Texting and Driving? Any is too many, Chevrolet.
Tuesday April 14th 2015, 10:59 am
Filed under: advertising

If you’d asked me if I could be surprised by any dumb decisions made by GM in the last few years (aside from borrowing money from taxpayers), I’d have said no… ’til now.

The perils of texting while driving (TWD) are widely known. In the U.S. alone, TWD creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted. 18% of all fatal crashes in 2012 were caused by driver distraction, with 421,000 people wounded for the same reason.

So I suppose Chevrolet decided that a new “feature” allowing a driver to look away from the road to send an automatic text response by tapping a screen on the dashboard (e.g. “Call you later.  I’m driving”) was a – what – better-than-doing-nothing response (?), but how could any company publicly encourage a driver to look away from the road? Isn’t zero tolerance kind of what we’re going for here? [If you cannot view the ad below, see it HERE]

A few responses from folks on Twitter:
@amandalinjuly: @chevrolet stop promoting texting and driving. Text response should not be a thing your car comes with.
@rodstickler: Shame on @chevrolet for promoting texting and driving.  There is no safe texting & driving not even w your new gadget.
@mkersich4: @chevrolet I guess you guys are promoting texting and driving with your new “features” to make it “easier” to text.  WRONG. #DontTextAndDrive

When I saw the ad the first time, I literally could not believe my eyes.  When I couldn’t find it on Google at first, I thought maybe I’d imagined it. Sadly, I did not.  Aside from being a lawsuit waiting to happen, I can only assume that this is the result of all the automakers racing to make the “smart(est) car,” with as many whiz-bang techno-widgets shoved in to each unit as possible.  This is an extremely dangerous example of technological ability trumping common sense.

Don’t be afraid to be young and free
Monday March 16th 2015, 11:23 am
Filed under: advertising,stephanie fierman

I am so happy to be starting the week talking about an ad I genuinely like!

Delta: On the Road” is a new commercial from Wieden+Kennedy that I think absolutely nails it, and takes risks while doing so.  Here it is:

They get so much right here. The ad captures the sense of dislocation and the exhaustion of international travel without discouraging the opportunity for personal exploration and discovery. The agency styles actor Daniel London as a bit of a shlub, heightening the aura of awkwardness and making moments like when he’s almost hit by a London cab more comical, while still preserving his executive competence. His aloneness is obviously here, but we also see our hero videocalling his family: unmoored, but attached. And, of course, there are the inevitable hurdles like language all around him, but they work in scenes where he seeks to overcome; he gets good service everywhere he goes, and he works to earn it. Good behavior all around.

It’s so hard to communicate vulnerability in advertising without it being either for comic effect or the opposite: serious and uncomfortable. This ad strikes the perfect balance: we see someone “like us” doing what he needs to do and doing it well, even while managing the little absurdities around us (like whether the traffic moves on the left or the right). And the soundtrack? “Love You” by The Free Design:
  Give a little time for the child within you
  Don’t be afraid to be young and free
  Undo the locks and throw away the keys
  And take off your shoes and socks and run you

The more I see the ad, the more I realize the perfection of the song and its juxtaposition to all this adult world stuff. Now whether a million-hour flight on Delta will be the remedy to all that ails is a different question entirely (you most definitely do not want to “take off your shoes and socks and run you,” even in first class), but – hey – beautiful ad.

Well done.

Weird ad: can’t we all just get along?
Thursday March 12th 2015, 3:11 pm
Filed under: advertising,branding,financial services

So the odd ad this week comes from Amalgamated Bank. Never heard of ‘em.

The good people at Amalgamated have clearly heard of branding agencies, though, as their website is downright winsome for a bank and their mission (yes) is to be “the preeminent bank of progressive people, organizations, businesses and labor.” Sooo hard to accomplish this when your 1-year CD rate is 0.40%, etc., but that’s a whole different post. Stephanie-Fierman-Amalgamated

So anyway, back to the ad. “Does your bank care more about limo riders than subway riders?” In an effort to be clever and “of the people,” Amalgamated has taken an off-base swipe at those who sometimes ride in the back of cars and insulted everyone reading its transit ad.  A double! And given the too clever by half approach to the copy, there is zero chance that anyone would pause to ask themselves the somewhat deep question Amalgamated is asking; said subway rider would be too busy trying to figure out WTF the ad is trying to say.

New York is also the wrong city for this ad. Too much of a melting pot.  “Limo” doesn’t have the same universal connotation it might have elsewhere, or at least it no longer does.  The bank’s site refers to helping the same kind of people who died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of – hello – 1911. Today, the delineation between (think wealthy) limo riders and (think poor) subway riders isn’t all that clear. Plenty of New Yorkers who use limos for work use the subway on their own time, or when they’re paying. Then there’s the Ubers and Lyfts (limo? car? you decide)… The message just falls flat.

Oh, and one last thing? Why Amalgamated? Where’s the benefit? It’s a cheap shot to promote yourself in a serious category by dissing someone else (and not even someone specific – just “your bank”).

This is a fail, and maybe that’s a shame.  I looked at a bunch of the videos on the bank’s site, and they appear to care about things that are worth caring about. Cool. But as an advertiser? Be sure your voice, the message and the place all work together successfully.  If they don’t, you need to rethink what you’re doing.


Save a life: explain this ad
Thursday October 09th 2014, 10:59 am
Filed under: ad agency,advertising

In the world of ads, there are those I like and those I don’t like, or ones that I think don’t work, but I can’t remember seeing one that I literally do not understand.

Until now.

Have you seen the new Chevy Cruze Diesel ad? If not, here it is:

Ok, so a bunch of people are hanging out in a hyper-friendly, spotless gas mart (because who doesn’t?) and the Cheers theme song, Where Everyone Knows Your Name, is playing. In the role of Norm today is an average guy named Stan, whom everyone greets by name, including a cop who appears to have nothing better to do.  Much personal warmth and friendliness ensues.  Then another guy comes in, and the music stops abruptly.  There is nothing unusual about this man’s behavior and, as he pays for his purchase, the VO says, “Gas stations.  Where nobody knows your name.”

Let us begin.

Why does everyone suddenly go mute when this stranger comes in?  Are they happy to see him, or not happy that someone has intruded in their lovefest?  Are they angry? Is his presence a good or bad thing? And how about the VO – “Gas stations. Where nobody knows your name.” But the whole point of at least half of this ad is that everyone DOES seem to know your name! So what does that mean? And why do they stare out the window as the guy leaves?  And what does this have to do with a car??

And how about the final VO – “It’s the new efficient.” Is the implication here that hanging out with your friends is the old efficient? Or not efficient at all? 

Makes no sense, no?

From the land of WTF…
Tuesday July 01st 2014, 9:35 am
Filed under: ad agency,advertising,women

Ok. Some ads are so weird that I try to turn away and wait – sometimes months, sometimes years – for them to just… go away.

There’s one that won’t. Can someone please explain?

And here’s a new one from the land of WTF. Hi. My name is WITPF (What is this product for?) and I have WAIITA (Why am I in this ad?). Clearly, they think that this will be a useful memory device, but it just makes me C-R-I-N-G-E.

And finally, this gem for a value hotel chain. She’s an athlete. A marathoner. She’s workin’ out. Sweatin’ to the oldies, or whatever. So WHY is she cheerily selecting a breakfast bagel as big as a baby’s head?!

Eat a sandwich, get a shave and come back to me
Thursday May 29th 2014, 2:28 pm
Filed under: ad agency,advertising,women

There are two tv ads running right now with male leads exhibiting some weird hygiene and grooming choices.  I find it distracting and sort of… weird.

First up is an ad for the Lincoln MKZ.  What’s up with this dude?  Is his stubble meant to look hip?  Are we going for hipster here? Because all I get is kind of grody. Oh, and you’re looking a little… gaunt.  Eat a sandwich, ok?

The second one is for a travel site called Trivago (which I keep wanting to call “Zhivago,” as in “Doctor ___”).

Where do I begin? What’s the deal with his uncombed hair? And his unbuttoned shirt? And his low-slung black jeans? And the creepy saunter (that’s right, I said “saunter”)? How about his “hey baby” verbal delivery? This ad doesn’t make me want to travel as much as it makes me want to… wash.

I guess I’m saying that – if you are going to come into my home, and take 30 or 60 seconds that I’ll never get back – I’d like to see you looking like you a give a s**. Could be just me.

Update – August 5, 2014:  It’s NOT just me! Check out this article on Slate about the actor looking “seedily creased, grayly stubbled, distractingly beltless. [A man who] may be looking for a hotel after coming home at 3 a.m. to find that his wife changed the locks.”

Faster slather
Monday May 12th 2014, 3:47 pm
Filed under: advertising,market research,women,wretched excess

I’ve written about this seemingly-vexing problem before, but – given that I just spotted an ad for a brand NEW product – I guess Vaseline wasn’t able to handle it.palmers-rapid-spray-stephanie-fierman

Who are these sad, desperately dry people who are held back from living full lives because their moisturizer goes on too slowly? Maybe we should start a support group: PFILM – People For Instantly Luxurious (Likeable? Liquid?) Moisturizer.

The MTA, going your way (I guess)
Wednesday February 19th 2014, 2:48 pm
Filed under: advertising

ilovenyPoor grammar and word choice in ads generally get me… I just wish it wasn’t annoying me on my daily commute.

Since the logo’s creation in 1977, the I Love New York campaign has been a popular and proud representation of the state and all it has to offer. And if you grew up here, like I did, you couldn’t get the jingle out of your head if you tried.

The latest incarnation of the campaign, though, is weird. “THERE’S MORE TO NEW YORK THAN NY.”   Say it with me: there’s more to NY than NY.

Wait – no there isn’t.

What the ads mean to say is that there’s more to New York State than New York City. So there is, in fact, “more to New York than NYC.”

But “there’s more to New York than NY?” Nope. There isn’t.

And on to a new year
Tuesday December 31st 2013, 4:19 pm
Filed under: stephanie fierman,women,women online

So I was in a hospital yesterday with my mom (because holidays and hospitals: that’s just how I roll) and I thought one of her doctors was cute.

I was trying to be entertaining, so I said to my mom, “Hey, who knows? Maybe I’ll make my dead grandmothers happy, and still end up with a rich DOC-tuh!”

She looked at me and said, “I don’t think they gave a shit.  They wanted YOU to be the successful one.”

Well played, grandmothers, well played.

Another year. 2014. What are you going to do with it? I’ll tell you what I’m thinking about, at least.

Get rid of the fools and assholes in your life… or give them a lot less credence than you do today. Don’t sweat absolutely everything.  Realize that just about anything that feels horrendous and impossible is something you’ve already lived through at least once.  Make sure to find joy even when that seems highly unlikely.  And doing great things is good, too, but those of us who work our asses off do it because we want to and/or because we can’t help it; I’m a little tired, frankly, of all the messages about “winning” and resolutions about what we’re supposed to accomplish. Being a person you like and respect is a whole hell of a lot more important. If you can do both, great, but don’t do the former at the expense of the latter.

Be all you can be? For whom? How about… be all you want to be in 2014.  Do what you want to do.  Be brave.  Having heard Diana Nyad speak at TEDWomen this year, this year-end Microsoft ad really got me.  Nyad’s message was… find a way.  Whatever it is.  Find a way to do what you believe needs to be done.


What’s The Ad Space In Your Head Worth?
Thursday October 03rd 2013, 1:18 pm
Filed under: advertising,identity theft

Came across a “cheesy, seriously cheesy” but fascinating movie called “Hardwired.”

The premise is that – “only a few years from now” – corporations run and do everything, including a form of brain surgery only a marketer could love.

Here’s how it works: “Hope Industries” implants a computer in your brain that enables the company to show you holograms of advertisements for all kinds of products. A dude who no one else can see appears out of nowhere and pitches you on a new watch. A little girl shows up in your own living room (with that fuzzy appearance around the edges that all holograms seem to have in movies) and tries to sell you gum.

It’s a seemingly brilliant strategy hatched by a crazy scientist played by Val Kilmer who says things like, “Subject 373 could expose Project 660,” and “If they erase his hard drive, we’ll have to know how they hacked in. Prepare for surgery.” Ouch.

But I digress.

The point is that Hope has a plan to embed millions of these chips and then sell the “ad space in everyone’s heads for trillions of dollars.” The ad space in my head. Whoa. That’s like… totally deep.

If you’re in marketing, I would highly recommend this movie, if only for the opening credits. All the grand places in the universe have been branded: the moon has a Pepsi logo over it, the Hoover Dam is sponsored by McDonald’s, with a big “M” emblazoned on it… and don’t even ask me about the Washington Monument.

Mimes and moisturizer
Thursday June 06th 2013, 1:25 pm
Filed under: advertising

Are there a lot of 90-pound, hyperactive French mimes who simply cannot get out the door because they’re waiting for their moisturizer to dry? I’ve never encountered this particular affliction…

Help me! I cannot get a man because of… stress!
Thursday February 14th 2013, 8:46 am
Filed under: ad agency,advertising,women,women online

Secret Clinical Strength‘s NEW AD – and direction – bum me out.

How have I survived to the ripe old age I have and not been confronted with “stress sweat” and the havoc it can wreak on my life? My love life, specifically, as this young woman doesn’t appear to be concerned for herself: only the impact her scent may have on her chances to get a guy.

And Secret makes sure this woman behaves like a powerless juvenile by mentioning how her “unmentionables” aren’t “cute.”

Really? Come on – we can do better than this.

Welcome to a new year of bad advertising
Tuesday February 12th 2013, 10:12 pm
Filed under: advertising,Reputation Managment,Wall Street Journal,women

I think it’s fitting that my first “bad advertising” post of 2013 has a lesson in it. A sort of, higher meaning.  A clarion call.  I mean, why not think big thoughts until September or so, when you could fit all my thoughts on the head of a pin?

Anyway… Here’s a full-page ad from the WSJ this week.   Marcus & Millichap.stephanie-fierman-mm

Now, I’d never heard of Marcus & Millichap, so I did my research.  It’s a REIT based in California. That’s the end of my research.

Note that the ad congratulating the company’s “top investment professionals of 2012″ contains 35 photographs: all white men.  35 out of 35.

That’d be – wait, wait, don’t help me – 100%.

A couple thoughts:

1. If you have a company and your top 35 producers are all men, I would advise you not to voluntarily ANNOUNCE IT TO THE WORLD in the Wall Street Journal, because it makes you look like huge jerks.  You may not BE jerks, but it doesn’t matter. You’ve also offended some good number of the female WSJ readers in the universe (online, that’s 42% of readers and, in print, 32% of the sub base).  Not to mention potential female employees, partners, etc.  That is, if you want those kind of people – meaning women.

2. If you have a company and your top 35 producers are all men, you may have a serious diversity problem.

And there you have it.  This is less bad advertising and more “Stupid Pet Tricks Advertising,” but I had to start somewhere.

‘Til the next time…

Interesting Ads This Week
Sunday October 07th 2012, 7:05 pm
Filed under: ad agency,advertising

2 interesting ads for the week:

1) avigilon: Avigilon is a company that makes high-def surveillance systems. I noticed this print ad because I thought it did a nice job of using storytelling to draw the reader’s attention: something that’s far too rare in B2B advertising.

2) Litter Genie by Playtex:  From the company that brought you Diaper Genie comes… Litter Genie! The products even look the same, which is – sort of weird.  Anyway, Litter Genie is a cat litter “disposal system” – the “ultimate” in cat litter odor control – and its new ad qualifies for my “Imagine” award of the week.

The “Imagine” award goes to an ad that makes me imagine that I am the client, sitting in a conference room, and a creative director has just started an ad pitch by saying, “Imagine…”

So I guess this conversation would have started with this: “Imagine cats – cool cats – wandering around under the influence of psychedelic drugs.  There’s groovy music, they’re all kinda wandering around, and then comes the product demonstration. We’re gonna shoot it like it’s a music video.”  Here’s – I swear, this is the ad’s real name – “I Haz A Catnip in Mah Head.”

Alas (as Adweek points out), even tripping cat ads are derivative these days.

Goofy Ads With Which I Am Currently Obsessed
Thursday May 24th 2012, 10:21 am
Filed under: stephanie fierman

Overriding emotion during viewing: confusion
INTERNATIONAL DELIGHT ICED COFFEE.  Hold on: I will enjoy the product because going out for coffee is too dangerous?  As one of the commenters on YouTube says, “International Delight Iced Coffee: For when you’re too much of an idiot to be allowed in public.”

I agree with the ad: #FAIL.

Overriding emotion during viewing: love
Don’t Sell Your Hair to a Wig Shop

I am going to stick with my “love” assessment here because I am so grateful to see some good storytelling, but I wish there was a little tighter grounding in the product (the endings go by in a flash).

Other executions in the campaign:
Don’t Wake Up in a Roadside Ditch
Don’t Have a Grandson with a Dog Collar

I Am Not Your Cupcake
Sunday November 06th 2011, 4:35 pm
Filed under: ad agency,advertising

Wait – what? You’re like a cupcake, or you’re better than a cupcake? And the “Not The Best-Tasting Cupcake” shot near the end means that your cereal is not made of cupcakes (which we know), or that it doesn’t taste better than a cupcake (which we also know)?

And if I am in need of fiber I’m not exactly doin’ a jig, you know, so why mention cupcakes in the first place?

I don’t get this new ad from Kellogg’s:

Enroll at our school, or Granny’s a goner
Tuesday October 25th 2011, 10:37 am
Filed under: advertising,Internet,US economy

Fear-based advertising is nothing new for auto manufacturers and personal injury law firms, but colleges?

Capella University is running a wild TV campaign that shows all the terrible things that can (and WILL!) happen to you if you don’t get a Capella degree.  My favorite is the one that implies that your mother/grandmother will meet at ignominious end if you don’t act now:

Here’s another – this one threatens that your kids won’t reach their “full potential” unless you go to Capella.

And lastly, here’s one that seems to be saying that you will be able to help save people from a terrible tragedy – or maybe stop a terrorist attack (“help prepare our first responders”) if you have a Capella degree.  I love it.

Who knows? Maybe the Ivies should go this route…

Behold The Evil Ear Worm
Wednesday September 14th 2011, 11:07 am
Filed under: stephanie fierman

A lot of advertising has caught my eye lately. Sometimes, I like an ad right away and it stays that way. But there are other ads that get in my good graces, only to have my thoughts of them turn dark and menacing.

Such is the case with tv commercials that produce evil earworms.

earworm (ˈɪəˌwɜːm) – n:  an ear worm refers to any song that is so catchy, and at the same time so extremely annoying, that it feels like a worm has crawled into your ear and eaten the intelligent parts of your brain so that you hum the song all day long, no matter how much you hate it. [From the German word, “ohrwurm,” which literally means earworm.]

So, because wormy misery loves company… Enjoy!



Trey Pennington, Social Media And Real Life
Monday September 05th 2011, 8:06 pm
Filed under: stephanie fierman

This past weekend, a leader in the marketing and social media community, Trey Pennington, committed suicide. He went to a church parking lot in Greenville, SC, refused to heed police and shot himself.

Trey left behind a wife, six children and a grandchild.

Since then, Twitter and Facebook have both lit up like Christmas trees on crack.

What I find remarkable is how surprised some are because Trey was so active, positive and popular on the social networking sites. But he had over 111,000 followers on Twitter and an unbelievable number of Facebook friends!  He was on the Web almost right up to the end, sending someone a tweet saying that he’d see the person in the UK in just a few days!  He was all over the place, encouraging and applauding others for their work and ideas!

This has caused many to write that he “seemed fine,” and still others to beat their chests and howl, “If only he’d reached out to me…” (though it turns out that he was actively leaning on a few of his friends in the last couple weeks).

My goodness: when did people begin to think that all their online “friends” are actually real friends? That connecting to someone online and reading whatever they choose to show you means you actually know something about them – that you know what they are thinking and feeling?

Or perhaps that, somehow, the Web allows us to skip any communication altogether but still somehow be connected?  One woman wrote “I didn’t know  you, but I care about you…” on Facebook.

All this strikes me as not only arrogant, but also just plain weird.  And deluded.

I love social media – I am very active online and it’s helped me both personally and professionally. It’s brought some wonderful people into my life whom I otherwise would not have met.  But I have no illusions about what the macro phenomenon is and isn’t.  When I see people congratulate themselves for, say, reaching the 5,000 or 10,000 or 20,000 follower mark on Twitter, I wonder if they think that actually means something in the real world: how great they are, or how wonderful it is that they know so many people and so many know them.

The only thing it means on its face is that 5 or 10 or 20,000 folks want somehow to be aligned with you, or are interested in whatever you are willing to say publicly on a social networking site.  And if you follow one another, you have entered into a pact to read each other’s pre-packaged messages and spread them to others who might want to hear your pre-packaged messages, too.  Your deepest feelings, emotions, problems, worries? Seriously? Not applicable for 99% of the players involved.

Trey Pennington himself wrote on Facebook that “one of the worst things about social media is we can be surrounded by so many and still feel completely alone.”

Now, do stay on social media – I highly recommend it.  But if you care about someone and want him to know you care, don’t write dumb tweets like [quote]  “if you’re sad and think you’re alone, please reach out to someone, and know you’re not alone.”

Newsflash: such a tweet absolves you of nothing. The depressed person is alone if he feels alone, and may not run to the phone to tell someone about it.

Instead, it’s up to you to be a friend in the real world – through thick and thin.  Write him (a real card or letter). Call him. Make arrangements to get together.  Build actual friendships. Don’t spend all your time listening to yourself talk (or tweet).

In Trey’s case, some of his friends apparently understood this and were trying to help. I am so glad. They knew there is no substitute for human connection.  Never excuse or pacify yourself into thinking there is.

Makes Me Wanna Copy Something
Tuesday August 09th 2011, 9:28 am
Filed under: ad agency,advertising,branding

I want to give a big hat tip to Xerox and its global ad campaign from Y&R.

Launched in the fall of 2010, the campaign explains that Xerox can handle all of a company’s (your company’s) business and document management needs so it can focus on its “real business.”

These ads are so pitch-perfect that I actually stop and watch them whenever they come on the tube.  Pithy without being obnoxious, demonstrating an exxagerated situation that still gets the point across, fantastically cast with actors whose mere head tips communicate everything you need to know…

Well done. Not everyone agrees, but I don’t have a theoretical issue with two brands in an ad if (a) they’re there for a reason and (b) the supporting brand doesn’t eclipse the primary advertiser. I think we’re good here.

Here are my two favorites.

XEROX AND MARRIOTT: “I can’t hear you because I’m also making you a smoothie!”

XEROX AND DUCATI: “Are you busy!?”