Wednesday, October 22, 2008

My favorite expression

from yesterdays meeting:

"brought us to the dance" as in "We can't forget the base brand is what brought us to the dance"

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Culture (sticker) shock

One of the fun things you can do in the midst of a global economic crisis is to feel the forces of the zeitgeist sweep over you. I know there will always be those who insist that their beliefs and attitudes aren’t swayed by their peers or any other influences beyond their iron wills, but the rest of us can feel our cognitive gears shift creakily into a new place every time we go shopping.

I know mine are. Even though I haven’t been personally affected (I stand corrected) by this financial crisis (same basic income, 30-year fixed mortgage, no money to speak of in the market and a long time—i.e. forever--from retirement) I can still feel a growing sensitivity to the cost of stuff I used to blithely ignore.

Just this morning, I went to the drug store to replenish my kids’ supply of toothbrushes and I couldn’t find one in Rite-Aid under three dollars, which would have me spending 10 dollars on pieces of plastic attached to smaller, thinner pieces of plastic. Admittedly, I also couldn’t find a kid’s toothbrush that wasn’t a licensed character or came with a toy. Which suddenly, after years of overspending on molded plastic toothbrushes had me eyeing the toothbrush aisle in a whole new light.

The 100’s of SKU’s came with different sized bristles and a variety of interestingly contoured handles which suggested some special ergonomically designed shape presumably to improve our tooth-brushing efficiency and protect ourselves from wrist fatigue (not to mention the various powered versions) but 3, 4, 5, dollars for a toothbrush?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Inspiring quant work

I'm not a huge fan of the various political blogs and sites as most of them don't offer much except ad hoc opinion and the opportunity to express even brasher ideological assertions, which we already have plenty of.

All the more reason put in a plug for (538= number of delegates in the electoral college) which I and most of my media-junkie friends are obsessed with. It's run by Nate Silver, who seems to make his living analyzing and modelling baseball statistics. But you don't have to be a fantasy-baseball freak to see that he's taking quant to a whole new level here, aggregating a dozen diffrent polls on a daily basis and then analyzing the results, weighting the polls based on a number of factors, including past accuracy. He also calculates a win/loss percentage based on 1,000's of simulations of potential outcomes. In fact, the rigor, depth and insight of the analysis puts most of the market research analysis I've seen--and I've seen a lot--to shame. Maybe we should start scouting the fantasy baseball leagues for talent. Check it out.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I suck or self-hatred Thursday

I’ve always been a touch annoyed by the more fancifully Utopian claims about my profession (by “my profession” I mean advertising or marketing; everyone else is off the hook). Not because there’s something specifically wrong about advertising or being in business or making money. It’s what most of us do—try and make money in some interesting way--by habit and custom and relative necessity. Or laziness. Or all four.

But I’ve always preferred more astringent pleasures to the soothing bromides of selective attention and I was thinking it would be interesting if someone set up a site (I checked “I suck” isn’t available) where we could anonymously confess our moral qualms about some marketing activity or another. Whenever I bring up this topic, colleagues always make reference to their own or a colleague’s principled refusal to work on a tobacco account, but that’s a little too easy. (Personally, I’m not sure I mind ciggy advertising so long as it’s directed at adults compared to say marketing crap to kids but that’s another subject.) There are blurrier ethical boundaries that strike me as more interesting to confess. Or to hear someone else confess, which is frankly, a lot more interesting.

So for instance, un-anonymously: I’ve recently been reminded that I played a role facilitating this financial crisis. No, I didn’t sell credit swaps or mortgage securities but I did write strategies for advertising that marketed more mortgages and credit cards to people who probably couldn’t afford them under terms that would likely put them deeper underwater in no time flat. Now the arguments for doing this work are well-known: it isn’t or wasn't illegal, I was only giving them what they wanted, they could have read the small print, caveat emptor, I was only doing my job, etc., etc. Then again, I didn't sit in Congress and pass legislation to protect credit-card companies from defaulting consumers. So that's some comfort.