The Book
Cover Art Courtesy of Karim Rashid

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June 17, 2019

The Role of Music – Alpha Romeo

Filed under: Life Is Media — admin @ 10:35 am

The Role of Music in Advertising – Alpha Romeo’s Ode to Joy

If asked whether music plays a pivotal role in generating excitement about a brand, it would be difficult to find a single person who would refute the claim. For example, regardless of your stance on Brexit, it’s interesting, and, for some of us, a sign of a deeper motive, that iconic Italian automaker Alpha Romeo chose “Ode to Joy”, the E.U.’s anthem as the soundtrack of their latest commercial.

Certainly, Beethoven is no shabby source of inspiration, but, given Brexit, could the selection of that song have meaning beyond that which meets the ear? With no disrespect intended, a Jaguar commercial set against” God Save The Queen” – would be quaint in comparison and relevant only to those persons for whom the Queen still holds nationalistic significance.

I know several years ago, when working freelance on an assignment for the Arrow shirt division of PVH, when a “theme” was being explored, I, among others, pushed Arnold Guthry’s ode to inclusion, “This Land is Your Land” as opposed to other, more obvious options such as “God Bless America.” Why? Need you ask? Given the opportunity, commercial messages based on respect and multiple levels trumps the more the obvious every time. To this day, I’m not entirely sure senior management grasped the full meaning behind the selection. My point: a song is not just a song. And, as often as not, in commercial communication, the details, like choice of music, supersedes prose with gravitas that isolated words would be hard pressed to achieve on their own. Is Alpha Romeo thumbing its nose at Brexit or did it choose a beautiful anthem filled with both majesty and cool? We will never know. The very fact that some of us question it is proof it was an outstanding selection.

October 3, 2018

Brands Are Dead. Long Live The Brand.

Filed under: Life Is Media — Tags: , , — admin @ 6:16 pm

I remember presenting to Donald Trump. It was during the period when he attempted his foray into beauty and fashion. When he discussed his vision – there was none. There was no substance or particular creative restriction. Make money was the directive. It was then that a man paying several thousand dollars on an article of clothing would not Trump on the label – Gucci yes. Trump no. He readily agreed. What this means is that the concept of traditional branding has gone too far. Brands are wonderful. They delight. They can also easily degrade into propaganda. Anyone working with me should know my aversion to propaganda as I believe that culture owns brands, not the other way around. P.S. Sorry for the hiatus. I’m back in the saddle again – at least when it comes to expressing what makes me and my marketing approach different.

September 5, 2016

Does Branding Mirror Reality? – Or is it an excuse?

Filed under: Life Is Media — Tags: , , — admin @ 8:46 am

The Supreme Court of The United States of America has deemed that corporations have the political rights of human beings. We have all heard about and felt the influence of the “Citizens United” ruling. What we have not heard as much about is the degree brands have taken on the rights without any of the repercussions of humans. My plan in future blogs is to take one company at a time and attempt to demonstrate how said brand has taken their presumed rights to heart. Of late, I have been focussing on Ketchum PR – not because they are necessarily the worst fender. Rather, it’s because their behavior has been so brazen. After years of service to Russian President Putin, pushing his agenda around the globe, they took up another seedy Russian client once Putin fired them early this year.

August 30, 2016

What do Ketchum PR, Honduras rigged election, Bush misappropriation of funds and bogus reports on Genetically Modified Food Have in Common?

Filed under: Life Is Media — admin @ 3:20 pm

Ketchum Public Relations has been associated with more political inference and recent attempts to blend non and for-profits via National Geographic and 21st Century Fox than any other PR company.

June 25, 2014

CVS, Will It’s Bet on The Good Consumer Pay Off?

Filed under: Life Is Media — admin @ 10:07 pm


Brands have value.  People have values.  However, as brands and companies stand up for their positions as demonstrated via phenomenon made apparent via manifestations such as the now infamous “Citizens United” case, could it be that consumers are becoming more laissez fair when it comes to their purported values when it comes to their support of brands who are doing the “right” things relative to social responsibility and justice?

 CVS, in its recent strategically socially responsible, brilliantly branded move, recently discontinued its sale of cigarettes.  To that I say, “Bravo.”  However, the question remains as to whether or not in the short term this gesture/move will affect the purchase patterns of the average consumer and return a positive return on investment.

 Among other things, I have taught branding to both graduate and undergraduate students.  For the most part, my students are socially aware, altruistic and not at all like the self-absorbed portraits many of us would paint.  However, when I posed the question: “Did CVS do the right thing?”  The response was a unanimous yes.  When I asked,” Would you walk thirty extra feet to go to a CVS versus a Walgreens, the answer was: “I would probably go to the closest one.”  In this instance, “doing good” was not worth walking thirty extra feet. 

 Needless to say, as an advocate of the “good” brand, my heart sinks.  It was a repeat of the purchase patterns observed by many retailers when it comes to the pricing of green vs. non-green brands across the board.  If the green brand is better than the non-green brand and the price is such that the purchase elasticity of the item will tolerate a slight up-charge, the green product may, with a heavy emphasis on the word may, be chosen over the non-green product.  However, all things equal, most consumers will not pay a penny extra for a green product.  Of course there are exceptions – particularly those that involve conspicuous consumption.  However, I am forced to conclude, until proven otherwise, that the notion of the good company vs. the bad company becomes a dance of hypocrisy when viewed alongside the untapped power and lack of responsibility of most consumers.

 I don’t hate consumers.  I love consumers.  I merely want to remind them that actions speak louder than words.  In the case of brands, this action is their willingness to support socially responsible brands.  And, in more base terms, to put their money where their mouths are – or, well, to just shut up.



February 14, 2014

Is the Media The Media The Very Sad Message – Sochi Olympics

Filed under: Life Is Media — admin @ 1:39 pm

Make no mistake, the Olympic games are more about media value than international competition. The could not and would not happen without the support of brands – not at the level of coverage they enjoy today.  Were he alive today, one need only ask the infamous Adolf Hitler, who manipulated the 1936 games to promote not only his personal agenda but brands whether or not the Olympic Games were experiential marketing of the highest calibre.  He might not recognize the term – but he would intuitive know what you meant. Interestingly, Coca Cola, among others sponsored the 1936 Olympic Games, propaganda tour de force that it was as it has again with these very sad games.  Coke was not alone; perhaps in the role of “agency”, collaborators such as the renowned Leni Riefenstahl and Richard Strauss helped raise the entertainment/propaganda quotient of the 1936 games.  Have media agencies and corporate sponsorship played less a role this year as did Leni and Richard in 1936?    And, if so, will they suffer the same fallout.  Leni Riefenstahl, despite her enormous talent was really never heard from again.   The question raised is whether media has an obligation to morality. Or, have the supporters of what on occasions such as these have become tributes to tyranny immune for the “media is the message” implications of their support.  . Are NBC and the brands supporting the Olympics aiding and abetting the enemy? I don’t know. Perhaps you do?

January 30, 2014

Dollars and Sense. Luxury and Love.

Filed under: Life Is Media — admin @ 2:42 pm
Heart over Head In Love – Luxury 2014
While the proliferation of content-laden, informative digital content would suggest that consumers, even luxury consumers, would, given global turmoil,  be more critical relative to their purchase decisions, more demanding of real value,  a recent Euromonitor study predicts that it will be emotion versus intellect that triumphs and  drive sales in 2014.  I adore “image” brands and have happily participated in their creation as well as what I have labeled their respective branded biospheres, extensions of lifestyles into often, seemingly unrelated categories ranging from perfume, to fashion, to furniture, to cars and beyond.
As a marketeer, creative director and copywriter I know first hand that the more aspirational a brand, the less reliant it is on product/benefit explanation.  I must admit it I have always found this odd.  Yet,  I’ve never complained about being a copywriter for a luxury ad which requires no copy.  I have taken the money and run.  Still,  in those instances when I was not the creative director, only the copywriter, I can only hope that my copy helped shape the visual communication that would add value to “image” brands.  Perhaps I was right.  Maybe “meaning” counts.  I sure hope it does.  Or, as the Euromonitor projection suggests: perhaps I was wrong.  Perhaps when it comes to luxury, it’s the heart not the head that counts – maybe it’s the dollars and not the sense.


March 6, 2009

I’m Media. You’re Media. Life Is Media.

Filed under: Life Is Media — admin @ 10:32 am

This is the first of what I hope becomes a direct dialogue between a person in the business of mass communication and the persons with whom he is presumably communicating.  Up until now, I have seen advertising as too much of a one way street.  I want to know you.  We both live in the same world.  And, frankily, sometimes I get lonely.  It is my hope that my work reflects you – not just the products and services who pay me.  After all, it is you who pay the companies that pay me to sell to you.  And, in a rather unique twist, if YOU like the way I think, I can enlist your help in influencing the way THEY think.  Because, in all my years of experience I have discovered one incredible thing:  The sum of we equals them – and visa versa.  That’s not all I’ve learned.  Stay tuned.