Super Bowl Ads – Love’em or Hate ’em?

I have not seen any of the pre-roll for the Super Bowl commercials that are selling for $5.6 M per :30 second spot.

I don’t want to spoil the surprise when I watch the game on Sunday. I am not cheering for either team. So, I have no “horse in the race” as far as wearing team colours  colors (since it is an American event). I am actually looking forward to a very interesting, and hopefully exciting, football game. As a result of my interest in the game my interest in the commercials also increases.

This is the context for my post.

In regular daily activity, we are not typically made aware of a singular event that will feature an entire program of new commercials. We see them or hear them during the course of what we are doing on the platform. Or we tune them out, no matter the platform, because they are banal or insipid.

Think back to how many Super Bowl ads you remember from last year. You may have a favorite from prior years. Was your “like” based on relevance to your personal situation or just because it was funny. And no, bowling ball to the groin is not funny or a way to sell a product.

Bill Bernbach, legendary head of Doyle, Dane Bernbach (DDB) presented a very interesting approach to the folks at Avis when DDB was being considered as the agency for the rental car firm. With gratitude to my friend George Tannenbaum who summarized as follows:

“Sixty years ago, Robert Townsend, CEO of Avis said this to Bill Bernbach. My largest competitor has five times the money I have. Five times the number of cars. Five times the counters. How do I get advertising that’s five times as effective?

Bernbach responded with this list:

Avis Rent A Car Advertising Philosophy
1. Avis will never know as much about advertising as DDB, and DDB will never know as much about the rent a car business as Avis.
2. The purpose of the advertising is to persuade the frequent business renter (whether on a business trip, or renting an extra car at home) to try Avis.
3. A serious attempt will be made to create advertising with five times the effectiveness (see #2 above) of the competition’s advertising.
4. To the end, Avis will approve or disapprove, not try to improve, ads which are submitted. Any changes suggested by Avis must be grounded on a material operating defect (a wrong uniform for example).
5. To this end, DDB will only submit for approval those ads which they as an agency recommend. They will not “see what Avis thinks of that one.”
6. Media selection should be the primary responsibility of DDB. However, DDB is expected to take the initiative to get guidance from Avis in weighing of markets or special situations, particularly in those areas where cold numbers do not indicate the real picture. Media judgments are open to discussion. The conviction should prevail. Compromises should be avoided.

When you think of the Super Bowl advertising that you have seen in the past, do you recall any commercial that is so clear in its main point and stated in a way that sticks like velcro to your brain and heart?

I think of the Budweiser spots with the horses and dog, or puppy, and yet I do not buy Budweiser as a beer of choice. Trappar is a golden retriever, and I am a sucker for a puppy so that probably explains my appreciation of the story. However, the spot has not provided me with anything other than a great story, well told:

I also remember Terry Tate, office linebacker, but I cannot remember the product so I had to look it up:

So I did a search to see what other sources might think are the best:

Now, I do not remember all these making their debut on the Super Bowl, but I will accept that each source says this is the case.

I am a Coke fan, never Pepsi, and a Steelers fan. I love the Mean Joe Greene commercial. But I was a fan of both the product and main character before the spot.

So, I will watch the game with interest, and the commercials with hope. I hope that there is something fantastic that gets aired.

Enjoy the game and the commercials!

Retail Apocalypse Now?

Carlton Cards and Papyrus stores are closing across Canada and the US. Things Engraved previously announced it was closing all its stores. And all the Ten Thousand Villages corporate stores are also closing across Canada.

Yes, it looks like the death of retail is continuing. Or is it? According to Stats Can data from September 2019, Canadians still buy less than 10% of retail sales online.

This is a case of big data not showing the whole picture.

Certain categories are being affected by online alternatives more than others. So, on aggregate this statement seems true. But it rings hollow for staff like the nice lady at the Carlton Cards store I visited last Thursday. And I did not know about the closings until I asked in the store. She was quite distraught.

She may or may not be part of the problem.

Devastating reviews of poor customer service in North America have plagued retail and food service for decades. So maybe it is partly “Mary’s” fault (not her real name. Not based on the interaction I had with her.

So, if not Mary, we need to look higher up the retail food chain. Leadership. This is the reason that Eaton’s and Sears no longer exist. The leadership did not understand their customers and how they were being treated and how their interests may be changing. They did not see what was happening to the landscape they had owned for decades. They could not deal with new competitors with new experiences. They failed to recognize Darwin’s premise – “those that adapt will survive.”

I am talking about real and demonstrable value differentiation for your customers. And ensuring all your staff understand what their important role is in the process. In the absence of any different value people will look for the lowest price. I know I do. I am sure you do, too.

I love to support local merchants. But I am not going to “just because” and I am not going to for their sake if they are not going to do anything to get better.

Better how, Timmy???

Well, this process starts with increasing your understanding of your customer. And how they use your product or service. What is their job to be done? What is their real goal as they look to provide value for their customers?

And you need to speak to your staff. And get their opinion and insights. There is a lot of gold waiting to be mined. Trust them and they will be forthcoming. If you do not have a trusting environment, they can steer you down the wrong path very quickly.

Leaders- take your blinders off. You CANNOT do everything. Make sure your people can and support the heck out of them. Train them. Encourage them. Ensure they enjoy what they do.

Remember, you are not selling anything. You are creating a place where people want to come to buy.

Thinks deeply about this point because your mindset may need to change.

Oh, and government needs to ensure they are monitoring a fair marketplace. Collect the taxes due from online retailers. You know, the money that goes to roads, hospitals and schools that bricks and mortar establishments pay???

I mean from companies like Amazon. No more offshoring and then claiming to be a great company. Sorry, not socially responsible.

And finally, customers like you and me. We can keep the local retailers in the game by purchasing from them. Or by companies that support local producers.

Not blindly, mind you. Provide honest feedback. Be helpful. Let them know what works and what doesn’t work for you. But please do not expect that you will have all your problems addressed. You might just be super picky and not worth it to them to keep you. You may cost them more than what you contribute in revenue. So don’t get mad, you may have deserved to be fired as a customer.

This is a potential apocalypse of our own doing. Stop reading the over-hyped articles about “the death of retail.”  Twenty years ago their was much bluster about “the death of radio and TV.” It hasn’t happened.

There would have been no need for Uber if taxis were customer-focused.

Please take a look in the mirror and see how you can impact this value chain in a positive way. I like shopping local and I want to be able to get your product. No more “out of stock” or “go to our online store.” You are going to drive me away completely.

At which point it will be “Apocalypse Now!”

Lovely Spam, Wonderful Spam!

Growing up we consumed a lot of fresh ingredients. There was always veggies at meals, fresh fruit to eat, and very few prepared items. We had a good-sized garden and Mom was a terrific cook. We didn’t have any extravagant life with a single working parent and four kids running around. But we always ate well. This is a tradition I have maintained throughout my life; hence my current size 🙂

Every now and then we would have Klik canned luncheon meat. I liked this salty treat on lightly toasted bread with some mayo, mustard, lettuce and cheese. Simple pleasures.

I remember that my first exposure to SPAM was via my favourite comedic group – Monty Python. I am a huge Python fan and the SPAM sketch was indelibly etched into my being from the first time I saw it. And yes, weaving elements of the SPAM sketch into normal speech or situations was something I totally did. Probably overdid if you asked family and close friends. But who cares – it is a hilarious sketch.

I needed to find the original that features Graham Chapman (RIP).

During our recent holiday we visited Austin, MN. Why? Because it is the home of the SPAM Museum.

Yes, I was blown away by the history, importance and world-wide impact of this tinned delight. Free samples when you walked in! The choice of a guided tour or a chance to mosey on your own (which we did). Did I mention free samples?

And the museum is free admission. The Hormel family set up a trust so that the museum would be up to date and always free. They have volunteers and staff that ensure your visit is “SPAM-tastic.”

And before you go “eewwww” here are a few important facts:

  • the only ingredients are – pork with ham, salt, water, potato starch, sugar, sodium nitrate
  • there are 12.8 cans of SPAM eaten EVERY SECOND!
  • there are 15 different SPAM varieties (I brought home 7 new flavours to try)
  • SPAM products are sold in 44 countries around the world.
  • the first can was made in 1937
  • SPAM is a delicacy in Hawaii (I should live there)

The museum is interactive and informative. This is a SPAM celebration. SPAM was essential in WWII, not just to soldiers but to Brits who needed food during the air raids.


I saw a signed letter from General Eisenhower thanking the Hormel family.


And I know how tall I am in SPAM cans:


How exciting do you make your product? The Hormel Company still has a gigantic plant in Austin (popn. 25,000) that processes some 19,000 hogs per day. More impressive are the awards and recognition that the company has for treatment of their employees (employer of choice) and their hogs. While they have had some problems in the past they have always dealt directly with them. Check the Wikipedia page:

The overall approach this company has taken since its inception has included capturing market opportunities, rolling with the Python jab, feeding the world, and doing good corporate citizenship.

While not perfect, they appear to work hard at doing a lot of the right things to keep themselves in good stead with their various stakeholders.

I would challenge Amazon, Google, Facebook, Starbucks and others to line themselves up and see how they compare. Not good in my books. Especially when you say all the right things “Starbucks” and do the wrong thing because of money, and money only. They are still using plastic straws even though they railed against them in 2018!!! But I am not going to say anything else about companies that offshore revenue recognition (legal yes, morally right – NO) and avoid taxes that are used for roads, schools and hospitals.

This post is a celebration of SPAM. And the terrific museum where I learned more about this tasty treat and the company that has made it for decades.

I got a SPAM book a few years ago:


So go ahead and ask me a question about the “miracle meat.”

Better yet, dream about this tasty treat from Japan:


Lovely SPAM, wonderful SPAM!


Excuse Me!

Our family spent a week in Orlando over Christmas. We did roller coasters and screamed with delight. You HAVE to check out Hagrid’s ride at Universal. The entire Harry Potter area was sensational. We splashed and rode the waves at a water park – what a hoot! And we enjoyed Christmas around the world at Epcot.

On “off theme park days” we moseyed around Universal City Walk or Disney Springs (used to be “Downtown Disney”) or went bowling in our hotel.

We really enjoyed being unplugged from work and thoroughly relished deep conversations and debates about one’s favorite football teams during US college bowl season.

I wish more people were unplugged.

On a consistent basis, 8 to 9 out of 10 people had their phone out while walking. And this includes almost every child in a stroller with a device to look at; or drop. That’s always funny when the parent says “yikes!” and wonders if the screen has cracked.

What do you suppose happens when people have their eyes on their phones instead of where they are going?


And I was involved in more each day as I began to refuse to give ground. Call me petty or “just as bad as everyone else” and you are probably right. To a degree. I am easy to see so why did so many not see me?

Because in the words of my good buddy Rich “what is the worst kind of fish? Sel-FISH.” People are selfish. This “digitally engaged, taking pictures they will rarely if ever look at again, stopping in the middle of a crush of pedestrians, looking at Instagram or Facebook posts unrelated to their trip” group of people leaves me wondering how they actually enjoyed their vacation. In long lines, as exist in every theme park, people usually talk about the ride, or what they are planning for lunch…as long as breakfast stays down. I cannot remember how many times the line stopped because more than one person in a family group was so engrossed in their phone that they didn’t see the line move 20 feet ahead of them. And no one says “sorry about that” or offers any type of apology. The looks one gets from the perpetrators is one of disdain as in “don’t you know how important I am that I must scroll through endless pages and not actually read anything?”

Usually you walk on the right side of a path towards the destination, and on the left when you are leaving. All the moving sidewalks and park entrances are structured this was. Yet, as soon as you get into a park it is helter skelter. The concept is simple, but like any successful plan, the real challenge is in the execution.

The last time we visited Disney and Universal was over 10 years ago. Yes, a lot has changed. On previous visits there were signs posted for “picture spots.” What a great way to help visitors (guests as they are known in Disney) to know where to stop to take a memorable photo. Often, characters are present at these spots.

This year, people just stop in the middle of traffic and start clicking away. I can’t tell you how many photos I am in, but it is a lot. And I don’t know any of these folks. The concept of setting the scene and creating a picture worth framing has gone by the wayside.

I will add that there were several instances where my faith in the human race was restored. At some of the best photo spots, people were more than willing to take a picture of our whole family in exchange for us taking one of their whole family. There were a couple of times when the person taking the picture of us blasted someone from photobombing us because their face was buried in their phone. We laughed every time. Sadly, none of the culprits said sorry.

One other thing that really grinds my gears is how people flaunt the rules. We were watching the Santa Claus parade at Universal one night. We got to a prime location by the big Christmas tree well in advance of the parade so we could have a good view. Right beside us was a cordoned off area for people in wheel chairs. The wheel chair logo was prominently displayed on the barriers. Yet, as the parade approached people started to lean into the barrier, knocked one down and just went up to the front. I held my temper and just enjoyed the parade. Also, people were asked to keep their feet off the street and on the curb/sidewalk. As staff walked the route to tell people everyone picked up their feet, or their kids, and then put them right back down after the staffer left. This is dangerous to have your feet close to where vehicles are going to be driving. Upon exiting the park I completed a customer survey and then verbally told one of the staff about the parade issue. I know it is tough for staff to police this, and I didn’t have an immediate suggestion of how to fix it because there needs to be a happy atmosphere. Plus, I am there on vacation and that is their job.

While this post has a bit of a negative note, the trip was sensational and we had a blast. Too many great things happened.

I just wonder how smart these smart phones have made us. Please be  a respectful person in your future. Let’s make 2020 respectful.

Steve Martin said it best:

20/20 Vision

Happy New Year!

I trust everyone had a special holiday season and rang in the new year accordingly.

I have read a wide range of headlines about what you should do for the new year. I have also read some funny ones that poke fun at all the January 1 plans that go by the wayside within the first week.

I will offer a shared experience that creating a game plan for yourself can help guide your actions for the entire year – personally and professionally. Without a plan you are just winging it – reacting as the winds may blow. Maybe you hit a winner; chances are you will miss.

Ask yourself – do I want to control my actions or be controlled by someone else?

Your personal plan should be selfish. Yes, you read that correctly. Selfish, but with a twist. The definition is – concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure. In my experience if you add that your selfish focus  is on improvement, then you will be a better person. As a better person you can serve your family better; be better at your career; and be better for your community.

Creating the plan is simple. Here are some key steps to create a winning personal game plan:

  • Think of this tenet when you are creating your plan: where you spend your time and money are really what your priorities are.
  • As a first step I suggest that you identify your strengths and weaknesses. Make sure you build off your strengths. If your weakness is debilitating, then it must be addressed. If not, spend your time enhancing your strengths.
  • Identify the key goals for the year and the actions necessary to achieve them. Do you want to go on a special vacation with your family? Specify where you want to go and where you will source the funds to make it memorable. Do you want to strive for a promotion? Identify what position you are seeking and measure what you would bring to that role. Note any gaps and create the actions to bridge those gaps. Maybe it is training. Maybe it is coaching. I hope you understand that this goal-setting step is specific to you.
  • Ensure you are managing your health and lifestyle. My Dad used to say “everything in moderation.” Of course he was right, but this was not what I wanted to hear as a 21 year old dealing with a New Year’s Day hangover. My dietitian friend Kelli always said that inputs and outputs have to be managed. Keep moving – walk, swim, run, etc. And balance that diet – lots of colour on your plate and appropriate portion size. This is a classic “do as I say, not as I do” haha! All the other elements of rest, etc. are up to you.
  • Build in check-in and evaluation periods. Every winning game plan gets reviewed after each game to see what worked and what needs to be adjusted. Most people do not make any adjustments to their resolutions. And that is why I suggest considering this in your personal game plan. Keep the goals front and center but maybe there is an adjustment required to the specific actions you are taking if they are not moving you towards that goal.
  • Identify where you can get support for your approach and actions. Every great player gets coached in practice and in games. No one is perfect. But as Coach Wooden used to say – be the best that you can be. Put in the reps – and make sure they are quality reps. And get help from an expert if needed.
  • Build in time to celebrate and relax. Salute your accomplishments appropriately. We can be here for a good time and a long time.
  • Smile and be happy. Laughter is the best medicine. Your smile can warm someone who is not having a great day.
  • Be in the moment. You cannot change the last play. And you should not “what if”  much about the future. You are in control of yourself in the present – so be here with both feet planted and your eyes up. Great players take each play one at a time. Great game plans are built one play at a time knowing that the sequence is leading towards the goal.

As a young coach and player I didn’t initially understand all these points for living life. It took some time to realize what was necessary for me to focus on. Like the warning if the oxygen mask was to drop from the ceiling during a flight you must put your mask on first before helping others. This is the same for your game plan. Strengthen yourself first so you can then assist others. Most importantly you must take action.

NOTE: This is not a complete and comprehensive plan because I do not know what your personal goals are. This post is provided as a starting point to creating your winning game plan. If you have any questions, please send me a note.

Make this your best year and enjoy life!

Barbara Walters 2020