How anxious are you? Advertisers want to know

It doesn’t take genius to see that Americans are anxious, what with people losing the jobs they needed to pay for mortgages that now are underwater and can’t be funded by savings, since all that was pretty much wiped out with the stock market collapse.

But exactly how anxious are people? Not only in America, but worldwide? That’s the sort of million-dollar question that can dictate how companies approach marketing and advertising. So JWT, an ad agency with a client list that includes Nestle, Kimberly-Clark, and Shell, has launched to help determine the level of worry, panic or fear among consumers.

Ann Mack, Director of Trendspotting for JWT, said the idea is to have agency staffers from around the world contribute blog posts and data that will illustrate “how brands and consumers are coping with recession-related anxiety.”

“What’s unique is we have a geographically diverse perspective,” she told us. “Often people look at the recession through a particular lens, maybe a geographic lens. We might be really aware of what marketers here in the States are doing but not familiar with what marketers are doing abroad.”

But it’s more than blog posts. The site also includes JWT’s Anxiety Index, which was launched back in 2003 to monitor Americans’ attitudes during the early days of the war in Iraq.

IPG’s media biz blooming in China

Ahh, springtime in China.

It’s turning out to be quite a nice season for Interpublic’s Initiative. The media and digital agency has won three accounts already this month in China — widely viewed as the hottest area to be in advertising.

Here’s the breakdown:

    Initiative will manage Intel China’s digital campaign, including creative and website design, after beating out Ogilvy Digital and OMD.  Initiative was named the agency for Pfizer in China, beating out Dentsu and Zenith. The agency will handle Pfizer’s media strategy, planning and buying services throughout the country.  Finally, Initiative was also named the agency of record in China for Grupo Bimbo, the Latin American bakery giant. Initiative won out over MPG, and will handle Grupo Bimbo’s media planning and buying in China.

(Photo: Reuters)

Verizon Wireless sues Velveteen Rabbit promoters

You’d think nothing could be cuter than a stuffed rabbit that comes to life to cheer up a lonely child. But Verizon Wireless rewarded the promoters of Velveteen Rabbit, the movie, with a not-so-cuddly lawsuit.

A representative for the mobile service said Verizon had nothing against children’s movies but it is taking issue with a Utah-based telemarketing company, which has apparently been calling cellphone users to advertise the movie.

Verizon said it filed a suit in the U.S. District Court in Trenton, New Jersey , alleging that Feature Films For Families Inc illegally used an auto-dialler for LA-based Family 1 Films. The suit says Verizon Wireless customers and employees received nearly 500,000 calls with a scripted promotion for the film over a 10-day period in February.

Will Boost’s “so wrong” ads bring it to the masses?

How would you widen your appeal beyond an audience of  14-24 year-olds to say the 18-35 year-old demographic? Some companies might give their advertising a gentler or more grown up tone. Others might throw in a service credit or some airmiles. 
Boost Mobile has decided the right theme is “wrong”
Investors already thought its recently-launched $50 unlimited mobile service plan was so competitive their first reaction was to sell shares in rival companies. The plan’s arrival in a terrible economy plagued with job cuts is also expected to draw crowds. 
But to make sure Boost, a unit of Sprint Nextel, launched an ad campaign designed by Santa Monica-based ad agency 180 LA, to stand out from the clutter. 
One has a coroner eating lunch over a dead body and at one point holding an internal organ in one hand and sandwich in the other. Is this wrong? he asks. Not as wrong like high prices. 
Then there’s a girl on a bike questioning if there’s something wrong about her flowing long arm pit hair.  The answer is of course that its not as wrong as sneaky charges in phone bill.
And what about the cute pig who’s tucking into a plate of ham at the dinner table. 
“Is this so wrong? Its delicious.” says the pig. “I’ll tell you what’s wrong, a cellphone company that advertises one price and charges you hidden fees well north of that.”
Sprint said yesterday that Boost has been taking in 6 times more customers than it is losing since the new plan was launched Jan. 22. Now that  the campaign launched this week on national TV it will be interesting to see the effect on sales.
(Photos: Boost)

Throwing an orgy of pessimism? Well, don’t invite Viacom

How bad is the advertising market? Pretty bad, says Viacom Chief Executive Philippe Dauman. And it’s only going to get uglier.

“It is clear that while as cable network owners we are in a more favorable media segment than most, advertising comps are likely to get worse before they get better,” he said on a conference call today.

This comment may seem dry, but we’re totally ready to cut him some slack since it came shortly after this poetic gem: “And despite the orgy of pessimism prevalent of the late, the economic tide in our economy and our industry will rise again.”

Risky Biz: A Michael Phelps, A-Rod marketing team

Sort of a tough week to have Michael Phelps featured in one of your advertisements. Or Alex Rodriguez, for that matter. But what if you use both world famous athletes in your advertising? Or worse yet, what if you use them both in the same spot?

Then you’d know how Activision feels.

Starting last October, the video game maker launched a new TV advertising campaign for the release of Guitar Hero World Tour, the new installment of the mega-popular game. Here’s how they described the idea behind the campaign: “Paying tribute to the famous lip- and guitar-syncing scene that appeared in the popular film ‘Risky Business’, each ad will highlight different celebrities jamming on instruments from Guitar Hero World Tour to the song ‘Old Time Rock and Roll’, performed by Bob Seger.”

So who do you think Activision picked to feature in its first Risky Business jam session? Yep, A-Rod and Phelps… Normally that would seem a rock-solid choice for a marketer, but it’s all a bit awkward at the moment, what with all that drug stuff.

Looks like Yahoo’s not buying Tumblr

Gawker/Valleywag created a bit of stir on the blogosphere Monday with its report that Yahoo was in talks to buy blogging startup Tumblr for “low to mid-eight figures,” or as much as $50 million.

From the post:

We hear the talks are serious, led by Tapan Bhat, a fast-rising executive in charge of Yahoo’s homepage and other key properties — but as with any acquisition talks, they could fall apart.

We figured Yahoo’s new CEO Carol Bartz was too busy figuring out where Yahoo should seek growth and how to stem the leaky ship to pursue an acquisition. Sure enough, Silicon Alley Insider knocked down the Valleywag story by getting Tumblr founder David Karp on the record:

Kellogg drops Phelps after photos

We won’t be tempted by puns. Or any sort of lame wordplay.  We’ll play this straight. Seriously. Here goes: After all the bad publicity caused by a photo of Michael Phelps apparently taking a bong hit, Kellogg has decided to dump the superswimmer.

Okay, now that’s out of the way. Here’s the basics from Reuters:

The world’s largest cereal maker said on Thursday it would not extend a contract with Phelps, who charmed audiences in Beijing last year with a record-breaking, eight-gold medal haul, saying the photo of the swimmer was inconsistent with its public image.

Phelps, estimated to make millions of dollars annually from marketing deals, issued an apology this week after a British newspaper published a photograph purportedly showing him smoking marijuana during a student party at the University of South Carolina in November.

And a final word from our Super Bowl sponsor

Did you feel like all you saw in the first half of the Super Bowl — well, besides Pittsburgh’s James Harrison taking his interception 100 yards to the house — were commercials? Certainly there were a lot of them. In fact, a record amount of commercial time ran over the entire course of this year’s Super Bowl.

According to a just issued report from TNS Media Intellegence, NBC aired 45 minutes, 10 seconds of advertising messages, including paying sponsors, NFL messages and in-house promotions.

Outside of NBC’s promos, four companies accounted for 40 percent of the total paid ad time: PepsiCo, Anheuser-Busch Inbev, Viacom and General Electric, which, of course, is the majority owner of NBC. But TNS warns not to read too much into the big GE ad buy.

Write this down: News Corp

News Corp is many things to many people. Its latest incarnation? Pinata.

Everyone is taking a whack at Rupert Murdoch’s international media empire these days as its stock languishes and it gets ready to report second-quarter financial results on Thursday. Newspaper advertising revenue is falling, the movie season hasn’t looked so hot so far, MySpace is unlikely to friend Facebook, the euro and the pound are hurting European operations, DVDs are dying and cable networks revenue doesn’t look like it will be able to compensate.

On top of all that, people are beginning to wonder if the company will announce a writedown, and how soon. My story, which ran on Friday, says the newspaper business looks ripe for a writedown, and quotes Pali Capital analyst RIch Greenfield saying that part of the company’s problem is Murdoch’s sentimental attachment to old media:

If Murdoch wants to keep the business healthy, it is time to make “hard decisions” and prune older media like papers, Pali Capital analyst Rich Greenfield said.