People Eating Advertising?

There is a well-written and entertaining article on Grape Nuts in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. It included a fantastic quote from Carin Gendell, senior brand manager for Grape Nuts in the ’80s. “Grape Nuts,” she says, “was people eating advertising.”. The same could be said of many, many foods today.

I have personally had discussions with more than one processed food company where they are viewing advertising as a raw material input to their finished product – much in the same way as grain, corn syrup or cardboard for that matter. While it’s not necessarily appetizing, it’s undeniably true and brings up an interesting point. Effective advertising has become as important an ingredient in many products as the raw materials from which the actual product itself is made. It’s important to note that Carin says “was” and not “is,” because Grape Nuts has lost share dramatically since those heydays – another important reminder of what can happen to a brand if it loses touch with its customers.

I am actually a big Grape Nuts fan – I happen to like “the rhythmic crunching that reverberates around your skull” – so I hope the current $5M campaign moves the needle.

The Importance of Brand Advertising

This week Randall Rothenberg, the President of the IAB, released a self-proclaimed “manifesto” which picks up many relevant themes to our work at

It’s quite long, but the first 3 sections and the last 2 echo conversations we have with partners (advertisers, agencies and publishers) literally on a daily basis.  As I said in my comment to Randall’s article, there’s more confusion than information in too much of the ongoing debate about CPMs, formats/standards and the role of networks.   Everyone – advertisers, agencies, publishers and networks – would be better served if we could collectively take a step back from today’s disproportionate focus on DR and think more broadly about what it takes to make the Internet work for the full funnel.  In doing so we will find long-term, sustainable solutions to many of today’s challenges.

Ad Standards Didn’t Kill the Online Ad Business

Standards are an extremely important issue, but I think Tillinghast really has it wrong in this article which ran in the New York Times this week.

First of all, his quote: “We made it possible for any Web site to run ads through the ad networks.  That’s created an oversupply of space.”, doesn’t make sense.  How does enabling different distribution channels create oversupply of product?  It’s all the same inventory after all – the only difference is whether or not the sale is through an intermediary.  Regardless, deliberately creating “complicated”, “unusual” formats is exactly the wrong answer.  The reason for the “soft middle” as he puts it is an inefficient, manual buying process for anything but DR-focused advertising.  Since DR only accounts for ~1/3 of measured media spend, these operational barriers have created the imbalance of supply and demand that is responsible for declining yields and accompanying publisher hand-wringing.  Tillinghast’s prescription – every publisher should make their own unique ad units to deliberately make the buying process less efficient – will make all of this worse, not better.  Picture TV with only product placements (no 30-spots) and no networks (national buy takes 100 phone calls and associated logistics).  That’s an obvious disaster for advertisers and content providers alike.

The answer is more standardization, not less.   The author is correct to be skeptical.

%d bloggers like this: