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February 2013

Cropped 2011 head shotThe shortest month 


Yes, little February stands out in spite of its brevity. We have Valentines Day, President's Week, and the birthday of one of my heroines: Susan B. Anthony.


ADM is poised to begin a new study, but of course, can't talk about it too much. Organizational life keeps us busy as well. Have a great month!

Super Bowl Ads

What's the point?  Super Bowl ads      


You have probably already read a number of articles on which Super Bowl ads were the best and the worst. At around $4 million each (and that's just the media costs), they often leave people scratching their heads, saying: What were they thinking?


There are a number of ways to assess any kind of advertising: creative, production, and effectiveness are just three. With the kinds of budgets that are involved in creating and airing ads on the Super Bowl, it seems fair to focus on effectiveness. As frequent readers of this newsletter may recall, I am a big believer in branding, and in strategic marketing. So the ADM Super Bowl Ad Ratings are based on these criteria:

  •  Did the ad support the brand?
  •  Is it targeted appropriately?
  • What, if anything, did it accomplish?

Given these criteria, I really have to disagree with most people on the GoDaddy ad. I think that people were turned off by the notion that a gorgeous blond would want to kiss a "nerd." That's prejudicial. But more to the point, does this ad support the brand and its positioning? I'd say it does. Go-Daddy appears to want an image of being unconventional and really smart. It may not be gorgeous, but once you try it, you'll love it. I think that ad was right on target--and look at all the free publicity and awareness it's generated!


The Amy Poehler Best Buy ad was clever and it promoted Best Buy as a retailer with knowledgeable staff who have a good sense of customer service. Too bad the reality doesn't always match up. It kind of reminds of Piels beer (anyone out there remember Harry and Bert Piels, voice-overs by Bob Gould and Ray Elliot?). Great ad, terrible product. They generated initial trial, but not repeat business. Best Buy had better get their staffs to deliver the promise of the ads or they could be the next Piels beer.


The Jeep ad, with a voice-over by Oprah Winfrey, that salutes our military was criticized for being overly sentimental, but I see it as reminding people of the origins of Jeep as a military vehicle. Support of our troops connects with that history and a significant sentiment of the people watching the Super Bowl (significant, not only in number, but in likelihood to buy a sports utility vehicle). As we have seen so often in recent years, media critics do not understand the zeitgeist in Middle America. I think Jeep does.


The Samsung ad with Seth Rogan and Paul Rudd was very funny and got across the "next best thing" message perfectly. Young men and women in the audience are always looking for "the next best thing" whether that is gadgets or celebrities. And the icing on the cake is the positioning of Samsung as being on the technological cutting edge--not an accident as it seeks to replace Apple in that position.


Finally, here's one I thought was not only insultingly stupid, but pointless as well: Doritos--especially the Fashionista Dad ad. I realize they wanted to get across the idea that Doritos are irresistible, but they also portrayed men as being so stupid that it makes me wonder why anyone would want to have children with them, much less LIVE with them. So what does this say about Doritos? Does it MAKE you stupid, or do only stupid people buy them? Even if it is aimed at men, who would want to identify with the characters in the ad?
This exercise is a pretty good follow-up to last month's business Darwin Awards, and reflects my opinions only. Just because an idea seems good (or great) around a conference table doesn't mean it's going to be effective. And that's the word that should count the most.
Lifelong Learning

How to stay relevant  


I think you'll agree with the premise that we are living in an age where things change in an apparent nano-second. Technology changes with the seasons--if not more frequently. A new tablet or phone is outmoded almost as soon as you get it home from the store.


Markets can change fairly rapidly as well--at least, our understanding of the markets. The failure of the Republican Party to recognize market shifts last November resulted in a historic loss for them, especially considering how much money they spent and the lack of return on that investment.


I have been surprised by the lack of interest in business educational programming here, especially since that is the key to staying fresh in one's field. However, falling attendance at programs run by business and professional associations seems to be a widespread phenomenon. The irony is that it should be exactly the opposite. In a period of economic uncertainty it is even more important to know what new technologies, techniques, and products are out there and how they can improve business results. It is more important to be able to use things like social media and digital marketing to make one more efficient and improve one's value to one's firm. That can reinforce the return on investment of attending workshops and seminars, as well as being a member of a business organization.


Professional development is the responsibility of the individual to him or herself. If you don't stay current on things like best practices and disciplines that are allied with what you are currently doing, you might as well shackle yourself to your desk; and even then, your company probably has less loyalty to you than you may be showing to them. When business reverses occur (and they often do, even in a good economy), you might be left out on a limb as they cut it off behind you--not out of meanness, but out of necessity. When you pursue professional development, you are taking control of your future.


Lifelong learning is good for you in a number of ways:

  • Intellectual stimulation keeps you young, interested, and interesting
  • Learning about new approaches to what you do or new ways of looking at it keep you relevant
  • Learning about disciplines or processes which are currently tangential to what you do make it easier to transition to a new area if need be
  • Connecting with a professional or business community is good for your SQ (Social Quotient), and may also make it easier for you to transition if you need to

Take the plunge. It is worth it.

Upcoming Events
February 13th, 11:30am-1:30pm


IABC/LI " is back to its regular programming. Jeff Levy, of Janusian Insights will be speaking about "Understanding Corporate Culture to Achieve Success" at FOUR Food Studios. This subject is important for you whether you work IN a corporation or firm, or work FOR one.  Click here for more information and registration. You can also sign up at and pay at the door.
February 20, 6-8pm
New York American Marketing Association is presenting a program on mobile marketing: "How Do Marketers Take Advantage of Mobile," featuring Marc Weisinger, Google's Director of Marketing, Elite SEM. The program will be held at the offices of Google, 111 8th Avenue, 10th floor, New York. Click here for more information and registration. 
February 22, 11:30am-2:00pm
Your's truly will be the featured speaker at Women Who Lunch, a diverse group of business and professional women in New York City. My topic is "Personal Branding," and the meeting is being held at Gossip Bar, 9th Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets. Click here to register or pay at the door.
June 23-26, 2013 
IABC is holding its World Conference in New York City! This amazing opportunity to meet business communicators from all over the world will be held at the New York Hilton. Click here to learn more about it, and to register. 
This practice is dedicated to helping companies become knowledge-driven, rather than assumption driven about strategic and tactical decisions concerning lines of business, branding, communications, and various marketing activities. For more information about how we do this, case studies, frequently asked questions about marketing research, and testimonials, please visit our web site:

Ann Middleman