Tuesday, November 8, 2011

TV commercials that get better with age

I’ve said many times that I love television commercials. I heard my wife giggling at one of my favorite television commercials last evening. What’s remarkable is the commercial has been airing quite regularly since the beginning of the year and we’ve seen it dozens of times.

She likes it because she said it seems so believable, so real. I agree, and that’s what gives it such staying power. The commercial:

I also like tacos, and Eric gives me the creeps, too.

I heard you giggle.

This situation is so believable, especially in an office setting. Professional relationships are often difficult to define. Secrets are shared and sometimes they come back to haunt you. Johnny-come-lately ultimately looks like an ass after he chides and attempts to embarrass his co-workers after feeling left out only to discover a slow cell phone network is to blame. To complicate matters, a confidence is divulged, and it might haunt both men in the end. Now who has egg on his face?

Immediately following this commercial an E*TRADE baby advertisement ran that been airing since September 2010. It, too, still makes me laugh.

Does Max give you a warning bark when it’s time to sell?

Or do you like this special edition version better?

Nobody knows…how long this commercial will air.

What can you say? Babies are cute and the notion that building and managing a stock portfolio is so easy an infant can master it seems preposterous, yet utterly believable after hearing the little boy explain it. Oh wait, babies can’t talk or think like an adult, or own a tablet or cell phone or eTrade account, or …

As I said, preposterous, yet brilliant, as evidenced by the many other eTrade baby commercials that preceded and followed these two.

Outstanding creative work on all counts. I dare predict the technology displayed will be outdated, and possibly the actors, too, before these commercials grow tiresome.

Did I say I love television commercials?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

It’s how you write it

Is it me, or are some television commercials a copywriter’s nightmare? If you aren’t focused on the message, and let’s face it, most of us aren’t, you might miss how poorly a number of commercials are written.

The Insperity television commercials with Jim Nantz are a prime example. Give the “Ahead of the Competition” commercial a listen:

The Insperity copy left it on the lip of the cup in this commercial.

Did you catch the opening sentence: "Arnold Palmer's story is an inspiring golf and business performance." Say what? Taken literally, it sounds like a review of Mr. Palmer’s acting in a live theatre production. As delivered by Jim Nantz, it just sounds clumsy. I find myself mentally rearranging the sentence so it makes sense: “Arnold Palmer's golf and business success is an inspiring story."

Here’s the entire script:

Nantz: "Arnold Palmer's story is an inspiring golf and business performance. While rising to the pinnacle of the golf world, he had a vision of becoming an esteemed entrepreneur, golf course designer, TV pioneer, philanthropist, and an inspiration to his army of fans.”

Palmer: “I achieved success beyond golf, but business owners today need help. Fortunately, there’s Insperity.”

Nantz: “An Insperity business performance advisor can help your company overcome the hazards of today’s economy, allowing you to stay on course and ahead of the competition.

Learn more about Insperity’s HR and Business Performance solutions today.

Helping businesses run better, grow faster and make more money.

It’s what we do.

Insperity. Inspiring Business Performance.”

Arnold Palmer’s business success is an inspiring story. And while the spirit of the message is admirable, the way it is conveyed is awkward. I don’t question that Mr. Palmer had aspirations beyond golf, but to state that he had a vision of becoming an esteemed entrepreneur and TV pioneer is grandiose. His assertion that today’s business owners need help begs for an explanation that is notably absent. And, “Helping businesses run better” begs for a different adverb, like “more efficiently”.

The other business success stories in the Insperity television advertising campaign open with the same line: “NAME’s story is an inspiring business performance.” Each time I hear it, I cringe.

For Insperity, the problems are more pronounced in their radio ads. Listen to how Jim struggles with the script in the Radio: Ahead of the Competition :60 spot. It sounds like he's reading a list of bullet points. There's no rhythm in his delivery because there's no rhythm in the message.

Ad agency professionals might argue that you get what you pay for since the campaign was developed by the company's marketing communications department. Yet, with Jim Nantz and Arnold Palmer as corporate spokespersons, this clearly isn’t a case of a meager budget.

Whatever the reasons, copywriting rife with grammar and sentence structure issues and inelegant word choices can dilute a stellar concept and turn the resulting creative into something rather, well, uninspired.

SIDEBAR: I do like the Insperity customer testimonial videos a lot, especially, thelab and JibJab. They are very well conceived, brilliantly edited and produced, and delivered in a relaxed, honest and genuine fashion by the clients. Powerful.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

sO intense!

Did you notice the big O?

Of course you did if you invited K-Y® Brand INTENSE® into the action. That’s the product claim that has females panting with anticipation. Or at least that’s what the folks at K-Y so brazenly want the gentler sex to believe.

Emma surprises Alex during an uninhibited discussion on their relationship
I’m not sure who gets more excited here: females desiring that big moment, or males seeing their fantasy openly discussed in a commercial.

Either way, I’m guessing the market response to the advertisement has been, well, INTENSE.

The big moment in this advertisement isn’t the fireworks (ladies, you are welcome to argue with me), which is dazzling, it’s the words immediately preceding the skyrockets in flight:

It’s scientifically proven to
K-Y INTENSE Alex and EmmaFemale on female fireworks. Pretty provocative K-Y.

Scientifically proven? It has to be legitimate then. You can’t argue with science. But it does get one thinking: how many females were in the trial and how were the fireworks measured?

Uh, where was I? Oh, never mind.

By the way, the fireworks image isn’t blurry; this is what happens to your vision when that big moment is so ___________ (you fill in the blank).

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Rekindle your love of reading

Print media doesn’t typically lend itself to a strong product demonstration. Especially when the product is digital. But in the case of the Amazon Kindle, feast your eyes.

The product boasts a new high contrast screen that blunts the argument that you can’t take your digital books outdoors for a pleasant read under the summer sun.

Check it out:

Kindle Eyes' Content ad

The headline and subhead are superbly crafted. I was compelled to read the text on the screen and found myself wanting to turn the virtual page (it didn’t work…it’s the back cover of the magazine). Many may recognize the story on the screen; I didn’t, which continues an unbroken string of wrong answers to trivia questions.

Anyhoo, if I were to level any criticism toward the creative peeps, it would be with regard to the copy points under the Kindle. They read like bullets in a PowerPoint presentation.

There is a bit of irony when print media serves as the canvas for an eReader product demonstration.

Sidebar:The Amazon Kindle gives a whole new meaning to curling up with a good book. Maybe the idiom will take on a digital age derivation:

“I’m going to go scroll down with a good book.”

Then again, maybe not.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Impure intentions paved the road

Have you caught the Hornitos Tequila television commercials? I’ve seen three and each are quite captivating and tantalizing. Euro RSCG Chicago launched the campaign a year ago with two 15 second spots (embedded at the end of this blog) that skirt the line of decency, right where libidinous young males reside.

The newest commercial titled “Brotherly Love”, plays on the fantasy of twins switching places. In this case, the brother doesn’t know, and neither does the girlfriend, apparently.

Whose intentions aren’t pure here?

Sassy. Sexy. Sinister. Sordid. Suggestive. Add your adjectives here: ____________________________________________________________.

Here’s another one: provocative! Her sweet, romantic giggle coupled with the opening line fires the imagination. Has Mike been a naughty boy? Is he being a bit frisky? Whatever it is, she appears to like it. The evening seems full of promise. You can see it in her eyes and her saucy little gate.

Next comes the twist. Mike’s cell phone rings and a dirty truth is revealed; Mike isn’t Mike, he’s Mike’s identical twin brother, Dave, and Dave has designs on his twin’s girl, April, who is none the wiser.

Yes, it’s irreverent and disrespectful to the intelligence of the woman, but acknowledging that spoils the fantasy, so we don’t go there. Why would we? We’re dealing with the gratification of young men’s libidos and egos here. That’s a higher cause! And Hornitos wants to take you there, guys.

Cougar feeds a more uncomfortable fantasy for many, chasing skirts old enough to be your mother, or your friend’s mother:

Hitting on your best friend’s mom. Wow.

Doris, the husky-voiced bartender, leaving a voicemail with Doug’s boss so he can play late into the night with a couple of young dames, is a rather tame fantasy. Doug takes a glimpse at his feminine quarry and considers himself lucky, but based on the girls’ behavior, it’s not apparent he has a shot at winning anything more than a few games of billiards. Or does he?

You sound like a husky, Doris, so sick as a dog is an apt description.

Sauza, a Beam Global Spirits & Wine, Inc. brand, and the makers of Hornitos Tequila, pushes the envelope of good taste with these commercials, to be sure, but don’t most edgy and memorable ads? The beauty and brilliance is how they tease and titillate without going over the line. Hornitos merely suggests; we fill in the blanks with our own (impure?) notions of what happened or will come next. That’s inspired.

Purer than your intentions. Now that’s a tagline, and for many of us, probably closer to the truth than we’d care to admit.

Sidebar: Please drink responsibly (but understand that Hornitos Tequila is not responsible for your impure intentions).

Friday, April 29, 2011

Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

Sorry, Dodge, but you don’t know what I’m thinking.

I’m thinking you’ve made a mistake attempting to position the Grand Caravan as the real man’s van. Sure, it’s a Dodge, a member of the most macho of vehicle lines, but it’s still a minivan, and minivans have the stigma of being a soccer mom’s vehicle, i.e. a momma van. You can’t cross that chasm.

Men can’t escape the stigma of driving a minivan.

I’m thinking it takes more than a leather trim command center to get a male to hoo-ah over a vehicle. Especially a minivan.

I’m thinking a 506 watt Infinity surround sound is overkill for singing along to “If You’re Happy and You Know It”, “A Peanut Sat on the Railroad Track” and “You Are My Sunshine”.Chuck E. Cheese's birthday party

I’m thinking almost 300 horsepower will give mom the giddy-up she needs to race across town in 12 minutes to get the kids to Chuck E. Cheese’s on time for the birthday party.

I’m thinking the “sudden'” realization that he’s sitting in a minivan isn’t going to inspire him in the least to have children. Not even almost.

I’m thinking this has been tried before: Pontiac attempted to lasso guys into believing the Montana was for men of the wild, wild west.

The quality of the Montana was akin to the quality of this video…pretty crappy.

They failed miserably. What makes you so smart, so certain your creative and messaging will keep the Grand Caravan from suffering the same fate? Learn from the lessons of the past.

In the final analysis, Dodge, I can’t help but wonder what you’re thinking.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Attracting more people of Walmart

Walmart recently admitted that a merchandising strategy it implemented in 2008 cost it market share, revenue and customers. As cited in a Reuters article, that decision to eliminate products that weren’t top sellers across the United States meant items that are a necessity in cold weather climates, like snow blowers, but aren’t needed in a broad swath of southern states, were not to be found in Buffalo, Cleveland and Minneapolis. Frustrated consumers went elsewhere.

To win customers back, Walmart returned to its founding principles and added approximately 8,500 items to store shelves, piling merchandise covering multiple price points to the ceiling.

Walmart also acknowledged that they de-emphasized the low price guarantee in its messaging, further eroding customer confidence that the big box retailer had everything they needed at the best possible price.

To address this perception problem, a new ad campaign developed by The Martin Agency pronounces their client’s refocus on carrying the items people need at the lowest advertised price. Each commercial opens with “one of these items doesn’t belong here” flowing down the checkout belt followed by a scene where all items come into play:

I’ve never seen that guy in my life.

I love it. Curiosity reels you in as you observe the products on the checkout belt. “How do these all go together?” you ask yourself. Talk about captivating your audience. The slice of life vignette is funny and engaging. The beauty of this creative approach is that it’s easily replicated:

Yea you’re up now.

Walmart’s YouTube channel features seven commercials in this vein. They’re all cute and some are laugh-out-loud funny.

Perhaps worried that the announcer’s message at the end of these commercials doesn’t adequately accentuate the price match guarantee, The Martin Group produced this ad:

Was there a Randy Jackson sighting in eyewear?

Hmmm, this commercial deserves a little extra attention, probably because I find it so annoying. I think everyone recalls that Walmart promises to match any advertised price. Everyone except the cashier apparently. Oh, and the customer, who displays genuine surprise when told Walmart will, in fact, match the competitor’s price. Really?

All you have to do is ask. Thank goodness you don’t have to bring in the competitor’s ad anymore. Frankly, though, it troubles me that I have to ask. Why not have my back and proactively match a competitor’s lower price? That’s true customer service and that’s how you actualize your low price guarantee and garner customer loyalty. When an item is scanned, Walmart’s system should automatically adjust for a competitor’s lower price, alert the cashier, and print the saving on the receipt. The cashier then tells me, the customer, that I just saved money via the Walmart low price match guarantee.

It’s a mystery to me why companies ever abandon their key differentiators. Go with what got you there is a champion’s mantra and Walmart is well served to remember their fundaments. Fortunately, The Martin Group has developed an attractive and clever ad campaign with legs that will likely bring back many of the people of Walmart who left them.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

You have to give Discover credit

Someone in my household obtained the April 4th 2011 issue of People magazine, a publication I haven’t seen in years. I personally have zero interest in the lives of our political, entertainment and pop culture heroes because most live in a bubble and permit the masses to see only what they want them to see. When a celebrity has a public meltdown, like Mr. Duh, Winning, I avert my eyes and ignore the noise because I don’t enjoy witnessing a train wreck.

As previously revealed in this blog, I only read a couple of sports print publications, so I’m not exposed to many magazine advertisements. As I was flipping through People magazine, I didn’t notice most of the advertisements – they were there, I just didn’t notice them - so I decided it was time to play Random Ad Review again. Here it goes….


Nice! I was very lucky to land on this advertisement. You have to give Discover credit. I love brand messaging with legs and the stewards of the Discover brand have run with the “It Pays to Discover™” tagline since 1988. Why not? The multiple meanings in the message are inherently positive, reinforce the brand promise and employ the brand name. It doesn’t get any better.

The simplicity of this advertisement doesn’t get any better either. Orange is an unusual brand color and that makes the ad stand out when the magazine reader turns to that page. I couldn’t help but take notice. Orange obviously ties directly with the sun in the Discover brand logo, which may be the original logo design introduced with the card in 1985.

The Discover card image is prominent (wise) and the George Washington portrait from the one dollar bill is subtly visible directly above it (brilliant).

Thirty-one words is all it takes to tell the story. #1 cash rewards. Who doesn’t love cash rewards? Who doesn’t love being associated with #1? Who cares about #2? Who remembers #2?

It pays to switch. It pays to Discover. Who can argue with that; both are true. What’s more to say?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

I swear! Profanity has no place in social media

Once again, we find ourselves dealing with someone who dropped the f-bomb in a public forum. In this case, it was an employee at New Media Strategies, a social media firm representing Chrysler. The individual was apparently in the middle of a mind-numbing drive into work and jumped onto Twitter to express his or her explicit frustration:

"I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to f*¢king drive."  (this blogger substituted * and ¢)

In this person’s haste, he or she failed to check the handle to ensure he or she was logged into his or her personal account. The perp wasn’t, and the tweet went out under the Chrysler Twitter account, @chryslerautos. It wasn’t long before the mistake was realized and the tweet was deleted, but not before it was retweeted…and retweeted…and retweeted…and covered in blogs, taking it completely out of the company’s control.

And that was all she (or he) wrote. Literally. The offending individual was fired by New Media Strategies. Chrysler acted swiftly as well, firing NMS.

Ad Age published the story along with the tweet, uncensored. The  firestorm that followed in its reader comments section is quite telling, and more than a bit disturbing.

As of this writing, over 100 readers have weighed in. The majority of the early responses completely lacked any intellectual content; most merely seized the opportunity to use the offending term themselves in very banal and predictable one-liners:

“F*¢king ridiculous.”
”This is f*¢king unbelievable!”
”This is f*¢king throwing the baby out with the f*¢king bath water.”

Deep stuff guys. Is it any surprise the authors of these rich comments are all male? There’s something real macho about using the f-bomb, and it’s probably a real thrill to do so professionally amongst your peers in your industry’s premier magazine and shamelessly publish your name alongside it.


I’m not here to debate the merits of Chrysler’s decision. I’m here to take issue with advertising, marketing communications and social media professionals who think it’s acceptable, and perhaps essential, to use profane language online and undoubtedly, at work in constructive, creative and contentious discourse.


As expressed by a few thoughtful Ad Age readers, swearing has no place in corporate and marketing communications. The medium (even Twitter) and the audience (even Gen Y) do not make a difference. Profanity reflects poorly on the individual and the company. It does absolutely nothing to enhance the brand or build customer affinity.

Borrowing from an earlier post, descending to such base language smacks of a lack of respect for your client, their customers, your colleagues and yourself. It’s highly insensitive. Profanity makes many people uncomfortable. It isn’t cool and it won’t win admirers or new business. There isn’t a single argument someone can present that will convince me otherwise.

Communications professionals are to be held to a higher standard. We should possess a supreme command of the language and an expansive vocabulary. Any emotion we deem to express can and should be effectively articulated with well chosen power words.

If you are so de-sensitized to profanity that nothing shocks you and you find yourself apathetic toward the subject, then consider one irrefutable risk: as an Ad Age reader presented, in the public domain there may be legal ramifications for profane utterances for the utterer and those they represent. It is incumbent upon the communications professional and agency to protect their client. If you can’t (or won’t) discipline yourself for your own self-respect, that reason itself must prevail.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Freaky fast and freakin’ successful is no freak accident

I’m a Jimmy John’s virgin. If it weren’t for their radio ads, I wouldn’t even know they exist. Weird, because I love sub sandwiches. Anyway, I heard one of their commercials recently and I was so entertained I conducted an online search to listen to the spot again. Frustratingly, I couldn’t find the commercial in question. Gratifyingly, I found a company web page with eight radio ads posted for my enjoyment with a link to TV ads on the left and print ads on the right.

Jimmy John’s, a sub sandwich purveyor, boasts freaky fast delivery. As previously mentioned, I know very little about this company, but I dig what I’m learning. Jimmy John’s built their business and stake their reputation on fast delivery. Their integrated advertising and social media initiatives reinforce this brand promise.

I gave the eight radio spots a listen and loved them all. The distinct voices command attention and the pace of the dialogue is freaky fast and freaky fun. Here’s a great example. I adore the superb use of sound effects. You want to rewind and listen again and again. Compelling.

The corporate site has only four TV commercials featuring everyday people in harrowing circumstances. As the crisis deepens, each individual makes a call – to Jimmy John’s. Fast-forward to a JJ delivery person holding the bag of goodies. Doorbell and voiceover: Jimmy John’s. America’s sandwich delivery experts. The commercials are good, but the only relationship with the radio campaign is the voice in the voiceover. Strange they didn’t leverage the Freaky Fast theme. Think of the zaniness they could deliver in freaky fast video.

Jimmy John’s has a Facebook page which appears to be the heart of their social media initiative. It boasts more than one-half million fans. Many customers write posts on the Wall about a recent purchase experience. The majority are positive, but on occasion there is a complaint. To Jimmy John’s credit, they publicly address criticisms and asks the complainants to email the offending franchise information so JJ can fix it. Here’s an example:

K: I ordered delivery 45 mins ago and I'm still waiting. *sad face*

JJ: ‎*sad face* I personally apologize K, I didn't build the biz delivering slow! Send me which store and your contact info to facebook@jimmyjohns.com so I can fix it

Wow. And when a customer seems particularly hacked off, JJ gives a toll-free number so Jimmy John’s can personally talk to him. People love a company with a personal touch. Smart.

What I really like about the Facebook page, however, is how they create fan interaction. A recent Jimmy John’s post asked Fans to Find Your Jimmy-Rhyme. Fans are encouraged to post photos of Jimmy John’s rhyme billboards and busboards or write their own and post on the JJ Facebook wall. It’s generated scores of posts, yet surprisingly, only eight photos in its first 30 days. I expect it will pick up momentum.

Jimmy John’s leverages many of the available features on Facebook to keep their fans engaged and entertained, as well. From Polls to TalkinTummies to Videos, each application reinforces a positive brand experience. I was pleasantly surprised to see Fans can even order online on the JJ Facebook site. Brilliant!

Wisely, JJ maintains a steady stream of conversations with fans and critics alike on their Twitter feed and points people to their Facebook pages. Followers posts can earn a reply from Jimmy John’s and some are retweeted. Corporate and franchisees also tweet special promotions and announcements.

The Jimmy John’s JJ Freaker blog adds another dimension to the social media program. The only thing is, it doesn’t look, read or feel like a blog.  To me, it just look like another company website. It’s difficult to describe its purpose except maybe to serve as an aggregator of its Facebook and Twitter activities and to serve up special promotions. To me, it appears to be a failed attempt at embracing all social media tools.

The YouTube channel is another example and it’s a cautionary tale. Don’t jump into something if you can’t commit. The channel went completely stale freaky fast with no new content since its introduction on August 24, 2009. The site is abandoned. What happened? Did Jimmy John’s lay off the person responsible? People like me do stumble upon it via a search engine result, but we are quickly turned away because there’s nothing fresh there. With no one minding the store, not surprisingly, you will find a few f-bombs in the uncensored Comments section.

All-in-all, I give Jimmy John’s props. The integrated advertising and social media campaign does what it’s supposed to do. It keeps Jimmy John’s on the brain and whets your appetite for a freaky fast sub from America’s sandwich delivery experts. I think I’m going to have to lose my virginity real soon.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Cracking the Miracle Whip

I can visualize how this creative pitch went…

We have what we believe is a real breakthrough concept. We want to feature actors representing actual everyday consumers expressing their honest feelings about the taste of Miracle Whip. We will not censor the comments, so anything goes. We’re calling the campaign “Take a Side” and we’re going to let lovers and haters alike have their say. We’ve done some testing and we’ve confirmed your product is pretty polarizing. There are plenty of consumers in each camp. Miracle Whip is a product that elicits strong emotions and there’s not a middle ground. Here’s a sample:

“On a scale from 1 to 10, I hate Miracle Whip at like, 22.”

What the ^~&*%#?!  =  explosive cursing from everyone on the product team….

Actually, the advertising agency account and creative teams probably did a better job of setting the stage, but still, I’d expect there was a brutal and frank conversation before the client consented.

You have to give Kraft and the Miracle Whip brand teams credit: it is quite a risk, starting this social discussion on the taste of their product on the television screen and then taking it to the web. It’s a delicate balance: if the public senses a bias, the backlash would be swift, fierce and merciless.

To me, the commercial feels like it is equally weighted between lovers and haters. The negative comments are toned down after that rough opening, but there’s an element of honesty to what is expressed. I imagined viewers nodding their heads vigorously when their very thoughts were reflected in the ad.

Two memorable dislikes:

“Miracle Whip tastes like lotion, but sweet, and who wants a sweet lotion sandwich?”

“Miracle Whip tastes like disappointment. Like spreadable disappointment.”

And in the interest of equality, a couple of likes:

“Miracle Whip tastes like an exotic lady is kissing you, but she’s got a little bit of sugar around her mouth. And then at the ends she goes ‘caliente.’”

“It’s always great in the bedroom (wink), you know.”

Do you believe in Miracle Whip? Yes!

We’re not for everyone. Not many companies are willing to admit that their product may turn people’s stomachs, literally.

Where do you stand? Do you love Miracle Whip, or hate it? Vote here. If you love it, do you have a favorite sandwich or recipe? Share it in Comments.

Perhaps the Miracle Whip product team was sold on the social media elements of the campaign. The Miracle Whip channel on YouTube allows consumers to cast their “Love Us” or “Hate Us” vote and leave comments (currently, 14.5 to 1 in favor of Love). The feedback includes how people use the product. Smart. There’s also a link to the Miracle Whip page on Facebook which is north of 64,000 likes.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Hit me with your best shot

What’s up with gratuitous violence in commercials? We see all kinds of physical abuse in television advertisements in a vain attempt at humor. How has this become mainstream? Are companies and ad agency creative strategists that lacking in imagination and that desperate to get noticed that they take the PR dictum - any publicity is good publicity - and apply it to advertising?

A beer can beans an old man in the head. A soda can (intended for the husband), strikes a woman in the head. A boy nails his dad in the noodle with a baseball as he surfs the net on his cell phone (really?!). A beer bottle knocks a knight out.

Say, um, what’s that taste like?

Chicken. Why? What’s yours taste like?

“WHAP!” = a smack in the face.

That sounds good! Giggle. You got yourself a sandwich sir!

This exchange doesn’t (or shouldn’t) pass the gut check test. Really, it’s downright ridiculous and it’s not funny. Nor is it acceptable behavior; yet, where’s the outcry?

Crickets chirping.

Have you noticed it’s the guy most always taking the beating? Mock, denigrate and humiliate men. A male being bruised and abused is all the rage. Hitting below the belt, figuratively and literally, is common, be it insulting his intelligence, challenging his manhood, or whacking him in the nether regions with a walker, football or a lad’s fist.

This passes for CLIO-worthy advertising? How does an agency and company develop a campaign on this approach? How does any of it sell product? How does this behavior ingratiate a company with its customers and nearly half of the population i.e. men? How does it burnish the corporate and product brands?

I daresay it doesn’t. Descending to such base humor and behavior smacks of an absence of vision, strategy, differentiation, an understanding of your customers, or respect for their intelligence.

It’s a bad trend and it can’t end soon enough.

What’s your take? Do you disagree with me? Present your argument in the comments section. Hit me with your best shot.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Did Groupon put the dupe on you?

Come on, admit it. You fell for it, and maybe part of your indifferent reaction to special interest groups (SIGs) hammering Groupon is because you were fooled.

It’s a bit of bait and switch, but you don’t feel betrayed. There’s a driblet of cleverness to it. It’s clearly tongue-in-cheek with a splash of humor.

A Super Bowl ad? There was something fishy about this commercial from the start.

The discerning person understands Groupon isn’t trivializing any causes. Almost from the get-go, you can feel and see it in the tone of each commercial that everything isn’t what it seems. Your intuition is rewarded when the scenes change and Tim, Cuba and Elizabeth speak of special deals they earned by acting quickly on a Groupon offer.

I know what you’re thinking: isn’t my position on these commercials contradictory to my take on the HomeAway commercial in my previous post?

Not at all.

Save the money and have a whale of a good time watching leviathans jumping.

Groupon is a different case entirely. I argue that the Groupon commercials passed the tests the HomeAway “Test Baby” ad flunked miserably, and they did so with flying colors. Why? Because nothing in the Groupon commercials startle you or make you wince. The takeaway message is simple and memorable, and the subtle amusement of the ads draw smiles from most viewers. Brand affinity at worst stays neutral, but more likely is enhanced because the public appreciates wit drawn while walking a fine line.

Something else. While many of us may sympathize with the plight of the Tibetan people, few of us are actively involved or support their cause in any way. The same goes for whales and the demise of the Amazon rainforest. We’re too far removed from these important issues and until we feel the pain directly, we’ll stay passively interested. The organizations that stepped up and and buried the HomeAway “Test Baby” commercial represent issues that are far more personal. Probably 99% of us can sympathize with injury to a helpless and completely dependent infant and we all can comprehend the horrific lifelong consequences of a brain injury.

Regrettably, loud voices not of reason won out and Groupon has decided to stop running the commercials.

I suggest Groupon missed an opportunity to seize the upper hand and gain the support of those sympathizing the state of the Tibetan people, the Amazon rainforest and whales. All they had to do was promote a well-known organization that is aids each cause. Add a message at the bottom of each commercial with a web URL to donate, and, a promise that Groupon will match donations up to a total of, oh, I don’t know, something non-trivial, like, say, $1,000,000.

Problem solved.

Wax philosophical as you wonder….

Most evocative line in the series: “But not all deforestation is bad.” When Ms. Hurley reveals the Groupon savings is for a Brazilian wax at Completely Bare, the naked truth of its inference is quite titillating and elicits all kinds of emotions and reactions from both sexes.

Is she, or isn’t she? Or have we all been duped?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Don’t try this at Home(Away)

I get it. I understand the mindset that any publicity is good publicity. Brands are desperate to be in the conversation, and any conversation, good or bad, is better than no one talking about you. Celebrities, publicists, athletes, agents, politicians, advisors, CEOs, ad agencies. There is a certain segment of these populations that fear not being in the public consciousness. It’s a bit of desperation. An innate and insatiable insecurity that feeds on their soul. Sometimes, it drives them to make unwise decisions.

HomeAway’s Test Baby commercial is one of them.

Now don’t jump to conclusions. My objection has nothing to do with the notion that some morons delight in child abuse. Nor does it have anything to do with the horrific consequences of brain injuries. It’s not because I’m miserable or morose. On the contrary, I have a glass half full mentality and a keen sense of humor.

My fundamental dislike for the commercial lies in the obvious. It fails to meet some fundamentals of advertising. I’m going to focus on one: test.

Test Baby are the two most important words spoken in this commercial. I expect that the advertisement underwent a rigor of tests within the agency and client arenas. Whether or not there was much debate is immaterial. There were plenty of red flags ignored.

What about the common sense test, baby? I mean come on, did the test baby face plant visual pass anyone’s gut check test? Seriously? Even for the person with the most warped sense of humor, there had to be that gnawing feeling that this was distasteful, or at least a recognition that it was a bad idea.

What about the focus group test, baby? How many viewers flinched when the test baby hit the glass, then smiled or giggled in embarrassed relief when they remembered that the baby wasn’t real? How animated was the conversation amongst focus group participants and were the passions strongly divided?

What about the message test, baby? How many members of the test groups effectively articulated the intended key takeaways?

What about the brand affinity test, baby? Affinity is defined as a natural attraction, liking, or feeling of kinship. What do you think? How does the commercial on a whole make the target audience feel about the HomeAway brand? Did you take pause? Did HomeAway CEO Brian Sharples take pause?

FAIL: Test Baby face plant incites public passions.

Tests have a purpose and the results are not to be ignored or rationalized. A go decision should come back to how the commercial initiates the prospect to take a desired action. In this case, that would be to make a reservation with a property on the HomeAway website.

Somehow, I don’t think Test Baby drove folks to HomeAway.com to make a reservation. To express serious reservations with the commercial? More than likely, yes.

There’s plenty of conversation about this commercial, but it’s for all of the wrong reasons. Sorry HomeAway, but you flunked the test, baby.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Super Bowl adstravaganza™

Does anyone question that the advertising industry’s biggest day happens to coincide with the grandest sporting event on the planet? The 2011 Super Bowl enjoyed the largest viewing audience in television history according to the Nielson ratings. Advertisers and their agencies couldn’t be giddier. It’s the Super Bowl adstravanza™ and it’s become as anticipated and celebrated as the sports spectacular it funds.

Social media was abuzz with chatter about ads as they were airing. Mainstream and internet media hyped the commercials and many wrote extensive critiques along with links to advertiser’s YouTube sites.

I listened to sports and talk radio on Monday and heard as much banter about the ads as I did about the game.

It’s truly awesome and I love it.

For the big game, I parked myself on the sofa, laptop on my lap (where else?), and wrote briefs on most every commercial as it aired. Here’s my take on a few advertisements:

Stella Artois “Crying Jean” is a lovely commercial. A French male singer in a dusty bar croons a jazz love song. Haunting trumpet. Beautiful women moved to tears as he lays out his passion for her. "When I open my eyes, you were gone” as we see a visual of an empty Stella Artois glass. Expressions of agony and regret. Head drops down, then slowly lifts as he next whispers…“When I open my eyes,” cut to a full glass of Stella Artois being placed on a table, “we’re together” he picks up the full glass of Stella Artois and looks at it longingly, “again.” Applause. “Merci.” Stella Artois logo and tagline: She is a thing of beauty. The commercial? Yes, she is a thing of beauty.

Eminem may have stolen the evening serving as the spokesperson for Lipton and Chrysler. Who ever expected the rap artist to be a puppet for anyone, but that he is in the Lipton Brisk Ice Tea commercial. We hear the puppet Eminem explain his demands for being a spokesperson (hot chicks, video shot at his house, he writes and performs the music, he must actually like the product and the product must be renamed to include his moniker) as he strolls through a rolling change of scenery that depicts each demand. The visuals effects are sweet and the crisp humor keeps you engaged.

Eminem with a Brisk attitude about doing commercials

The Chrysler 200 commercial is breathtaking. Masterfully written, beautifully envisioned and superbly edited, the two minute commercial hails Detroit as anything but what you’ve heard and read. Eminem evokes one simple sentence, “This is the Motor City, and this is what we do.” Chills flowed from the base of my spine to the crown of my head. It’s a wow moment. The tagline: The Chrysler 200 has arrived. Imported from Detroit.

Wonderful video testimony to the spirit of Detroit. The iconic images of the Motor City rock.

The ad inspires the viewer to reconsider perceptions and understandings of the country’s most beleaguered city. Powerful.

CareerBuilder revived the “Working with Monkeys” campaign starring Griffin Creech with a new installment titled “Parking Lot”. You can’t lose when you put monkeys in suits in a commercial. Check out this short on how the commercial was pieced together. Mighty interesting.

The E*TRADE baby commercials were excellent, as usual.

The Bud Light spots didn’t do anything for me, but I found the Budweiser “Wild West” commercial entertaining.

Doritos. Are they so good a guy will lick another man’s fingers and rip a male co-worker’s pants off to inhale the crumbs off them? This commercial just did not work for me. The comedic intent fell flat, and as I heard someone else express, once you’ve seen the gag, it’s no longer funny. What a colossal waste of money IMHO.

Chevy Cruze. I loved the goodnight kiss commercial. As the guy drives home he fires up OnStar and requests a news feed to find out what his date, Jennifer French, just posted as her Facebook status. “Best first date ever” brings a smile to everyone’s face. Who amongst the social media generation doesn’t covet a Chevy Cruze with OnStar now?

The NFL Best Fans Ever commercial is a cruise down sitcom memory lane with a few currently airing shows sprinkled in. How much work went into inserting NFL team softwear, schwag and references throughout? Celebrating your audience. Simply brilliant.

NFL Best Fans Ever_SouthparkHey! We can’t miss the commercials!

I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a local advertiser props.  “You Can’t Spell Texas Without H-E-B”. Jack Ingram extolling the virtues of the Lone Star State may rank as one of the best local commercials of the Super Bowl adtravaganza.

There are so many other commercials worthy of mention, but alas, this post is long enough. To view all of the Super Bowl commercials in one convenient location, go here. Then come back and tell me which which ad is your favorite and why.

Monday, January 31, 2011

In harmoney with the environment

It may be one of the more bizarre creative executions ever in television advertising. The Toyota Prius “Harmony” commercial evokes memories of the Land of Oz with its use of people as metaphors of nature.

A white Prius drives the countryside. As it moves through the scenery, the sky brightens, grasses shimmer, and plants, flowers and trees blossom and presumably breathe easier - along with the butterflies - thanks to the environment-friendly Prius. The water flows clearer and the sky is a vibrant blue, all due to the cleaner emissions from the Prius tailpipe.

The visuals are striking. You can clearly see the link between humans and nature with the use of human beings (many appear to be children, and what is more precious than a child) outfitted as grass, plants, flowers, trees, butterflies, clouds and even the sun. The message is driven home: humans and nature are one and the same when it comes to the environment. We are all dependent on clean air, water and earth to thrive.

The song “Let Your Love Flow”, a #1 hit by the Bellamy Brothers back in the year of the U.S. bicentennial, is an inspired choice. It is performed by Petra Haden. Lifted from a Toyota tweet: She sings it acapella; every sound you hear, even the instruments are her.

The lyrics in this wonderful song impart a powerful message Toyota wisely wants associated with the Prius: if you let your love bind you to all living things, you’ll choose the Toyota Prius and help Mother Nature breathe easier.

“You get more power, and more space. The world gets fewer smog-forming emissions. The third generation Prius. It’s harmony between man, nature and machine.”

Have you, or will you purchase a Prius and let your cash, I mean, love flow to Toyota?