this system would rarely need to be implemented. And given the circumstances under which they work, their performance is amazing. But when they get a call wrong, as happened on that Wednesday night, one of the best umpires in the league becomes known as the guy who blew the call on the perfect game.

It's unfair to the umpires. It's unfair to the players. It's unfair to the fans. And ultimately it's unfair to the game I love.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Doner sells itself

Yesterday MDC, a Canadian based agency holding company, announced it was buying a minority stake in Doner, the third largest independent ad agency in the U.S. That, in and of itself, is not really unusual. MDC owns a piece of several U.S. agencies including CP+B, Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal and Partners, 72andsunny and Colle & McVoy.

What I found interesting was that this spot that Doner produced in 1990 may have been at least partly responsible for MDC's $15 million dollar investment.

In 2005 the Canadian Institute of Communications and Advertising named "Bike Story" one of the top 10 Canadian ads of all time and MDC CEO Miles Nadal said he was familiar with Doner because of the work they did for Canadian Tire.

What's a great commercial worth? In this case, maybe millions of dollars to the agency that created it.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Burger King's new campaign flames out

The nation's number 3 fast food chain has a new tagline, "Exciting things are happening at Burger King."

If by exciting they mean a menu that includes the same salads, snack wraps and drinks its largest competitor introduced years ago and an advertising campaign that uses recycled celebrities in entirely predictable ways, then maybe Burger King execs need to get out more.

This is just one of the new spots Burger King created to push their new, expanded menu. (You can see the full campaign here.)

I applaud the effort. Burger King was losing share by promoting their traditional menu through the juvenile advertising efforts of CP+B.

It's just that this effort doesn't go far enough.

You can't catch up by just copying the leader. You need to be bold, different and interesting. None of Burger King's new products nor any of its ads are any of those things.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Why Chevy's new agency arrangement will work

Last week GM, IPG and Omnicom announced the formation of Commonwealth, an historic new structure for the advertising business for Chevrolet.

This is the first time two major agencies (McCann and Goodby) from different holding companies will share a global account and many are predicting nothing but trouble for two good reasons: greed and ego.

There are a lot of greedy and egotistical people in the ad business and for this reason, many are predicting subterfuge and shenanigans to abound with each agency throwing the other under the proverbial bus at every opportunity.

But here's why it will work: greed and ego.

Yes, right now they're all speaking in humble tones: "We're doing it for the team," "We have the client's best interest at heart," "We're so honored to be working with each other," blah, blah, blah...

In reality this arrangement will work because the leaders of both agencies know that 50% of $3 billion is better than 100% of $0. Both agencies know they don't have the resources to handle the business alone.

This will work because Joel Ewanick, Jeff Goodby and Nick Brien have healthy egos and pride themselves on doing what others tell them can't be done. Goodby will push McCann and McCann will push Goodby and Ewanick will push both making sure he gets the results GM needs from this partnership.

Greed and ego aren't necessarily bad things. In fact, you can't run a successful business without them. Ego is what keeps agencies from doing mediocre work, and greed is what makes sure they do it profitably.

It's when greed and ego get out of control – as was the case with all those brainiacs in the financial sector – that their effect becomes toxic.

Here's to hoping that doesn't happen in adland.