Friday, May 20, 2011

Why Every Advertising Executive Should Admire Lady Gaga

I have been thinking about Lady Gaga.  She is fantastic.  I wasn’t a fan of Lady Gaga – until the Grammy Awards. 

Actually, I am a big fan of CBS 60 Minutes and Anderson Cooper’s profile of Lady Gaga was a perfect preface to her on the Grammy Awards.  I never got her or particularly liked her until I watched her that Sunday evening.

In watching the Grammys, the other performers I saw did not particularly surprise me.  There were dozens of singers, all pretty much alike.  Oh, many had really good songs, most had great stage presence and I liked them, but I suspect most of them will fade away over time.  Except Lady Gaga.

What she knows and readily admits to, is that, in order to make herself stand out from the others, she has developed her own brand of outrageous.  She has gone from music to performing art..  She has become a fashion statement who has gone way beyond the insanity of Madonna wearing her bras outside of her clothing.  In the sea of sameness that has become pop music, Gaga has become a standout.   I couldn’t wait for each of her appearances on the Grammys.   

It doesn’t matter if you like her music or not.  It doesn’t matter if you even like her.  She has become an icon in just three short years.  And I believe that if she wants to, she will build a long, successful career.

Lady Gaga is to music what Braniff Airlines was to adverting and marketing.  She is no different than when Mary Wells had Harding Lawrence paint his planes bright colors and dress its flight attendants to match.  It made people want to fly Braniff.  Just the same as Lady Gaga makes me want to watch her.

I believe it was Roser Reeves who said, “If you can’t sell the steak, sell the sizzle”.  It is something which smart advertisers understand.  Budweiser does it brilliantly most of the time and Coca-Cola almost always does it perfectly.  If clients really understood how to build their brands, they wouldn't spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on research which merely enable their brands to be average.  Most great advertising would not have stood up to the scrutiny of copy testing.  I suspect that two or three years ago, focus groups would have rejected Lady Gaga as being too outrageous.  Ditto Coke's classic, "I'd like to buy the world a Coke..."

That's why advertisers would do well to leave their agencies alone.  Because left to their own devices, most agencies are quite capable of breaking through and possibly turning brands into icons, given budgets that are big enough and brands that are important enough.

Will I ever buy a Lady Gaga album or download one of her songs?  Probably not. Will I ever go to one of her concerts? Also, probably not.  But I don’t buy Budweiser either.  But I sure do admire them.

And I can' wait to see her on Saturday Night Live tomorrow!


  1. I enjoyed this. You make several good points. Long live those who dare to be different for they shall change the world.

  2. She sure knows how to stand apart from the crowd - I'm thinking of when she met the Queen in the UK amongst many other times.

  3. Subtly embedded in her 60 Minutes interview was the fact that she was totally on message. In response to one of Cooper's questions, she said, quite naturally and without fanfare or hesitation, "I was born this way." And later that night on the Grammy's, she debuted that song.

    BTW.. her left shoulder looks way too creepy in this photo. :)

  4. Her brilliant marketing skills go much deeper than many people know. Polaroid is a client of ours and they brought Gaga in for what was supposed to be a potential endorsement deal. By the end of the meeting, every executive at Polaroid had their jaw on the floor. Not only did she come up with some great marketing ideas, she also gave them some ideas for new product. Two weeks later, they decided to give Gaga an equity stake in the company!

  5. Metro Dad: That is a wonderful story. Speaks volumes about Gaga. I cannot help but feel that if an ad agency (I presume you work for one) had come up with the same ideas, they would have probably been dismissed or ignored. But that is the power of celebrity.

  6. Did you get to see her on SNL last night? She was great it a bunch of sketches, which you can find online.

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