Planning | Bullshit in . . . Bullshit out


Over the years I’ve seen a lot of brilliant plans as well as some very odd ones with business terrain descriptions, growth options and sales projections that didn’t make much sense. I’d look at the plans and wonder where the authors found the data that they used to model their bold plans. 

Then I tripped over this piece and I understood how they’d arrived at their illuminating insights + crazy rationalizations.   

A police officer sees a man looking for something under the light of a nearby street-lamp. “What are you looking” for the officer asks the man. “My keys” the man responds. After a few minutes of helping the man find his keys the police officer asks the man “are you sure you dropped them around here?” the man says: “no I didn’t, I lost them in the park.”

“So – why are you looking for them under this streetlamp?”

“Because this is where the light is!”

Many, many years ago a wise older woman gave me a wonderful piece of advice:


Don’t look at tomorrow with yesterday’s eyes. 


This applies to personal plans and business plans – especially as we move forward through the current Covid pandemic.  





Old Habits

I wrote this post twelve years ago when my partner Charlie was still very much alive and teaching me about life and marketing. It's still pretty relevant to life and business - esp. post CV-19.

Last week Charlie + I played our last game of snowballs for the season because the last of the spring snow is all gone. But if you go into the shaded forests that we like to walk through there are still some ice-paths; they're the summer paths that become the winter paths and over the course of the winter the snow on those paths turns to dense ice and is the last bit of winter to melt away.

On either side of these (six foot wide) ice-paths there's dried grass from last fall to walk on. But old habits die hard.

Charlie slips and slides along these ice-paths because . . . that's the path.

Sound familiar? Look familiar? Feel familiar?

Sometimes I too catch myself moving or thinking along an old path while there's often a better paths right in front of me.




The Wise Farmer

The Farmer




Brilliant Direct Mail


Big brands with big budgets + their DM agencies know that customized, personalized direct mail (delivered by Canada Post) provides a far better return on investment than does unaddressed mail that’s dropped into a postal walk en mass.    

Most smaller clients are too cash strapped to hire an ad agency, to rent a decent mailing list or pay Canada Post a premium to deliver their sales message. 

Well, provided you’ve got a little imagination, all is not lost. 

The brochure cover on the left is from our local Garden Club. To keep costs down the club designed it in PPT and printed it on plain paper with a small colour printer.  

Had they stopped there, this flyer would have been lost among all the other stuff that gets tossed into my mail box. 

But the club added a standard post-it note with a very inviting message: “We think you should enter!” The two personal pronouns combined with the flattering inference distance this homemade brochure from all other unaddressed mail and moves it into the personalized DM response category.

Simple, affordable, brilliant.



Advertising, Corona Virus, Financial Crisis


I posted opinion piece last March as we moved into our 1st lock-down and the first financial crisis. I'm reposting it to remind you to look for opportunity amidst all of the turmoil. By now you know that not all was lost. Some categories have done VERY well as a result of the pandemic - and will continue to do well afterwards. 

This is a once in a long-time opportunity to see the difference between the impact made by a small, local, online media buy (the kind Google encourages you to set-up and run exclusively on its network) and a real global multi-media campaign. It's also a once in a long-time opportunity to see the difference you can make buy ignoring all the hype, doing your own market research and forging a new path.


Most advertising that you see online, on-air and on the street is tactical, designed to build traffic and clear out excess inventory. The number of tactical ads you see each day is estimated to be in the thousands, depending on where you work, how you commute and how you spend your day. These ads were the bread + butter of daily, weekly and ethnic newspapers as well as community access TV and Radio. Today the low cost of online advertising is challenging the viability of most tactical (off-line) media and has already led to the demise of many great media. I predict the rout will continue for any medium that cannot demonstrate that it offers retail advertisers a decent short term return on investment (ROI). Why? Because too many of today’s inexperienced retail media planners believe that ROI is a great way to sort media options – since they’re only interested in short term ad response rates. 

I’m suspicious because ROI is not directly correlated to the medium’s reach + frequency potential, or the inherent credibility of the medium. Think CBC News vs. Graffiti.    

Tonnage is another piece of the equation. You can see the impact of massive media weight levels in the U.S. Primaries right now. The candidate with the most media support has the best chance of winning the race. 

Here in Canada, we have a lot of micro agencies and a few large ones. Each serves a handful of clients who believe that the thousands they spend every month, or the millions they spend every year are wasted.

Maybe so. Maybe not. Thoughtfully designed research and campaign tracking can address some of their dilemma. A broader perspective would help these clients as well. They need to understand that in the bigger scheme of things, their tactical campaigns really are just a few drops in the daily adverting bucket. So GREAT media planning is mission critcal. 

Last weekend’s ROB featured the above chart with this headline: “Markets see worst week since financial crisis”. 

Last week’s economic down-turn story has been tied to the coronavirus story - the top news story for the past six weeks. Think of it, from an advertising perspective, like a compelling two-part story that has now been told and retold on every TV station, radio station and newspaper in the world. Byond these traditional media, a Google search for “Corona Virus Update" on March 1, 2020, returned 59,200,000 results.

That's the power of advertising! Enough of it can significantly alter global behaviour in a few weeks.

This post is not a rehash of what we actually know about the virus today or about the direct economic impact. 

This post is an appeal to you to assemble your own case study for your own agency + your own clients to help them understand what can + will happen when a highly relevant story is told + retold by a lot of on + offline media many, many, many, many times from sea to sea to sea in every language and dialect. 

This is a once in a long-time opportunity to see the difference between the impact made by a small, local, online media buy (the kind Google encourages you to set-up and run exclusively on its network) and a real global multi-media campaign. 

The markets saw the worst week since the financial crisis not because there was a financial crisis last week, but because all of the global advertising said there is one. Big difference. 


And remember . . . 

“Even a stupid lie travels faster than a brilliant truth.”