Media X: A Stake Through Its Heart

With 2008's death rattle ringing in their ears, advertisers are looking ahead, stringing garlic on their windows, crossing themselves feverishly and screwing up royally.

This week, I clicked open an email with a coupon good for 40% off anything at the local Borders bookstore, which was closing. Since I missed out on the clearance carnage when my neighborhood Mervyn's, Linens N' Things and Circuit City closed, I was ready to jump on this deal.

Except it wasn't such a deal.

The coupon was only good for the Borders store that was closing on Natomas Avenue in Sacramento. For those who are unfamiliar with California geography, picture this: If you drove north from New York City, you'd be in Canada before I could get to Sacramento from my apartment in Thousand Oaks.

Minutes later, I did receive a polite apology email (they called it a "correction") from Borders, which noted helpfully that the offer was not meant for me.

I'm book-shopping at Barnes & Noble from now on. And I'm rooting for the Borders in Thousand Oaks to close.



Then my 20-year-old son, home for the holiday on a week-long week mission to make a mess of my apartment, received a direct-mail gift from our healthcare provider, Anthem. It was a brochure from Merck titled "Gynecologic Health and You."

The piece was accompanied by an earnest letter from something called Michael Belman, MD, MPH, who was billed as "Medical Director, Clinical Quality." Dr. Mike welcomed any inquiries on women's health from "Dear ALEX FEUER," but cautioned that "your preventive coverage may be subject to specific limits." (Said limits stretching, roughly, from "everything we can imagine" to "everything we haven't already imagined.")

The brochure was a lovely example of mid-1990s' design sensibility that brought my body-building, hormonally supercharged youngster up to speed on all things relating to women's reproductive organs, including such show-stoppers as chlamydia, cervical cancer and urinary tract infection.

It wasn't a complete waste of marketing money, however. That stuff is good for the kid to know on dates. You know, as an ice-breaker.

Then there's Galpin Ford, where I turned in the kid's leased Mazda in early December. He brought it back 25,000 miles over its allotment and with $2,700 worth of damage on it. But hey, car makers are gasping, and I've been a Galpin customer for a decade. Surely, I could get a break?

Alas, no. Their hands were tied because the lender is now Chase and no longer Mazda Credit, which probably thinks financing its own cars is bad business.

But hey, banks are tumbling. Surely, the salesperson could petition Chase for some wriggle room on my behalf?

Ah, no. I was forced into an even-worse lease deal that adds $150 to my monthly payment. Galpin did send us a lovely tin of chocolate-chip cookies, though. I'll be sure to bring up those cookies when I buy my next car--from anyone but Galpin.

Thus, a year of marketing tears and blood comes to a bumbling close. Although maybe those aren't real tears. Maybe I'm just standing too close to the garlic on the window.

2 comments about "Media X: A Stake Through Its Heart".
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  1. Judy Greene from NBC25, December 31, 2008 at 8:43 a.m.

    If you think you are surprising me with these tales of marketing ineptness you are greatly mistaken. If I had a dime for every self-serving decisiion maker I would be able to have a private jet on 24 hour standby througout the year. Few marketing people take the time to think through what seems to be a good idea and even fewer approach it with empathy. The only shoes they know are their own. Short sightedness is the dowfall of many marketers. Gone are the days of making sure the customer feels that he or she has been treated well or at least fairly. Those marketing decision makers whose arrogance drives their decisions are the first to tumble in a declining economy. Remember: it does not take a genius to succeed in marketing during prosperity. The true test of one's marketing abilities comes when the economy is in the proverbial toilet.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, December 31, 2008 at 10:53 a.m.

    Another super opine ! (Judy, on target.)

    Thank you for your wonderfully brisk words in 2008. Phthu, phthu, phthu over your head for the New Year, although there are many would prefer to go straight to 2010.

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