The Evolution of Advertising Trends With Michael Donahue

Product and brand advertisements have been around as far as anyone can remember. As someone who has been in the marketing and advertising industry even before the internet, Michael Donahue walks down memory lane as he shares the evolution of advertising as he witnessed it firsthand. He talks about what it’s like to be a digital expert in advertising in an era that hasn’t embraced digital means. He also shares his insight on the current trends in advertising that revolves around influencer messaging and how it stands above the others during the COVID-19 pandemic. Tune in to learn some key strategies that Michael shares on how you can identify your brand loyalists and the impact they can have on improving your brand as a whole.

TTL 810 | Advertising Evolution


I’m glad you joined us because we have Michael Donahue here. He’s an advertising legend and experienced CEO. He’s working on many exciting things.

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The Evolution of Advertising Trends With Michael Donahue

I am here with Michael Donahue, who’s an experienced Chief Executive Officer with a demonstrated history of working in the marketing and advertising industry. He was an EVP at 4A’s for many years and worked with the Association of National Advertisers, ANA. He’s got quite a background. I’m excited to have him here. Welcome, Michael.

Thank you, Diane. I’m glad to be here.

It’s going to be fun. You’re covering a lot of things that are interesting in general because of marketing, advertising, and all that. I want to get a background on you. I gave a little bit of background, but what led you to what you’re working on now? If you could give us your backstory.

My backstory is I have a history in the advertising agency business at Dancer Fitzgerald Sample, a wonderfully privately-owned company bought by Saatchi. I stayed with that. I was on the executive committee of the board of directors and I did lots of things at Dancer that I loved. One of which is developing a creative brief at P&G and General Mills that they still use to this day. In the mid-’90s, I left to join the American Association of Advertising Agencies, where I was there for twenty-some years. I was their digital expert.

I also tried to create a diversity talent project, which unfortunately didn’t succeed, but it’s about to succeed because I’m trying to make it happen in 2021. There’s a better chance now than I could in 1994. I was the digital expert there. My boss said, “I don’t know whether these internet things ever going to be a big deal, but you always like to build new disruptive things so you can be the new media person.” My close friends in the digital business now are running companies and I stayed with it and helped create the first privacy policy, the first document that helps agencies and marketers get what they need.

I did that, and then I left in 2015 to join the ANA as a digital consultant. I wrote a report which says, “This is what you need to do to clean up the digital media supply chain.” I left them at the end of December and I’ve been working on advising gigs. The two things I’m most interested in are working with a man named Allen Kay, who is all about making the world better and faster with messages like, “Say it, don’t spray it,” which are seen on masks around the country. I got them placed by my friends who are the CEOs of all the media trade associations.

The other project I’m interested in, which you’ll want to talk about, is what marketers need to do in 2021 to retain their most profitable users. Between making the world better and faster, and getting people to wear masks and to take vaccine shots, and then helping marketers do what their CEOs and CFOs say. That is, you’re not going to get as much money to spend, and you’re going to have to be more efficient and more effective with a reduced spend. My whole profitable user brand loyalist’s idea is all about that.

You’ve touched on some interesting things. Allen Kay has been on the show and he was great to talk to. I know he had his campaign, one of the most famous Super Bowl ads ever. He had created a lot of information that people don’t even realize, “If you see something, say something.” I love talking about advertising and marketing. I teach advertising and marketing quite a bit still. Everything you mentioned was fascinating. You said something about P&G and General Mills. What do they still use that you created?

They use a brief that I created when I was an up-and-coming account person at Dancer Fitzgerald Sample in the early ‘80s. They were major clients at Dancer Fitzgerald Sample. What I did was I added a question at the beginning of the creative brief that says, “What is the accepted consumer belief or feeling or attitude?” You need to know that before you start saying, “Here’s what we want to say in the advertising. Here’s what we want them to do based on that.” My boss at the time said, “I don’t understand what you’re talking about.” I said, “Let me give you an example. In 1967, Rheingold Brewery in New York introduced the first light beer called Gablinger’s. It was unsuccessful because they positioned it as a smart thing to drink for their six-pack a night people who didn’t care about doing something smart.”

In 1976, Bill Backer at Backer & Spielvogel, the legendary creative guy, was assigned to introduce Miller Lite beer. He realized that there was a negative perception out there that he could refute by the ad campaign he was creating. Here’s what the negative perception was, “The only people who would drink light beer are women and wimps.” What he did was he created that great campaign with all the athletes having a good time. He not only launched Miller Lite, but he also launched the whole light beer category. Since then, there are lots of funny stuff in light beer advertising.

The second one is that I had a close friend, Phil Dusenberry, who was the CEO and the Chief Creative Officer at Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn, BBDO. I told him my story and he said, “Donahue, I stole a piece of business from your agency on April 2, 1985 because I did exactly what you did. I was on my way to the final pitch and it looked like you were going to win the account because you were the marketing agency and we’re the creative agency. The year before 1984, you had come up with ‘Where’s the Beef?’ All of a sudden, you have creative credentials. On the way to the final pitch, I realized that there was a negative perception out there that was true that I had a line to take advantage of. Here’s what the negative perception was, ‘God bless us. I can’t use the American Express card everywhere.’ On the way to the final pitch, I wrote this line, ‘Visa, it’s everywhere you want to be.’”

Those are all your lines? You did “Where’s the Beef?”

Advertising Evolution: Take common sense ideas and turn them into common practice.


No. I wasn’t the creative person, but our agency did “Where’s the Beef?” I didn’t write the line. Phil Dusenberry wrote the line, “Visa, it’s everywhere you want to be.” Bill Backer is the one who created the jock’s campaign to launch Miller. My point is General Mills and Procter & Gamble clients liked my initial, “What is the accepted belief or feeling?” It’s been the creative briefs that they require their agencies to follow since the early ‘80s.

That’s status quo thinking. They’re stuck in the way it worked in the past that they don’t think creatively.

That’s right. I’m also working with someone who’s doing webinars around the country and he’s from San Diego. His name is Ryan Berman. Here’s what he’s doing. He’s got presentations to say, “It is not good enough to be a status quo brand anymore. You need to be a courage brand.” He defines what he means by courage. He said, “This isn’t bravery. It’s courage.” A nun once told me, “Donahue, there are two kinds of knowledge in the world. The kind you have and the kind you were to find. Which ones you think more important?” He’s all about saying, “You need to find the knowledge. You need to change,” especially in 2021. You mentioned status quo, which reminded me of what brands can’t be status quo anymore. They have to have the courage to try new things and do things.

I talked to Ryan about that. He was on the show. Rich Lofgren has been so wonderful to introduce me to all of you guys. I have to say that Ryan’s work was good. I want to make sure I give him a little plug.

Here’s my basic model and why I do things not just in business, but in my life. I was once running a big piece of business at Dancer on introducing the L’eggs pantyhose back in the ‘70s and ‘80s. My client said, “Donahue, you’re always about doing new disruptive things. We are about to introduce total quality management in our company.” He said, “I want you to go sit and listen to the presentation.” I sat and listened to the presentation. At the end of it, I went up to the presenter and I said, “You’re a good presenter, but everything you’ve said about TQM is common sense.” He says, “Yes, it is, but it’s not common practice.” That’s what I’m all about and I’m in the midst of creating a book with a lot of friends who have urged me to do. The working title is Take Common Sense Ideas and Make Them Into Common Practice.

If you look at many of the top speakers out there, many of them are not saying anything new. It’s trying to get people to do what we know is the right thing to do. I’m talking about curiosity. Curiosity is not a new word. When I talk about it, I talk about what inhibits it and how we’re getting out of status quo thinking. A lot of people don’t recognize the connections of what we’re talking about.

What’s happening out there is an example. I once did a presentation to DFS on what it takes to be a good account person and helping your client run his business. I said, “I had a tough client who was all over me, but he was always fair.” He said, “Donahue, you are the best account person I’ve ever worked with because you don’t tell me what I want to hear. You always tell me what I need to hear, especially when I don’t want to hear it.” There are too many companies these days and too many people in companies, and I’m afraid marketers are not doing that enough. It is why I want to do these projects to try to help marketers maintain their profitable users in a year when it’s going to be so critical. Their CEOs and CFOs are going to require them to be more effective and efficient with less money.

You’re working with the World Sanity Foundation on the “Say it, don’t spray it” #vday Vaccination Day campaigns. You’re doing that as part of your work with Rich Lofgren and Allen Kay. Tell us a little bit about that because we’re in the middle of the COVID and everybody’s getting vaccinated. What are you doing with that?

The background on it is Allen Kay created the World Sanity Foundation several years back. When he wrote the line, “If you see something, say something,” somebody said to him, “It would be insane not to do that.” That gave him the idea several years later to create the World Sanity Foundation after there were terrorists in Brussels that kill lots of people in the airport. When the head of the International Vaccine Institute, Dr. Kim, heard about Allen probably through Rich Lofgren, he reached out to Allen and said, “We’ve got to get people to take the vaccines. Even after they take the vaccines, they have to continue to wear the mask because if people take the vaccines, it will keep them from getting sick., but they could still have the COVID and they could pass it to somebody else if they don’t wear their masks.”

I’ve been working with Allen for many years. This is a funny one. I’ve got a company that I want to start that’s all about comfort food and I told Allen this. The name of the company is Junk Food City, which I’ve registered. Here’s what it’s about. It’s about offering people regional comfort food where they grew up. I grew up in Philadelphia. I’m down here in Florida now. I can’t get tasty cakes. If you grew up in Detroit and you’re out in Los Angeles, you can’t get Vernors Ginger Ale. There are a bunch of those in every single area in the country. Here’s the line that Allen wrote for me, “Be healthy, tomorrow.”

That’s a great line. I’m curious what the regional thing is here in Arizona. As you’re saying that I was trying to think if there’s something unique to us or if it’s just the West.

I’m in Lake Worth, Florida.

[bctt tweet=”It is not good enough to be a status quo brand anymore. You need to be a courage brand.” via=”no”]

I’m in Arizona. That’s why I was wondering. What are some of the other regional foods that you found?

In New York, there’s Entenmanns’ stuff. My daughter, who’s fifteen years old then helped me write a situation analysis. I haven’t looked at this in a while because I haven’t gotten this company funded yet. It doesn’t need much money. It only needs probably about $50,000 to get me a website, and my two younger kids want to help me run it. We get it out there and it will go viral because kids who are going to college in areas that they didn’t grow up in could get tasty cakes if they’re in Saint Louis University through eCommerce. There are these all over the country. I mentioned two of them and I don’t remember all of them because I haven’t dived into this. There are regional favorite foods, and then people move away. There are twenty million people who live in areas where they didn’t grow up. It’s not just college students, but people who have moved from Philadelphia to Seattle can get tasty cakes and butterscotch Krampus by going on the Junk Food City website.

You may want to add BoSa Donuts and See’s Candies, which are good here. I know all the junk food. I’m not good at the good-for-you food, but I’m great for anything that’s bad for you sweets-wise. This an interesting thing. L’eggs were such a big thing in the day. You went by that quickly. I’m thinking there wasn’t a store that was like Kodak Film would hit you as you walk in the store at one point. That’s how it was with legs. They were everywhere. Now is such a different time. The product’s change. You have to be up on everything that changes and now everything’s more influencer marketing. I know you guys do a lot of that.

I’m helping a company get started on influencer marketing. I’ll be happy to talk about that.

Influencers are in the news, especially because of what happened at GameStop with the stock going up and down. An influencer is changing what people buy and what they don’t buy, even in the stock market. Talk a little bit about what you’re doing in influencer marketing.

I’m helping a company based in Los Angeles called AIMI, which stands for Access to Influencer Marketing Intelligence. What’s unique about it is it’s not about identifying influencers because that’s easy to do, you go on social media. They have created algorithms that are patented, that allow them not just to identify the influencers, but to qualify them. Before this influencer creates another message, let’s take a look at the message and we can tell by the reactions they’ve had to previous things what the virality of that message will be and how resonant will it be.

Influencer messaging is the fastest-growing element in the marketing ecosystem ever since the middle of March 2020 with COVID. I’ll give you the reason why. The primary users of influencer marketing are the two younger generations, the Millennials and the Generation Z. By the way, I don’t call them Generation Z. I call them Screenagers because they’re the first generation to grow up with nothing but screens in their line of vision. Feel free to use it anytime. Those two generations are the ones who weigh in influencers. Influencer marketing has been growing. It was $2 billion or $3 billion a few years ago. It was $10 billion at the end of 2020, and it is expected to be in the mid-$20 billion by the end of 2021.

If a 27-year-old is sitting at his desk and he wants to look at Kim Kardashian in her latest post and probably in her bikini. As you know, she gets $500,000 for every post she puts up. His boss walks over and says, “What the heck are you doing here? You’re working for me. Why are you looking at Kim Kardashian?” That’s not a problem anymore because all the Millennials and Screenagers are working from home and they’re doing a great job. Nobody argues with that, but then they don’t have to worry about their boss looking over their shoulder.

That’s an interesting perspective and I didn’t realize she made quite that much per post. How much do most influencers make? How do they get paid? A lot of people might find it interesting.

She gets paid because brands are paying her that. There are brands that hire her to do that, but that puts a real growth in influencer marketing or the micro-influencer. I’ll give you an example. There’s a young guy in Austin years ago when influencer was just starting. Nobody had ever heard of him before, but he posted all kinds of interesting things about cars. He loved cars both from the outside and under the hood. He’s got 500,000 followers now, and nobody ever heard of him before he started doing this.

There’s a wonderful black woman in England, Carol Bright. She’s an expert influencer in fashion and cosmetics. The guys who created AIMI have looked into her and said that she has high results, and they can help her get even better results by taking all the data they have, analyzing it, predicting what their messages are going to be, and get her to change it, so she’s even better. That marketer gets even more money for what they’re spending. One thing to remember is that marketers have always been into sponsorships. They’re sponsoring a venue, a team, or an athlete. If you’re into influencer marketing, you’re sponsoring people. You need to make sure that sponsorship money gets the best ROI. This company in Los Angeles is able to do that.

Are they doing it in place of media spokespersons or in addition to?

TTL 810 | Advertising Evolution
Advertising Evolution: As far as influencers go, women are growing much faster than men.


It would be an addition. No, they’re not. They just go in on Facebook and all the various social media platforms and then finding them. This is getting started. We’re in the early stages. That hasn’t even been funded yet, but we’re moving ahead. One of my common sense ideas is that it needs to be made into common practice. How do marketers get the most money on what they’re doing with influencers, but also how the influencers get the most money?

Let’s say you want to be an influencer. How many followers do you have to have?

It all depends. If you’re a micro-influencer, you can probably have 15,000 to 20,000. If you’re a macro-influencer like Kim Kardashian, the only way you’re going to get $500,000 is to probably have a billion followers.

Let’s say they’re micro, how do they get paid? How do they make their money? Is it through posting?

Yeah. A lot of micro-influencers are just out there and people are accessing them, but the brands realize that people are accessing them. Let’s say a Chevrolet wants to get this guy in Austin to realize all the cool things that Chevrolet’s doing so that he becomes an influencer for Chevrolet, they’re going to bring him in and pay him.

Dr. Gilda has been on my show, as you might have seen her on Sally Jessy Raphael and a lot of different networks. She’s famous in that realm and she’s done a lot of media. We talked about some of these things of how to communicate and how to use influencers in different things in the media. I was talking to her about AARP and revamping their image because that seems like it’s such an untapped market, the 55 on up but specifically the 55 and younger group of the AARP. What type of influencer would you use for that market to make it hipper?

You’d identify who the AARP people look back on as favorites. Maybe it’ll be a retired athlete who’s in his 60s or 70s. Maybe Dick Butkus in football or a baseball player who’s been retired 20 or 25 years.

Would that be a man you think?

No. Women influencers are growing much faster than men influencers. Speaking of that, I’m working with a company called Athena Advisers and I’m working with this woman, Gwen Murphy, who is arguably the world’s expert in artificial intelligence. IBM brought her in the early 2000s to help them create Watson and she did that. She changed what they had originally. She changed the architecture. She left because they were not doing things that she said, “You need to fix some flaws here.” She went to work for KPMG. They want her to move West and she said no. She was their Chief Technology Officer at KPMG.

The United Nations heard about how savvy she was in AI. They said, “Would you please come because we have some concerns about artificial intelligence?” She says, “I do, too as it currently exists.” Here’s what she said, “The way AI works is it got discriminatory flaws in its basic architecture against women and people of color.” I met her down here in Florida and when I heard that, I said, “I want to help you because I talk about common sense as a common practice. I’m all about taking artificial intelligence and converting it into accountable intelligence.” If you don’t have all the right data about people, it’s not going to be accountable. She’s creating a new data platform that among other things does that. She’s trying to also get the tech business to recognize that there needs to be ethics in technology. She’s all about ethics.

She’d be interesting to talk to. I teach ethics and technology. We need to get her on the show. I’d love to talk to her. I’ve had Jürgen Schmidhuber who has been called the Father of AI on the show. It is interesting to talk about AI. I’m on a board for RadiusAI, which is an AI company here in Arizona. I’m fascinated with where it’s going. I’ve seen them have to pivot quite a bit. At RadiusAI, they did some great things such as instead of tracking what people bought in stores and different things, they were able to track what people wash their hands with COVID type of thing. I’m fascinated by where it’s all going because there’s such a big market for that.

She could do that. She’s quite happy to work with companies so she can help them make some basic changes that would allow them to be more accountable. She’s also focusing on getting more women into the tech business because she’s about discriminatory flaws against women. She’s doing all sorts of things. She’s working with a group called The Institute for Advertising Ethics in Washington that has several legendary people in the agency business creating that. One of them was Wally Snyder, who was the CEO of the American Advertising Federation for a long time. One of them was Tim Love, who was the Vice Chairman at Omnicom before he retired, and interestingly was a protégé of mine at Dancer Fitzgerald Sample. He interviewed me for his Discovering Truth Podcast.

[bctt tweet=”Influencer messaging is the fastest growing element in the marketing ecosystem.” via=”no”]

I want to tap into what you’re saying about Gwen Murphy, women, and all of that because in some of the ethics courses I’ve taught, we’ve touched on Elizabeth Holmes, Theranos, and what happened there with faking it until you make it. Do you think women are forced to be bigger and puff up like blowfish, pufferfish, or whatever to make it seem like they know more or can do more because they are at a disadvantage at all? Do you think that’s in the tech industry in general, everybody wants to be the next unicorn and there’s a lot of faking it until you make it?

That’s true but Gwen can definitely give you a better answer on that than I can because she’s working on that.

We talked about the “Say it, don’t spray it” campaign. Who are you trying to reach with that and what are you doing to reach people?

We’re running ads all over the country and I got those ads in place through my friends who run each of the major media trade associations, local television, local radio, out of home, and all the digital stuff. We’re trying to make that happen. A friend of mine, John Osborn who runs OMD USA said, “I might be able to get a client to allocate some of the money that they’re spending on their brand to run your ‘Say it, don’t spray it’ campaign.” He’s trying to do that. Another one is I’m reaching out through some connections I have with the Commissioner of the NFL and the NBA especially, to see if Adam Silver can get all stars who are going to be playing the NBA All Star game to send selfies to Allen Kay so he can create these mask ads with them.

One of them would say, “Say it, don’t spray it,” and the other one would say appropriately for the NBA, “Take a shot,” as in the vaccine shot. The point is we’re trying to focus on getting everybody, especially the blacks, not just to wear masks but also to get vaccine shots. As you know, less than half of the black people said they’re going to get vaccine shots. There’s a hospital in Chicago on the South Side that has only black patients, and all of the people who work in the hospital doctors, nurses, staff, none of them are going to get vaccines.

What is their main reason? They don’t believe that it’s necessary?

They don’t trust the medical business because there was a point in time, and you could look this up, it might have been in the ‘30s with the syphilis situation. Whoever did that didn’t tell the people the risk of syphilis and there were lots of black people who died in that thing.

That’s a scary thing. How did you build that trust? I worked for AstraZeneca for twenty years so I have a background in the medical industry. We saw certain things. Black people have more hypertension. They have certain things that are specific to them. Do you think they’re doing enough testing to prove the safety in minorities?

They probably haven’t done enough. The blacks are most susceptible to COVID because it’s a statistic in New York. Pre-COVID, 70% of the blacks who came into hospitals for treatment had asthma because in their DNA they’re much more vulnerable than white people are. Asthma is one of those residual things that you have and if you have it, you’re vulnerable to COVID. We’re not just going after blacks. We’re going after any diverse group. I’m working with a wonderful Latino guy in LA on doing this. You need to get this stuff out there.

I don’t think I mentioned this to you. The Association of National Advertisers Washington’s representative loves the idea of getting high-level people and credible people to wear masks. He’s trying to get to arguably the top three people in the Biden administration regarding COVID, Kamala Harris, Dr. Fauci, and the President himself to send selfies of themselves to Allen Kay so he can create ads that would run all over the country with these friends of mine who are running them. When people see them they say, “If the President’s getting it, I probably should get it.” For blacks, they say, “If the first black woman Vice President is telling me that this will be a thing to do, maybe I should forget about all that syphilis history and get a shot.”

It’s a tough situation because I’ve seen some of the comments people make when they even see people taking the shot. They think that it’s maybe saline and they don’t even trust it. I’m curious if in other countries there’s that level of distrust in minority populations, or is it more US-based that they’re having a problem.

TTL 810 | Advertising Evolution
Advertising Evolution: There are three kinds of brand users: the prospect, the brand occasionalist, and the brand loyalist.


I think it’s US-based because I have a good friend who is my younger daughter’s godfather, the one who wrote the situation analysis for Junk Food City. He is on the board of Novavax, which is the fourth company that will get approval for US vaccine. They already have approval around the world. They’ve got 5 or 6 countries and he’s been telling me that 90% of the people in England say they’re going to get it and probably half of them already have it.

Why do you think it’s so bad here? Is it the political debate between one side versus the other side, or is it something else?

It’s probably part of the politics. That’s true with the mask because President Trump didn’t like the idea of mask. As far as the vaccine, only 40% of US people who could get flu vaccines get flu vaccines so there are lots of people who don’t like to get that stuff. It’s going to be different. The number of whites who said they’re going to get vaccine shots is up to 75%, but for blacks, it’s under 50%.

It’ll be interesting to see as people are getting them, and they are seeing people are doing okay with them. A lot of people were scared to be the guinea pigs at the beginning. Seeing doctors and nurses get it could be a big sign that if they’re okay, then maybe this is going to be okay.

Did you know any black doctors who would like to send their selfies to Allen Kay? You got all these doctors in Chicago who aren’t going to get the vaccine. I’m trying to get the black athletes in the NBA, and the NFL who’ve got lots of credibility. Vice President Harris will be great, but to your point and to the fact that they don’t trust medicine, if you could get black doctors. You gave me a great idea, Diane.

I’ll send you my bill.

Please don’t do that. We’re trying to make the world better faster. None of us was getting paid.

It’s interesting to look at how the US is different in some ways and how we’re handling it. It is a challenging time. My father was blind because of the Spanish Flu. My grandmother had it and he ended up with 2% vision. I always heard about him being blind from her being sick but I never realized it was from that until all of this happened. It’s interesting to see some of the things that have gone. Is there any talk about what happens to future generations from taking any of this stuff? Are we looking into that?

My friend, Mike McManus, who’s on the board of Novavax, they are the only vaccine that’s not based on what’s called RNA. They’re also the only company that is only about creating vaccines. I’m not putting down Moderna, J&J, or Pfizer, but they are only about vaccines. Their vaccine doesn’t have RNA, because they said that there is some evidence that down the road, people who get these could have some issues. It’s not necessarily life-threatening issues, but issues with RNA. If they don’t have RNA in the vaccine, it won’t be an issue.

Thalidomide was a big thing before I was born. You worry about those kinds of things in some respects. It’s important for people to research to find out whether things are safe if you’re going to have kids or different things like that. My husband’s a physician, so I’m always asking all kinds of questions. He took the shot. Being a plastic surgeon, he had a lot of people that he had to deal with on a day-in and day-out basis. To be honest with you, I’ve never been one who takes a flu shot. My grandfather died from a flu shot. He had an allergic reaction to it. I would take this because you’ve got to think of other people. If there’s a chance to have side effects or whatever, there’s some of that to consider. You could also think of the lives that you could influence as well by not giving somebody else the disease. I don’t think a lot of times that comes into the thought process.

I agree. You could probably go on YouTube and see this fifteen-minute segment of a 60 Minute event. It was after the Pfizer vaccine got approved. They interviewed the woman at Pfizer who headed the vaccine team, but they also interviewed the doctor from NYU Langone in New York who oversaw the trials. He answered a question from the interviewer this way. The interviewer says, “After people get your vaccines and other vaccines, do they have to wear masks?” He said, “You’re going to need to wear masks until there’s herd immunity to the vaccine. It will keep you from getting sick but it doesn’t mean that you can’t transmit it to other people who have not gotten the vaccine.”

[bctt tweet=”You don’t have to price-promote against a brand loyalist to keep them loyal.” via=”no”]

How long do you think this is going to last? When do you think will we be traveling to Europe and doing things again?

A year from now.

At least a year. That’s interesting. My daughter was supposed to get married in May 2021 in Italy and she forwarded it to September 2021, but I don’t think it’s happening, do you?

No, I don’t. My friend, Mike McManus’ son was supposed to get married. He’s the guy who was on the board of Novavax. Mike said to his son, “Don’t even think about a date going forward because it’s going to be a long time until you can get married and you want to have a reception of 50 or 60 people.” It’ll definitely be in 2022. Dr. Fauci has already said that it will be way into 2022 or even beyond that when kids under twelve will be able to get the vaccine.

A lot of people are having a hard time with depression and thinking about what they can do. It’s a tough time and I felt sorry for people my mom’s age. She doesn’t feel like she’s got a lot of time and she feels she’s locked in her house in the end. It’s so challenging and when you say that you can still give it to somebody. Do you have campaigns for older people? What’s the message for them to keep them upbeat about all this?

We’re in the process of creating that stuff and trying to get older people. We need to get people to agree to run these ads. Ideally, they get someone who’s paying money to get the ads on as opposed to these are public service ads running on all these stations with the inventory, they have that has to go to public service. We’re trying to get companies to sponsor these ads. In which case, we can do that stuff. We’re all about keeping it going. It’s not just about the masks. It’s about taking the shot and wearing the masks after that. Allen created this wonderful ad, which shows you a dot on your arm. It’s not showing you getting a needle, but a dot on your arm. It’s called a V Dot as in a Victory Dot. It can have a company logo on it or some kind of a funny thing on your arm that shows that you got the vaccine.

It’s great that you, Allen, and so many people are working so hard to continue to be influential and marketing in different areas. I’m curious, what would you do next after this? You’ve been doing this for a while.

I’m doing this, but I’m also trying to get advising gigs where I can use my background knowledge. One that I feel strongly about is the brand loyalty. The suggested questions would be around the economy is in such horrible shape. The marketers, their CFOs and CEOs need to have more common sense to go about how they’re spending their money because they don’t have as much to spend. There’s evidence to prove this, and I’ll tell you a story. When I was the number two person at the 4A’s in the late ‘90s, I had a professor do a study for me on how important brand loyalists are to a franchise.

There are three kinds of brand users. There’s the prospect, there is the brand occasionalist who only comes in when the price is low, and there are the brand loyalists who you don’t have to price promote against them to keep them loyal. I did this study and here’s what it said. I presented it to a bunch of people and we were talking about managing advertising expenditures for financial performance. I said, “Here’s what we found. Persistent messaging at competitive levels improve short term cashflow.”

They all said, “How do you connect advertising and cashflow?” I said, “If a smart marketer identifies the loyalists, they’re not going to price promote against their loyalists the way they need to against their occasionalists. They take that money and put it back into cashflow.” There were three different consultants, Gartner, Bain and Forrester. They all came up with the same information that the CEOs and CFOs said, “The marketers are being at best optimistic and naive if they think they’re going to get the same amount of money back in 2021. Not only are they not. They are going to get a lot less and we’re going to require them to be more efficient and more effective with ad spend than they were when they had a lot more.”

That’s what brands profitable user focus can do. What I can do with a friend or a partner on this, once you identify your loyalist, which is not that hard. If you have first-party data, you know exactly all their transactions. If you don’t have first-party data like Procter & Gamble, because Walmart has their first- party, you can do probabilistic data to get a pretty good idea who your loyalists are. Once you identify them, then that’s all great. You then need to find out why are they loyal. What are the things that they like about the brand? Influencer marketing is one of them. Twenty or so years ago, it was because of the advertising. Now it’s influencer marketing, but it’s all also about purpose branding. The screenagers and the Millennials, many of them are buying products from companies who they believe have a purpose beyond just the product that they use. What you need to do going forward, and I’ve got fifteen other different specific things that I would put in a plan that would help the marketer retain those loyalists, in addition to the influencer point and the purpose branding. I will insist that it be measured to make sure that it is working the way these things should work.

If you do that, not only can you retain profitable users by doing this, once you understand more about why they’re loyal, you might be able to go after some of these occasionalists and offer them things. Maybe they don’t know that you have influencer marketing, so they’ll come in, and they won’t have to be price promoted as much and you’ll improve more your cashflow. Because you’ll have a pretty good idea of what all the characteristics are of the loyalists, not just their behavior, but their emotions and all those things, you can go and identify who you think might be prospects out there in the market. For those who have those characteristics, you lean in hard to bring them in because there is going to be a better chance of them being loyalists than occasionalists.

TTL 810 | Advertising Evolution
Advertising Evolution: Unfortunately, many agency account people these days are just project managers. They don’t help clients with strategy.


As you can see, and I think you would agree, everything I’m saying is common sense but people aren’t making these into common practices. That’s what I want to do. I want to help marketers and their agencies who do this, and I’m going to try to work with an agency that’s got some tight relations with their clients, not just doing, “Here, do these ads for me.” I grew up in the agency business. I had a point in time, where the agencies were business partners of the clients. Unfortunately, too many agency account people these days are project managers. They don’t help them with strategy. They don’t help them revise the strategy like I did.

That’s what needs to happen and I’m trying to do everything I can to do that. A lot of it is public service stuff I’m doing. I’m trying to get advising gigs because I do believe that I can bring things to the table that other people aren’t. Once again, I’m going to send you 78 stories I’ve written and they all have funny endings, but I’ll tell you one in the beginning. What I want to do is to make sure that everything that can be done is done.

My opening funny story is this. I was almost 6’6”. I’m about 6’4” or 6’5” now. I’m standing in a cocktail party at the Waldorf Astoria in New York at the beginning of a major creative presentation event by the Radio Advertising Bureau. It’s not the room where the event was going to be, but big areas where they had cocktail parties. It was mobbed. I’m standing there by myself in the middle of the room with a drink in my hand. All of a sudden, I feel a tug on my belt. I turn around, I don’t see anybody and I look down and there’s a woman barely 5 feet tall.

I said, “Who are you?” She says, “It doesn’t make any difference who I am. I hope you’re Mike Donahue.” I said, “I am but why does that matter?” She said, “I have another 5-foot tall friend who’s about to come over here, and she said that the only way we’re going to meet in this crazy packed room because we’re so short is to look for probably the tallest guy in the room who is not only almost 6’6” but he’s got a mustache, wears glasses, and he has a pretty good sized nose. What we’re going to do is we’re going to meet at Mike Donahue.” They did. I sent this story to a friend of mine, Joe Mandese who edits the MediaPost and he said, “Donahue, I always knew you’re an institution in this business but I never knew you’re a destination.”

What a great story to end with because so many people are going to want to know how to reach you and follow you, Mike. Is there some site or something you’d like to share?

They could go on LinkedIn. I don’t have my own website. Let me give you my email address and my phone number. my phone number (917) 679-1692.

That’s so nice of you to share that and I hope people reach out to you. Thank you so much for being a guest on the show. This is fun.

Let me give you one quick ending. The DJ, somebody thought, “Donahue, your voice is so great. I’m surprised you don’t do voiceovers. Does DJ stand for disc jockey?” I said, “No. It stands for David Joseph.” I grew up Catholic and while I’m probably now a recovering Catholic, the D is David which is my baptismal middle name and the J is Joseph, which was my confirmation middle name. That’s one of the other things I’m doing at the request of my friend Pierre Bouvard, who was a senior person at the biggest radio station group in the country, Westwood One. He says, “Donahue, your voice is so good. I’m going to give you the names of two people who would hire an independent voiceover to do local ads because they can’t afford the household names who do that.” I said, “Thank you.” Here’s the question that I’ll ask you and I want you to give me a totally honest answer. Do you think my voice might be good enough to do voiceovers?

I do. I’ve hired people on Fiverr and that’s something you could charge whatever you want for it. You never know. There’s a lot of market for that thing. We’ll have to chat off the air on that one but thank you so much for being on, Michael.

Diane, thank you.

You’re welcome.

I’d like to thank Michael for being my guest. We get so many great guests on this show. If you’ve missed any past episodes, please go to I hope you enjoyed this episode and I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.

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About Michael Donahue

TTL 810 | Advertising EvolutionMichael Donahue is an Experienced Chief Executive Officer with a demonstrated history of working in the marketing and advertising industry. Skilled in Digital Strategy, Integrated Marketing, Advertising, Strategic Partnerships, and Mobile Marketing. Strong business development professional graduated from The Wharton School.




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