Doug Garnett

Founder & CEO, Atomic Direct
Doug Garnett is an expert introducing innovative products at retail — especially using TV. His career has been spent in innovation and he is the founder and CEO of ad agency Atomic Direct. Atomic leverages TV in its full form across all ranges of broadcast, cable, web, in-store, and direct mail video. Atomic’s work covers a wide range of products, but they are particular specialists with hardware and home products.

In addition, Doug is an adjunct professor of general advertising at Portland State University. He writes and speaks regularly to share his vision of how brand clients can leverage the power of innovative products. He is a member of the Response Magazine advisory board, author of the book "Building Brands with Direct Response Television," and can be followed on Twitter @AtomicAdMan.

Doug's experience with innovation started at aerospace giant General Dynamics where he worked on the Atlas-Centaur launch vehicles, the Space Shuttle, and the Tomahawk Cruise Missile program. He shifted to marketing while selling supercomputers before finding his true home — in advertising for retail products. Clients include Lowe’s Home Improvement Stores, Rubbermaid, AT&T, DisneyMobile, AAA of California, Professional Tool Manufacturing (Drill Doctor), Kreg Tools, P&G, Apple Computer, Sears, Braun, DuPont (Teflon, Stainmaster), and Hamilton Beach.
  • Posted on: 12/13/2017

    RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge: Home Depot vs. Lowe’s

    Finally, two ads that tell us who they're from right up front. That's an excellent start for both. But only a start.The Home Depot ad gets entirely lost mid-way through baking cookies and an entire range of activities unrelated to any reason to go to Home Depot or even retain their name in your mind. In fact, Home Depot disappears for the bulk of the ad before re-appearing at the end. Cut to appropriate TV time (this is WAAAY too long), the ad will achieve some things. But it's also lost. Did the creative forget how Home Depot makes its money?The Lowe's ad stays on target all the way through and is :30 in length. But it remains mundane and uninspiring after a good start. It will help drive some near term activity with clear messages that you can get lights, trees and decorations at Lowe's. Yet it leaves out anything inspiring.Which wins? Lowe's -- because it stays on task while Depot fails in the way most of these holiday ads have failed, ending up far off in a field of manufactured emotion unrelated to the advertising, leaving behind anything that affects short term OR long term behavior.
  • Posted on: 12/12/2017

    Why are so many brand categories woefully bad at word-of-mouth?

    Studies show an interesting truth about word of mouth. The biggest driver of word of mouth is television advertising. The above chart may reflect ad spend more than anything.And that makes sense. People have to know why they would care to share. Advertising adds an extra advantage: Advertising lets you explain to people what it is that's important enough to share.Sometimes word of mouth is viral -- but usually it's not. These days, the only viral successes are set up with extensive paid placement to get them started.So the more critical question seems to be this: WHAT is the role of WOM in retailer marketing and what other spending is most critical for creating WOM pass along?
  • Posted on: 12/07/2017

    Will shoppers pay services to do returns for them?

    Too many retail "innovations" appeal to increasingly narrow slices of consumers. And most often that's urban dwelling, higher income consumers who wax poetic about things like having someone return things for them or same day deliveries.Perhaps there's a niche for this team among upscale, urban dwellers. But consumers have made it clear they don't want to pay $4.99 for shipping -- why would they pay $10-$20 to return things?Expectations for services like these need be kept in check.
  • Posted on: 12/07/2017

    Would CVS + Aetna = lower healthcare costs?

    From watching mergers over the years, every merger starts with a bookish theory of “saving costs” yet few end up doing that in reality. History suggests we shouldn’t count savings until CVS clearly delivers them.In this case, their ability to succeed at making this happen is severely restricted by being in the heavily regulated, incredibly convoluted healthcare business.So let’s hope they can and wish them the best.
  • Posted on: 12/07/2017

    The RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge: H&M vs. Gap

    The H&M spot is, like most of the ads we’ve seen this year in this thread, is a tremendous bit of film that’s a bust as an ad. Do agencies make these ads to make executives feel good? Do retailers believe these ads have even the barest brand effect for them? There’s no building recall (much less communicating something about the retailer that might bring someone into the store).The Gap ad is far better. So as an advertisement it’s well crafted -- we can focus on the clothes, it’s clear that’s what the ad is about, etc.However, I am concerned for Gap’s business. When my family and I saw this ad on TV, we guessed it was an Old Navy ad. The production style, the clothes themselves and other cues were clearly not Gap -- but a knockoff of their lower-budget counterpart. They needed the ad to acknowledge the cognitive dissonance between what we know of Gap and the styles shown so that it added up to make sense. It didn’t.Still, the clear winner is Gap.
  • Posted on: 12/04/2017

    Should marketers personalize products using consumers’ DNA?

    What a fundamentally bad idea. In part, the science of genes isn't there yet. I have a son with an anomaly in one gene. While it has led to some challenges, they could have been more severe. That anomaly could have led to heart problems (it didn't), it could have led to a host of other health issues (it didn't).And what does the genetic specialist say? Genes are just a starting point. There's tremendous randomness in how the human body develops -- where environment and accident may be far more important than the genetic starting point.It's not surprising fans of technological "everything" would want us to believe they can personalize accurately based on genetics. On the other hand, Amazon can't even personalize based on 20 years of PURCHASE experience. In a field as vague as genetics, will this matter at all? Can't see it.While I'd like to hope wisdom will prevail, marketers are prone to chasing shiny baubles of tech -- now to include genetic analysis.
  • Posted on: 12/01/2017

    What is increased mobile holiday traffic doing for sales?

    My bottom line: This is interesting. It may offer opportunity or simply replace existing activity. It also creates new problems for which retailers will have to sort out ways to respond.Caution is required when looking at this move.What we learned that consumers are doing more browsing/interaction on mobile devices and less on desktops. Nothing more.Okay. But since mobile providers have filled the air with incredible exaggerations about what this "will mean," there's an exaggerated response claiming this is a good thing. But wise retailers will recognize all we know is a fact: a shift in browsing interaction.Then those retailers have to worry about whether this is a good thing. After all, mobile (non-tablet) activity is far inferior communication to desktop, TV, radio, print, or outdoor. So there's incredible risk that we're teaching people to avoid shopping, to limit their choices to a tiny set of options about which they already know, and eliminating our opportunity to communicate.If I'm right about that, it means fewer new products succeed, less retailer differentiation, and retailers will have to increase obnoxious infiltration of daily activities as implied by the Sephora discussion.Let's see what happens from here. But let's also not cheer this result too much.
  • Posted on: 11/30/2017

    It’s good to be Home Depot

    During the recession, DIY spending remained high. And after the recession, DIY spending returned far faster than contractor/pro channel spending. Hence, Lowe’s did better in those years and was seen as a stronger player. Then, in the past few years, contractor/pro spending returned strong.Home Depot’s current success is primarily due to strong contractor/pro spending. We must not read too much into an economic-driven strength.Other factors also help Depot. Their organization is well stocked with experience built in the store. And they have a good online system.Yet I worry about Home Depot because of their online obsession. Wall Street doesn’t recognize that online is only a good “buying” world, but a very bad shopping world. Yet home improvement is a place where a rich world of shopping is required. That means ecommerce can never take as large a role for home improvement as it will in other categories. Depot seems distracted by how much Wall Street likes their online pitch. Can they do that AND keep their store execution strong? We will see.
  • Posted on: 11/30/2017

    The RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge Global Edition – Asda vs. Lidl

    Sweet movies, mediocre ads.Both suffer from the distraction of movie making. So I return to an observation I made last week. If you take the product (brand, retailer) out of the ads and they are still just as enjoyable, they are bad ads. That’s the case with both.
  • Posted on: 11/29/2017

    Can retailers keep their holiday sales mojo working after Cyber Monday?

    I don’t trust those findings -- they seem to contradict fundamental human nature. Yes there are some who think through holiday gifts six months in advance -- but not 25 percent.In this time when all types of research and digital organizations tell us about a re-invented human being, we need to remember an outstanding observation by Bill Bernbach:“It took millions of years for man’s instincts to develop. It will take millions more for them to even vary. A communicator [and retailer] must be concerned with unchanging man.”
  • Posted on: 11/28/2017

    The RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge: Amazon vs. Walmart

    Finally, Amazon gives us a holiday ad that delivers a “residual memory” that is connected to their business. For that reason, the overwhelming win here goes to Amazon. Nothing like reminding us of the reason Amazon exists AND the packages we receive for the bulk of the ad and using the “smile” to sing. It’s a bit of a surprise since Amazon’s ads for their tech hardware have been pretty bad. But kudos to Amazon and their agency.Walmart? It’s not bad -- certainly better than other holiday ads we’ve seen. But they rely on cues too subtle for us to know it’s clearly Walmart doing the talking. And the Walmart box can’t be treated like the Amazon box -- it just isn’t well enough known yet.So a good round -- both have strengths. But without question the advantage goes to Amazon on this round.
  • Posted on: 11/27/2017

    How would the end of net neutrality impact retail?

    At the risk of being attacked ... I am not up in arms about this issue. Mark Cuban observed last week that he's not opposed to Net Neutrality but concerned that NN managed by the FTC is not going to have the result that the Net Neutrality proponents hope for. (I'm also skeptical that we're being drawn into a fight between self-interested behemoths on both sides -- Google, Amazon, and Netflix match Verizon, AT&T and Comcast in their zest for self interest.)It's a stretch for me to believe that ecom will suffer from this battle. The critical reality is that services like Netflix consume HUGE proportions of web bandwidth and retailers should be most concerned about that.My advice to retailers is that they have far more important issues to fight -- like having good, interesting, innovative product mixes displayed in stores people want to visit at prices where they make profit and supported by advertising that drives foot traffic.
  • Posted on: 11/22/2017

    Does it matter if social media is getting a bad rep?

    These surveys have the same error as the prior surveys about TV: What someone says about trusting a medium doesn't have massive effect on whether they trust messages sent through that medium -- it's the message that matters most. The key question is whether your ad is presented to them in a way in which they get the message.That said, Social Media is getting a deservedly bad rep among ad professionals. Why? Mis-measurement. Over-statement of audience sizes by 30-50%. Lack of any independent measures. Abuse by foreign governments, etc....At 20 years, TV was well established with independent measures as well as solid and strong quantitative (Nielsen) and qualitative (Simmons) measures that could be used for powerful planning.At 20 years, social media remains a wild west of sources who just say "trust us -- and you can because we have LOTS of KPIs." It's only been later that we discover things like, those aren't real KPI's -- they're estimates. And their estimating process is so bad that they have to be considered +/-50%.
  • Posted on: 11/22/2017

    The RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge Global Edition – Debenhams vs. House of Fraser

    Neither of these spots gets my vote. They say nothing motivating for either Debenhams or Fraser.Bernbach's head of copy, Bob Levenson, once observed “Here’s the test. If you look at an ad and fall in love with the brilliance of it, try taking the product out of it.  If you still love the ad, it’s no good.  Don’t make your ad interesting; make your product interesting.”These both miserably fail this Levenson test. While they are fascinating movie making (different approaches), they reflect the bankruptcy of the idea that merely a good story matters.Some might suggest there's a "reminder" value. But that reminder doesn't happen for a very long time into the ad -- by which time viewers will have clicked away their attention to something else.Good moviemaking is NOT good advertising.
  • Posted on: 11/21/2017

    Will Ocado’s robots help U.S. grocers solve their online delivery problems?

    One dimensional solutions can never really be the solution. So this is interesting. But far too often things like this are solutions in search of a problem. Having overseen a lot of fulfillment in my career, I'm skeptical that it can deliver anywhere near what's promised.In part, we have to remember that while staff is costly, so is equipment like this. And so is downtime when the equipment fails. And so is upgrading, maintenance, and fixing problems.That said, as a former tech geek, it's quite cool looking. But my time in tech has also made me into a healthy skeptic -- prove that it really delivers value and not just replaces without improving.After all, remember when we were going the 1980s? And the paperless effort simply led to...more paper? Interested skepticism is appropriate.

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