May 19, 2024

The Milkman

In the mockumentary "Unfrosted", Post and Kellog's are in an arms race to create the first unfrosted toaster pastry. Seinfeld's character (a marketer) says goodbye to his wife as he leaves the house, only to see a milk truck on the street. The milkman, played by Christian Slater, informs Bob Cabana (Jerry Seinfeld) that milk is required or bones will snap just like that (as he snaps his finger in Bob's face).

The milkman eventually kidnaps and threatens Bob Cabana in an effort to protect the dairy industry, setting up this enjoyable exchange, as the owner of Friendly Farms addresses Bob.

Bob Cabana:  Are you a milkman?

Harry Friendly:  The name is Harry Friendly. And you might say I am the milkman. Do you know the first taste a human experiences at birth?

Bob:  Applesauce?

Harry:  Milk, Mr. Cabana.

Bob:  Right.

Harry:  And in the milk business, we are not just part of the American Dream, we are the white in red, white and blue. We are the cream that rises, so famously, to the top. And you, Mr. Cabana, have become the annoying white ring that sticks to the bottom. Because despite all of your years in the breakfast game, you seem to have missed something. There is no cereal business without us. So you can see how it really frosts my huevos to see you relieving yourself in our flowing rivers of white gold.

I thought of this clip (my wife saw the movie on my laptop and said "you're really obsessed with the Christian Slater character, aren't you?") when I saw this little ditty from the ACMA late last week.

Can you imagine the paper/printing folks reading that paragraph ... not written by me, an individual they'd dismiss as "not getting it", but from an organization that they would view as a trusted partner ... in the same way they told my clients they were trusted partners (while reducing supply/capacity and increasing costs). They'd be like the Christian Slater character above.

Sometimes you become the dirty white ring at the bottom.

P.S.: I promise you I won't be on this line of reasoning for long. But the disconnect between what is happening and who helped cause "it" is really big, and there just isn't enough accountability from those who helped cause "it". If I saw accountability, there would be empathy from me. Still will be if I see accountability. Otherwise it's trusted partners harming my clients, and I'm here to defend my clients.

P.P.S.:  This is the kind of thing you forwarded me a few years ago when there was no paper and no printing capacity and too few printing employees ... the paper/print folks just hung you out to dry, and you were told to work even more closely with your printer. No. They couldn't even guarantee that they'd print your job, and the paper folks couldn't guarantee that there would be paper for the print job that couldn't be guaranteed. It was time for you to do something different.

P.P.P.S.:  Some of you have grumbled about the decline of co-ops ... lower productivity multiplied by higher prices is a bad formula, right? That link is something that is on my homepage, and I wrote it nine years ago. These aren't new challenges.

P.P.P.P.S.:  Do you think there is any chance that the paper folks have re-configured their empire to make sure they provide Amazon with as many boxes as they need, in perpetuity? Do you think this happened at the very time they were telling you to keep mailing catalogs, saying things like "even if the customer threw them out there was a 100% impression rate because the customer had to look at the catalog to throw it out?"

P.P.P.P.P.S.:  Last point. Back in 2016 I got a call from an Executive at a boutique agency. She told me that her agency was taking over the direct marketing functions for a large account, that she was restoring all the catalogs I'd cut (catalogs that, when A/B tested, cost the brand millions in profit per year, every year), and that it didn't matter that it cost the brand millions, it was the "right thing to do" to put paper in the mail. She then informed me that my services were no longer needed, that I was being relieved of my duties, and she then accused me of harming "the brand" by removing six million brand impressions per year ... before hanging up the phone.

  • I bring this up because this is what you are up against. Some of these folks are Christian Slater and the Harry Friendly character in Unfrosted. Some of them aren't. Work with those who aren't, ok? Value that audience. Demand accountability from the rest. It's time.

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I See Dead People

From LinkedIn, where I wrote this on Sunday: