It's great to see how Rosemarie Ryan and Ty Montague are encouraging all kinds of creative expression at JWT ("Rehab: An Advertising Love Story," June). Creativity is a bold force that can move mountains. It is also highly contagious, and when made part of a corporate culture, it benefits everyone—employees, clients, and society in general. I just wish the advertising industry would use it for more than just selling a product.
New York, New York
I'm so glad you and your editors thought to do this story. Very much what's missing from the trades and other business books. And I liked the way you canted it. I know the ground pretty well and wouldn't have changed a word. You really nailed how much trouble J. Walter Thompson was in, with its dreadful win record on pitches and the loss of big stuff from Unilever.
As you indicated, Ty Montague's new work isn't showing yet, so he doesn't have any signature buzz campaign in the shows...so it's hard to prove he's up to the task. But winning JetBlue and the client's comments buff up your premise. There's also Esther Lem, fresh from working with BBH, saying that these guys are the real thing, and she's counting on them to lead the $100 million launch of Sunsilk. Congratulations for going after something a little behind the news and getting it right.
What a disappointing rehab job the new crew at JWT appears to be doing. Do Ryan and Montague realize that stealth campaigns, a video booth, and silly postcards do not a campaign make? That tearing down a few walls will not make up for the timid approach of presenting finished work in a new business pitch?
For anyone who knows the ad business, it usually means a lack of a big idea being camouflaged by pretty visuals. The key point that has been overlooked by many new teams at a large agency is how they got large in the first place. Mostly it is not through clients who want "nontraditional" work, something "gutsy and impious." Perhaps JWT's client at Unilever should look for a job at Garnier, or a salon brand. Was it for the brand's health or for her own kudos she wanted to be "the first to crack an online viral campaign for women"?
Like it or not, most leading brands at big companies like Unilever and Procter & Gamble got there and stayed there by creating big campaign ideas and successfully refreshing them. As your article observed, "a lot of clients don't care about being (creative) leaders."
MySpace for Business
The new buzzword indeed is "social networking," with countless startups trying to emulate MySpace's success ("The Network Unbound," June). However, buzz must happen organically for it to survive. It's no coincidence that the teen market adopted MySpace, because teens lacked an outlet free from parental monitoring that also gave them ownership. Any trendsetter will tell you that it's the sense of ownership and adoption that gives any successful trend its wings.
San Francisco, California
It Must Be the Shoes
Thank you so much for your article about Crocs footwear ("What a Croc!" June). I thoroughly enjoyed reading this business success story and loved the eye-catching photography that accompanied it. Within two days of picking up the June issue, I started noticing Crocs everywhere. This isn't the first time a Fast Company article has brought my attention to a product or business practice that has been happening right under my nose.
Prince George, British Columbia
The lingering issue in your recent story on online map technologies ("Map Quest," June) was about the business model that would support this new generation of applications. I think that pay-per-call, or something like it, will ultimately be the revenue model. The benefit to advertisers is clear, and the consumer experience is in line with expectations. Think of this as the Yellow Pages meets the spatially presented user experience.
Mountain View, California
The Starbucks Effect
I just read "The Starbucks Effect" (June) and wanted to thank you for writing such a relevant and considerate piece. After graduating from Boston University in May 2005, I relocated to rural County Kerry where I have been researching and writing a book, largely in the absence of coffee as a support system. As you suggest, one of the challenges facing Ireland as it goes forward is determining the line between "[competition] on quality, or service, or relationships" and BlackBerrys on 24-7.
At the moment, this seems to be based on an urban-rural divide. As the attitudes and approaches to business, social, and community life diffuse from the modernized, European- and globally focused, competitive environment of Dublin (and to a lesser degree, other Irish cities) into the rest of the countryside, it will be a true test whether the Starbucks effect, if not a global imperative, becomes an Irish imperative.
Uh . . . no. Starbucks has an impressive business model, but Americans have historically taken things to a self-damaging extreme. Rah-rah-rah-ing the fact that Americans often willingly sacrifice everything they can in the name of economic gain does not make this either right or intelligent. We could use more of France's distrust of the behemoths slowly taking over our lives. Instead, we assist them in squeezing out the small companies that might be doing better things but tend to get in the way.
Readers Pick the Open Debate Winner
This was a slam-dunk, no-brainer, blow-out win for Ogilvy & Mather's Brian Collins over Saatchi & Saatchi's Kevin Roberts ("Resolved: The most powerful way to touch people is through screens," June). To sum up the debate: "Real" trumps "virtual" any day of the week.
Von R. Glitschka
Open Debate had lots of great thoughts flying around, but I definitely feel that Collins has a much better grasp on what branding should be. Brand/image goes far beyond screens of any size. The screen may be a major vehicle for getting your point across, but it would be amateur hour to say that's the only way to get it done. Any retailer will tell you that the brand has as much to do with the in-store experience as the advertising. Name any successful brand, and you instantly feel something that is greater than the sum of its parts.
The Greening of Goldman
I embraced your recent article, "The Greening of Goldman" (June), wholeheartedly. Goldman Sachs Group signing the Equator Principles supports and updates the efforts of those companies that signed onto the Valdez Principles (1989) (now called Ceres Principles) and Sullivan Principles (1977). Let's keep in mind, however, that investors, especially of the ilk and intelligence of Goldman Sachs, also expect a good return on their investment. Let's make certain that we all support Goldman and all other environmentally based investment, so that it will succeed and grow responsibly.
Newport, Rhode Island
The big-picture stuff is great, but I would be more impressed to hear that Goldman has mandated corporate policy that directly reduces energy consumption, e.g. recycling, recycled paper products, compact fluorescence, and thermostats set at 70 in any month. Let's look at where these firms spend extra resources for their own operations to see if they really believe in their front-house investments.
New York, New York
When Phones Were the Future
AT&T demonstrated two technologies at the 1964 World's Fair in New York ("Picturephones: The Gimme Technology That Wasn't," June). The picturephone was one, and touch-tone dialing was the other. When people heard about touch-tone, they wondered why they needed it. It employed this demo to show a doubting public that touch-tone dialing meant progress.
The fairgoer sat at a table with two phones. One was a common rotary dial, the other a new touch-tone phone. Attendees were invited to dial the 7-digit number they knew the best, then dial a random 10-digit number on a new touch-tone phone. The 10 numbers dialed by touch-tone were always dialed more quickly. Consumers needed to be convinced that this technology was a good thing! Children who attended the 1964 World's Fair now have children downloading the Mosquito ringtone who wouldn't believe this story.
Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania
I, for one, applaud the creative effort that went into the so-called offensive images in the March and May issues [the baby suit on page 56 of the March issue, and the raw meat eater on page 87 of the May issue]. To infer that the images used were offensive is to disregard their relevance to the content of the information provided. The bottom line is that images are meant to stimulate the thought process in reference to the material, nothing more. If a picture says a thousand words, subscribers are getting a lot of words for their money, because the two images featured spoke volumes! I am sure that many (including myself) found those images to be quite entertaining.
In our July/August article "Rise of the Aerotropolis," we incorrectly identified one of the underwriters of New Songdo City. The name of the developer is Gale International.
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A version of this article appeared in the September 2006 issue of Fast Company magazine.