A well intentioned rant about the current state of Advertising, with particular emphasis on Big Dumb Agencies (BDA's) Because, no matter how bad you think it is, it's actually a great deal worse!
"Advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill pail." George Orwell.
Today's New York Times carries a sickening boot-licking piece on the Barbarian of Scotts Valley, Philippe Kahn. Apparently, Philippe "The Frog who walks on water" Kahn has just sold his latest company, LightSurf Technologies, to Verisign for a shitload of money. OK, good for him, but the numbnut NYT reporter, Robert Johnson, then goes on to talk about how Philippe sold his first company, Starfish Software in 1998. Wrong Mr. Ace Reporter. Kahn's first company was not Starfish software, It was Borland software, a company he founded as an illegal immigrant from France in the early eighties. By the early nineties it had grown to become the fourth largest software company in the world! Unfortunately, the usual "I am CEO" delusions of grandeur took over, and while attempting to make every single company decision single handedly (Shades of Queen Carly), he proceeded to run the company into the ground. After a string of way too many losing quarters, the Board of Directors decided that "El Giganto's" decision to award himself a "performance" bonus of several million dollars, was the last straw. He was immediately fired (Shades of Queen Carly - again!) The article then goes into boring details about Philippe's current passion for competitive sailing. Anyone who's ever dealt with him will know that sailing was preceeded by his passions for music, car racing, gourmet cooking, living high off the corporate hog, and infamous toga parties at far too many Comdex shows in Vegas.
Why am I suspicious that Mr. Johnson probably was probably still in school when everything he is writing about was taking place, and obviously doesn't have the gumption to do a simple Google search on his subject. Equally, why am I shocked that no one on the Business Section picked up these egregious journalistic errors. But come to think of it, not much shocks me any more!
Pop idol "Sting" has been deeply moved by the suffering of Sri Lankan children in the recent tsunami, and will pen a song about this great natural disaster to help mitigate their suffering. "A song, or a performance, in whatever way he can help, he will always be there." Said his wife Trudie Styler. Well, maybe not always. His Sri Lankan concert that was to take place in January was called off, probably because of the lack of suitable accommodations. On the other hand, he could invite the thousands of Sri Lankan orphans to camp out on the front lawn of his Sussex Castle. But then you have to organize all those tents and blankets and latrine buckets and stuff... Naahh... A song is a much better idea
Former O&M execs Shona Seifert and Thomas Early were found guilty today of conspiring to defraud the Feds anti-drug ad account. They could each face up to 5 years in the slammer when sentenced in May. I have just one question about this whole sad affair. As far as I know, neither of these clowns gained from this massive scam. So, who did? No wonder ad people rank down there on the "trustworthiness" scale with used car salespeople and ambulance chasers... But hey, you'll be able to read all about it when "AdScam" gets published. Bet "Sir Poisoned Dwarf" blew a gasket when he got the news.
Apparently sales of Californian Pinot Noir are up 16% since Oscar nominee "Sideways" opened. Is the great American public this easily influenced? Does it mean the sales of White Zinfandel in those designer 5 gallon jugs are about to hit the skids? And, speaking of skids, if someone makes a movie about Bowery bums chugging brown bagged Thunderbird, would we see the sales of this legendary beverage begin to skyrocket?
For all you star fuckers out there, Pepsi's done it again. BBDO New York has just completed yet another multi-million dollar extravaganza featuring Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce Knowles and David Beckham (Posh must be pissed she didn't get asked). This potential Oscar winner features the intrepid trio fighting a bunch of evil gangsters in a run-down bar. Salman Amin, Chief Marketing Bozo of Pepsi says "We have always committed ourselves to bringing consumers the best there is to offer from the wolds of music and football (that's real football, not the one played by 350 pound gorillas in suits of armor). And I thought they were committed to bringing consumers bottles of sweet, fizzy drinks! "Becks" recently went on record as wanting to cut down on his sponsorship commitments so he could spend more time playing for Real Madrid. Doesn't seem to be happening. Still, Tiger Woods is living proof that lack of performance doesn't seem to affect how many stupid companies are willing to bury "Sports Personalities" in money to appear in their ads.
I posted last week about the insanity of Qwest's bid for MCI. Then MCI accepted Verizon's bid of $6.75 billion and I thought that was the end of that. Silly me. I forgot we are not dealing with rational people here. It seems Qwest is not going to take this crap lying down. Never mind that it's sitting on top of a $17 billion mountain of debt, it's probably going to bid in the region of $8 billion for this piece of shit, recently removed from the fires of bankruptcy, telco. Einstein I am not, but even I know at least a couple of good reasons why this does not make sense. Firstly, there isn't one major IT or Telco merger that hasn't decimated shareholder value. Jesus, just look at the HP/Compaq fiasco alone! Secondly, one of the reasons Qwest is up to it's armpits in debt is because it did exactly the same thing just five years ago, when it got into a bidding match with other dot com wunderkind's over the purchase of US West. Shit the people who are doing it all over again are sitting in the old US West building in downtown Denver that they paid through the ass for. At the time of this "merger made in Heaven" Qwest stock was hovering around $80 a share. Right now, it's on life support to stay above $3. But, what the hell do I know... Well, just one thing. Qwest's majority shareholder, the Evil Evangelist (Phil Anschutz) is behind this shit. He's obviously got some scam going that will enable him to liposuction a few more billion out of Qwest before it rolls over and finally dies! You don't get to be one of the richest men in America if you don't know what the fuck your doing. Even if you think Darwin's Theory of Evolution is a crock of shit.
Wow, you have to feel sorry for Ann Fudge, Chairman & CEO of Y&R. Less than two years into the job and the shop is losing clients faster than "The Poisoned Dwarf" can hop on a Concorde (Ooops, forgot, Sir Martin has to settle for the rigors of First Class these days.) Sony with billings of $150 million and Jaguar with a mere $100 million, both fled the Y&R coop in the last couple of months. Strangely enough Jag may end up in another part of the WWP Empire such as JWT, or Red Cel. Which, as it's only a couple of years ago since the account was at WPP's O&M, you have to ask yourself what's the point of moving the bloody thing around if it all ends up in the same conglomerate pot producing the same Ho Hum work? Not that any of this deep thinking is going to help Ms Fudge at this particular time. But, I'll bet Kraft Cheese Slices are starting to sound Homer Simpson lick-smackin delicious right now.
Mike Smock of Vsente had a nice post on his site the other day (Maneuver Marking... See the link) about the difference between Larry "The Shogun" Ellison's approach to take-overs, and Carly "Queen" Fiorina's. Larry will get it done quickly. OK, it will be done with buckets of blood, but done it will be. Carly spent many years, a lot of money, many buckets of blood, and quite a bit of lost market share... Even in printers, and merely succeeded in reducing the value of HP by 50%. And, if HP does get broken up, it will all have been for nothing. The ultimate irony will be if Mike Capellas gets hired as CEO (which most of Wall Street in it's unmatched stupidity seems to be rooting for.) Then he can stash even more money in his off-shore accounts as he engineers the demise of yet another American IT great. My advice... Hire Nolan Bushnel, (Nolan who?) There's a guy who's fucked up more companies than Philippe Khan, but he's still living in a mansion and sailing his yacht around the bay. Isn't capitalism great.
Footnote... As part of her severance package, Carly gets to keep her computer... Wonder if it's a Cray?
My good friend Garry Elliot took me to task yesterday for my comments on Goodby, Silverstein. He was right to do so! Wow, not very often I own up to shit like that, so enjoy it while you can. I've long regarded Goodby as the best agency in America, producing a quality of work that should make every BDA hang its head in shame. The point I was trying to make is that in situations like the current one at HP, new brooms very often sweep clean and it's convenient to blame the previous CEO's choices. The danger is that Goodby might get put in that category. There'll also be a knee jerk reaction to so called "branding" campaigns as not being aggressive enough. I can hear the shouts of "We need ads that shift boxes" right now! Been there, done that. But, if I know Goodby as well as I think I do, they'll stick to their guns, because unlike the vast majority of ass-kissing BDA's, they don't know any other way... So, sorry Jeff, Roy, Garry. Well, that's my ass kissing done for the day!
Seems like Queen Carly's $21 million pay-off is a mere drop in the bucket compared to the grand total she liposuctioned out of HP over the last six years. Salary, stock, bonus's and various other perks added up to at least $110 million. She also had her mortgage, moving expenses and taxes relating to her move paid by the company. On top of that, her personal travel in the Gulfstream fleet was also paid by the company. This doesn't include all those trips to "World Economic Summits" in Switzerland, or to Monte Carlo to watch the HP sponsored Williams Formula one team. No, this means trips to the grocery store for a bunch of carrots. The fact that the grocery store is in Florence is purely incidental! Oh, almost forgot. She gets a six figure retirement pension for life. (She's probably got one from Lucent, the last company she fucked up.) Wouldn't be surprised if she's working the phones right now for her next sweet deal. After all, $110 million doesn't go far these days.