Friday, December 26, 2008

The Clean Coal Communications War Part 4: The TVA Ash Slide

Just a few notes on this issue:

1) The Tennessee Valley Authority’s generation mix is probably the most diverse in the country. Coal, nuclear, and hydroelectric generation make up the largest portion followed by natural gas.

2) The TVA is still fully owned by the federal government; therefore, we should probably expect FEMA and their communication vehicle stepping in shortly to deal with this issue.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Attack of the Local Commercials!!!

O' local ads how I love ye. Let me count the ways:

1) Over emphasis of emotions

2)Strange celebrity endorsements

3)Awesomely low quality

We may laugh at these ads for a number of reasons, but at least we are aware of these small business. Moreover, advertising on local cable might be more effective than local ad word purchases on Google. Seriously, hear me out on this.

If exposure is the most important element in advertising, what is going to come first, a search or an exposure to a television ad? Yes, the people at Google will say that television viewing is going down and that Tivo is killing ads, but these businesses are advertising when time is cheap and audiences might be watching live television. Therefore, it's highly likely that exposure to their business is from the ad not the ad word.

Obviously, this is a wild conjecture but it would be interesting to observe.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Bad News for Me: Omnicom Expected to Cut About 5% of Its Work Force

Keeping my whining to a minimum while looking for a job in this economy is tough. Real tough especially when I read in the New York Times that Omnicom is cutting jobs.

Anyway, it's not like we didn't see this coming. "BBDO laid off 145 employees last month at its office in Troy, Mich., 22 percent of the office’s staff of 656." If you go to the AdWeek website you can see who the largest advertisers are and that's the automakers.

Where will marketing and advertising be during the resuscitation of the auto industry, and after? Will the work be done in house?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Clean Coal Communications War Part 3: Clean Coal Makes a Critical Error

I hate when corporations try to be cute in their messaging. Unless the corporation is selling a cute product, a company should avoid a cute message in any form. There is nothing cute about electricity, and there is definitely nothing cute about coal.

“There must have been that magic in clean coal technology.”

Are you kidding me? Despite the fact that this is a holiday themed bit of web content, there is absolutely no reason to go off message. The first clean coal ads had seriousness on their side, this spot is ridiculous and ridiculously bad. Magic? Aren’t you trying to sell technology? Isn’t technology the opposite of magic?

I have little doubt that the This Is Reality people will produce something quickly that throws stones at this horrible misstep.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Communications War Over Clean Coal Part 2: The 30 Second Spots

To the best of my knowledge, the first “clean coal” ads were run by the group Here it is:

From an industry perspective, this is a decent spot. Groups like are usually funded by corporations that seek to expose the public to a specific business issue that politicians on either side of the aisle will take up in an election. What’s most important about this ad is that it looks clean, crisp and professional. It’s not as good as the American Chemistry ads, but the harder the topic the harder the tougher sell.

The key highlight to this ad is when it mentions the possibility of capturing CO2. Herein stands the crux of opposition to “clean coal.” Carbon dioxide capturing is very expensive. In fact, it might be the most expensive element in a “clean coal” plant. Plus, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse emissions cannot be captured everywhere. The gas is collected and sent into the ground in things like salt deposits. In addition, there is no guarantee that the gas will stay in the ground forever.

So, once again, if money were no object then yes you could build one of these plants and there would be less environmental impact than a current coal burning plant.

Now, as we all know, John McCain did not win the election. Enter the group, Like, the group has a flair for producing ads that catch the viewers’ attention; however, what separates this ad is the fact that it is an adequate introduction to a debate about “clean coal.”

Now, with the both groups poised to fight the war will take a new, interesting, and head scratching turn.

Part 3 Coming Soon…

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Communications War Over Clean Coal Part 1

Before going off to graduate school, I worked in the energy industry. (You can check what I did on my profile.) Now, I am in the unique position to offer an educated opinion on “Clean Coal Technology.”

So, here’s the deal with “clean coal.” In my personal opinion, it should really be called “cleaner coal.” From a technological standpoint, it’s better than current coal burning power plants. There are fewer noxious gasses emissions and as for carbon emissions the issue is a little more complex.

If money were no object – yeah, go with me on this – the efficiency of the best “clean coal” plant could release a substantially smaller amount of carbon emissions for the amount of power generated. So, there are still emissions in most technological cases. Since I have been out of the industry for two years now, I cannot say for certain that there are better plans floating around.

Nevertheless, it could be easy to call the current communications on “clean coal” green-washing.

To be continued…

Circuit City Advertises From the Terminal Ward

Back on November 10, Circuit City filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy. This is a long time coming for the retailer who has seen competition spring up from big boxes like Best Buy, Target, and Walmart and countless numbers of online retailers.

What I find surprising is the stream of ads coming from the company as it teeters on oblivion. Obviously, if they hope to survive reorganization then they will need to keep consumers coming into the store. But, spending $405 million in fiscal 2008 - 17% of gross profit - on marketing seems a little overboard.

Moreover, here in the Chicago Metroland Area the company is running cheaply made "we're liquidating" ads on top of the current ad campaign on the same television stations. These mixed messages are poison to the company.

First, if I actually had money to spend in this economy and I was looking to make a purchase of some high end product then I would not want to go to a retailer who might not be around in a few months. In the event something goes wrong with my purchase my first preference is to go to the retailer for a return or an exchange, rather than try to contact the manufacturer through a warranty.

This leads me to my next point: warranties. Retailers like Circuit City have based large portions of their business models selling extended warranties. If they're going to continue to push these on consumers who's going to be dumb enough to gamble on the company's existence?

Finally, unlike other companies that have successfully gone through recent reorganizations, Circuit City lacks defacto traffic like the United Airlines. UAL was able to advertise in the same manner as they had prior to bankruptcy because people still needed to travel to areas where they were the main operator and planes weren't falling out of the sky. Circuit City does not have the luxury of running ads with blinders on.

If they continue to advertise this way, then they must pick separate channels to advertise the liquidation and the stores that are going to survive the current cut. Otherwise, they are going to be closing the rest of their outlets in the near future.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Problem With Google Analytics Part 2

In a previous post I talked about discovering a glitch of some sort with Google Analytics. (Check it out here.)

While sitting around with my roommate the other day and watching him play around with his 3G i-phone, I decided to ask him to visit the blog to see if the wireless phenomena occurred with the AT&T service. Much to my surprise, Google Analytics could still not figure out his log in location. In fact, as you can see in the image above, his visit is listed as coming from Dallas, TX.

Later that afternoon, we were at a friend's apartment 14 miles away from ours and I asked him again to log in and to click around a few times to make sure that I could confirm his identity. (One of the pluses of using this tool on a blog is that most people tend to not click on anything; therefore, a multitude of clicks will indicate that it is him.)

Two interesting things occurred:
1) His location was listed as Texas again
2) Oddly enough, his location was listed as Addison, TX a suburb of Dallas whose center is 14 miles from the center of Dallas.

I am going to go out on a limb and chalk this up in the coincidence column rather than believing that the maps of Chicago and Dallas were swapped in Google's computers somehow.

However, I would like to point out a few things:
1) Once again, wireless 3G log-ins do not seem to be traceable with Google Analytics.
2) The location seems to be random.
3) A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to meet with a representative from Omniture and I discussed my discovery. He said that it was not too far fetched that Google Analytics could not find the location of wireless log-ins. In fact, he said - paraphrasing - that Omniture is aware of the phenomena and it collects multiple forms of data on wireless log-ins to triangulate the real location of users.

While Google Analytics is great and free, it's good to know that people do get more when they pay for a service like Omniture.

(Note: In the interest of full disclosure, my meeting with Omniture was in a classroom setting. I have yet to use Omniture in a business setting. If there's anyone out there who does, then feel free to leave a comment.)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Taking This Week Off

Well, I am taking this week off to look for a job and work on my various finals. More Mattkoppelblog coming soon.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Good Ol' Corporate Sponsorship

This morning I made my way downstairs at my parents' house to see my sister watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. A fan of musicals, she likes having the opportunity to see lip synced versions of popular numbers from Broadway shows. As for me, I like watching to see if this will be the year when Underdog finally breaks free from his rope holding captors and liberates New York from Hello Kitty's balloon tyranny.

For all the whining about brand sponsorship that goes on today, people seem to let this parade slide. (I can really only think of one other thing out there that avoids criticism and that's Wrigley Field.)

Why is that? The simple answer: It's been around long enough that people cannot extricate the "Macy's" from the cultural lexicon.

What's even more interesting is that if someone tries to change it now, the public will go bananas. Take Wrigley Field again. Recently, with Zell's purchase of the Tribune Company- the owner of the Cubs - there was talk of selling not only the team but also the naming rights of the stadium. That development brought about this miasma of crap:

And finally,

(Props to you if you sat through all of those; I did not. )

Whether we like it or not, our brands have entered some sort of symbiotic relationship with our young culture.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Poorly Used Music In Advertising Part II

Just to show that I am trying to be equal opportunity, I would like to point out an extremely poor music choice made by the Obama campaign used in the video played at Grant Park prior to his speech.

Unfortunately, I cannot find the video. But, the song in the background during this video was The National's "Fake Empire" off of their album Boxer.

Here it is:

Fake Empire - The National

Once again, this is a great song. The only problem is that I don't believe it fits in a video for a guy that just won the presidency in one of the wildest elections in history.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Poorly Used Music In Advertising Part I

I am a big fan of Band of Horses. Their two albums, Everything All the Time and Cease to Begin, are great bits of post REM indie rock. Despite critical success and a few great appearances on Letterman, the only song that's mildly known is called "The Funeral."

Here are some of the lyrics:

I'm coming up only to hold you under
I'm coming up only to show you wrong
And to know you is hard and we wonder
To know you all wrong, we were

It's a sad song... at least that's what most people think. Except for the people who made this commercial for the Ford Edge where they use it.

I find it highly ironic that Ford in trying to be hip seems to have picked a song that encapsulates their current economic situation. While I am sure that most people who saw the ad have no idea who wrote the song, I still find it strange that in the age of internet where we can dissect anything that someone would make this suggestion.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Guns 'N Roses Brand At The Threshold

So we're about to get our free Dr. Peppers! Chinese Democracy is finally going to be released and subjected to the ears of critics and the public at large.

GnR is hardly a band that defined a generation, nevertheless, their most popular album Appetite for Destruction has sold 18 million copies as of September 2008. Their brand, up to now, consists of two things: 1) Good music 2) A classic tale of rock and roll self destruction.

While the band was moving up the charts, Axl Rose - the megalomaniac singer - forced the other band members to yield all rights to the name Guns 'N Roses in order to keep working. After the band broke up, Axl began working on what would become Chinese Democracy for 13 years or so. During this time, the band's brand grew to the point that classic rock stations are playing some GnR's singles. Even my father now knows their music.

What's going to happen now that a new album is about to be released? We are still going to think Axl Rose is crazy. But, are people going to view the Guns 'N Roses brand in the same way? In addition to the early albums, plenty of people purchase GnR memorabilia including the almighty t-shirt. If this album bombs critically and/or commerically, then it could effect the sales of the Axl's perpetual gravy train.

The coming weeks are going to yield some interesting information about an aspect of branding that people don't think about very often. Let's watch and see what happens.

Friday, November 21, 2008

If Being Folksy Is Part of Your Brand

There stands Sarah Palin in front of a trough of red turkey blood. Yeah, apparently she just pardoned one turkey and took a photo in front of death row as my vegetarian girlfriend would call it.

To a certain extent her comment of "Certainly we'll probably invite criticism for even doing this, too ... But at least this was fun" perfectly encapsulates how oblivious her handlers are at maintaining her image. If you watch the video of the actual interview she's not talking about standing in front of the slaughter hut. She's talking about how she believed the media picked on her during the election and how they will probably pick on her for this.

Well, she was right. The media is going to pick on her for this because all she had to do was turn around and let them take her picture with a different background. In addition, she brought this criticism on yourself.

I know there's a wing of the Republican party that likes their candidates to appear folksy, which is fine. Our history is filled with plenty of folksy personalities who shared a great level of wisdom: Mark Twain, Will Rogers, and Woody Guthrie to name a few. Apparently, though, the Republicans believe that folksy means knowing nothing beyond your front porch.

Folksy is not oblivious.

Maybe the Republicans should go back to the images that they understand because there will never be another Ronald Reagan: old men from the Northeast who despise government waste and paying taxes.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The NYT Online is Killing Me

I try to read as many newspapers as I can during the day. Don’t ask me why, I really have no good explanation for my news consumption. In order to read online I highlight the text with my cursor. Usually, this is a pretty good way of keeping focus and staying on track as I read and scroll.

Recently, the New York Times online decided to add a greater level of functionality to the stories posted on their web site. This includes a strange new function that causes a question mark in a speech bubble to appear every time I highlight something. If I accidentally click on the bubble the site navigates me away from the page to some sort of internal NYT search engine.

This is driving me bananas. I am all for Web 2.0 ideas converging with 1.0 stuff, but – seriously – don’t screw with my news.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Problem With Google Analytics?

I added Google Analytics when I started this blog. It’s a pretty interesting application. The program provides metrics of all sorts on who is reading the blog. One of the most interesting parts is called the “map overlay” which shows where in the world people are reading the blog.

Apparently, someone in Tucson read the blog. What’s interesting is that I post updates on Facebook and I don’t think I know anyone there. So, there are a couple of potential conclusions I can come to:

1) One of my friends is in Tucson
2) My popularity is growing
3) There’s something wrong with Google Analytics

After some Facebook stalking, it doesn’t look like anyone is in Tucson. As for being popular, I can’t even get my mom to read this. So, after talking to a friend of mine here in the Chicago area about my Tucson reader he said that it might have been him.


Well, he uses a wireless internet card from Sprint and, apparently, when he logs on to any Google program the ads are never for his area. Could it be that these cards randomly generate new IP addresses or find some strange link through cell phone towers? I don’t know for sure, but it seems that if these cards proliferate a significant portion of Google’s data could be incorrect.

One Extra Note:

This minor phenomenon happened prior to my posting of the blog on Linkedin.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Me liking a management book?

I hate management books. A majority of the people who spend their time figuring how to synergize the optimum needle movement never get beyond five words when speaking to me. It's not because I think these people are stupid; I think they are lazy. They would rather seek outside definitions to define very specific issues, which - most of the time - do not come close to describing the situation.

Recently, in my investor relations course, I was asked to read Ram Charan's What the CEO Wants You to Know. The book is not some miracle of business communication. It doesn't try to ascribe new meanings to existant terms and euphemisms. What it does do is encourage the reader to speak in simple financial terms. That's right finance. While the examples are a little dated - he cites Jack Welch and Gateway Computers - Charan strips business communication back to what it should be and it was an extremely refreshing experience.

Before you think that I am all about Charan, I should note that he also wrote a book called Game Changers. "Game changer" is the new "paradigm shift" and "groundswell." People are starting to overuse it and I am sure you will hear me complaining about it in the near future.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The End of TRL

I haven't watched MTV in years. In fact, I stopped watching MTV in high school when TRL became the only program that aired music videos. When MTV announced the end of the program came the thought that maybe they'd go back to airing videos. Of course, that's highly improbable.

With youtube enabling artists of all sorts to have a media outlet, MTV has lost its need to air videos. Moreover, genre specific blogs clump videos together and make mini MTVs for enthusiasts.

So, what's next for MTV? More reality shows like The Hills? Either way, I won't be watching.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Fed Ex and Nuance

Lately, Fed Ex and BBDO have produced an excellent series of ads. But, the commercial entitled "Exception" is probably the best for its use of nuance and color.

Okay, the punchline is obvious. What is not so obvious is the fact that the man in denial is wearing a dark brown shirt that sort of resembles a UPS driver. Is Fed Ex trying to say that UPS employees and customers are in total denial?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Living in a Miasma of Bull Crap

Where are you on the hype curve?

According to the new Gartner Hype Curve, an interesting group of innovations are now moving their way up to the peak of inflated expectations. There's things like cloud computing and other super high tech stuff; however, only one stands out...


I kid you not my friends.

Check it out here:

I don't know about you, but if someone tried to have a video conference with me through one of these robots coming up to my desk I would just push it over.

Of course, I am not going to push over the security bot. Arming a roomba is a bad idea. If it can barely clean a room, how can we expect it to not accidentally shoot me?