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 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.