Wednesday, November 26, 2008

None Such®

The most immediate challenge, solved just hours ago? We couldn’t find mincemeat for a holiday pie. The neighborhood’s changed to the point where mincemeat can’t reliably be found.

Very traditional in our household for Thanksgiving, mincemeat pie – Barbara makes a good one. But it’s not generally the kind of thing advertised in the flyers, at least not that we noticed. I asked Barbara what brand she used; I couldn’t remember. But she did: Borden None Such “Classic Original” Mincemeat.

I went looking online; discovered a terrific post by “Pam” at the Nature Woman blog with more than I ever could have expected about the brand and the advertising. It’s the kind of work that’s normal on Signalwriter, but this time from someone else. I’m not going to duplicate it all. Pam wrote,

In the 1920’s...Merrell-Soule’s signature product was None Such Mince Meat for pies perfected by G Lewis Merrell and Oscar Soule at their small canning factory on West Fayette St [in Syracuse. NY] starting in 1868. When Merrell-Soule was sold to Borden Co in 1928 it was one of the largest manufacturers of powdered milk, mince meat and powdered lemon extract in the world.

The ad from around 1937 is just one of a number of photos appearing on Pam’s blog…the classic method of generating readership – a recipe right in the ad – is present and accounted for.

I found None Such products on the Eagle Family Foods website (Eagle being a spin-off of Borden’s now owned by JM Smucker Company) along with excellent recipes for everything from Apple Mince Pie to Zesty Chili.

“None Such” means a person or thing without equal; a paragon…one that is unequalled. It’s a great brand with a long history but I’m not certain that Eagle has ever really fulfilled the long-time goal of turning this holiday specialty into an everyday treat, at least not broadly.

Reading through comments on Nature Woman, it seems like the unavailability of mincemeat pie filling is a common complaint. We did finally find both ready-to-use and condensed versions at Kroger’s. Barbara’s finished with the baking. I’m not certain we’ll take the mincemeat pie with us when we go down to Sugar Land for Thanksgiving with Doug, Donna and Maddy Rose. We will be with the Texas part of the family on Thursday.

Rachel and Alison will be doing the holiday in New Jersey. Most of the Slaviks will be at Nancy and Roger’s in New Prague (though Lynn and Greg will be having the traditional feast with the Hrabe side of the family just a couple of blocks away to start with). The Eisenbergs are congregating mainly at Gerry and Irene’s in Chicago. It’ll be a full day with full stomachs; I am personally grateful for every blessing.

Best wish: May your 2008 Thanksgiving holiday be “none such.”

Thanks to Nature Woman for her great blog post.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Scrubbing Bubbles®

The product was created by Dow Chemical, but Della Femina Travisano and Partners made Scrubbing Bubbles world-famous.

High-energy animated TV commercials starred ventriloquist Paul Winchell as the original voice of the leader of the Scrubbing Bubbles crew. The bristle-mouthed bubbles took the bathroom cleanser segment by storm. Dow itself became famous for an entire range of consumer products from Ziploc and Saran Wrap to Spray ’n Wash and, yes, Scrubbing Bubbles.

SC Johnson purchased Dow’s DowBrands division in 1997, to expand its own roster of consumer brands. Johnson has kept the Scrubbing Bubbles line fresh with product offshoots and extensions…ongoing ad campaigns have played a major role in product sales.

Now new ads are running under the title “SCUBBOLOGY 101” in homemakers’ magazines like Ladies’ Home Journal and Family Circle. They feature a sharply illustrated clipboard – a frame, if you will – holding one datasheet per product, done up with engineering drawings, bits of random Post-It notes and photos.

It’s a mature approach: I worked on a similarly conceived campaign for Honeywell Temperature Control Systems in the 1970s. BBDO Minneapolis created the format; its illustrated frame was a blank piece of paper in an IBM Selectric® II typewriter – that’s how mature it is. Every 60 days, our client-agency team came up with a new HVAC Update No So-and-So. Then BBDO would lay out the ad copy and engineering drawings on the blank sheet as though it had been typed onto the paper itself.

That idea, delivering detailed engineering information to a specific set of engineers, worked like a son of a gun. I remember we regularly had top readership scores in every issue of arcane publications such as Machine Design.

No reason why the same idea won’t work for Scrubbing Bubbles. The executions are fresh and bright. The campaign tag at the bottom of each ad still resonates: “We work hard so you don't have to.” Most important, the ads stand out in the magazines…it’s low-tech but it delivers a lot of visibility.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Arty Terminal

There are styles in illustration that reward visit after visit, maybe for no other reason than “I like that.” The latest piece from Steve Collier is a case in point. He completed the illustration above and sent it out as a promo piece, echoing the website: The Houston Municipal Airport Terminal is a beautiful and rare example of classic art deco airport architecture from the golden age of flight.

The Terminal served Houston during the years when air travelers dressed in their finest and embarked for exotic destinations aboard roaring propliners like the Douglas DC-3 and the Lockheed Constellation.

The 1940 Terminal is in the hands of The Houston Aeronautical Heritage Society, which has been restoring it for the past five years. The illustrator told me he got interested in doing something with it. “The website will give you more details on the establishment of the airport and its development through the years. Great looking art deco building.”

I was entertained by one early-history snippet from July, 1938: After setting a new speed record flying his Lockheed 14 Super Electra around the world, Howard Hughes visits Houston for a 3-day celebration…The City announces that Houston Municipal Airport will be renamed Howard Hughes Municipal Airport. A few months later, it is learned that the airport will be disqualified for Federal grant money if it is named after a living person and the name is changed back to Houston Municipal Airport.

The Feds changed their tune sometime between ’38 and ’97, if George Bush Intercontinental Airport is any clue.

There was a golden age of commercial flight: Classic airplanes and classy airlines. Airline advertising. Even airport humor. Shelly Berman routined in 1959: I never have the slightest doubt about my safety in a plane until I walk into an airport terminal and realize that there is a thriving industry in this building selling life insurance policies. (I think I still have that album somewhere.)

Air travel is nowhere so freewheeling and enjoyable now. Visit the 1940 Terminal at Hobby Airport and you may see a bit of what it was like in the…old days.

Thanks to Collier for sending the art my way; here is what the Terminal looked like on Opening Day:

Friday, November 14, 2008

Idaho Spud®

Older, “classic” brands don’t always represent great products.

That seems to be true of the Idaho Spud, from the Idaho Candy Company in Boise: “Delivering the Finest Candy and Service Since 1901.” Laura Kamrath delivered these treats to Houston; she picked up several at a trade show in Louisiana. Patrick Fisher, writing on, calls it an “old-skool candy bar.”

The Idaho Candy Company started in 1901, built a new factory in ’09 and produced more than 50 different candy bars and many boxed chocolates (including Owyhee Butter Toffee) over the years. The website boasts a fan club with Idaho Spud recipes and not much else.

Like other older candy brands, its fame these days spreads more by word of mouth than formal advertising…enthusiasts who spot it lurking on the lower shelves of smaller grocery stores – or run across it a an oil industry trade show, for God’s sake. We (Kamrath and I) suspect that someone connected the brand name to the oilfield term “spud in” – to begin drilling, to start an oil well – and decided to use the bars as memorable handouts.

Sad to relate, the Idaho Spud is an unusual confection, an acquired taste like a number of regional candy bars. Its flavors…a wonderful combination of a light cocoa flavored marshmallow center drenched with a dark chocolate coating and then sprinkled with coconut (Sorry, no potato!)…are muddled and a bit stale.

There must be some nostalgia, and quite a lot of private-label manufacturing, to enable the Idaho Candy Company to remain in business. I wish ‘em success…but no one’s going to waste a formal marketing campaign on the Idaho Spud.

On the other side of the Spud is the almost equally classic Zero candy bar, created in 1931 by the Hollywood Candy Company in Minnesota and made ever since of “Caramel, Peanut, and Almond nougat covered with white fudge.”

Zero has a loyal consumer base (including me) and I ran across a fresh box as recently as this afternoon in a Huntsville, TX, Valero C-store. To repeat one candy retailer, I’m comforted that candy bars like the Zero, and yes, even the Idaho Spud, are merely “hard to find,” not “no longer in production.” Since the Zero is produced today by Hershey, I’m pretty certain it gets more channel attention that the stolid Spud.

But hey, you’ll want to taste-test these two traditional confections. Let me know how that turns out. Ta for the weekend.

Photo: Richard Derk/Los Angeles Times

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sherman’s Show

It is hard to know which of the elements contribute to a powerful Howard Sherman opening at the Art Museum of Southeast Texas (AMSET) last Saturday evening. Since, by definition, it is now after the opening, you have to be satisfied by two out of three…but you ought to go.

Start with the most granular: Sherman’s huge new paintings demonstrated an upgunned sensibility. The show’s title piece, Eating Your Friction, is immense but by no means the only striking piece. I’m not a critic, you know that. And the Barons own several Sherman paintings so I’m not objective. Still, this is an amazing new set of works that shows how far Sherman has evolved. Fortunately, the provocative bits – one reviewer calls it “in-your-face art” – are still vividly present. My favorite is shown above: Flea Market Mood Ring.

During the Artist’s Presentation, Barbara Nytes-Baron asked, “Howard, none of our paintings have pink in them. Why are you using pink in these new pieces?” Sure enough, there are pinks and greens – Sherman noted that he’d gone to these unusual colors because they made him feel uncomfortable, they were not normally present in his palette. He’s pushing boundaries (which sounds banal until you see the work). Barbara and I were pleased to have been in on the premier.

Which took place, secondly, in the superb AMSET on Main Street in downtown Beaumont. Before last week, we’ve treated Beaumont as just a place to stop for a bite to eat on our drives to and from Atlanta. We’re going to have to change that – AMSET is a treasure. AMSET Executive Director Lynn Castle has offered a space that’s perfect for Howard paintings; visitors will be amazed, I think, to find this caliber of museum display evidenced by the Sherman exhibition. (Spend time with AMSET’s folk art collection; of its permanent acquisitions, I loved Daedelus by Paul Manes – the subject matter is beautifully handled by the scope of the piece.)

Third, the attendees were invited to a post-opening reception sponsored by major supporters of the arts in Beaumont. I’d like to thank Kim and Roy Steinhagen for opening their home to a rather large gang of art groupies from Houston. The real benefit of this reception was to add a significant new dimension, a personal one, to our Beaumont visit. “The natives are friendly and bright!”

Houston and Beaumont are just 97 miles apart: Not a very big drive for people who want an art adventure. See this show – it will do you so much good and it will change the way you think of Southeast Texas. I promise.

“Thank you,” all who made Opening Night such a treat.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Once a Screaming Eagle: A Veterans Day Post.

Herman L Eisenberg died in Chicago on October 16th, age 90. According to family legend, he served with the 101st Airborne in Bastogne, Belgium, in the winter of ’44-’45.

Perhaps the specifics are wrong but the generality is correct: Uncle Herman was, with my daddy and Uncle Manny and Sam Slavik, part of that particular generation of American soldiers who fought in – and lived through – World War II.

When people’s lives extend for so many years, they become celebrated for their longevity but not often for their long-ago service in World War II. Uncle Herman’s passing reminds me of a line by Canadian poet Archibald Lampman, “They know no season but the end of time.”

Today is Veterans Day. Join me in celebrating those you know who have served and are serving throughout the world, defending our freedoms. As long as we remember the names, they’ll never know the end of time.

In addition to Uncle Herman: Paul Hirsch Baron, Emmanuel Katz and Sam Slavik. Phil Slavik. Norman Sabel and Sherman Sabel. Joel Hirsch Goldberg. Thomas Biddulph, Richard Dailey, Richard Fox, Bill Gay and Richard Sutter. David Starr. Frank B Foulk. Chris Hrabe. AJ Smith and Paul Hoven. John Naumann. George A Schuler, Jr. Alan Vera. Nathanael Charles Yonka, Jr. Hoi Nguyen and Ellis Alexander. And the names from the Gunroom (you know who you are): Paul Johnson, KCMO, and “Charlezzzzz” Muñoz. And me.

This list grows year by year. You’re welcome to add names of your own.

*Thanks to Margie Eisenberg and Miriam Eisenberg for the photograph taken “somewhere in England in ’44.” You can see the caduceus of the US Army Medical Corps on Herman’s lapels. His jump wings are just visible under his left lapel; the division patch on his left shoulder is the “Screaming Eagle” of the 101st Airborne Division.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Warhol’d Up

I can’t paint but I can help make art: Look at the excellent new Locke Bryan Productions house ad. I’ve had occasion to blog about Locke Bryan before (here and here). The reference to the art and style of Andy Warhol couldn’t be more pointed.

In adopting this colorful Warhol homage for their house ad, Camille and Locke Bryan are using its iconic style on behalf of film/video production. Without a willing client, the ad would never run. This one will, in film and video directories nationwide, for the next year.

The ad’s creators are Kay Krenek on art direction, Paul Hera on illustration and me (concept/copy). Being full of myself, I imagine Warhol’s wry nod from the spirit world…he was a marvelous marketer.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Texas Oncology

More than 60 healthcare marketing people turned to at Memorial Hermann yesterday morning. They came from across the street and from as far away as Austin.

The in-betweeners had the toughest time getting into Texas Medical Center today, as usual. Still, despite the traffic, the AMA-Houston Healthcare SIG threw attendees a balanced seminar on Community Marketing: Expanding your brand outside your backyard. (I’m on the SIG steering committee; I’m not disinterested and I previewed the presentation here.)

Appealing to the “ad guy” part of me, the star of the show was Les Mann presenting the rebranding work on Texas Oncology, part of the US Oncology family. An example’s above – and here’s how the website describes the campaign:

The Texas Oncology “I Can” campaign was launched in 2007 throughout the state of Texas. It includes magazine and newspaper ads, radio and television spots, billboards and other marketing pieces. The campaign not only provides thousands of Texans with information about superior cancer treatment, technology and research, it inspires hope.

I’ll make two points about what Mann presented; then I’ll sign off for Saturday.

First, Texas Oncology has been thoroughly rebranded and smartly marketed. The campaign is active, not passive: Its bold but human face portrays a collection of independent medical practices as a coherent, focused assembly of like-minded treatment centers, working with their patients to beat cancer.

The marketing does NOT leave the organization’s brand for various stakeholders groups to define – it is clearly and strategically spelled out. Way to go.

Second, Mann conscientiously credited his advertising agency, HCB in Austin, for its part in formulating new strategies and creating strong advertising. HC&B received plenty of attention during his part of the seminar and rightly so. (Mann also credited his PR agency, Fleishman-Hillard, with vigorous community outreach.)

Good work ought to be recognized. Not every client thinks to do this. Hats off to Mann and his team for the work and for presenting it to us.

That’s my 22¢ (adjusting for 4% annual inflation) - don’t you forget to vote on Tuesday.