Ogilvy’s Startup PR offering is more Expresso than Espresso

As somebody that is working to change the public relations industry to help startups to understand how best to use communications disciplines to grow their businesses I was quite excited to read that Ogilvy – one of the largest and, by many, most respected, agencies in the world had launched Espresso.

The story in the Wall Street Journal – OK, it was a reprint of a press release from the agency on a webpage carrying the Wall Street Journal header – talked about, “…the launch of Espresso, a new service offering designed to give emerging brands and start-up companies access to big brand thinking, consultation and measurable results.” It talked about, “a range of services from brand narrative and messaging through media exposure and influencer relations, all within a simple, affordable and flexible cost structure” and said it was, “Developed with direct feedback from the start-up and venture capital community, Espresso is individually tailored to meet a company’s specific public relations needs and budget.”  Excellent.  I was getting excited. A mainstream agency that was offering what I had set out to provide to startups.  I clicked the link, keen to find out more.

There was a Presi presentation.  I clicked play – hoping that somebody else had finally had the vision I had. A large, mainstream agency was ready to disrupt the industry… but, as I watched the presentation it was the same old, same old, with some token message development thrown in for good measure.  Developed with direct feedback from the startup and VC communities? Perhaps, but most startups and VCs I talk with have a skewed view of what PR is – and how it works – mainly the result of the traditional view presented by the industry – and, to be honest, most PR people don’t know what PR really is – or are playing stupid.

Ogilvy claims that their program is, “individually tailored to meet a company’s specific public relations needs and budget” – yet it appears to focus on press, analysts and influencers and looks pretty prescribed.  If it really was about helping startups build mutually beneficial relationships with their publics [audiences] how about publishing a fee structure and letting startups customize their program?

Let’s be clear about one thing – the most important audience for a startup is its early adopters and prospective customers – not the media and influencers.

As for the, “simple, affordable and flexible cost structure” – I can’t tell whether it is.  And, nor can the startups that may be interested in the program, because there are no details provided on the link in the press release – only an email address.  I fear it may be another case of, ‘how much is your budget?’ pricing.  For those of you that don’t know how this works, an agency asks you what your budget it and, miraculously, a proposal arrives that matches your budget.  It’s uncanny how that works!

Ogilvy’s Espresso startup PR program also happens in a 45 day window.  Mirroring most startup accelerators and incubators it’s condensing a lot of things in to a month and a half – which, in my opinion, is madness.  It’s also a complete contradiction of the company’s claims that its Espresso program is completely flexible.  Flexible, as long as it happens within 45 days!

Anybody that works with startups knows that no two have the same PR requirements.  No two have the same timescale.  Helping a startup achieve its next set of milestones is not, necessarily, about media exposure and awareness [in reality, it’s rarely about either of these things], and paying lip-service to the community while offering the same, albeit it condensed, PR programs you’ve been offering for years won’t cut it.  What Ogilvy is offering is more Expresso than Espresso.

If you want a truly customizable, startup-friendly PR offering you can check our PR Espresso – available as a single or double – starting at $175 per hour for strategy development and $100 for implementation.  More details of our services, complete with pricing, are available here http://thinkdifferently.ca/right-sized-services

Designed by Apple in California

Apple’s once legendary marketing has taken on a new look recently.  It’s cluttered. Wordy. Complicated.  This is not a good thing.

Designed by Apple in California
This is it… more evidence that Apple’s marketing and PR team is losing it!

Once the envy of product marketers around the world Apple’s team – both internal and external – appears to have lost their midas touch.  I’ve seen the company’s ‘Designed By Apple in California’ TV spots and winced at the sugary, self-congratulatory tone of the commentary.  As a self-confessed Apple fanboy [I own an original iPad, a Macbook Air and a Macbook Pro Retina] I’ve felt uncomfortable with the company’s design videos where Jonny Ive attempts to over-intellectualize the fact that the phone design hasn’t changed much – the company claims that they ‘now measure the variances from product  to product [they] now measure in microns’ – for those that aren’t familiar with the term, it’s a unit of measurement that is 1×10−6 of a metre or one-millionth of a metre, or one-thousandth of a millimetre.

Then I opened a recent copy of Wired and saw one of Apple’s iPad print adverts – and couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  It’s an advert that falls in to all of the bad practices that the company’s competition has continued to make for years. It’s everything Apple’s competitors have been doing for years. Not running adverts like this was what set the brand apart.

The advert in Wired has 16 lines of copy, which, I admit, I couldn’t be bothered to read in full until I started writing this post.  The example, above, taken from the Apple website, for the iPhone has 28 lines of copy.  28 lines of copy?! On an advert.  Adverts talk about their passion for producing users’ experience, about focusing on a few great things and about how ‘Designed by Apple in California’ is its signature.

I can’t stand the latest campaign – it’s not an advert that Apple runs!  What happened to, ‘The iPhone you’ve been waiting for’ or ‘This Changes Everything. Again.’ or ‘Get the web delivered. Like you never have before.’ adverts?  ‘Designed by Apple in California’ would be enough to deliver the message – nothing of value is added by 16 or 28 lines of copy! I doubt anybody reads them anyway!

We’ll have to wait until September 10 to see what direction the iPhone is heading, but on the evidence of its current advertising campaign Apple’s signature marketing is heading in the wrong direction!  As product failures of a long list of companies – from $BBRY’s BlackBerry 10 and $MSFT’s Windows 8 – illustrate a good product can fail because of bad marketing and PR.

For Apple this latest change of marketing direction could prove to be disaster. What do you think to the company’s departure from its enigmatic minimalist adverts? Is less more?