Perception and truth in advertising

April 30, 2010

By Michael Mark, CEO/Creative Director @ NYCA

Nursing scores high on the Gallup “respected industries” poll. Banks have plummeted. I can see that. But I get crazy when I see ad agencies ranked so low. The good news is we moved up 4%.

Advertising works in two arenas: perception and truth. One is ephemeral, one remains. One is a thought form, and like any form built from concrete or notion, it will mutate and eventually fade. Making room for more! One can be seen as bad or good. The other is.

Perception example: Fox kills rabbit. Bad for the rabbit’s babies who will not get food and will die. Good for the fox’s babies who will be able to eat. The truth is that the fox killed the rabbit.

When we create images, plans, events, or stimulation with intentions to grow! (as we call it at NYCA) businesses, we work with perceptions to tell the truth. The target audience will have an overall belief: we use that as a starting point, a connective moment, and we create from there to change or enhance behavior.

But we must always be in touch with truth as well.

Why is truth important in advertising? Isn’t it just about selling stuff – say anything you want long as the shopping cart fills? Well, for one, we need to sell again and there has to be a relationship of trust built. Research says you can’t fool more than 42.3% of the populace twice unless it deals with authentic Elvis memorabilia. The real reason is we are spending our days and night doing this, investing ourselves in it, so it must be honored. We can’t fool ourselves every day. We must believe we are doing something of worth. For us, it’s creating growth in the marketplace for our clients.

Perception: People in advertising are only interested in doing something they and their uber-stylish peers think is cool. Bad for the client who wants to sell stuff and is paying for the full intention but getting the diluted attention of the agency. Good for those who do cool stuff and get accolades from their peers. The truth is the business grew or it didn’t. Data doesn’t lie.

That’s why we say nothing matters but grow!

Even moving up the Gallup Poll.

Bill Bernbach and Aristotle inspire NYCA to grow!

April 28, 2010

By Mike Frey, Associate Creative Director @ NYCA

Great insights into creativity. Still relevant.

“You don’t persuade people through the intellect,

you do it through the passions.”


The trouble with co-workers.

April 27, 2010

By Michelle Edelman, President @ NYCA

Michael Mark & Lynne Roswall

It is said that when people share a lot of time and a small space with one another, their rhythms start to match. This phenomenon was beautifully illustrated by my colleagues Michael and Lynne, who had sweated out the weekend for one of our clients under NYCA’s roof, and today dressed identically. I don’t just mean they both wore jeans today. I mean they were uniform.

-Black sweater with white undershirt

-Jeans faded to the exact shade

-Black shoes

-Black rimmed glasses

You might think maybe we just all need a good long weekend. But actually these physical manifestations emerge from our grow! team system. Our teams are geared to need each other. Other agencies say “a great idea can come from anywhere,” but that statement is actually built into our process here. If emotional twinning is the end result, I suppose we will just have to live through some monochromatic meetings. Because we love it this way.

Our World

April 26, 2010

By Lynne Roswall, V.P., Director of Production @ NYCA

It’s that time of year again – when winter turns to spring and the Encinitas Street Fair begins the season in full swing.

While hand-holding couples peruse the clothing stands, handmade artwork, bamboo Salad tongs and cutting boards, jazz / new age / classical music floats in between the bodies walking from stall-to-stall. Families stroll in-time with their kids and their teenagers walk a few feet in front of them, escaping. Consumers talk amongst themselves about the things they want to purchase; they have direct conversations with merchants, listen to their stories (some repeat it to their friends or loved ones) while some find interest in – or are coaxed into – handling the items on the table.

Brands are constantly trying to seep, seemlessly, into our lives and become a part of those conversations. Some have made it. Like badges of honor, our favorite logos are showcased on hats, bags and t-shirts.

Inside the walls of NYCA, we work intensely on the best ways to reach you to help our brands grow! Maniacally focused, we cull the work down to the right word, the right image, the accurate stat, the proving points and the most poignant, clearest way to pierce through the clutter of everyday messaging and entice you. We want you to pause, if only for a moment, and ask you to consider us before you pass us by and go on to the next booth.

Tweets, Facebook ads, email notices and new product requests, videos, commercials, print ads, URLs – all encourage you to come closer, stroll up to the table and try us out. We want you to hear our story, be interested in it, talk about us to your friends and loved ones. And, through the music playing, alongside the strollers and teenagers, maybe you’ll become a fan and wear us proudly… seemless.

Large ladies lingerie: Too much is too much for the networks.

April 22, 2010

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @ NYCA

Lane Bryant

Seems there’s a double standard for the ladies with double Ds. Victoria’s Secret shows skinny girls in nothing much, and the world gawks. I do, too. I admit it. But when larger sized models do the same, they are told they are too sexy. I think that might be a triple standard. I went to the Lane Bryant web site to take a professional gander. But they’re being a tease and won’t let you see behind the scenes yet – they want you to come back for more. I won’t bother. They should have been quicker to pick up on their buzz like all the articles in the trades. There’s plenty of controversy and skin to look at other places. Timing has much to do with sex and selling.

Jean Naté

The story reminds me of back in the day when I did a spot for Jean Naté. At the time it was a musty brand, a once-vibrant body splash. Revlon owned it and would only give us a tiny budget with a juicy goal of rejuvenating the pea-colored grandma-smelling liquid and make it sexy again so young girls would use it après bath. Suré. We took their footage, which was famous for years and years of women putting on the stuff, with their signature slap of refreshment. And then we did the naughty part of cutting to black between cuts, between splashes – making it feel like censor tape. We took the music tracks from the past and did a remix. It was just a demo really with some back art cards cut in. But two of the then-three networks wouldn’t run it. “Too suggestive,” they said. We showed them the original spots which they’d been running forever without the blacked-out parts and those were approvable. But when they couldn’t see something that they wanted to see, they would not let their viewers see it. You see.

It made news in the industry trades and was in the Enquirer, TV news. Showing less than what they had shown for 20 years made it hot and sexy. For a only moment. Grandma’ s smell just didn’t catch on with those young’uns (lesson: products have to live up to the hype).

The point is it’s all about the imagination. It was all in the network censors’ dirty minds. Good creative work plays with reality and perception; engages, sometimes enrages, challenges in order to sell. Now, brands do need to be careful that they are remaining true to themselves as they reach out and test boundaries. But they should always be testing. That’s how you grow. From their web site LB looks to be a respectable and respectful brand, as I have long known them to be. I just can’t imagine what the issue is with the spots. Likely they’ll have a poll to vote – is big sexier than waifs? Wonder what those network boys really want to see?

I say, come on, let the big girls play.

Is it enough to be great?

April 21, 2010

By Meghan Tetwiler, Brand Planner @ NYCA

Yesterday the No. 1 player in women’s professional golf, Lorena Ochoa, at just 28 announced that she is retiring. I suspect her unexpected announcement is stirring debate amongst, not only LPGA followers and Ochoa fans but also, professional athletes everywhere.

Lorena Ochoa

Athletes of Ochoa’s caliber rarely leave their succession of achievements to pursue other passions. In Ochoa’s case she has said, after getting married last winter, she wants to focus on her family and charitable programs she believes in. I can only imagine how laborious it must be to feel torn choosing between what she wants to do and she is extremely good at.

In my lifetime I’ve watched pros like Michael Jordan, Brett Favre and Dana Torres attempt to retire but been unable to walk away from needing the intensity of the competition or the high global esteem that professional athletics satisfy.

Let’s think beyond athletics, for a moment. How often do successful business people admit to being unfulfilled by their wealth of achievements? This common lack of acknowledgment, prevalent in so many professionals, feeds our culture with false hope. We think being great is enough, but is it?

Success, whether in monetary value or championship trophies, doesn’t necessarily lend itself to self-fulfillment. It takes courage to walk away. As a competitive woman, it takes devotion to put family first. I admire Ochoa’s talent and also her great conviction. I hope she finds the fulfillment she is looking for in her next stage of life.

Golf is more important than money.

April 19, 2010

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @ NYCA

All actions, all words can lift the entire world.

You don’t need to be in a powerful place to do this.

Brian Davis lifted us up by playing fairly, and calling a penalty on himself.

He lost the tournament.

And inspired the best in us.

Goldman Sachs has employees who took advantage with millions of hard working people’s money.

They got bonuses in the millions.

Two stories of the day.

Each of us must take accountability for our actions – including words, including thoughts.

Should morality affect creative opinion?

April 16, 2010

By Mike Frey, Associate Creative Director @ NYCA

It’s a subjective business.

When the face of your brand falls from grace, what do you do? The public is outraged at Tiger for his indiscretions. So chances are, any Nike ad featuring Tiger would be damned by the public no matter how he was portrayed. I thought they showed guts by attacking the issue head on.

I thought to myself before the spot aired, what would his dad think about his infidelity? In fact, according to a show I saw recently, his dad also cheated on his wife. So he might not have even cared. Who is to say whether his dad would have disapproved of using his voice for this commercial?

Much of the public has judged this spot as being manipulative.

This is how I judge a commercial.

Does it hit me and make me think?

Is it original?

Is it not pandering to make a sale?

Is it going to create buzz?

I thought it did all of that. I can’t remember the last time a commercial even touched me that much. I don’t think this spot was trying to sell anything. It said, “I f–ked up. I got caught. There is nothing I can say to change that. I just have to learn from it and move on.”

So the public doesn’t like it. And what does the public like? Girls Gone Wild videos. Porn. Millions of dollars are made each year off of this type of stuff. The public really liked “Don’t Squeeze the Charmin.” With Mr. Whipple. A classic indeed. But that isn’t what I appreciate or admire.

A tough assignment for Nike. Thought they handled it well. I still think it will get in the One Show. Gold is a tall order to call. But I stand by what I think is great.

When Advertising Stings

April 15, 2010

By Michelle Edelman, President @ NYCA

Whether you TiVo them or skip over them, ads are an important part of our cultural experience.

I don’t know about you, but I still find it creepy when brands bring back people from the dead, cure disease, or otherwise mess with life and death. I didn’t like it when Christopher Reeve stood up and walked. Because he never would again, and it seemed somehow disrespectful to use his condition for commercial purposes. Most famously and most recently, we heard Tiger Woods’ deceased dad questioning his son’s morals. Will the much-debated TV spot sell shoes? We don’t know. But probably Nike is on your mind now. You are noticing that swoosh on people’s feet and heads more than you used to. It’s not that there is suddenly more Nike out there, it’s that Nike is more present for you. That’s what advertising can do, at its best. Because when it’s time to go shopping, the swoosh will jump out at you then, too.

But still, it feels like a dirty trick. And that’s where advertising stings. A sting has both pleasure and pain associated with it. Or so we said in our advertising campaign for the good/bad nightclub, Stingaree. There is a certain truth in it – our brains can mix up good and bad feelings and there is intensity in this.

I didn’t mean to write this post about Tiger Woods. Actually I wanted to address this piece of copy. It stopped me because I thought – wow that woman looks uncannily like Gilda Radner! Whom I loved and miss. On further inspection, I found that the ad was using her image to sell fake wood flooring. Point taken. Looks real. But would Gilda want to be brought back to life to shill laminate? Do we want her to? The ad represents her beautifully and yet – misrepresents her wholly. I am left feeling that Armstrong is inauthentic and not simply fake.

Sometimes advertising points out its own lines to be crossed and that in itself, is part of our cultural learning.

Playing for Redemption

April 11, 2010

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @ NYCA

The person. The player.

One has nothing to do with the other and yet, with the Tiger Woods situation, they have become forced bedmates.

No one knows if what happened off the course will affect Tiger’s play.

I can’t imagine his shot-making will affect Tiger’s relationship with his family.

But what about the rest of us?

Are we more likely to accept, excuse, Tiger’s transgressions if he wins?

When he struggles on the course, will we think, “Aha! That’s Tiger getting his comeuppance for what he did to his family.”

I think so, though I don’t think it’s right. What do golf fans have to forgive him for, except not playing, not entertaining them? After all, that’s the contract we have with him: He hits amazing shots, we stand mouths agape.

He is a father, husband, son to a very few so his athletic majesty will have little effect on them. The vow is not love, honor and birdie.

Tiger’s big sponsor, Nike’s Phil Knight says this whole matter is already forgotten and never was much anyway; in fact, he’s made a commercial to remind us of it. Just to increase sales. Those brands that have left him will not come back to Tiger, though they will want to. He will attract other quality brands. They will be betting on his personal turn-around. They will get the chance to be magnanimous, capitalize on forgiveness, knowing he is as attention-getting as an athlete has ever been. The first new brand on board will get unearthly press. No doubt, there’s already a line of companies ready to align themselves with him. And it’s as long, perhaps, as the fans ready to cheer for the world’s best’s best golf shots.

The kind that win trophies, build brands, make fans, land in the hole but fall short of redemption.