Saturday, December 5, 2009

Reinventing the wheel ... and making it sexier!

It's a challenge for any brand to take on a new icon ... it can be even harder to reinvent an old beloved one. Sun-Maid Raisins has looked to modernize it's nearly 100 year old image with a new 3D version of the Sun-Maid Raisin Girl developed by Synthespian Studios. It's a move welcomed by the growers and corporate marketing team ... but not unexpectedly seen it's share of criticism. Recently a short and fairly positive blog article in conservative DC journal Weekly Standard called her "hot" and compared her to Julia Roberts. (My personal viewpoint leans towards Anne Hathaway). Before you could say "busty", Jezebel, PopCrunch, and even Yahoo Finance jumped in with considerably more than 2 cents worth. Fresno's KSEE TV added some regional viewpoint ... and the viral machine just keeps spinning. The YouTube video has received over 60,000 views in a week and hundreds of comments and emails coming in.

I believe the age old Ad Age adage (;-)) ... goes "any Press is good Press", but is it? Oh yes, definitely ... at least in this case. A peruse of blags and comments shows the tone as overall positive, with some bemusement as to why this is even an issue at all.  Discounting some typical venom around sex in advertising, America body image fixation, her body being too ample (or not ample enough), her moral outlook, orientation, etc ... the reality is that the Sun-Maid girl is a hot online news topic nearly 3 years after she was "developed". Not bad for a 90 year old babe ... and it offers Sun-Maid a way to rejuvenate and connect with the younger health minded consumers who will be their future. Look out Megan Fox ... without losing sight of their brand tradition, having "Lorraine" getting into shape and eating earth-friendly foods works well as a message. Better than those old school singing raisins that sold more toys than dried fruit.

Personally, I think most of the negative comments are just a secret disruptive plot by the military/industrial potato chip conglomerate. Looking forward to further adventures ... rumors of yoga, soccer, dancing and other healthy pursuits are bubbling. Hey, how did you think she kept that fine shape ... picking grapes? 

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

"I'm not a real user but I sell one online ..."

Unlike it's role in the Wall Street meltdown it helped orchestrate, once in a while the FTC does something intelligent ... and perhaps benefits us all! With the online world Tweeting like there's no tomorrow (a scenario many films like "2012" want you to believe), the FTC wants to rein in the blatant endorsement "free-for-some" that is clogging the Internet pipes.

Advertising is fee based promotion ... and subsidized or paid endorsements clearly fall into that category. The blurring of personal and professional lines around online social media has been based on novelty and curiousity. As the Internet emerges as a measurable communications channel with actualized new revenue forms it must take on more mature responsibilities.

The FTC has now set regulations that the online community better pay attention to. One of the greatest threats to the warm public embrace of "social networking" is fee based messages and endorsements. Just like in "real life" (and this is ours, don't forget) when someone I know and respect tells me about a product or service ... I listen and respond. When I sense an opinion is shaped by profit in any form ... all bets are off.

Experience teaches the difference between friends and "associates". My extended social network consists of many who are "friendly" but are not friends. I certainly would not regard advise from paid associates in the same manner as unpaid. iMediaConnection's paid Facebook "friends" and SponsoredTweets (which at least is exactly what it says) will quickly pull the plug on a belief that a lot of people are worth listening to. Filtering will follow.

For now I'll just be glad to see a more honest tone by many "influencers" and a transparancy to the sponsors of their messages.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

(M)AdMen Shoot Endangered Species in the Foot!

Working with some ad agencies is like going hunting with Dick Cheney ... even side-by-side you can get shot! DDB Brazil, in trying to gain World Wildlife Federation account work, attempted to portray the scale of environmental damage from global warming in comparison to the attack on the New York City on 9/11. The result speaks for itself. It's not that the idea shouldn't come up at all... but wasn't anyone over 19 attending the meeting? Despite WWFs initial disclaimer of any prior knowledge and unauthorized use of brand, the concept got far enough to be submitted at the One Show (and win an award!). In my experience, nothing goes out for submission unless senior decisionmakers at both agency and client have signed off ... if not, heads roll. A joint apology has now been issued, but more than a little too late.

So, my eager young associates ... take heed. This is what Fluent Ideas is all about. Everything you think is cool, relevant and meaningful may have alternative meanings to other audiences. If you listen only to the voices in your head, you will hear one hand clapping. Open up creative debate ... and listen ... and then think again! If these guys had done so, someone without 9 lattes in their bloodstream (or worse) might have urged caution. Unabashed creative enthusiasm ... like a monkey with a gun ... can quickly do damage that cannot be repaired with words.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Healthcare 2.0: Wake up and Breathe

Excuse me, there's just been too much going on out there ... but that's not news.
If it's not global banks, its the auto industry or healthcare ... or just more inane posturing by Sarah Palin. (does anyone really take her seriously? ... I mean REALLY?). "We are where we are", a very wise man told me (My Dad, a long time ago ... and again just recently), "we'll deal with it a day at a time".

The financial system has a life of it's own ... hopefully we can let it get healthier. My media work in New York has taught me that news drives the market ... but not usually in the direction analysts predict. This is certainly true now. If analysts paid more attention to underlying causes (and traders actually listened) the market might exhibit more intelligence ... but "we are where we are". Companies that ignore the heartbeat of change will wither, those that feel the wind will fly.

Healthcare, on the other hand, is a controlled device of man's medical skill and financial cunning. The US healthcare system is clearly in need of overhaul ... costs are far too high and options far too few. Whether you think that a national health plan will help or hurt, information will prove the most valuable tool.

SO ... on that note, here is an interesting project on a key trend in medicine: self-service. Ronald Dixon, director of the Virtual Practice Project at Boston-based Massachusetts General Hospital is introducing a medical kiosk, called Health Care 360. Blood pressure, diet, physical issues and even test data are entered and over time can act as an important diagnostic screening tool, allowing doctors to pay more attention to patients needing live attention. By turning patients from passive to active participants in their own health care, a truly holistic approach to medicine is enabled.

I worked on a project over a decade ago for GNC called "Alive Stores" with a similar intelligent "self-service" approach. While it faded out at the time due to costs, the concept was valid. With the drumbeats on Healthcare growing louder along the Potomac ... the industry would be well advised to pay attention (and perhaps some funding) to similar projects making smart use of such enabling technologies.