Is the New Tonight Show the New Coke of the ’10s?


1.14.09 :: If you haven’t been stimulated by any photon emitting devices for the past few week, then you’ve missed the NBC/Conan drama on TV. What I find more important is the Facebook page, ‘I’m with Coco’, who’s purpose is simply to show support for the orange-haired comedian after his ejection from his current Tonight Show time slot. This amassed 25,000 fans in its first 8 hours live (thanks to illustrator Mike Mitchell) and achieved web notoriety of some of the big blogs in its first day.

While some people might look at this as standard pop culture upheaval, I would like to remind you of similar situation regarding another beloved pop culture icon that was once pulled from our eyes– Classic Coca-Cola. In 1985, Coca-Cola execs came out with new formula for the timeless soft drink, calling it New Coke and sold it as the best thing since sliced bread. Despite all this, consumer outrage brought Classic Coca-Cola back to the store shelves a mere two and half months later. People didn’t want something they felt apart of changed.

Now, I am not claiming that Conan is anywhere as iconic as our beloved corn-syrup filled can of nostalgia. However, the idea of the Tonight Show is. For the past half a century, this veritable American institution has aired at 11:30 and promised to pass on the late night comedy torch every 15 or so years. Conan mentions this in his public announcement and you can see this supported in many responses across the web.  To some extent, people are making sure their Classic Coca-Cola, The Tonight Show, maintains its integrity as an institution and a brand. Conan, is merely their shining knight in the moral battle for late-night comedy– a figurehead with great hair.

Now, will NBC listen? It depends on how big these groups grow. The next few days will determine if the idea of the Tonight Show belongs to its broadcasters or its viewers. At very least, NBC has to remember that this type of communication elected a president in 2008. Can it preserve the Tonight Show? Tune in at 11:30 for the next few weeks.

Can condiments have causes?

9.24.09:: I am all for brand banner statements. I find these professions of faith empowering. However, I get a little uneasy when it has to deal with a condiment. Take in exhibit A:


This proclamation speaks to the product feature and ties in the audience. Day 1 stuff of any creative assignment, really. Now, may I present Exhibit B:


Same thing, right? Nope. Ask yourself what is more believable– the condiment with attitude or a movement of Americans who wear the standard in rebel fashion? Obviously, the latter. And this is just for one reason: Levi’s has a brand that can do this. They can actually have people take up their banner. Take a visit to both their campaign websites (Go Forth and Zinger) and this messaging becomes more apparent. Levi’s communication is something that people can join. They not only ask for photo submissions, but actually have visitors engage in ‘expeditions’ and writing assignments about the brand and its’ mantra. Miracle Whip’s messaging is merely entertainment, as they just ask you to ‘zing’ the web.

Please don’t think I am claiming that Miracle Whip and Kraft have no idea what they are doing. They are simply living the limitation of their product, and doing the best job they can at it. However, when you create a piece of communication that proclaims the beliefs of your brand and its’ fans, remember an authentic message people can join in on will always be more successful. If you don’t believe me, here’s the number of Facebook friends each effort has:

Levi’s: 146,000
Miracle Whip: 18,607

And that’s the skinny.

Chicken & Egg Say Hello to Idea & Execution


7.27.09:: It’s no secret, I subscribe to the religion of the Big Idea. One of our main tenets- idea before execution. Which is why I initially screamed heresy when I read “If Execution Is What Matters, Where Does That Leave Ideas? The article forwarded the thought that ideas are merely a launchpad for execution and the sweat-equity that goes into developing the ideas is what deserves more credit (and reward). As I continued to read the article, I could not help but notice how the two camps develop their points. Idea people think their brilliance and direction should be compensated while the people who actually did it, claim the idea people would be nowhere without them.

So, without getting into an intellectual property screaming match, I came to a hard truth: ideas and executions are inextricably connected. They need each other.

I know this is not a new point. In fact, agencies and clients alike have been opening up their coveted chambers and minds to tech gurus and interns for years. However, approaching problems with this holistic and respectful mindset makes more possible. Your next big idea might be inspired by the lunch lady on the new JCP widget. Or the best way to execute something might come from an insight on how people eat with their hands. One does not necessarily come before the other, but each dictate how the other will turn out. Just as the chicken determines what the egg will look like and the egg determines what the chicken is. The sooner this is accepted and we hire people that can either play ball with the other side or think both ways, the better off we’ll be.

My dad vs. Twitter

5.26.09 :: To be fair, I don’t expect my dad to jump in a ring with Jack Dorsey, anytime soon. Though we have had multiple Sunday dinner conversations about Twitter’s hype and ROI. In his own words,”People need to start realizing these are just tools, not ideas.” Given his 20+ years in the biz (and the fact that he’s my father) I think this deserves some consideration.

Good or bad, we live in an age where people use technology in order to solve human problems. If you feel out of touch with your college roommate, you can follow their Twitter and pick up the occasional twitpic. You might want to figure out a song you’re hearing in Sbux, so there’s an app for that. And, if you find yourself constantly replacing holey socks, you can sign up to get monthly installments delivered right to your door. However, as much as the technological imperative drives us to say it’s the software solving the problem, it’s the human insight that solves the problem. The technology just helps.

Human solutions should always come before technological ones. Every smart, ambitious web-preneur knows this. If we could somehow keep up with all 150 people in our social circle without the web, we would. Instead, we have Facebook. The key is to creating an experience that is seamlessly human. Enter user experience and design. Baba Shelley, at Hill | Holiday said recently in CommArts,

” Fashions of technology will always have a certain allure…but left unchecked as students of human behavior, technology won’t help us as much as we hope.”

Since technology has helped solved human problems so well, we have seen execution and the idea move closer together. Which has encouraged agencies to solicit tech input early in the creative process. (See “The Big Table” in the May/June CommArts). We’ve been lucky enough to have a small group, a technical director with a background in design and a collaborative creative team, so our process is more harmonious than most.

So, despite headlines that say you should connect with your brand fans through Twitter and Facebook, I would go back to the same old questions and human insights about these people. Chances are they will be able to help you. If not, I’m sure my dad can.

Ready, Set, Different

3.16.09 :: At Moniker, we’ve always believed being different is good and being amazing is great. The difference between the two is often about timing. Point in case:

Pepsi Ad

This Pepsi ad breaks one of the immutable laws of food advertising– appetite appeal. Or does it? In a saturated industry where slapstick humor and lifestyle photography are the norm, is it so weird to have a lime relieving itself into your product? The answer is no. It garners attention and opens the doors to a new playing field that Pepsi’s audience was ready for.

With that being said, designer, Chip Kidd still warns us, “An idea, no matter how good, ahead of it’s time, is a bad idea.” (Just think about doing Dove’s 2007 real beauty campaign in the 50’s.) We operate in a complex marketplace of thoughts and the question of difference always has to do with timing– finding the swell before the wave. The best clients know this. We strive to jump atop it.

So, when can you achieve critical mass for amazingly different?

1. When boredom sets in
If your business is not stimulating you and/or your customers, there’s a reason, and it usually has to do with ‘business as usual’. Remember– work is not boring.

2. When there is a major untapped consumer generated trend
Think Hush Puppies or Facebook, both of whom saw a trend and then surfed it.

3. When everyone else is distracted
I.e. during a financial crisis. While everyone is worried about what they do and how they spend, by taking a little risk you can stand out and maintain a healthy business.