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.”
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?
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.
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.”
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 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).
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?
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.
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! EXHIBIT A: ST. IVES (VIEW HERE)
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.
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!”
Today, I was asked what effect Donald Trump’s supposed presidential run is having on his personal brand.
In my opinion, Trump’s flirtation with the presidency doesn’t impact his brand value one way or the other. This is because – whether he originally intended it or not – Trump has had a bifurcated brand for years.
Trump has a business side and a farcical side. The farcical or “personality” side is what’s enabled him to create (and – hello – publicize) entertainment properties, because it drives him to behave in an entertaining way. In his real life, he’s a paunchy, weird-haired real estate guy, so to be entertaining, he needs to be over the top. Brad Pitt can just stand still and attract attention; Trump cannot. Donald’s got to jump up and down to draw interest.
This means that people expect to see Trump behaving in an outlandish sort of way, so his “presidential bid” isn’t new news: it’s just The Donald being wacky again.
Therefore, his recent jaunt through Kookytown (a) doesn’t impact people who expect it (and that would be everyone by now), and (b) wouldn’t put off anyone who actually wants to do real business with the Trump Organization (those who ignore stunts and would be interested only in the deal they were getting), so… this is Donald Trump status quo.
Let’s clarify: I loathe what’s happening and agree with The New Yorker’s David Remnick regarding the reasons for Trump’s behavior. But that wasn’t the question and, unfortunately, our pseudo-celebrity culture – in which many don’t think any deeper about a person’s character than what dress she wore to court – will simply bump along the surface before moving on to its next source of amusement.
One of the new business friends I’ve made on Twitter is an agency in Pittsburgh called Fitting Group, run by Andrea Fitting. Check them out at http://fittingroup.com. We found each other based on our mutual interest in and work with challenger brands, or big category-leading companies who need to change and can learn from challengers.
Anyway… Andrea wrote a blog post referring to a January 2011 Fast Company article, “Mayhem on Madison Avenue.” In “Mayhem” (and numerous articles just like it) the author essentially explains how and why digital marketing – particularly social media – will precipitate the extinction of advertising agencies. And while she did spend four years at an ad agency (during which time I’m sure she saw plenty of function and dysfunction), the writer has never been a client, let alone a CMO.
Andrea called her blog post “Calling All Chief Marketing Officers (or Those Who Play Them on TV)” and asked several CMOs to read the magazine article and offer our points of view. Here’s mine (as posted on the Fitting Group site).
Personally, I think the hype about social media being different, experiential, never finished, “perpetual beta…” is hooey. Or rather, the process of smart learning for a CMO is – at a high level – unchanged.
Every channel, every communication vehicle, every media outlet and interaction capability… each has its own ways and rules. TV had its own ways and rules we CMOs had to learn. Email. Radio. Whatever. Now it’s today’s version of social media – it is a living channel with its own characteristics, feedback loop, expectations, organizational demands – all new to the channel, but not a new way of approach to assessment and action for the good CMO. For the great CMO, everything we do lives in a state of constant learning and improvement – it’s how we work with our CEOs, CFOs and teams every day.
And as with all things new, a CMO will always seek real experts and advisors who understand the organization in which s/he operates, can help build a case for new initiatives, can help shorten the organization’s learning timeframe and get sustainable initiatives up and running. Oh, and help the CMO look and feel smart and confident.
The problem is NOT that ad agencies SHOULD be moving toward extinction. It’s quite the opposite: CMOs need and welcome the help. The issue IMO is that too many analysts and agencies are stalled in the shiny object phase, where social media is new and exciting and OOH! look at that Facebook page, and see how smart I am, etc. etc. – as opposed to truly understanding the client’s brand, objectives, operating environment, organizational/budget limitations, the various stakeholders whose concerns must be addressed… all the factors that make an agency a true partner vs. a hit and run “guru” who has no real interest in the less flashy parts of the world in which the CMO operates.
Agencies that can do that will be in business forever – whether the topic is social media or the next big thing or the next one after that.
Birth control ads are strange. Exhibit A: the Nuvaring ad (see HERE) where the gals take off their clothes and climb into a hot tub with their yellow bathing suits on. Each woman has a… each has a number… one has a bathing cap… and then the hot tub spins like a ride at Disneyland… and there’s, like, a song that makes me hear Satan’s voice urging me to kill (Mommy!).
I don’t know what’s going on, other than understanding that I better use Nuvaring because remembering to take a pill every day is just too much for me. At least I think that’s what is says.
So in a land of weird, one must rise extra high to be noticed – and I think Beyaz overshot by a mile. Check out the ad (see below or HERE):
The “it’s good to have choices” is fine, but to put women in a shopping setting, where they can simply choose the men, educations, homes and discretionary incomes of their dreams off a shelf at any time – with as much thought and planning as picking a box of cereal – is offensive. And what was the general idea here: that because women understand shopping the best, we can make birth control a section of a department store to help the message hit home?
Then there are choices themselves. The home the female shopper chooses is a sweet little purple house, with a car out front that looks to be from the 50s. Is that where women belong, or when women were “best”– in the 50s? Have we already failed if we don’t want the picket fence?
And the stork: the only “selection” that tries to literally follow the woman once it is rejected (a stalking stork, if you will). All the women in this ad are still in their 20s: are young women supposed to have babies… or else? Note there are no “and” equations in this ad. It’s all “or,” as in grad school or a baby. None of the shoppers leave with more than one item.
For me, though, the most disappointing episodes take place over in the Significant Other section of the store. First of all, the store only carries men in inventory. Being gay is not a choice in this retail establishment. But my favorite part has to be a woman standing in front of a man, only to have another female come along with a smirk on her face and snatch the man off the shelf.
Disclaimer: I am shooting my mouth off here and have seen none of the research that, no doubt, Kimberly-Clark completed and relied upon before launching this product extension. Please proceed accordingly.
I saw a couple new television ads recently for “Depend Underwear in colors.” We’re talking about the product that provides an “underwear-like experience” for those who maybe need a little more protection for whatever reason.
Fine, no problem. I’m looking at this product, its attributes, benefits and other market characteristics as I would any other.
My curiosity focuses on this new product line, in particular, and its supporting advertising.
When I saw the ads, I wasn’t sure what I was looking at, although what I was seeing was certainly derivative. The ad targeting women looked exactly like a tampon (or “feminine wash” - ick – ad), with gals frolicking and going about their carefree lives, confident that they no longer worry about something going awry. And the men’s ad looked a lot like a Viagra commercial, with men smiling knowingly at each other on the street, strutting along as if the result of using this product was most certainly going to be an intimate experience. One of the men actually winks at the camera. Winks!
My question is this (here comes the “shooting my mouth off” part): assuming the “engineering” in the product is identical to the existing Depend SKUs, how much more market share can K-C expect to gain by creating a Depend line in colors and prints?
1. It would seem to me to be a product that you buy because you need them (not want them), so how many more units could or would an existing user really buy?
2. Because of the seemingly non-optional nature of the purchase, how many people who would benefit from an adult incontinence underwear product - but who do not currently purchase any - would suddenly be motivated to do so because there’s an option that comes in colors?
3. How much market share is there to be stolen from other manufacturers? K-C claims to be the global leader in the adult incontinence category (a $1.3B category in North America), prices don’t appear to be crazily strewn across the board, and it seems to me that a user of a non-Depend incontinence product isn’t likely to switch just because s/he can now get her protective panties in stripes. Seems like it could be a high-involvement, potentially scary switch to make.
4. Are you that much more likely to be comfortable taking your clothes off in front of someone else (or your own mirror) because your underwear is blue instead of white? And how many consumers would view an estimated 50% price hike as being worth it?
5. K-C believes that boomers’ product expectations are “much higher than those of past generations.” Good enough, but that doesn’t change the “rational” buying characteristics of the marketplace.
6. An article about the launch says that new packaging provides a more “dignified shopping experience,” but I’m not going there. If that’s the issue, they could have transformed the old packaging.
The company’s VP of North American feminine and adult care brands says that consumers want to stay in their own underwear, so ”we want to make our Depend products as much like underwear as possible.”
That’s nice. And it’s possible that the “irrational” or emotional elements of the buying process are far stronger than they would appear to be. There are also reasons that companies develop line extensions that don’t require the new product to be a home run to be successful. K-C clearly has some reason to believe that its new fashionable line will help it – as the company likes to tell men – “control the room.”
The piece is written by an associate professor of marketing at a reasonably prestigious U.S. university, and it profiles his research into the administration of group buying offers from the likes of Groupon, BuyWithMe and LivingSocial.
The article first caught my eye because of its anti-worker title, frankly… and then I read it. The key insight to be gleaned from this academic research is that employees – not just offers – can have a huge impact on the creation of a “positive customer experience.” Employees’ behavior, the professor says, can even cause the offer to “backfire” if managers fail to prepare employees properly or there is some other reason (e.g. a diner does not tip on a Groupon restaurant offer) that workers may cause a consumer’s initial interaction to be a poor one.
“In fact,” he says, “preparing employees for upcoming promotions and obtaining their buy-in is the most important factor influencing a Groupon promotion’s success”… “or any promotion['s], for that matter.”
Are we at the point in the shiny-object lifecycle where critical thinking is to be set aside and any piece of content with the word “Groupon” in it can (a) pass as “research,” and (b) make it into legitimate academic journals?
I hope so. I say that because if, instead, it’s a revelation in our universities’ classrooms that customer service and positive employee engagement are the keys to marketing success, we’ve got a much bigger problem on our hands.
I suspect it is the former, so this too shall pass.
In a way, true luxury brands have it easy. There may be reasons that your customers don’t buy, but not having the money isn’t one of them.
But what about upscale-but-not-quite-luxury brands that sell goods that truly are a considered purchase for their target audiences?
Such was my thought when I spotted the Ethan Allen store at 60th Street and 3rd Avenue in New York last week. Ethan Allen makes very nice, albeit expensive furniture. When I was growing up, my mother sometimes insisted on buying Ethan Allen because it would ”last forever” and was, therefore, worth the sticker shock.
What caught my eye was the type in the front two windows. The first said, “It’s ok to buy one piece at a time. That’s how we build it,” and the other said, “A great room starts with a great piece.”
Now, I am so glad that I saw this before I saw the Brandweekarticle on this new campaign, because it let me have a “pure” consumer reaction – and that reaction was relief, mixed with encouragement.
Relief that I don’t have to feel bad if I couldn’t buy a whole room or house worth of furniture right now, and encouragement that – instead of waiting until I can (NB: at which time I might go somewhere else) – I should start with that one nice thing from EA today.
There are so many thoughtful things happening here. The brand has turned a negative into something positive. It has actually made me feel good - smart - for starting with that one great object, rather than beating myself up over all the other items I can’t afford right now. EA made it ok to walk past a room in my home and see one chair in it: it’s not because I’m broke – it’s because I’m wise. And the “That’s how we build it” line draws me in even more, as if we were in on it together. I’m just like you, Ethan, if I think about one piece at a time because you do, too.
The ECD at McCann-Erickson talks about the campaign as being part of the brand’s continued attempt to reach a younger-demographic, to show that EA’s pieces and attitude are more modern than they might expect.
I’m glad for that, because all that Paul Revere-ish dark furniture my mom bought from EA when I was a kid made me gag (and to her credit, it finally made her gag, too). But whether it’s deliberate or not, I think the work strikes a more universal tone that performs a little magic, turning a lack of cash into a moment of affirmation and intelligence.
Monday October 18th 2010, 10:23 am
Filed under: advertising
A new television commercial popped up recently for a product called M-Drive, a supplement “designed specifically for men looking to increase strength, stamina and overall vitality.”
51-year-old Gary Kehoe, inventor of this “powerful extract blend,” stars in his own ad. It’s the pounding music that got me to look up from the newspaper to see Gary cycling, climbing, working out and just generally leaping tall buildings in a single bound.
We’re talking manly, manly things that newly-strengthened Gary is doing.
So this includes, of course, the beautiful, bosomy blond in the passenger seat during what will clearly be the time of her life with a man who has more “sexual energy” from taking M-Drive.
The ad is pretty over the top. Clearly Gary’s gift to the world, long after Gary is gone.
I just think that… the product might have more credibility if the inventor didn’t have a horrible, full-head toupee on during the ad. That IMO pulls the ad off its game.
I guess hair is the one thing that, sadly, M-Drive cannot produce.
Recently, though, I’ve noticed something annoying on my receipts: either an “eat in” tax (if you eat at the restaurant) or an “eat out” tax (if you take your order to go).
Either way, there’s a “tax.”
A tax?? McDonalds is taxing us, literally coming and going?
This makes no sense. Corporations can’t just invent their own taxes. What is this?
Turns out it’s just plain old state tax. In Connecticut, where I dined recently, the tax is 6%. 6% in, 6% out, 6% if you take your fries and you shake ‘em all about…
The 8.5% “eat in” (aka state) tax in San Fran at the time of this purchase
6%. Period. [Note: State sales tax laws on prepared food are notoriously kooky, but whatever they are in the state in which you're ordering is what you'll end up paying]
So why would a marketing icon like McDonald’s turn a charge that it is forced to apply into a fee that looks like an assessment from the company? I am flummoxed by this.
A Google search of “McDonald’s eat in tax” and “McDonald’s “eat out tax” yields lots of other folks with their “britches in a bunch” over this (like HERE and HERE and HERE). A couple of them actually posted the “tax” to sites like ripoffreport.com.
Now, this fellow claims that it’s because some states (e.g. California) actually have a take-out tax, so an establishment doing business in that state must be able to discriminate a meal served at the restaurant vs. one taken elsewhere. His supposition is that it would be cost prohibitive for a company to use software that could apply the tax rules state by state, and that it would be hard to administer.
I would be surprised if it’s a matter of cost. McDonald’s had $6.8 billion in U.S. operating income in 2009: how much could such a system cost? And how does that cost shape up against the reputation cost of such bad publicity?
Tiffany & Co has impressed me over the years. It’s been able to show some restraint when it comes to mucking with the brand while still responding to shifts in the consumer zeitgeist.
The company has been particularly wily in its introduction of new non-jewelry items and jewelry pieces at lower price points. Leather, scarves, fragrance and the like serve multiple purposes: the products expand Tiffany‘s reach among existing customers; they help Tiffany establish earlier brand engagement among the base of young women most likely to become the core Tiffany customer; and I would expect that it’s helped the gift business, as well, particularly as tableware’s centrality in the wedding business wanes.
Its moves in its core business, jewelry, have borne fruit. 31% of the company’s sales last year coming from its lowest-priced merchandise: sterling silver jewelry at an average price of $200. The silver, in particular, is a good example of how Tiffany has made and executed on long-term commitments that have helped achieve a higher level of market accessibility. Its Paloma Picasso, Elsa Peretti and Frank Gehry lines of jewelry have built their own bases of loyal fans over the years. The company’s website top navigation makes it easy to find these pieces, and the first entry behind the “Designers & Collections” tab is currently “Elsa Peretti $250 & Under.”
So what’s another potential category? Handbags. Although it may strike some as odd, sales of handbags priced at $200 or more have actually grown 15% in the year ending this past June. Many of the leaders are the usual suspects, but – if Tiffany wants a model to study – Coach has shown everyone how it’s done.
Coach’s 2009 successful launch of the more youthful, lower-priced Poppy line of bags and accessories with the positioning “Are You A Poppy Girl?” – but with bag prices starting at $200 – sparked a lot of wonder. It’s not that there wasn’t a space in the market, but $200? Hardly the “budget” youth collection, as one fashion blog optimistically coined it. Andy yet: it’s selling. A lot. Why?
To a certain extent, the answer comes back to the ill-defined but highly desirable ”affordable luxury” moniker that so many brands want to claim. Two thoughts here: (1) If a woman can get her fix with a $300 bag from a favorite brand (when she might have chosen a $1,200 one in the past), she’s more likely to make that choice, and (2) A woman needs a bag every single day. No one ”needs” non-wedding jewelry. So if I’m going to buy a bag anyway, the thinking goes, it’s penny wise and pound foolish to buy an unremarkable bag when I could just spend another $100 or $200 or even $300 and buy a bag from a brand I truly love – a brand that will “show” well on a daily basis.
Sidebar: I have two core daytime bags: one for fall-winter, the other for spring-summer. The spring-summer bag was $400, which felt expensive. Now that I get no less than, say, two compliments on the bag every single week – and the credit card charge is only a hazy memory - I’m sorry I didn’t buy two.
And just to finish it off, notice that these purchases are literally BIG: much larger in size than a bracelet or ring that I might get at the same price. More status mileage for the dollar.
So into this environment comes Tiffany’s new handbag line, created in partnership with the designers of the Lambertson Truex luxury label (which the jeweler purchased post-bankruptcy last year). The products are priced from $395 for a small suede tote to $17,500 for a large crocodile handbag, and all carry the imprimatur of Tiffany, whether it be in the clasps, the colors or the silver.
I’m waiting to see how they promote the line. The evening “Holly” bag has gotten a lot of press, but such a bag has limited use cases and narrows the market; I hope to see some creative promotion and messaging that emphasizes day and weekend bags, as well.
And not to state the obvious, but I know that Tiffany will be mindful of the fact that women already knew Coach as a handbag maker, so Poppy was an immediate “get” for the consumer. Poppy is to Coach as Elsa Peretti is to Tiffany: an extension of the core business. Jeweler Tiffany will need to build some real promotion and personality if it wants to move a lot of product. [Paging Christmahanukwanzaakah, come in Christmahanukwanzaakah...]