Archives for category: Book Reviews

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Jane Maas’ memoir Mad Women is an answer to the question: what was it like for women in the 1960s? Clearly the TV show Mad Men demonstrates the male side quite well, but what was it like for the real Peggy Olsons of the 1960s?

What I got from the book was that although there was a feminist movement to help move women forward; the social, cultural and family pressures slowed down the process. Women not only wanted to be accepted as equals to men, but they also wanted to be accepted by fellow women. An example of this is frozen dinners. They were largely purchased and used in secret. You didn’t want other housewife’s to know that you fed your family that rubbish, because it reflects badly on you and your ability to keep a good home. I bring this up because advertising in the 1960s is always critiqued as encouraging those stereotypes, but through reading Jane’s book you begin to understand that companies wanted to advertise new easier to use products but many women won’t jump on board.

Before reading the book I assumed that advertising encouraged the stereotypes in those times. However, the opposite is also true too. Men and women kept up with the stereotypes due to peer pressure or because that is what they firmly believed. There was of course “radical” women in those times. I used quotations because a woman wanting to work isn’t seen as radical today, but back then it was. Some women worked after they had kids (like Jane Maas) and they fed their family frozen dinners (again, like Jane Maas). Over time more and more women did both. They slowly brought in things and ideas into their lives that slowly changed society. Yes, Mad Women is a book about advertising, but it is an interesting viewpoint into the mind of a woman in the 60s struggling with the stereotypes she is faced with and the choices she makes: should I break this stereotype, or live up to it?

Does advertising reflect culture or create and maintain it? In my opinion it is not a black and white question. So I’d say both. It encourages new culture by introducing new products like frozen dinners, but it reflects old culture by how it speaks to their audience. Since housewives in general needed to live up to certain ideals they would feel ashamed by buying frozen dinners. So the advertising would most likely have to curb those thoughts.

By viewing the commercial the feeling is that you are not going to compromise the quality of the dinner you’d serve your family. Yes there are ads that clearly stereotype women. From our perspective it seems every ad does so. Then again the 60s were different times, and composed of different customs. It will be interesting to look back at our time in 30-40 years and see the ads that populated our media. Then we’d think, “Holy crap! I was a racist!” For example the LGBT community is protesting to simply be accepted into society, and to not be seen as ‘different’. Also if you pay attention next time you’re watching commercials on TV, you’d notice that white people out number all other racial minorities 4 to 1. Here is an interesting question to ask yourself: if you were to cast a TV commercial who would you cast? The default answer is “whoever the target market is.” Then again that only furthers the stereotype that your product is use by that race/gender/faith. If you were to cast a different ethnicity in the commercial it may be taken as “out of place.” Obviously there is no one-size fits all answer. There never is for these kind of things.

In conclusion, advertising is responsible for some stereotypes, and in other cases only responding to others. Advertising in essence is a sales tool that tries to appeal to the widest market possible. In doing so it has to take in the median idea of its market. So when you see an ad it is acting as a median snapshot of that advertiser’s perspective of its market at that time, be it the 1960s or 2013.

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Sir John Hegarty, the ‘H’ in BBH.

A memoir by a personal ad hero of mine. So there might be bias here. “Hegarty On Advertising: Turning Intelligence Into Magic”.

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Just like a typical memoir, Hegarty goes through his career and the lessons he learned along the way. The point of reading this book would be to learn those lessons. I’d say them here if I wasn’t worried about copyright infringement. So instead, and like always, I am going to talk about the purpose of this book.

Hegarty had the fortune of being apart of some great agencies, most notably Saatchi & Saatchi and of course BBH. He believes that great creatives have an entrepreneurial spirit about the brands they work on. Once upon a time back in the days of Rosser Reeves marketing a product would be based on its unique selling point. Now with so many brands in the marketplace it is hard to establish a brand. Sure there are unique and slight differences between one brand over another, but is that enough to set it apart? Not really. So in many ways it comes down to salesmanship. How one brand pitches itself against its competitors to its audience.

In an interview he gave (which is linked at the bottom) he talks about how creatives need to think ahead of the trends. The ideas need to lead the pack, not go with it. He talks about how the ad industry is making a worse product. How we are “not coming up with the ideas that are game changing”. Now certainly some are game changing. Like the latest McDonald’s truth campaign. No one saw that coming. However, Hegarty has a point. The majority of creative isn’t game changing. But what is the ‘game’?

The game itself is changing so fast. Mobile phones are getting more and more futuristic, TV is changing so fast that networks are struggling to keep up, everyday the world is becoming more globalized and smaller. So in many ways brands are just trying to hang onto the changing tides that the consistent bombardment of new technology is bringing into this world. The curious question is, will it ever stop? slow down? or will it speed up? History dictates it will speed up, but how fast can innovation really go before people just settle into certain things that work for them, because there are only so many new technologies one can adopt and use daily.

I agree and respectfully disagree with Hegarty. As an aspiring creative I try to stay on top of the trends out there and think of how I can reach the audience better. Sometimes new technologies, trends and ideas work well, but on the other hand sometimes the old ways work well too.

In the book Hegarty gives many other insights into what it takes for a creative to succeed in this business. It is important to note that he stays active in the goings-on at BBH. I won’t give his ideas away here because those are his. What I will say is that he is all about thinking of things differently. The same boring thing never sells, and creatives have to be, well, creative. Or another way of putting it: tear down the old ways of thinking and put up new ones, new branded ones.

http://www.hegartyonadvertising.com/

“Likeable Social Media” by Dave Kerpen

Like many business-esque books they have an elaborate subhead that describes the book, and this one is no different. “How to delight your customers, create an irresistible brand, and be generally amazing at Facebook (and other social networks).” That pretty mush sums up what the book is about, which allows me to discuss other things.

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The book’s purpose is to educate its readers about social media. Today many people use social media, but how many use it properly? The main and obvious message about our times and one that Kerpen highlights is that the Internet is a two-way medium. There are many companies who understand this, and many who don’t. This book demonstrates how success for a company will be determined in the future. Branding isn’t going to necessarily going to be determined by whether a person engages with your company, but what they think about it.

Now what did I mean by that last comment? Take my relationship with Mozilla, more specifically Firefox. I like Mozilla’s brand and what they offer to the marketplace, however, I don’t use Firefox or any other Mozilla product for that matter. Therefore although I don’t use the brand I think highly of it. Is that a bad thing for Mozilla? No, not really. Mozilla benefits from me thinking highly of them. I will in turn talk about it in a positive way to friends, and I might even mention them in a positive way on a blog post. Although they don’t have me directly as a customer, they have me as an influence. That as I understand it is social media’s role. Being likeable is primary. Sales will follow crowds.

Dave Kerpen goes into this extensively in his book Likeable Social Media. He also has released another book called Likeable Business. I have yet to read it however so I won’t comment on whether it is good or not. Instead I will just post a picture.

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Dave Kerpen owns a company cleverly called Likeable Media. They specify in social media and helping their customers learn how to engage their audience in this newish medium. www.likeable.com

They have a great blog about social media on their website, as well as an informative Twitter feed @LikeableMedia

Alex Bogusky and John Winsor both of Crispin Porter + Bogusky. Although they have moved onto other things, the work they did while at CP+B.

“Baked In” by Alex Bogusky and John Winsor

In short this book is a product design book. Alex and John propose the thesis to their book with the subhead: creating products and businesses that market themselves. From an advertising perspective the brands that have their marketing baked in will win over those brands who have to fake their way through business. The authors give several examples of products and the resulting marketing.

The last chapter of Baked In is really worth reading. I won’t ruin it, but Alex and John give their prospective on what they believe will come  in the future. This in turn leaves me excited about the future of my profession and how lucky I will be to be apart of the process.

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John Winsor has a great blog on his website, fittingly enough on marketing product design: http://www.johnwinsor.com/my_weblog/

Alex Bogusky has some great videos on YouTube worth checking out. This one corresponds nicely with Baked In. Although it is more focused on social media and its future, the message is the same.

“Pick Me: Breaking Into Advertising and Staying There” by Janet Kestin and Nancy Vonk

This book can be read straight through (I had to for a school assignment). However, when I originally bought it I only read the first three chapters because they were relevant to me at that time. I like to think long term, but I figured I should focus on getting an internship before I start to consider whether I want to move up to the CD role or not. That is both the upside and downside to the book. For some the entire book will have useful knowledge, and for others some chapters might be skipped. Pick Me acts more like a resource rather than a cover-to-cover read. Its true value is something that is referred back to at points in one’s career.

Pick Me acts like a giant ‘heads up’ for any young creative looking to break into the ad industry. Nancy and Janet take their successful column on ihaveanidea.org called “Ask Jancy” (Janet + Nancy), and turned it into a book that provides their reader with career insights and advice at all the major points along the way. They also recuit advice from several ad greats: Bob Barrie, David Droga, Neil French, Rick Boyko, Shane Hutton, Mike Hughes, Sally Hogshead, Mark Fenske, Tom Monahan, Chuck Porter, Bob Scarpelli, Brian Millar, Chris Staples and Lorraine Tao.

All in all it is a great book for young creatives and advertising students. The book is written in a Q&A format in some parts, and other parts the featured ad veterans give their two-cents on a variety of topics. If a young ad student or junior has a question that they may feel nervous about asking, this would be a good place to turn to first. Also “Ask Jancy” would be a good place too: http://ihaveanidea.org/askjancy/

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