Monday, July 16, 2012

your 'likes' are stupid.

I have a great deal of respect for social media pariahs. In a world filled with "gurus" and "ninjas," these are the people that say, "Your 'likes' are stupid."

Now, I (and, I'm sure, these people as well) recognize that social media isn't completely useless. In fact, social media can play a major role in consumer engagement, as well as customer service. If done correctly, social media can be a major marketing tool.

The problem is when we get stuck on the superficial statistics -- likes, follows, retweets, comments… You know…the stuff that's easy to talk about.

What nobody wants to talk about are the conversions after the 'like' or follow. After all, it is in the conversion where you can really measure the effectiveness of your social media. Sure, there are a lot of intangibles when it comes to social media, but that's true of all marketing channels or mediums. But, even with social media, you develop very effective measurements of ROI.

And, if you're converting to sales/donations, it's a good place to start.

Otherwise, what's the point? Really. So what?

Tom Belford, an editor at the non-profit marketing newsletter The Agitator, has a great article on the topic. And, in the comment section, he leaves this golden nugget in response to a reader who was questioning the post:

"Yes, I like that extra traffic to our site. But what’s it worth? Do we still have crap conversion? Show me what these 24,000 new fans have done for our cause in 3 or 6 months and maybe I’ll be a happy camper."

Ah…there it is. Traffic (or, likes, follows, etc.) is another meaningless stat when looked at alone. A site with 1,000 visitors a day that converts at 10% is just as effective as a site with 10,000 visitors a day that converts at 1%.

So, what is more important? Traffic, or conversions?

So, while you may have 25,000 likes on your Facebook page, I'm not going to be impressed until you show me what you've done with them.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

the campaign against treason

As I've posted on here before, I run a parody Twitter account that started back in Nov. 2010 when the TSA first went crazy. Or, at least, first got noticed for being crazy.

It's sort of bloomed since then, and now has more than 25,000 followers.

In looking for new ways to keep the audience engaged, while maintaining the account's "brand," (oh yes, I approached it like a brand) I created a "propaganda campaign" aimed "against the American public." It's called, "We're Sorry You Hate America: The Campaign Against Treason." The ads are simply goofy photoshops I created as mock-propaganda posters that belittle dissenters.

For the users, it's a cool divergence from the typical 140-characters of snark. For me, it's a fun excuse to photoshop.

Below are the first three ads in the campaign. You can also click on the links to go to a larger image.

We'll see how long I can keep this up.

Monday, June 18, 2012

bill bernbach said

I'm a creature of advertising legends. My background is in non-profit marketing, so I live vicariously through the books and wisdom of the titans who came before me (and following people currently in the business via Twitter). I recently ran across DDB's publication of "Bill Bernbach Said," a spiral-bound compendium of quotes from the man who pioneered artistry in advertising.

It's fantastic.

It doesn't matter if you're starting in the industry, or have a few decades under your belt -- there is still much to learn from the godfathers of advertising.

I really encourage picking it up.

Thursday, June 7, 2012


I wasn't always a Venables Bell & Partners fanboy. I thought their Audi "Green Police" commercial was wonderfully entertaining, but did little to move Audi's brand forward. I felt the "environmentally friendly" angle probably one of the more minor points that drive people to buy an Audi.

But, Venables responded with a new positioning strategy, couching Audi as the "new" face of German luxury cars.

Holy crap. I stood up and cheered. And, to drive this new position, Venables released a remarkably brilliant campaign that was not only entertaining, but on-point with the brand strategy.

See my take on it here.

I recently ran across one of their ads they did for Audi called "Ahab." Again, it's hysterical, but the sell isn't lost in the comedy. It's a fantastic example of how to make an entertaining ad without placing humor above the brand. (see it at the bottom of this post)

As a side note, Venables recently created a brand strategy company called vpborange. I encourage you to check them out, if only to see a great site using parallax scrolling. And, as a personal side note, I would kill an unicorn to work for them. Yeah, that's right...a unicorn.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

the #1 rule for amazing advertising

One of my favorite quotes about advertising comes from the great Leo Burnett. I've wrote about this concept extensively, mainly because I feel it is one of the most important "rules" for advertising that any creative -- young, or old -- can ever understand. Burnett said that every product has an "inherent drama," and it is up to the creative team to find this drama, and bring it to life.

When you bring this "inherent drama" to life, you have no need for disruptive tricks like flashy graphics, or naked girls. The drama sells itself.

A recent example of this is a new spot by staples (featured below), from agency David (in the Ogilvy & Mather family), of Brazil/Argentina.

Mark Duffy of BuzzFeed sums it up best:

One simple little linchpin, and you've got an interesting commercial about a very dull subject.

No depressing office supplies shots. No depressing voiceover doofus. Just a nice low-key spot with a little wink that sells me. Bravo.

Bravo, indeed.

google takes a page from the handbook of bush league branding tactics

In July of last year, in the midst of the frenzy around the launch of Google Plus, I wrote an article simply titled, “Google+ Will Fail.” A few articles on the topic had been published at the time, but most of the press surrounding Google’s latest foray into social media had been glowing — almost to the point of outright sycophancy.
A year later, G+ is still here. Of course, nobody (even me) expected otherwise. But, since then, Instagram has been sold to Facebook for $1 billion, games like Draw Something and Words With Friends have set the standard for mobile gaming, and Pinterest — not G+ — is the “next” major social networking site.
G+ may not have failed in the traditional sense (well, yet), but at this point, that’s merely a matter of semantics. G+ did not revolutionize social networking. It did not "kill" Facebook. It was all hype. And, now, it’s more frequently brought up as a joke than something to be taken seriously.
However, my prediction, and those of others during the same time, didn’t take genius-level skill to make. The fate of G+ was obvious. And, because their mistakes were so obvious is why Google’s recent redesign of the network is an embarrassing rookie move by the powerhouse brand.
Clearly, they still don’t get it.
Common rookie tactics to “save” struggling brands include things like changing a logo orhiring a celebrity spokesperson. Why? It’s easy to change a logo. And if you have the money, it’s not hard to hire a celebrity. But, it’s much harder to do the soul searchingnecessary to discover why the brand is failing, which is why this is rarely done when it is desperately needed.
JCPenney is a perfect example. On Feb. 27, 2011, the brand unveiled a new logo intended to convey a new, modern feel for the brand. Did it work for them? No, which is why they a year later they came out with yet another logo. Except, this time, the logo was in conjunction with a new ad campaign designed to promote the company’s brand realignment — something that was fatally lacking in 2011. "The new JCPenney logo, which combines the elements that have made JCPenney an enduring American brand, by evoking the nation's flag and JCPenney's commitment to treating customers Fair and Square,” the company said in a statement when launching its most recent logo.
It wasn’t just a superficial change. JCPenney was making a substantial change to their business model in order to define itself in the department store market.
The redesign of G+ is a move straight from the 2011 JCPenney Handbook of Bush League Branding Tactics. It screams rookie in every single way.
In the year that G+ has been around, Google has failed to address the reason why its social network is failing: It’s not any different from everything else that consumers already use.
“The reason Google+ will fail is that there is no reason; that is, no reason for consumers to leave Facebook,” reads my 2011 article. “There is nothing revolutionary about Google+. There is nothing worthwhile about it.”
Adding a cover photo and tweaking the aesthetics of the network doesn’t make up for the fact that in a social media realm where consumers are already struggling to keep up with Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, and Linkedin, G+ still doesn’t offer anything worth their attention.
Or, time.
Putting a new face on G+ is like a tree falling in the woods. If nobody is around to see it, does it really matter?
No. It doesn’t. And, social media consumers have made that abundantly clear.

keeping it real with authentic authenticity

One of the fundamental rules to social media for brands is “keeping it human.” That is, a Twitter account should look like it is run by a human, and not a robot. It should have personality, depth, interactivity, and responsiveness. Essentially, community managers must ensure they “keep it real.”
People don't want to interact with a faceless brand, especially via social networks. They want to interact with a brand as if it were a person. People like real. And, the more real a brand comes, the easier it is to bond to it, and establish a “consumer relationship.”
Some brands fail at this. Others try, but it comes off as hollow and feigned, which is perhaps even worse than not trying altogether. Consumers have a good way of sniffing out B.S., even if on a sub-conscious level.
They know.
However, women’s magazine Marie Claire is taking this principle to its models, replacing the "fake" runway cutouts with real women. The May issue of Marie Claire@Work, a supplement sent to women in the top-10 markets along with 100,000 newsstand copies, will feature members of the Marie Claire Career Network on LinkedIn. The magazine will also feature ads from Buick, White House Black Market, and Mustela that include women from Marie Claire’s LinkedIn network, too.
“We’re about being approachable,” Michele Zeiss, assistant advertising manager for General Motors, told AdWeek regarding their decision. “So we’re looking for real people that the readers can identify with and not so much the celebrity who makes millions of dollars.”
And, in a fashion industry that has recently come under scrutiny for its unrealistic portrayal of women through digital manipulation (for example, see this disaster in Voguefrom last August), Marie Claire’s use of non-model models is a welcome breath of fresh air.
Consumers know that the difference between advertised reality and actual reality is usually quite vast. The hamburgers that come out on the tray rarely, if ever, look like the hamburgers on the menu. Even Apple has taken heat for unrealistic portrayals of its famed “Siri” application on the iPhone 4S. So, when consumers are given something truly authentic, they appreciate not being treated like complete idiots.
Yes, there is a time and place for framed reality, and no, brands shouldn’t show everything there is to see about what they do (remember the popular aphorism that nobody wants to see how sausages are made). However, brands could benefit from finding opportunities to inject a little authentic authenticity into their marketing. 

the passion of branding

I recently wrote an article called “A Lesson in Building Brands from the Masters of Advertising,” which offered insight into branding from the longtime legends of the advertising world. In short, the article concluded that the core of branding was making people passionate about brands.
However, what the article didn’t include was “how” this could work for any brand, not just the most flashy, or cutting-edge.
Taking a look at some of the strongest, most culturally imbued brands, passion is always present. Apple consumers stick the logo on their car. Harley Riders have the logo tattooed on their arm. Gmail users laugh at those who still use Hotmail or Yahoo. Nike created an entirely new culture of fitness based around its products.
Passion drives these products. And with that passion comes a nearly unbreakable brand loyalty.
Yet, every brand has the potential to inspire this level of passion. Sure, a local restaurant has little chance of becoming the next Olive Garden, but it doesn’t mean that it can’t come to be one of feature restaurants of the area. It’s all about finding that hook into a consumer’s mind, and getting them excited about what the brand is doing. Then, it’s not just about the logotype, or even the taste of the food. It’s the experience the consumer has when interacting with the brand.
Apple may not make the highest quality product, and Harley Davidson motorcycles may not be the best value — but the experience of joining that brand community is more important than anything else. As the 1987 Harley Davidson ad from Carmichael Lynch asks, "When was the last time you felt this strongly about anything?"
But what is that hook? It’s simple. It’s whatever separates your brand from the competitors. It’s called the unique selling point, or point of differentiation, or value proposition. It’s the element of the brand that keeps people coming back to it rather than opting for a competitor.
For a restaurant, it may be the setting and atmosphere, which always ensures for a romantic evening so it becomes the go-to place for couples looking to celebrate their love. Or, for a coffee shop, it may be large tables where groups can always count on ample space to work and collaborate. For a pen, it may be the richness of the ink.
Look for what in your brand creates an experience that consumers can’t find anywhere else. It’s there. And, if it’s not, create it.
People can get excited about anything. Make them excited about your brand. Make them want to be a part of your brand community.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

a lesson in building brands from the masters of advertising

Branding. What is a brand? What is branding? There are many definitions. Many theories. And, many agencies that do branding in many different ways. 
But what can we learn from the masters of advertising — those that have put products on the map, and made them household names — about building brands? 
According to Lee Clow, the bearded Chairman and Global Director of TBWA\Worldwide, brands “are very much like people.” 
“Do you think that brand is interesting? Would you like to have it over for dinner? Is he always the same, or is he sometimes funny, and sometimes he’s serious?” says Clow. 
It’s an interesting perspective, and one that helps to explain the relationship between consumers and brands. It’s a bit strange to think about having a “relationship” with a product. But, that’s exactly what a brand loyalty is: a relationship. If a consumer is loyal to your brand, they have certain expectations for it. They trust it. They don’t want to be betrayed by it.
And, most of all, they want to enjoy the experience of being in a relationship with it. 
Clow refers to an ad for Harley Davidson produced by Carmichael Lynch in 1987 that featured the burly arm of a biker with the Harley Davidson logo tattooed on his bicep. The headline reads, "When was the last time you felt this strongly about anything?"
Passion. It’s what drives any relationship, especially that between a brand and a consumer. If consumers feel passionate about the product, they’ll use it. More importantly, they’ll keep using it, and will encourage people in their social circles to use it. 
Mary Wells Lawrence, who started at DDB in the 1950s before founding her own agency, used passion to help save Braniff, a commercial airline company. Her campaign, “The End of the Plain Plane,” involved redesigns to not only the planes, but the stewardesses, pilots, and general culture of air travel. In a stuffy, boring, plaine plan industry, Braniff became “fun.” "We made it fun to fly,” says Wells. “People flew with us because they were having a theatrical experience."
As one of the Braniff ads stated, they couldn’t get passengers to their destination any faster, but the “experience” of flying was one consumers couldn’t get with any other airline. Wells tapped into the consumer experience to build a relationship with consumers — an exclusive relationship built on the thrill of flying. 
"We, over and over again, stress this so-called inherent drama of things," Leo Burnett, one of the godfathers of modern advertising, told Denis Higgins in an interview years ago. "There’s usually something there, almost always something there, if you can find the thing about that product that keeps it in the marketplace."
The job of advertisers for brands is finding that inherent drama — a spark that builds a brand experience — and bring it to life. 
“I can get excited about selling a new kind of pen,” says George Lois, who made MTV and Tommy Hilfiger household names. “Wow, yeah, look at that pen. It’s a little this. I can do this. Let me sell that mother*****. What a pen! It’s a work of art too.”
“You can get excited about almost nothing,” Lois continues.
“That’s what’s crazy, how passionate people can actually be about brands, if brands are these interesting, fascinating, and maybe high-minded people that you want to assign to be a part of who you are,” remarks Clow.
Are people excited about your brand? Do they have a passion for it? If not, it’s time to take a look at the brand and find that “inherent drama” that Burnett spoke of. Bring it to life. Make it interesting. Make your brand come alive so that consumers can begin building a relationship experience with it. 
Author’s Note: The quotations used in the above article were from interviews featured in the documentary, “Art & Copy.” It is available for purchase (and strongly recommended by this author) here

Monday, March 26, 2012

the stylish hammer to your face

“Weak advertising tells people what you want them to know,” [Ed McCabe] added. “Strong advertising gets people to conclude what you want them to know.”

Fantastic article interviewing one of the real "Mad Men" of the era.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

the quotation that defines me...

"The frightening and most difficult thing about being what somebody calls a 'creative person' is that you have no idea where any of your thoughts come from really, and especially you don't have any idea about where they're gonna come from tomorrow." - Hal Riney

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

deutsch/la bringing the magic

I watched an entire pre-roll ad on YouTube for the first time the other night. It was the "Cubs Win" spot by Deutsch/LA. It features the euphoric scene in the city of Chicago upon the Chicago Cubs finally pulling off a World Series win. And, by the end of the narrative, you're shown that it is actually just a simulation on MLB 12.

I haven't been blown away by an ad like this in a long time. It was...remarkable.

I think it's rare that a commercial can truly encapsulate the emotion of a sacred event, especially one that's as light-hearted (notice the absence of abused puppies, or starving kids) as this. Yet, you're immediately pulled into the narrative. It may be a little inside-baseball (oh look, a pun) for people who may not be aware of Chicago's complete inability to survive in the post season, but that's not really the audience MLB 12 is targeting anyways.

So, bravo, Deutsch. Amazing work.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

call for reinforcements

A recent post at Nex Level Advisors, LLC has a headline that reads, “It’s important that you do everything possible to establish and reinforce a positive brand.” The article goes on to list several good suggestions for brands, such as basic (but, often forgotten) fundamentals like positioning and consistency. However, the headline itself drives home an important concept for brands: reinforcement.
The vast availability of knowledge now available at the fingertips of any one on the Internet has made for incredibly intelligent consumers. This has completely changed the game for branding, as not only are consumers demanding more from brands, but brands are also held to a higher standard.
Delivering a wanted product is no longer enough. Not only must brands deliver on their promised value, but they must also do it in satisfactory ways, and provide excellent customer service in the process. Oh, and brands should seek to create an exceptional “brand experience” for their consumers. A flat model for branding doesn't work when consumers expect brands to be three-dimensional. 
This wealth of information in today’s consumer environment means brands are no longer shaped by the messaging of their 30-second ad spots, or an endcap display at a grocery store. Brands are now defined by every thing they do — from production, to the actual product, to delivery, to answering the phones on the help line.
This is why brands should always “call for reinforcements” when taking an analysis of their branding strategy. Is there some process, or facet, of your organization that doesn’t enhance or help define the brand? More importantly, is there anything that underminesthe brand?
Chipotle’s emphasis on “food with integrity” digs out a brand position that their food is ethical to eat. You better believe they are constantly monitoring the sources of their food. With the speed at which information travels, a single chink in their armor — say, a source for their chickens that keeps them frozen in microscopic crates — could end up on a YouTube video exposing this hypocrisy, which would create a PR nightmare for Chipotle.
This situation is a bit more extreme, but the general principle of reinforcements for any brand is ensuring the branding signals all are aligned to promote, enhance, and reinforce your brand strategy.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

use social media to create emotional connections to your brand

“Brand loyalty has always been primarily driven by emotion,” says Brand Keys president Robert Passikoff. “More than ever consumers are seeking to connect emotionally with brands that actually stand for something, and to connect with each other too.”
It’s no secret that emotionally connected consumers have greater brand loyalty. An emotional connection to a brand is a strong bond that is completely independent of temporary sales or clever marketing pitches. A consumer has decided to give you their business because they believe in your brand.
It’s almost enough to make you shed a tear.
The best weapon in a brand’s arsenal for creating emotional connections is social media. One of the truly remarkable aspects about social media is its ability to break down walls that once separated the “few” from the “many.” Want to connect with your celebrity idol? Try Twitter. Many celebrities will interact with their followers. Likewise, brands that engage their followers have incredible opportunities to forge bonds with them.
Yet, the power of social media extends beyond mere conversation. By using the vast resources of social media, brands can create a unique experience that draws consumers deep into the brand culture. By doing so, consumers feel like they have intimate access to brands, which creates a strong emotional bond.
Vitrue, a social media agency based in Atlanta, gets this concept. On their YouTube page, Vitrue sits down with Ed Thralls, the social media marketing manager for Vintage Wine Estates, to discuss how the winery uses social media to enhance their stable of brands.
"With social media, everyone has unprecedented access," says Thralls. "That's pretty exciting to a lot of people out there, so one of the things we try to do from the social media perspective is to provide that experience."
Access. No other advertising medium can give consumers the access to brands like social media. Use it to your advantage, and create a social media experience that invites consumers into your world. And, leverage that experience further by creating a strategy that funnels consumers on social media networks towards making whatever action it is you consider valuable.
As emotionally connected consumers, they are more much more primed and ready to do so.

Friday, February 10, 2012

the super bowl’s best and worst ads (based on what really matters)

Last Sunday, 111.3 million people tuned into NBC to watch the Super Bowl. It was the most watched television program in U.S. history. And, in among time outs, touchdowns, and player injuries, Americans were exposed to advertisements that cost brands an average of $3.5 million for 30-seconds of stardom.
Some brands nailed it. Some floundered. And, others should have never even set foot on the advertising field. The year seemed to be marked by a slew of cameo presences, most needlessly adding to an already bloated marketing budget. Some of the classics returned: the E-Trade baby, the monkeys, and Danica Patrick’s boobs. Others, like the Budweiser Clydesdales, took us back in history to when the government did its best to keep people miserable (is Anheuser-Busch InBev seriously afraid of prohibition coming back?).
Yet, even commercials that are considered “Fan Favorites” may not have done what ads are supposed to do: move brands forward. While Super Bowl ads are expected to entertain, the pursuit of this goal sometimes leaves brands on the sidelines. But, no matter how entertaining an ad may be, it’s a bad ad if it doesn’t progress a brand in one way or another.
The following is a breakdown of the three best commercials, and the three worst, according to the four elements of an effective Super Bowl ad: attention-grabbing, entertaining, brand promotion, and brand recall.
The Best of the Super Bowl:
First Place — Kia: "A Dream Car. For Real Life" (David & Goliath)
Attention Grabbing: B
Entertaining: A
Brand Promotion: A
Brand Recall: A
Kia missed big last year with a complex, strange, and downright confusing ad featuring its newly redesign Optima blasting through time and space. However, they finally got the absurdity clicking in this year’s spot for the Optima. Joining it on a dream voyage around a racetrack was the striking Adriana Lima, the Motley Crew, a bucking Rhino, and a sub-sawing lumberjack who looked strangely like a burly John C. McGinley. While the commercial was one of the most outlandish of the Super Bowl, it still managed to prominently feature the car (yes, that’s right, Acura…car ads should feature the car). And, the absurd scenario that surrounded the Optima not only helped capture the thrill of driving it, it also served to drive home an excellent tagline: “A dream car. For real life.”
Second Place  Teleflora: "Give and Receive(in house)
Attention Grabbing: A
Entertaining: B
Brand Promotion: A
Brand Recall: A
In what usually is a showcase of advertising absurdity (Kia Optima), parody (Honda CRV), and slapstick (Acura NSX), Teleflora’s ad featuring Adriana Lima cuts right to the chase. And, in the process, it sent millions of parents’ hands over their children’s eyes. If there is one thing that will grab a man’s attention, it is a scantly clad Lima. And, watching her slowly prepare her lingerie will entertain that attention as long as she wants. This created a perfect setup for the ad’s theme: give, and you shall receive. It’s that simple (wait…really?). While women viewers may not have been enthusiastic about this ad, it wasn’t them whom Teleflora was targeting. It was the guy who decides at the last that he needs a gift. Thanks to this ad, I’m sure Teleflora is going to be at the front of his mind.
Third Place  General Motor's Silverado: "2012" (Goodby, Silverstein & Partners
Attention Grabbing: A
Entertaining: B
Brand Promotion: A
Brand Recall: A
General Motor’s ad for its Silverado truck was one of the most controversial heading into the Super Bowl, largely due to the bellyaching of its rival, Ford. GM did a stellar job making the most of a post-apocalyptic nightmare as a stage for its manly Silverado pickup. And, ensuring things didn’t get too serious, over-acting and Twinkies (I hope GSP gave a hat-tip to Zombieland) lent it the scenario humorous edge. Hopefully the shot at Ford will be the opening salvo to fantastic advertising war between the two automakers.
Honorable Mention  Fiat: “Seduction” (Richards Group, Dallas
Attention Grabbing: A
Entertaining: A
Brand Promotion: A
Brand Recall: C
Fiat took the Teleflora model and applied it to a car. The sexual tension between the nerdy guy and his imaginary Italian seductress was palpable, which led to a fantastic setup to the revealing of the car, which was wearing the same “outfit” as the mirage. While the attention, entertainment, and brand promotion were all there, I’m skeptical about how well consumers will remember the “Fiat” brand, given its recent entry into the U.S. market.  
The Worst of the Super Bowl:
First Place  Samsung "Thing Called Love" (72 & Sunny)
Attention Grabbing: B
Entertaining: C
Brand Promotion: F
Brand Recall: A
If there is one person happy about Samsung’s 2012 presence in the Super Bowl, it’s probably one-hit-wonder “The Darkness.” Or, it could be Netflix, which was able to pass the crown for one of the worst product launches on to Samsung. While the commercial started with a strong concept (making fun of the Apple cult), it slowly drifted into a weird street party. And, when Samsung tried to pass off its “stylus” as the future of technology, it came time to call it a night. At least consumers will remember Samsung. Too bad it will be for all the wrong reasons.
Second Place  Century 21: "Smarter. Bolder. Faster." (Red Tettemer & Partners)
Attention Grabbing: B
Entertaining: C
Brand Promotion: C
Brand Recall: F
The selection of a real estate agent is a serious decision, and the Super Bowl is not an environment to try to sell a brand like Century 21. Unfortunately, they took a shot at it anyways. Their effort came off as an attempt to squeeze in as many celebrities as possible in a 30 second spot, and try to somehow make it all relevant to the qualities that make up a good agent. The cameos of Donald Trump and Deon Sanders may have been mildly entertaining to some, but the commercial (and the brand) was entirely forgettable.
Third Place  PepsiCo “King's Court” (TBWA /Chiat/Day)
Attention Grabbing: B
Entertaining: D
Brand Promotion: D
Brand Recall: D
Pepsi ended up plunking down some serious money to secure Elton John in one of the first spots in the Super Bowl. However, a better investment would have been using those millions to actually buy Pepsis for all, film it, and put it on YouTube. What TBWA/Chiat/Day produced for PepsiCo was downright stupid: from the premise of using the lovable Sir Elton John for a cold-hearted king, to the cheesy “No, Pepsi for all” line, to the gratuitous use of wash-up Flava Flave at the conclusion. For an agency like TBWA/Chiat/Day, it’s almost as much of an embarrassment for them as it was a missed opportunity for Pepsi.
Dishonorable Mention  Chrysler: "Halftime in America" (Wieden + Kennedy)
Attention Grabbing: B
Entertaining: B
Brand Promotion: D
Brand Recall: C
Nothing sells like America. Sarah Palin found that magic out early on and built an empire for herself. In a time of economic hardships, an emotional appeal that tugs on the heartstrings of Americans is a strong, strong technique. But, Chrysler is trying to sell cars not American flags. And, unlike last year where a similar technique prominently featured Chrysler’s 200 model, the Chrysler vehicles in this year’s spot were virtually invisible. Americans may love the nationalist message that Chrysler was selling in the ad, but the fact remains that Americans aren’t looking to buy Detroit. They’re looking to buy a car that’s the best value for their hard-earned dollar. Chrysler’s 2012 Super Bowl ad received a standing ovation because everybody will clap for good old-fashioned American patriotism. But, that doesn’t mean people are going out to dealerships and buying Chryslers to save the country. People can do that with Ford and Chevy, which have done a far better job of marketing their vehicles.

four elements of an effective super bowl ad

According a National Retail Federation study conducted by BIGinsight, 73% of viewers of the Super Bowl see commercials as entertainment. This sets a high standard for advertisers for not only capturing the attention of viewers distracted at parties, or looking down from the television to check Facebook on their phone. It also requires that they keep consumers entertained.
However, this demand to create a commercial that can both capture attention and entertain sometimes causes creative teams to overlook the primary purpose of any advertisement: selling the brand. If consumers aren’t more motivated to support a brand after a commercial, then advertisers dropped $3.5 million to get a chuckle out of consumers. Or, if things get “overly creative,” they spent a significant chunk of change to either confuse or bore them. And, in the worst-case scenario, which occurred with Groupon in last year’s Super Bowl, the ad just pisses people off.
It’s a huge gamble. For many companies, a Super Bowl ad-buy is most (or, all) of the marketing budget for the entire year. If the ad bombs, or fails to drive the brand, all is lost.
“An ad can be funny, cute, viral, likeable, watchable, etc.,” writes Peter Daboll, CEO of Ace Metrix, in a recent editorial at AdAge about the gamble of Super Bowl advertising. “But if a consumer doesn't get anything out of it but a laugh, it's just not effective.” Daboll says Internet companies are particularly prone to Super Bowl failures, since their products are outside the norm, and their ads do little more than simply announce their presence to the world. On past Internet ads, Daboll says: “Not only did these companies spend millions on Super Bowl media, they also wasted significant dollars on hiring celebrities that did nothing to move their message or their brand forward.”
It’s easy to get a laugh. It’s much harder to get a laugh and then sell a product. And, even if an ad gets millions of YouTube hits, or is voted the viewers’ favorite, it doesn’t necessarily mean it was a “good ad” in what could be considered effective advertising. In the words of advertising legend Rosser Reeves: "Somebody, some day, is going to put advertising awards on the proper basis. And that basis is, does it work?"
Volkswagen had one of the most popular commercials last year. Yet, how many consumers remember the little Darth Vader compared to how many remember what that Volkswagen car looks like, or what model it was?
This year, I’ve decided to create an advertising matrix that puts Super Bowl commercials to the test. There are four key elements that make an effective Super Bowl commercial: attention-grabbing, entertaining, brand promotion, and brand recall. A commercial must grab the consumers’ attention, entertain them while promoting the brand in a relevant (and effective) way, and consumers should remember the brand at the end of the game.  If one of these elements is missing, then the commercial will have failed to fulfill its purpose.
To download the Super Ad Matrix for yourself, click here (or, you can find it on Google Docs by searching for "Super Ad Matrix"). And, come back after the game to report what you felt was the best commercial based on your findings.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

billboard brands

Designing an effective billboard is always a challenge. This probably explains why so many are terribly executed. Billboards require concise copy — sometimes only a few words — that people are supposed to read, digest, and process in just a few seconds. If the copy is too long, or the billboard is too busy, consumers will take a quick glance and move on.
Branding should be approached in the same way.
You don’t want a billboard so junked up with extraneous items that consumers are unable to understand it. Brands, like billboards, should be simple and direct. The battle for a position in the mind of a consumer is much like battling for their attention in the few seconds they drive by an out-of-home advertisement. If it isn’t something they are already familiar with, you have but just a few precious seconds to grab their attention. The sharper, more narrowly focused your brand is, the likelier it is you’ll land a strike.
Brands that are complex, or vague, have a hard time fighting through the noise to reach the consumers. However, brands that are simple, narrowly focused, and clear as to their purpose, or value, resonate better.
If you have just a few seconds to reach consumers about your brand, what would you say? Think of what you would put on a billboard to describe your brand. Ideally, it would be just one key word. It would be the one word that your brand has come to dominate, and one that defines it. For example, here is what some of the top brand billboards might look like: “Apple: Innovation in Technology;” “Google: Online Search;” “Burberry: Fashion’s Luxury;” “Marlboro: #1 in Cigarettes;” “Toyota: Automotive Reliability.”
Just two or three words, paired with a logo, would be all these brands needed to not only advertise the brand visually, but also tell consumers everything they need to know about it. Apple is where to go for the latest technology. Google is where to go for online search. Burberry is what you buy to look posh. Marlboro is what you smoke (because if they are number one, they must be the best). Toyota is what you buy if you want a reliable car.
Taking a look at your brand, could you explain it to consumers in just a few seconds, with just a few words? Could you turn your brand into a billboard? If not, maybe it is time to revaluate the brand, and trim off some of the excess. The best brands are ones that are narrow in focus, simple, and consistent. If you have a busy brand — trying to be everything to everybody — it will never hold a spot in the minds of consumers, just as a busy billboard will never register with consumers.

Monday, January 9, 2012

outsource your marketing, outsource your ethics

Perform a Google search for the Avenger controller, made by video game controller manufacturer N-Control. Doing so will query a variety of sites containing information about the device. The search will also include stories about how a marketing firm contracted by N-Control nearly destroyed their brand.

When N-Control outsourced their public relations to Paul Christoforo at Ocean Marketing, they had no idea they were about to enter a PR nightmare that has forever tarnished the name of N-Control and the Avenger controller. While the actions of rogue egomaniacs can never truly be foreseen, N-Control should have known the dangers of letting their brand image be controlled out-of-house.

As attorney Eric Turkewitz says, “outsourcing marketing = outsourcing ethics.”

Managing a brand is more than deciding the colors on the packaging, or keeping your marketing message consistent. Brands are constituted via hundreds of moving parts, including every facet of the organization. From the ease of getting to customer service agents, to the copy on the packaging — everything a company does feeds into its brand image.

When marketing is outsourced, so are the ethics. And, if brands don’t keep a constant eye on the marketing, it can’t possibly ensure that the marketing tactics are within the ethics of the brand. This is why added to Turkewitz’s maxim, saying that one also outsources their “reputation” with their marketing, as N-Control saw in the worst way possible.

Outsourcing happens. Nearly every product that has been manufactured (outside of the lonely, wooden toy maker in a rustic Prague neighborhood) has used outsourced parts or labor. However, outsourcing a highly visible brand component, such as marketing or public relations, is a completely different story.

While not every instance is going to turn into Christofoesque nightmare, it has the potential to if not carefully monitored and managed. The Internet is fast. Christoforo’s infamous emails were sent on Dec. 26, 2011. The next day, they were on, one of the most highly trafficked sites in the nation (ranked 1,006 of US sites by

The word “blindsided” does not even begin to describe what happened to N-Control. But, by handing the branding keys to a little man with a big ego, N-Control opened the door for this to happen, and was crippled when it came to responding.

The lesson here is to outsource what you need, but be wary about doing so with crucial elements to your brand’s image. All it takes is a few emails to cripple a brand.