Uber exec helps further define the brand

Buzzfeed: Uber Executive Suggests Digging Up Dirt on Journalists

Homeboy goes off at a swank, supposedly private dinner in New York, except no one told the BuzzFeed journalist in attendance—whose under table engorgement must’ve been considerable—that the dinner was off the record. 

In September I asked if Uber’s corporate tactics make it a big bully. 

Now it seems more like a psycho stalker. 

The first dream I have remembered in several years

I almost never remember my dreams. This one from last night is an exception:

I was part of a small group of 4-5 people from the Austin ad agency that was my former employer and is a current freelance client. We were driving to Ford, the automaker, to make a presentation. Of course we weren’t going to Ford-Ford; we were going to a small offshoot operation of Ford, with the idea of getting the agency’s foot in the door.

For some reason, I brought along my dog, Lupita, though I didn’t realize that until later.

Just before the presentation was to start, the snot-nosed art director I had been working with (not a real person, but a dream composite) informed me that I was supposed to co-present with him. Immediate panic set in. I didn’t know I was supposed to co-present! I was just the freelancer! But I resolved I would make the best of it.

We thought we’d be presenting to a group similar in size to ours. Wrong! The meeting room was huge, with chairs and tables widely spread all over the place. The Ford people were moving about freely visiting with one another. It turned out that these presentations were like a school assembly for them—a break from work for a little socializing and entertainment. We were the entertainment.

My snot-nosed art director creative partner started presenting. He was getting killed. Completely ignored. It didn’t help that he was talking in a normal tone of voice, which gradually petered out into defeated muttering as he went on. And we were just sitting in the middle of the room, not up on a stage or dais or anything. We didn’t even have a microphone. I resolved that when he passed it over to me, I would be ready to “perform;” I’d leap up out of my chair, use my bellowing speaking voice to be heard, move around working the room, gesture grandly, command attention, really get people to buy in to what we were selling, whatever that was.

Well, I did all that, but I barely commanded anyone’s attention. As I was presenting, working the crowd, gesturing, trying to get folks engaged, I could tell it was futile. We completely misunderstood the audience we were supposed to present to. While I was still talking I realized that the best we could salvage from this day was the opportunity to return and try again, so I was determined to make that happen. I knew that what we really needed to put this over was a big multimedia presentation and a huge sound and projection system that could not be ignored. These people wanted entertainment, so by God, we’d give it to them!

My part of the presentation ended with a whimper and the Ford people took that as their cue to get up and get refreshments and continue socializing. I immediately began working the crowd, meeting people and trying to pull the right strings for a return invitation.

The Ford people were nice and acted like the fact that our presentation had been ignored was no big deal. They seemed satisfied. I explained that we had been expecting a much smaller meeting, and weren’t prepared for an audience full of people who felt free to continue talking and socializing during the presentation. The small group of folks I was talking too nodded sympathetically and replied, in unison, “That’s Ford!” They all laughed heartily at this.

As we were leaving the building, which somehow I hadn’t realized was so enormous, I started rehearsing what I would tell the executive creative director at the agency (my former boss, the only person from my real life in the dream). He would not be happy we blew it. I was angry at the snot-nosed art director for being so poorly prepared and for failing to tell me I was responsible for presenting with him. I decided I was definitely going to throw him under the bus.

Just then we reached the lobby and I saw my dog, Lupita, being doted on by several Ford ladies. I hadn’t realized that I’d brought her there with me, nor that I had just left her loose to roam the halls of Ford during our presentation. But the Ford people were all cool with it. Apparently, lots of people brought their dogs to work and just let them wander wherever. An informal group of Ford ladies kinda looked after the dogs.

I was really relieved to be reunited with my dog, even though I hadn’t realized we’d been separated in the first place. But by then, my colleagues from the ad agency had all left in the car we’d arrived in, and I had to figure out how to get me and my dog a ride back from that far-flung suburban office park.

And the whole time my mind is churning with ideas for how to put the presentation over at our next opportunity. A huge sound system was a definite must.

Then I woke up.


I have been identified as a guaranteed winner!*

Thank you, Clay Cooley Nissan of Austin South! I will be headed your way soon to claim my prize!* I mean, seeing as how my NOTIFICATION STATUS is APPROVED and CONFIRMED and all.

Oh, wait. The prize claim deadline is Wednesday. And today is Wednesday. 

Oh, wait again. It doesn’t say which Wednesday is the deadline. So the deadline could be today, or it could be any Wednesday into perpetuity. I get it! Creating a little urgency there. 

Just one thing: I’m a little concerned that my PRIZE NOTIFICATION NUMBER is illegible. Weird, huh? I mean, everything else is legible here, even on the carbon copy (nice touch, BTW!)

Well, I guess we can work that out when I come in and compare my number to the numbers on your PRIZE BOARD. I’m sure if there’s any question about what my PRIZE NOTIFICATION NUMBER is, I’ll get the benefit of the doubt, right?


See you soon.*

PS: The bank said the bottom part is not a real check. What up with that? : ( 

No, Bed, Bath & Beyond, I will not "Keep calm and coupon."

I spotted this full-pager in Dwell. Let me count the ways this bugs me:

1. Unlike some of the creative directors I have worked for, I think puns have their place in advertising. Unless they are totally gratuitous and have nothing to do with the product. DING!

2. I’d bet that, like me, most people in the U.S. know the “Keep Calm And Carry On” slogan from a series of British Airways posters from some years ago that played off the meme. Even if the BA campaign wasn’t the inspiration, “Keep Calm and Carry On” originally was created as an ad campaign by the British Ministry of Information to boost public morale during WWII. Malley’s Unwritten Rule of Copywriting #2 states, “You may create ad headlines that play off pop culture tropes ONLY IF said pop culture tropes are not advertising themselves.” That means no “Got Cat Food?” No “Where’s the Bargains?” And no “Keep Calm and Coupon.” 

3. “Coupon” is not supposed to be a verb. “Verbing weirds language.”—Calvin, of Calvin and Hobbes

4. This, this, this, this and this should be ample evidence that “Keep Calm” has been done to death.

5. It’s just dum.

6. Other than that, I got no problem with it. 

Proof that getting a Money Mailer is NOT like getting money in your mailbox

Dear Money Mailer LLC:

I received your direct mail piece yesterday and noted with amusement the trademarked slogan printed on the front: “Like Getting Money In Your Mailbox.”

I wanted to inform you that for this recipient at least, your slogan rings hollow. Your garish mailing full of crapful coupons is, to me, decidely not like getting money in my mailbox. It’s more like getting processed dead trees that will go straight to the recycling bin in my mailbox.

Allow me to show you the difference. This is me getting money in my mailbox. Please note the expression of surprise and delight: 

This is me getting the Money Mailer® in my mailbox. See the difference?

Thank you for your time and attention.

Yours very truly, etc., etc.,

R. Malley
Blogger/junk mail critic 

Exclamations, imperatives and interrogatives from The Home Mag

This ad circular came in the mail today.

All puncuation and capitalization sic. 

Page 2:
Want Beautiful Countertops?

Upgrade Your Shower Doors!

Take Back Your Yard!

Page 4:
The Heat Is On! We’ve Got Shade!

Why Replace When You Can Renew?

Looking for More Customers? …Need Real Results? Our Readers are Looking for You! 

Page 6:
Beat the Heat…Build Your POOL Now!

Page 7:
Find Even More Great Ideas!

Page 8:

Fastest Delivery- Often HALF the time of the competition!

Page 9:
Glass Doors That Stay Clean!

Page 10:
Why Buy a Sun Freedom America Solar Water Heater?

Summer Special! Installation Included!

Page 12:
We do custom designs!


Page 13:
Looks and feels like stone! No Tear-Out needed!

Page 14:
You enjoy it!

We guarantee… You’ll be delighted you worked with us!

Page 15:
Our Pools Have Never Been More Affordable!

A Proud Texas Company!

Page 16:
go frameless! 100% lifetime warranty!

All OFFERS on this ad can be COMBINED!

Page 17:
Can’t find a thing? Call The Garage King!

STOP Paying for an Offsite Storage Unit! Our RACKS pay for themselves in less than a year!

It Is Hot…Save Now On Shutters Save Later On Energy Bills!

Celebrating Our 40th Year Of Business!

Page 18:
What Are You Waiting For?

Page 20:
Bathroom Remodeling is ALL WE DO!

Page 21:
Take advantage of great rebates & tax incentives while you can!

Page 22:

Fashion in Motion Sales Event!

Page 23:


Back cover:
Got UGLY Concrete?

“Finally…an Overlay that looks like REAL STONE!” 

The lady GSD&M pays to refer business to other agencies

Nice story in the Austin American-Statesman about GSD&M’s Glenda Goehrs, whose job it is to match other Austin ad agencies with accounts that are too small for our burg’s biggest (by far) ad firm. And she’s been doing it for 20 years. 

This goes a long way toward explaining why, from my perspective at least, other agencies in town tend to view GSD&M more as a benevolent big brother, rather than an uncaring Goliath. 

Just another reminder that success in our business is not a zero-sum game. 

Austin American-Statesman: GSD&M employee has an odd job—sending business to others

The Loneliest Brand Attribute: A Marketing Fable

Once upon a time, there was a brand attribute named Simple, Effective Cleaning. Simple, Effective Cleaning was the sole attribute for a toothpaste brand. In fact, Simple, Effective Cleaning’s brand was the best-selling toothpaste in the world (although there were some significant growth opportunities on the Indian subcontinent).

But life was lonely for Simple, Effective Cleaning. One day, Gary the Global Brand Manager saw Simple, Effective Cleaning moping around. Simple, Effective Cleaning looked very sad. “What’s wrong, Simple, Effective Cleaning?” Gary asked. “You look glum.”

“Oh, it’s nothing,” Simple, Effective Cleaning answered. “Just a little lonely, that’s all.” Then Simple, Effective Cleaning let out a long sigh and stared at the floor.

Gary the Global Brand Manager was concerned. Simple, Effective Cleaning wasn’t just the best brand attribute his best-selling toothpaste had—it was its only brand attribute. If Simple, Effective Cleaning was unhappy, there was no telling how it could harm the brand’s efforts to increase sales worldwide by at least 3.7% in Q3. Then Gary the Global Brand Manager had an idea.

“I have an idea,” Gary the Global Brand Manager said to Sharon the Global Personal Products Group Vice President. “I want to market a new brand attribute for my best-selling toothpaste brand.”

“Well, you know ideas are strongly discouraged in an environment where we are trying to leverage our existing core brand values to maximize marketing return,” Sharon the Global Personal Products Group Vice President said. “But your best-selling toothpaste is an important player in our portfolio. So I am willing to listen. What is the new brand attribute?”

“The new attribute I would like to market is ‘Brightens and Whitens’” Gary the Global Brand Manager said.

Six months later, after the market research was completed, the legal approvals were obtained, and the packaging redesign was finalized, Brightens and Whitens joined Simple, Effective Cleaning as a brand attribute for the best-selling toothpaste in the world. And even though Brightens and Whitens seemed to have little to no impact on market penetration on the Indian subcontinent, Gary the Global Brand Manager was pleased, because Simple, Effective Cleaning was no longer lonely.

But a few months later, Gary the Global Brand Manager noticed that Simple, Effective Cleaning was in a foul mood. “Now what’s wrong?” he asked.

“Brightens and Whitens is causing problems. I love having Brightens and Whitens around, because now I’m not so lonely. But Brightens and Whitens is jealous. ‘You’ve got me to keep you company,’ it says. ‘Who’s going to keep me company?’ So I was wondering if we could maybe add another brand attribute to keep Brightens and Whitens from being so upset.”

Gary the Global Brand Manager was annoyed, though he tried not to show it. Getting Brightens and Whitens added as a brand attribute took a herculean effort, and now Simple, Effective Cleaning was saying it wasn’t enough. Still, Simple, Effective Cleaning was so important to him, and Brightens and Whitens was so important to Simple, Effective Cleaning. So Gary the Global Brand Manager felt he should do what he could to keep both of them happy. And eight months later, Multi-Ingredient Cavity Fighting made its debut.

Two years passed. By now, the world’s best-selling toothpaste brand had seven more brand attributes in addition to Simple, Effective Cleaning and Brightens and Whitens. It was performing adequately and meeting sales growth goals, and was even making some headway on the Indian subcontinent. But once again, Gary the Global Brand Manager noticed that Simple, Effective Cleaning was down in the dumps.

“Who am I?” Simple, Effective Cleaning said to Gary the Global Brand Manager. “I don’t even know myself anymore. Ever since Proven to Maintain the Health of Tooth Enamel, With Dentist-Approved Ingredients, and May Enhance Overall Dental Health came on board, I feel like I don’t matter anymore.”

“I understand where you’re coming from,” Gary the Global Brand Manager said. “And you’re right. Our research shows that our core message is getting lost, and sales projections show growth starting to slow in Q2 of next year. This calls for a radical rethink. Maybe we need to strip away all the noise and refocus on our core brand values.”

“I like the sound of that,” Simple, Effective Cleaning said.

Ten months later came the brand relaunch. The new simplified packaging featured one prominent callout, and that was, of course, Simple, Effective Cleaning.

The strategy worked. The slowdown in sales growth was averted, and market penetration on the Indian subcontinent showed a small but not insignificant uptick.

But one evening as he was leaving the office, Gary the Global Brand Manager heard something. Eventually, he found Simple, Effective Cleaning crying softly in a dark corner of the office.

“What’s wrong?” Gary the Global Brand Manager asked once again.

“I’m lonely,” Simple, Effective Cleaning said.

“OK, we’ll talk about that in the morning,” Gary the Global Brand Manager said.

Then Gary the Global Brand Manager went home. Like most nights, he drank himself into a stupor. But this night, Gary the Global Brand Manager was so zonked out, he actually forgot to brush his teeth.

The End


Austin ad firm creates brilliant video branding cigarette butts as toxic waste

When I worked at Big State U back in the day, I officed near the guy responsible for setting up and managing the University’s pioneering water recycling effort. Probably very few University students, faculty and staff members realize that much of the grey water from campus drains is captured and reused in the water chilling system that air conditions campus buildings. 

Naturally, this fellow was very concerned about water quality issues. I’ve never forgotten how he described cigarette butts to me: he called them “perfect toxic packets.” He explained that they persist in the environment for months or years, leaching all kinds of horrible toxins into the environment. 

I was reminded of that when I saw this article in the Times about a new ad campaign from Legacy, a national non-profit that fights against the health impacts of smoking on society. The campaign, created by the fabulously talented folks at The Butler Bros. right here in Austin, vividly portrays the toxic impact that discarded cigarette butts have on our environment. 

It drives me absolutely crazy when I see someone flick a cigarette butt out of their car window. There goes another perfect toxic packet, I think. I wish I could force those idiots to watch this. Over and over again. 

Kudos to The Butler Bros. Fantastic work, guys. 

Here's the SodaStream ad CBS wouldn't let you see...

According to Will Burns at Forbes, CBS refused to air this SodaStream ad because it would piss off Coke and Pepsi, both of which buy a lot of advertising on the network. That’s pretty sucky. Not to mention shortsighted, but, hey, this is network TV we’re talking about. 

What I really want to know is what does it take to borrow or create a facsimile of a competitor’s branded beverage truck to use in a commercial that’s unfavorable to their brand? I think both Coke and Pepsi have used representations of each other’s trucks in their ads. 

As seen on Daring Fireball

Microsoft's Bing goes after Google over "scroogling"

I was served the not particularly attractive banner above on Talking Points Memo. Boy, does this ever smack of desperation on Microsoft’s part. So I had to click.

The landing page at Scroogled.com argues that Google “scroogles” its users because it now only serves paid ad results for shopping searches. Microsoft’s search engine Bing serves a mix of paid and “organic” results for shopping searches, as Google formerly did.  

Not that Bing doesn’t have a point. But this kind of campaign leaves me with the feeling that Bing is circling the drain. It’s as if they’ve acknowledged that they can’t win by highlighting their product’s advantages, so their only hope is to cry foul against their dominant competitor.

Microsoft itself, of course, has faced a litany of criticism and legal action about uncompetitive practices over the years. Regardless of the validity of those claims, Microsoft’s resorting to the same kind of tactics against its competitors exposes them to charges of hypocrisy. 

I’m not saying they’re wrong. Nor am I saying that I wouldn’t make the same play if I were in their shoes. But it definitely seems like something you’d try when the enemy is about to overrun you and you’re down to the last few arrows in your quiver. 

Here’s the video that lays out the Microsoft/Bing case:

The most unbelievable Microsoft ad I've ever seen

OK, sorry for the really crappy photo of this print ad from yesterday’s NYT’s Magazine, but check out this two-page spread for the new Microsoft Surface:

Click to view larger crappy version

Notice something missing? Like a bunch of words? In fact, aside from the product and company names, there are only two words: right by the open blue Surface on the left page it says, “Click in.” 

That’s it. No asterisks, no legal footnotes. No third-party logos. Consumers are left to decode the ad for themselves, which is great.

I’ve worked on a bit of marketing stuff for this company. I don’t think it was easy for them to get here. As a reminder, check out this spot-on video from several years ago: 

Advertising slogans that didn't catch on


“Won’t harm babies.”—Respacher’s Baby Food

“Is it pure? Is your sister?”—Molman Dairy

“For a remarkable meat-like taste.”—Strunch Industrial Food Products

“We’ll screw you, but good!”—L&G Household Fastener Corp.

“Your wife won’t know the difference.”—Bibble’s Fine Cubic Zirconia

“Real men know beer is beer.”—Smith’s Discount Brewery

“Looks just like the real thing!”—Replica Pharmaceuticals