Monthly Archives: December 2014

Christmas. Haven’t We Already Had It In June?

The Loeb Boathouse, Central Park.
The Loeb Boathouse, Central Park.

You’re doing a run in Central Park and it’s amazing what you can see.

Woody Allen on foot crossing from the East Side to the West Side.

A guy with Mylar wings trying to become a human kite.

A 38-person drum circle so insistently fast and rhythmic it turns your running regime into a four-minute mile.

But last June there was something quite different.

A crowd of destitute people at the Loeb Boathouse Restaurant would have caught your eye.

They were having lunch at the trendy eatery.

A Chinese billionaire called Chen Guangbiao hosted them. He paid the bill for those who were poor and homeless.

This was his charity luncheon for 1000 Americans with literally nothing.

Those with no hope.

It was a random act of kindness that came from a Chinese billionaire who wanted to do good. It was as simple as that.

About 300 people turned up for the meal.

For them it was like Christmas in June. Many felt all their Christmases has come at once.

Had you been there you would have heard this from a homeless man:

‘Somebody gives a f– –k.’

A nice thought for this time of year.

So, Merry Christmas, Chen Guangbiao.

And Merry Christmas to you.












GM Exec 1: I know who can drive Cadillac. GM Exec 2: Who? GM Exec 1: BMW’s Ex-CMO.

Vroom-vroom. That's what you hear about Mercedes, BMW and Lexus sales. But how about this Cadillac? Will a new CMO who came from BMW give it oomph in the the marketplace?
Vroom-vroom. That describes Mercedes, BMW, and Lexus sales. They’re all moving ahead. But how about this Cadillac? Will a new CMO who came from BMW give it oomph in the the marketplace?


When you’re trailing in the car market and still running ordinary commercials, that defines the term ‘mediocre’.

It makes you an also-ran.

Maybe that’s why Cadillac is determined to put old ways behind them and move up from a No. 4 ranking in the luxury stakes against Mercedes, BMW, and Lexus.

Spending close to $270 million last year on ordinary messaging didn’t do a lot for the brand. Their numbers are falling.

But now they’re trying to steer into that 10-½ foot space known as the passing lane.

To get there they’ve hired Uwe Ellinghaus, the ex-CMO of BMW.

It’s not an un-familiar move for marketing companies who may not be rising to expectations.

You go out and hire say, the ex-CMO from Starbucks or Apple and all will be right with the world.

Will that work for Cadillac?

Don’t answer that until you see their new ‘Poolside’ spot.

It’s a departure from the old GM ways but it’s also controversial as the spot comes with political overtones.

It divides those on the left and right even more.

Hmmm, one wonders … does that really matter? Because the spot stands out as it nails the target audience squarely.

Some will love it, some will hate it.

Let’s hope it builds showroom traffic and sells cars.

The conditionality around the spot is driven by the fact it’s less about the car and more about an attitude.

So, one questions if the traditional commercial route is the best way to present a new Cadillac to convince people to part with $75,000.

Since Cadillac seem to be following in the tracks of BMW success with Uwe Ellinghaus, maybe they should have gone a step further down that road.

To that end, why couldn’t Cadillac have come up with a narrative?

An un-commercial.

Something cinematic, with a plot line, entertainment value and a turn-the-tables reversal that leaves audiences agog.

Like the 9-minute Guy Ritiche production for the BMW M5 where the performance of the car makes Madonna wet her pants.

That was memorable storytelling.

Maybe the new Cadillac agency will see their way to something like that.

Meanwhile, I’ll be test-driving a Cadillac to determine one thing.

If, like Madonna, I’ll need a change of underwear.

Share with us. Will Cadillac advertising change minds on a global scale? Will it send buyers to showrooms with their checkbooks at the ready? Leave your comment in the box below. Thanks for reading Regards, Steve Ulin



A Goat Breeder Applies For A Job in Your Office. What Do You Say?

Goat breeder, ticket taker, minor league baseball bat boy, shoe salesperson. One of the strengths of top ad agencies is that they hire young talent from diverse job areas.
Goat breeder, valet parking attendant, shoe salesperson. One of the strengths of  ad agencies is that they often hire young talent from diverse job backgrounds. That diversity works to give an agency perspective and insight when it comes to the real world.

A goat breeder.

A theatre stagehand.

A cafeteria assistant at a Network TV headquarters.

An Army Pfc.

A standup comedienne.

Before becoming ad agency professionals charged with working on multi-million dollar brands, many young people had jobs that were … well, you could call them ‘interesting’.

Their experiences were often as varied as working as a custodian in a natural history museum, doing a stint as a hop-picker, or training to become a shipwright.

Many went on to be hugely effective in top roles as account directors, creative directors, copywriters, art directors and planners.

In more than a few cases ad professionals credit their success to those first jobs and intensive training.

Having an understanding of life and the real world counts for a lot.

Most ad agencies realize that. Maybe that’s why, unlike some professions, they’re not wedded to hiring in their own image.

They don’t fill positions with cookie-cutter personalities. Thank goodness.

Not everybody in the office has to come from an Ivy League school or a middle class family.

Advertising is one profession where you’re not under instruction on how to think.  Originality is valued and it can come from anywhere and anybody.

A case in point is a young woman who arrived with her family from Asia as boat people.

That didn’t stop her from learning English, training professionally and becoming a strong copywriter.

If you’re getting the idea that a background in the real world coupled with training is the key to success, you’re not about to get an argument on that.

You don’t need me to tell you that education can pay off in a big way when it becomes a habit of a lifetime.

That’s true in advertising and most likely in every other occupation.

Some years back in New York an ad guy called Joe Sacco encouraged young people to be all encompassing in their learning. To go all out for original solutions.

He summed it up with a thought that went something like this: ‘Look up though a telescope, look down through a microscope’.

Curiosity was his thing.

In his presence ‘the search’ for effective ideas was turned into an exciting challenge. He made it fun and he was always mildly surprised that you could get paid for enjoying yourself.

More on the learning topic, Joe Sacco said, ‘you don’t bet on a horse you hate’.

That would be right.

It was his way of saying you can expect little consideration from colleagues, clients and agency leaders if you don’t make the effort to know your stuff.

So whatever your level may be — from rookie to seasoned professional — in any career you care to name … study, learn, read, discover things, keep educating yourself.

Without that you could be left behind.

Even if you’re a goat breeder.

Share with us. Are you hiring young people? What are you doing to train and perfect their talents? Are they making a contribution from Day One? If not, why not? Thanks for reading Regards, Steve Ulin


How Long Can a Commercial Be?

There’s little relation between Lewis Hamilton’s F1 Mercedes and cars you see in the Mercedes showroom. But this Mercedes SLS AMG is racy enough for most, wouldn’t you say? This photo courtesy of  A.G. Photographe
There’s little relation between Lewis Hamilton’s F1 Mercedes and cars you see in the Mercedes showroom. But this Mercedes SLS AMG is racy enough for most of us, wouldn’t you say? This photo courtesy of A.G. Photographe

Did you see the one hour and thirty-nine minute commercial for Mercedes recently?

It ran on Sunday, November 23rd.

No media person could have dreamed it up.

No copywriter could have scripted it so perfectly.

It took a World Champion racing driver and an indecently quick car to make it happen.

As you might have guessed, this Mercedes ‘commercial’ was actually the Formula 1 race in Abu Dhabi.

Lewis Hamilton came first in one hour and thirty-nine minutes.

Mercedes put on a show for 305.355 kilometers … fifty-five laps of brutal acceleration, hard braking and deft cornering.

With the win Hamilton amassed enough points to also clinch the Formula 1 World Championship for 2014.

Millions globally went ga-ga. Not my word, but that of a 20-something Mercedes fancier.

If that doesn’t equate to an effective Mercedes commercial, what does?

But to shine an even brighter light on the proceedings, Mercedes won the World Constructors’ Championship earlier in the season.

Talk about an ascendant star. This one is three-pointed.

On the heels of a 1955 world Championship came the Mercedes 180. We've heard that in certain African countries they're still on the road, operating as taxis.
On the heels of a 1955 World Championship came the Mercedes 180. We’ve heard that in certain African countries they’re still on the road,  as taxis.

This is the second World Championship for Hamilton and the first for Mercedes since 1955 when the legendary Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio was behind the wheel.

Still, what will it mean at the dealer level? Will it sell more cars?

Will it make Mercedes more competitive against BMW, Audi, Porsche, Volvo, Lexus and other makes?


Because isn’t there’s another race to be won?

The race to attract younger customers … like legions of 20-somethings who are aware of Formula 1.

When you capture young buyers with your entry-level car you begin to ensure your future.

Nothing’s new about that thought.

But with that in mind, here’s a bit of heresy for you.

There could well be a Mercedes passenger car that rivals the importance of their Formula 1 car.

Look to the Mercedes CLA-Class for that.

The CLA-Class is the $30k starter package for the brand.

It’s designed to globally advance Mercedes, bring new prospects into showrooms, deny brand share to competitors and set the stage for upselling.

Call it Step 1 in creating customers for life. Is there anything more vital to a brand?

Further to that, it might have been David Ogilvy who said that the first job of business is to make customers.

Because without them how will you make money?

So while the CLA-Class wins over younger buyers, the Formula1 program is gearing up to win more Formula 1 races.

Mercedes are already looking to 2015 by negotiating a new contract with Lewis Hamilton.

It could be well over £100 million — almost $157m — for five years.

Next season features 20 Formula 1 races staged right around the world.

It all starts in Australia on March 15th.

The US Formula 1 race is scheduled for October 25th.

Tune in and you could see Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes at it again.

Making another commercial.

Share with us. How do you use promotions to build awareness and attract new customers to your brand? Thanks for reading Regards, Steve Ulin