Of Birth and Rebirth

maserati badgeI  love it when success flies in the face of conventional wisdom. Take for instance, the first half of this story,  an Italian automobile brand, established in 1914, that long ago had lost its jet set appeal. Maserati has lived in the shadow of Ferrari and Lamborghini for many years and a slow global economic recovery does not present itself as the ideal time to relaunch the exotic car brand.  None-the-less this Fiat subsidiary planned to do just that. The $70,000 Ghibli, first introduced in 1914 was to be the new flagship Maserati that would challenge the BMW 5 Series, the Mercedez E Class, and the Audi A6.

WSJNow consider the second half of this story, a highly successful U.S. prestige magazine that didn’t even exist in 2012. In the midst of a chronic U.S. recession, when print titles were dropping left and right, no one would conceive of launching a very upscale monthly magazine…no one that is except the The Wall Street Journal. The slick monthly publication was to be delivered the last Saturday of each month in the subscriber Weekend edition of the newspaper. The subscriber edition constitutes about 1.5 million copies and more than 3 million upscale readers. Simply called “WSJ,” the slightly oversized magazine was sort of reminiscent of W the upscale women’s magazine. But the similarities pretty much end there.

Let’s not forget that newspapers were also withering almost as fast as magazines in this new era of recession-driven economics and digitally-driven media. This backdrop made the introduction of WSJ even more implausible. Even advertising industry experts who loved the first edition of WSJ were betting against it.  They all said  time was wrong .  The same thing was being said about the relaunch of Maserati. The time was wrong.

Well so much for the experts.  WSJ instantly became a financial success for Dow Jones Publishing with a steady stream of ad pages from upscale brands of all kinds. The magazine distinguished itself by winning  the “Best Upscale Magazine of the Year” award from MEDIA WEEK magazine in its first year of publication.

maseratiTo distinguish itself, Maserati commissioned prestigious Italian men’s fashion designer Ermenegildo Zegna to create a limited edition of the new car, the limited edition Zegna Ghili. (The proper pronunciation of the name is Zeyna Jheelee. Don’t you feel like a rich Italian just saying it? Zeyna Jheelee! Again with emotion and hand jestures,  Zeyna Jheelee!)

But if you want one of these new European classics, you are already too late. As the WSJ ad below announces, only 100 were made. Rumor has it that all the cars were sold before the ink was dry on the May edition of WSJ.

 Not having any product left to sell is a classic way to create more buzz, interest, and demand. Rich folks Soften want to have that which they don’t, especially when a small number of other rich folks do.

Against the odds, a 100 year old Italian marque that everyone had left for dead rebrands itself with a $70,000 car that is already sold out and advertises it in a new upscale magazine that is flourishing while others are struggling. I guess two wrongs can make a right.  Bellisimo!



Now THIS is an App!

nyu-icon (1)Creative problem solving and creative risk-taking in general are my passions, especially in the context of marketing communications. I believe that if you keep your eyes and ears open and you can find all sorts of inspirational examples of both. Case in point is a recent segment of  “CAR TALK.” For the uninitiated (which is probably most students who visit AdProf) CAR TALK is a Saturday morning program on National Public Radio.

As the show name suggests, CAR TALK is a talk show about cars. Don’t ask me why they diverted from car-related material or why I was listening at the very moment they discussed a totally unrelated student application the New York University.

CarTalk_2012_logoTalk about a great example of creative problem solving…click or go to the link below and hear how one  applicant chose to address the same assignment faced by everyone who is admitted the NYU. Be prepared to endure a few minutes of the hosts chitty-chatting about Mother’s Day gifts before you get to the hopefully entertaining application essay. I’m delighted to learn that the risk taken by this applicant resulted in acceptance and growing fame on the Internet.


Ogilvy, CAT & Jenga…Awesome combination

OgilvyMatherLogoI may be the same age as Dan Wieden, but I’m still a senior citizen of the ad biz. Back when I broke into the business, there were some true giants in the ad agency business. David Ogilvy of Ogilvy & Mather, Bill Bernbach of Doyle/Dane/Bernbach, and Fairfax Cone of Foote, Cone & Belding lead their agencies to greatness  during the hay-day of mass marketing and mass media.

The agency business has changed a lot since the late 60’s and the visibility of the large, icon-lead agency has been blurred by the global holding companies and media the fascination with “the hot new shop of the year. That’s way it does my Caterpillar_logoheart good when a venerable shop like Ogilvy shows it still has the creative power that made it famous.

In earlier postings, I’ve discussed the power of  combing seemingly disparate concepts to make a point. The latest case in point has resulted in a heavily-viewed video for Caterpillar Tractor Company. Hatched the CAT agency, Ogilvy creative pondered ways to make the point about the precision capable with machines designed to dig and move multi-ton loads.

JengaJenga is a globally recognized game of precision. So why not a heavy machinery version? Why not indeed!

Click on the link below or search YouTube for “Built For It – Stack” to view this video.


Awesome Ants

AntsOnce again, Cannes acknowledges the undisputable value of a simple idea. Sitting shoulder to shoulder with a Heineken ad about nothing that cost millions of dollars to produce was this awesomely memorable ad from BBDO in Germany.

On the 50th anniversary of the World Wildlife Fund, there is no more important mission than to save the rain forests. Since ants are an important part of a rain forest ecosystem, what better way to make the point than to call in a few billion of them…figuratively speaking.

Using a laser beam to precisely cut ant-size rally signs out of leaves, the agency filmed an encased ant colony hard at work. The entire set was a 5-gallon glass tank. So much for primadonna stars and lavish catering.

I tried to do a hot link the YouTube URL but was not successful. But to hear the Cannes case history and enjoy the beauty of a simple idea, go to youtube.com and enter “Ant Rally.” 

Is it IL Duce or a High Voltage Insulator

MUSSOLINI-0001The Wolfsonian Museum in Miami Beach is currently exhibiting a collection of “fascist” art done during the WW2 reign of Benito Mussolini.

One piece has caused more museum-goer study than any other. What initially looks like a ceramic insulator for high voltage wires is actually a valued piece of artwork showing the profile of Italian Fascist leader Benito Mussolini. The brass sculpture was done is such a way as to show “IL Duce” looking both ways at once regardless of how you turn the piece.

While intriguing, I’ll pass on the opportunity to call this piece of fascist art “electrifying.”

InsulatorThis second image is that of a standard glass insulator used to separate high voltage wires from the metal towers that suspend them overhead. Do you see the opportunity for confusion?

Creativity Trumps the Trademark Lawyers

oreoDealing with lawyers is one thing advertising people don’t expect. Click on the link below for an inside glimpse on two very successful campaigns where the creatives actually won.

Trademark Lawyers Be Damned

Cadillac Has To Be Lovin’ This

cadiThe early days of pop music were the late 1950’s and early 60’s. Yes, that sounds like a long time ago, even for someone who was there then. But in terms of an art form, and the subject matter with which it deals, the time span seems much shorter.

Take cars for example. In the early days of pop music, Cadillac was the undisputed symbol of success, an aspirational brand. Across multiple genres; Rock 7 Roll, Soul, Country, there was an uncommon consensus…The Coupe DeVille was the cool ride and “Caddi” was it!

Then over the next 40 years Cadillac lost its cool. Its owners got older and its models no longer set the pace for luxury or style. If any car was mentioned in pop music in the last 20 years, it most likely was a Mercedes.

Now, after more than a decade of long-overdue investment in engineering and styling, Cadillac has its mojo back. How do we know? Listen to the current pop hits “White Walls” by Macklemore featuring Ryan Lewis, “Never Be Loyals” by Lorde, and “Classic” by MKTO. All of these mega-hits mention Cadillac numerous times.

Even Eminem is on the “Caddi” wagon. You’d kind of expect that, with him being from Detroit and all, but Eminem is rich enough to rapp about any car he wishes.

Welcome back Cadillac! You can’t buy this kind of buzz.