March 05, 2008

Slurm is Coming!!

In another example of reverse product placement, Gizmodo reports that Twentieth Century Fox has filed a trademark for Slurm, the drink of choice on cult animated series Futurama (Tagline: "It's Highly Addictive!")

Perhaps this is because Fox missed its original chance to reverse PP the Simpsons drink of choice, Duff.Slurm

February 06, 2008

Update: Asian-American Watchdog Says SalesGenie Ads are 'Uninspired,' but Not Offensive

Here's the latest response from MANAA's board on that SalesGenie Super Bowl spot:

We've heard a number of inquiries and concerns about the Salesgenie ads from the Superbowl with the pandas and with the Indian American salesman. People are sitting there watching the game and the commercials, and suddenly get these stereotype Asian accents thrown at them for a cheap laugh. Vin Gupta, the apparent writer of these ads, indicated in an article before the game that what matters is getting people to go to the Salesgenie website. We don't want to reward the company with more coverage than it's already received. Many people were offended by the ads, understandably. For one thing, the ads probably bring up for people the experiences they've had with being mocked for speaking with an accent or just for being Asian (by the way, that applies to the Budweiser/Mencia commercial too, though we haven't heard as much about that one). We should ask ourselves why Asian characters almost automatically have to speak with accents, when of course in reality many do not. However, MANAA is stopping short of denouncing the ads as racist. Panda bears and salesmen speaking in foreign accents to get a laugh may be examples of uninspired writing, but there's nothing inherently racist about using accents. As an organization, we are more unimpressed than offended.

February 05, 2008

Why No Furor About the SalesGenie Ad?

I hate political correctness. I hate the fact that you can't joke about certain things and that everyone walks on eggshells to avoid offending the easily offended. But I do like fairness and it seems to me if ran a Super Bowl ad featuring an African-American who spoke like Amos 'N Andy that the company would be getting some flack from the NAACP, among others. But this ad, which features pandas talking in pidgin English seems like it would be offensive to some Asian-Americans. And indeed it was. Here's an e-mail from Phil Lee, president of the Media Action Network for Asian Americans: We do have some concerns with the ad, and we're not the only ones. We're presently considering how to respond without just giving the company what they want, which is of course publicity. It's not just about responding that the ad is offensive or stupid, but trying to explain why.

Of course, I'm not the only one who's noticed.

January 17, 2008

Study: Advertising Makes Bad News Even Worse

Here's a Data Points item I wrote for our 1/21 issue. Unfortunately, the ARF doesn't provide a link to that article. Other Journal of Advertising Research stories can be found here.

Everyone knows that negative news about your company or brand can undo millions in advertising. One needs only to look at how WorldCom went from being a major telecom player to a punchline almost overnight in 2002 or how news about last year’s toy recalls overrode whatever Mattel spent on advertising its toys during the holiday season.
Deciding what to do when bad news appears is another matter. One school of thought is that maintaining or increasing advertising during such a time will drown out the bad news. But pulling advertising at that time can seem very risky. Nevertheless, a new study that ran in December’s Journal of Advertising Research suggests dialing back on advertising and letting the bad news run its course. The study, which examined the tone of news, advertising spending and public opinion of 10 firms in the Netherlands including BP, Shell and retail firms Albert Heijn and Super de Boer from 1998 through 2000, found that advertising has a magnifying effect: When the news is good, advertising helps. When it’s bad, advertising makes things worse.
The authors of the article on the study, May-May Meijer and Jay Kleinnijenhuis, both of the Universiteit Amersterdam, speculate that although negative news may be forgotten quickly by most, “subsequent advertisements may magnify its effects by restoring [its] ‘top of mind’ availability.” Data from the study supported that hypothoseis. “Positive news will boost the effects of advertising expenditures,” the article states, but “because most news is negative, the reverse side of this coin is more important: negative news will decrease the return on advertising expenditures. . . Hence, increasing or even keeping upright advertising expenditures when criticisms of the firm appear on a daily basis in the press will harm the firm.”

January 08, 2008

Unilever Launches 3-in-One Body Spray ... In the U.K.

For those, I guess who can't make up their mind what they want to smell like on a given day there's this new invention.

January 04, 2008

Lachky: No Super Bowl for 'Dude'

Wassup with Bud Light’s Numbers for ‘Dude’?
Dude, have you heard? Bud Light and agency DDB, Chicago, have come up with a potential sequel to 2000’s “Wassup?” campaign. If by some chance you haven’t seen them yet, creative for the ads features a single line of dialogue, “dude,” which is repeated in various tones to express different emphases. Getting slammed in the privates by a turnstyle elicits one “dude,” while nudging a coworker to view an attractive woman prompts another. Bud Light owner Anheuser-Busch loosed the first Dude ads on the Internet during Thanksgiving and then moved them to TV in late December. Based on reports in the media, the ads seem to be being received well. But is there any way to measure the buzz? Bob Lachky, chief creative officer at A-B said the ads have gotten 11 million views on YouTube, Break, MSN, MySpace and but “It’s hard to discern a real hard and fast view number because of the pass-along factor.”
Nevertheless, Nielsen BuzzMetrics (which like Brandweek, is a unit of Nielsen Co.), gave it a shot. BuzzMetrics polled 245,863,398 blogs and compared Dude’s performance with other recent Bud and Bud Light ads, like “Spot” and “Great Apes,” the two ads that ran in last year’s Super Bowl. Research showed that so far, Dude has a ways to go to catch up with hose ads, which were mentioned by .0025% of all blogs right after the Super Bowl. Dude has only gotten one fifth of that buzz so far. Despite the calculation that Super Bowl placement equals big online buzz, Lachky said there are no plans for a Dude ad during this year’s big game: “I don’t know at this stage of the game based on the pretesting for the Super Bowl if it will do as well as the work that has a total surprise factor and rug pull. There’s kind of a fine line for the formula we look at for the Super Bowl and I’m not sure that would be the proper place.”

December 27, 2007

Why Do Marketers Do This?


A few random musings on a slow week:

Why do marketers think that we'll be assauged by hearing that our message is very important to them when we're waiting on hold?

Why does Verizon's Internet help line play a recording that directs you to the company's Web site? Aren't most people calling because they can't get on the Web in the first place?

Why does Citi require you to enter your account number before you reach an agent only to have that agent ask you for your account number all over again?

Why do direct mailers try to make their envelopes look like checks or pieces of legal correspondence? Don't they realize that when you open those envelopes you're only going to be pissed off and thus not likely to be receptive to their messages?

What about those cardboard inserts in magazines? I don't know about you, but all they do is irritate me.

Why do my iPods keep breaking? My fourth one just broke. The last time I sent one in, Apple blamed me for damaging it.

Speaking of which, why did my Sirius radios keep breaking? Did the company blow all its money on Howard Stern and skimp on technology?

Why can't Gap, Barnes & Noble and other retailers keep a record of those who declined to get a card? That way, they won't ask me the same question every time and have me awkwardly fend off their advances.

If pop-up ads don't work, why is Netflix still so aggressively using them?

December 11, 2007

Whopper Freakout!

Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone?

December 07, 2007

No One Cares About Your Socially Conscious Advertising

Here's my latest column, which takes on the wave of green advertising we're seeing everywhere these days. Enjoy responsibly.

Have you heard? Corporate responsibility is hot! This season, New York clothier Barneys is wishing its customers a “Green Holiday” and offering scarves handknit from “free-range alpaca yarn.” To tout its green cred, cosmetics retailer Aveda
will run ads with pouty models posed in front of windmills. A current Bank of America TV spot makes the case that banking via a mobile phone can “leave a smaller footprint on the environment.”
At a time when global warming is increasingly referred to in the present tense, one would think that such ads would make it easier for socially aware consumers to make their next purchasing decision. But one would be wrong.
A recent survey by the U.K. based marketing consultancy Evo makes a convincing case that consumers don’t trust such messages. And in many cases, there is ample reason to be skeptical.
First of all, it’s important to place social responsibility on the proper hierarchy of consumer considerations. Only after functional factors like necessity, price, convenience, quality and awareness are met will consumers consider so-called emotional needs like fashion, values, concern and loyalty. And only after that will they start to think about whether a brand is responsible or not, something that takes place on the “self-actualization level.” That’s pretty far down on the list.
“The headline is social responsibility is simply not an issue when it comes to purchase decisions,” said Nicola Lindsey, svp of Evo in New York. “It has to be a case of all things being equal.”
Lindsey added that while consumers tend to feel good when they buy something tagged as socially responsible, the same is not true in the converse: Consumers don’t feel bad if they don’t buy it. Say you’re considering buying an eco-friendly diaper, but conclude it’s way too expensive. While you may fight some guilt, overall you’ll feel that you made a solid, budgetwise decision.
Second, corporations have the same problem that politicians do: Drawing attention to your good deeds only makes those deeds more suspect. “If anything, corporate social responsibility is viewed negatively,” the report notes, like “global monoliths cleaning up their act after wrongdoing.” Lindsey gave as an example BP, which has won plaudits for its “Beyond Petroleum” campaign that shows the company leading the charge to find new, cleaner sources of energy. That green-tinged global ad campaign seems to be smart branding since it addresses the main argument against BP—global warming—in a positive way.
In theory, anyway. Evo found that consumers aren’t dumb: They know BP is still an oil company and “part of an industry where there’s nothing ethical about the industry as a whole,” Lindsey said.
A word of caution is in order. Evo’s report is based on a very small sample—just 70 people in the U.K. But similar studies in Spain and China yielded similar results. Moreover, it’s possible that Americans are more gullable than their European counterparts. After all, genetically modified food is a huge issue over there that’s about as well known here as Cliff Richard. (Evo is planning a similar study in the U.S. next year.)
But there’s another reason why I think Evo’s report is on target: Google. I know when I put any kind of thought into a purchase, I tend to research it online. And do I want to read the good stuff? No. I gravitate to the most critical commentaries I can find. Since a good book can take eight or more hours of my time, for instance, I want to see what the one-star reviewers in Amazon have to say about it.
I don’t think the average consumer will put a lot of effort into researching Barneys green claims; many bloggers are already quite skeptical. And if Barneys, Aveda or Bank of America ever gets caught on the wrong end of some environmental issue, it will probably negate all that advertising.
Brands still have several options. Lindsey suggests basing the social responsibility claims on something real and intrinsic to the name. If BP makes most of its money from oil and spends a trifle on new sources of energy, it’s inviting criticism about being “beyond preposterous.” But what if Gap gave 100% of proceeds from its Product(Red) campaign to Global Fund rather than 50%? Is it possible that such Google-proof altruism would pass Evo’s sniff test? I think an even better way to get the word out about your good deeds is to try to keep it secret, or at least bury that information somewhere deep on your Web page. After all, the best way to spread the word these days is to pretend that you’re trying not to.

November 09, 2007

Why Are There No Good Dads in Ads?

Here's my latest Top of Mind for Brandweek. Enjoy responsibly:

T here are many advertisements that tick Glenn Sacks off these days. Take the one from Kohler that shows a man trying to stop up his toilet so he’ll have an excuse to summon the hottie (female) plumber whose van is parked across the street.
Then, there’s the Pizza Hut ad that features a father “cooking” for his kids—by ordering out.
But Sacks’ beef has little to do with the creative quality of these spots. Instead, he comes at it from the angle that our sibling publication Adweek has characterized as “bizarre.” Those commercials, Sacks says, are “anti-father.”
Sacks, who’s a columnist, radio commentator and blogger, got Adweek’s attention in February when he led an effort to try to keep the firm of Arnold, Boston, from maintaining the Volvo account during a review. Sacks took issue with Arnold ads for Fidelity Investments that showed a dad jumping up and down like a twit after beating his daughter in ping pong. (Arnold kept the Volvo account; Sacks deems the new Volvo ads inoffensive.)
Sacks’ complaint admittedly seems weird at first, and also a little suspect—akin to making a case for WASP’s rights or a public plea to refrain from discriminating against Austrians. After all, aren’t fathers all-powerful in this society? Can’t they take a little ribbing?
It turns out, though, that Sacks isn’t the only one making this case. Mark Penn’s book Microtrends, a survey of emerging demographic and psychographic groups, includes a chapter on “Neglected Dads.” Penn charts the course of McDonald’s, which figured out early on that marketing directly to kids could increase the bottom line (not to mention those kids’ bottoms). But sometime in the mid 1990s, “moms started paying more attention to what their children ate.” That led to initiatives like 2004’s “McMom,” which includes an online newsletter with tips on parenting.
Yet at a recent company retreat, Penn pointed out to McDonald’s execs that since the 1970s, fathers have been spending more time with their kids. In fact, in 1997, dads living at home spent 65% as much time in the company of their progeny during the week as their mothers did, and 87% as much time on the weekends, per a University of Michigan study.
Penn continues: “This is serious father-child interaction time, say the researchers—which means meals. But where is the McDad initiative? Who’s targeting the volunteer coaches who need a place to take the kids after Saturday’s practice?”
Penn goes on to demand Daddy-and-me books and back-to-school clothing ads targeted at fathers.
If marketers take Penn up on his offer, they’ll be reversing years of not just neglect, but scorn—at least if you agree with cultural analyst and NYU professor Mark Crispin Miller. Miller’s theory is that since the 1950s advertisers have been scheming to subvert fathers’ power. Recall that fathers in the ’50s were children during the Depression. Wooing dad—often tight with the cash—was not the way to go. So, most advertisers (except for makers of big-ticket items like cars) not only ignored fathers, they elevated mothers and children above their heads with ads showing who was really pulling the family purse strings. Over time, programmers picked up on the switch as well: Stolid figures like Ward Cleaver morphed into the Bill Cosby of the ’80s who often came off as an overgrown man-child next to the witty-and-wise maternal oligarch, Phylicia Rashad.
The trend, if anything, has gotten worse. Comedy flicks like Knocked Up or any screen fare featuring Will Ferrell typically feature wise, understanding women falling for men who act like 12-year-olds. Sure, it’s funny, but it’s also hard to argue that guys like Sacks don’t have a point. “I understand they want to make funny commercials,” he said. “But why does the man always have to be the idiot?”
Sacks isn’t totally discouraged though. He was buoyed by a recent ad for the 2008 Ford Taurus that likened the automakers to the spot’s upstanding father shown buying the car for the same child that we see him teaching (in flashbacks) how to ride a bike. And Sacks also sees progress in a Disney kiddie show where, for once, the father isn’t made out to be a clueless idiot or nonpresence.
See, Sacks and other fathers like me aren’t asking for much. We’re so desperate for positive media role models that we’ll even give a shout out to Hannah Montana.

E-mail: feedback@brandweek.comWard_cleaver

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