Friday, June 24, 2005

Advertisers want to see what kind of bang their buck buys

Philip Wrigley was seated in an airplane, the story goes, when somebody asked why his company spent so much on advertising when its chewing gum was already so successful.
He replied: "For the same reason the pilot of this plane keeps the engines running when we're already 29,000 feet up."
For decades, marketers have assumed a clear and causal link between advertising and sales -- in part because it is so difficult to measure the return on investment for advertising.
But a recent trend toward clients squeezing marketing costs and demanding proof that ads are worth the price is a hot topic at this year's Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.

"Advertisers want to understand: What am I getting for my money?" said Doug Checkeris, president and chief executive officer of Media Co. in Toronto. ". . . Our measurement tools -- what we measure, how we're able to measure it -- are still pretty rudimentary."
The issue of marketing ROI leaped to the forefront last year when a consumer products analyst at Deutsche Bank published a research report concluding that many television commercials have a negative return on investment.
Then in January, a three-day conference was held in Miami under the title "The New Era of Accountable Marketing."
So it's no surprise that accountability is also a big issue in Cannes, where 8,000 members of the ad industry have gathered to celebrate the business and eat pricey dinners on expense accounts.
Agency people complain that many clients are trying to turn advertising into a commodity, when a lot of them see it more as an art. They grumble that until recently they negotiated rates with a client's chief executive officer or chief marketing officer. Now they're dealing with procurement officers, like any other supplier.
Andy Berlin, chairman and CEO of U.S. agency network Red Cell, said he has even heard of examples where clients are putting limits on how much an agency can pay its own employees.
"No longer are you in a marketplace where you're bidding for the best idea or the highest quality people," he said. "You're in a marketplace where you're making commodities out of all the ideas that are supposed to be differentiating."
But he said there are ways to break free of the client's attempts to drive down costs.
Mr. Berlin's company has negotiated unusual deals with some of its clients, where Red Cell pays the entire costs of making and placing ads, but receives a sizable chunk of the profits.
At a seminar on return on investment at the ad festival, Keith Reinhard, chairman of DDB Worldwide, said he doesn't understand why so many agencies get afraid when clients want proof that their marketing investment is paying off.
He praised companies such as Procter & Gamble that have changed the way they remunerate agencies to focus on results. Agencies get paid more if an ad does well than if it bombs.
P&G's approach proves it's possible for marketers to make sure they are getting a return on investment, Mr. Reinhard said.
And despite DDB's belief in industry award shows, Mr. Reinhard said he is not convinced that the ads that win awards at Cannes always have the best return on investment.
Benoît Bessette, vice-president and national client leader for Cossette Communication Group, said Bell Canada is becoming more focused on return on investment and involving procurement people in the negotiations.
"It's legitimate for clients who invest millions of dollars a year to make sure they are getting a return," he said yesterday in Cannes.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

UK doctors join chefs in fight against childhood obesity

British doctors called yesterday for a ban on unhealthy food and drinks in vending machines and on junk food advertising and sponsorship to help slow the alarming weight gain in children.
They also want school meals to be subjected to strict guidelines on sugar and fat content, as well as minimum levels of vitamins and minerals.

The recommendations were published by the British Medical Association (BMA) in a major report, ’Preventing Childhood Obesity’, launched yesterday.

The BMA, which represents around 130,000 doctors, or about three quarters of those practicing in the UK, says that there are around 1 million obese children under 16 years of age in the UK. If current trends continue, at least one fifth of boys and one third of girls will be obese by 2020.

The soaring rates in obesity have led to an increase in childhood type 2 diabetes and will lead to more future cases of heart disease, osteoarthritis and some cancers, according to the report.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, head of the BMA’s science and ethics group, said: “Children are being bombarded with mixed messages. On one hand they might learn about healthy eating at school and then they go home and spend hours watching TV and see celebrities eating hamburgers, crisps or drinking fizzy drinks. Children and parents are surrounded by the marketing of unhealthy cereals, snacks and processed meals – this has to stop.”

Worldwide over 22 million children under five are severely overweight. Experts say junk food and low exercise levels, combined with the popularity of computer games and television, are behind the growing obesity rates.

The new report laid much of the responsibility for tackling the epidemic with the government, calling on it to mount a sustained public education campaign to improve parents’ and children’s understanding of the benefits of healthy living, and also subsidise the cost of fruit and vegetables to encourage healthy eating.

However it also requested that manufacturers be legally obliged to reduce salt, sugar and fat in pre-prepared meals to an agreed level within a defined time frame, and that celebrity endorsement be restricted to products that meet nutritional criteria laid down by the Foods Standards Agency.

Although there is no precise figure of how much obesity costs the country’s national health service (NHS), every year it spends at least £2 billion on treating ill health caused by poor diet. Costs are likely to increase unless measures are put in place to halt this growing problem.

Childhood obesity has become a major political issue in Britain partly due to a successful campaign by 'Naked Chef' Jamie Oliver who revealed the poor quality of food being served to children in state-run schools.

Yesterday, another celebrity chef, Gordon Ramsay, teamed up with the Food Standards Agency’s Focus on Food campaign running this week to highlight the importance of food education in schools. Ramsay will visit schools to give children tips on how to cook.

It is estimated that about 10 percent of children or at least 155 million youngsters worldwide are overweight or obese.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Giant Popsicle Melts, Floods New York Park

An attempt to erect the world's largest Popsicle in a city square ended with a scene straight out of a disaster film — but much stickier.

The 25-foot-tall, 17 1/2-ton treat of frozen Snapple juice melted faster than expected Tuesday, flooding Union Square in downtown Manhattan with kiwi-strawberry-flavored fluid that sent pedestrians scurrying for higher ground.

Firefighters closed off several streets and used hoses to wash away the sugary goo.

Snapple had been trying to promote a new line of frozen treats by setting a record for the world's largest Popsicle, but called off the stunt before it was pulled fully upright by a construction crane. Authorities said they were worried the thing would collapse in the 80-degree, first-day-of-summer heat.

"What was unsettling was that the fluid just kept coming," Stuart Claxton of the Guinness Book of World Records told the Daily News. "It was quite a lot of fluid. On a hot day like this, you have to move fast."

Snapple official Lauren Radcliffe said the company was unlikely to make a second attempt to break the record, set by a 21-foot pop in Holland in 1997.

The giant pop was supposed to have been able to withstand the heat for some time, and organizers weren't sure why it didn't. It had been made in Edison, N.J., and hauled to New York by freezer truck in the morning

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The Dangers of Grilling

High-heat cooking methods such as grilling and broiling cause meat, poultry, and fish to form potentially carcinogenic chemicals, especially if charring occurs. In addition, when fat drips on hot coals (or any heat source), other possible carcinogens are formed and are deposited on the meat by the rising smoke and flames.

This doesn't mean that you should never eat barbecued meat--just not every day. , consider these steps to reduce the risks.

* Pick low-fat meats, or at least trim all visible fat, to reduce flare-ups.
* Marinate meats before grilling them. This can reduce the potential carcinogens by more than 90%. Use vinegar, vegetable oil, herbs, and spices.
* To reduce grilling time, particularly for thick cuts of meat, partially precook the meat (in the oven or microwave), then finish on the grill.
* Don't place the heat source directly under the meat. For instance, put coals slightly to the side so that fat doesn't drip on them.
* Place aluminum foil or a metal pan between the meat and the coals to catch the dripping fat.
* If dripping fat creates a lot of smoke, remove the meat briefly or reduce the heat.
* Don't use mesquite: this softwood produces very high heat.
* Scrape off charred parts of meat.

Animal Rights Extremism a Priority for FBI

Violence by environmental and animal rights extremists against U.S. drug makers has increased so much in recent years that it's currently the FBI's top domestic terrorism issue, a top agency official says.

"There has been an increase in the use of incendiary devices as well as explosive devices," said John Lewis, FBI deputy assistant director in charge of counterterrorism. "There's a very clear indication that there's no move to slow down or stop — in fact, just the opposite is true."

The agency has about 150 open cases of arson, bombings and other violent crimes associated with militant environmental and animal rights activists protesting the experimental use of animals in medical research, he said.

Lewis made the comments Monday in an address to some of the 18,000 biotechnology executives gathered here at the four-day Biotechnology Industry Organization's annual convention.

Some of the same groups associated with the wave of violent attacks on biotechnology companies said they planned demonstrations outside the convention center Tuesday.

Though the protesters vowed to be peaceful, convention organizers and Philadelphia police were taking no chances.

Security was high inside and outside the convention center. A helicopter hovered over the National Constitution Center on Sunday night while police on the ground formed a corridor through a small smattering of jeering demonstrators to ensure the conventioneers could arrive unmolested to a party inside.

Meanwhile, as the attacks nationwide increase along with hits to companies' bottom lines and worker morale, industry leaders and their crisis consultants are advocating a radical shift in strategy. They are beginning to fight back aggressively.

Chiron Corp. of Emeryville, Calif., which was bombed in 2003 and is still the subject of actions that include credit card fraud against some of its employees, won a restraining order in a California court against a group allegedly involved in much of the activity. The company also refused to renounce its ties to the protesters main target: Huntingdon Life Sciences, a Millstone, N.J. laboratory that does animal experiments for biotech and drug companies.

"We believe if we just kept our heads down, it would go away," said John Gallagher, director of Chiron's corporate communications. "That was unrealistic."

Gallagher said the attacks have cost Chiron at least $2.5 million, much of it associated with heightened security at public company events such as analyst meetings.

"That money would have been much better spent on drug development," Gallagher said.

The FBI is searching for the fugitive Daniel Andreas San Diego, who has been charged with the Chiron bombing and another at a Pleasanton, Calif. cosmetic maker. Neither bombing wrought serious damage or injuries.

San Diego has ties to several animal rights groups, including one called Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, which is better known as SHAC.

SHAC and its adherents have waged a decade-long campaign against Huntingdon Life Sciences. Some of the tactics used against Huntingdon and the companies it contracts with include the vandalizing of executives' cars and houses, harassing employees and their families and the posting of personal information on public Web sites.

Six SHAC members face federal charges of conspiracy and interstate stalking that carry maximum penalties of between three and five years, plus fines up to $250,000. They are charged under the federal Animal Enterprise Protection Act, a 1992 law that was expanded in 2002 and equates their alleged activities with domestic terrorism.

A judge in Trenton, N.J., declared a mistrial in the case Monday after the lawyer for one of the defendants was too ill to continue with the trial. The case is not likely to come to trial before September, said Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Greenpeace gives Golden Chainsaw to Brazil Tycoon

Brazilian agriculture tycoon Blairo Maggi, the world's largest soy producer, has been voted winner of environmental group Greenpeace's first Golden Chainsaw award for contributing to Amazon destruction.

Maggi, who is also governor of Mato Grosso state, secured 10,348 votes out of 27,849 cast in an Internet poll, Greenpeace said on its Web site on Monday. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was runner-up with 7,314 votes.

"Maggi deserved the award. After two years as the state governor, he has turned Mato Grosso into the state champion of deforestation, responsible for 48 per cent of the total forest loss in the Brazilian Amazon," Greenpeace Amazon coordinator Paulo Adario said.

Comedians from the Brazilian show "Panic on TV" had tried to present the award to Maggi at a school in Mato Grosso but they were removed by security, Greenpeace said.

The candidates were chosen because either their action or inaction had contributed to an alarming rate of deforestation, the group said.

The rain forest lost an area of 10,088 square miles (26,130 square km) in the year ending in August 2004, the second-highest level on record. The land is usually cleared first by loggers then taken over by ranching or other farming interests.

Maggi, whose Amaggi Group is the world's largest soybean producer, was not available for comment. In an interview with Reuters last month he said, "I am not the rapist of the forest."

Commercial Drive

I went to the street party on Commercial on Sunday to protest the expansion of traffic through the neighbourhood. I have to say I was a bit disappointed that the jackhammers and seeds were not brought out - as was hinted at in the promotion material - but nonetheless it was a nice day to walk around unhindered by vehicular traffic and take in the sun. I would be all in favour of turning Commercial Drive into a pedestrian street myself - anyone else have any comments on that?