Author Archive

The insult continuum

There are many elements to making a good commercial, but none are as important as insulting the consumer in just the right fashion. To the untrained eye it may seem as though ads belittle, insult, and put down consumers without rhyme or reason, but in reality, there is a strict set of protocols to be followed.

Men: Of course, men are always fair game. You can insult men as much as you want under any circumstance. This is especially true of fathers. Nothing is quite as stupid as fathers.

Women: This is far trickier. Mothers can be insulted by teens, but never by their husbands. One woman can insult another, providing the woman being insulted is not the one buying the advertised product.

Teens: A teenage girl will always show up a teenage boy, but both can make fools of their parents.

Age: The older they get, the funnier and more idiotic they get, isn’t that right? Pretty well any person over the age of 40 is fair game, but the male/female standard still holds: an older woman can only be put down by another woman, but anyone can make fun of the older man.

It’s a pretty simple process, and most ad agencies seem to understand the principle quite well. So join the fun — make fun of an old guy today (for the good of your product, of course).

Categories: boomer advertising, satire

And was the guy in the grassy knoll from Madison Avenue?

The Hathaway Shirts man revealed
The Hathaway Shirts man revealed

An article by theatre critic Richard Ouzounian in Tuesday’s Toronto Star, (Time in a Mad Men World) travels the well-tread ground of blaming Madison Avenue for pretty well every ill confronting the modern world.

Having attended “a scholarship Jesuit boys’ prep school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan” during the early to mid sixties, he and his friends “wore jackets and ties and moved within that bubble of artificial but attractive sophistication that was Manhattan in the 1960s.”

It was during this time that the “real-life equivalents of Drapper and company at Sterling Cooper” force-fed Ouzounian and his friends with the lies that would scar each of them for life. Read more…

Categories: crisis in ad-land

• The man on the street is a frickin’ liar

October 12, 2009 2 comments
No, really. She does all her makeup herself. And its all Cover Girl (well, at least till the end of her contract with them)..

No, really. She does all her makeup herself, and only uses Cover Girl. ("Nothing covers bruises like Cover Girl.")

I must have been around eight years old when I saw a Candid Camera spot that taught me almost everything I needed to know about “man on the street” testimonials.

It involved a restaurant owner asking his customers what they thought about a new brand of coffee. The catch? Each cup of coffee had several heaping teaspoons of mustard added. The camera, of course, was hidden, but the ketchup bottle, which he waved conspicuously in front of their faces, had a thick cord running out the bottom. The customers, then, were led to believe they were being “secretly” interviewed for a commercial.

They waxed poetic. It was the best coffee they’d ever tasted. This was the way coffee was supposed to taste. And so on. Of course, what the camera caught (that their words were meant to hide) were the expressions of shuddering disgust. The most amusing was one customer who was asked if he’d like another cup. His face showed pure horror, even as his mouth said, “I’d love one.” Read more…

Categories: campaign analysis

• Product business vs. marketing business

October 11, 2009 2 comments
Note -- this is not one of my twins who plays bagpipes in China.

Note -- this is not one of my twins who plays bagpipes in China.

I just talked to my twins on the phone.

I don’t hear from them too often, and see them even less, because for the past three years they’ve been earning their living by playing bagpipes in China.

That’s right. Bagpipes. China. Earning a living.

During our conversation, John (or was it Aragorn) mentioned the difference between “product business” and “marketing business.”

“Marketing business is based mostly on your marketing efforts,” he said. “Product business is based mostly on your product.”

Of course, all business requires some degree of each, but I could see his point.

To illustrate it, he compared Starbucks with Tim Horton’s. Read more…

Categories: crisis in ad-land

• Told you so

Just a quick note:

From WARC:

NEW YORK: The “green” messages of many major advertisers in the US are failing to resonate with consumers, despite the fact an increasing number of Americans are placing a heightened emphasis on environmental issues, a new study has found. (US brands see green messages fall flat.)

Well, duh! With everything from light bulbs to bathroom tissue promoting themselves as the latest word in “green,” the message is bound to get muddied. I pointed that out in Prius Gets It Right — With the Help of a Contrarian:

The purpose [of the Prius ad] is solely to promote the brand as being eco-friendly — a feature which, in the present market of eco-friendly cleaners, bathroom tissue, light bulbs, and drain cleaners, is becoming less and less of a distinction.

What with the present obsession with Word of Mouth (WOM), social networking, and promotion of “green” it’s a wonder any ads manage to sell a single product these days.

• I’ll be back

It is against the law to use the phrase Ill be back without accompanying it with a picture of the Terminator

It is against the law to use the phrase "I'll be back" without accompanying it with a picture of the Terminator

I’ve had a few e-mail queries asking if I’ve gone the route of Bob Hoffman (better known as The Ad Contrarian) and folded up shop. Not true. But this semester has presented me with two classes in a course I’ve never taught before, two new campuses in which to teach, and a reworking of the curriculum I already had reworked last year — but that now has to be done again so I can accommodate certain changes.

Oh, and I’m taking courses myself towards a journalism certificate.

As a result, I’ve not had a chance to attend to either Ad Nauseam or Editor’s Sidebar.

But it is only temporary.

Categories: Uncategorized

• Another example of gorilla advertising

Following a decline in public perception of the Cadbury brand during the first part of 2007, the UK company bypassed its main agency, Publicis, in favour of the Fallon agency to promote its Dairy Milk product. The result was this video, and a noticeable improvement in public perception, according to the polling company, YouGuv.

On YouTube, the video received 500,000 hits the first week.

But note — the spot was also widely aired on TV and in movie theatres.

Note too — the spot also tells you what the ad is for.

Best of all, however — it’s just plain fun.

Categories: satire

• Polar Ice: Why you should never drink when meeting an advertising hero

See how its in the freezer? Thats where it hides before pouncing.

See how it’s in the freezer? That’s where it hides before pouncing.

Alcohol played an integral, but not excessive, part of agency life back in the ’80s and early ’90s. At least, it didn’t seem excessive to us. I imagine things have calmed down a lot since then, what with all the law suits and the whole societal disdain towards getting tipsy in the afternoon.

But I still fondly remember the sound of glass tinkling in the hallway outside my office at JWT as the president pushed a cart loaded with various bottles of hooch and mix, stopping at each door, and fixing whatever drink was requested. It wasn’t a frequent event, but it was a welcome one. And of course there were the liquid lunches at JWT South, a particular bar on Yonge Street that I won’t name because it wouldn’t be prudent  – but it’s true that one of our female employees (I think she was in traffic) quit the company when she discovered that she could make more money as a dancer there.

And then there were the in-house parties. Halloween, of course. And Christmas. Valentine’s Day. St. Patrick’s Day. Flag Day. Tuesday.

And of course there were celebrations for landing an account.

Or losing one.

The point is, we drank, and we worked, and the one never interfered with the other.

I was always very good at holding my liquor. I could drink a fair amount, but always knew when to stop before I embarrassed myself.

But sometimes mistakes happened.

The worst, for me, occurred at a party held by a friend of mine who ran a public relations firm in the city. I no longer recall the reason for the party — if, indeed, there was one (perhaps it was Tuesday) — but the entire affair was attended by marketing and advertising people from numerous agencies.

There was also plenty of alcohol, including something I’d never run across before: Polar Ice.

Now Polar Ice is a particularly pure brand of vodka, and the custom at the time was to throw it in the freezer until it was literally ice-cold — but not frozen, of course, because of the alcohol content, which I believe was in the neighbourhood of 200%.

The nice thing about frozen vodka is that it doesn’t have the bite of regular vodka. It also takes a while to metabolise, which means you can drink several glasses before realising the effect it’s having.

In short, I got drunk.

Not bad on its own — there were a lot of intoxicated people there, and even drunk I can normally handle myself with at least a modicum of dignity. Which I did.

Oh sure, I performed a couple of magic tricks, but only by request, and those watching were suitably impressed. The fact that I didn’t screw up surely meant I was in control, if somewhat wobbly.

Now it’s important to understand that up to this point I had been behaving in an entirely acceptable fashion. I’d been having a discussion with a woman beside me on the couch about Thompson’s 25-year mark with the Pepsi account, and I could tell that I was being coherent because my wife was still smiling at me.

And then he walked in.

“He” was the man who had re-imaged the entire concept of the detergent commercial, for both laundry and dish. His spots featured people talking happily while doing the washing-up, and while the product was never spoken of, it was prominently displayed as part of the cheerful scene. One spot featured a little girl helping her mother bring in the laundry and getting excited as her teddy bear was taken down from the line.

I wanted to tell this man how much I respected the direction he’d taken with the new spots. I wanted to explain to him that, while ads which didn’t mention the product were normally ineffective, his use of visuals had overcome this objection beautifully. I wanted to tell him that he was an advertising genius.

Unfortunately, somewhere between standing up, and reaching for his hand, a whole bunch of Polar Ice which, until that moment, had been hiding somewhere in my metabolism biding its time, decided to strike. I discovered that my feet were suddenly completely To stay on my suddenly untrustworthy, and the only recourse I had for staying on my feet was to grab his jacket lapel while shaking his hand.

Remembering that there was something I’d wanted to say, I blurted out, “I looove the teddy bear!”

That was the extent of my verbal acuity. I stood for a moment longer, attempting to work out how much of what I’d meant to say had actually been said, while also trying to figure out why I seemed incapable of standing without support. Since the standing part was temporarily being taken care of by hanging onto this fortunately-placed jacket lapel, I opted to continue my discourse on advertising.

“I looove the teddy bear,” I said, vaguely aware that I’d already said something similar. Unable to think of how to progress from there when I had a sudden flash of insight, and said, “I looove the teddy bear.”

It was sad. And I never touched Polar Ice again, nor got that intoxicated.

Even worse — I never could remember his name.

But if by any chance he stumbles upon this blog and is reading this, I just want to tell him: “I loooove the teddy bear.”

Categories: Uncategorized

• A guerrilla campaign that may not work — but is certainly welcome

Stop! That duck isnt an approved Talk Talk agent!

Stop! That duck isn't an approved Talk Talk agent!

In Britain, Talk Talk is engaging in a reverse pickpocketing scheme. In a move intended to show that companies can put money back into the pockets of consumers, as well as taking it out, the mobile phone and broadband provider has sent out 20 “putpockets” into the streets of London  where they will slip five pound or 20 pound notes into the pockets and purses of unsuspecting people. “With so many scams out there, Britons have become very sceptical of companies giving money away,” said TalkTalk’s Mark Schmid. “We have turned to put-pocketing to give something back. Whilst unconventional, we don’t think anyone is going to mind finding a crisp £20 in their pocket.” Read more…

• Guerrilla advertising for dummies — and for other cutting edge advertisers

Im telling you, Schultz. With guerrilla advertising the consumer will know nothing! Nothing!

I'm telling you, Schultz. With guerrilla advertising the consumer will know nothing! Nothing!

Imagine the scene. The Allied forces are storming the beaches of Normandy. People are getting shot all over the place. There are explosions and screams and the firing of automatic weapons. Finally, after hours of fighting, the German forces retreat and the beachhead has been won.

You know what didn’t happen next? What didn’t happen next was the Allied forces gathering up all their stuff and then buggering off home. And you know why that didn’t happen next?

Because that would have been a guerrilla warfare tactic. And they weren’t using guerrilla warfare tactics. And do you know why they weren’t using guerrilla warfare tactics?

Because they weren’t bloody idiots! Read more…

Categories: Uncategorized

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