Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"Hi, Billy Mays here. From beyond the grave."

One day last week, after a meeting in Boston, I went back to my hotel room to relax before joining my colleagues for dinner. I turned on the TV and started unpacking my laptop, when suddenly the hairs on the back of my neck stood up.

The voice screaming at me was instantly recognizable.


I felt like the kid in "The Sixth Sense." 

"I see dead people," I thought to myself, "and they're yelling at me."

There he was, the dead pitchman, pitching at me with all the vigor of an extremely live pitchman. And unlike in his other spots, he was driving a car while doing it!

It was a bit unnerving. Billy seemed so alive, so eager to sell this amazing little miracle product!

Never before had I been held so entranced by a hardcore direct response commercial. I practically had to fight myself from picking up the phone and ordering a few of the damn things.

Why was I so much more captivated by this infomercial than any other I had seen?

Then it hit me. For an infomercial, this was the perfect storm: A famous dead guy driving his car – possibly with cocaine in his system – while pitching a product that he promises could save your life.

What could have more stopping power than that?

(Okay, the only thing that might have made this spot even more unsettling is if he had crashed into something as he spoke to the camera.)

Later, I read that this spot was Billy's last. I suppose the next time I see it, I won't be so caught off guard.

Unless he starts to decompose more with each subsequent airing...


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Friday, January 22, 2010

A Title Wave

This week, Advertising Age ran an article about how Alex Bogusky, of Crispin Porter Bogusky, would be expanding his role beyond his own agency and working with parent company MDC to improve the creative output of all its agencies.

The title Bogusky gave himself at MDC is "Chief Creative Insurgent."

While some in the trades have been having fun with this title, I quite like it. It clearly states his mission – to shake things up creatively – in a way that is inherently more creative than "MDC Executive Creative Director" or the like.

Way back in the last decade (13 months ago, to be exact), my partner Dorothy Wetzel and I named our new agency "Extrovertic" because we felt it accurately reflected who we are and what our business is all about.

Since our mission is to help companies become more extroverted in their customer engagement, "Extrovertic" just seemed like the perfect monicker for our firm. And when it came to giving titles to ourselves and our staff, it made sense to carry the theme down to a personal level.

Dorothy is our "Chief Marketing Extrovert." I am the "Chief Creative Extrovert." We have a "Chief RM Extrovert," a "Marketing Strategy Extrovert," a "Strategic Planning Extrovert," a "Client Services Extrovert," and so on. We even have an "Associate Extrovert" – our intern from York College.

I've had a couple of colleagues in the business tell me they're not sure about these titles. But most prospective clients, upon receiving our business cards, seem to find them refreshing and reflective of who they're meeting with for the first time. It really sets the tone for a more relaxed, unstuffy meeting.

Non-traditional titles seem to be gaining popularity all across the corporate landscape.

When I was at Ogilvy, we had a "Minister of Culture." The head of Aol's matchmaking service holds the title, "CEO of Love." Yahoo! has a "Yahoo! Evangelist."

Some companies refer to their receptionists or call center operators as "Directors of First Impressions."

Even a company as conservative as Berkshire Hathaway has a "Director of Chaos" (the person responsible for putting together its annual event-filled annual shareholder get-together).

And while Steve Jobs' official title at Apple is CEO, he prefers the title, Chief Know it All.

In today's business world, 9:00 to 5:00 has become 24/7 and the office has become anywhere you can pick up a WiFi signal. So why not rethink people's titles, too?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

– Mark

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

An Old Force of Nature Meets a New Force of Kindness

This is the second time since we started this blog that I've posted about the use of social media after an earthquake.

Of course, the quake in Haiti was a world apart from the one last year in Italy, and not just in terms of geography. It appears that the devastation caused by the Haitian quake may be unlike anything we've ever seen before.

And this, in a country that was already considered by many to be a disaster zone on even a normal day.

While Twitter was once again the first media source on the scene, social media is now earning accolades for its power to raise a whole lot of money in a very short time. Almost instantly, musician Wyclef Jean was on the news shows appealing to people to text the word "yele" at 501501 to make an automatic $5 donation.

The Yele Haiti fund reached $1 million today.

Soon, it seemed every humanitarian aid group was collecting money this way. The Red Cross has raised $4 million through its $10 text number. The White House has a number, as does UNICEF, Catholic Relief Services, Oxfam and countless others.

Usually, donations take weeks to get where they need to go, but with these texts, it's instantaneous. And without having to write a check or pull out a credit card, people seem to be much quicker to donate.

"It's shattered any record that we've seen with mobile giving before," the Red Cross's social media manager told CNN.

It appears that in the aftermath of a tragedy of such immense magnitude, texting technology is now helping to untap generosity of perhaps an even great magnitude.

– Mark

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