Why Do They Want My Phone Number?

Next time you go to the store and they ask you for your phone number when you’re checking out, just say “NO.”
Here’s an ABC News article to shed some light on the mess we’re in.
“The various data companies are trying to acclimate people to invasions of privacy. It started with the zip code and now it’s moved on to phone numbers,” said Chris Hoofnagle of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in San Francisco. “I’m willing to bet that retailers’ market research is showing a willingness of customers to share the telephone number, and that’s why it’s happening.”
It could open a person up to telemarketing — even if they are on the federal “do not call” registry. According to Hoofnagle, giving a phone number while making a purchase may establish a business relationship, and companies can call individuals on the “do not call” list with whom they have prior business relationships.
Susan McLaughlin, a spokeswoman for Toys R Us Inc., said its stores have asked for phone numbers for several years. She believes most customers have no problem voluntarily giving their numbers at the register — though it’s “no problem at all” if they decline. “It’s so we can send you offers, coupons, et cetera, and we don’t sell it to third parties,” she said. “I’d say the majority of people like getting coupons.”
The ToysRUs people just upset me. Next time they ask for a number, give them: 1-800-869-7787. That’s their “guest” line.
And don’t look to the government for help with privacy. They’re busy spying on you.

Harold Pinter’s Nobel Lecture: The Pen Against the Sword

From Harold Pinter – Nobel Lecture
Art, Truth & Politics

© THE NOBEL FOUNDATION 2005
In 1958 I wrote the following:
‘There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false.’
I believe that these assertions still make sense and do still apply to the exploration of reality through art. So as a writer I stand by them but as a citizen I cannot. As a citizen I must ask: What is true? What is false?
Truth in drama is forever elusive. You never quite find it but the search for it is compulsive. The search is clearly what drives the endeavour. The search is your task. More often than not you stumble upon the truth in the dark, colliding with it or just glimpsing an image or a shape which seems to correspond to the truth, often without realising that you have done so. But the real truth is that there never is any such thing as one truth to be found in dramatic art. There are many. These truths challenge each other, recoil from each other, reflect each other, ignore each other, tease each other, are blind to each other. Sometimes you feel you have the truth of a moment in your hand, then it slips through your fingers and is lost.
I have often been asked how my plays come about. I cannot say. Nor can I ever sum up my plays, except to say that this is what happened. That is what they said. That is what they did.
…….
I have said earlier that the United States is now totally frank about putting its cards on the table. That is the case. Its official declared policy is now defined as ‘full spectrum dominance’. That is not my term, it is theirs. ‘Full spectrum dominance’ means control of land, sea, air and space and all attendant resources.
The United States now occupies 702 military installations throughout the world in 132 countries, with the honourable exception of Sweden, of course. We don’t quite know how they got there but they are there all right.
The United States possesses 8,000 active and operational nuclear warheads. Two thousand are on hair trigger alert, ready to be launched with 15 minutes warning. It is developing new systems of nuclear force, known as bunker busters. The British, ever cooperative, are intending to replace their own nuclear missile, Trident. Who, I wonder, are they aiming at? Osama bin Laden? You? Me? Joe Dokes? China? Paris? Who knows? What we do know is that this infantile insanity – the possession and threatened use of nuclear weapons – is at the heart of present American political philosophy. We must remind ourselves that the United States is on a permanent military footing and shows no sign of relaxing it.
Many thousands, if not millions, of people in the United States itself are demonstrably sickened, shamed and angered by their government’s actions, but as things stand they are not a coherent political force – yet. But the anxiety, uncertainty and fear which we can see growing daily in the United States is unlikely to diminish.
I know that President Bush has many extremely competent speech writers but I would like to volunteer for the job myself. I propose the following short address which he can make on television to the nation. I see him grave, hair carefully combed, serious, winning, sincere, often beguiling, sometimes employing a wry smile, curiously attractive, a man’s man.
‘God is good. God is great. God is good. My God is good. Bin Laden’s God is bad. His is a bad God. Saddam’s God was bad, except he didn’t have one. He was a barbarian. We are not barbarians. We don’t chop people’s heads off. We believe in freedom. So does God. I am not a barbarian. I am the democratically elected leader of a freedom-loving democracy. We are a compassionate society. We give compassionate electrocution and compassionate lethal injection. We are a great nation. I am not a dictator. He is. I am not a barbarian. He is. And he is. They all are. I possess moral authority. You see this fist? This is my moral authority. And don’t you forget it.’
A writer’s life is a highly vulnerable, almost naked activity. We don’t have to weep about that. The writer makes his choice and is stuck with it. But it is true to say that you are open to all the winds, some of them icy indeed. You are out on your own, out on a limb. You find no shelter, no protection – unless you lie – in which case of course you have constructed your own protection and, it could be argued, become a politician.
I have referred to death quite a few times this evening. I shall now quote a poem of my own called ‘Death’.
Where was the dead body found?
Who found the dead body?
Was the dead body dead when found?
How was the dead body found?
Who was the dead body?
Who was the father or daughter or brother
Or uncle or sister or mother or son
Of the dead and abandoned body?
Was the body dead when abandoned?
Was the body abandoned?
By whom had it been abandoned?
Was the dead body naked or dressed for a journey?
What made you declare the dead body dead?
Did you declare the dead body dead?
How well did you know the dead body?
How did you know the dead body was dead?
Did you wash the dead body
Did you close both its eyes
Did you bury the body
Did you leave it abandoned
Did you kiss the dead body
When we look into a mirror we think the image that confronts us is accurate. But move a millimetre and the image changes. We are actually looking at a never-ending range of reflections. But sometimes a writer has to smash the mirror – for it is on the other side of that mirror that the truth stares at us.
I believe that despite the enormous odds which exist, unflinching, unswerving, fierce intellectual determination, as citizens, to define the real truth of our lives and our societies is a crucial obligation which devolves upon us all. It is in fact mandatory.
If such a determination is not embodied in our political vision we have no hope of restoring what is so nearly lost to us – the dignity of man.

Read the whole thing and weep.

The ExecutiveTalent Revolt

From a great article in Forbes:
It’s a lesson corporate America needs to learn before an entire generation of senior talent melts down or decides to stay home. The 60-hour weeks once thought to be the path to glory are now practically considered part-time. Spouses, kids, friends, prayer, sleep—time for things critical to human flourishing is being squeezed by longer hours at the top. Says Bill George, a self-described 60-hour man who ran medical-device leader Medtronic for a decade and who now serves on the boards of Goldman Sachs, ExxonMobil, and Novartis: “It didn’t use to be this intense. It got much worse starting 15 years ago, when we went to this 80-hour week.” Top executives are increasingly strung out, he and others say. Service firms in consulting, law, and investment banking have built 80-hour weeks into their businesses. If it keeps up, the toll could make itself felt not only on companies but on the nation, eroding productivity growth in an era when global competition has never been more intense.
Indeed, dozens of interviews with top executives, consultants, and researchers suggest that a revolt of talent is brewing, and that it’s time to reenergize the stale “work-life” debate by starting at the top.
What will it take to make headway on this agenda? Business leaders need to do four things. First, quit defining the desire for doable jobs as a “women’s issue.” Men want this too. Second, start viewing efforts to humanize senior jobs as a competitive advantage and business necessity, not as one-time accommodations for the CEOs’ pets. Third, realize that progress is actually possible; there are examples to show that work at the top can be retooled. Finally, make it safe within companies and firms to talk about these things. “Businesses need to be 24/7,” says Xerox CEO Anne Mulcahy. “Individuals don’t.”

Note:
Consider some facts. While every red-blooded American knows that the U.S. has the most productive economy in the world, the truth is that in 2002 it was actually less productive per hour worked than countries that are supposed to be slackers: Belgium, France, Germany, Norway, and the Netherlands. True, the U.S. had more output per person, but that’s only because a bigger share of Americans worked, and many Americans work longer hours.
Read this remarkable article here >>

Innovation: inversely proportional to size of budget


BAH gives us a “special report” on innovation by Barry Jaruzelski, Kevin Dehoff, and Rakesh Bordia: “Money Isn’t Everything.”
“The myth that higher R&D spend translates into competitive advantage has been around for decades, but it appears to be particularly strong now. Pick up any business magazine or newspaper. You’ll find ample evidence of the belief in the effectiveness of larger budgets, for both corporate and national competitiveness:
“U.S. spending on R&D will also have to increase if the country wants to remain technologically dominant.” —Fortune, July 2005
“We need at NEC to increase our R&D spending by as much as 50 percent to keep ahead of the competition.” —NEC Corporation (#41 on the list of 1000) senior vice president, quoted in The Age, July 2005
“The European Commission will today appeal to E.U. countries to increase spending on research and development, or face being out-paced by competitors such as China.” —Financial Times, July 2005
“[Yahoo] spends as heavily on product development and R&D as Google and Microsoft…falling behind in this arms race would spell big trouble.” —Fortune, August 2005

The results of the recent study of the Booz Allen Hamilton Global Innovation 1000 — the 1,000 publicly held companies from around the world that spent the most on research and development in 2004 — may provoke a crisis of faith. The study, which may be the most comprehensive effort to date to assess the influence of R&D on corporate performance, suggests that nonmonetary factors may be the most important drivers of a company’s return on innovation investment.
The major findings:
Money doesn’t buy results. There is no relationship between R&D spending and the primary measures of economic or corporate success, such as growth, enterprise profitability, and shareholder return.
Size matters. Scale leads to advantage. Larger organizations can spend a smaller proportion of revenue on R&D than can smaller organizations, and take no discernible performance hit.
You can be too rich or too thin. Spending more does not necessarily help, but spending too little will hurt.
There isn’t clarity on how much is enough. Instead of clustering into any coherent pattern, R&D budget levels vary substantially, even within industries. This suggests that no single approach to spending money on innovation development is universally recognized as the most effective strategy.
It’s the process, not the pocketbook. Superior results, in most cases, seem to be a function of the quality of an organization’s innovation process — the bets it makes and how it pursues them — rather than the magnitude of its innovation spending.
Collaboration is key. The link between spending and performance tends to be strongest in those areas most under the control of the R&D silo, such as product design, and weakest in those areas where cross-functional collaboration is most difficult, such as commercialization.
Meanwhile, the big boys keep flushing their money down the toilet:

Read the full report. Take notes. Forward it to your CEO.
see my post: “Have We Given Up on Science?”

Worst Practices in Business Blogging

“The days are over when a business could market a crappy product or treat their customers like marks and assume that the worst that would happen is that they get a few angry letters they could then just dump in the round file.”
So says David Kline in this post “Don’t Mess With the Blogosphere!”
Also: “How many more battered and bloody companies will have to litter the corporate landscape before business wakes up to the new, customer-empowered marketplace we’re living in?”
Good question, David.

What Would the Lord Sell?

The Economist says it all: “Onward, Christian shoppers
“The reason for corporate America’s new-found interest in religion is simple: the market is booming. Packaged Facts, a market-research company, estimates that the “religious products” market was worth $8.6 billion in 2003 and will grow to $8.6 billion in 2008. Christian radio has seen its market share expand from 2.2% in 1999 to 5.5% today. The Association of American Publishers reports that the market for religious books grew by 37% in 2003. The definition of religious books is vague—but religious publishing is undoubtedly growing much faster than the industry as a whole.”
Moneylenders in the temple?

Will Britain be the next Newfoundland?

From the Economist:
An ocean current in the North Atlantic is getting weaker. That may be bad news for north-west Europe…
“Those who worry about climate change worry about many things: rising temperatures, rising sea levels, changes in rainfall and stronger storms, for example. One of the things they worry about most, though, is changes in the circulation of the ocean’s currents. That is because these currents are the main way that heat is redistributed from the tropics, where there is a lot of it, to the polar regions, where there is not. If the currents shifted, it would mean that temperatures in some parts of the world changed much more than they would merely as a result of the local atmosphere warming up as heat-trapping greenhouse gases accumulate. Indeed, it could mean that in some places temperatures fell, rather than rising.”
“The result, when the numbers were crunched, suggests that the volume of water being carried by the Atlantic Conveyor Belt has dropped by 30%.
“If that is correct, and more importantly, if it were sustained, the result for places such as Britain would be a 1°C drop in average temperature—enough to be noticeable. If it were not merely sustained, but got bigger (and the 2004 figure was larger than that for 1998), the temperature drop would be greater. And if the conveyor belt stops altogether, as it has in the past on more than one occasion, Britain’s climate would come to resemble that of Newfoundland. The questions, of course, are why is this happening, and can anything be done?”
Will Britain freeze?
Read all about it.

The Stupidity of GM

“Performance in our crazy world is helped through learning from others. Suggestion: Take a look at how your organization’s resources and talents line up against the evolving picture of customer needs. Then evaluate your efforts against a “NOT GM” scale. The better you do — the more your strategy is unlike GM’s — the better your organization’s future and performance is likely to be.”
So says Doug Smith in this brilliant and sad analysis of stupidity at GM.
Blog or no blog, Bob Lutz, the vice chairman of product development at General Motors is not doing his job. Maybe he should stop blogging and focus on his customers’ needs! Here’s what he’s blogging on
Just how sick is GM?

How Sick is Your Company?

Is your company Passive-Aggressive, Fits-and-Starts, Outgrown, Overmanaged, Just-in-Time, Military Precision, or Resilient? These are the fun categories that make up your organization’s DNA, according to the folks at BAH.
Read the HBR article: The Passive-Aggressive Organization by Gary L. Neilson, Bruce A. Pasternack, and Karen E. Van Nuys.
“Healthy companies are hard to mistake. Their managers have access to good, timely information, the authority to make informed decisions, and the incentives to make them on behalf of the organization, which promptly and capably carries them out. A good term for the healthiest of such organizations is “resilient,” since they can react nimbly to challenges and recover quickly from those they cannot dodge. Unfortunately, most companies are not resilient. In fact, fewer than one in five of the approximately 30,000 individuals who responded to a global online survey Booz Allen Hamilton conducted describe their organizations that way. The largest number—over one-quarter—say they suffer from the cluster of pathologies we place under the label “passive-aggressive.’’ The category takes its name from the organization’s quiet but tenacious resistance, in every way but openly, to corporate directives.
“In passive-aggressive organizations, people pay those directives lip service, putting in only enough effort to appear compliant.”
I used to work for someone like that once. Her strategy was to say yes and do nothing. The result? Nothing happened. Everything I accomplished happened despite of my boss, not because of her. I also knew an entire IT department at a Fortune 500 company that behaved the same way. The modus operandi was: “What can we NOT do today?”

Wait. There’s more.
Here’s a full report on the research – “A Global Check-Up: Diagnosing the Health of Today’s Organizations”

The Economist: Fat Turkey Takes All the Gravy


Says the Economist:
“Executive compensation in America—already far ahead of the rest of the world, despite the best efforts of overseas managers to catch up—is now rising inexorably again. In fiscal year 2004 the total compensation of the median American company boss rose in every industry, by between 9.7% in commercial banking and 46.1% in energy, according to a new report by the Conference Board, a research organisation. In the big companies that comprise the S&P 500 index, median total chief-executive compensation increased by 30.2% last year, to $6m, compared with a 15% rise in 2003, according to a study published last month by the Corporate Library, a firm that tracks corporate-governance data.”
One of the interviewees – Bob Pozen, chairman of MFS Investment Management, is pissed off at executive pay packages that reward bosses generously even if they fail. He is extremely critical of the role of compensation consultants. They, he says, tend to be chosen by the chief executive, and to drive up pay by recommending that the top man should be paid more than his peers, having chosen a group of peers whose pay errs on the high side.
Hmmm. Can we outsource the CEO to a low-cost country? Is there no cure for Enron-ititis? Read the full article.
Maybe that’s why Peter Drucker wasn’t so popular at the end. He called this “looting.”
The last word – again from the Economist: “…hell is more likely to freeze than bosses’ pay.”

Using Cheerleaders to Sell Drugs

“Exaggerated motions, exaggerated smiles, exaggerated enthusiasm – they learn those things and they can get people to do what they want.” – LYNN WILLIAMSON, an adviser at the University of Kentucky, on why so many former cheerleaders are hired as sales representatives for pharmaceutical companies.
This article in the NYTimes says that drug companies hire “sexy drug representatives as a variation on the seductive inducements like dinners, golf outings and speaking fees that pharmaceutical companies have dangled to sway doctors to their brands.”
“In a crowded field of 90,000 drug representatives, where individual clients wield vast prescription-writing influence over patients’ medication, who better than cheerleaders to sway the hearts of the nation’s doctors, still mostly men.”
“But pharmaceutical companies deny that sex appeal has any bearing on hiring. “Obviously, people hired for the work have to be extroverts, a good conversationalist, a pleasant person to talk to; but that has nothing to do with looks, it’s the personality,” said Lamberto Andreotti, the president of worldwide pharmaceuticals for Bristol-Myers Squibb.”
Right.
I’m comforted to know that our doctors, with all their years of “education,” are swayed so easily… Sex still sells. Maybe we should use cheerleaders as environmental lobbyists…

Koppel Steps Down: The End for Nightline?

During his 42 years at ABC News and 26-year run on “Nightline,” Ted Koppel has seen — and reported — it all.
As he prepared to anchor his last edition of “Nightline” Tuesday night, Koppel spoke about his experiences as an anchor and reporter for the show long regarded as the smartest news program on TV.
Read the ABC Interview here.
Note that it is filed under “entertainment.” Prediction: Nightline is finished.
The new format stinks. Since when is “less news, more crap” a formula for success? Oh I forgot, this is US TV- i.e. “entertainment.”
Note to the BBC: you can now safely take over the news marketspace in the US.

Neil French: The Strategy Interview

November 2005 – Strategy Magazine
One is enough
Q’s and cocktails with…Neil French, outgoing worldwide CD, WPP Group
by Lisa D’Innocenzo
By now, you surely must have heard about the Neil French kerfuffle. The short version: Last month, he resigned his post at WPP because of reaction to controversial comments he made about female CDs during a Toronto event, organized by ad site ihaveanidea.org.
Strategy interviewed French a day before that fateful night and felt he made some salient points about the state of the industry, as well as what it takes to be brilliant. So, despite the fact that he called said reporter “Sweetpea,” we thought this was still worth a read.
LD: What do you think of the state of the ad industry?
NF: What in Canada? Please don’t ask me, because I don’t know. I could have got somebody to brief me about Canadian advertising. That would have been wrong, because it’s like a politician being told what to say. I don’t do that shit. I’ve never been to Canada before – what the hell would I know about Canada? I like the place – I love the weather. [Spoken on a 28 degree day in late September.]
LD: How about overall?
NF: There’s this hysteria on at the moment about how television is dead and it’s all going to interactive. That’s such bollocks. Yes, in the Western World there are a lot of computers out there and interactive thingy-bobs. But actually 90% of the population of the earth is not sitting in front of an Apple tonight. You go to some huge shack city in Brazil, or Thailand, and that light from the shack is a television. Why is everybody panicking? I remember when radio was dead. I remember when newspapers were dead. They’re fine. Now television is dead. No it’s bloody not. It’s just a lot of inept people who think that with the next thing, there might be some good ads. There won’t be of course, because they are genetically inept.
LD: What do you think of the fact that more money is going into interactive then?
NF: If you put everything into mobile, it’s going to piss people off much more than the television ads. Mostly mobile’s used by kids. They are going to make the phone calls, they are going to text their mates, they do not want to be interrupted by some jerk who wants to sell them a soft drink. So this is more likely to burn out very quickly. They will watch the stuff they want to see, and that’s when you get them. Yes, TiVo can make sure you don’t watch the ads, but if it’s a really good ad that appears during the moto racing or the soccer, you’ll leave it on to hope the ad comes on. I’ve heard people say this: “I love this one. I’m not going out for a pee.” It’s human nature. If the media buyer’s clever enough, it’s going to always be in the same program. Having your ad liked by the consumer, that’s the Holy Grail. No more conversation needed on that subject; move on.
LD: So what does it take to make a good ad?
NF: Talk to people. That’s all it is. When Winston Churchill said: “We shall fight them on the beaches,” he was talking to one bloke. Every single person in his little house in the middle of England saw himself standing shoulder to shoulder with Winston, with a pitchfork in his hand on the seashore. And when Hitler said: “We’re going to take over the world; we’ve had a rough deal,” every soldier at Nuremberg, said: “He’s talking to me, and I must not let him down.” So good or evil, the great communicators talk to one person. That’s what advertising does – I’m talking to you, this is the right car for you, or beer, or insurance company, or whatever the hell it is. Only for you. Luckily, there are millions of people like you and they will all buy it, but you don’t say that in the ad. There’s no you plural in advertising, it’s you singular.
LD: How come more advertisers don’t get that?
NF: Because 95% of the people in this business are buffoons. They’re clowns. The creatives blame the clients and the suits, and that’s only because the suits frequently come into advertising because they couldn’t get into banking or retail, so you get an awful lot of those. But the client has every right to make his own decision on his own product. It is our responsibility to explain to him why this will work better than that, and if we fail to do that, we don’t deserve to do good advertising.
LD: What work have you seen recently that gets it right?
NF: I have to bring this one up, because it’s a great example of talking to the audience. It was an ad [I did] for [Panadol] in China. They researched aspirins and the Chinese got a bit upset that it said: “Take two,” because they thought: “It seems like such a waste, using all these aspirins up.” So they brought out the single pill.
If you want to talk to people, tell them something that’s relevant to them, and then twist it in the direction of your product. So I wrote the line of “One is enough,” and the picture was a picture of George Bush and George Bush. It was huge.
Next year’s big winner is going to be the Big Ad from Australia [for Carlton Draught]. It is the heaviest irony possibly ever used in advertising and utterly hilarious. If you look at it and deconstruct it, it’s the perfect ad for beer, without having to show a lot of people in the public going “yo-ho-ho.”
LD: Why do so many ads in categories like beer look the same?
NF: Why? I’ll tell you why, and this is where the client is to blame. He sees an ad, and says: “Oh, that’s good, can we have one like that?” And it’s the very thing he shouldn’t say. He should say: “Can we have one not like that.” Otherwise, how can a consumer, who doesn’t really care, ever differentiate? The client’s problem is only that his widget means to him his house, his wife, their kids, their education, their retirement and his funeral. Whereas to anyone in the street, it doesn’t come in the top million of things to worry about. Our job is to say: “This might be irrelevant, this widget,” but of course the client’s saying “No, no it’s really important; this is the best widget in the world.” But actually, they don’t care, mate. All we can say is: “When you need a widget, we do good ones.” So our job is to bridge the gap between the client’s enthusiasm and the audience’s apathy.
LD: How hard is that to do?
NF: It can be extremely difficult. The whole trick is to explain gently to the client why this is so. There are stupid people, but generally speaking the guy that runs the client is highly intelligent and highly motivated and a bit of a pirate. You don’t get to run a big brewery or big car company without being a little ballsy. Unfortunately for the hewers of wood and fetchers of water, further down the hierarchy, their interest is keeping their job.
I can’t remember a single occasion I’ve sold a decent campaign to anyone but the top guy. I did a campaign for Martel brandy, which was long copy and nobody had ever done long copy for brandy before. People down the line weren’t sure about it, but I made them let me present it to Edgar Bronfman, who in those days was the head of Seagram’s. The suits put me up front with great trepidation and I explained the ad. Edgar got it before I explained it to him. He understood the whole concept. He said: “Yeah, that’s great. We’ll go there. Looks like nothing we’ve ever seen before.” All the racks of suits sighed with relief because they didn’t have to make any decisions. At the end, he walked all the way down to the far end of the table, and said: “Neil, when these guys screw this up, you call me.” And I said: “You mean if?” And he said: “No, I mean when.”
LD: Are presidents getting more involved in marketing?
NF: No. I wish they bloody did. The only benefit of being old and wizened, like myself, is I can generally see the top man. Because I’ve been around forever, longer than God. The guy they want to see is the superstar, somebody like Bogusky, or an old bozo like me.
LD: How do you convince marketers to take a risk?
NF: Something I say to clients a lot is: “Are you actually just spending this money to mark time, or do you really want to make a difference? And how much of a difference do you want to make specifically? How much do you want sales to go up? How much can you supply if this was successful?” Ask all those questions and then you can say: “Now I know how brave you’re going to be. Not at all or very.” And of course, all bravery is risky, and so is safety.
LD: When do you know you can’t work with a marketer?
NF: There are three things important when running an ad agency. Someone called it the three F’s: fun, funds and fame. If a client gives you money and fame, that’s great. If he gives you fun and fame, but not much money, that’s still great. If he gives you lots of money and lots of fun, that’s ok. But if there’s no money in it, and no fun, but it will make you famous, you have to think about it. If it’s just fun, then you should have left years ago. One is bad. Two is ok, three is unbearably wonderful. After all, it is your life. The client doesn’t own you; you’re not a slave; you can say uncle.
LD: Why are boutique agencies becoming increasingly popular?
NF: The boutiques are attractive to big clients because they have a personal stake in the success of this relationship. The client joins and asks a smaller agency to help them in the knowledge that there might be a few moments of stress in this relationship, but in the end they will succeed. These are the mistresses, not the wives. The mistresses get the jewelry, the wives get the washing machine. It’s sad but true.
I was once talking to a boss of another very, very big agency. And I said: “You’ve had these clients so long. How do you do it?” He said: “Because they can’t be bothered to fire us.” It’s too much hassle.
LD: Like a divorce?
NF: Absolutely. “God, this is a problem. Oh, well, stick with it. It could be worse, not much, but it could be worse.” How sad is that? There comes a time, where you’re going to say: “Actually, screw this.” Or go get yourself a mistress, for just part of the time. And that’s what these big clients do. “We’re tied up to the teeth with these people, but I hate the bloody work, so I’m going to get a babe, and go out to dinner with a babe a lot, which will be great. It’s much more fun, makes us feel good, and hey, then we’ve got to get back to the sodding wife again.”
There will be more and more boutiques. There was a point where it was just about the big, big blocks taking over, but then the big, big blocks [started] buying the boutiques. Why do they buy the boutiques? Not for the money they’re making. They buy them to give themselves a certain sexiness – a nice set of legs, or high heels.
LD: A boob job?
NF: A boob job! Very good. Absolutely. That’s exactly it. Let’s stick them on to the front and it looks like we have big boobs. It doesn’t work.
LD: Does it help to have an ego in the ad business?
NF: I taught myself self confidence in my early teens. I was very shy. Pain and agony, and beating down embarrassment, teaching myself not to blush and all those awful things. Ego is really: “Do you really believe in yourself?”
[In Canada], there’s a cringe factor. There’s the permanent apology. I mean, I love the fact that people on the street are all saying “sorry” all the time. But, come on guys. Politeness is great, but sometimes it’s not said in a politeness way, as much as a “Please don’t hit me” way. That’s sad. I remember a young guy, saying: “You’re an egomaniac. You’re all ego and no talent.” That may be true. I said: “Do you have an ego?” “No,” he says. “Do you bathe? Then you have an ego. You care about what people think about you. You take a shower, you care.”

Oil Industry: Profits Happen

Do you buy this? The WSJ reports:
The chiefs of five major oil companies defended the industry’s huge profits Wednesday at a Senate hearing where lawmakers said they should explain prices and assure people they aren’t being gouged.
There is a “growing suspicion that oil companies are taking unfair advantage,” Sen. Pete Domenici (R., N.M.), head of the Senate Energy and Resources Committee, said as the hearing opened in a packed Senate committee room. “The oil companies owe the country an explanation,” he said.
Lee Raymond, chairman of Exxon Mobil Corp., said he recognizes that high gasoline prices “have put a strain on Americans’ household budgets” but he defended his companies huge profits, saying petroleum earnings “go up and down” from year to year. Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest non-state-owned oil company, earned nearly $10 billion in the third quarter.
COMPANY- PROFIT- REVENUE
BP $6.46 billion, +34% $97.73 billion, +46%
Chevron $3.59 billion, +12% $54.46 billion, +34%
ConocoPhillips $3.8 billion, +89% $49.7 billion, +43%
Exxon Mobil $9.92 billion, +75% $100.72 billion, +32%
Royal Dutch Shell $9.03 billion, +68% $76.44 billion, +8%
Smells like Enron to me. Maybe we need a 10% environmental tax and fight global warming, which of course doesn’t exist.

Sears: Are they going the way of K-mart?

Sears, Roebuck and Co. this week launched what it is calling its first fully integrated campaign in years. The effort, “Wish Big,” includes television and print advertising, event marketing, in-store signage and cross-promotion activities, in-mall advertising, direct mail, online programs and public relations. [in Brandweek]
Maybe they need to just work on their strategy. Here’s what a recent article in the Chicago Sun Times had to say about that:
A Wall Street analyst gave voice Monday to rumors that Sears’ ballyhooed strategy of building new stand-alone stores is in trouble.
Sears is counting on its newest store, Sears Essentials, to compete with big-box rivals such as Target, Kohl’s and Wal-Mart, while also selling refrigerators, treadmills, lawn mowers and patio furniture.
Sears has denied reports that it is slowing or halting its plans to convert 400 Kmart stores into Sears Essentials stores within three years — at a cost of about $3.5 million per store. But Sears hasn’t yet announced how many Sears Essentials stores it will open in 2006.
Furthermore, two top Sears executives integral to the strategy have left or are leaving the Hoffman Estates-based retailer, Gregory Melich, an analyst at Morgan Stanley & Co., said in a note to investors Monday.
Catherine David, a former Target executive that Sears named to oversee Sears Essentials and two other stand-alone stores, left the retailer in September.
Sears hired David in July 2004 to turn around the struggling Great Indoors home-decor chain, which Sears had downsized a year earlier to 17 stores.
Sears also is losing Luis Padilla, another former Target executive and a merchandising whiz credited with putting the “chic” in Target’s “cheap chic” reputation. Padilla is leaving at month’s end, following Sears Chairman Edward S. Lampert’s decision to install his own top strategists.
Furthermore, Sears is investing less than its retail rivals in its stand-alone stores, and has cut its advertising by more than 40 percent, Melich wrote.
More than 50 percent of Sears Essentials stores are within five miles of a Target, a Lowe’s or a Home Depot, giving them tough conditions under which to compete, he said.
Other analysts have questioned the Sears Essentials format as unfocused and underwhelming.
“The store seems a hodgepodge of everything, and there’s no clear message to consumers about what to expect,” said Kim Picciola at Chicago-based Morningstar.

Maybe they need to outsource their management…

Less Fat, So You Can Eat More


Proteus Industries used a special animal protein to create a coating for fried foods that prevents excess oil from penetrating beyond the breading or batter during cooking. The cooked food stays crispy on the outside, but it’s not greasy on the inside. That translates into real fat busting: the overall content in fish sticks, for instance, goes from 14 g to as little as 4 g — a 70 percent drop.
Proteus’ process is making its debut in fish sticks from the company’s collaborator, Good Harbor Fillet.
Why can’t we just eat less fried stuff?

The Rise and Fall of Brand America

When we express a preference for French holidays, German cars or Italian opera, when we instinctively trust the policies of the Swedish government, comment on the ambition of the Japanese, the bluntness of the Americans or the courtesy of the British, when we avoid investing in Russia, favor Turkey’s entry into Europe or admire the heritage of China and India, we are responding to brand images in exactly the same way as when we’re shopping for clothing or food. But these are far bigger brands than Nike or Nestlé. They are the brands of nations.
Nation brand is an important concept in today’s world. Globalization means that countries compete with each other for the attention, respect and trust of investors, tourists, consumers, donors, immigrants, the media, and the governments of other nations: so a powerful and positive nation brand provides a crucial competitive advantage. It is essential for countries to understand how they are seen by publics around the world; how their achievements and failures, their assets and their liabilities, their people and their products are reflected in their brand image.
Simon Anholt has developed the Anholt-GMI Nation Brands Index – the first analytical ranking of the world’s nation brands. This report: Nation Brands Index – Q3 Report, 2005 tells us how nations view each other. Good stuff.
But even more critical, perhaps, is Anholt’s book: Brand America: The Mother of All Brands.
Here’s how the book is advertised on Anholt’s website:
Q: When is a country like a brand?
A: When it’s the United States of America.
America is more than just a country: it’s the biggest brand in history. Launched as a global brand, managed like a global brand and advertised like a global brand since the Declaration of Independence, America has deliberately marketed itself – as well as its products and culture – with skill, determination and sheer, hardnosed salesmanship.
But today, it’s a brand in trouble. Brand America shows, for the first time in print, how the world’s most successful brand grew to greatness, how close it now is to throwing it all away, and how it might win back those disillusioned ‘consumers’.
For anybody who has ever wondered what was the secret behind America’s greatness, and what happens next to the world’s sole superpower, Brand America is essential reading.
It’ll change your mind about brands, about countries and about America for ever.
Here’s what Phil Kotler had to say about the book:
“Anholt and Hildreth are to be congratulated for raising the issue of why Brand America is suffering a strong decline around the world. They trace American history, the values of Brand America and the growth of anti-Americanism, and offer stimulating suggestions for how to repair our broken image.”
Read it. That’s Brand America: The Mother of All Brands.

Why “Customer Service” is a Joke

Most companies assume they’re giving customers what they want. Usually, they’re kidding themselves. When Bain & Company recently surveyed 362 firms, they found that 80% believe they deliver a “superior experience” to customers. But when they asked the firms’ customers, they found that only 8% are really delivering.
Talk about delusion. Why this huge discrepancy?
The folks at Bain found two reasons for the gap:
“The first is a basic paradox: Most growth initiatives damage the most important source of sustainable, profitable growth-a loyal customer franchise. To increase revenue and profits, businesses do things like raising transaction fees that end up alienating their core customers. Efforts to pursue new customers compound the problem, distracting management from serving the core.
“The second is that good relationships are hard to build. It’s extremely difficult to understand what people really want, keep your promises and maintain a dialogue to ensure you meet customers’ changing needs. Even initiatives to “better understand” customers can backfire, drowning firms in a sea of data.”
I’ll give you the third reason: management confuses actions and activity with outcomes. Just because you have a customer feedback program in place, doesn’t mean it’s effective. The appearance of virtue is not virtue.
More from the report: “Even initiatives to “better understand” customers typically backfire. A company can get so engrossed in collecting and sifting through data on patterns of use, retention, purchases and other transactions that buyers become numbers rather than people, segments rather than individuals. Companies become deaf to the real voices of real customers.” [emphasis added]
Download the report here.

Daniel Yankelovich: Poll This, America

A great interview from S+B.
Daniel Yankelovich – the “father of the public opinion poll” – says:
“…attitudes were replaced in the 1960s and 1970s by unenlightened self-interest: Win at any cost. Strip away regulations and constraints. Anything that isn’t illegal is OK. Conflict of interest isn’t a real issue, except for a few straitlaced dummies. Everybody bends the rules, and you have to do so to survive. Someone caught in an ethically
questionable situation might say, “Well, I didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t break the law.” For someone from my generation, ethics doesn’t have anything to do with breaking the law. Essentially, there was a dumbing-down of morality that came in with the baby boomers in the 1960s.”
Hello! Maybe he’s been reading On Value and Values!

Douglas K. Smith: On Value and Values

Doug Smith’s latest blog entry: “Thick We’s” takes a hard look at how we’ve lost track of what matters:
“We lead dual lives — pursuing value over values from 9 to 5 and the reverse during the remainder of each day.”
and
“Today, the vast majority of those organizations pursue value over values. Others — and the less powerful ones — pursue values over value. Neither of these strategies are sustainable. Churches, schools, non-profits and so forth cannot sustain themselves by ignoring and being blind to value. But — and this is by far the more serious challenge — neither can for-profit organizations (whether Wal-Mart or GM or Roche — or a small bookstore or cleaners or barbershop) sustain itself if value — if profits, wealth, shareholder value or winning — is the trump card for every single serious issue and question on the table. Eventually, that approach eviscerates and hollows out the values — social, political, spiritual, environmental, medical, legal and others — on which the very value pursued rests.”
Want to know more? Check out Smith’s book.

Family Values: Costco vs. Wal-Mart

Let’s compare some workplace statistics, as reported by the companies…
Employees covered by company health insurance
Costco 82%
Wal-Mart 48%
Insurance-enrollment waiting periods (for part-time workers)
Costco 6 months
Wal-Mart 2 years
Portion of health-care premium paid by company
Costco 92%
Wal-Mart 66%
Annual worker turnover rate
Costco 24%
Wal-Mart 50%
Read more about this here.
The Wal-Mart people need to go read Doug Smith’s On Value and Values.
Why does Wal-Mart want this? This is not a PR problem, Wal-Mart. It’s a values problem. Again, read Doug Smith.

Car Makers Shoot Themselves in the Foot, Again

Apparently “employee discount pricing” isn’t exactly helping GM, Ford, and DaimlerChrysler.
Forbes reports that “the ultimate result of the promotion was the widening of an already-existing gap in perceived quality between Detroit’s Big Three and their Japanese counterparts.”
“After spiking during the summer, sales at the Big Three tumbled in September. Also falling were consumer scores for brand image, quality, credibility and perceived resale value, among other attributes, according to Brandimensions. GM and Ford, in particular, saw sales growth lag behind Toyota, Nissan and Honda by an even greater margin than they did in the spring, before employee pricing was implemented. Sales at both automakers dropped more than 20% from their September 2004 levels, while the three Japanese carmakers increased their sales at double-digit rates.”
Note: The promotion hurt GM the most as the leader in starting the program… ouch!
John Hagel talks about the auto industry on his blog: Delphi, Detroit and Dead-Ends.
Good news for Toyota and Honda. Hybrids, anyone?