Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Sellin' Helen.

I’m not always angry. Some days I wake up positively brimming with good cheer. Today is not one of those days.

But here’s something that doesn’t suck:

L’Oréal Paris just named Helen Mirren as a brand ambassador in the UK. In addition to being gorgeous and talented, Dame Helen is 69. (That’s about 175 in model years, BTW.) And yet, here she is looking all gorgeous and talented as the “new face” of L’Oréal.

Photo courtesy of L’Oréal Paris

This is a tiny bit of vindication for those of us who thumb through fashion magazines muttering about “skinny bitches” and “photo-shopped cleavage.” Okay, maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, Ms. Mirren isn’t the first dame (small “d”) L’Oréal has tapped to represent their brand. Julianne Moore (53), Andie MacDowell (56), Diane Keaton (68) and Jane Fonda (76) are also in the clique.

You know, maybe there’s something in the liquid eyeliner. 

NARS Cosmetics recently hired Tilda Swinton for their Spring 2015 efforts. The 53 year-old actress takes over for Charlotte Rampling (68). And Jessica Lange (64) was recently tapped by Marc Jacobs to plug the company’s luxury cosmetics line. We’re a long way from Lancôme famously dumping a too-old Isabella Rossellini just a few days after her 40th birthday.

And guess what? These mature models haven’t sucked the cool out of the NARS and Marc Jacobs brands. And L’Oréal remains the largest cosmetic company in the world.

This trend—if I may be so boldly optimistic in my word choice—is a great sign. Perhaps cosmetics companies finally understand something other marketers just can’t seem to grasp: How to bravely, intelligently and unapologetically talk to the people who actually buy your stuff.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Why I'm mad at Renée Zellweger.

First of all, I’m not mad at Renée Zellweger for getting plastic surgery. It’s her choice, it's her face. Have at it.

And I don’t blame her one bit. She’s a 45 year-old actress in Hollywood. With or without an Academy Award, if you look your age you don’t get jobs. So she messes with her face to look younger. Perfectly understandable.

The sad part, of course, is that she may never work again because she no longer looks like Renée Zellweger. At any age.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no heartbroken fan. I can take her or leave her. And I’m not one of those anonymous turds who cleared their path to Dickheadsville with nasty, hateful tweets.

But I am mad at Renée Zellweger and here’s why: 

She’s denying it.

Well I guess if you believe People magazine (and who doesn’t?), the actress has neither confirmed nor denied having plastic surgery. But in my house, if you ain’t confiming, you’re denying.

From People:
"I'm glad folks think I look different! I'm living a different, happy, more fulfilling life, and I'm thrilled that perhaps it shows." 
“My friends say that I look peaceful. I am healthy.”
"People don’t know me in my 40s…Perhaps I look different. Who doesn't as they get older?! Ha. But I am different. I'm happy."
I think I just threw up a little bit in my mouth.

Seriously sweetie pie, you’re not fooling anyone. Have you peeked at a mirror lately? It’s kinda obvious. And your coy “Oh, is my bliss showing?” act is embarrassing, insulting and getting on my last nerve.

Trust me, nobody believes that you simply woke up from a good night’s sleep looking like your third cousin, twice removed. So you got a little work done, so what?

Just put on your big girl pants and tell the truth. Stop perpetuating the fantasy that beauty is endless and happy people never get old.

You’re an actress, right? Act like a grownup.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Unpredictable Power of Potential

Zakary Tormala is a marketing professor at Stanford. He teaches courses on attitudes, persuasion and consumer behavior. He is particularly interested in the power of potential.

According to his research, people value potential more than achievement. This creates a phenomenon in which what a person might do is of higher value than what another person has actually done.

We see this all the time. From the rookie point guard who is recruited straight out of high school with a multi-year, multimillion dollar NBA contract, to the junior senator from Illinois with zero administrative experience who is elected President of the United States. (No hate mail please. I voted for him too.)

Even with the inherent risks that go along with betting on the come, potential is still more powerful than achievement. Professor Tormala proposes that the uncertainty is precisely what makes potential so attractive. People with potential are interesting and exciting! Who cares if they actually haven’t done anything yet?

This got me thinking about millennials.

These days you can’t swing a dead blogger without hitting an expert who’s extolling the virtues of millennials. (Please don’t make me list them.) The general consensus is millennials are going to fix everything.
Of course they are. Just as soon as they get a job and move out of mom’s basement.

Until then, let’s separate potential from achievement.

Someday millenials will outnumber us. Today people 50+ outnumber 18-32 year olds by 32 million.

Someday millennials might outspend us. Today boomers spend $2.9 trillion a year—this represents nearly half of all consumer spending.

Someday millennials might be financially secure. Today we control about 75% of the wealth in the U.S.

Someday millennials might own their own homes. Today home ownership among adults younger than 35 is the lowest in recorded history.

Someday millennials might buy cars. Today 63% of all new cars in the U.S. are purchased by people over 50.

Someday millennials might pay their own way. Today more than half of U.S. parents are providing financial support to their adult children.

Someday advertisers will wake up and realize that by blindly pandering to the potential of the 18-34 demographic, they’re ignoring and insulting the people who actually buy their products and grow their businesses.

Yeah. And someday monkeys might fly out of my butt.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Et tu, AARP?

I’ve been in a foul mood ever since AARP introduced RealPad, a 16GB, Android-based tablet. (Full disclosure, I’ve pretty much been in a foul mood since 1977, but that’s beside the point.)

Anyway, I’m not mad at the product. It could be awesome for all I know. And at $189, it seems well priced. What pisses me off is the marketing.

From the press release:
Powered by Intel, RealPad to Serve as Digital Gateway to Over 70 Million Americans 50+

I hate to break it to you AARP, but I lost my virginity--oops, I mean "digital gateway"--more than 20 years ago. In fact, most of us are pretty adept at the whole digital game.

Shit, some of us even invented it. Paul Allen (58), Tim Berners-Lee (59), Larry Brilliant (70), Ward Cunningham (65), Bill Gates (58) and Larry Ellison (70). Oh, and a couple of guys you may have heard of named Wozniak and Jobs.

And then there’s this:
--88% of people aged 50-64 in the U.S. are online
--33% of all tablets and eReaders are owned by people 50+, including 23% of all iPads and 30% of all Kindle Fires
--An estimated 50 million Facebook users in the U.S. are older than 45
--Smartphone use among people 55+ is growing at a faster rate than 25-54 year olds
Perhaps it’s not entirely accurate to say that technology is “a daunting experience for a large majority of Americans 50+,” as AARP’s CEO JoAnne Jenkins tells us. Perhaps there’s more to the story.

By all accounts, RealPad is super simple to use. The interface features large type and big icons. It comes with free, 24/7 customer support from live experts. And it’s pre-loaded with video tutorials that walk you through tablet basics like how to use a touch screen.

But here's the thing, perpetuating the myth that people over 50 are digital dimwits is not good karma, or good marketing, for AARP.

This is a tablet for seniors, and AARP knows it. And by pretending RealPad is designed for users 50+, they’re guilty of the same lazy, ageist thinking as most other marketers.

AARP needs to get back to first principles. Market to peoples' needs and interests, not their age.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The ol' potato in the vagina gag.

My first blog post was about vaginas. I wrote about a recent study in the UK where 50% of women aged 26-35 could not identify a vagina on a diagram.

It was the most viewed post in Angry Boomer history (which goes back four whole weeks). And I've been chasing that high ever since.

The post had a lot going for it. For one thing, my business partner Bob Hoffman linked to it on his AdContrarian blog, and his devotees came in droves.

But let's face it, the subject matter didn't hurt. And neither did using the word "vagina" in the headline. So imagine my delight when my friend Cheryl Clements sent me this link: 


Apparently a young Colombian woman popped a potato into the oven (if you know what I mean) after her mother told her that doing so would prevent pregnancy. "I believed her," said the world's most gullible 22-year-old.

Well guess what? After 2 weeks in solitary confinement, the potato started growing roots. [Insert "lady garden" joke here.] A startled nurse discovered the sprouting IUD when the woman complained of abdominal pain. Loudly I assume.

Anyway, you'll be happy to know the budding potato farmer is just fine and will live to discover new, less organic methods of birth control.

So besides the obvious, what do these two stories have in common? What links do our clueless girls in the UK to their clueless counterpart in Colombia?

I have no idea. But at least I got "vagina" in the headline again!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

No Douchebags, No Service.

I know why A&E cancelled Longmire.

The show suffers from a complete and utter lack of douchebaggery.

Three seasons in A&E cancelled Longmire, the network’s highest rated drama ever. Their reason? The show’s viewers are too old. Yup. All 6.5 million of ‘em. Too old.

Like you, I figured there must be another reason. No network is that stupid. So I started binge-watching the show, looking for a clue. (The first two seasons are streaming on Netflix.) I had my answer by the second episode.

In case you’re not one of the unlucky 6.5 million shit out of luck viewers, Longmire is an hour-long crime drama set in rural Wyoming. It’s based on Craig Johnson’s popular mystery books about Sheriff Walt Longmire and the community he protects and serves. Walt is an earnest, hard-working man’s man who endeavors to do the right thing. This kind of pablum has zero chance.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of grit. Cases involve teen girls forced into prostitution, serial killers who sell their victim’s kidneys on the black market, and severed fingers stored in safe deposit boxes. But by the end of each episode, good conquers evil and the bad guys always get what they deserve.

Can you believe that bullshit? Even the show’s executive producer agrees. Longmire is “not hip and sassy,” says Greer Shephard. “It’s not a cynical show.”

Well, you know what happens to non-cynical shows without mustached, hipster zombie/vampires, morally ambiguous internet billionaires, or fundamentalist Christian homophobic duck hunters don’t you? They get what they deserve: cancelled.

You wanna succeed in the TV game, you gotta go all douchebags all the time. Networks and advertisers love that.

Next time: Or maybe this is why A&E cancelled Longmire.