Trident Fresh ad: Is it just the music?



This is a few months old, but it’s crossed my path a few times now:

It’s a nice spot:  The concept is fairly original, the art direction is nice, and they’ve clearly spent some money.

But I can’t help thinking:  Using Bohemian Rhapsody is kind…obvious, isn’t it?  You could pretty much put that song in any context and people would love it, or at least immediately think your commercial was kind of compelling.  

Myself, I kind of prefer a more random song choice:

Or maybe the truth is that I just like ‘Da Da Da’ more than ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.  Because that’s true too.

I just don’t think this was a good idea



So I guess Internet Explorer is trying to make itself relevant again:

But I can’t help thinking that it’s a really, really bad idea to associate your outdated product with a whole lot of other outdated products.  It just reinforces the idea that your product is about as relevant as troll dolls.  And the tagline (“You grew up.  So did we.”) is too weak – other than the Explorer logo on what appears to be a tablet computer at the end, there’s no actual evidence presented regarding this ‘growing up’.  And I’m gonna need some evidence, since right now, half the websites I visit look like crap on IE – why would I change?

Maybe I’m missing something here.  After all, I’m a child of the 80s, not 90s, and when diet Pepsi did their ‘Forever Young‘ campaign using a Flock of Seagulls song, I thought it was great – even though I like neither diet Pepsi nor Flock of Seagulls.  The nostalgia worked for me.  

But diet Pepsi isn’t a high-tech product.  If you’re a software-related brand, don’t you want to be seen as cutting-edge rather than charmingly old-fashioned?  

Why firing clients is sometimes a good idea

Bad clients can ruin your business.
But only if you let them.


divorcing clients

A few years ago we won some new business, and we were thrilled:  A branding + website project with a major, internationally-known cosmetics firm.  It was a smallish project, but we were certain it would lead to more work down the road, and did I mention it was a huge brand name?  

(Because let’s face it:  When you’re a small marketing consultancy, it doesn’t matter how much revenue you’ve generated for B2B or smaller clients.  Potential clients are really only interested in whether you’ve worked with brand names with which they’re familiar.)

The project quickly went downhill:  The overall goals, which seemed clear at the outset, suddenly got suspiciously murky; the client team seemed to change every 2 weeks, whereupon the whole project would change; we kept having to fly halfway across the country for meetings which never seemed to go anywhere; and their head office, which was located in another country, took 3 weeks, 10 emails, and 4 phone calls just to approve a URL.

The project was giving us indigestion.  But it was a big-name client, our bills were getting paid, and we were a small company – we couldn’t afford not to do it.  Could we?


Sometimes, a client is costing you more than you think.

On the surface we weren’t really losing a lot of money.  

But between all the flying back and forth, the endless meetings, having to request information/feedback/approvals multiple times, and the fact that the goals had turned into unknowable quantum particles, we were losing more than we thought:

  • Sure, we were getting reimbursed for the cost of flights and hotels, but our time was part of an overall project fee.  So the ‘downtime’ associated with flying across the country was costing us more than we realized
  • The revolving cast of characters on the client side meant we were never going to build the long-term relationships that would lead to additional or referral business
  • The lack of strategic direction meant we weren’t going to get to do good work, so our dreamed-of case study was going to look anaemic
  • The whole thing was making us feel demoralized, which wasn’t good for our other projects – in marketing you need to maintain a high level of enthusiasm at all times
  • We weren’t able to take on other clients, because this project was taking up too much of our time

So one day, after yet another pointless meeting, we called the client and – politely – said that we couldn’t work with them any more.  They seemed surprised – I think their big brand name meant that no one had ever broken up with them before.


You may agonize about it.  But 99% of the time, you won’t regret it.

Client relationships are like the other relationships in your life:  Most of the time, if it’s not working for you, it’s not working for the other party, either.  (In our case, we learned later that some of the new members of the client team thought they should have hired a local firm – even though we’d been hired because the original goals called for someone on the ground in Toronto – but didn’t know how to tell us that.)

The whole thing limps along, no one is happy, and the results – if you can even get that far – are spotty at best.

In the 10 years of StayAwake, we’ve only fired a handful of clients – and every single time, we agonize over it, because it always seems as dumb as quitting one job before having another one to replace it.  But every single time, we realize afterward that it was the best thing we could have done for our business:  We’re able to focus on more successful, profitable, and enjoyable projects; we have fewer headaches; and we’re able to do better work in the long run.

Heineken ‘Dogfighting’ Photos: Marketers Have to be More Prescient Than Ever

It’s harder than ever to know when ‘brand exposure’ will turn into ‘brand disaster’

heineken dog fight marketing

I’ve done it plenty of times:  You organize a branded event in a bar or other venue, with lots of expensive signage.  By 2am, you’ve finally cleared everyone out, you’re cleaning up and you’re exhausted, so you think “Oh heck, I’ll just leave that signage up there.  Maybe they won’t bother to take it down and I’ll get a few extra days of exposure out of it.  My client will like that, and anyway I’m too tired to get up on a ladder and get it all down now.”

Except that the next night’s event is a dog-fighting exhibition, which almost everyone thinks is terrible.  And now the brand is attached to something awful, and thanks to the internet it goes viral in about 5 minutes.  What’s worse, it won’t go away:  The Heineken dog fighting photo [above] first circulated in April 2012 and Heineken dealt with it pretty promptly, but it showed up again in my Facebook feed just this week.

The lesson?  These days, marketers have to be able to predict the future more accurately than ever – what’s more, they have to be able to see all possible future scenarios in order to avert disaster.

Marketers have always had to be prescient:  After all, most of the time what you’re really saying to a client is “If we spend $X on Y initiative, we can expect Z results.”  It’s the hardest – but maybe most exciting – part of the job, because you really have no idea whether spending $500k to put your product in a video is, in fact, going to deliver an incremental increase in sales (and in fact you may not even have the ability to draw a straight line from that $500k investment to any incremental sales at all). 

But these days you not only have to be a ‘visionary creative’ (ugh), you also have to be a brilliant strategic-thinking tactician, like [insert name of famously successful military thinker here], capable of seeing both the potential wins of a campaign or initiative, as well as all the ways in which that campaign could turn into a giant disaster.

What does this mean for marketers?  Well, I wish I could say it means that marketers will get smarter and the rest of the world would stop thinking we’re pretty much idiots who try to sell people stuff they don’t need.  However, I think it’s more likely that the real consequence is that big brands will become even more squeamish about taking risks, and successful marketing types won’t be the ones with great ideas, but the ones who are best at convincing their clients they’ve ‘driven results’ without causing any controversy.