Dan Wieden Talks Howard Schultz Into Running National TV

“By its very nature, national advertising fuels fears about ubiquity,” Howard Schultz, Starbucks CEO said over a decade ago.
With Dunkin Donuts and McDonalds competing for his customers, Mr. Schultz is singing a new tune. One he learned from Dan Wieden.
“We need to recognize that the category is evolving,” Mr. Schultz told analysts on a conference call Thursday. “And as the leader, we have an opportunity to make sure that our voice is heard through the all-important medium of television.”
Satrbucks is going with a tame holiday campaign, but Wieden wants more. And they have a history of getting what they want. Their edgy ads would show Americans discussing issues of importance to them and depict Starbucks coffee shops as the living room of the national conversation.
In a pitch meeting, the agency showed a short reel of consumers talking about the war in Iraq and health care. The agency also showed images of what people were talking about, such as a picture of pop singer Britney Spears the day she shaved her head and a picture of a U.S. soldier.
The idea of the campaign is to create buzz without directly pushing Starbucks products.
[via The Wall Street Journal]

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. Outsourcing the living room. What a great thing for Starbucks to provide. What a great idea. What a great positioning for Starbuck’s stores…so malls are our rumpus room…so abstract, and such a sad statement for American families…or are they now simply bio-related persons of independence. Lots like FDR’s old fireside chats. Maybe we should add them to our firm’s Culturally Influential Consumer Groups ™ as a segmentaion of our society.

  2. I hear what you’re saying, Martin and I agree with the cultural critique, but from an advertising POV there’s another side to this. People don’t talk anymore. In vast swaths of suburbia, where Starbucks rules, there’s no center, no place to talk. If this new campaign encourages that, neighbor talking to neighbor (yes, even outside of Starbucks), it’s a good thing.

  3. Seems like a cool advertising idea, but does it address the real marketing issue? Dunkin’ Donuts and Mickey D’s are hitting Starbucks in an area where it can’t compete: price. The defecting customers hurting Starbucks aren’t interested in congregating in America’s new living room. They just discovered parity product alternatives that are significantly cheaper and probably delivered quicker too. Starbucks needs to wake up and smell the coffee. The 80s and 90s are over. Although the scenario does evoke the old Bill Clinton mantra: It’s the economy, stupid.

  4. This morning in the Bahstin airport I drank iced espresso from Dunkin’ Donuts for the first time. It was a tad difficult to explain my order, and whle I was glad to have it, calling it a parity product seems like a bit of a reach.
    I think community and store as community center is part of Starbucks’ brand promise, so the concept appears to be on strategy at the very least.

  5. Agreed that it’s part of Starbuck’s brand promise. But the question is, does their brand promise mean anything anymore—particularly to the consumers migrating to Dunkin’ Donuts and Mickey D’s? It apparently doesn’t, as those two fast feeders seem to be putting a hurt on Starbucks. Pushing the community notions to the people currently sticking with Starbucks only reduces churn. It probably won’t bring the deserters back. Remember too that Mickey D’s and Dunkin’ Donuts can probably match Starbucks in terms of locations/convenience. Can’t argue that the Starbucks baristas may do a better job of filling your order. Another question is, will consumers settle for the coffee pourers at competitive places? The answer appears to be yes. Otherwise, Starbucks wouldn’t be reacting with TV ads. Starbucks will definitely remain the gold standard. Too bad people are happy chugging less than the gold standard.

  6. I have not seen the new ads but i have a feeling Starbucks is getting slower due to oversaturation and decrease in quality of service. The more Bucks you put up, the less people will come to each one. duh.
    Where i live in South Beach there are 6 starbucks in 20 minutes of walking distance where i live, and none of them make anything properly, constantly messing up and/or forgetting my order. Which by the way is usually either an iced coffee (cold coffee+ice) or an iced tea (tea+ice.)
    in addition, one of the starbucks’ bathrooms is a legendary man hookup spot. not that there’s anything wrong with that but i don’t go in that bathroom anymore.

  7. True brings up good points. Starbucks is definitely suffering from being in an evolving competitive marketplace, and its own growth has fueled problems too. That’s the tough thing about being the leader.
    Plus, the competition is increasingly aggressive too: