May 2nd, 2006


On finding Lost Cities.


May 2nd, 2006

Nowadays, It’s All Yours, Mine or Ours – New York Times

My, my, my.

Madison Avenue has become obsessed with using the word “my” along with “your” and “our” in advertising slogans, as well as in the names of brands, products and even a new television network.

The trend is inspired by a desire by marketers to demonstrate that they understand changing consumer needs by, literally, putting the customer first. They’re doing so in everything from the new network, to be called My Network TV, to Web addresses like mycokerewards.com to campaign themes like “My life. My card,” for American Express.

“Brands are becoming more personalized and customized because consumers want brands on their terms,” said Allen Adamson, managing director at the New York office of Landor Associates, a corporate identity consulting company owned by the WPP Group.

“Having it your way applies increasingly to all brands,” Mr. Adamson said, referring to the longtime campaign theme for Burger King, which has recently been revived. “It’s only natural that advertisers try to flag that they are more about serving up your brand on your terms.”

But the trend carries a big risk, Mr. Adamson warned.

“The demand for customization and personalization is a moving target,” he said. “If you’re unable to deliver, if what you offer is really no different from everybody else, the claims will do more damage than good.”

My Network TV is coming in the fall from the Fox Television Stations and Twentieth Television divisions of the News Corporation. Local stations that will be part of the network are already rebranding themselves; WWOR in New York, for instance, started calling itself My 9, and My 27 is the new nickname for KDFI in Dallas.

“We were looking for something that could be used by local television stations to brand their entire product,” said Jack Abernethy, chief executive at Fox Television Stations in Los Angeles.

“If you talk to people who like soaps, they’ll say, ‘That’s my soap,’ ” he added. “Or if you’re a sports fan, what do you say? ‘That’s my team.’ “

My Network TV will join a Web site branded with “my” that is also owned by the News Corporation, myspace.com. In fact, the Internet is teeming with “my” sites, including two that are operated by the Coca-Cola Company, mycoke.com and mycokerewards.com.

Mycoke.com, which started as cokemusic.com, was renamed a year ago after research showed that “what people loved to do most is take the site and make it their own, sharing music and film with their friends,” said Katie Bayne, senior vice president for Coca-Cola brands in North America, who is based in Atlanta.

“The ‘My Coke’ strategy is about the thought that we have this wonderful brand that doesn’t belong to the Coca-Cola Company; it belongs to the people who drink it,” Ms. Bayne said. “Whether it’s Coke or Coke Zero or Diet Coke, it’s your choice.”

So in February, when the company introduced an online frequent-buyer rewards program, the address selected for the Web site was mycokerewards.com. A commercial promoting the site and the program, by Wieden & Kennedy in Portland, Ore., is scheduled to appear tonight during “American Idol.”

Offline examples of the trend, in addition to “My life. My card,” include My Circle, a telephone calling plan to be introduced by Alltel; a hockey-focused campaign for Bud Light beer, brewed by Anheuser-Busch, carrying the theme “My N.H.L. My playoffs. My Stanley Cup”; and “My money. My credit union,” the theme of a campaign aimed at young savers from the Credit Union National Association.

“What we were trying to convey was ownership,” said Joe Day, director for business development at the credit union organization in Madison, Wis., “that when you have money at a credit union, you’re a part-owner.”

The campaign appeared last week as part of an annual promotion called National Credit Union Youth Week, which featured a contest encouraging savers under age 18 to make deposits at local credit unions. “The hope is that young people will take ownership in their financial future,” Mr. Day said.

On the “your” front, there is “Your choice. Your Chase,” the theme since last May of ads by McGarry Bowen in New York for J. P. Morgan Chase consumer operations like retail banking, home lending and credit cards.

“It’s the TiVo world; it’s the Google world; the power is with the consumer,” said Manning Field, senior vice president for brand management at Chase Card Services in Wilmington, Del.

“The old way companies used to market was that we asserted ourselves onto the consumer,” Mr. Field said. “They take what we gave them.”

“Now, it’s about enabling consumers to do what they want to do,” he added. “We use ‘Your choice. Your Chase’ because ‘our,’ ‘my’ and ‘your’ are consumer empowerment words.”

To be sure, the current crop of possessives is not the first from marketers. The Burger King entry, “Have it your way,” dates to 1974, and in the 1950’s, commercials for Rheingold beer featured a chorus of drinkers who robustly sang a song that began, “My beer is Rheingold, the dry beer.”

But none of the top 10 ad slogans of the 20th century, selected by the trade publication Advertising Age in 1999, use “my” or “our” or “your.” Most are from the perspective of the marketer or brand like “We try harder,” for Avis; “Good to the last drop,” for Maxwell House coffee; and “When it rains it pours,” for Morton salt.

A turning point may have come in 1996, when Yahoo introduced a personalization service called My Yahoo (my.yahoo.com). It has grown to about 55 million unique users each month, said Meagan Busath, a spokeswoman for Yahoo in Sunnyvale, Calif.

The name was chosen to “indicate to people it’s a site they can create for themselves and can be personal to them,” she added.

The “My life. My card” campaign from American Express, created by Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, part of WPP, began in November 2004.

“American Express is all about relationships with consumers,” said Joanna G. Lambert, a spokeswoman for American Express in New York. “The ‘My life. My card’ campaign showcases the connection with our customers.”

There may be another reason to explain the popularity of the trend toward possessives.

Shortly after My Network TV was introduced in February, Brian Lowry, a columnist for Daily Variety, noted that Spanish-language TV and radio stations run ads promoting themselves as “Tu canal,” “Your station,” or “Nuestro canal,” “Our station,” to help forge an emotional bond with consumers.

And the Spanish-language version of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” brought out last week by a music producer, Adam Kidron, was titled “Nuestro Himno,” or “Our Anthem.”

Mr. Abernethy of Fox Television Stations said his company and Twentieth Television “didn’t consider” the Hispanic echo in the name My Network TV, which is to present English-language dramas styled after the Spanish-language shows called telenovelas.

“After we chose the name, we heard of many instances of this” usage, Mr. Abernethy said, adding that he recently visited a “Chinese knickknack shop, and saw My Green Tea.”

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