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Matt Van Hoven

T3 Drops JCPenney Staff

Tips and a source confirm that Austin based T3 has let go of around 20 employees from the JCPenney account yesterday. We first reported the agency is losing the business, last week. There are quite a few shops in Austin, and T3 is known for rebounding and hiring people back, though that doesn’t make things easier for the people who are without work today.

Word is the account will close by mid-December, when a few more will be let go.

More: “Advertising Agency T3 Says: ‘Bring Your Babes!’

Former MRM/Digitas Guy Launches Pay-for-Performance Shop

Anders Ekman appears to be a real person. His work includes being an SVP at Digitas and EVP at MRM. And this week, he launched his own company, Performant LLC (an Inter/Media co.), which is totally going to DESTROY THE AD INDUSTRY with a pay-for-performance model. Watch out guys, this is happening.

Our first contact with Ekman’s company came when they pitched us, via press release, through our anonymous tips box. Here’s a taste of what this company offers (with notes, of course):

“In Performant, we have created something entirely new (ed: WHOA!)”  said Ekman, who serves as CEO, as well as co-founder. “Pay For Performance marketing has existed for years, yet large agencies have not yet embraced the techniques and technologies that can deliver truly accountable marketing to their clients (ed: Dude, there’s a reason for this). Our aim with Performant is to bring Pay For Performance into the mainstream. By combining the skills of Performant’s team with Inter/Media’s proven track record, proprietary media assets and analytic prowess, we’re able to offer these services at a high level from day one (::ed shakes head::).”

OK putting the release aside, it’s worth noting that these guys are trying to combine a creative and performance-based model. I can’t imagine it’s new, but this feels like one of those shops built by an account guy who knows how to keep a client happy – that is, by giving them what they want rather than what they need. You pull them in with promises of creativity-plus-accountability, and you’re setting yourself up for a tough go.

Performant’s edge, and their only one so far considering no creative name is mentioned, is Inter/Media’s tech, “that provides thorough media analytics that optimize advertising spending and media selection.” Right, now tell us the part where the work comes in. Who is going to want to work here knowing their primary mandate is numbers?

It’s not worth getting annoyed over this kind of trend, as much as many of you would like to. Gimmicks exist all over the place, and there are a few signs that this is one of them. From the client list, which consists of brands the Performant people (including their chief digital strategist, who comes from Saatchi) used to work on, to the overuse of the word “data”, well I just feel dirty reading it.

Martin Sorrell Will Now Take Your Questions

(Sir) Martin Sorrell is head of the world’s most successful advertising holding company, WPP, which just reported its highest like-for-like revenues since 2000, rising 7.5%. And they just invested $5 million investment in Buddy Media. Flag, meet sand.

At times, Sorrell appears to be all-seeing, at least when it comes to business – and his penchant for advice-giving is familiar to the world’s economy. For example, he recently said the BBC should take a 16% cut (as suggested). Many of you have expressed disdain over the fact that an economist’s running things, and we’re aware that there’s some left-over angst out there. Consider this our attempt at being constructive.

As we’ve done in the past, today we’re asking you to send in questions for Martin to answer, exclusively for you. He’s agreed to answer 10, from you, the readers of AgencySpy. Drop them in the tips box, send them in an email or put them in comments. Any way you can, get us your questions and we’ll get them to Martin. We won’t tell him who they’re from, so think of this as your chance to pin WPP on its tactics. Or to find out more about where the company is headed. Whatever you like, we’ll cull the best and send them his way.

More: “An Interview With Sir Martin Sorrell

Moral/Ethical Question: Are Advertisers Responsible, in Part, for Big Media Craziness?

This weekend, I went to the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, because it promised to be awesome if only for the signs. And despite leaving at 6am only to get there halfway through (thanks, MapQuest) it was still worth the trip. Infotainment, as you all well know, is the only way to get a message into Americans’ brains anymore. And besides, 3 million people can’t be wrong (can they?) about the need for some chillage on the media front.

Cutting to the chase, Jon Stewart gave the final remarks, setting his sights directly on the forehead of 24-hour media. David Carr summarized the message by noting, “(Stewart’s) barrage against the news media Saturday stemmed from the fact that, on this day, attacking the message would have been bad manners, so he stuck with the messengers,” because ultimately  they seeks to gain the most from irresponsible messaging (even if they don’t see it that way*).

Or is it? Certainly, the 24-hour news channels are capable of grabbing eyeballs (about 5 million on a given night, says Carr). But as we all know, as the eyes go away, so do the advertisers. And in the case of all-day-news, there are tons ofresponsiblebrands supporting them. So, what if the advertisers went away first?

Typically, brands won’t leave unless something big happens. But if Stewart and Colbert were successful at anything Saturday, it was showing just how screwed up the situation is – we just don’t notice it until they puts things in perspective with a knock-down-punch-out montage of screamy craziness.

Asking brands to pass over the 24-hour news media for media buys is naive, at best, because these channels offer unprecedented accuracy in demographic breakdowns. Nonetheless, it’s worth noting that (as Stewart points out), it isn’t just the media who are to blame. We have only ourselves to blame, and when it comes to redirecting our attention, the remote control is our only tool.

*The irony in this post is not lost on me.

More: “It’s Scotch O’clock at Buddy Media

NSFW: Dutch Suit Co. Brings Bad Sex to Winter Campaign

Fans of pornography will recognize the image above as “not worth wasting time on”, but other images from Dutch clothier Suit Supply‘s 2010 winter campaign are decidedly less boring. Breasts, a vagina and expensive things are front and center on Suit Supply’s site, which has been the center of a few blog posts. This image isn’t really doing the campaign justice, considering it includes “upskirt“, peeping tom-ish and the general degradation of women. The most interesting thing is how bored the women look, with the exception of one. If this photo set accomplishes anything, it’s taking the fun out of being a total creep.

Christine O’Donnell’s Halloween Nightmares Have All Come True

It’s been a tough run for Senate hopeful Christine O’Donnell, and to round off the week, someone finally put out an ad portraying her as a witch (I suppose this isn’t too surprising). But that’s the price you pay for telling Bill Maher you’ve dabbled in witchcraft.

Let’s not forget about Ladybug Gate, aka the blue balls story heard round the world, aka this week’s biggest non-story (in the sense that this kind of piece isn’t a first for Gawker). Either way, the ad happened, at the behest of The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which went so far as to include “a computer chip that features a cackling witch”.

Let me take a second to say that NPR has been running a train on political ads, finding ways to talk about the upcoming election ads like a passive aggressive coworker trying to get you to come to his potentially lame halloween party. If you’re one of those magical people who manages to keep the fliers from entering your mailbox and never watches TV, this may come as a surprise to you: the ads this year are 3 parts crazy, one part pointless.

Also pointless: holding an opinion on political advertising (well, the direct mail kind anyway), because the consensus, according to NPR, people just don’t like it. But getting printed materials in an undecided voter’s hands is effective, say campaign consultants, even if the only time the voter sees it is as she takes it to the trash. And so it’s with that in mind that a cackling postcard makes sense, if you’re AFSCME, who couldn’t have picked a better time to put their ad out.

Read the full story here.

More: “Christine O’Donnell to Sean Hannity: No More National Media for Me

It’s Scotch-O’clock at Buddy Media

Damn. Buddy Media has had a big couple of months. And though it’s annoying to rewrite what you may have read on their blog, here’s why the crew of social media keepers-of-order has reason to be cheerful as we enter Halloween/Rally-to-Restore-Sanity weekend.

- $23 million in funding came in a couple months ago

- They moved into a more recently than that

- Today, WPP announced that they’ll be investing $5 million in the  company

Not familiar with Buddy Media? Maybe you’re familiar with Vitrue or Context Optional, which have been the New York company’s main competitors for some time. Er, had been. The start-up’s product is a social media messaging/monitoring/building platform that taps into Facebook and lets you do anything. Seriously, it’s robust as hell. Having been through the tutorial twice and following their efforts since 2008, when they were building Facebook apps (a feature now built in to their platform), I’m still only a novice with the program. But it’s capable of a lot, and the offering keeps growing.

Publishing, monitoring, building custom pages and analytics are well used features. However, the service has been hugely popular among agencies, 300 of them according to a company resource. That’s due in part to the ability to white label the platform. Agencies that run multiple social accounts are able to easily monitor and publish their work from one place. At the end of the month, shops tack a software fee (or something similar) onto their invoices, and in the process, save time that would be used muddling about in Facebook’s back-end. There’s gotta be a better way to say that.

So by now you’re waiting for the punch-line. And here it is – Buddy Media has, since its inception, been reliant on Facebook to do business. I don’t know how their relationship works, but it seems like every other week Facebook adds more ways for users (brands included) to track and build using This isn’t meant to sound speculative, like Facebook is going to mess with Buddy Media. Just the contrary, the companies appear to be in a symbiotic relationship. So kudos to Buddy Media, and have fun tonight.

*While full time at mediabistro, I worked with one of Buddy Media’s employees, Joe Ciarallo, who is a contributor to PRNewser.

More: “Social Media Trends Tracked by Buddy Media

Gerry Graf’s New Shop: Barton F. Graf 9000, LLC.

When Gerry Graf vacated the CCO seat at Saatchi, people were all “OMG WTF is going on with these advertising people?” His salvo/exodus came at around the same time Ty Montague and Rosemarie Ryan left JWT (they later formed Co.). It was a shake-up the likes of which advertising hasn’t recently seen, and that twisted many important agency folks’ undies into a formidable super-bundle.

So, now what.

I had breakfast with Graf a few days after he left and asked what he’d be up to, what with all the free time he was facing. The most striking remembrance of that meeting was how ready to be done he was. Advertising is a cranky mistress: too many chores, not enough sex. As a remedy, Graf told me he planned to watch movies and play video games for awhile. If I recall correctly, he gave himself a year to mess about. In the last few months he’s done some speaking events and whatnot, too. But c’mon, you knew as well as we did, he couldn’t stay away too long.

Hidden in the ether of his time off is the beginnings of his next step. Graf’s father, one Barton F. Graf (pictured), provided a bit of the inspiration, as did DOOM – a videogame any gamer will tell you was made famous by one weapon – the BFG9000. That’s “Big Fucking Gun”, which acronym-ically matches Barton F. Graf, creating a tie in to Graf’s heritage and (apparent) love of blowing shit up.

The only tangible existence of new “shop”, so-far called Barton F. Graf 9000, LLC., is a Facebook page containing Graf’s previous work. I’m not sure you can even call it a shop, or an agency, or anything just yet. But I can say the guy wants to do something, SOMETHING, that doesn’t involve cereal boxes or fluorescent lights or swiping a key card. And because Graf’s agency name sets it up so nicely, we gotta ask – does the BFG9000 have any ammo left?

How to Get Called “a F&#%ing Idiot” and Other VisID Observations

Today on FastCoDesign, Steve McCallion ran a piece called “The Real Lesson of the Gap Debacle: Logos Aren’t Key Anymore“, which asks how important logos are these days. Among a string of well-made points about what people find important, McCallion writes, “Simply put, no one really cares about the logo anymore.” Balance that against the other recent giant-brand identity news that Chevrolet has chosen “Chevy Runs Deep” as a tagline, which has been widely panned, and you’ve got yourself something to think about.

Let me say this about Chevy’s line before going any further: awhile back it came out that a GM exec decided that the company should no longer refer to the brand as Chevy (an idea that died as quickly as it was memo’d), and the story just gets funnier* (ironicker? not a word!).

Anyway, we asked AdWeek’s Brian Morrissey as well as Adam Wohl and Darrell Whitelaw of MIR for their thoughts.

Morrissey is on the fence, noting, “My knee-jerk (and obvious) reaction is advertising is moving from taglines and logos to experiences. That’s not to say visual identity doesn’t matter, just that it doesn’t play such an outsized role anymore.” Which is true. But a better question is, when a new brand is born, do agencies still start defining its visual identity by coming up with a logo? Probably. He goes on, “I don’t know the tagline of Google or Facebook. (They both have recognizable logos, of course.) Their chief brand attribute is the experience of searching or finding people to stalk, er connect to…That’s boring, right? I think more brands need talking animals.”

Agreed. OK, so that’s your non-ad-agency-guy answer. How about some guys for whom creating brand identity isn’t in the “core business” category (don’t take this as a limit on what MIR does, btw). Co-founder Adam Wohl broke it down thusly, referring to Gap: ”If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Word. How about them taglines? “We forget about the 46 states in the continental US between CA and NY. There are a lot of people living in that land mass that don’t use iPhones, don’t have their computers hooked up to their TVs and spend billions of dollars every year.  Ask them what foursquare is.  Then ask them what ‘I’m Lovin’ it’ means.  Goodnight, everyone.”

OK so what about Whitelaw, the other half of MIR, on the importance of logos, “Fucking critical. Nothing will ever replace identity.” As for that story about the Gap logo: “Whoever wrote that is a fucking idiot.”

So there you have it. A bunch of people said stuff and you’re no smarter than you were 500 words ago. You’re welcome.

*It first got funny when “that’s what she said” popped into your head. You can’t even control it, can you?

More: “My Name is SuperSpy, What’s Yours?

I’d Like to Take a Minute Just Sit Right There

I’m back kids, and this is your moment of reckoning. Just kidding…about the reckoning, that is.

Hey all, this is Matt Van Hoven, the contrive son of a saint you know from such moments in AgencySpy history as ‘Matt Van Hoven, Tartard’ and a bunch of other horribly written blog posts. Ha ha those were good times, amiright? Well the good times are over kids, because we’re just two short years away from the End Times (aka 2012) and if I know you, you’re going to spend that time buried in some awful campaign. I’m here to write about it (again) – can ya dig?

Ok but seriously, I hope you don’t mind if I take a bit of your precious reading time for a joy ride. Because that’s why you love this site. And it’s going to be fucking awesome. And you will like it. Why? Because shit needs shaking up. Unfortunately there are only 24 hours in a day, so I’ll be counting on you to do some interesting work (like you do) so I’ll have something to blab about. I told you I’m contrive. Wait I think that’s the wrong word.

Whatever the case, I have the strongest urge to write, “I’m baaaacccckk’” but that would only be partially true. After all, SKINNY is home now, and work needs getting done. But to be sure, you can expect to see more bylines with my name on them in the coming weeks. The content will be observational, as it always was, but focused mostly on the trappings of communication, as well as the purveyors who create it. How’s that for some vague ish? Muahahahahahaha.

Hold on, you didn’t think that was all, did you? Of course it isn’t – this is AgencySpy y’all – where there’s always another story to be told. So sit back, relax, and keep your finger on the refresh button. We’re just getting started. Yes, i said ‘we’, and yes you should read into that. More after these messages…

More: It’s a Reunion, Bitches