False advertising

Some people complain that advertising is often nothing but lies and distortions and a recent outdoor board, supposedly posted by ‘Jennifer’ in Greensboro, North Carolina helps add to that image. What at first seems to be a woman scorned is just another attempt to garner publicity – not for Jennifer, but rather, for Yodaddy’s coffee shop. A billboard that ran in the same place a few weeks later stated, “Jessica – meet me at Yodaddy’s coffee shop at 7:00 pm for some wine therapy. – Jennifer”

So no, it wasn’t a wife dipping into the joint savings account to pay for an outdoor board that borrows from Mastercard’s ‘Priceless’ campaign. Instead, it’s for a coffee shop that understands the power of social media and how to create a buzz in today’s over-saturated media world.

Here I am in St. Louis, blogging about some silly outdoor board that appeared in Greensboro using deceptive advertising techniques. The only time I’ve even thought about Greensboro is when they hold their annual golf tournament that Fuzzy Zoeller used to always seem to win.

I’m not alone in giving this board coverage. It has been shown on local news stations, mentioned on Facebook and twitter and this isn’t the first blog to provide even more free advertising for it. (http://www.snopes.com/love/revenge/emily.asp)

Turns out, the idea isn’t even new – there was a similar outdoor board for ‘Emily’ who caught her hubby straying from the fold. That particular board was promoting Court TV’s reality show, Parco, P.I.

One of my favorite all time lines about advertising came from some movie I saw a long time ago. (Sorry, but I have no idea what the name of it was.) The star of the movie had just been fired from his agency and he was in a bar lamenting with a friend of his about what he was going to do with his life. His drinking buddy was reassuring him that it was all for the better that he got fired.

“You know what advertising is,” the guy asked as he sipped his drink. “It’s just a bunch of grown men playing deceitful little games.”

Well, maybe it is. But in the case of Yodaddy’s, they certainly got their money’s worth.


Billikens and Punxsutawney Phil face elimination

It’s day three of March Madness. My brackets are a mess and my attention span is short.

In less than two hours, the Billikens will take the court against the Oregon Ducks. A Ducks-Billikens match up is sure to catch national attention as people from across the country will be asking that now more-than-a-century old question, “What’s a Billiken?” If you don’t know, here’s about as good an explanation as you’ll find: (http://www.slu.edu/readstory/more/699)

Meanwhile, Mike Gmoser, a prosecutor in southwestern Ohio’s Butler County has written an indictment against Punxsutawney Phil for his misleading prediction that we’ll have an early spring. Gmoser, who probably has gone most of his life having to spell out his name, ( the ‘G’ is silent like in ‘gnat’ ) is seeking death for Phil.

I have no idea what animal rights activists will have to say about this but I think it’s a little over the top to blame Phil for a weather pattern that is supposed to bring snow our way tomorrow.

I think Phil is about as good a predictor of future weather patterns as I am in figuring out tournament brackets.

I did pick an Oregon-SLU matchup in about 67% of the multitude of tournament brackets I filled out. Only two of them have actual money riding on them. The rest are just for fun.

In fact, they’re all for fun. As is this post.

I won’t reveal what my prediction was for the Billikens in the upcoming matchup as I don’t want to jinx anything.

Like Phil, I’m going to crawl in my hole and just see what happens.

Let the madness continue.


Patriot Coal, Peabody Energy and advertising confusion

Sometimes, the problem with using mass media advertising is that most people simply aren’t fully paying attention to what you’re saying.

The United Mines Worker of America has been spending some big dollars recently trying to create awareness of the injustices done to coal workers. Today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch had a full-page, four color ad with the headline, “Greed kills”.

There aren’t many ads in the paper these days that stop me but this one did so I read the copy. For several weeks, I’ve been seeing coal workers delivering their stories in TV commercials about how they’ve been shafted by Peabody Coal. These are down-home, real people who are in line to lose their health care benefits thanks to Patriot Coal filing for bankruptcy. Once they file, retirement benefits go bye-bye. (Or at least that’s the way I understand it.)

The TV commercials were stark and under-produced and they left me wondering just what in the world was going on but in reality, I didn’t really look into the matter at all.

Today’s ad did a more effective job of telling me what all this money being spent is really about. The two villains in this campaign are Peabody Energy and Arch Coal, both headquartered right here in St. Louis.

According to the website, www.fairnessatpartriot.org, “Patriot Coal was created by Peabody Energy in 2007 with the specific purpose of allowing Peabody Energy and Arch Coal to shed its long-term health care obligations to its retirees and their families. Saddled with too much debt and too little production to keep pace with its debt load, Patriot is seeking to reorganize under Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The UMWA is fighting back every step of the way. The real culprits in this scheme, Peabody Energy and Arch Coal, have made hundreds of millions the last few years while Patriot has lost millions. We are working to make Peabody and Arch accept their share of the obligations to those who literally put their lives and their health on the line every day they go to work.”

Those are fighting words.

In the page immediately after the full-page UMWA ad, was a half-page, black & white ad, paid for by Peabody Energy titled “Separating Fact from Fiction: Questions for the UMWA.” I only noticed it because in my small amount of research, I ran across KSDK’s mention of the ad while they were covering the protest march staged by the UMWA this morning in downtown St. Louis that went from Peabody Energy to the courthouse.

The ad seems like it was designed to not be read, but read it I did. Then I read it again. Then one more time. And I’m still not sure what point they’re trying to make other than that the UMWA’s claim that Patriot Coal was set up to fail was dubious because they didn’t raise any flags back when the company was spun off in 2007.

As Mark McGwire said, “I’m not here to talk about the past.”

Most of us can’t remember what happened last week, much less six years ago and the general public certainly has no idea of what transpired between the union and the coal companies six years ago.

Right now, the battle has moved to the courtroom and allegations are flying. This is one case that I will try and follow. It’s union vs. corporate. The little guy vs. the big guys.

Cecil Roberts, the union’s international president said, “Patriot has thousand-dollar-an-hour lawyers and two-dollar-an-hour morals.”


In advertising’s hierarchy of communication, you have Awareness/Understanding/Conviction/Action.

The UMWA is winning the awareness battle and I feel that they have led me down the path of understanding the predicament that the spin-off of Patriot Coal has created for thousands of American coal mine workers and their families. I’m not convinced yet though the mere fact that I have now blogged about it shows that I have also taken some action.

In the court of public opinion, the jury is still out. And there are always two sides to every story, sometimes, even more.

So what do you think?

Don’t shoot! It’s a sinkhole!

I’m pretty sure that Phil Pressey and Mark Mihal don’t know each other – yet here they are, brought together courtesy of my own twisted logic.

Phil Pressey is the point guard for the Missouri Tigers who continues to fail at trying to make game winning buckets in the last 30 seconds. Mark Mihal is the golfer who got swallowed up by a sinkhole while contemplating his third shot on the par 5 14th hole at Annbriar Golf Course over in Waterloo.

I don’t know which is more amazing – Phil’s inability to realize that the best thing he could do at the end of the game is to NOT SHOOT THE BALL!!!

Or that Mark could be swallowed up by a sinkhole, get his shoulder separated and horror of horrors – not be able to finish a round where he was just 1 over after 13.

I can’t fathom why Frank Haith doesn’t have a don’t-shoot under any circumstances during the last minute of any Tiger game for Phil.

And I can’t even begin to imagine what went through Mark’s mind as he stepped into the depression he saw in the 14th fairway and next thing you know he’s ankle deep in mud and staring up at the sky, 18 feet below the surface of the ground.

I love Phil Pressey as a player. I’ve watched the majority of MU games and know how important he is to the team. He’s a playmaker. He’s not a shooter. And he’s definitely not a shooter at the end of the game.

With Mizzou about to embark on their first SEC tourney and with them needing to probably win three games to avoid the dreaded 8 or 9 seed in the NCAA tournament, it behooves Frank to tell Phil that he’s got to dish it at the end. No matter what. Pass the ball.

Mark says he can’t wait to get back on the golf course but he’s not too sure about returning to Annbriar. I think once he rehabs his shoulder, he needs to go back to the 14th and resume his round. I’m quite sure Annbriar would give him a rain check.

He needs to hit that wedge shot and then gingerly approach the spot where the sinkhole swallowed him, spit on the ground, raise his club to the sky and proclaim his dominance. No stinkin’ sinkhole is going to keep him from finishing a round of golf.

So good luck to Phil and the Tigers over the next (hopefully) few weeks. And good luck to Mark and may your return to the links be a speedy one.

I’ll be watching the Tigers and on my next visit to Annbriar I will tip my cap to Mark as I hack my way through the 14th hole, not worrying at all about any potential sinkholes that may swallow me up like the whale got Jonah.

The sinkhole was in the middle of the 14th fairway.

That’s one area of the course I don’t think I have ever visited.


My well-deserved $20,000 Regional Arts Commission grant

I heard the Regional Arts Commission is planning on giving away $20,000 grants to 10 area artists and though I’m sure I’m not the first in line, I at least want to toss my brush into the mix.

Anyone who’s known me for a while probably knows that I used to paint quite a bit back in my younger days and by that, I don’t mean painting houses though I’ve done that, too.

I’ve always loved to draw and paint and back when I was in my early 30s I decided why not just start painting for fun and that’s exactly what I did, doing a combination of airbrush and acrylic works that were a little Magritte, a little Mark Kostabi, some Jackson Pollock thrown in along with an occasional dose of Picasso and a touch of Roy Lichtenstein.

If you’d like to see some examples of my work, you’ll find a few painting examples on my website (http://www.bloodlinescreative.com/toms-gallery). (I’d post a few of them here but my image importing skills are apparently on the blink right now.)

Anyway, I painted … a lot. I had three different gallery showings of my work over about a ten-year period. My style was getting tighter and tighter so I was yearning to bust out of my newfound precision mode and attack a canvas with gobs of paint and a pallet knife.

But then our household changed. Catherine was born and I haven’t painted a single time since her birth and she’ll be 15 in July. It wasn’t a time commitment thing. It was much more due to the fact that we ran out of bedrooms. So we converted what was my painting room in our basement into an additional bedroom – which has now been converted into my office from where I type this blog. There’s simply nowhere else to paint in our house – particularly if I plan on continuing with the large canvasses and using an air brush as one of my tools of choice.

That’s where the Regional Arts Commission comes in. With their little $20,000 gift to me, I will rent some new studio space – I’d love to have a downtown loft but something a little closer to our home might be more ideal so that the trip doesn’t become a hindrance.

I will set up shop, get some new canvasses and dive back in, painting with a flourish and a frenzy. Who knows what I’ll create. I think I’d love to explore mixed media and see what happens.

I still remember the first painting I sold at The Creative Gallery, site of my first art showing. The gallery owner came up to me and said, “Well, you sold one.”

I was amazed and asked which one and she said, “Sealed for your protection”. That was a little 12″ X 14″ painting with gobs of acrylic paint on it and stuck inside those various gobs were about 60 to 100 little air brush bottle tabs that all said, “Sealed for your protection”. They were laying around my work area and one day I had the thought of sticking them into the paint gobs and letting the paint literally seal the tabs into the painting. Thus the title.

A married couple who were friends of mine bought it. I don’t think I’ve seen them since that show and I wonder some days what happened to the painting because I heard they got divorced and I wonder who got custody of the painting.

I’ll probably never know.

But I’m ready to put my painting skills back into high gear, if only the Regional Arts Commission will fund me.

Are there more deserving artists than me?

Of course there are. But that $20,000 grant may be just the kick I need to put my art back into high gear.

So if anyone knows Jill McGuire who is the executive director of the Regional Arts Commission, please put in a good word for me.

If you think I can write, just wait ’til you see what I do with a brush.


Ready and willing to help Ready and Willing

Wednesday night I was happy to be invited to the Ready and Willing Mentor Match where those of us in attendance got to hear a little more about some extremely worthy non-profits here in the St. Louis area that are looking for marketing and advertising support.

I’m truly excited to serve as a mentor for Ready and Willing – which is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide pro bono marketing and advertising assistance to other nonprofits here in the St. Louis area.

I actually volunteered to be a mentor for R & W last year but a variety of circumstances kept that from happening. Now, I’m good to go. I’ll get to be the creative leader of a team consisting of mostly young talent who are willing to give their time to help make a difference as well as work with an account coordinator who will bring his or her own talents to planning, organizing and helping us put together a coordinated marketing effort.

It’ll be a team of individuals who I have yet to meet and that in itself has me jazzed up. They said their will be an event in the near future where we’ll meet and eventually pick our team through almost a kind of speed-dating type of interview process.

So last night, there were representatives from six different non-profit organizations, all who have a variety of needs that they’re looking for help, guidance and in the end, results.

The moment I walked in the door, I spotted John Carney. John and I go way back to the days when radio commercials were cut on tape and engineers used to sometimes have to find tossed aside takes on the ground and splice them into the mix. We first met at a Clayton Studios Christmas party and that was back in the day when Christmas Parties were legendary. Needless to say, we hit it off and though I don’t see John all that often, it’s always a pleasure when I do.

He was there on behalf of Carney’s kids Foundation (http://www.carneyskids.org – currently the site is under construction but I’m listing it anyway!). John was the first to speak and got things rolling as he outlined what they do, what they’re about and what they’re hoping Ready and Willing can help out with.

I was impressed.

But that was just for starters. Next up came a presentation by the Disabled Athletes Sports Association (http://www.dasasports.org/). A few of the stories I heard in a very brief amount of time reminded me of how lucky I am to have the ability to walk, swing a golf club (questionable), ride a bike or go swimming. They do all sorts of activities for people of all ages with all sorts of different disabilities. But the focus is much more on abilities and helping people overcome odds and triumph and they need help and support in their efforts.

That was followed by a presentation for Magdalene St. Louis (http://magdalenestl.org/) and when I heard more about their mission I was struck by how little I know about the trials and tribulations that some people go through in life. They help women who have survived lives of abuse, prostitution, trafficking, addiction and life on the streets by providing a community where they can recover and rebuild their lives. There are similar homes in other cities and they’re trying to get this one rolling here and they said that the need is strong.

Next I heard about Mission: St. Louis! (http://www.missionstl.org/) where they’re doing everything they can to promote building personal relationships with individuals, families, churches, and schools throughout the core of St. Louis. Again, they need help in getting the word out about what they do and raising funds to help them do more in helping make St. Louis a better place.

Two more presentations followed – one by the National Conference for Community and Justice of Metro St. Louis (http://www.facebook.com/pages/NCCJSTL-National-Conference-for-Community-and-Justice-of-Metro-St-Louis/64570186847?group_id=0) and the other by the St. Louis Track Club (http://www.stlouistrackclub.com/). I don’t mean to short change either organization by not telling more about their mission but attention spans get short after this much copy so if you want to learn more about them, please visit their site (even though both mentioned that they would be thrilled to get a website overhaul).

Bottom line, there are some great organizations in need of help and Ready and Willing seems to be doing a great job in assembling teams that are ready to provide time, energy and creative talent to get things done.

Stay tuned as this adventure is just beginning!

There’s strength in my diversity

When you work in advertising and marketing communications, you never know who you might be able to help.

Some advertising agencies have definite niches. There are agencies that specialize in business-to-business. Others have lots of retail accounts. There are agencies whose wheelhouse is government contracting or high tech or automotive.

If you’re an advertising agency or marketing communications firm, it does help to have that niche.

My prior agency experience has been a true melting pot of accounts. I’ve worked on lots of B2B, lots of consumer-driven accounts, a fair share of government work, healthcare, travel and tourism, restaurants and a generous mix of public service work that ranged from national major market media accounts to guerrilla marketing down at the sidewalk level.

During the past few weeks, I have had the pleasure of meeting with a diverse mix of companies and businesses serving a broad spectrum of industries, markets and target audiences. It’s involved a lot of homework with me trying to ramp up my knowledge base from ground zero to a level where I can successfully discuss how they can effectively tackle the various marketing challenges they face.

And though their challenges vary, fundamentally, they all want the same thing – to effectively and creatively tell their story to their target audience in a way that connects and ultimately leads to more customers or more sales from existing customers. They’re all passionate about their business and their excitement gets me excited about the prospect of being able to help them further their success. When I help them grow, I grow right along with them.

What is my niche? Developing big ideas.

Some of these companies I’m currently working with. A few others, I hope to be working with soon.

For now, there’s strength in my diversity and I welcome any and all potential prospects to call me with your advertising or marketing challenge. I have access to a great pool of talented art directors, designers, web developers, media strategists and just about any other service needed to exceed all expectations.

Was this just a big commercial for BloodLines Creative?

Yes, it was.

Call me.

And let’s get to work.



What happened to the St. Louis ADDY print ads?

Last night, the St. Louis ADDYs celebrated the finest work being done by the St. Louis creative community in terms of advertising communications.

There was some great work on display but as I made my way through the displays, I kept looking for the print ads category. There was none to be found. Full page, 4-color newspaper, full page, less than full-page, newspaper inserts, consumer magazine single page, spreads, trade ads, full campaigns for newspaper along with consumer and trade magazine campaigns and public service ads – all were noticeably absent.

From what I could see, there wasn’t a single ad that received an ADDY and that struck me as ironic.

When I received the program after the show’s completion, I scoured it, looking for at least one print ad and I did run across the category, Consumer or Trade Publication Full Page Four Color and Campaign Four Color. There were three finalists, all by HLK that received Certificates of Excellence. But I guess you had to be an ADDY winner to be put on display or have the entry show up in the program and none were deemed ADDY-worthy which makes me wonder …

Where did all the print ads go?

I know people are still creating print ads, even in this age of digital communications.

I’m one of those dinosaurs that loves to grab the paper off my driveway each morning and devour the contents. On occasion, I’m stopped by a good ad that catches my eye – but not often. We used to subscribe to several magazines¬† Now the only publication our household gets is Lurzer’s Archive – a five-times a year publication devoted to the best ads being done on the planet – though they, too have begun featuring an interactive section because print ads just don’t seem to cut it anymore.

I went to the original ADDY entry form and all of the categories mentioned above were listed. So could it possibly be that St. Louis agencies didn’t create a single entry that garnered enough votes by the judges to earn an ADDY?

I’m still baffled because I know a lot of agencies here in St. Louis do a lot of great print work.

When Core first burst on the St. Louis ad scene, they opened a lot of eyes with print ads that were unlike just about anything else being done in St. Louis. Their use of type went against all norms. Many of their ads had a grunge feel to them but not all of them did – I still remember their campaigns for fishing boats, putters and dairy farmers that were brilliantly written and designed. They actually made me jealous and inspired me to try and go deeper to find that human emotion that connects with the target and delivers a powerful message in a way that jumped out and said read me.

That’s the power of a great print ad.

Creativity is alive and well here in St. Louis and agencies large and small are doing great work. I salute all the winners from last night. It’s great to see all the digital and integrated campaigns that connect with their audience across a variety of media.

But there’s still something to be said about a great print ad. The Eckert’s posters created by Rodgers-Townsend were more than posters – they’re works of art. I hope that level of creativity returns to the print portion of the ADDYs next year.

And I hope I’m one of the contributors.

Great job St. Louis creative community. And marketers here in St. Louis … stay in town.

We’ll make you glad you did.