An Open Letter To The Ad Industry From Santa
Many thanks to iMediaConnection for running this piece earlier this week.
P.O. Box 1
Barrow, Alaska 99723
From the Desk of : Kris Kringle, CEO and Founder
Dear Advertising Professionals,
As 2008 draws to a close, I have decided to break my silence and communicate with you – the people that use my brand, likeness, and trademarks without permission every year.
You people chap my kiester with your incessant trademark infringement on the Kringle brand.
Don’t think I don’t know what you’re up to. Don’t think I don’t notice, for example, that for 40+ years a certain electric razor company has been showing a faux Claus riding a razor like a sled through a winter wonderland. Noelco from Norelco? My lawyers are preparing the injunction request even as I type.
Plus, don’t think I haven’t seen that a certain office supply retailer created an application where people could make themselves elves – completely flouting the certification process and apprenticeship system.
Mrs. Claus has been furtively playing that clip all year long. Thanks ever so for THAT, P&G. How is a 500 year old man supposed to compete with them?
Frankly, it’s enough to take the Ho Ho Ho right out of me.
I SHOULD give you all lumps of coal for Christmas for exploiting my trademarks, but I am a forgiving sort of fella. And since you all seem so darned obsessed by me, I’ve decided instead to get a few things off my chest. Which, BTW, is toning up rather nicely since I took up the Pilates.
Anyway, here’s some sage advice from the guy who makes the cash registers ring so much in Q4. Listen and learn, people. Here’s my advice on how to make 2009 a better year than 2008.
For Client CFOs:
As someone who has moved countless sleigh loads of toys over the past 500 or so years, I know a thing or two about what moves off the shelves And what don’t.
Here’s rule number 1.
The rug rats and their parents like brands. And advertising is essential to making products into brands. That little 7 year old in Keokuk Iowa ain’t screaming for a Carby Dream House, or a Darby Dream House, she wants Barbie’s crib. And she wants it because of the hot website and online video ads and interactive game and virtual world your marketing folks need all that money for.
Release the dollars, Scrooge.
Even if the economy is down, you need to invest in advertising your brands. Just like Barbie won’t date some knockoff named Ben, those kids won’t want your company’s stuff if it doesn’t seem magical to them.
For Brand Managers
As the leader of a large multinational manufacturing concern, I know what it is like to deal with customers that don’t pay their bills on time. Every year it’s a nail biter to make sure that the cash comes in fast enough to pay MY suppliers.
You have NO idea what happens to people who don’t pay the red wagon cartel on time. Ask one of them for an extra week to pay and you’ll end up with tiny tread marks over 90% of your body.
Little known fact we try to keep hidden from kids: there used to be 10 tiny reindeer. Sprinter (may she rest in peace) was Comet and Vixen’s foal, a lovely lass, all spirit and energy. Until we went 31 days late on paying an invoice.
Those RedWagCor people took little Sprinter for a one way ride on the li’l red wagon to H-E-double hockey sticks. A few days later, we found her lifeless body hooves-up in a bin of Webkinz.
Suffice it to say that we at Santa LLC know from drop dead dates.
It’s the same with your agencies. Like Santa LLC, agencies are dollar-in dollar-out sorts of concerns, and when you guys take 75, or 100, or 137 days and counting to pay your bills, it really compromises our ability to deliver the goods on time.
And I am tired of you clowns playing poor – companies with billions in sales can come up with a few hundred thousand to get current on the media bills.
I am a toymaker, not a banker. Similarly, your agencies trade in ideas, not mortgage backed derivatives.
Heck, if I am one day late on my delivery date, billions of parents call the 800 number and demand my head on an EZ-Bake brownie pan. But ask those same Moms and Dads for cash up-front and they look at you like you’re a choking hazard.
So Brand People, ensure your company pays on time. If you can’t afford to, then don’t order the work or the space.
For Media Planners
Sometimes you guys really remind me of Blitzen, given your obsession with shiny objects.
Get that reindeer in the air, and instead of sticking to the carefully planned delivery route, he tries flying at the first bright light he sees. Every year the rest of the team is pulling hard to get the sled to our first stop (Inuvik, Alaska if you’re curious) but ole Blitzen is yanking Santa’ hoopty toward the blinking lights of Broadway.
You guys sometimes behave in the same way. Somebody creates a new digital platform and you’re all “OMG OMG, this platform is BBFF (brand’s best friend forever.)” And you spend 80% of your time on it instead of doing the blocking and tackling that gets the whole job done.
Hey, I try to reason with Blitzen. I like bright lights as much as the next saint, but you gotta get the basic job done first, buddy. Then you can go see In The Heights on Broadway 25 times for all I care. It’s the same for you. Walk away from the light, if you know what’s good for you.
For Media Buyers
I didn’t know what to say to buyers until I got a letter from a buyer in Dallas. See, she thought she was sticking her wish list into the envelope, but she put in an RFP by mistake.
I learned a lot about you people from that RFP. And the most important lesson of all?
Holy Tannenbaum you people are cheap! Pretty soon you folks are going to want the networks and pubs to pay you to run the ads.
What part of “you get what you pay for” don’t you understand? I mean, really. Let me give you a toy analogy. Way back when parents understood quality, we used to make trucks out of steel. Good long-lasting American steel. Kids could jump up and down on them. Throw them in the air in pretend explosions. Leave them out for months in the rain. And they’d be none the worse for wear. Oh wait, lemme say that in your lingo. They “maintained their play value.”
But parents nowadays want 27 trucks for about 6 bucks. So I have to tell the munchkins in product design that they need to do what it takes to get the price down. And as a result, the toys are about as durable as plastic grocery bags.
To the cheap goes the crap.
Mrs. Kringle is a fine Mother. And one of the key ideas she tries to inculcate into our kids is the idea that if you…how shall I put this…put all your cookies out there for anyone to enjoy, then folks don’t value you like they should. Be selective in what you offer — how often you put out the cookie plate and what you offer up — and people will want your Snickerdoodles even more.
It’s the same with display ads. When you add inventory faster than your team can sell it, you’ll end up devaluing your brand because people can get it for less than it’s worth. You’ll have to sell some of those cookies to networks. And over time brands will wonder why they pay you $35 for something they can get for $8 down the street.
Oh, and keep thinking of ways to add value. If you are charging 8x or 10x or even 20x what a network charges, you need to be providing something special to justify the cost.
For Ad Networks
Every year on the 26th, I call an all-hands meeting up here at Santa HQ. And I tell everyone on the team to write down on a piece of paper why s/he is essential to the Santa team.
I have found the exercise helpful in reminding everyone from the Finance team to the Bratz dress makers that we all need to excel for the company to survive and grow — for Santa LLC to stay ahead of the teams at the other holidays.
So here’s my advice to you. Find a comfy chair, get yourself a fresh baked gingerbread man and a virgin egg nog, and take a few minutes to write down why your network is essential to the industry. Why do marketers need you? What unique value do you add? What makes you special?
Your buyers – they may do business with you today, but what reasons are you giving to them to continue to work with you? And are those reasons communicated clearly to them? There are 300+ networks out there – you need to ensure you stand out in a good way.
People know what they are getting from me. We’ve worked for centuries to make the Kringle brand one of a kind. It’s time you worked on YOUR distinctiveness.
As you can probably tell from these bits of advice, I believe in tough love. But “jolly” is also part of my brand character.
Therefore, while I wish you all would stick more closely to Santa LLC brand guidelines when you represent me, I do understand that all your holiday messages and references keep me ahead of the pack as far as holiday branded character Q Scores go.
I thank you for that.
And hey, it’s the holiday season. There’s a lot to celebrate as we reflect on the year gone by and set our goals for 2009.
Next year can be even better. Just make sure you don’t stop believing in yourselves and your industry.
Or in me, come to that.