All posts by John Scott G

John Scott G is a writer of non-fiction and fiction appearing in print, broadcast, and digital media. He frequently works in communications, which means marketing, advertising, and various forms of hype. He is a contributor to eNewsChannels, the Music Industry Newswire, the Advertising Industry Newswire, and others. Visit JohnScottG.com for more information. © John Scott G. (Note: The opinions expressed by The G-Man do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of this site or its publisher.)
Scott G Pencil Head

You Who Be Who’s Who: Direct Mail Blues

Advertising Industry Newswire COLUMN: You are invited! Yes, you! Because you are so very special! So very wonderful! So very important! So very bright and worthy and exciting! And because you will write a check to us! (A brief presentation of a way to make money by publishing biographical listings of people who are legends in their own minds.)

The title of this column does not mean I’m going to be singing scat or bebop. Rest assured, you need not fear that I will break out in an Ella Fitzgerald impression.

Instead, what is going to happen is a commentary on a type of confidence game that eventually shows up in everyone’s mailbox or online in-box. It’s nothing more than an “ego scam,” as one of my clients called it, but it can be very effective and very profitable. (It’s just not going to be profitable for you.)

We are going to examine a scheme that’s as old as time itself. It’s a fake-out that plays on the easily-held belief that each of us is a very special and important person if only someone would notice. It takes advantage of an inner desire to be thought of as exceptional in some magnificent and perhaps indefinable way, just like mom used to tell us.

Because everyone feels a little like this once in a while, it is possible for the unscrupulous to create a dodge or swindle that begins with flattery while absolutely dripping with deceit. And the deception will, of course, encourage you to part with some of your money.

The pitch can be made quite easily by sending you a letter, either using snail mail or e-mail. Let’s try it, shall we?

You Are Invited

Dear Mark Chumpe:

In recognition of your contributions within your community, it is our great pleasure to inform you of an exciting opportunity! Because of the extraordinary nature of your role, you are now under consideration by the prestigious Leadership Archive Memorial Enterprise for possible inclusion in the forthcoming edition of the Federal Archive Keepsake Edition of one of our most highly-respected quarterly publications. There is no cost to participate.

A Select Few of You!

Let us assure you that this great tribute is only offered to a very select few people! In fact, the roster of invitees is expressly limited to the exact number of names in our database, which, in turn, resides in the finite and limited list of people maintained by the United States Postal Service, an officially sanctioned entity of the U.S. Government.

Once acknowledged and accepted by you, the recognition and affiliation with our organization also entitles you to the vaunted Society Collegial Unique Membership (if you are a European resident) or the equally prominent Society Conservatory Altruistic Membership (if you reside in the United States of America). In either case, there is no cost to participate.

Additional Accolades

Naturally, all members, once certified, will also enjoy the privileges and honors that result from our many partnerships and relationships with highly respected societies, which include the Official Historic National Organization as well as the Committee Recognizing Advanced Professionals. Not to be overlooked is this distinction: you will further be promoted and recommended for possible inclusion in the Professionals Honors Edition Workbook. Once again, let us assure you that there is no cost to begin your participation.

Revel in the Honor

In view of your election, the forthcoming edition of the archive will include a professionally written biography of the highlights of your life and it will join the biographies of the world’s most accomplished individuals. This level of recognition is an accolade that is only shared by those executives and professionals throughout the world who have made the decision to join in the inclusion in these hallowed halls. We can truly say that this is one of the single highest marks of achievement.

Upon final confirmation, and with no cost to participate, you will be listed among other gifted personages in the Official Approbation Foundation, a truly notable compliment that cannot be expressed in mere words including the words in this very sentence!

Future Generations

To further ratify and codify your place among the list of those awarded praises in such a manner as are currently being offered to you, the fully bound volume containing your biographical details will be carefully sealed and entrusted to future generations. How is this possible?

By being placed in the keystone of the next new building constructed in the city that holds a rich place in our nation’s history: Vicksburg. Yes, stately Vicksburg, the “Gibraltar of the Confederacy.” There is absolutely no cost to participate. (For those wishing to avoid any association with Mississippi, the Confederacy, or the tortured history of the South, there will be a small fee to refrain from participating in this aspect of the program.)

Other Worlds

To additionally sanction and array your position amidst the honor roll of those being recognized in such a manner as is currently being offered to you, a second copy of a fully bound volume containing your biographical details will be carefully sealed and entrusted to future generations who may not even be of this earth. How is this possible?

By being placed in the next extra-planetary vehicle to be launched by Charter Communications, a highly-known provider of satellite television services. (For those wishing to avoid any association with potential alien life forms, and for those who deny that science and technology have been able to produce orbiting space vehicles, there will be a small fee to refrain from participating in this aspect of the program.)

No Cost to You

While you may have been wondering if there would be any cost associated with these extraordinary acknowledgements, let us assure you there is absolutely no cost to you. Unless, of course, you would like to take advantage of these exciting prospects of moving forward in order to realize all the connections, networking, interaction, camaraderie, affiliation, and relationships included in this opportunity. In that case, the introductory fee of $69.99 is almost too good to be true.

Your Future, Your Decision

It’s entirely up to you, of course, whether to move forward waving a beacon of success that can serve as a rallying cry to others, or to rest on one’s laurels without taking this one small step that can be so influential to one’s peers, distinguished colleagues, and those among the next generation who may even now be wavering in their resolve. Won’t you at least consider making the move toward triumph over adversity and distrust? We believe in you. And we humbly await your reply.

On behalf of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, our highly esteemed Honorary Executive Publisher Emeritus, we wish you continued success!

Sincerely,

Conrad Mann

Regional Executive Director

Regency International Premier Organization, Federal Fiduciary

P.S. If you’ve already received this e-mail from us, please feel free to respond again.

Acronym Inventory

Leadership Archive Memorial Enterprise (LAME)

Federal Archive Keepsake Edition (FAKE)

Society Collegial Unique Membership (SCUM)

Society Conservatory Altruistic Membership (SCAM)

Official Historic National Organization (OH NO)

Committee Recognizing Advanced Professionals (CRAP)

Professionals Honors Edition Workbook (PHEW)

Official Approbation Foundation (OAF)

 

Article is Copr. © 2012 by John Scott G (aka “The G-Man”) and originally published on AdvertisingIndustryNewswire.com – all commercial and reprint rights reserved.

Superbowl 2012 - KIA

Super Bowl Ads 2012: New Heights of Depths

Advertising Industry Newswire COLUMN: The ads in the 2012 Super Bowl had big production values and mostly good music. Missing were strong concepts and marketing savvy. With one exception, the Super Sunday telecast was a festival of lame, dumb, and insulting advertising. In other words, business as usual.
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Scott G Pencil Head

Mixed Messages at Super Bowl XLIV

COLUMN: There were more than two thousand seconds of commercial messages during the Super Bowl, each one costing around a hundred thousand bucks. And that’s just for the media buy; it’s not counting the production budgets for the spots. Well, that may be one reason why have-not nations hate us while wanting to be us.

There are other grounds for everyone to hate us. Hell, after seeing most of these ads, I hate us. What is more to the point, I am ashamed to admit that I have anything to do with the advertising profession. Other than making money from it, of course.

Okay, on to the ads.

Rogaine Hair Growth Scam Foam
The procession of hype got off to a tacky start with a cheesy bit of sleaze. This spot made everyone in the room say “eeauw.”

Callaway Golf Clubs
Nifty production with nice graphics and lots of fast cuts. The whole thing screams “high tech” but there’s no way to tell what the hell is going on. Why is the golf club good? Why should anyone care? Around here, we believe everyone who plays golf should be quickly killed (except for those who feel their death should be as slow as possible) so it’s difficult to give this ad the benefit of the doubt.

Hyundai Sonata

The Korean carmaker bought a whole fleet of commercials, all featuring cool and assured voiceover work from Jeff Bridges. The first spot offered some nice sheet metal shots. No big deal, but the car looked great. Another ad showed part of the automaker’s painting process. It made the Sonata look like it had about three inches of coating and convinced me to go see the car up close. In a wonderful change-up, one of their spots showed Brett Favre’s acceptance speech for the 2020 MVP award. As we were chuckling, Mr. Bridges gently reminded us that we cannot know about ten years in the future except for the fact that Hyundai’s 10-year warranty will still be in effect. Wonderful.

Bud Light, Budweiser, Michelob
Also purchasing a passel of promo announcements was Anheuser-Busch, the beer-making giant (nearly 50% of the U.S. market with 100 different brands). One of their Bud Light spots featured a house constructed out of the product, which probably made some folks laugh, in the same way that some people still laugh at SNL sketches. Another spot was a parody of “Lost,” which might be entertaining for those who watch “Lost.” One commercial was pretty cool, with party-goers’ voices filtered through an Antares Auto-Tune. A Michelob Light ad showcased Lance Armstrong and, well, I don’t know what the hell was going on in the ad (or I just was so unimpressed that I can’t recall any of it). One Budweiser spot seemed to suggest cross-species dating between a horse and bull; not certain what this has to do with beer. Another spot for Budweiser had people forming a human bridge to allow a Bud delivery truck to cross a stream. Why? How? Can you say “listen to the sound of crickets” while we wait for the nervous laughter? I mean, seriously, guys, WTF? People, why do you purchase products made by firms that hold you in such contempt? (And BTW, what’s with using Elmer Bernstein’s score for “Stripes” on the spot? It’s brilliant music, but for the licensing fee you could have hired an up-and-coming composer to create something new.)

Snickers
The idea of Betty White and Abe Vigoda playing on tackle football teams in the park is humorous. The idea. But not the script, direction, editing, or acting. Snickers left a bad taste in one’s mouth.

Pam and Tim Tebow
Here’s the controversial spot for anti-family-planning that rightwingnuts at CBS approved for some reason. Best line from the party when this spot finished: “If only Pam had been aborted we wouldn’t have to endure this.” (Image from spot, shown at left.)

Boost Mobile
Wow, talk about stupid ads. If ever there was a way to tell people you are an antiquated, out-of-date, know-nothing firm, it would be to use a nursery rhyme rap with irrelevant spokespeople like half-dead ex-Chicago Bears football players.

Robin Hood
Hey, look, they’re re-releasing the Kevin Costner movie! No? Oh, that must mean the Mel Brooks “Men in Tights” spoof is coming back with a portentous soundtrack. No? Well, it couldn’t be that Ridley Scott has now descended even lower than when he made a “Silence of the Lambs” sequel and is now doing a . . . dare I say it? . . . remake! How the mighty have fallen.

Doritos
Several spots, all snarky, but some got laughs, such as the one where a little kid slaps a would-be suitor to his mom. Others, such as a guy eating while inside a coffin, had the effect of equating Doritos with the urge to vomit.

GoDaddy.com
I like cheesecake, pretty girls, and double entendres as much as the next guy, but most of the GoDaddy.com spots are just so-so. They work at getting your attention, but they tell you little about the company. However, I use GoDaddy.com for my web site hosting and since they provide superb customer service every time I call with a question, I am going to give them a pass. (Now, if they could only get THAT point across in one of their commercials.)

Bridgestone Tires
These folks are a puzzle to me. They have a product that interests me and almost every guy who drives a car or truck. They spend a ton of money producing their commercials. Yet they never show their tires or demonstrate any product benefit. What’s up with that? A speeding truck skids and spins to a halt. A speeding car safely stops on a slick highway. Yeah, so? Unless you tell me why a Bridgestone tire does this more efficiently, effectively, more safely, or for less money, I’m going to buy Goodyear or Michelin or Continental or Pirelli or anybody that tells me something about tread, traction, handling, etc.

Cars.com
Ultra-successful guy’s life is shown but it turns out he’s nervous about buying a car. So Cars.com is his choice to resolve that problem. It made me smile and it showed how their service might help me in the future. Of course, since it doesn’t feature people acting stupidly, it won’t win any audience polls. But it will HELP SELL THE PRODUCT, which some people in this industry seem to have overlooked.

Careerbuilder.com

We are as grossed out as the spot’s narrator as he tries to avoid looking too closely at the work force showing up in underwear for “casual day.” So I’d try to find another job, too. But how does this demonstrate that Careerbuilder.com is the place for the job search? Hey, maybe he landed this bad job through that site.

Dockers
Immediately following the underwear brigade was the “I wear no pants” patrol. It’s like when you open the newspaper movie section and see ads for “Legion” and “Tooth Fairy” and they both feature a guy with large white wings.

Dove for Men
YGTBFKM. This abomination appears designed to drive men away from the products. Perhaps the idea is to convince women they should buy this crap for their husbands and boyfriends.

Dodge
Oh wait, now YGTBFKM. Really, this must be seen to be believed. The message of the commercial is: whipped guys drive Dodge.

Acura ZDX
Great music track and nice shots of the vehicle. Okay, it’s not award-winning and won’t score high in the polls. But it will make me check out the car. Correct me if I’m wrong but I thought that was the point of doing a commercial.

Living Spaces and Carl’s Jr.
Ahh, local dreck bringing everything down a notch with their cheapo craptacular approach to advertising.

Carmax
Wait, here’s a national spot that is confusing and stupid. Something about animals watching auto sales on television? The marketing team was combining Jim Beam with lysergic acid diethylamide.

Monster.com
Okay, there’s this violin-playing beaver. It’s funny already, right? Yeah, so, he plays for tips in the street and then uses Monster.com to move up in the world, until he plays Carnegie Hall and ends up cavorting in a hot tub with a predatory blonde.

Wrap Up:
There were several million more commercials in the broadcast, but they made me so sick to my stomach that I stopped watching. Anyone who endures that much crap is a moron or owns stock in one of the advertising firms. Ain’t that America.

Scott G dislikes badvertising

Communication Nation: Badvertising Strikes Big Corporations

COLUMN: Oil rigs, city lights, rock bands, icebergs, crummy animation, and on-camera presenters wearing perfect make-up and phony smiles all made appearances in the 10 commercials that ran during Sunday morning’s episode of “Face the Nation.” But what were they selling, and to whom were they selling it?

ExxonMobile
Before discussing their slickly produced spot, it might be beneficial to remember that this is a company so huge that it continued making profits even after paying more than three-and-one-half billion dollars in a futile attempt to make the Exxon Valdez oil spill fade from public consciousness. This is not just a mere conglomerate, it is an empire. The online realm of ExxonMobile has a charmingly misleading statement on the corporate page of their Web site: “We are the world’s largest publicly traded international oil and gas company, providing energy that helps underpin growing economies and improve living standards around the world.”

With all that in mind, a commercial would have to be spectacular to stop an intelligent viewer from frowning when their red logo pops up on the screen. And their advertising is far from spectacular. This particular spot is a brightly-lit conglomeration of live action and computer generated animation. It is also devoid of any humanistic touches, including the nervously grinning doofus who reads the scripted words of praise about “breakthrough technology…to access cleaner burning natural gas…to heat 50 million homes for almost a decade.”

Okay, first of all, showing us Erik Oswald, a “Senior Research Geoscientist,” is on the same level as hiring an unknown character actor and dressing him up like a doctor. And second, if what he was reading to us were true, don’t you think it would be making headlines? Especially now, when so much economic news about homes is negative.

This commercial, part of an odious series, is pure misinformation. As such, it should be studied in communications classes right alongside the work of Joseph Goebbels, head of the Reich Ministry for People’s Enlightenment and Propaganda.

Peter G. Peterson Foundation
As if mocking the corporate porn of the ExxonMobile spot, the next commercial pointed out the dangers of “$56 trillion in unfunded retirement and healthcare obligations” and stated that “America must chart a more responsible fiscal course.”

Naturally, it’s easy to be on the side of an organization dedicated to calling attention to “large and growing budget deficits, dismal national and personal savings rates, and a ballooning national debt that endangers the viability of Social Security, Medicare, and our economy itself,” as they say on their site, www.pgpf.org. In addition, the look of their commercial is magnificent, with deep-focus views of icebergs, clouds, ships, and choppy seas stretching to the horizon, all in that ultra-rich color cinematography that looks like steel which has been polished to the point of appearing translucent.

However, the whole thing doesn’t accomplish anything other than directing people to their site for more information. Perhaps it fails because of context. If you’re in the same room with such practiced liars as Goebbels or even Frank Luntz, his modern-day equivalent, your statements might fall a little flat even if you’re telling the truth.

Chevron
More flashing lights of overcrowded cities, plus disingenuousness galore, including a disarming statement that “this isn’t a liberal or conservative issue” and a plea that we use less energy, both of which are odd coming from a leader in one of the most rapacious industries on the planet. The clean look of the production is notable but strange under the circumstances. Because they think you are a complete moron, they direct you to visit this odd site: willyoujoinus.com. As if.

IBM
With quick bursts of images, both live action and animated, this spot is an ode to the beauty of mathematics. “Let’s build a smarter planet,” they say. Well, okay. Tell me more or show me where to go to get started. It can’t just be a matter of buying IBM products.

Toyota
At last, a spot that leads to something affirmative. The message of the spot is simple: less negativity, more positive action. If you want to join them, you can get a ton of interactive information at toyota.com/whynot.

Bank of America
Why is an insolvent bank advertising on network television, I ask myself and everyone involved in the bailout. That said, the spot is beautifully made, with glowing photography, smooth editing and excellent music.

T. Rowe Price
Oil rigs at sea in animation and live action. For an investment company. Okay, I guess. Does that mean TRP invests in oil rigs? Am I supposed to get a secure feeling from this?

Oil and Gas Industry
Yup, here’s an ad from a lobbying organization. How does it feel to have corporate whores presenting you with a dog-and-pony show? Perhaps that should be called a dog-and-pony-up-some-money show. They even have the gall to invite you to go online to read more of their lies at energytomorrow.org. Talk about lack of regulation: the org domains were supposed to be for legitimate nonprofit organizations, not shills for humongous corporate entities engaging in pillaging the earth.

American Chemistry Council
Farms in the country, construction in the city. And more city lights! Medical procedures followed by kids playing. The American flag and NASA. Lipstick. What? Yes, lipstick. It’s all of “What’s essential 2 American life.” When the cosmetics appear, there’s a super that reads “essential2american beauty.” If you go to the American Chemistry Council Web site, you see that they “make the products that help keep you safe and healthy and create a brighter future for you and your family.” Aww, doesn’t that just melt your heart? “We are nearly one million men and women dedicated to making sure you have what you need for today and tomorrow.” Things like sarin, hydrogen cyanide, cyanogen chloride, napalm, agent orange. . . .

Microsoft
This was the weirdest of them all. With quirky animation designed to resemble a USC student film circa 1974, we hear a badly recorded interview with Bob McKnight, head of Quiksilver, makers of clothing for surfing, skating, or snow riding. He is asked about the “economic tsunami” and his first answer is “Um,” which the animators gleefully spell out across the screen “Ummmmmmmm.” Despite the frivolous nature of the visuals, the interview topics turn serious. “Watch the management of your assets very carefully.” Well, duh. “Without technology, we would be nowhere, it helps you to still rip it up.” Well, WTF. Then the spot concludes by telling you to “ask for people_ready enterprise solutions.” Right, “people underscore ready.” This is bad_advertising.

[tags]bad advertising, television marketing, bad TV commercials[/tags]

Scott G speaking at an industry function

Communication Nation: Ads Unimpressive During the OSCAR Fiasco

COLUMN: Sure, the 81st Academy Awards show was a disaster, but millions watched anyway (train wrecks are darn entertaining) so the advertisers reached a big audience. Did the ad messages overcome the stench of the show? There’s no way they could, what with Hugh Jackman’s embarrassing dance parodies and the clusterflock acting award presentations.

Not to mention Beyonce’s lip-synch disaster, John Legend not bothering to find the melody of his number, Queen Latifah’s Auto-Tune nightmare, and a horrid setting that seemed to be constructed from remains of a going-out-of-business sale at the El Monte Lamps ‘n’ Lights Bargain Barn.

Just a side note on the biggest loser of the night: Twentieth Century Fox, whose board must be praying that the young audience for “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” will not visit YouTube to see the putrid “musical performances” by Jackman. Despite multiple shout-outs that “the musical is back,” most viewers had a somewhat different reaction: “the musical is crap.”

On to the hype. I mean the ads.

TOP FIVE

JC Penney
With seven commercials, the big retailer was in almost every spot cluster. I don’t know much about young women’s fashions other than they are sometimes difficult to unbutton, but the stuff looked good to me and the music video-style production was just fine. My guess is that these commercials resonated with their target audience in a powerful way.

American Express
The credit card company continued its “if it’s good enough for celebs, it’s good enough for the likes of you” campaign, this time using Dave Matthews, Gwyneth Paltrow, Brian Grazer and Tina Turner to flack for the firm. I hate to admit it, but this approach probably works really well. People are sheep, so herd ‘em along using famous faces.

Maytag
A monster truck runs over a bunch of Maytags and they keep right on working. Almost everything inside of me says this is wrong, except it is right on target for their positioning as the “keeps on working” appliances. So, okie-doke, it works. Co-op tie-in with Tide at the end was annoying (oh look, the ad’s over, oop, no it’s not, there’s an ad-within-an-ad).

Mastercard
Four spots, all different, but each with the “cost/priceless” campaign. One had a dog peeing, which seemed a bit off-putting for my living room, but the story of people helping the lost dog cross the country was pretty cool. And their final spot of the evening was a real gem, as it showed how different types of music can transform us every time we listen.

(Sorry, there weren’t enough good ones to make up a “top five.”)

THE ALSO-RANS

Hyundai
There were eight commercials from Hyundai. Eight! Sheesh, talk about overkill. All right, two of them were entertaining. Or I should say one of them, because it was the same spot shown in two versions. Both featured superb test track footage of their Genesis Coupe hauling ass, first to music by Yo-Yo Ma and later to music by Smashing Pumpkins. Cool presentation, and I liked the look of the car. The other six spots were silly. Yeah, the carmaker won an award. So what. And devoting five commercials to saying please buy one of our cars even though you might lose your job soon (which is what their Assurance and Assurance Plus programs are all about) is just depressing. Coming from a foreign auto company, it also makes me want to say f#@k you, Hyundai.

Sprint
You know those beautifully photographed spots where the overpaid muckity-muck from Sprint tells us what we already know about our cell phones? This was another one of them.

Diet Coke
Who the hell is Tom Colicchio and what does he have to do with Diet Coke? I could go on and on about the stupidity of using borrowed interest in commercials, but why give any more space to this bit of silliness. There were also a couple spots featuring Heidi Klum in a red mini-dress. Mrs. Seal looked sensational, which I guess is tie-in enough for a diet cola ad, but the ad itself was a mess.

McDonald’s
Reminder ads are a whole other breed. You don’t have to show the product, just the logo. If you’ve got addicts, oops, I mean regular customers, they’ll respond to the iconic image.

Carl’s Jr.
Yup, the two fast fooders were back-to-back in the same cluster. The tone is always crass with these guys, so there’s no confusion between the two peddlers of fat-and-sodium, but you’d think they would want at least one bad car commercial in between them.

Vons
Great-looking spot. Kind of like the old Target ads that showed oodles of product in a free-from-dirt environment. It’s an attractive approach, but it’s too bad their markets don’t look like the commercial.

Infinity
Hands in sand, cars on the road. Yup, makes perfect sense to me. Nice music, worthless commercial.

True North
Nuts. Well, they make nuts, but their campaign doesn’t show the product. Instead, they concentrate on mini-documentaries about people doing good things in the world. I admire their backing of worthy causes. But what about their snacks?

The Proposal
New Sandra Bullock movie. I love Sandra Bullock, and I’ll see it when it comes to HBO. Or Showtime. So, is advertising on the Oscar telecast really money well spent? Media buys are important, people.

BOTTOM OF THE BARREL

Mercedes-Benz
Hey, nimrods, this is the second month of the year two thousand nine. There is no f#@king way you can be advertising a 2010 model. Idiots. As for the production, it was excellent. Lovely EU locations, a great look, strong editing, and nifty music – all for a useless product (another SUV for peabrained folks who are desperately seeking to purchase a sense of self-worth).

Wynn
“Look, some jerk is sitting on a building and then the fake helicopter pulls back to show that it’s a really big building.” Yeah, that’s classic advertising, especially since it was produced on the level of a local used car spot.

Bertolli
A silly and annoying spot with an oaf chef badly singing opera. See, it’s an Italian food product. Italian. Opera. Get it? Mental note to self: if the marketing is this lazy, they probably don’t make good food.

GTF
Excellent product I.D. in this spot: the GTF logo was everywhere! Unfortunately, the commercial was for the Blackberry Curve. GTF, WTF?

The Soloist
Confusing movie trailer. As I understand it, the plot concerns a crusading writer, an insane cellist, street performers, and instrument maintenance. Yup, it’s a must-see evening of cinematic wonder.

Audi
They had a couple spots for an unnecessary SUV. Both mentioned “identity theft” for no discernable reason. One seemed to be about a parking garage stalker, while the other may have been about a mentally challenged kid getting picked up after school. Note to production companies: excellent cinematography doesn’t make up for poor scripts.

Coke
The real thing had three commercials, one a gargantuan production that showed someone imagining Coke everywhere he looked, the second dealing with some sort of scholarship, and the third a well-edited but disgusting spot that seemed to say Coke was recycled from garbage. Don’t large companies hire legitimate communications firms to handle their advertising? Apparently not.

SHORTS

Here’s the conglomeration review of the other spots: a “Dancing with the Stars” promo was really well done, especially considering it’s for a show that is entirely disposable; a “Jimmy Kimmel Live” promo with Jimmy and Tom Cruise was actually pretty funny and accurately reflected the off-the-wall humor of the show; a Tide spot had someone doing a parody of Paul Lynde; a Zyrtec commercial showed people enjoying their lives in almost every type of allergy situation imaginable and was therefore pretty darn effective; an Orencia pharma spot had qualifiers that were longer than the pitch message; a Microsoft Windows commercial demonstrated that their product is designed for four-year-olds; a T-Mobile spot proved their product is ideal for lost idiots and losers; and a Hoover vacuum commercial featured a clean freak who was in paradise when discovering there’s a new line of products called the Hoover Platinum Collection.

WRAP-UP

With just a couple of exceptions, creativity is still sinking to new lows in the communication industry, and what passes for “entertainment” in advertising is pretty disillusioning. This business used to be exciting until the hacks and bean-counters took over.

[tags]advertising, marketing, commercials, Oscars[/tags]

Scott G watching himself watching himself

Communication Nation: Not-So-Super Super Bowl Ads 2009

COLUMN: An exciting Super Bowl game may be great for sports fans but it is weird for those of us in marketing, advertising, publicity and communications. The ads and promotions are the whole point of the afternoon and a good game just gets in the way. Anyone watching NBC during the day would have seen four or five pre-game shows, each lasting approximately as long as the Civil War, but finally, the big event started.

Well, the game started. Run, pass, block, kick, etc. etc. etc. Then it was on to the main attraction, the eleven bazillion commercials. Well, supposedly only 67 ads, but it sure felt like more.

Standing out for me were the car spots, like the one with the crashes, and all the ads with people saying really incredibly stupid things. Wow, that made for an absolutely hilarious good time and certainly did a lot to raise the public’s attitude about our profession.

Okay, on to the ads.

Hyundai
There were three commercials for Hyundai, one of which was exciting visually (brightly colored vehicles going impossibly fast) and aurally (Smashing Pumpkins on the soundtrack). The commercial invited viewers to edityourown.com although that site takes so long to load that I’m certain it drives people away. Another was a well-produced montage of rival auto makers shouting “Hyundai?!” as they read about some award the Korean manufacturer had received. The ad was well-produced but insipid. Their last one was meant to be comforting and humanistic, I guess, but instead was just a downer as it condescendingly says “buy a Hyundai and if you lose your income we’ll let you bring it back” or words to that effect. Tell you what, why don’t I just keep my current car and then none of us will have a problem. Besides, since everyone was paying $100,000 a second to run their spots, I don’t have a lot of faith in their fiscal judgment.

Audi
Slam-bang excitement as Jason Statham is on the run through several decades and many other makes of cars until the Audi A6 sedan comes through for him. Big production, superb direction, crisp editing and dynamite audio. Plus, it made me want to go test drive the car. Hey, a commercial that actually achieved a change in the audience. The work of Venables Bell & Partners in San Francisco, this one is worth repeated plays.

Doritos
PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay division launched two commercials, one very funny, the other very, um, what’s the word I’m searching for here. . . oh, I know: stupid. The good one had the crunch of the product altering people, places and things until the predictable ending where the product user/abuser got his comeuppance.

Some Beer
Conan O’Brien starred as himself as he considered doing a commercial that his agent claims will only be seen in Sweden. We see the horrible spot, as do his fans, and O’Brien is openly ridiculed. The commercial was supposedly about beer, but I don’t see how.

Bridgestone
It’s difficult to believe that the Richards Group was responsible for this drivel involving Mr. Potato Head in one spot and some astronauts in another. Hey, I like tires and tread and cornering and traction. If you tell me stuff about that, I’ll pay attention. I positively do not purchase tires because of Mr. Potato Head or space travel. These are truly bad commercials. Although the outer space one did have “Jump Around” by House of Pain as the music track. Retro-Cool sounds, man.

Monster.com and their competitor
The Monster.com ad made me laugh out loud and I hadn’t even gotten to the tequila yet. With an operatic aria on the soundtrack, the camera lovingly moves through a nice office with a moose head on the wall. Then it keeps on going to show the cubicle next door where the rest of the moose has its business end right in the face of the chair moistener assigned to that desk. Yup, time to post your resume on Monster, dude. Later in the program, competitor Careerbuilder.com vomited up an ad that was mindless in the extreme, with the same lines repeating ad nauseam. Hard to fathom how the once-great Wieden & Kennedy could be responsible for this reprehensible piece of dreck. Unless, of course, Careerbuilder is for people whose sole attribute is being able to say “Would you like fries with that?”

Cars.com
Here’s a mini-epic of a guy who oozes confidence and success but who quakes at the thought of negotiating to buy a car. The facts provided by Cars.com are the cure for this problem. Nice spot, nicely done. DDB Chicago done good with this one.

Toyota
Although the production is terrific, unfortunately the ad is for another unnecessary moronmobile, the Venza. And this is from an auto company that’s supposed to know what it’s doing. I guess the idea is that since they’re helping the planet with the Prius they can also go after the troglodyte crowd that has to pad their own egos with an SUV.

Castrol Motor Oil
Monkeys and motor oil? Not a good mix. Although it was nice that the soundtrack features the title cut from Iron Butterfly’s 1968 “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” album.

Coca-Cola
“Mean Troy” puts Troy Polamalu into the part made famous by Pittsburgh Steelers legend “Mean” Joe Greene as he limps into the tunnel on his way to the locker room. But this is for Coke Zero, which, um, is different, and so, uh, different stuff happens, some of which makes you laugh, but I still don’t know anything about Coke Zero. The company also had a long animated spot in which insects steal a Coke from a nice guy and do icky stuff with it. Not sure how this helps make me interested in their product. There was also a Coke ad where people shape-shifted into and out of their online avatars. Coke helped two of them meet each other. Well, I know that my avatar is always thirsty and likes meeting pretty girl avatars, but I’m suspicious that the owners of those avatars are less like Scarlet Johansson and more like Comic Book Guy on The Simpsons.

Beer again
There were more stupid spots for some beer company that shall remain nameless. The commercials seemed to be telling us that horses make their beer, or horses like their beer, or horses sweat into their beer. Or something. A total waste of money IMHO but then I drink Red Stripe or Guinness (thank heavens I can admit that now that they’ve switched to really cool commercials with terrific pulsating electronic music).

Denny’s
Making fun of the kiddie-style breakfasts at their competitors, Denny’s is still ripping off The Sopranos. But they got across the point that they have a serious breakfast.

3D Extravaganza
This was a joke, right? Apparently, 3D stands for dim, dumb and dubious. First, it was nearly impossible to find the damn glasses. After going to a Von’s, two Ralph’s, a Fry’s and a Target, I finally located a floor manager who said they had them at Customer Relations (you know, the Return Counter). It took her 128 seconds to detach two pair of glasses for me. The press materials claimed that 125 million pairs of glasses were being distributed, so at 64 seconds per pair, that’s eight billion wasted seconds for the USA work force. No wonder we’re in an employment crisis. The 3D ads for “Monsters vs. Aliens,” SoBe Water, and an episode of “Chuck” were an embarrassment. The picture was dark, the screen dynamics were on the level of bad storyboards, and there’s more 3D excitement in every panel of “Doonesbury,” which is a 2D comic with witty dialogue but little action. Ya gotta love the publicity department for Pepsi’s SoBe, however, as they had this to say about their silly spot with an angry version of the Geiko gecko: Their ad is a “modern interpretation of the famed ballet Swan Lake, and the rhythmic effects when the players and creatures are infused with the refreshing and reinvigorating impact of SoBe Life Water.” What a load of BeEs.

GoDaddy
Both of their spots pandered to juvenile male sexual fantasies, so naturally I loved them. Brilliant work, guys. Each one directed viewers to godaddy.com for “more” or the “uncut” versions. All righty, I visited godaddy.com and sure enough, you could view the commercials in their TV versions or the “Hot” Internet versions. But the company is making a fundamental error here. There isn’t anything even remotely hot about the Internet versions. There’s nothing in them that couldn’t have aired on broadcast TV. They promised titillation and instead delivered an episode of Hannah Montana. But, you know, without the hot parts.

G
Oh yes, I just love it when a company spends a lot of money to promote my name. Turns out this is actually for Gatorade but there’s no way you would know that from the ad.

Bud Light
Guy in shirtsleeves carries a six-pack of Bud Light Lime through a raging winter location and it turns into summer. Okay, I’ll go along with that. The demographic that buys American beer would probably get this and like the idea.

This. That. The Other.
Man, there were a lot of ads. Some were okay. Chevron did their animated talking car thing with the nice Hector Elizondo voiceover at the end. AT&T showed their spot with the dad on a business trip sending home photos of his kid’s monkey doll. H&R Block showed us Death not getting good tax advice. Funny concept.

Stupidity
There was no end of folly in this year’s crop of ads. E-Trade had their idiotic talking baby. General Electric had a modern animatronic scarecrow with Ray Bolger singing “If I Only Had a Brain” to convince consumers that, um, well, that they like “The Wizard of Oz” I guess. Who knows with that company’s ridiculous advertising. Pepsi had a sophomoric parody of an action adventure show. Or was it Coke? No one knows or cares. Teleflora had something about flowers being delivered in a box instead of by a person. WTF? Who sends flowers in a box? Cheetos had an ad with an animated lion and some annoying people being attacked by birds. Again, WTF? Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes showed growing plants, as if that would convince anyone to buy sugar-coated cereal. Heineken keeps sticking with their bad Franz Kafka ads utilizing formerly good actor John Turturro. Infinity hates their own autos so much they’re back to showing other things for most of the spot, in this case, someone swimming. Cash4Gold was doing some sort of parody of a bad rap video.

And on it went. I’ve left out a bunch of them, but only because I just don’t care any longer. Anti-creativity, anti-innovation, and anti-entertainment were often the order of the day.

[tags]advertising, marketing, commercials, Super Bowl, 3D[/tags]

Scott G on iPod with Rings - Phil Hatten Design

Communication Nation: Apple Wins Olympic Gold

COLUMN: Billions in bucks are being paid out to be official sponsors of the Beijing Olympic Games but there is already one big winner: Apple. Capitalism comes to communist China and both ideologies are the worse for it. According to Advertising Age magazine, sixty-three sponsorship and/or partnership arrangements have been made between corporations and the Beijing Olympics, with a reported four to six billion dollars changing hands for the privilege of getting into bed with the repressive regime.

Just to keep that dollar figure in perspective, it is somewhere between $4,000,000,000 and $6,000,000,000. But I don’t believe that counts the local ads we’re all enduring here at home. Taken altogether, it is a stunning waste of time, energy, talent, and economics.

Scott G on iPod with Rings - Phil Hatten Design
Scott G on iPod with Rings - Phil Hatten Design
All anger aside, I will admit it is entertaining to watch the pandering on the part of the world’s corporations. Invite friends over to play a few rounds of Whose Ads Are the Scummiest? No extra points for the firms with the most dubious relationship to athletics, including Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Budweiser, and BHP Billiton. (Don’t recognize that last one? Talk to anyone living near one of their gargantuan land-defacing mine operations if you’d like to learn about that collection of friendly folks.)

Once past the silliness of the ads for John McCain, we’re left to blur our eyes at hype for Panasonic, Samsung and General Electric; Nike, Adidas, and Kodak; Volkswagen, Visa, and UPS; Johnson & Johnson, Staples, and Lenovo (China’s largest PC manufacturer, as far as I know). It’s mind-numbing, all this scratching for awareness, buzz, mindshare, and brand identity.

There is one clear winner in the Bei-ca-ching advertising and branding sweepstakes…

Apple.

Yes, I know they don’t appear to be on any of the lists of official partners, sponsors or suppliers. Yes, I know they don’t seem to be purchasing any ads. But what is the one thing viewers keep seeing on such athletes as super swimmer Michael Phelps? The distinctive white ear buds of Apple’s iPod.

This may be the finest example of product placement in world history. And it may have cost Apple absolutely nothing.

How do we know those ear buds are attached to an Apple product, I hear someone ask. Couldn’t they actually hook up to a Zune?

Well, no.

First of all, Michael Phelps is a winner.

Second, and most important, it doesn’t matter if they’re hooked up to an Apple product, a Zune, or nothing at all (sorry to repeat myself). The point is that Apple owns the white cord and buds so when you see them, you think “Apple.” I do believe they call that part of the branding thing.

It takes big brains but it doesn’t necessarily take a big budget.

Photo of John Scott G by Snook/Immedia Wire Service.

[tags]Beijing, Olympics, Michael Phelps, Apple, iPod, Zune, marketing, branding, Scott G, The G-Man[/tags]

Communication Nation: Missing Janet

With caustic comments about the addled advertising and mixed marketing messages in Super Bowl XXMVIILVXIVIVMVVVIII or whatever, Scott G also offers a Remembrance of Super Bowls Past.

Call me old fashioned, but I’m having trouble dealing with the new and improved Super Bowl. The idea of an exciting game instead of the snore-fests of yore takes some getting used to. And the concept of having a team of liars soundly thumped by a two-touchdown underdog is the kind of thing you expect in a Hollywood movie, not in today’s world of greed-evil sporting events.

However, I’ll try to cope. After all, it was terrifically satisfying to see those cheating weasels get their comeuppance in the last minute of the contest. And what a thrill to watch the NYG defensive unit smash into a QB whose primary attributes are arrogance, preening, and smirking. As an added plus, we got to view the public humiliation of the architect of his team’s chicanery, the most overrated coach in all of sports, a guy who will be forever known as a bloated douche bag, and a man who turns the phrase “work ethic” into an oxymoron.

And yet I yearn for the days of old, when you could rely on the game to be just a prolonged scrimmage in between the main objective of the day: outrageous and overpriced advertisements. When the game is actually interesting, the ads get short shrift.

Besides, I miss Janet Jackson’s breast and Prince’s thrusting guitar moves. Those were eye-popping events. Each delivered the kind of adrenaline jolt that halftime shows often need. In today’s super sanitized Super Bowl, everything is so watered down and censored and inspected and ratified and expurgated and who-knows-what-all that the only eyebrow raising moment was when the arrow part of Tom Petty’s logo penetrated the heart part. Oooh, sexual innuendo in the rock-and-roll section of the broadcast, what a concept.

The Ads
What? Oh, yes, the advertising. The primary purpose of the event. Right, right. Well, the commercials and promos were less than stellar but not as offensive as last year. Trouble is, very few of them managed to do what advertising is supposed to do: advertise.

Beer
Yes, there were beer ads. And more beer ads. And still more beer ads. One of them spoofed “Rocky.” One was a cross promotion for the next forgettable Will Ferrell film. There were others. They were about beer. What’s the big deal?

Geico
This commercial was a funny blend of live action hottie (Naomi Campbell) and CGI lizards dancing to the 25th Anniversary Edition of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Delightful. One teensy tiny little problem: the ad wasn’t for Geico. It was for. . . well, that’s my point.

Human Growth Hormone
Silly spot about how jockeys can become as large as Shaquille O’Neal. Presumably, if you slip steroids to your horse, you can still win races. Or something. This may or may not have been for whoever bought the Geico ad (see above).

Justin Timberlake
Just teasing us now. No Janet Jackson. No wardrobe malfunction. Just Timberlake’s stunt double getting tossed, tumbled, jerked around, and pummeled. Might have been for a teen product as there was a young girl in it at the end.

Fox
Much as I loathe everything about the Fox organization, I have to admit to enjoying their Sarah Connor Terminator robot beating up on that stupid bouncing NFL robot.

Audi
New car or just a new body style? Whatever, it looked great. Not that we saw much of it because most of the spot was a lovely parody of the horse’s-head-in-a-bed scene from “The Godfather.” Having Alex Rocco scream at the sight of engine grime on his hands was funny. They are fortunate that the auto looks spectacular because otherwise it would have been easy to associate the grease-and-oil with the R8.

ETrade
Couple of spots, both silly, and one gross. The point of their baby-speaks-with-an-adult-voice is, um, well, that immature people use ETrade? That ETrade is so easy even a caveman could use it? That ETrade has a moron in charge of their marketing?

CareerBuilder
Stupid is as stupid does. A lot of people should be fired over this fiasco. Say, aren’t these the cretins who got rid of the agency that created breakthrough work for them last year? What a waste of time, energy and money.

Gatorade for Dogs
A dog slobbers up the stuff. Ummm, must be delicious! Wonder if they make it for humans?

Bridgestone
Oddly enough, these commercials never once mentioned their exploitive business practices around the globe. Instead, they concentrated on drivers almost running over animals. Oh, also Alice Cooper and Richard Simmons.

Coca-Cola
Two spots, both pretty nifty. One featured oversized balloons from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, with the inflatables battling to see who could grab the Coke bottle balloon. It was a beautiful balloon ballet. The other was also charming, as two political rivals (acerbic Democratic advisor James Carvelle and neo-fascist Bill Frist) bond over a coke.

FedEx
Big production offering very little results. The point of the spot is that FedEx delivers packages better than gigantic pigeons. Yes, kiddies, there are adults who get paid to come up with idiocy like that.

GoDaddy.com
A teaser to get you to go to their site and watch the censored ad. Worked like a charm and produced an astonishing number of hits, even during the game.

SalesGenie
WTF?

Planters
Funny skit with an unattractive girl wowing everyone because she smells like Planters nuts. Very entertaining. Mental note to self: avoid buying Planters until the imagery of this spot fades from memory. But very humorous ad, guys.

Taco Bell
Fiesta platters. Umm, looks good. Going out for some fast food now.

Communication Nation: We Are Now Transmitting Directly to Your Brain

After predicting direct-to-brain advertising years ago, Scott G takes a look at the latest schemes to beam advertising and marketing communication inside your skull.

It seems like science fiction or the kind of thing mental patients scream about: “I hear messages in my head!” But it will be happening to you very soon.

The technology to beam audio communication directly into your cranium is already available from two companies. American Technology Corporation (“Shaping the future of sound”), and Holosonic Research Lab (“Put sound where you want it”), have two different systems but both quietly blast messages into your mind.

San Diego-based American Technology Corporation (ATC) offers the HyperSonic system, while Massachusetts’ Holosonic Research Lab (HRL) features Audio Spotlight, and both are in operation across a wide range of applications, including museum exhibits, trade show displays, kiosks, waiting rooms and billboards.

Shhh: We’re Broadcasting
Let’s use a museum as an example of how they work. You step up to view an artwork and your presence activates the audio broadcast. But the sonics are so well-directed that they can only be audible where you’re standing. Other people in the room wouldn’t hear what you’re hearing. In fact, they could be listening to other aural material that you wouldn’t experience unless you entered the proper geographic area.

ATC has a section of their Web site devoted to military applications of their products, including the LRAD (Long Range Acoustic Device) which may be used to generate an “attention-getting and highly irritating deterrent tone for behavior modification.”

In a way, quite a bit of marketing and communications can be viewed as attempts at behavior modification, and now the industry has some new tools.

Flashback
I had been following ATC and HRL since 2001, and I put ATC and their Hypersonic Sound System in my song, “Paranormal Radio” (from the 2003 album ELECTRO BOP):

“Paranormal Radio is what we call a direct-to-brainpan transmission. That means our sounds emanate from American Technology Corporation’s HyperSonic Sound System and go straight into your head.” Some DJs thought I was ranting about something I read in a Philip K. Dick novel instead of the stark reality of the day.

Then, in the article that launched this column a couple of years ago, you will find the following paragraph:

“American Technology Corporation’s HyperSonic Sound system and Holosonics’ Audio Spotlight are perfecting the ability to direct audio messages to individuals passing nearby. So, for example, based on the RFID chip in your purchases, each person in a checkout line would hear a different ad.”

A couple weeks later, in a column about “Advertainment,” I wrote:

“We’re not even discussing the opportunities for advertainment once we move beyond traditional broadcast methodology; when microchips are embedded under your skin, YOU will be the receiver for TV, radio, satellite, telephone, and global positioning system signals.”

Dreadful Combo
It’s the combination of three elements that alarms me and should alarm every professional in the communications business.

1. The proliferation of ad messages into every single thing (and now, it seems, into every single person)

2. The use of RFID-like technology to track and recognize consumers and their purchasing patterns

3. The willingness of corporations to take control of what up until now was your own private space: the inside of your head.

Scenarios
The use of in-skull advertising may open up a whole batch of legal and moral issues. Consider:

* Parents beaming messages at their children (“Clean up your room,” “Piercings and tattoos are bad,” “Call your mother’s new boyfriend ‘Uncle,'” and the like).

* Prisons “motivating” inmates with sound that rewards them (Slipknot, Jay-Z) or punishes them (Josh Groban, Gwen Stefani).

* Clerics instructing the next generation (“Yes, Timmy, God wants you to do this.”)

* Auto dealerships pushing undercoating and extended warranties by recording customer conversations and playing back “buy now” messages in their own voices.

And you thought that episode of The Simpsons with Bart in a boy band sponsored by the U.S. Navy was a spoof on subliminal advertising. “Yvan eht nioj” indeed. As you can see, your own mind isn’t safe anymore. What comes next? Probably your soul.

[tags]ATC, American Technology Corporation, HyperSonic, HRL, Holosonic Research Lab, Audio Spotlight, advertising, mind control, RFID, advertainment, Simpsons, Slipknot, Jay-Z, Josh Groban, Gwen Stefani, Navy[/tags]

Scott G is doing a lot of phoning lately

Communication Nation: Phone Ad Fury

Advertising is everywhere, but does it have to clog up the phone lines? Scott G has a message for marketers using the phone as a sales weapon.

A toddler grabs a table lamp’s electrical cord, gives it a tug and the lamp crashes down on the little one’s head, opening a gash. Broken glass and shards of porcelain crunch underfoot as worried parents rush to give aid and comfort to their child. The cut is deeper than they thought and the bleeding won’t stop.

“Call 911!”

Just before the receiver is lifted, the phone rings. Snatching up the handset, the distraught parent says “This is an emergency!” presses down on the hook and releases it to make the vital call.

Scott G is doing a lot of phoning latelyBut the connection with the incoming call has not been broken. Why? Because it is a recording. An automated sales call for carpet cleaning, auto warranties, reverse mortgages, financial investments, credit cards, construction services, real estate, etc. No amount of clicking gets rid of the intrusion and the emergency call cannot be made from that telephone number.

Ah, you say, those poor people should have entered their number on the Do Not Call registry. Ah, but they did. Advertisers have found a loophole.

Court Action
The scenario above is a speculation on my part, but something similar has occurred and will happen again soon. I’m betting that the resulting jury trial will hold responsible the caller, the marketing agency and the phone carrier. If the insidious loophole keeps the caller and agency from being fined or put out of business, then juries are going to go after the phone companies.

Loophole
The deceit begins with not identifying the advertiser in the recording and blocking the caller ID. Suckers, um, sorry, consumers are asked to leave their name and number for a call back from the offending firm. In order to go after the calling criminals, the state attorneys general and the Federal Trade Commission need the name of the caller, the name of the slimeball company, or at least the number used to make the intruding call.

That means consumers need to give out some personal information and, in effect, conduct their own sting operation to obtain the evidence to get these scumbags arrested.

Either that or it’s time for a class-action lawsuit against the phone companies who are allowing these practices to continue. Ladies and gentlemen, start your attorneys.

[tags]direct marketing, telemarketing, phone companies, automated calls, recorded sales calls[/tags]

Communication Nation: Unspeakable Ad Techniques

Google monitors e-mails for contextual advertising matches, and few people seem to mind. Scott G wonders if these are the same people who will allow Pudding Media to monitor their phone calls.

“Hello?”

“Hey, Scott, it’s Marty.”

“Hey, what’s up?”

“I just got free worldwide long distance calling.”

“Oh yeah, how?”

“It’s from this place called Pudding Media, and-”

“Pudding Media?”

“Right, Pudding Media. It works like Skype. You call through your computer.”

“And it’s free?”

Scott G looking semi-official“Well, no toll charges.”

“How do they make their money?”

“They send ads to your computer screen while you talk.”

“What if I’m working on a song or a layout in PhotoShop or something? Do ads pop up over my work?”

“Don’t know. That would kill it for you, wouldn’t it.”

“That would more than kill it. That would put me on course to hunt down their scurvy hides, stomp out their service, and eradicate any mention of their existence.”

“Hey, an ad just popped up for poetry classes at the Learning Center.”

“That’s odd.”

“Well, no, you mentioned ‘existence’ and they’ve got an instructor who is some sort of expert on existential poetry.”

“Wait, what difference does it make what I said?”

“They use voice recognition.”

Pause. One of those uncomfortable pauses. The kind you know is going to cost you some money or forever change a relationship.

“So,” I said slowly, “this phone call is being monitored?”

“Well, yeah.”

“I see… Um, Marty?”

“Yeah?”

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t recall you letting me know about that.”

“Oh, yeah. Sorry. Is that a problem?”

“Isn’t it a problem for you? You’re the one with the membership to those porn sites.”

“Well, I wasn’t going to bring that up in conversation, so I didn’t think-hey, now there’s an adult ad on my screen.”

“Oesday ethay omputercay understandway igpay atinlay?

“Good question. I’ll let you know what comes up…. Foreign language instruction.”

“Okay, now that I’m on this party line call… you know, with you, me, the computer, and the Pudding Head people, let’s test this sucker out. Hey, Marty, have you seen the new Audi A4?”

“Yeah, good-looking car. Yup! Audi ad just appeared.”

“How about this: car insurance.”

“Yes: Geico ad.”

“Okay, how about: department store?”

“Yup. Target ad.”

“Toothpaste?”

“Procter and Gamble ad.”

“Laundry detergent?”

“Procter and Gamble ad.”

“Pet food?”

“Procter and Gamble ad.”

“This is boring. Let’s try using subject matter instead of product categories.”

“Okay, like what?”

“How about: lying. What comes up?”

“Ads for Republicans.”

“Impotence?”

“Ads for Democrats.”

“Pedophiles?”

“Mark Foley Defense Fund.”

“Man, Republicans again. Okay, here’s one: televangelism.”

“Oh great, now my screen is covered with ads.”

“Sorry. Can you clear them away?”

“Wait, the only way is to restart.”

“Damn them.”

“No! Now I’ve got the televangelists again!”

“I hope you’ll forgi-I mean, hey, sorry about that. I’ve got one more for you, when you’re back up and running.”

“Okay, go.”

“Are you ready?”

“Yeah.”

“You sure?”

“Yes. What is it?”

“Okay: how are you coming with recruiting for your underground cell?”

“Hey, don’t be making that kind of joke. With this administration, that’s just not funny. Oh hey, wait a minute; someone’s knocking at the door. Hang on, I’ll be right back.”

Pause.

“Marty?”

Pause.

“Marty?”

Click.

[tags]Pudding Media, Skype, telephone, telecommunications, electronic eavesdropping, contextual ads, Google, voice recognition, Scott G, gman, Communication Nation[/tags]

Scott G speaking at an industry function

Outrage in Your Mailbox: A Peek into Direct Response Advertising

Ever since the invention of mail delivery, we have had to endure direct response solicitations. These ads-to-your-door may be informative, helpful and economical. But as Scott G points out, they can also be sneaky, intrusive and surprisingly distasteful.

Don’t get me wrong, I like direct mail advertising. Well, I often hate it, too, but you cannot beat a brand spanking new colorful catalog showing a batch of goodies you secretly covet and having it delivered right to your front door.

For me, the best catalogs are the compendiums of musical recording gear. For others, it might be books, clothing, vacation destinations, chocolates or hobby supplies.

Whatever it is that makes you drool, someone probably has a catalog of it, a nice big fat juicy volume that they’re willing to send you, often free of charge.

Scott G speaking at an industry functionTrouble is, the printing and postage costs keep rising, and retailers look for extra ways to achieve revenue. Selling or renting their mailing lists (dare we call them “sucker lists”?) is one way to make a little more income. This is why you find yourself the recipient of wonderfully worded announcements for goods and services you do not need and do not want.

Allow me to present three examples I received in the past week:

Misplaced Marketing Approach
“Win a pre-paid cremation” said the letter. Yes, it’s an attention-getting gambit or “grabber.” It’s also in questionable taste. At least they didn’t put an expiration date on the offer.

Sent from The Neptune Society, which calls itself “America’s cremation specialists,” the note is well written and not overly offensive in any other way. It’s just the offer that’s cheesy, blatant and misguided in the extreme.

I suppose various ideas were considered for their special offer. “Win a box of illegal fireworks” may have been their second choice. Or perhaps “Win a lifetime supply of condoms.”

In glancing at the conclusion of the letter, I notice they state confidently, “If you are not interested in spending your family’s inheritance on embalming, caskets, vaults, markers, fancy funeral homes or cemetery property, then we have the answer!”

Yes, they make liberal use of exclamation points! In fact, 50% of the sentences end with them! (See how annoying that gets?!)

Ironically, the letter was addressed to my mother, who purchased pre-paid cremation from this very firm more than a dozen years ago. Why didn’t they check their database before sending this thing?

Sneak Attack
The post card from Air King, a firm specializing in installation and maintenance of air conditioning, couldn’t have been simpler: it was black-and-white, contained no photos, and featured text in capital letters as if printed from an old teletype machine in a government back office.

Under a stark heading of “Service Reminder” is a semi-ominous-looking line that reads “Notice #SR-364/367.” That’s an easy way to make the card appear to be official.

The brief message then informs the reader that “Your A/C system may be due for its annual health and safety inspection.” You have to admire the use of the word “health” in that sentence. Does it refer to the health of the A/C, the health of your family, or to meeting some new safety code aimed at preventing the spread of avian flu? Whatever interpretation you put on it works to their advantage.

Next, the text recommends that “your system is inspected immediately.” Good technique here: in carny slang, I think it’s called “prodding the mark.” The piece asks you to “schedule your inspection,” which follows the approved “Glengarry Glen Ross” advice of ABC: Always Be Closing.

Finally, it notes that if you make your appointment soon enough, you “will be eligible for a $50 energy rebate.” Not that you’ll receive one, of course, but you’ll be eligible for one.

It’s a beautiful low-cost direct mail solicitation, IMHO. It’s hard-hitting without appearing to be pushy, and accomplishes its work with only about 50 words. But it’s sneaky and just above being underhanded.

Blast from the Past
The last sales pitch was both the funniest and the saddest. It came from The Island Hotel in Newport Beach and included a reprint of a Los Angeles Times story about the place, which contained delicious tidbits of information such as the price of a “room-service breakfast of eggs . . . $32 with service fees” and the speculation that the staff effectiveness is the result of “incentives, like money or, sometimes, fear.”

The story and the enclosed flyer also extolled the virtues of the Palm Terrace Restaurant & Lounge, and offered the headline news that “the inimitable Jimmy Hopper has returned to our lounge every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening.”

In the Times, the inimitable Mr. Hopper is called a “Vegas-style singer,” whatever that means. Their review, by Valli Herman, concludes with a description so horrifying I cannot imagine why the hotel left it in the reprint:

Hopper’s classic rock sets have earned a lively, if aging, following who don’t mind that the singer with the punk haircut needs glasses to read his lyrics. Guys camouflage their gray with highlights, tuck their bellies into leather pants, and betray their fantasies with age-inappropriate dates. Just watch out for the tipsy middle-aged woman singing along to the Journey power ballads. Turn your back, and she’ll hit on your date.

That was the funny part. Okay, it was also quite sad. But here comes the really sad part. Addressed to my father, the letter includes this line: “We at The Island Hotel would like to thank you for your support during a remarkable transitional year.” Unless the transitional year they’re speaking about was in the previous century, they’re a little off target. My father died nine years ago.

[tags]direct mail, gman, Scott G, Communication Nation, advertising, marketing, Los Angeles Times, cremation, home repair[/tags]

Scott G gets the point about PR

PR Blunders: Avoiding Mistakes in Marketing and Publicity

How Not To Write A Press Release. There have been many articles on this topic, but this may be the only one written by someone who works as an editor and writer. Using real-life examples, Scott G examines some ins, outs, dos and don’ts of public relations and publicity.

You have just announced your latest accomplishment (album, product, song, tour, Podcast, interview, press kit, etc.), but no one seems to be paying attention. News editors and feature story writers are all too busy commenting on celebrities who are drunk, stoned or cavorting nude in public.

Clearly, it is time to call attention to something more important in the world, namely your magnificent work.

So, you decide to send out a press announcement. Do it right and your story will be seen by hundreds of thousands of people. Do it wrong and it will be seen by zero of thousands of people.

Three Questions
Before PR professionals begin to write a press release, they ask three questions: What are you selling? To whom are you trying to sell it? What are the interests, or “hot buttons,” of your target audience?

Scott G gets the point about PRWe’re going to use real-life examples in this article, so let’s pick a subject that will be of interest to everybody. Something like, oh, say, my seventh album, Burning Man Soundscapes, which will released by Delvian and on iTunes and Rhapsody.

Naturally, you’re fascinated by this news, but the trick is getting a ton of other people to be aware of it. If I proceed like a pro, I would look to those 3 questions and do the following:

* Define the product (it’s an album of groove-oriented electronic-pop instrumentals)
* Describe the target audience (lovers of new styles of rhythmic music; people with an affinity for the Burning Man event)
* Determine the target audience’s hot buttons, or things that turn them on (describing Burning Man Soundscapes as being like “Gnarls Barkley meets Booker T and the MGs”)

Now, let’s examine the mistakes you can avoid when you create your press release.

Mistake 1 – No Go Pro
You can get off to a bad start by not hiring a professional PR person. Instead, just Do It Yourself and “save money.” Well, sure, it costs less for a DIY approach, but unless you really follow the advice in this article, you’re not likely to achieve much in the marketplace. Ask yourself if you know how to:

* Have your press release submitted to the news editors of the 1,200+ daily newspapers, 5,000+ weekly newspapers, 2,500+ magazines, 12,000+ radio stations, and 1,700+ TV stations in the country

* Get your information indexed by Google, Yahoo, and the major search engines

* Have your press release distributed by RSS feed

* Feature your story on Web portals

* Submit your information to social networks like DIGG, Fark, Furl, Newsvine, Del.ico.us, YahooMyWeb and others

* Embed keywords to enable Technorati to cover your news

* Get your press release onto News.Google, Moreover.com, XTVworld, BlogBurst, eNewsChannels.com, and hundreds of other news content sites

* Have your announcement run as a news item on more than 10,000 Web sites

* Get your information considered for further dissemination by such organizations as the Associated Press, Newsflash, and the Viral Syndication Network

* Make sure your story is “spidered” by news clipping services and news-robots like eWatch, CustomScoop, WebClipping.com, CyberAlert, and InBox Robot, among others, so they deliver your news to their subscribers

Mistake 2 – Ban the Plan
If you avoid those three critical questions mentioned earlier, you might turn out a press release with no purpose or direction. A lot of musicians do this. As an editor at the Music Industry Newswire, I see about three cubic tons of press releases each year, and the majority of them are anemic, muddled, ham-fisted and/or stylistic monstrosities.

Mistake 3 – Heads Down
Another easy goof to make is sending out a press announcement using a headline only you and your mother could love. Here’s an example of a perfectly wretched headline: “Scott G (recording artist The G-Man) releases 7th album called Burning Man Soundscapes on Delvian Records.”

That’s a boring headline. Bore-ing! Stuff like that is virtually guaranteed to be ignored by editors, news directors, music writers, bloggers, ezines, publishers, and wire services because it doesn’t give their readers any news they can use.

Do not write a headline that is “inner-directed.” In other words, don’t write about what you want to say. Instead, write about what your audience wants to read.

Consider these possibilities for headlines:

* Burning Man communal festival inspires creation of electronic-pop music
* Subsonic harmonics create controversy on new CD release
* Music genres are bent, blurred and blended on new indie album
* New album is a soundtrack to the Burning Man festival

It seems counter-intuitive, I suppose, not putting your name or the album name in the headline. Yet the point is to gain readership for your release by creating a story that intrigues your intended audience. Only then do you mention your album title and artist name.

Mistake 4 – Open With Nothing
There are many creative ways to write the first paragraph of a press release and none of them work very well. As a songwriter and composer, I enjoy and respect creativity, but the fact is that a unique approach to writing a press announcement is usually not effective. There are exceptions (as when your audience already knows who you are), but usually what works best is the tried-and-true method of putting a few important points in the opening sentence (or at least in the first paragraph) of the release:

* Name of the person/place/product
* What that person/place/product is doing (especially if it does something for you, the reader)
* Web site of the person/place/product
* UPC code of the product

It may not seem very original, but using the old newspaper story requirements of Who, What, Where, When, Why and How will hardly ever steer you wrong.

Mistake 5 – Babble On
Hey, what is your story all about? Just say it. Say it in a straightforward way without too many adjectives. Say it as soon as you can in the release. And please forget the techno-terminology and psychobabble jargon.

After all, wouldn’t you prefer to read this:

Burning Man Soundscapes was designed as an electronic-pop film score with dynamic tunes and mysteriously swirling ambient tracks.”

Instead of this:

“The composer has developed the 14 stunning tracks on Burning Man Soundscapes into what can only be termed an electronic-pop film score utilizing a full range of ultrasonic configurations in a program that alternates between exciting up-tempo tunes and mysterious ambient sounds.”

Shorter is better.

If you’re not sure about what to write, pretend you’re sitting next to someone at dinner and they ask you “What are you up to lately?” How would you explain it? Would you attempt a snow job with big words and convoluted concepts, or would you just speak normally and let them know about your project? Take that approach with your press release.

Mistake 6 – Spel Ling & Grammericality
Sorry, but spelling counts. It’s a credibility issue. If you don’t know the difference between “there,” “they’re” and “their,” or “two,” “too” and “to,” hire someone who does.

Mistake 7 – Embellishments
There’s usually a paragraph near the end of the release that has a subhead like this: “About Scott G” or “About The G-Man.” Unless you have sold numerous humor columns to several different publications, don’t be funny here. Just write the facts.

The Right Way:
Scott G is co-owner of music production and publishing company, Golosio. As recording artist The G-Man, he has a half-dozen albums in release and has composed music you’ve heard on commercials, in clubs and on college radio.

The Wrong Way:
In addition to his ongoing efforts to bring more zip codes to Antarctica, Scott G is astonishingly erudite about the insect population of Wisconsin. Being one of only a handful of people to have survived encephalitis as a child, he has only two passions: revenge politics and groove-oriented music. So, purchase Burning Man Soundscapes or he will be forced to give your e-mail address to every inhabitant of Nigeria.

You may find it funny, but I guarantee you many editors won’t be laughing and your release will not achieve your desired goal. Besides, even if people find it humorous, it distracts readers from the main point of your release.

Mistake 8 – Who Ya Gonna Call?
Hey, everyone knows you. You’re famous! So there’s no need to put contact information in your release, right?

There are two contact names and numbers that accompany every press release. One goes into the press release itself. It might look like this: “For information about Burning Man Soundscapes, visit www.delvianrecords.com or www.burningmansoundscapes.com.”

The other goes at the end and looks like this: “Media Contact: Scott G, 818-223-8486, g@gmanmarketing.com.” This is not for the public; it’s for members of the press. It can be your name, or your brother’s name, or whoever. But make certain the number and e-mail work because this is where the press will try reaching you if they’re interested.

Mistake 9 – Put In Everything
Editors have lots of spare time and would love to read a 5,000-word essay on the history of your band and your philosophical approach to sonics. Sure.

Keep your press release between 300 and 400 words. And that counts the headline and the contact information. If you truly have more to say, include a link to an online press kit or PDF file. Or send out more than one press announcement.

Mistake 10 – Getting Attached
Yes, everybody is going to fall in love with that high-resolution TIFF image of you pretending to eat your guitar while standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon with that cool PhotoShop image of a Lockheed-Martin X-35A Joint Strike Fighter attacking a stegosaurus over your shoulder. Yup, that’s especially keen because it takes up so much space in an editor’s e-mail in-box.

If you e-mail your PR, remember: no attachments. Well, possibly a .txt file. But usually you should just send an e-mail with the text of the release and a link to your site. Then ask politely if you can send a file as an attachment or mail them a full press kit.

Mistake 11 – Oh, the Humanity
Just because editors also make mistakes, that doesn’t mean they’re human. They may not recognize the brilliance of what you’re sending them. In other words, they may not write about you. You’re going to contact them with profanity and screaming until they say something like, “We’re so sorry, we didn’t realize this was an important news announcement.” Oh yeah, that’s going to happen.

Don’t do anything about it. No angry calls, cards or e-mails. After all, you’re going to want to send them something else in the future (you do have an ongoing career, right?) and you don’t want them thinking “here’s something from that rude bozo.”

Mistake 12 – Throwing in the Towel
Sometimes people get discouraged. Not enough press, not enough sales, not enough gigs, not enough income. But if you give up, the doubters win. Keep going; it’s the only way you can win.

[tags]PR, press release writing, gman, Scott G, Burning Man Soundscapes, guide to PR[/tags]

Mad Men May Save the 30-second Commercial

The one-hour drama, ‘Mad Men,’ part of AMC channel’s original programming, has many attributes and can be quite entertaining. Scott G says what’s truly intriguing about the series isn’t in the show but during the commercial breaks.

There has been a lot of talk lately about “the death of the thirty-second commercial.” Fact is, the :30 is still going strong, with millions of people seeing hundreds of ads every day, many of them overtly or covertly influencing purchasing decisions in every demographic category.

However, it is true that millions of dollars are moving away from traditional broadcast media in favor of interactive and ‘Net-related communication. So it is noteworthy when a network begins presenting commercials in a slightly new way, as seems to be happening during broadcasts of “Mad Men,” the new AMC original series about an advertising agency on Madison Avenue in 1960.

Scott G recording a commercial voiceoverFirst, there’s the fact that commercials accompanying a program about advertising will be viewed differently by many in the audience. More importantly, AMC is using a tried-and-true technique to retain attention during the sponsor breaks: trivia.

Before each commercial, a brief factoid about the ad business appears on the screen. I didn’t know this was going to happen, and since I had TiVo’d the show, I attempted to fast-forward through each break but was caught every time by a word or phrase in their trivia tidbits, causing me to go back and take a peek. Did it get me to watch a few of the spots? Yes.

And it would have been even more effective if the trivia directly tied-in with the spot that followed.

Are we seeing the birth of a new style of ad presentation? Could be. It just needs a catchy name and about two hundred pages of focus group research and we’ll be selling this concept all across the country.

Some names I suggest we consider for the technique: facting, fADding, introing, and ad-on.

“Mad Men” is co-produced by one of the industry’s leading commercial production houses, @radical Media, but there’s no indication they’re also working on the spots or the ad-ons. Here’s hoping someone steps up to talk about this concept. The ad industry might applaud.

[tags]gman, Scott G, Communication Nation, advertising, marketing, tv series, Mad Men, AMC, commercials, radical Media[/tags]

In Praise of the Product Demonstration

Dating back to the days of cave dwellers, the humble product demonstration can be one of the most persuasive sales techniques. Scott G examines this method of selling in the light of today’s new media realities.

“This miracle elixir is guaranteed to soothe, lubricate, heal and otherwise transmogrify your throat from top to bottom.”

Or words to that effect.

It’s one of history’s most entertaining product demonstrations and it occurs in “Poppy,” a 1936 film in which W.C. Fields plays American frontier salesman Professor Eustace P. McGargle.

Scott G of Advertising Industry NewswireThe good Professor stands at the back of a wagon in a town square, holds aloft a bottle of suspicious-looking tonic and extols its virtues with mellifluous phrases spoken with great power and loving care. Unfortunately, he gradually loses his voice, so he uncorks the bottle, takes a hefty swig, and then proclaims in full-throated roar, “It cures hoarseness!” And the customers flock to purchase the snake-oil.

You can’t beat a good product demo, as we all witnessed recently in a television campaign for the Apple iPhone. The elegant ads do nothing but show how the product works. And the world gaped at the spots in fascination.

Done well, the product demo can do wonders for immediate sales (“Watch as I show you how easy it is to club your enemies with this mastodon bone”) but it also has the potential to help establish a long-term position for a brand. Consider the reverse product demo used for years by Maytag, with their repairman bored out of his mind because their products never break down.

Sounds of Sucking
Of the many product demos currently on display are commercials for vacuum cleaners, including one where viewers are given an inside-the-product view as dirt enters the chamber.

Ads for the Dyson vacuum are the most stylish in this category, but they are spectacular failures in that they refuse to show how the devices “never lose suction.” I can remember the product benefit but I don’t believe it because they never prove it. (Not that I believe that the rival Oreck can nearly suck up a full-grown human, but at least they don’t make a claim they can’t back up visually.)

New Media, New Realities
Product demo advertising currently accounts for about eleventy gazillion dollars in sales (you can see that I’ve done quite a lot of research on this topic) but a significant amount of that may have to change in view of today’s altered media landscape.

Thirty-second broadcast commercials are not dead, but they are steadily losing share of corporate advertising budgets (they’re down 33.79% according to figures I just made up). Online ads rule, but even that may be changing as people easily skip over online messages or engage in gaming.

The point isn’t the raw data; there are research firms who can give you the actual numbers. The point is that potential customers are actively seeking ways to avoid your message (unless you’re the iPhone) and you’ve got to find a way to convince people to look at your product announcement.

If People Want Info, Your Ad Is Relevant Data
When you have a product people want, your ad isn’t viewed as an ad; instead, it becomes information. Or infotainment, depending on how you present your product benefits.

Sometimes, a public relations campaign can pave the way for your advertising to reach out and make the sale. Other times, you need to design your advertising for the new media. Hence the proliferation of online games and interactive quizzes that just happen to mention products.

The closer you can get the game or the quiz to reflect the product benefits, the more effective you’ll be in branding and the more success you’ll have convincing customers to make a purchase. Or, put a better way, you’ll be more successful the more you can have a consumer make a mental association between your product and the benefit.

Final Word: Doing the Demo
One nifty advantage of the product demo ad is the instructional aspect, or the guide it provides for people. When first picking up an iPhone, most users I observed go through the same sequence they saw on the commercials. Effective spot, wasn’t it.

[tags]iPhone, gman, Scott G, Communication Nation, marketing, Dyson, Oreck, TV commercials, WC Fields[/tags]

Scott G on the iPhone

Smile, You’re on the iPhone

With the nation’s collective craving for Apple’s iPhone, the product seems poised for the most consumer-friendly product launch in marketing history. Scott G speculates about that little ‘camera’ button in the upper right-hand corner of the screen.

You’ve read about Apple’s spectacular new gadget, the iPhone. Most people in the Western Hemisphere have seen at least one of the commercials. And we’ve all done that mental calculation about our budget (“okay, it’s five or six hundred dollars, but it’s a business expense. . . “)

Scott G on the iPhoneWith people practically drooling over the iPhone, this high-tech tool is going to launch with the largest number of in-the-field product demos in the history of the world. Virtually every one of the first few hundred thousand iPhones sold will be used in personal presentations as proud owners happily run through the features and benefits at the office, at parties, in the elevator, at the mall, in bars and restaurants, at the gym, and wherever today’s modern humankind gather for business or pleasure.

It’s going to be a smashing success. My question is this: we know it can play videos but will it also be a video device? Is that a hidden benefit of the first models, or will it be an upgrade soon?

If not on the iPhone now, this feature is coming. Apple has been diligent about offering Webcam technology, and it seems only natural they would offer it in the iPhone.

And what changes it will bring:

* Working moms will want to check in with the nanny to see little Britney or Josh eating, napping, playing, etc.

* Employers will want the feature activated to make certain that “ill” employees aren’t actually standing on the first tee

* Shoppers will ask store personnel to prove that a product is in stock in the right color

* And the opportunities for the creation of personal porn will expand exponentially

Suddenly, the price doesn’t seem very high at all.

iPhone image copyright 2007 Apple, Inc.

[tags]Apple, iPhone, video phone, Gman, Scott G, advertising industry news, marketing, personal porn[/tags]

Carl Doesn’t Know Jack or Dick

Dick Sittig, the marketing genius behind the Jack-in-the-Box ad campaigns, has created a commercial concept so powerful that he now has rival Carl’s Jr. helping him spread the word. How? By being so funny and acerbic that Carl’s is trying to sue for relief.

I have long wanted to write about the off-the-wall humor in the advertising for Jack in the Box (JITB) restaurants, a West Coast-based fast-food firm. While they are a good-sized company ($2.7-billion in sales), JITB is not a national chain (their locations are in only 17 states).

Under the direction of Dick Sittig, the Jack advertising has consistently stood out from the clutter, succinctly demonstrated their product advantages, and almost always made viewers smile.

Scott G in the studioThe humor ranges from mainstream to delightfully warped, as might be expected from creatives at an ad agency called the Kowloon Wholesale Fish Company (although to save their receptionist from too many calls from food distributors they are dba Secret Weapon Marketing).

With their most recent marketing onslaught for JITB, the belly laughs are too loud to ignore. Plus, they have done what every marketer must dream about: suckered their competitors into a publicity war from a foolish lawsuit.

The Commercial
In the opening spot of what I expect will be a series of humorous ads, we see spokesperson Jack, a human with the JITB logo for a head, in a boardroom explaining their new sirloin burgers to JITB employees. He uses a chart to illustrate the various parts of a cow, and points out the location of the meat-eaters’ desirable choice, sirloin.

One employee notes that their competition is selling Angus burgers and asks Jack if he would show where find “the Angus area of the cow.”

Pause.

At this point, we watch a puzzled Jack standing by part of the chart, the part displaying what my dad used to call the north end of a south-bound cow.

“I’d rather not,” says Jack, and the spot concludes with their regular branding imagery.

The Reaction
Like lemmings, the people at CKE Restaurants (formerly Carl Karcher Enterprises) have gone to court with paperwork that reportedly claims the JITB commercials create “The erroneous notion that all cuts of Angus beef are derived from the anus of beef cattle.”

So, basically, CKE is saying its customers are too stupid to get the joke.

I suppose this is possible, given the nature of the CKE ads for Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s restaurants. For years, sloppy eaters have been a mainstay of their ads. One commercial for milk shakes has two male yokels placing their hands on the Angus end of cows and attempting to vibrate them. Get it? Milk . . . shakes.

Another ad has cab drivers talking with their mouths full and insulting women who pass by.

The Comedy Keeps on Coming
Alana Semuels of the Los Angeles Times noted what Dick Sittig told industry magazine Adweek about the JITB “where’s the Angus” campaign. He said that the humor in the spots was “no more crude than a middle-school joke about the planets, or one planet in particular.”

The people at Secret Weapon Marketing are probably enjoying putting in a few extra hours writing snappy one-liners about the Angus fixation of Carl’s and Hardee’s. The braintrust at CKE can only fuss and fume about how misunderstood they are for their Angus love.

Perhaps this is why JITB has sales of $2.7-billion in 2,000 locations while CKE has sales of $1.5-billion from 3,100 locations.

Rules to Live By
I have friends and professional associates in both music and marketing, but in each case, there are certain rules by which we live. One, treat everybody the way you expect to be treated. And two, never go up against a comedian.

[tags]Jack in the Box advertising analysis, CKE lawsuit, marketing, positioning, fast food advertising, advertising industry news, Scott G[/tags]

Take Aways: What Consumers Learn From Ads

Advertising and marketing executives say their business is art, craft and science, and Scott G admits that may be true about a third of the time. Consider a few current ad campaigns that leave potential customers exhilarated or puzzled, intrigued or disgusted.

When presenting ad concepts to clients, much is made of positioning a product in the minds of a target audience. What is often overlooked is the message that resonates in a consumer’s mind after viewing or hearing an ad. It’s what is known as the “take aways.”

Scott G casts a shaded eye on current advertisingThe ultimate test of a campaign lies in the sales figures for the product, but behind those numbers are the feelings that well up in the hearts and minds of potential customers. There are immediate and long-term take aways, but for the examples below, I can only speculate about the short-term effects since most of the campaigns are new (or they’re new to me).

Note: the take aways listed here are all IMHO. Feel free to post your own reactions below.

Audi
The TT coupe and roadster models are being introduced to the public in a magnificent-looking multimedia campaign that leadoff with superbly edited fifteen-second commercials featuring a section with what they claim are .02-second-long images. Take aways: Audi = design, sleek, new, power, style, grace, and climax.

BMW
Because BMW has a full line of cars and two boxy truck-like vehicles, there are multiple campaigns running at the same time, making for an easy take away: BMW = unfocused, confused, attempting to be all things to all people.

Individually, they have two commercials appearing here in Los Angeles, one for their behemoth vehicles that discusses the cupholders (!) and I won’t dignify this with any mention of what consumers might make of it. The other utilizes “Spiderman”-style animation of flora rapidly growing out of the roadway and turning into a car. Take aways: BMW = evil, unreal, slithery, silly.

Mercury Mariner
The current TV ad for this minibehemoth features “Day of the Triffids”-style animation of flora rapidly growing out of the roadway and turning into an SUV. Take-aways: Mariner = stupid, unreal, pollinated, silly.

Charles Schwab
Taking live-action “scripted interview” footage and converting it to posterized cartoons, this is one of the more reviled campaigns of recent months. Is it eye-catching? Yes, which may be good enough for Schwab to score some points in top-of-mind awareness studies. But the vignettes are so mundane that you would need violent and semi-porn anime to hold any interest. Take aways: Schwab = whiners, losers, petty people.

GM
There are about 45 different campaigns for various vehicles in their numerous product lines. Can you name some of them? I’ll wait.

(pause)

Right, that’s my point. I have no idea what the hell they’re doing except for the super sleek music and cinematography in the commercial for the Caddy truck monstrosity I wrote about a few columns ago. Perhaps that’s why GM’s VP of Marketing and Advertising for North America is leaving as of June 15. The truly weird part of the GM announcement is where they say the position won’t be filled.

K9 Advantix
This advertiser insists on showing horribly bad spots, one containing a dog singing “Ain’t No Bugs On Me” and the other with a dog singing new lyrics to “Dance of the Hours” from La Gioconda. The composer, Amilcare Ponchielli, died in 1886, and thus isn’t around to defend himself. These embarrassments manage to reach new levels of annoyance. They also mention their competitor, Frontline Plus, in an attempt to get consumers to confuse or equate the two products, presumably because Frontline holds the leadership position in the category. Take aways: K9 Advantix = manipulative, unprincipled, calculating, heartless. (Of course, since they kill ticks and fleas, perhaps those are not bad take aways.)

Dow
I’ve written favorably about their “human element” campaign before, and now they’re extending it with beautiful work on behalf of the Blue Planet Run. Outstanding work. Take aways: Dow = caring, quality, commitment.

Retail
Finally, everyone can name several dozen firms in their own city with ads full of shouting announcers, screaming headlines, bursts, snipes, giant type, tons of exclamation points, and not one second or one square inch of an ad that doesn’t contain some sort of sales message. This is the advertising equivalent of bludgeoning you to death and taking your wallet.

But you know what? These awful things often work. As someone who values wit, taste and style, I hate to admit that these abominations are frequently effective. And what makes them work? The take aways: ugly, shouting, messy, crapola ads = cheap. And cheap = lower prices.

So, consumers, if you like bad ads, just keep on purchasing products pitched to you with crummy marketing.

[tags]advertising industry news, marketing mistakes, gman, consumers interpret advertising, Scott G, horrible shouting ads [/tags]

Scott G looks askance at bad ads

Ad Industry Thinks You Are an Idiot

Scott G often works in the advertising industry and he’s frequently appalled by what he sees, as when large corporations insult your intelligence with misleading marketing, or when they treat you like absolute morons with super-silly or saccharine-sweet ads.

You are stupid. You’re aware of that, right? I mean, you must know it since you’re reminded every day that corporate America feels you have just nine brain cells left in your cranium. You’re a clown, a dumbbell, a geek, a patsy, a jerk, and a mark.

That’s what the ad industry thinks of you.

Well, they must believe that when you look at some of the foul-smelling tripe they unload on you every day.

Scott G looks askance at bad adsYes, there is some excellent advertising out there. The Lexus ads are superior in every way. The TV spot for that turd of a truck, the Cadillac Escalade, is beautifully done. Dow’s “Human Element” campaign is wonderful. The whole approach from ADM, UBS, and Sprint feel quite good. And Crispin’s VW “crash” spots may have changed auto advertising forever.

But a lot of advertising is way bad these days. Consider these recent examples:

Air You Can See
The American Petrol Institute presents an 18-wheel truck roaring down the highway spewing clean air from its smokestacks. This ridiculous piece of twaddle is lovingly produced and bounces along jauntily to a nifty rendition of Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies.”

The spot touts ULSD (ultra low sulfur diesel) fuel and the friendly folks at the API would like you to visit a propaganda site called energytomorrow.org. And you probably thought that the “dot org” address was reserved for true nonprofit organizations.

Despite the nice photography and special effects in the spot, the message leaves a bad taste in your mouth as well as blight on your brain. Although, come to think of it, we probably shouldn’t be surprised by such outrageousness as they are part of the industry that says the following, with a straight face:

It may surprise you to find out our industry’s earnings are typically in line with other industries, and are often lower. We’ve prepared this short paper, based on well-documented data, to help you better understand the oil and gas industry’s earnings by putting them into perspective.

They go on to claim they are enjoying earnings of only 9.5%. Right. And Ashlee Simpson sings live. And Britney’s I.Q. is in triple digits. And the CSI shows are based on reality.

Look Who’s Talking
Animals, that’s who. The pitchmen have become pitchmammals and pitchreptiles. Because, you know, it’s just so CUTE when those clever animators show you a talking dog, cat, lizard, bird, horse, bear, snake, rodent, insect or fish.

At this point, everyone with an ounce of sensibility is saying “yes, you’re right, these are dumb commercials.” And you’re hoping I won’t name one where you secretly enjoy the antics of the armadillo or the monologue from the moose, or something. Don’t worry. I’m not even going to dignify this category of offal with product names.

Trash Talking
Carl’s Jr. has 9 TV commercials running at the moment, mostly well acted and well photographed, but each with a curious undercurrent of stupidity (yours, if you buy any of their products).

“Cow Shake-Off” has two slack-jawed yokels getting physical with two innocent bovines. Nothing says “creamy delicious milkshake” like massaging a cow’s ass.

“Cabbie” has two lowlifes talking about a monster-sized steak burger and then insulting a woman who walks past. Yes, we all aspire to emulate cretins by purchasing the same food they masticate as they attempt to speak.

“Indecision” has a twit in Canter’s Deli unable to decide which Neanderthal’s eating habits he wants to copy. Perhaps he should meet the guys from “Cabbie” in a sequel.

“Surgeon” has a creepy doctor discussing breast augmentation while leering into the camera. Turns out he’s talking to a chicken. Ah-hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! I mean, ohmigawd is that ever a humorous concept.

“Those Days” has a cool music track while a beautiful girl samples almost everything in her ‘fridge on one of “those days after those days.” Nothing says “come to our restaurant” like a feminine hygiene message.

“Vacuum” attempts to make you salivate over something called “boneless buffalo wings” by showing someone using an industrial-size vacuum on his car. Yum. And what are “boneless buffalo wings” anyway, chicken armpits?

“Soldier” attempts to play on our national desire to support our troops but trips all over itself by making the actor recite lines that are, um, how shall we put this. . . oh, I know: stupid.

“Girlfriend” uses the tired concept of two hot babes vying for the same guy. A guy, mind you, whose idea of a dinner date involves eating at a plastic counter. Okay, perhaps this one isn’t saying we’re all stupid; just women.

“Little Wings” has a guy sitting along at the bar in a dive trying to make a meal of the free wings while nursing one beer. All right! NOW Carl’s has found their audience!

What Does “BP” Stand For?
Up until not long ago, BP was British Petroleum. Then it became BPAmoco, and now it’s BP Plc (in the U.K., that stands for public limited company, or one whose stock shares may be purchased publicly). As part of their “Beyond Petroleum” campaign, BP is unleashing achingly cloying animated commercials showing little kids driving cars into ultra-clean gas stations.

Here on the West Coast, BP owns Arco stations and the Arco AM/PM Mini Markets, so I guess the point of the campaign is that the nice, warm, fuzzy and cuddly BP company is tearing down all those mean, old, ugly and polluting Arco gas stations and is replacing them with that miracle of modern humanity, the BP gas station. Bad Perception. Big Disdain. Being Patronizing.

(Yes, I know this is the second anti-big-oil item in this column, but I prefer to look at it as merely a right cross following a left jab in the battle against corporate greed, malfeasance and lies.)

[tags]bad advertising, advertising industry news, marketing mistakes, lowest common denominator advertising, Gman, Scott G, advertising commentary, animals in advertising[/tags]

Scott G doing a voiceover

Ideas, R.I.P.

A manifesto entitled 100 Ways to Kill a Concept is currently bouncing around the Internet. It is being sent in anger, frustration and/or glee by anyone who has ever had the misfortune to present an original idea to a boneheaded boss or calcified committee. Scott G lauds author Michael Iva for his horrific hundred.

The title pretty much sums it up: “100 Ways to Kill a Concept: Why Most Ideas Get Shot Down.” When designer and advertising provocateur Michael Iva penned it, he was able to call on a lot of people for help: all the idiots he’s ever encountered who put the brakes on creativity.

Scott G doing a voiceoverNow, if you’re one of the lamebrains who consistently quake at even a glimmer of a new idea, you’ll wonder what all the fuss is about. Why are so many people downloading this diatribe and e-mailing all around the Internet, you’ll ask your assistant.

But if you’re in the business of designing, developing, devising, conceiving or creating advertising (or anything, for that matter), you will love this list.

Some of the items will make you nod; some will make you laugh; and some will make you shake your head with the profound sadness of one who has seen originality trampled, twisted, smashed, distorted, buried, ignored or (horror of horrors) sent to a committee or focus group.

Hats off to Mr. Iva, whose work here is for “everyone who has ever had an idea for anything that is new, improved, unique, different, and/or better.”

The manifesto is available for everyone who wants a copy. Download it now, download it often.

http://www.changethis.com/32.04.100WaysKillConcept

[tags]creativity, 100 ways kill concept, Michael Iva[/tags]

Scott G insisting he's in the music biz

Smart People in Advertising – Please Step Forward

Curiouser and curiouser, weaker and weaker, stupider and stupider. That describes much recent advertising from major brands. Clogging the airwaves with badvertising is nothing new, but it does seem as if idiocy is lately on the rise. Scott G lists a few of his least favorites from the past couple of weeks.

In “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” a crusty and colorful character named Percy Garris, played with gusto by Strother Martin, is exasperated at come silly comments by the two anti-heroes, Butch and Sundance. He says, to nobody in particular, “Morons. I’ve got morons on my team.”

Scott G insisting he's in the music bizJust like Paul Newman and Robert Redford in the title roles, many of us are chagrined to hear that line spoken about us, the folks in the ad biz.

But that’s what we are.

Why?

Because of what we do in our jobs.

Consider:

* Verizon Wireless V-Cast commercials, in which cretins stick sweaty earbuds into our orifices so we can hear approximately 7 seconds of a song. What do I remember about the V-Cast phone? One word: eeeeeeeauw.

* Procter & Gamble Swiffer commercials, in which simpletons talk to their kitchen cleaning implements before we get to hear a few seconds of “One Way Or Another.” What do I remember about Swiffer? Blondie wrote pretty good songs. Oh, and Devo wrote good songs, too (“Whip It” was in the prior wave of Swiffer ads.)

* Nabisco Chips Ahoy commercial, in which clueless animated cookies “sing” along to Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me, Baby?” What do I remember about Chips Ahoy? They have mouths, cannot sing, and are quite squirmy just before you grab them.

* Dr. Scholl’s shoe inserts commercials, in which mentally challenged young adults make inane puns on the made-up word “gellin'” over and over and over andoverandoverandover until you must make a mental note to never even consider buying any of their products ever again.

* Avis and iTunes have combined for a spot showing braindead people holding their mouths open as if music is coming out. The synchronization is poor enough to make you think it was dubbed by the people who used to import Japanese monster movies.

* Guinness is running a series of “animated” commercials so amazingly awful that you’d think it was the result of encephalitic horses instead of marketing executives. This crap is so embarrassing that I no longer buy Guinness; which is too bad because I like their Stout quite a bit. Or I did like it in the past.

* Personal hygiene products advertising, in which. . . well, the splashing, squirting, foaming, layering, lathering, and God knows what all is just plain disturbing.

Does anyone have any ideas of how to stop this type of thing? I am tired of people looking at me like I was an insect on their food if I admit to working in the advertising industry.

[tags]moron marketing, dislike of advertising, intrusive ads[/tags]

Uncle Scott wants you

Superliminal Advertising

Sponsored messages worm their way into entertainment and news. Tracking of consumer purchases allows for precise targeting of those messages. Computerized production technology enables marketers or government agencies to control what you see and when you see it. Scott G plays George Orwell by putting these 3 ideas together.

Technology can be a wonderful thing. It can also give corporations and governments new ways to track you, hound you, monitor you, and control your life.

Yeah, I know that cries of “paranoia” will greet this column. But every time I write one of these “look out for the future” articles, it only takes a month or two before people begin making press announcements that reveal all my ramblings are true.

Uncle Scott wants youIt happened with my RFID article (“Your Panties Are Broadcasting On My Frequency”). It happened with my “advertainment” column (“Advertainment Sneaks into Film, Music and TV”). It happened with my data and ad glut story (“Advertising, R.I.P.”).

It will happen with this article, too. Come with me now on a short journey into the future of marketing communication. We are going to make just 3 points.

Ads Appearing As If By Magic
First, you need to think of the computerized ads inserted into televised baseball games. (Please note: this is simply one very obvious example of ad placement; it occurs in TV, online games, Internet communication, etc.)

You see the batter at the plate as every pitch is delivered. Behind the batter, on the wall just over the catcher’s shoulder, is a different type of pitch: an ad in full color. Sometimes a different each inning. Sometimes a different for each batter. Sometimes a different ad per pitch.

Now, the ads aren’t actually there in the ballpark. They are electronically inserted into the broadcast. This permits great flexibility for marketers. For example, regional advertisers can have ads in the broadcast that only appear in their geographic area.

But it gets better than that.

Ads Targeted at You
Marketers and media know enough about you to schedule ads based on your demographic needs. Thanks to credit card purchases and registration with your cable or satellite TV provider, they know your age, gender, residence, neighborhood, viewing habits, TiVo usage, and pay-per-view choices.

Add in the data from any shopping you do with a credit card and they may also know about your choices for groceries, clothing, restaurants, bars, movies, magazines, books, music, hobbies, health club visits, telephone usage, travel, banking, betting, online game playing, auto repair, pharmaceutical products, doctor visits, and porn. Oh, and your Social Security Number.

Yes, armed with that data, marketers can make very educated guesses about what ads will be of interest to you. There’s no need to worry about subliminal advertising; the facts about your life enable us to take normal advertising and aim it at you as if using laser beams. This is superliminal advertising, baby.

But it gets better than that.

Control of Information
What’s the first thing dictatorships do upon taking power? Seize control of the media. How would you do that in “a free society”? You would concentrate ownership of the media among as few firms as possible, and make certain they were all huge corporations with right-of-center owners. (Not too difficult; how many large left-leaning corporations can you name?)

Then, you will replace news anchors with the type of computer generated imagery employed in many motion pictures and begin beaming totally controlled “news” to the population.

Most people wouldn’t notice the difference. Hell, they might prefer it because they would begin receiving broadcasts catered to their prejudices, beliefs, class, education, employment, income, geographic location, and buying habits.

It would be . . . so easy. Not that any cable news channels aren’t already doing this.

[tags]G-Man, Gman, gman marketing, Scott G, Communication Nation, advertising, marketing, ad rants[/tags]

G-Man on and off the wall

Your Brand Here: The TV Show

With the announcement that the Geico Insurance Cavemen are being written into a script for a television series pilot, the issue of branded content again rears its ugly head. Scott G speculates on some of the oddities surrounding this silly side of advertising.

Some people are debating the wisdom of putting commercial characters into programming. Obviously, the folks behind the mildly entertaining Geico Insurance “Caveman” campaign think it’s a splendid idea.

G-Man on and off the wallAnd there is ample precedent for it working very well. In the movies, we have seen “Paper Moon” speak up for bible salesmen. The “Saw” series boosted sales at Ace Hardware. Some people claim that “Passion of the Christ” extolled the virtues of governmental torture policies. And there have been dozens of overpriced, overloud and underthought films created to help market video games and comic books.

As you can tell, I am not a fan of this sort of thing, although I freely admit that you can probably present almost any concept if you do it with enough wit, taste, timing, and style.

For example, consider the following unlikely ideas and their successful realizations: A comedy about patching up wounded during an undeclared war (“MASH”); a long drama about someone not getting around to making a movie (“8-1/2″); a comedy about a bunch of losers sitting around a bar (“Cheers”). All were excellent, despite their subject matter.

As the Geico announcement reveals, there are a great many possibilities as yet untouched. Some suggestions:

The Hands Talk Back
Allstate Insurance “good hands” try to get through life while coping with lots of bad “hand job” jokes and comparisons to “Thing” from the Addams Family.

Hit the Road
Co-sponsored by General Motors and the National Parks Service, this docu-comedy follows families on vacation as they drive merrily across the country to pose in front of landmarks.

Good Neighbors
Feel-nice documentary program about good deeds, good Samaritans, random acts of kindness, etc. Brought to you by State Farm Insurance.

Pun for Your Life
TV version of “Run Lola Run” with contestants racing through US cities making puns about sneaker manufacturers.

Yo
Adventures of assembly line workers battling robots in a Toyota factory.

Barbie Becomes. . .
Each week, a Barbie doll replaces someone on the job. Network news anchor, Pussycat Dolls dancer, TV network executive. . . roles requiring no brains or talent.

Fashion Uncovered
“Friends” meets “Queer Eye” starring the Fruit-of-the-Loom bunch.

Who Will Be the Next Britney?
Combining game show stupidity, reality show voyeurism, and moronic phone-in voting, this new show is brought to you (and broadcast) by YouTube.

[tags]G-Man, Gman, gman marketing, Scott G, Communication Nation, advertising, marketing, ad rants[/tags]

All Data Fox-Checked For Accuracy

The news is no longer the news. Scott G points out that we are in the midst of some bodacious blending: information & invention, data & political agenda, fact & fiction, actuality & publicity, and truth with whatever else comes to mind.

With the advancement of made-up news that is so prevalent at Fox, CNN, MSNBC, and far too many other places, the public is starting to take everything with a grain of salt. Actually, many who tune to the faux news channels are obviously taking it with bags of salt, after which they wash it down with Kool-Aid.

Scott G in the studioPlease note: I’m not including The Daily Show in this mix because anyone with a conscience and/or an I.Q. above 85 can tell that this is a comedy program, not a news show. (That it happens to present more actual news in a half-hour than most news programming does in several hours is fodder for another column.)

Today, sponsors are able to place their names, logos, slogans, images, and messages in news broadcasts, editorials, feature stories, television programs, interstitials, radio shows, newspapers, magazines, blogs, ezines, Web sites, and even casual conversations in public places.

As reported here in “Advertising R.I.P.” and “Your Panties are Broadcasting on my Frequency” (and several other columns), advertising messages are now EVERYWHERE, including in the news. There are even entire cable news channels where most coverage is made up and everything is available for purchase.

So, what does this mean for advertisers? Well, it may mean quite a lot, including:

* Programming is more likely to be viewed at the same level of acceptance as commercials, and vice versa

* Corporate videos can be sent to news programs and appear as “content”

* Press announcements can show up as scripts happily read by automaton news anchor personalities

* Propaganda can be disseminated easier than ever before

Yes, it’s a fine time for the marketer without morals. As someone said to me the other day, “Everything in this story has been Fox-checked for accuracy.”

“You mean ‘fact-checked,’ right?”

“No, I don’t.”

[tags]G-Man, Gman, gman marketing, Scott G, Communication Nation, advertising, marketing, ad rants[/tags]

Scott G pretending to look thoughtful

Ad Backlash

Too many ads in too many places appearing way too often. Product placement invading content. Messages triggered by RFID chips. Advertorials. Sponsorships. Hype. Spin. Noise. Scott G isn’t the only person who thinks we’ve gone too far. Some consumers are fighting back.

Readers of this column know that I like the communication industry as a whole but dislike its more annoying practitioners. Well, “dislike” isn’t exactly the right word. Loathe is perhaps a better way to describe my feelings towards some people in advertising and marketing.

Scott G pretending to look thoughtfulI refer to those who don’t take “no” for an answer, such as the telephone pitch people who continually find ways around the National Do Not Call Registry (NDNCR). And the recorded political blather that is apparently beyond the reach of the NDNCR.

Or the marketers who think people’s mailboxes are fair game no matter how much they protest to the post office. As well as the crass and gross marketing executives who participate in crass and gross (and intrusive) campaigns in every medium.

Not to mention those people spraying you with perfume in mall department stores (although maybe they’re actually a guerrilla force designed to convert you to shopping online).

The sheer volume of ad messages, paid placements and annoying interruptions is outrageous. I’m not the only one who is fed up with the number of promotional messages bearing down on us every second of every day. People are fighting back.

Consider:

* Consumer-generated commercial parodies

* Mailing back blank order forms found in between pages of magazines

* Mailing back postage-paid envelopes with four ounces of paperclips inside

* Organizing groups to call toll-free numbers of telemarketers

* Creating phony Web sites mocking the real ones

* Picketing outside offices of companies producing offensive advertising

I would write more on this but I’m being called away from my desk. It seems there is an angry mob chanting “Death to Lamisil” outside the CGI animation studio that created that terrible commercial with Digger, the foot fungus. I have to go join them.

[tags]G-Man, Gman, gman marketing, Scott G, Communication Nation, advertising, marketing, ad rants[/tags]

Scott G making a client presentation

What Do Creatives Do?

When an ad agency gets a new client, a lot of people swing into action. Account managers assess the brand, competition, positioning, and strategy. The media department finds target audiences. And the creatives, well, just what are they DOING back there with that loud music and riotous laughter? Scott G tells all.

Scott G making a client presentationIn the music business, I have several highfalutin’ titles: composer, producer and publisher. But in the world of advertising and marketing, while I prefer to be called a “consulting creative director,” people call me the copywriter.

Fortunately, I often get to create ads with a great graphic designer named Phil Hatten. Between the two of us, we’ve helped sell millions of dollars’ worth of financial products, automobiles, clothing, healthcare services, computer systems, entertainment, and food items.

“But what is it that you actually do?” we are sometimes asked, usually when discussing our fees.

A Confession
Okay, here’s the deal about people in the creative department. What we do is amazingly simple. All that happens is this:

1. We begin with a blank computer screen.

2. We put in some words and images.

3. And then we’re done.

That’s all there is to it.

Oh, I Almost Forgot
Just a couple things you need to consider about the process utilized by copywriters and art directors . . . Remember the “words and images” from point # 2, listed above? Good. Here’s what those words and images must do:

* catch your eye
* motivate the proper response
* improve a company’s image
* sear the brand name into your brain

Suddenly, what we accomplish takes on a significance that may not have been readily apparent to many of you.

Worst Case Scenario
Sometimes, everything we do to build your brand and increase your sales must be accomplished with “no budget” and completed “ASAP.”

Too many times, some or all of what we’ve created must be “changed,” “revised,” “tweaked,” “altered,” “amended,” or otherwise transmogrified because “it didn’t test well.” Or because “the focus group didn’t get it.” Or because “the client’s spouse didn’t like the color.” Or just “because.”

Different creative teams handle this in different ways. Some tell dumb client and/or dumb account manager jokes. Others create scatological versions of the ads (dangerous in this age of YouTube).

I try to keep my anger from taking tangible form. In private, I read aloud from Roget’s Thesaurus entry 471, “Fool,” with all the lovely and fitting terms such as jackass, schmuck, clown, buffoon, sop, lunatic, chump, boob, klutz, dingbat, jerk, goof, schlemiel, dolt, dunce, dullard, idiot, ninny, dimwit, lamebrain, dummy, blockhead, simpleton, imbecile, moron, and many more.

Attempting to Answer Client Needs
Faced with odd ad requests, Phil and I sometimes do two versions of the assignment: one that we know will work, and another that reflects what the client (or the ad agency) asked for. That way, even if the less effective idea is selected, at least we know we tried to give them something good.

The Most Important Creative Act
Separating the true professional from the dangerously psychotic individual, good creatives have the ability to suppress the urge to kill when asked to make the idea smaller and the logo bigger.

And really, that’s the greatest thing we creatives do. You should thank us for it.

[tags]G-Man, Gman, gman marketing, Scott G, Communication Nation, advertising, marketing, ad rants, creatives[/tags]

G-Man at the Mic

Vista Spot an Ow not a Wow

Microsoft once paid the Rolling Stones millions for the use of “Start Me Up” to inject some excitement into their campaign for a new operating system. Scott G tells why MS better buy the rights to a whole bunch of rock, electronic, country and hip hop songs because the launch of their Vista OS is currently dead in the water.

I use Microsoft products. I dislike them as much as the next person, but I use them.

Most of my clients work for companies run by bean-counters, and it is well-documented that people who use spreadsheets for a living are not comfortable with Apple products’ sleek design, intuitive efficiency and facility for creativity. Or the fact that they cost more than PCs.

G-Man at the MicWhich means that most clients use PCs. Which means I always have at least a few PCs in my studio. While I rely on Macs for music creation, I use PCs to create the words and ideas for advertising and marketing.

But that doesn’t mean I have to like MS or its wasteful, bloated, and buggy software. Many users of MS products feel the same way.

So when MS launched its five hundred million dollar ad campaign for their long-delayed Vista operating system, I was prepared for some real razzle-dazzle in the advertising. Like when they licensed the Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up.” Well, they better start licensing every hard-thumping high-adrenaline song they can find because the current Vista campaign seems to have embraced lunacy as a strategy.

Sixty Seconds of “WTF?”
The new commercial features superb location scouting, superior cinematography, effective acting, seamless special effects, outstanding sound, sleek editing, and impressive direction. Yes, the production company can be proud. But the committee that wrote the spot should be shot.

Here’s what appears in the commercial:

* A nostalgic sequence capturing the awe most Americans felt as the U.S. entered the space race.

* A vignette showing soccer players influencing young TV viewers around the world.

* A man encountering a deer outside his suburban home.

* The Berlin wall comes down.

* A little boy marvels at seeing his first snowfall.

* A little boy displays good basketball dribbling skills.

* A little boy impresses a little girl at a wedding reception by pulling a tablecloth out from under the dishes.

* A woman jogger achieves her personal best.

In each case, someone in the scene says “Wow.”

For the final sequence, there is a voiceover: “Every so often, you experience something so new, so delightfully unexpected, there’s only one word for it.”

* A man looks at a computer screen and sees 4-year-old Mac technology, presumably on a PC equipped with Vista. For some unexplained reason, he also says, “Wow.”

The Sound of One Hand Clapping
Okay. While I don’t think sporting events are as much of a “wow” as the space race, I understand that all of these moments can be emotionally satisfying. But in the spot, they lead up to a big let-down.

Ultimately, the commercial says, “Hey, remember some good things? Well, our product could perhaps maybe in some teeny-tiny way be kinda-sorta thought of a little like that, if you had never seen how a Mac worked during the past half-decade.”

I don’t know if Vista is a good product (less than a week after its official unveiling, a Google search of “Vista bugs” brought up only a quarter of a million listings, and at least one television news commentator suggested that installing Vista is so difficult that the best way to get it is to buy a new computer with the OS already inside) but the spot is just well-produced hogwash.

Because if this commercial is to be believed, Vista is not “now.” And it’s certainly not “wow.” In fact, the complete statement from that man viewing the PC screen might well have been, “Wow, this is incredibly lame.” And correct me if I’m wrong, but that is not the reaction you’d like from your expensive marketing efforts.

[tags]G-Man, Gman, gman marketing, Scott G, Communication Nation, advertising, marketing, ad rants, Microsoft[/tags]

Scott G lurks behind a mic

Ads Masquerading as Content

Paid placement is a dirty little secret of advertising and public relations. Scott G explores a few of the subversive, sneaky, snaky, snarky, sleazy and very profitable methods of putting your product in front of the public in just the right light.

Scott G lurks behind a micOn the Internet, we all know the difference between banner ads and editorial. On radio and television, we all know the difference between commercials and content. In magazines and newspapers, we all know the difference between ads and articles. In news broadcasts, we all know the difference between opinion and fact.

Or do we?

When Paula Abdul holds a Coke on American Idol, we know it’s because a promotional fee has been paid. But it doesn’t stop there. Her clothing, shoes, hair, makeup, lip gloss, eyelashes, and jewelry didn’t just appear there by whim or accident.

The same thing can be said for ______ TV and movie personalities. Fill-in-the-blank with: A) some; B) many; C) most; D) all.

There’s the problem: we don’t know what appears on screen through free choice and what appears there because of a marketing decision and the exchange of some filthy lucre.

Pay-to-Say
In prior articles, I’ve spoken of our living in a pay-to-say society. If you have the money, your point-of-view can be stated over and over in front of millions. You could even be making things up, as on “Fox News.” The facts are not important. Commerce is important.

How many times have you enjoyed a book or CD review without considering how the selections were made? My sixth music album is being released this month and I asked about submitting it for review to one of the popular DJ-oriented glossy magazines. “No, we don’t buy ads in that company’s publications so there’s no point sending them the album,” was the distributor’s reply.

Wait. Are reviews of new albums actually miniature ads? Perhaps. Even if a reviewer’s opinion isn’t influenced, the fact that the deck is stacked in terms of the selection of product seems to go against the very nature of a “free press.”

Is the same thing true of many other “editorial” sections of newspapers, magazines, e-zines, radio shows, and TV news? When I’ve raised this issue amongst marketing and public relations professionals, the reaction has been along the lines of “Scott, stop being naive.”

Payola
As long as we’re had popular music, we’ve had payola. Recent lawsuits by Eliot Spitzer’s office have alerted the public to the practice of radio conglomerates accepting money to play non-hits often enough to have them called hits. Yet it’s the innocent recording artists who were named in most of the news stories, not the executives at the stations. Why? Because the executives are going to be buying ads in the future.

Possibilities for Hidden Persuasion
Okay, now consider other forms of “editorial content” and take a moment to speculate on the possibility of some guidance from the “hands of commerce.” Story on political candidates. Round-up of the latest electronic gadgets. Descriptions of new kitchen appliances. Article on housing developments in your area. Automobile reviews. Stories dealing with new pharmaceutical products.

See any potential problem areas? I do. Working in advertising, marketing and public relations, I have watched some very smarmy deals go down.

What About This Column?
Nope. I’m not for sale. But as a human being, I sure as hell can be influenced. And in today’s world, how can you tell the difference?

Photo illustration by Phil Hatten Design.

[tags]G-Man, Gman, gman marketing, Scott G, Communication Nation, advertising, marketing, ad rants, paid placement, public relations[/tags]

Scott G doing a voiceover

Zombies, Reptiles and Torture-Porn

Bouncing back and forth between the worlds of marketing and music, Scott G took some time off from writing about advertising in order to cover the musical madness known as the NAMM Show. Upon his return, he finds the communications industry to be semi-chaotic, with zombies, reptiles and torture-porn all over your TV.

Scott G doing a voiceoverA guy goes away for a week and what happens? The ad industry decides it is okay to reanimate the dead, use snakes to sell vodka, and create a YouTube splatter film as an in-joke.

This doesn’t even address the parade of dubious advertising from Pepto-Bismol, Charmin, and all the schlock ads written about by Eric Deggans in his excellent St. Petersberg Times article (http://www.sptimes.com/2007/01/25/Floridian/Slimy_sales_agents.shtml). Full disclosure: I’m quoted in the article.

Dead Man Selling
I don’t eat much popcorn but people assure me that the Orville Redenbacher popping corn is pretty good stuff. So why is my stomach turning when their new commercial comes on?

Well, it could be because Mr. Redenbacher has been dead for a decade. No, this can’t be it because I didn’t mind the Audrey Hepburn Gap ad. In fact, I rather liked the retro/modern mash-up and thought the presentation of Miss Hepburn remained true to her appearance in the film “Funny Face” from which it was taken.

The problem with the Redenbacher ad is the piss-poor presentation. He looks half-mummified or even Joan Rivers-like (not ideal for a food sales pitch, I’d say). The computer manipulation isn’t as awful as those singing sewer rats that Quiznos used a couple years ago, but it’s in the same ballpark.

This reanimation of the popcorn zombie makes him look like a bobblehead from hell.

Snakes on Your TV
I respect most of the marketing for Absolut Vodka. Great-looking work, nicely positioned, and has me thinking well of the product. I looked forward to their campaign for the newest flavored vodka, Absolut Pears and was surprised to see it featured a snake. While I would better understand using a snake for an apple-related product instead of something with pears, that’s not my primary concern.

I’m wondering how many people look at the big pear-shaped lump inside the snake and want to vomit. I guess I just don’t react well to the thought of reptiles swallowing food items whole, especially items that are bigger in circumference than their own bodies. And the live-action TV spot just makes it worse. I don’t want that imagery in my living room, thank you very much. Full disclosure #2: after consuming half a bottle of the stuff, that commercial looks pretty damn good.

Slasher Flick
Then there’s the case of the Chuck McBride slasher film. Staged in the San Francisco offices of TBWA\Chiat\Day, the YouTube video shows bloody dead bodies scattered all over the agency. Adequate cinematography is synched up with amateurish sound effects and the silly thing ends with the supposed killer holding a crimson-coated Clio as if it’s the murder weapon. Whereupon he assures viewers everything will be okay as the Fifth Dimension sing “Up, Up and Away.” WTF?

Okay. Here’s the thing. Most of us know that many employees of large ad agencies have feelings of self-loathing, a paranoid sense of insecurity, very poor taste, and little or no sense of humor. BUT we don’t have to let the public know it by producing tripe like this.

Torture-Porn
Another trend that has to be bothering a lot of ad industry execs is the unrelenting glut of TV commercials glorifying torture-porn. It began with “Passion of the Christ” but is now raging full-force with the “Saw” films and their ilk, including “Hostel,” “Turistas,” “Slither,” “Hills Have Eyes,” “Apocalypto” and “Texas Primeval Chainsaw Hannibal Hitcher Living Dead Amityville Part XLVII” or whatever.

Hey, ad folks, people already hate our profession enough without goading them with beautifully photographed violence every week.

[tags]GMan, gman marketing, Scott G, Communication Nation, advertising, marketing, ad rants[/tags]

THE TRUTH is G-MAN

Will Political Ads Ever Make the Grade?

Political advertisements are frequently insulting, misleading, intrusive, divisive, belligerent, harmful, and/or just packed with lies. Everybody, it seems, hates political advertisements, but one man has decided to try to do something about it. Scott G interviews Tim Warner about a controversial proposal for grading political ads.

THE TRUTH is G-MANSCOTT G: Set the background for us. Why are you taking on the status quo regarding political advertisements?

TIM WARNER: Political advertising is horrifying. Too many advertisements lack integrity. Many of them display little or no morality. Campaigns full of lies and deceptions have misled the public into voting without knowing the true facts, and the whole sordid atmosphere has frustrated many people into not voting at all.

G: Many of us agree that political advertising is corrupt and disgusting. How do you think this came about?

Warner: There isn’t a system of checks and balances in political advertising; no code of ethics.

G: Give us some examples of recent ads you found especially harmful.

Warner: There was a spot that claimed a New York politician called a “party line” using taxpayer money. But it was an aide who had tried to call a government office and got the party line by accident. Phone records show that the call was ended immediately and the correct number dialed. The producers of the misleading ad tried to deceive voters into voting for their candidate based on a distortion of the facts.

G: Any examples in print?

Warner: There was a something called the “California Democratic Voter Guide” which urged a “No” vote on Proposition 87, but the Democratic Party endorsed Prop 87. The guide was paid for and sent out by a political action committee most likely funded by the oil companies running the “No on 87″ campaign.

G: Some might say that mud-slinging has always been part of politics.

Warner: It’s true that unethical campaigning has been around forever, but that’s no excuse for not trying to stop it.

G: Everyone except the makers of political ads knows things are deplorable. The problem is what do we do about it?

Warner: I think the best thing to do would be to create a grading system.

G: Like grades in school, or those restaurant health department grades?

Warner: Exactly. A grading system is something people understand from school, and it has worked well in such industries as restaurants, movies, and video games.

G: What about the free speech issue?

Warner: Using a grading system could be voluntary, so it wouldn’t interfere with free speech laws. It wouldn’t prevent ads from being aired. Best of all, a grading system works well in handling ads that are fair as well as ads that are distorted. Dishonest or misleading ads would get low grades, making them financially unwise to produce. And the system would encourage truth and honesty in political advertising by awarding honest ads with high marks.

G: You made a presentation to the American Association of Advertising Agencies, right?

Warner: My first thought was that they should deal with the problem of unethical political advertising. The AAAA is established, influential, and has a code of ethics already in place.

G: What did you propose to them?

Warner: My suggestion was the creation of a non-partisan “Grading Board” to review political ads. There’s a lot of work to be done on this, such as creating a set of criteria for judging advertisements. They would need a process for gathering the facts, reviewing the ad content, and seeing if the ad message distorted the truth.

G: Research takes time and manpower.

Warner: The board would need a support staff of researchers to investigate the ads, scripts, storyboards, billboards, and so on. The grades need to be designed and there needs to be a uniform way to incorporate them, like the warnings on cigarette ads, for example. No one should be forced to submit an advertisement for grading, but it should be in the best interest of all political ad producers to do so.

G: So ads running without a grade might tend to be suspected of misleading statements?

Warner: That’s right. Even if not all ads are submitted to scrutiny right away, people will start asking why some commercials are graded and some are not. Un-graded ads will be at a disadvantage in garnering public trust, encouraging producers to work within the grading system.

G: Let’s say you get all that accomplished. Then what?

Warner: The TV broadcasters who air the ads need to embrace and promote the system. That’s a big hurdle. They may see it as inhibiting revenue. A grading system could decrease ad dollar profits in the short term, but broadcasters have a responsibility to promote high ethical standards. With a grading system, broadcasters would raise the standards of advertising and compel political ad producers to play by the rules. Once the dust settles, the number of ads being produced would rebound.

G: There are time constraints to political ads.

Warner: Sure, a time frame would need to be established. The committee would need a certain number of days to research and grade a script. Then the ad producers could make the spot with the awarded grade, appeal the grade, or rewrite the script and resubmit it. The number of days needed to appeal or resubmit would need to be determined. After you shoot and edit a spot, it would need to be re-submitted to see that they adhered to the approved script. I know it’s complicated, but it’s a process I think we need more than ever these days.

G: What about the appeals process?

Warner: There would need to be a separate appeal board. Ad producers should be able to argue their case, and the Grading Board should be allowed a rebuttal. The appeal board would make a decision based on the evidence and arguments presented.

G: You want to keep government out of this process?

Warner: Government regulation in this should be viewed as a last resort. I believe that the advertising community itself should force a change. If the industry shows solidarity in getting behind a grading system, clients and broadcasters will be forced to accept it.

G: There are bound to be objections to this plan.

Warner: Some people argue that it would be impossible to find an objective and independent panel to judge the ads. But the MPAA has had an independent rating system for decades. The U.S. court system is based on the idea of a jury of individuals making objective decisions. The federal Supreme Court is non-partisan but makes decisions on political issues.

G: What about costs?

Warner: The costs for implementing a grading system would include setting up a central office for the judging committee, hiring and paying a research staff, and miscellaneous office costs such as supplies and shipping charges. To offset these costs, advertising agencies could take a cue from the MPAA and impose a small fee in commercial budgets, or look into grants.

G: What was the response from the AAAA?

Warner: They had a number of valid points, but mostly they relate to time and costs, both of which I think would resolve themselves once the public began demanding that political ads receive an independent grade.

G: So you feel this is worth pursuing vigorously?

Warner: Absolutely. A grading system helps put power back in the hands of the people by letting them decide which ads get attention and which ads are ignored. This actually helps with campaign finance reform because it limits the effectiveness of misleading and dishonest ad campaigns funded by special interests and big corporations. By making it unwise to spend large sums of money on ads that will receive low grades, the industry will be forced to become more ethical and make ads that are honest. And with advertisements that focus on candidates’ stands on issues and on the true nature of ballot propositions, the American people can make a much more informed decision about how they vote.

[tags]G-Man, Gman, gman marketing, Scott G, Communication Nation, advertising, marketing, ad rants, political ads[/tags]

Numbers Game

Announcing the number one fastest-selling product of its kind released on a Wednesday aimed at 29-54-year-old left-handed female residents of Midwestern states! You wouldn’t put much stock in that as a marketing boast, but Scott G points out that sales figures often approach that level of absurdity.

Scott G logo by Phil Hatten DesignThis column is 2007’s most popular online opinion piece on a marketing topic written by an advertising professional who is also a recording artist (OOPOAMTWBAAPWIAARA).

Okay, so it may be the only OOPOAMTWBAAPWIAARA, but we’re not going to let that spoil the fun of making up some hype.

The point, for those of you who are no longer attempting to pronounce the world’s longest made-up acronym (“oop oh am twa-bap we are ah”), is that the business community appears to be awash in facts and figures that don’t actually mean anything.

Consider recent sales reports on portable audio players. In a CNET story headlined “Zune Fails to Crack Top 10 in Sales,” the piece quotes a study by a company called Current Analysis that claims that the Microsoft audio device “captured 12 percent of the hard-drive-based player market for December.”

Oh really? Let’s set aside for the moment the fact that the survey listed 8 Apple iPods in that top 10 sales list. (I don’t believe Apple has 8 different models of iPod, so that in itself is a pretty neat trick.)

Let’s also set aside the weasel wording that focuses on hard-drive-based units instead of taking in the whole category of portable audio players.

Instead consider that the survey tracked sales from Best Buy, Circuit City, CompUSA, Staples and RadioShack. Do you see the problem? Those are fine retail outlets. I respect and admire them. And I’m certain they sell a few Zunes and a ton of iPods. But so does Amazon.com, the Apple.com online store, and Apple retail stores, none of which were tracked by the survey.

In other words, the Current Analysis analysis of the sales figures was just slightly bogus because, well, because it lacked the sales figures.

If we’re allowed to print anything we like, let’s say the Zune had 1% of the market for portable audio players. Would you care to prove me wrong? Fine. Just send me some actual numbers.

[tags]G-Man, Gman, gman marketing, Scott G, Communication Nation, advertising, marketing, ad rants, Zune, statistics[/tags]

Exxon: Please Go

A public restroom. Dripping faucets. Double entendres. Another annoying pharmaceutical spot for medication that shrinks prostate glands? Nope, it’s for corporate polluter ExxonMobil. Scott G admires the photography while hoping the communications industry holds the big Ex up to ridicule.

Scott G of G-Man MarketingIf you watch any of the three major Sunday morning commentary shows, you see an annoying number of commercials for pharmaceutical products.

Actually, if you watch almost any news-related TV show, you’ll be inundated with messages about drugs designed to bring you up, let you down or slide you sideways.

So last Sunday morning, when a commercial began with a guy running from a vehicle to a public restroom, I naturally assumed it was for one of the 5-alpha reductase inhibitors that shrink the prostate, or one of the alpha-blockers that relax bladder muscles (isn’t it great what you can pretend to know just by using Google?)

But there was something odd about the female voiceover. The smarmy double entendres about “holding more” and “going” etc. were all on behalf of ExxonMobil.

WTF? Yes, the slimewads who gave us the huge disgusting environmental disaster involving the Exxon Valdez have the gall to create a commercial in which they brag about creating ships that carry even more payload.

The spot is nicely directed, beautifully lit and crisply edited. In fact, the entire production is just excellent. But the script sucks and the basic intent of the campaign is insulting in the extreme.

Memo to ExxonMobil: no, we have not forgotten. Please go now.

[tags]G-Man, Scott G, Communication Nation, advertising, marketing, pharmaceutical ads, ExxonMobil, ad rants[/tags]

Groovy Close Up

Bank of America. Lower Standards.

Yes, they attempted to ruin a lovely song. Yes, the company admits to firing the person who leaked the video. And yes, they are wasting money on an executive with enough spare time to trade misspelled barbs with people on YouTube. But in defending its horrific version of U2’s “One,” Bank of America stands up for dorks, dweebs, jerks, idiots, morons and no-talent greedwhores everywhere.

Groovy Close UpBy now, you’ve probably seen and cringed at those two mentally-challenged Bank of America part-timers utterly destroying the lyrical beauty of “One,” a song by U2 from their 1991 “Achtung Baby” album.

Wait. That probably doesn’t go far enough. These guys earnestly, deliberately and painstakingly took this song of angst, longing, heartache, intensity, introspection and communication and walloped the daylights out of it. Crapped all over it, in fact.

If you have not yet had your mind boggled by this thing, try here:

Seeing those two misguided souls doing their little skit in a typical corporate sales meeting room complete with too-bright lighting was hilariously funny in a curiously sad sort of way. Like when you attend the grade school pageant and find yourself smiling and squirming at the antics of the kid in the back row and not knowing where to look when a child in the front row starts picking her nose.

Yes, it’s like that. Only worse because (A) these are, chronologically at least, adults, and (B) the organization is (and I quote from their own materials) “the nation’s leading financial institution.”

Quick: Do I Have a BofA Account I Can Cancel?
My first reaction was to mentally list my bank accounts, IRAs and credit cards to see if I was in possession of one I could cancel. After all, any company stupid enough to permit this travesty shouldn’t be trusted with my money.

The raw lunacy of taking lyrics about the nature of the world at the moment the Berlin Wall fell, then perverting those words, twisting them, torturing them and trashing them to become a paean to a credit card is too outrageous to comprehend. What lack of humanity must affect these two creatures if they can spout such tripe as “pick a card that shows your heart and your pride” and brag about how “we’ll make lots of money” and then, in a stupendous example of Charlie Brown-Nose sucking-up, work several of their fellow employees’ names into the song?

When the stunted sub-human “singer” curdles up his face and spews out the line “Have you met Michelle Sheppard, she’s leading the team in the Northeast?” you have to wonder if there is an iota of sensibility in the guy. (And what of poor Ms. Sheppard? Did she approve this burlesque, or is she an innocent victim of corporate-sponsored buffoonery?)

Different Perspective
Well. Let’s take a step or two back from the wreckage. Perhaps Bank of America is doing us a favor here. By displaying a complete absence of taste, wit or sensitivity, they are lowering the bar for everyone. Maybe we should celebrate BofA for making our jobs easier.

“Hey Larry, how’s that new ad campaign coming along?”

“It’s just okay, I guess.”

“But it’s better than BofA, right?”

“Absolutely.”

“Great. Let’s knock off early.”

There was a lively debate being waged on YouTube postings. The defender of the BofA garbage was a 61-year-old who accused everyone else of being someone who worked at Taco Bell or McDonald’s and who bragged about being able to retire soon with more money than anyone else could dream of. (Hmm, interesting pattern there, but the two goons in the video did not appear to be 61, although with that lighting, who could really tell?)

One post claimed that the sexagenarian was actually Ken Lewis, the CEO of BofA. Now that couldn’t be, could it? The bank’s Board of Directors wouldn’t sit still for one of its executives having so little to do that he could take time to type out ungrammatical missive after ungrammatical missive on a social video/networking site. Would they? (Note to self: make certain your portfolio does not contain any BofA stock.)

Whoever the jerkoff was, it was strikingly painful to watch him praise the “spirit” of their parody version of the song while almost in the same breath talk about how they have fired the person who posted the video as well as threatening to hunt down any BofA employees who dare to post any disparaging remarks about the repellent duet.

Next Up in BofA’s Campaign to Lower Standards
Possibly, we need to make note of guitarist Jim DuBois and vocalist Ethan Chandler (combined I.Q., 129), not just for being bad apples in the corporate marketing barrel, but for serving as a signpost that warns us to heed the human side of the communications business.

On the other hand, there are still a great many excellent songs that the schlock mongers at BofA can trash. Here are a couple of ideas that they’re probably already working on: Using Brian Wilson’s “God Only Knows” as an announcement of new rates on certificates of deposit, and turning “Strange Fruit” into an ode to home equity loans.

[tags]G-Man, Gman, gman marketing, Scott G, Communication Nation, advertising, marketing, ad rants, ad music, Bank of America, U2[/tags]

scottgsunglasses111906

Badvertising: Pepto, Charmin, Mucinex, Lamisil, ExxonMobile

Disgusting advertising campaigns do more than anger people; they also bring shame on the marketing profession. In addition to calling for a boycott of the products themselves, Scott G suggests the marketing industry refuse to hire the creators of the ads.

There are bad ads and then there are Really Bad Ads. We all have our favorite worst commercials, and you’re more than welcome to let me know your choices. As of December 2006, here are the ones that bother me the most.

scottgsunglasses111906 Not in the Pink
Using hip hop music to sell products may be annoying or cool depending on the talent of the performers and the shamelessness of the marketers. The nadir of this approach was found in the commercials for an otherwise helpful product called Pepto-Bismol.

In what was surely a case of ads creating the nausea that Pepto-Bismol cures, the television campaign over the past two years presented a vile, sickening and downright stupid music-and-dance routine that named all the symptoms P-B is supposed to relieve. Adding insult to injury, the company Web site had some sort of game where people (morons, I can only assume) would select characters and dance moves.

Some people find it humorous when bad taste goes this far. Others find it disgusting that something this ugly is allowed to be broadcast into people’s homes. Still others are just hurt by the commercial when their jaws hit the floor as they view this monstrosity.

In an attempt to soften the blow, the live action characters have recently become animated animals of some kind. I know they’re not real but I think PETA should protest anyway.

Barely Legal
For decades, the slogan was “don’t squeeze the Charmin,” meant to imply that the rolls of toilet tissue were soft and, oh I don’t know, fun to play with. Today, Charmin has resorted to cute animation of bears so that viewers will think of the old punchline, “Does a bear crap in the woods?” And to allow bad jokes to be made about this being the tissue for bare bottoms.

Annoying? Stupid? Insulting? Well, does a bear…? You know.

The Nose Knows
Mucinex gets its message into your home via a talking glob of mucus. Need I say more?

Toeing the Line
More animated insults, this time for prescription Lamisil. Scraping its way under a toenail and causing an infection is something called Digger the Dermatophyte. Yes, it’s as revolting as it sounds.

Bimbo on a Scooter
All oil companies think we’re stupid. They think we don’t mind their polluting the planet while picking our pockets. In particular, Exxon (now ExxonMobile) thinks you have enough memory loss that their gargantuan oil spill has passed from your consciousness. So, they are presenting nice images of a twit on a scooter driving past landmarks in Europe while saying how gleeful she is about working on recyclable products made by the rapacious corporation. If this is the best marketing they can come up with, they better be spending a fortune on lobbying and public relations because this spot is laughable. A committee decision if ever there was one.

Can We Work Together?
In each case above, I call upon everyone to purchase competing products. I also feel that those of us in the marketing, advertising and communication industries should refuse to hire anyone associated with these campaigns. Creative, product management, research, media, and brand management personnel on these accounts should be shunned and forcibly nudged into another line of work more suitable to their lack of taste and talent. Politics and contract killing come immediately to mind.

[tags]G-Man, Scott G, Communication Nation, advertising, marketing, ad rants, bad ads[/tags]

Ads Good and Weird

Current television advertising contains soldiers, elephants, autos, mirrors, and balls. According to marketing guy Scott G, some of the campaigns are quite good while others are puzzling, inane, harebrained, obtuse, weird, and a wild waste of money.

I watch TV for the commercials. There. I’ve admitted it. Of course there are some programs that intrigue me, like “Studio 60,” “The Simpsons,” and the smart news (A.K.A. “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”.) But being in communications, I use TiVo to see the commercials. And here are some of the ones I’ve been watching.

Alphabet Soup
Texas Instruments is attempting to convince consumers to ask for something called DLP Technology when buying a high definition television screen. So they have come up with a campaign that cleverly explains what dee-el-pea is all about, right? Nope. Instead, they have a little girl and an elephant. Cute kid, but why is she in the commercials? She talks about “the meers.” She means “mirrors,” but that isn’t explained, either. Rating: Silly and a waste of money.

An Army of Strong
After the ridiculous campaign of “An Army of One,” almost anything would look good, and with “Army: Strong,” this comes out of the box looking like a winner. True, the campaign TV spots offer standard imagery of soldiers in training (but not at war) and the music is horribly clichéd, but the editing is excellent and the copywriting is brilliant, especially in the sixty-second version. After hearing my father’s stories about being in the Army, I can tell you that I won’t be volunteering, but so far this campaign makes me feel good about the organization. Rating: Solid start and a great foundation for a long campaign.

Epson Steals Sony’s “Balls”
Man, I have been dying to write a like that for a long time. Okay, here’s the situation. Last year, Sony unveiled a beautiful production called “Balls” for their Bravia flat-screen. Or for their new TV screen technology. Or whatever the hell it was for (that was a big part of the complaints about the campaign). It was a rip-off of a David Letterman sketch about sending tons of balls bouncing down the street. Now, Epson printers have animated the balls to show how globules of color come together to make printouts of girls in bikinis appear vibrant and attractive. Rating: So-so execution of a potentially good idea.

Listen to the Aura
To introduce the Saturn Aura, an intelligent-sized sedan, the TV spot has fine production values and strong direction. The images are well photographed yet fairly mundane, but the spot has a nice pace to the editing. It also features something I always admire: great music. Some marketing folks have knocked the tag line (“Like always. Like never before.”) but it seems fine for a company that has always maintained its independence despite being part of the humongous soul-sucking General Motors corporation. Rating: Best of the bunch for one primary reason: it made me want to go check out the product.

[tags]G-Man, Scott G, Communication Nation, advertising, marketing, ad rants, TV spots[/tags]

scottgsunglasses111906

Not One Second of Imagination

General Electric announced the Imagination Theater, which will attempt to reach consumers through the time-dishonored method of advertainment. This follows their recent experiments called One Second Theater and ecoImagination. Scott G assesses the impact and implications by discussing them with viewers. Or, he would have, if he could have found anyone who watched them.

scottgsunglasses111906General Electric has had some interesting advertising ideas this year. First, it was ecoImagination, which showed animals doing impossible (and impossibly stupid) things in cheesy computer animation.

Next came One Second Theater, which consisted of an extra message hidden inside their commercials.

Now, it’s Imagination Theater, which they swear is going to advertain you.

It’s too soon to knock Imagination Theater except to say that the site is virtually unknown to search engines and doesn’t always work properly. It’s at ge.com/imaginationtheater if you’re interested. But the crummy ecoImagination spots are still making eyes roll during Sunday morning political commentary shows. And we can certainly perform a post mortem on One Second Theater.

Embedded Nonsense
By adding embedded content to each commercial, consumers were supposed to be more interested in the spots and were then expected to engage in some sort of interactivity. It was also thought to counter the TiVo trend of avoiding commercials by having the content show up frame-by-frame when played back on a DVR.

David Lubars, chairman and chief creative officer of General Electric’s advertising agency, BBDO, said the One Second Theater advertising idea worked “in combination with new technology.”

Which is true. If by “in combination with” he meant “by shrugging off.”

Taking a Look
After much difficulty, I was able to view some of the “embedded content.” Let’s just say that you can find more excitement in an Economics 101 lecture. Example: they had a “bio” of one of the animals in the commercial. It was quite humorous, if by “humorous” you mean “deadly dull.”

Speaking of which, in a “where are they now” segment on their accompanying micro site, every actor in their commercial reenactment of the driving of the Golden Spike was identified as “dead.”

I guess that’s the sense of wit for which GE wants to be famous.

The Public Speaks (Sort of)
To be fair, it seemed I should get the opinions of other marketing professionals and some members of the public. So I conducted a highly vigorous and completely scientific survey (I called up ten of my friends).

Here are some of the responses:

“What are you talking about?”

“I’m supposed to look inside a commercial for another commercial?”

“Are you nuts?”

“No thanks.”

“Is it worth it?”

And since it wasn’t, I couldn’t bring myself to encourage anyone to make the effort. Well, there was one person…

Image Professional’s View
Advertising and rock ‘n’ roll photographer Snook hadn’t heard of the One Second Theater concept, either, but took the time to Google it. Ten minutes later, he gave up trying to view the extra embedded super secret information. “From the description, it seems like a slide show inside a commercial,” he noted.

Reflecting a bottom line sensibility that is unusual in the visual arts, he said “You can imagine a Dilbert explanation for it: ‘We can charge the client for two commercials instead of one, and we’ll know it’s working if no one notices.’ My best guess on this is that whoever came up with this idea is related to someone in senior management.”

Snook added that the slide show idea would work for a product that put the Sports Illustrated swimsuit models into their commercial.

Wasted Opportunity
So we’re laughing ruefully over the inept ecoImagination spots and waiting with low expectations on Imagination Theater. But the One Second Theater concept remains a wonderful idea that was poorly executed. Wonder if it will get a second chance.

[tags]G-Man, Gman, gman marketing, Scott G, Communication Nation, advertising, marketing, ad rants, GE, General Electric, One Second Theater, Imagination Theater, ecoImagination[/tags]

ZUNE

Zune not in Tune

There was a time when marketing executives were considered savvy, smart, or slick. Some probably are all those things, but not those involved with Microsoft’s new digital music player. Scott G takes a look at the marketing decisions for Zune (as in “rhymes with crazy as a loon”).

Remember when Microsoft unleashed its digital rights management scheme called PlaysForSure? Sounded like something designed for four-year-olds.

ZUNEYou may also remember how we all watched it slowly die. I just did a search on Google using the term “PlaysForSure.” The first listing belongs to Microsoft’s official PFS site and it displays the following description: “Microsoft makes no representations or warranties regarding the products manufacturers make available on the PlaysForSure website.” That ForSure gives consumers a lot of confidence.

Now Microsoft is back with a product they hope will be an iPod killer. It’s called Doom. No, wait, it’s called Dune. No, Zima. No, Zuma. No, Zune. Yeah, that’s it. Zune. As in “This product will probably be dead by next June.” Or as in “whoever is in charge of this is crazy as a loon.”

I doubt if Apple is too worried, but MS stockholders should be shaking their heads over this waste of time, energy and money. (MS reportedly has admitted that Zune will be unprofitable, just like their X-Box product.)

Pros & Cons
Let’s take a look at the Zune. The storage capacity and price are comparable to the iPod. The Zune’s screen is bigger, but the unit is bulkier which makes it feel kind of clunky.

A big plus according to MS is built-in Wi-Fi which will enable you to send a song to any other Zune player within 30 feet. Quite apart from the fact that I’d rather walk over to someone and strike up a conversation before plugging the two units together, there is also the rather annoying drawback that you reportedly lose one hour of battery life just for activating the feature. Photographer Snook comments, “They could put a string between two Zunes and talk to each other, if you turn up the volume on your larynx.”

Everyone who uses an iPod knows about the simplicity and elegance of the circular navigation control on the front panel. The Zune has one, too. Oops, no it doesn’t. The Zune actually has four buttons hidden under a circular panel cover.

Ah, I see an interesting marketing approach at work . . . make your product LOOK like your competitor’s but not function nearly as well. That allows you to cut down on cost, which you can pass on to consumers in the form of . . . the same price as your competitor.

Well, I’m not sure how that works, exactly, but I am confident that the geniuses at MS know what they’re doing.

Do The Math
Speaking of costs, let’s look at the song pricing on iTunes versus Zune. A song costs 99 cents on iTunes. A song costs 80 points on Zune.

What?

Eighty points. You don’t buy songs with Zune, you buy points and use them to purchase songs. Okay, so a song costs 80 points. That would be 80 cents, right? Wrong. It’s 99 cents.

What?

The reasoning here is that this process makes the Zune more “international.” Note to the rocket scientists at MS: Americans don’t like doing math under most circumstances and certainly not to figure out how much you’re charging for a digital download.

Paying Peter to Also Pay Paul
MS has also agreed to pay a dollar on the sale of each Zune to the world’s largest music corporation, Universal Music Group, in exchange for licensing their music for sale.

Wait. Say what? MS is making a device that will help record companies sell more songs, yet they have offered to pay extra on sales of the device itself? Interesting marketing move. So should we expect to see auto companies paying Exxon for every car they sell?

I have only seen the first two commercials for Zune, but I can tell you that I don’t care how good they might be (and they aren’t) because the overall marketing of the product is so flawed.

[tags]G-Man, Scott G, Communication Nation, advertising, marketing, ad rants, Microsoft, Apple, Zune, iPod[/tags]

Ad Agency Creative Departments: What Do They Do?

Copywriters and art directors have the easiest job in the world. Right up until they have to deal with unimaginative clients, unknowledgeable account managers, and uninformed creative directors. With a wink and a sigh, Scott G sums it all up.

Look at how simple things are for advertising agency copywriters and art directors. A veritable life of ease.

Each job is a breeze. Why, every assignment comes down to just three simple steps:

1) Start with a blank computer screen.

2) Fill with words & images.

3) Google Borat and relax ’cause you’re done for the day!

See? No problem.

Oh, wait.

There are a couple of teeny tiny itsy bitsy little details.

Those words and images must catch the eye of a specifically targeted audience, insinuate a message inside their heads and/or hearts, and motivate a specific response from them (frequently involving their parting with some of their time and money), all while improving (or at least not screwing up) a company’s image.

Plus, more and more often these days, everything in the campaign must be accomplished with a “limited budget” and completed “ASAP.”

Then it must often be “revised,” “changed,” “reworked,” “re-thought,” “tweaked,” “altered,” “amended,” “affected,” “moved around,” or otherwise transmogrified.

Most important (and may I suggest that account managers keep this in mind) copywriters and art directors must work very very very very hard to suppress the urge to kill when asked to make the idea smaller and the logo bigger.

Not to mention when asked to put in more copy. And a snipe. And a burst. And a coupon. And two URLs. Plus reducing the size of the ad by 50%.

Oh, and can you add a picture of the client?

[tags]G-Man, gman marketing, Scott G, Communication Nation, advertising, marketing, ad rants, ad agency[/tags]

Ad Is All Trucked Up

Chevy Silverado pick-up trucks must be very hard to sell. Otherwise, General Motors would not have its ad agency make such a controversial commercial. Scott G confesses to enjoying the music in the spot while wincing at the visuals.

First of all, I don’t drive a truck. I own a Ford Focus and a Toyota Camry. So I’m not really the intended audience for Campbell-Ewald’s latest commercial for General Motors’ Chevrolet division and one of their road menaces, the Silverado.

Yet GM advertises their hulking products to me anyway. I’ve seen the spot eight times in the past two weeks, which lets me know they’re really really really desperate and I’ve had the TV on too much in my studio lately.

Audio
Actually, my TV viewing is probably about the same as always; it’s just that this spot uses a John Mellencamp song, “Our Country,” that’s pretty nifty, and I look up from whatever I’m doing when I hear it.

It’s a fine song, a beautiful reworking of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” (which I assume is either in the public domain or the Guthrie estate shares in the royalties).

But the images of the commercial cause people like me to write commentary speculating on the motives, shamelessness, brilliance and/or stupidity of the people behind the spot.

Visual
So, who and what appear in the commercial? Rosa Parks. Martin Luther King. The pillars of light at the site of the World Trade Center. Vietnam War soldiers. Peace marchers during the 1960s. Images of Bushville (New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina).

None of that imagery should appear in a commercial context for any product that wants to maintain any semblance of tact, decency or good taste.

Richard Nixon is in the spot as well, which is like showing a gangrene leg in an ad for chicken wings. You’ll also see racing footage of Dale Earnhardt’s stock car prior to his fatal crash. Which is problematic in an automotive ad, I would think.

In addition, the commercial contains images that are commercially viable, including Muhammad Ali, Mellencamp with acoustic guitar, Woodstock-era dancers, East Coast fishermen, West Coast brush fires (WTF?), posed photos of “firefighters,” homes being built, beat-up old Chevy trucks, a fake wheat field, and kids dressed up to look like the Marlboro Man.

The music pulls you in while the visuals push you away. Here’s how one of the ad agency execs explains it: “These are the bruises and scars that have shaped our nation and we have rebuilt ourselves spiritually, emotionally and physically.”

Yeah, right. The commercial might just as well be saying, “The country is split apart, hatred rules the airwaves, and the Bush regime still hasn’t figured out how to stop hemorrhaging money overseas and fix the problems they caused in New Orleans, so go buy a truck.”

No Go
The spot is a beautiful mess. You know what? It’s not a commercial message. This is a nice music video. Too bad they trucked it up with those ugly Silverados.

[tags]G-Man, Scott G, Communication Nation, advertising, General Motors, Chevy Silverado, John Mellencamp, ad agency, marketing, ad rants[/tags]

Consumer Created Column

Interactive online presentations, consumer generated content, DIY ad campaigns, viewer voting, and Joe Public development of stories and videos are starting to be found virtually everywhere. Scott G says go ahead, write this column.

Having just completed an article for Talent Zoo entitled “Sex in Marketing,” it occurred to me that a lot of what we do in communications revolves around inserting the right __________ in the right __________ at the right time.

See how easy this interactive thing can be?

Almost everywhere you turn these days, someone is figuring out a way to have other people create entertaining content that helps sell a product.

The idea is to engage viewers and consumers who might otherwise ignore your carefully crafted ads, spots, coupons, announcements, posters, and promotional items. All in all, it’s a __________ idea.

There’s no denying that this situation is exciting for those of us who are on the concept side of marketing and communications. But those of us who also write or produce ads and commercials, it can be truly __________.

Who’s in Charge?
The trick is to devise an event that will produce non-derogatory content. No one wants to create a situation like General Motors did with its Make Your Own Chevy Tahoe TV Commercial fiasco, in which people posted commercials with messages like “Morons Drive Gas Guzzlers Like Tahoe” or even “____ you, GM.”

Do you step in and edit or censor such messages, or do you suck it up and hope the interaction will lead to better client relations in the future?

You Can Co-Write This Column
So, as an experiment, let’s you and I collaborate on this edition of the “Communication Nation” column. I’ve started it, and now you get to __________.

[tags]G-Man, Gman, gman marketing, Scott G, Communication Nation, advertising, marketing, ad rants, consumer generated content[/tags]

Out of my Mind & Into Yours III

Marketing, ad campaigns, Dow Chemical, time management, The Simpsons, true friendship and other topics of earth-shattering importance are covered by Scott G in a quick-and-easy Q & A format.

Q: Can anything be marketed?

A: Sure. I’ll prove it with one example: Weight-loss cream you apply to your thighs.

Q: Isn’t that just a fluke?

A: I don’t think so. There are successful marketing campaigns for all sorts of products that don’t do anything or are quite bad for you.

Q: Let’s discuss the marketing of ideas. Any success stories in the past?

A: In the 1970s, the United Technologies campaign used a long series of all-type ads that helped them be perceived as a company of ideas.

Q: I read some of those as homework years ago.

A: Or look at the current campaign by Dow Chemical. It’s called the Human Element. I’ve seen it in print and video. Really beautifully done. It makes people think of Dow not as the makers of napalm and Agent Orange during the Vietnam war era but as a humane and people-focused company, one that cares about the earth and the human beings on it.

Q: You’re praising and damning in the same sentence.

A: Okay, here’s praise only: the current Dow marketing is brilliant. Their Human Element campaign is magnificent advertising, and it will work because it touches a need people have to feel a part of something big and important. Something scientific yet non-threatening. Something in which they think they see a part of themselves.

Q: But you just reminded everyone of their war chemical production.

A: Everyone? Only marketing people read this column. And if it wasn’t for the story of their Vietnam activities on Wikipedia, I wouldn’t have known what residual issues they had to overcome for the baby boomer generation. Next step in that campaign will be hiring Moby or me to write some anthem-like music for their new spots. Well, not me, now that I’ve been so negative.

Q: You’re in marketing and music. Seems like they both take a lot of time. How do you get everything done?

A: There’s an episode of The Simpsons in which Montgomery Burns, the owner of the nuclear plant and the richest man in town, is asked to talk about success at Springfield Elementary School. He stands in front of the kids and says, “Friends, family, religion: these are the three demons you must slay to be a success in business.”

Q: You think that’s true?

A: I’ll talk to you privately about family and religion, but people spend too much time with friends.

Q: You can’t mean that.

A: I do. Just take time for your true friends, not the regular friends.

Q: What’s the difference between regular friends and true friends?

A: True friends get it when you say you need some time to compose a song, write an article, work on your book, paint a picture, or whatever. Hell, they’ll even ask if there’s anything they can do to help.

Q: That’s how you discover your true friends?

A: Well, it goes somewhat deeper than that.

Q: Yes?

A: A true friend is someone you can wake up at 3:30 in the morning and they’re still glad to see you even when the first words out of your mouth are “I need an alibi.”

[tags]G-Man, Scott G, Communication Nation, advertising, marketing, ad rants[/tags]

Jargonizing, or: How American Business is Losing the War of Words

Why write a six-word sentence when it’s more fun to use 82 words and a bunch of gobbledygook? Scott G pokes fun at the way some businesses pontificate about themselves online and off.

Have you taken a good look at the way business talks business? I’m going to use ad agency and marketing mumbo-jumbo for the following examples, but you’ll find these things in almost every industry. (NOTE: My best-guess English translations appear in parentheses.)

“Performance metrics consistently indicate an exceptional consumer-measured response to the proliferation of our creative deliverables.” (Sales are up since we started the new ads.)

“We’re assessing the overlapping matrices to measure flow conversion as an indicator of impact branding.” (Different folks like the product and use it more.)

“The creation content is designed to leverage product strengths for transformational effectiveness within the targeted marketplace parameters.” (The ads mention the benefits.)

What the Hell?
I can respond to that language in one word. “Sheesh!”

Talk about a communication breakdown. Business letters, brochures and client presentations are awash in multi-syllabic hogwash developed by MBAs who have been educated far beyond the meager capabilities of their brainpans.

Web Persiflage
Visit many ad agency Web sites and you’re verbally bludgeoned by overwrought and underthought sentences that dance around meaning in a way that makes me suspect there is no meaning.

“We will perform a gap analysis in order to assign priorities to designated objective desirables.” (We wrote ads for people who weren’t buying your stuff.)

“In progressing from the discovery phase via best-in-class engagement, the campaign materials will be achieving process effectiveness and we are establishing new and relevant benchmarks.” (As you sell more, we’ll make more ads.)

Driving Home the Point
This rant wouldn’t be complete without a few words on “driven.” As in the following time-dishonored phrases:

* impact-driven
* relationship-driven
* mission-driven
* vision-driven
* values-driven
* content-driven
* engagement-driven

Not to forget “data-driven.” As in:

* data-driven interaction
* data-driven metrics
* data-driven deliverables
* data-driven transformation
* data-driven content

One of these days, I expect to see “data-driven data.” Please, people, let’s stop this madness.

This presentation of our documented experiential collection of word proliferation hereby terminates. (Toodles.)

[tags]G-Man, Scott G, Communication Nation, advertising, marketing, ad rants, jargon[/tags]

Ad Agency Diversity, Equality, Homogeny, Bigotry

Scott G was in the room as an advertising agency executive told a recruiter, ‘No blacks or Hispanics.’

The face of bigotry can be ugly or pretty, young or old, or anywhere in between. I know. I’ve looked at it several times.

Not that too many people have discriminated against me. After all, what’s not to like? I mean, other than my having a weird name, being in advertising, being a musician, and having a habit of flinging sarcastic comments at the makers of poorly-conceived marketing campaigns.

But I’ve seen bigotry in action.

I saw it when I was teaching a class in the California State University system and some students refused to date others because they were of another race or religion.

I saw it at on the streets of a major city when I overheard a conversation in which a group of whites were calmly discussing what they called “the problem with n****rs.” When I related this to a friend of mine, the response was “Dude, what did you expect? You were in Nashville.” Which in itself is a prejudicial comment, come to think of it.

I’ve seen it in the advertising business. I was seated across from an owner of an agency (one that no longer exists) as a phone call was being concluded. The caller was an executive recruiter and the conversation dealt with the experience and qualifications for an account manager. “Oh, one more thing,” the ad exec said into the phone. “No blacks or Hispanics.”

The call was concluded, and our eyes met. There was a painful moment of silence as the realization of what had just been spoken suddenly snapped our heads around.

“The clients wouldn’t like it,” was the explanation given to me.

Although encountering this kind of behavior always leaves a hollowed-out feeling in my gut, I actually thought that the most interesting part of that last event was the fact that no follow-up explanation had been required by the recruiter.

Perhaps this helps demonstrate the current lack of diversity at some ad agencies. Hiring is linked to the recruiting and application process. I’ve held agency Creative Director positions with hiring/firing authority, and when we needed someone, we put out the word and people submitted work. There’s no way to tell race or ethnicity from a portfolio of ads, so you schedule interviews with the people whose work you most admire.

I’ve conducted dozens of interviews on behalf of ad agency creative departments and every candidate was white except one. She was Hispanic, and I hired her because she was the best person for the job.

If you went by raw numbers, my hiring choices were not overly diverse. Although you could also state that I hired 100% of the non-white candidates I interviewed.

The next step in the diversity protest would be to complain that firms are not “reaching out” to minority candidates. Which is hogwash. If you want to be hired in the advertising and marketing communications industry, then you read the publications and Web sites that pertain to those industries. We do not need a Black Ad Age magazine, a Hispanic TalentZoo.com, a Czechoslovakian Ad Industry Newswire, etc. etc.

Breaking into this industry requires the talent to create work that displays wit, taste, style and sales savvy. It also necessitates the tenacity to go after a job without waiting for someone to “reach out” to you.

I’m partly in the music industry, and I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve seen superb artists rejected by record labels and talent managers because of age and/or looks. Unfair? Of course. Illegal? Possibly. Worthy of a government investigation? Hardly.

One more thing. We all discriminate. There are personalities, body shapes, and political points of view we don’t like, can’t stand, and won’t tolerate. If you’re against discrimination, don’t practice it and try to refrain from working with people who do. Go ahead and try. It’s really hard.

[tags]G-Man, Gman, G-Man Marketing, Scott G, Communication Nation, advertising, marketing, ad rants, diversity, ad agency hiring[/tags]

iTomb Photo illustration by Snook

Digging the Idea of an iTomb

Following the announcement of a patent for the video enhanced gravemarker, Scott G ponders the next phase of cemetery chic. Might there be an iTomb in your future?

Hats off and a twenty-one gun salute to television commercial producer Robert Barrows, recent recipient of U.S. Patent #7089495 for an invention called the Video Enhanced Gravemarker (VEG). Note: there will be no Veg-o-Matic comments in this story (other than this one, of course).

iTomb Photo illustration by SnookBasically, the VEG will enable you to broadcast almost anything from your grave. You have to admit that Mr. Barrows is certainly thinking outside the box.

Grave content may be offered for free, with sponsorship, or via pay-per-view. There is room for interactivity as visitors can record their own messages, which gives your graveside monument something in common with blogs or Wikipedia.

If this catches on, it seems as if the element of portability will become an issue. Why not carry around an audio-visual memorial of Uncle Walter? Apple can join the parade with the iTomb.

DRM (Deceased Rights Management)
“The Video Enhanced Gravemarker will have some interesting implications on some major aspects of civilization,” Barrows notes, including free speech, Western culture’s view of death, estate law, storytelling, publishing, DRM (deceased rights management), and history itself.

What if the departed’s final words contain misstatements of fact? Contemporary philosopher P. Barton Marcus suggests “Death, lies and videotape” as a possible title for this piece. Designer Phil Hatten suggests a new social networking site: “MyRestingSpace.com.”

Tourist Destination
“Video tombstones will also make cemeteries fascinating places to visit,” states Barrows. “Ordinary people could become famous after death,” Marcus notes. And the graves of famous folks “would attract hordes of popcorn-munching visitors. Although I guess they do already,” he added.

With an Internet-connected iTomb, we’ll all be able to broadcast from beyond the grave.

What a great time to be alive. I mean dead. No, wait…uh, what a way to go.

Photo illustration by Snook.
[tags]G-Man, Gman, gman marketing, iTomb, Scott G, Communication Nation, advertising, marketing, ad rants, death, tombstone[/tags]

Chevy Races Down Braindead Boulevard

The latest “green” TV commercial is from General Motors for their Chevrolet Tahoe. Scott G wonders how dumb viewers have to be to swallow this.

Hi, I’m from General Motors, and I will try to speak very slowly and not use any more big words like gen-er-al. Okay? Great!

See, here is our new commercial, I mean spot, that you will be able to see on your Tee-Vee sets.

It shows how air is clean and pretty. It shows leaves blowing in the wind . . . Wait, did I just quote an anti-war song? I didn’t mean to.

It shows leaves blowing off trees. Then our clean and pretty Chevy Tahoe drives right on by the tree. And look! The leaves go back on the tree!

Isn’t that just great for our environment? I mean, for our air and sky and trees and puppies and kittens!

So buy a Chevy Tahoe.

Our newly-slimmed-down five thousand three hundred forty-two pound Chevy Tahoe.

Chevy Tahoe. Pretty. Clean. Good for air and trees.

[tags]G-Man, Scott G, Communication Nation, advertising, marketing, ad rants, Chevy Tahoe[/tags]

Animal Magnetism

Just what is so enticing about pachyderms that three national advertisers would be using them at the same time?

Prudential’s television ad features several of them. GE has one that dances (poorly, in CGI). Texas Instruments has spots in which one stands next to a little girl.

I’m speaking of elephants.

Yes, there are national television commercials for three major brands, all using pachyderms, and all for no good reason.

I’m sure the creators of these ads will tell you that “great minds think alike.” Some might even give you a smarmy line about how using an elephant is a “big idea.” But I think it’s yet another indication of the dearth of creativity in advertising.

“Hey Jimmy, have we got anything for the GE ad yet?”

“Yeah, we’re going to show some big creature doing a dance in the rainforest. We’re licensing ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ for the spot. Get it? ‘Cause it’s like, in the rainforest.”

“Those creative juices are working overtime!”

“Thanks!”

“So, what’s the creature? King Kong? Godzilla? Humpback whale?”

“Nope. Elephant.”

“Elephant?”

“Elephant.”

“I don’t get it.”

“Well, I don’t either, but Texas Instruments and Prudential are using elephants, so it must be a good thing.”

“Right, right. Excelling conceptual thinking.”

I could present equally sad dialogue surrounding the development of the other spots, but you get the idea. There is no idea.

[tags]G-Man, Scott G, Communication Nation, advertising, marketing, ad rants[/tags]

AAD (Awful Agency Disease)

Every client wants a good ad agency (meaning one that creates effective advertising and doesn’t pad their invoices). And some agencies try to oblige. But as Scott G points out, many ad shops seem to be working from a slightly different perspective, one that is counter-productive at best and destructive of brand equity at worst.

“Ad agencies pretend to be scientific and fail” is how I’ve heard marketing executives describe them. True in some cases, I suppose, although this statement overlooks the fact that clients sometimes serve their agencies poorly (see companion article, “Bad Client Syndrome”).

Still, there are ad agency policies and procedures which lead to campaigns that are repulsive, pushy, infuriating, undignified, and worst of all, ineffective. Here are a few of those misguided methods.

Invent a Magic Formula
Everyone in marketing knows there is no secret potion for creating a great ad campaign. It comes from hard work: You gather as much information as you can about the product and the target audience, then come up with a million approaches until you find one that affects the head, heart and wallet of your intended consumers.

Despite knowing this, some agencies insist on spinning their wheels with “proprietary methodology process development metrics” or some such. These things have many names, some silly, some clever, yet all are virtually guaranteed to attract clients who are deluded or dimwitted. Plus, this approach drives creative people right up the wall.

The Back-room Deal
Some agencies find it difficult to create effective advertising, so they keep the client happy through a curious form of bribery. I believe there is a Noel Coward song that deals with this subject (although not specifically targeting ad agencies). The lyric goes “offer him girls, offer him boys.” But that doesn’t happen anymore, does it? Oh. Really? Well, that would explain a lot of current ad campaigns.

Rely on Focus Groups
“But the campaign tested so well in focus groups.” You hear that lament far too often. The problem isn’t with focus groups themselves but in how they’re conducted and how the data is interpreted.

If you allow focus group members to ramble on about their likes and dislikes, two things will happen. First, you’ll be appalled. But second, you won’t get the true story about your ads. Remember, most focus group participants will tell you “I don’t watch much television, except for National Geographic specials and the Nutcracker ballet at Christmas.” Sure.

Yes, But…
Don’t ever stray from the middle of the road. Ask your creative department for “exciting ideas” and then kill them before they ever get to the client. Headlines I’ve seen eviscerated prior to client presentation have included the following (actual ad agency dialogue included for maximum squirm factor.)

Help win the war on cancer. (“The word ‘war’ is going a little far, don’t you think?”)

Join us in the Imagine Nation. (“Well, we get the pun, but will the audience?”)

Go to health! (“The hospital Board would be uncomfortable with this.”)

Ready for a deep, meaningful experience? (For the introduction of a deep dish pizza.) (“The client’s wife felt it was too suggestive.”)

By the way, the idiotic pizza company went with this line: “It’s deep, it’s delicious, try it.” Glad they avoided something suggestive.

All That Glitters
The pursuit of awards drives some agencies into a tizzy. “I don’t care what the client needs, this can be a One Show winner.” Yup, that’s also an actual line of agency-speak. Makes me shudder.

Don’t get me wrong, I like awards. But there are far more important things to consider, including building a brand and increasing audience knowledge of your product benefits. Olympia Beer campaigns always won awards but apparently didn’t sell suds. Anybody think of some other examples?

[tags]G-Man, Scott G, Communication Nation, advertising, marketing, ad rants, advertising agency, brand equity[/tags]

BCS (Bad Client Syndrome)

Every ad agency wants good clients (meaning ones who desire great advertising and pay their bills on time). And some clients agree with this. But as Scott G points out, many firms seem to be working from a slightly different perspective, one that kills creativity right from the start.

“Clients get the advertising they deserve” is an old adage in marketing. It’s true enough, I suppose, although it overlooks the fact that agencies sometimes serve their clients poorly (see companion article, “Awful Agency Disease”).

Still, there are client policies and procedures that can work to foster advertising campaigns that are ugly, intrusive, annoying, demeaning, and worst of all, ineffective. Here are a few of those misguided methods.

The Agency Review
Demand that agencies create speculative ads. Because after all, ideas aren’t important, but pretty pictures with your logo in them are crucial, especially when the CEO cannot visualize anything. It virtually forces agencies into figuring out how to overcharge clients in order to make up for losses incurred when making the pitch.

If a client truly wanted a great team to work on their advertising and marketing, they would have agencies show prior work and explain how and why it was developed. If you know the marketplace situation, the advertising challenge, the target audience, and the budget, you can then appreciate the thinking that went into the campaign. That should be enough to tell you if you’ve found the ideal agency for your brand.

Hire Golfing Buddies
This would never happen in today’s business climate. Right? Could it? Well, that would explain a lot of the campaigns currently being created.

Issue an RFP
A dreaded time-wasting methodology from the arcane federal government bidding process, the Request for Proposal is guaranteed to keep agency people working feverishly to address questions like “Demonstrate industry effectiveness in resource and human resources allocation across multiple regions and deliverables and resources.” Or words to that effect.

We here at AIN have received unverified reports that RFPs are often written by a team of monkeys chained to word processors in the basement of those large buildings out by the airport.

Whoever creates them, RFPs can run thirty pages. Fifty pages. A hundred and thirty pages. Somewhere, some committee is working on an ERFT, an Endless Request For Proposal. This will be ideal for those firms acting as consultants in the selection of a new agency.

Kill the Concepts
Ask for “bold bright new ideas” but run them past a committee for approval. Then whine and complain that the agency never develops anything bold, bright or new.

Always Accuse
Make certain everything that goes wrong gets blamed on the agency. It is never ever the client’s fault. Incomplete information, misleading direction, conflicting input…none of that matters in the least; always point to the agency as the culprit.

Be 65% Consistent Half the Time
Keep changing the boundaries of what you demand of the agency. Make certain they are always second-guessing themselves so that middle-of-the-road creative solutions are suggested. Then complain about those. And blame one of the people at the agency. A different one each time.

Change for Change’s Sake
When in doubt, change everything. Throw out the USP. Change the theme. Create a new marketing brief. And by all means fire your current agency or order a review.

[tags]G-Man, Scott G, Communication Nation, advertising, marketing, ad rants, advertising agency, brand equity[/tags]

Auto Ad Concepts Jammed in Reverse

Scott G recently watched a lot of car commercials. He was not amused.

It seems lately as if ANY concept can be sold to car companies. This is bad news for the public but great news for ad agencies employing jaded know-nothings in suits and eager no-talents in jeans.

If you have been watching campaigns for vehicles lately, you know what I’m talking about: Improbable promotions that require entering into an alternate reality that could only be called “Reverseland.”

I can’t help imagining the transcripts of ad agency management and creative meetings…

At the agency for Chrysler:

“Hey, I saw one of those weirdo ‘Dr. Z’ spots last night.”

“You didn’t like it?”

“It was fine, but when you guys showed me the storyboards, I just naturally assumed that it was an animated commercial. You know, lame-ass concept, no tie-in with the product benefits, surrealistic dialogue, accents not found in nature…”

“We thought it would be even more annoying and moronic in live action.”

“You got that right.”

“Thanks!”

At the agency for Ford:

“How we coming with the new TV spots?”

“Excellent. We’ve got some absolutely incredibly stupid ads involving Kelly Clarkson and even though she has talent, we’re cutting her out of them even faster than we did with Taylor Hicks!”

“Outstanding. Keep it up.”

At the agency for Hummer:

“Hey, hey, hey, gotta love that new H3 spot in the supermarket check-out line!”

“It WAS good, wasn’t it.”

“Nice casting, too. But mainly, it’s the concept. Especially having the, um, excessively graceful guy become envious of the Neanderthal who is buying meat.”

“Right. Now, everybody who buys tofu will run right out and buy a Hummer.”

(pause)

“Yeah, right!”

(everyone breaks into insane laughter)

“How do we get away with this stuff!?” “Beats working!” etc.

[tags]G-Man, Scott G, Communication Nation, marketing, ad rants, auto advertising[/tags]