Saturday, January 29, 2011

favorite three television campaigns currently running

It's easy to point out things in advertising that you don't like. I do it all the time on this blog (cough…Starbucks logo redesign…cough). It's a much harder task to pick the advertising you do like.

However, listed below are my three favorite campaigns currently on TV right now. I picked them for several reasons, but mainly because I find them the best at what they're designed to do: sell. And, if they make me laugh while doing it, that's an extra tip of the hat to the agency.

3) Southwest Airlines - "Bags Fly Free" - GSD&M

(Agency: GSD&M)

Southwest is pounding the airwaves with their "Bags Fly Free" campaign. It launched the campaign in the summer of 2009 using their long-time agency GSD&M. The campaign recently has featured a "Fee Court," where other airlines face a jury of Southwest employees about passenger exploitation.

Not every commercial is a gut-buster, but the commercials do a damn fine job at positioning Southwest as the low budget, low hassle airline of choice. And, when passengers are increasingly cost conscience, Southwest is in a great position to start eating up some market share in the air travel industry.

It still has some time to beat its reputation for its "cattle call" boarding process of the past. But, if Southwest continues to position itself as the fee-free airlines, I think it will pick up a lot of business from passengers tired of being nickel-and-dimed by other airlines.

2) Reese's - "Perfect" - ArnoldWorldwide

(Agency: ARN Worldwide)

"We knew that consumers loved the product the way it was and that we needed to capture the simple brand essence of chocolate, peanut butter, orange, two cups," says ArnoldNYC President Lynn Power. "The solution? 'Reese's Perfect,' a campaign that treats the product as the icon it is, and gives Reese's a bold leadership voice that elevates it from the rest of the candy in the category."

Power's comments encapsulate what I like most about this ad series. In a medium where viewers are bombarded with flashy, over-the-top, outrageous campaigns, ARN took the simple beauty of the Reese's cup and makes a television ad out of it.

The simplicity of the commercials makes them stand out, which grabs attention. Entertaining copy and techniques, featuring the product front and center, brings it all together.

It truly is a "perfect" combination.

1) Allstate - "Mayhem is Everywhere" - Leo Burnett

(Agency: Leo Burnett)

Like Southwest and GSD&M, Allstate and ad agency Leo Burnett have been together a looooong time. Though, when your ad agency is putting out ad gold like Burnett recently has with the launch of the "Mayhem" campaign, it's not hard to see why.

Hands down, the "Mayhem is Everywhere" campaign featuring the hilarious Dean Winters is the best ad series on TV right now.

I can't think of a commercial that has made me laugh time and time again, with each new spot, like these Mayhem commercials.

And, to top it all off, they're not just good for laughs. Pitching the idea that "mayhem is everywhere" by using common, real life situations (deer, limbs, an oblivious teen on a lawn mower), it makes consumers stop and think if they're covered if something like that were to happen.

Let's not forget that Matt Miller, the copywriter on the campaign, continues to churn out brilliant stuff.

When you combine great copy with wicked-funny creative, you create the perfect storm for advertising.

I only blame Allstate for my recent switch to State Farm.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

denny's doesn't buy the super bowl hype

Denny's says it's not buying into the Super Bowl hype this year. It will be sitting on the sidelines for the first time after back-to-back ad appearances during the Big Game.


"It is a very expensive exercise and I don't believe it's necessary for us to continue to put all our eggs in one basket," says Frances Allen, Denny's Chief Marketing Officer, in an interview with AdAge.

There is not a bigger day for a bigger waste of ad money than the Super Bowl. Not only do companies throw away millions on advertisements, many of those advertisements sacrifice effectiveness for humor--trying to stand out as the resonant ad of the game.

Denny's past Super Bowl appearances have not been without success. The free "Grand Slam" giveaways brought people into Denny's all across the country. However, Allen's attitude towards Super Bowl advertising reveals that the company is probably second-guessing how much money it spends in one night as opposed to what it can do all year long.

"We're looking for continuity in 2011," says Allen.

Denny's decision makes sense. The reason their ads were so effective in the past Super Bowls was not because of any clever or creative advertising. It was because of the premium given away: free breakfast.

And, such a technique doesn't require a huge ad-buy as required in Super Bowl advertising. In 2009, KFC witnessed the full power of social media prowess when its "free grilled chicken" campaign exploded, causing huge lines and a major backlash at the chicken shortages. If this can be accomplished through Twitter, Facebook and earned media (and a little help from Oprah), why does a company like Denny's need to drop $3 million for 30 sec. of air time?

It doesn't.

And, other companies should be taking note.

In my last post, I wrote about how Audi blew through millions of dollars of ad time by running with a hilarious -- but, ineffective -- commercial. (Note: I don't know for a fact that it didn't generate sales, but given that I haven't seen another Audi commercial with the same positioning, I'm guessing it didn't). The ad won lots of praise, and a good bit of earned media from the political controversy it pulled, but did it really qualify as a good investment?

I'm not saying that Super Bowl advertisements aren't effective, and aren't a good investment of client money. It can be. But, the decision needs to be weighed carefully with marketing teams.

In the case of Denny's, I think it made the right call.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

positioning audi in the german luxury car market

German cars have a lock on luxury cars. And, within that class, Mercedes and BMW are the market leaders. This presents a problem for Audi, who in recent years has done a tremendous job in "classing" up their cars to compete with the luxury offerings of its rivals.

However, hitting the number-two spot is still a long, long time down the road.

Going toe-to-toe with Mercedes and BMW is a fool's errand if Audi doesn't find a position for itself that sets its brand apart from being just another shiny, black German luxury car. Fortunately, I think they've found out how.

(Agency: Venables Bell & Partners)

In 1963, Pepsi launched its "Pepsi Generation" ad strategy that positioned its cola as the choice of a younger generation. In doing so, it positioned Coca-Cola--the market leader--as the "older" cola. For homogenous products like cola, this strategy was a good way to give Pepsi a unique identity in the cola market, while trying to dominate the younger market niche.

If Audi wants to increase its market share, it needs to do something similar. At least Venables Bell seems to get it.

"The 60-second spot takes the viewer on a fantastical journey through a mansion laden with trite symbols of antiquated, stuffy opulence, and says goodnight to the age of gluttony and old luxury, culminating in a Mercedes-Benz S-Class parked in the driveway," says Venables Bell's website.

There is a huge market for luxury cars among the young and wealthy. If Audi can position itself as the "not your grandfather's luxury car" brand, it can swiftly overtake this niche.

I hope Audi stays on this current track.

The "youthful" juxtaposition to the older brands is also much more effective than Venables Bell's last try during the 2010 Super Bowl. It was here that Venables Bell aired a 60-second spot called "Green Police," where it tried to position Audi as a luxury car with a green conscience.

It was a good attempt, but I don't believe most people shopping for a higher-end luxury car are thinking too much of the environment; at least not enough to move the needle on overall sales. So, for being one of the most entertaining commercials of that year, I doubt it did much to further Audi's market share.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

the lone case for comic sans

If there is one font you should hate, it's Comic Sans. It's stupid, overused, and hard to read. About the only purpose it serves is to identify people and businesses you should avoid like the plague.

Yet, apparently, there is some emerging science to suggest it has a purpose in design. Well, at least according to one Gawker columnist:

Sometimes, there will be ugly fonts, and that's okay. And finally, we have the science to prove it. A new study indicates that difficult-to-read fonts can help people learn and retain information, possibly because they require more attention and work to process and understand.

The article then quotes a few studies where two selects were given a document in Comic Sans, and the other a normal font. In those tests, the Comic Sans select showed greater retention of the material.

While I'm not doubting the results of the tests, nor the conclusions drawn from them, I think they miss the point. In advertising, reading/viewing the ad is largely voluntary. This is especially true in direct marketing.

Comic Sans may increase retention because of its difficulty to read; however, that would only be useful in the case where the audience was required to read it. Nobody will voluntarily read an illegible font. You don't have that amount of time to sell your idea.

So, for use in advertisements, it's still a really, really bad idea--regardless of how stupid you would look as a designer who used it.

As a general rule of thumb, never use illegible fonts for a logo or in design.

(Link h/t: @Odney)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

the golden rule for email marketing: permission

The single, most important factor in the success of an email marketing program is permission. Permission is the foundation on which your entire email marketing program is based. It will impact everything else that you do.

Permission essentially is an established relationship between you and the subscriber. It indicates that your email subscribers have given you explicit consent to email them. If you don't have permission, or your level of permission is weak, the effectiveness of your email marketing program will suffer greatly.

When adding names to your email list, always ask yourself, "Do I have permission to email these subscribers?" If you cannot definitively answer yes, then it is time to re-evaluate how you are building your list.

"Email is permission-based," writes John Caldwell, an email marketing expert and author of Red Pill Email. "You cannot legitimately buy or sell someone else's permission, it comes directly from the recipient. Permission may be revoked by the recipient at any time for any reason."

The strongest form of email permissioning is "opt-in" permission, where subscribers voluntarily agree to become a member of your email marketing program. This can happen in many ways, but the best form is subscribers unequivocally intend to be sent emails by your organization. The key in opt-in permission is the establishment of a relationship between your organization and the subscriber. This relationship can also be established petitions, surveys, purchases, donations, etc. However, when using these techniques, the notification that the subscriber will be receiving subsequent emails should be conspicuous and straightforward.

Email marketing isn't about the number of subscribers on your list. It's about the quality of the relationship you have with your subscribers. "Tricky" or "sneaky" opt-in practices will undermine this relationship, and reduce the quality of your email list. Having a large quantity of people on your email list who either do not want to be on it, or do not know they are on it, will significantly impact your results, and could ultimately shut it down altogether.

The weaker form of permissioning is called "opt-out" permission. This is where a batch of email subscribers are sent an email stating that if they do not "opt-out," they will begin receiving email messages.

While many companies perform opt-out services, this type of permissioning is not accepted by the email marketing industry, and opt-out lists are disallowed by almost every email service provider (ESP).

While opt-out subscribers are technically legal to email, the lack of a solid foundation of permission can hurt your sender reputation due to complaints and reduced subscriber engagement.

This is part one in a series on email marketing.

Friday, January 7, 2011

final thought on starbucks logo redesign

At the center of my rejection of Starbucks' logo change is the idea that the logo is ubiquitous enough to be a standalone identity. Were I to agree with Starbucks that they have worldwide brand identity, I would say, "Bravo. Job well done."

But, I think they're vastly overestimating how recognizable their logo actually is.


the man who walked around the world

(Agency: BBH)

This is fantastic. Lots of copy. Shot well. Entertaining. Makes me want to buy more Johnnie Walker.

From director Jamie Rafn:
"To convey the relentless spirit of the men who created, arguably, the world’s first global brand, we decided to create the longest tracking shot in advertising history. The film was deliberately constructed to make it impossible to hide any invisible cuts. Risky stuff. We also decided very early on that only Robert Carlyle had the skill and charisma to tell this story. As the light failed on the second day of shooting, with only 1½ useable takes in the can, the incredible Mr Carlyle nailed it on his 40th and last attempt."

Creative Credits (h/t
Agency: BBH, London
Agency Producer: Ruben Mercadel
Creative Director: Mick Mahoney
Senior Creative / Copywriter: Justin Moore
Art Director: n/a
Director: Jamie Rafn
Production Company: HLA, London
Producer: Stephen Plesniak
Director of Photography: George Richmond
Post Production & City: Glassworks, London
Editor & Company: Kate Owen, Marshall Street Editors, London
Shooting date: July 2008

Thursday, January 6, 2011

ad humor: go whole-hog, or don’t do it at all

David Ogilvy, arguably the king of Madison Avenue, was no fan of humor in advertisements. He believed purchasing a product was serious business for consumers, and using humor as a technique more times than not undermined the effectiveness of an ad.

He had a point.

Tonight I had the TV on and a 30 sec. new spot for Wheat Thins came on:

(Agency: The Escape Pod)

This is a perfect example of how the humor angle undermines, if not altogether kills, the effectiveness of commercials if not done correctly.

What about that commercial was designed to motivate people to buy Wheat Thins? When the commercial was over, I was more confused than anything. My reaction wasn’t, “Oh, that’s hilarious that Wheat Thins did this. Let me go buy some.” It was, “What is she going to do with a pallet of Wheat Thins.”

Even the "victim's" face said the same thing.

Dropping a pallet of Wheat Thins off on an unsuspecting consumer is hardly a call to action.

I suppose one could make the argument that the commercial was not designed to sell product necessarily, but to increase brand awareness on social media. “So go ahead and tweet, post, blog, upload or text about Wheat Thins...we dare you,” says EP’s site.

But, is paying for a 30 sec. spot just to spark chatter on Twitter worth it? That’s a lot of money to pay for brand awareness on a social networking site that has only a fraction of the use as, say, Facebook.

Secondly, as McDonalds found out, pandering to Twitter is a dangerous game.

Here are a few recent tweets regarding Wheat Thins:

@Princessasuzy21: Have u seen those super fake wheat thins commercials? U can totally tell theu're fake!

@vdaze: I can't even tell you how pissed I'd be if someone just dropped off a pallet of Wheat Thins at my front door and left.

@ImTashaHOE: What the hell is that girl suppose to do with all those Wheat Thins SMH

The concept of the commercial isn’t all bad. It would make a great online campaign. And, it could be done for a fraction of the price not having to pay for ad time.

If Wheat Thins really wanted to do a television commercial, they should have either gone for the gold with humor, or stuck to something more relevant to the product (a wheat thin is a very humorless thing). They could have spent 30 seconds on positioning Wheat Thins as the healthy alternative to chips.

Boring? Yes. Effective? Much more so.

This is not to say that humor can’t work. Allstate is doing a great job with a hilarious series featuring Dean Winters as “Mayhem” (agency: Leo Burnett). Several of the spots are gut-busters, and the copy itself is very good. While making people laugh, the commercials motivate consumers to check their insurance policies to see if they are covered in the featured situation.

The key to the series' success is that Burnett's creative team went whole-hog on making it funny. The Mayhem commercials are a little weird and a little dark. And, it paid off.

And that's the thing: If you’re going to do humor, do it. Get weird. Get original. Don’t sell yourself short or you’re just going to waste a boatload of money on an ad that’s instantly forgettable.

who Is starbucks forgetting?

I feel like I may be belaboring the Starbucks logo issue a little (first three blog posts starting out are all dedicated to it), but it's such a dopey move...I...I just can't get it all out of my system in a single post.

Starbucks is the paradigm of what happens when you let hubris drive your marketing rather than data, or, heck, plain reason.

Starbucks decided its brand awareness, particularly its logo, was so pervasive in modern society that it could remove its name and product off the logo...letting the image alone serve as its brand identity.

Let's see who Starbucks completely forgot about in this move:

- People who have never heard of Starbucks.
- People who have heard of Starbucks, but never grabbed a cup.
- People who may have tried Starbucks, but aren't regular patrons.
- Patrons who are regulars, but never paid that much attention to the logo.

Who does Starbucks not forget about?

- People categorically obsessed with Starbucks (who probably like the new logo).

And, for all those tired people driving at night on the Interstate? They're probably going to Dunkin' Donuts because what the hell does a big green siren/mermaid tell me about that business? Nothing.

(posted from Starbucks)

the evolution of starbucks' brand identity

Logo Evolution

Hat tip to AdFreak via Twitter.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

starbucks' logo wtf

Wendesday, Starbucks (NYSE: SBUX) released a new logo that strips the "Starbucks Coffee" copy off their iconic design.

"This new evolution of the logo does two things that are very important," says Starbucks CEO Howard Schulzt via a video posted to the company's website. "It embraces and respects our heritage and at the same time evolves us to a point where we feel it's more suitable to the future."

In the video announcement, Schultz alluded to Starbucks' intention to get into different markets. The new design will supposedly give the company more flexibility in branding, all the while maintaining its brand of being "the world's leading purveyor of the highest-quality coffee."

Good luck with that, Schultzy.

Yes, Starbucks is huge. And, yes, Starbucks has a very high brand recognition when the name is verbalized or written.

However, is the visual cue as potent? I'm saying no.

Only but the most coffee-crazed of consumers can really recall what the Starbucks logo looks like. It took me at least a year or two of drinking Starbucks coffee to really pick up that the logo featured a "siren." By removing the "Starbucks Coffee" lettering, Starbucks is essentially killing the most identifiable portion of its brand.

This is supposed to help them in expanding markets?

The Starbucks logo is iconic, but not easily recalled. And, recall will be even worse among new customers without the lettering.

However, that may be the least of Starbucks' worries.

This news about Starbucks wanting to line-extend itself into other markets should have investors worried. Their brand is about to roast.

Starbucks is coffee. Coffee, and coffee only. That is the word they own in consumers minds. By trying to expand beyond coffee, Starbucks is going to severely dilute the potency of their brand.

So, let's get this straight...

Starbucks unnecessarily changes their logo. Adding to that, they strip it of the strongest brand identity trait: the name and product. And, to make matters worse, it sounds like they're about to dilute their brand by line-extending themselves into other markets?

Sounds like a triple venti of branding fail to me.