Category Archives: Articles: TV Advertising

The Television Advertising Business

VILF - V I L F

HBO Does Bloody Good Marketing with Sexy VILF Tank

COLUMN: In perhaps one of the most clever sexy marketing ideas I’ve seen in awhile, HBO is promoting a True Blood tie-in, a women’s tank top, with the letters VILF across the chest. It’s a clever reference to the now over-used term MILF, except with vampire replacing mother as the first word.

The tank also appears in the June 2010 issue of Playboy magazine, being worn by super-hottie and Playmate of the Year, Hope Dworaczyk (she also wears the “Fangbanger” apparel in the same story and says if she were a shape shifter she would obviously shift into a “bunny” – hah hah ha).

The “V I L F” tank sells for $19.99 at the HBO online store. Other fan gear is available with phrases like “Real Blood is for Suckers.” Mugs can be had with “welcome to Bon Temps,” and “Fangtasia” pint glasses. The usual cheesy “I Love Sookie” T-shirts, and junk with the images of the cast.

I tried the bottled “true blood” soda, but didn’t particularly care for it. A bit too syrupy and too many ingredients to be good for any long term substitute for the “real thing.” If you want to really mess with people at your next PTA meeting, the “American Vampire League” T-shirt might be a good choice.

HBO has also posted a preview trailer teaser for True Blood Season 3. The show is awesome, and the vampire craze shows no sign of waning anytime soon.

You can see the VILF tank here:
http://store.hbo.com/detail.php?p=262694&v=hbo_shows_true-blood .

Promo video follows:

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 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 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.

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]

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]

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]

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]

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]

Stephen P Monaco

Who’s Behind the Wheel of the Chevy HHR?

Remember back in the day, (like, about six years ago), when there was a clear line of demarcation between content and advertising? Content was the programming that was periodically interrupted by commercials. Commercials were advertisements designed to sell products and services. Content was developed by movie studios and the editorial staff at magazines. Commercials were produced by creative directors and copy writers on Madison Avenue and in Chicago.

Nowadays consumers are actively participating in the creative process, production and dissemination of promotional material by way of viral marketing, like passing along video clips of consumer generated content that feature their favorite brands. Some companies are holding contests for their customers to actually create new ad campaigns themselves.

Stephen P MonacoAs part of the Chevy College Ad Contest, which was run by the advertising and sales promotions department at Chevrolet, student contestants learned that the winning ad Chevrolet was looking for would have to be “smart, simple and breakthrough.”

Not only did Chevrolet plan to run the winning commercial on network television, but the company went so far as to debut this ad for their HHR model SUV during Super Bowl XLI, where the going rate to broadcast a single minute of advertising exceeded $5 million.

Chevrolet received entries from over 800 teams from 230 different schools all across the country. Five of the teams, 11 students in all, made it to the final round and traveled to Detroit last fall to pitch their ideas.

The national contest was won by 19-year old University of Wisconsin student, Katelyn Crabb, the youngest participant and only individual finalist.

Crabb’s ad entitled, “Car Wash,” is scheduled to air throughout 2007, depicts a Chevy HHR stopped at an intersection in New York City, where men flock to the vehicle as they literally strip out of their clothes in hopes of washing the car so they can actually touch it. Crabb explained how her ad shows another side of Chevrolet and takes a distinctive approach to advertising for cars, which are usually targeted towards a male audience and portray women.

“We never get commercials that are for us, especially car commercials,” Crabb said of women.

“It’s very simple; it’s very smart because it all emanates from the product. But it has a very different feel for Chevrolet,” said a Chevy spokesperson.

“I really enjoyed it all,” said Crabb. “Learning about the production process from Chevy – from music selection to editing – it was all fascinating. And now to see the final ad on TV – it’s been an amazing experience.”

Of course it was; how exciting! What teenager wouldn’t find this experience amazing?

Crabb said she’s a football fan and has watched the games, and commercials, for years.

In their coverage of the news about the contest winner, Associated Press referred to Crabb as, “a big-time advertising guru.”

An ad guru?

I don’t think so.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not knocking this bright young woman who won the national contest. In fact, I’ve really got to hand it to her since her ad made a genuine attempt at being humorous. Unlike the other General Motors commercial that ran during the Super Bowl with the “suicidal robot,” which was gloomy and disheartening.

But college students can’t be held to the same level of accountability as the marketing chiefs at companies that are supposedly industry leaders, (let alone one that ranks fourth on the Fortune 500 list). With all due respect to Katelyn Crabb, how much could she know about positioning the 96-year old Chevy brand in the mind’s of consumers? How much could any teenager be expected to know about these matters? The real question in my mind is who let a kid drive the creative concept behind an ad campaign for a vehicle from GM’s most well-known and best-selling brand?

Chevrolet’s spokesperson said judges chose Crabb’s ad because it was easy to understand and appealed to all ages.

Are you kidding me?

Do Chevy customers really want to see a bunch of gyrating half-naked men literally bump and grind on the exterior of an SUV to, “Its gettin’ hot in here, So take off all your clothes.”

Does anybody want to see that?

Do the lyrics to Nelly’s “Hot in Herre” (sic) really appeal to people of all ages?

More importantly, does any of this appeal to the people who buy Chevys?

It’s hard to imagine that anyone who knows anything about the typical Chevrolet buyer, (let alone the senior marketers at GM), could find anything even remotely meaningful or effective in this ad that might help solidify the brand with Chevy customers.

General Motors lost $10 billion last year. And part of their marketing strategy for getting back into black ink is to run a Super Bowl commercial consisting of content generated by a teenager?

I don’t know about you, but I’m buying more shares of Toyota Motor Corp. stock.

Getting customers involved with guerilla-style, viral marketing, Internet campaign is smart, but having a teenager produce a :30 second commercial that costs more than $2.6 million to air during the Super Bowl is another thing altogether. What were the objectives General Motors had when they decided to use consumer generated content during the three hours of television that always has the most highly-anticipated and most watched commercials of the year? Will this ad heighten Chevy’s brand awareness? Drive more traffic to their web site? Will it lead to additional test drives? Increased sales? More buzz? Will it lead to any quantifiable results? Anything?

Or will it simply allow an increasingly irrelevant, floundering corporate giant the appearance of being in touch, because they’re dabbling with a new trend involving looking to the nation’s student body to produce content?

How about this?
How about if the senior marketers at companies do themselves, their companies, their brands, their customers and their shareholders all the favor of engaging consumers not to produce the company’s commercials, but in ways so that customer’s contributions lead to the development of innovative product and service offerings?

[tags]Stephen Monaco, If You Mean Business, Chevy HHR commercial, automobile marketing, TV advertising, ad industry[/tags]

Copr. (c) 2006 SONY

My Baby was Possessed by the PlayStation 3 – Next Gen Game Consoles Take Different Approaches to TV Commercials

After seeing one of Sony’s debut TV spots for their new PlayStation(r), I’m sure I was not the only one slightly freaked out by the toy baby who comes to life, starts to cry, then laugh maniacally before flashing demon red eyes… all while pawing the air toward the floating black slab of a PlayStation 3 (PS3).

Maybe they should have called it the PlaySatan? I think the message here is “Parents, keep baby away from the PS3 or they’ll be possessed!”

Copr. (c) 2006 SONYThe second TV spot prior to launch, promoting the Cell Processor which is inside the PS3, shows a floating Rubik’s Cube that explodes to fill the room with color. To me this ad smacked too much of the flawed launch spots for the Infiniti Q which featured mood music and somber scenery with nary a view of the actual car.

Contrast this with the lively first TV spot for the other nextgen console competitor, Nintendo’s Wii, that shows a typical gamer dude playing the game and showing off the innovative controller putting him into the middle of a shooting game, sword fighting game and actually showing the game play on a TV.

From these varied commercials, I was impressed by the game play of the Wii which had the very cool concept of putting the player into the action rather than old-school thumb mashing. I had seen some previews on G4techTV, E3, etc., but it still looked really good. The strength of the Wii commercial illustrated many of the features and benefits of the new Nintendo console, whereas the initial Sony spots were just plain weird.

Not that this is a bad thing – a heck of a lot of people have been remarking about the demon baby commercial (do a search on the Web for “PlayStation baby commercial” if you’re curious). I can tell you it’s even freakier late at night on my 61-inch DLP TV while on an HD broadcast channel. Yikes.

The second batch of PS3 commercials include a wall breaking away to show one of the launch games “Resistance: Fall of Man” (which I’ve played – outstanding) and another “sensory” commercial showing the Sixaxis controller tilting to and fro to make eggs roll across the room where all the spots have lived, obviously inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s still a little odd with black crows coming from the wall and follows the PS3 launch theme of “play b3yond.” The “beyond” theme actually reminded me a lot of the Showtime Beyond channel intro/outro spots between programs.

A second Wii spot should start this week and it will be interesting to see what they do to counter the PS3 approach. Of course, with both consoles sold out everywhere as of this writing, the commercials are practically unnecessary to sell the products.

Still, it’s interesting that the PS3 has taken an edgier approach — which historically worked well for Sega — while Nintendo seems to be taking a fun, hip, friendlier approach to court both new users and their core audience. I bought my PS3 this past Friday, got it on Saturday, played it on Sunday. I hadn’t thought of buying a Wii, but the commercial makes me more interested.

Another neat feature of the Wii for the party gamer is that it’s far more affordable than the PS3 and will likely return in quantity to retail stores more quickly than the way “under produced” PlayStation (Sony blames slow production of the blue laser diode for the Blu-ray player as the major hold-up).

According to varied business reports, over 32,000 of the new Sony consoles were sold on eBay from Friday through Sunday, with the average price being around $2,000 – $3,000 for the 60GB/wireless model. I paid close to the low end of that range, admittedly, but I think a lot of gamers have been similarly “possessed” into buying one, regardless of cost.

Thankfully, my eyes haven’t yet turned red. Hopefully if there’s evil built into the new PS3, maybe it only works on babies. But, I left the light on in my living room last night, just to be safe.

[tags]PlayStation baby commercial, Christopher Laird Simmons, When Advertising Attacks column, next generation game console, TV commercials[/tags]