I should just start by saying that I am New Yorker. I may not live in New York currently, but I am a New Yorker. It never leaves you, it’s like a stain on your soul. So when I saw that Taylor Swift was the new global welcome ambassador, I – along with every other New Yorker – flipped her the bird. This brizzle picked “Maple Lattes” as her favorite New York food – can you really blame us? Unless you’re talking Upstate New York, which most city people consider a foreign country, then what the heck does maple have to do with New York? I’ll wait. If you can draw any sort of reasonable connection in the next ten seconds between maple syrup and New York City, then I’ll stop here but I’ll willing to bet it all on HOUSE-ton Street you can’t.
I’m not going to get into naming all of the HUNDREDS of other iconic New Yorkers that could have been paired with this campaign because you can find those lists all over the internet. Everyone, not just myself, but every native New Yorker has been thinking: “WTF.” And really, we (New Yorkers) aren’t the most welcoming to tourists anyway, so if Taylor Swift keeps
pests friendly guests from clogging up the city, well then I guess I’ll have to eat my words; there’s some benefit to her bubble gummy personality after all. Now I don’t hate her, don’t get me wrong but it irks me that someone thought it was a good idea to have a pop folk singer represent the biggest metropolis in the world. And by someone, I mean- an ad agency.
How could an agency get this so wrong? It’s hard to believe that a group of educated and experienced people sat around a table – likely working on this concept for weeks – and no one said: “hey, this might be a bad idea.” Now I’m the new gal at BRINK, so I understand feeling a bit intimidated and hesitant to share your opinion. There are projects that were already in the works weeks before I started and so sure, it’s a bit nerve-wracking to say: “I think this is moving in the wrong direction.” But you do it anyway. Why? Because it’s your professional reputation on the line and hopefully, someone hired you because they believe in your talent. This entire “Let’s pretend a country star knows this city” campaign failed us. I’ll give it to you that someone at some point may have spoken up and so they don’t deserve to face the firing squad but the creative director, the one with no freaking clue about AUTHENTICITY, she or he is catching the first bullet on this one.
Any decent ad agency worth their hourly rates will tell you – “if it doesn’t fit, don’t force it.” Partnerships should be organic. Michael Jordan and Nike. Makes sense – he was in sneakers everytime he was on your tv. Dr. Dre and Beats. Yup, the man makes music for a living. Just about any actress and Covergirl – well that seems pretty obvious doesn’t it. And that’s really what it boils down to. An endorsement partnership should feel obvious. If you’re going to dish out the money to have a celebrity stand beside a product and claim to use it/eat it/live there, then we should believe that they do in fact have some connection to what they are talking about. This my friends (and possible tourists), is the very definition of authenticity. To put it plainly – it’s when real recognizes real.
As an agency, it’s your job to be so in tune or ingratiated with a market that you know it like the back of your hand. We’re not talking research any more, we’re talking common knowledge. The type of thing where your strategist might say, “No, we need to move filming to the LES because that’s where our audience is.” If you don’t know what LES stands for, then you don’t know you New York – and you shouldn’t be handling it’s marketing. It’s that simple, really. And I shouldn’t harp on New York or on this one particular campaign because in the advertising biz we see it all the time. Most of the time it’s happens with a lot less backlash (fortunately), but usually ends with a disgruntled client. Take Pharrell Williams and Qreme.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about – that’s a good thing. For Pharrell anyway. He’s currently suing the crap out the ad agency he hired, so I’m pretty certain he would disagree with me here but let me explain.
For awhile, Pharrell Williams partnered with a liquor company to sell a liqueur to women that was thick, orange sicle flavored and designed to “celebrate the beautiful, independent, and sophisticated women of today.” The “Q” in creme represented Pharrell’s “queens.” The product, which was packaged in a bottle reminiscent of Cognac’s, was pearly and sweet – something Pharrell decided women liked. On the surface, you’re probably thinking this sounds like a great idea. A good looking rock star selling cocktails to chicks, duh! Actually, no. HELL NO.
For starters, Pharrell isn’t a drinker. He has admitted it in interviews. So, he’s probably not the guy to be selling an alcoholic beverage, period. Now I’m not going to get into gender because I do think it’s possible to market things across gender lines. The freaking whopping problem here is: A man – famous or not – is bottling his creamy, pearly liquid and selling it to women as a “gift.” Are you out of your everloving mind? Had this thing caught on, feminist everywhere would have roasted him like a Salem witch.
Pharrell is pissed at the ad execs because he feels like should have marketed the beverage as a “Sex in the City” type of cocktail, instead of selling it in the club. This is probably true, usually guys buy chicks drinks at the club and no guy is ordering Pharrell’s “Qreme.” This product was doomed from the start – with it’s bulky packaging, TERRIBLE product name, and milkshake consistency that weight conscious women are not ordering.
I could keep tearing this thing apart, layer by layer for you but here’s what it boils down to – nothing about this was authentic. Pharrell doesn’t drink and the agency must not have had a woman on board. Five years later, they’re still in litigation. Someone should tell them that Bethenny Frankel, former Real Housewife and celebrity chef, is laughing her “Skinny Girl” cocktail money all the way to the bank. Every week, when I watch Andy Cohen shoot the sh*t with other housewives, drinking cocktails, and taking shots every time someone gets their hair pulled – I think: authenticity. Small wonder why it’s rumored Bethenny made over $100 million.
If you’re on the hunt for an agency to work on some marketing for you, be sure to verify how in touch with the market they are. If they’re all about chasing trends and who’s hot, you might want to look somewhere else. What’s news today is old tomorrow. Authenticity is forever.