Posts tagged ‘advertising’

A conversation we have all of us had

– posted by russellmania3000

It begins something like this:

Act I, Scene I: The scene opens to the cold light of dawn. Two middle-aged men exit a makeshift trading post/tavern made of rotting beechwood located on the desolate main drag of a lonely rural mining town. Their skin is leathery and worn full of crevices such that a close-up photograph of one of their cheeks might look like a topographical image of the Himalayas. They walk together, blowing steamy breath into clenched fists and speaking in hushed tones. They wear silly fur hats.

Dmitri: What is this, this Sonic? Day after day I see their advertisements on the moving picture box, teasing and tempting me with their patties of ground beef, and slushie happy hours, and tots! Oh, the tots! But here, in the frozen wastes of the Urals, such an establishment there is not. Believe me comrade, I have looked, for my eyes long for the sight and my tongue for the taste.

Vladimir: They are places of legend, my friend, for in all my wandering I have happened upon nary a one for many moons. You will not find Sonic and her fresh bounties within 500 leagues of this place. But I have many fond memories of a carefree childhood in Omsk, for it was there that my family took my sister and me weekly to market and, after a long day of trading and peddling our wares in the village square, we ate a hearty meal of breakfast burritos and onion rings. Those were happier days. But here in the mines of Narodnaya, for us there is only sweat and dust and the meager root stew.

Dmitri: But why, Vladimir, tell me, why do they mock us with promotional messages for goods which we cannot procure? Surely such a ruse is not worth the price!

Vladimir: It is a strange and cruel fate that we should be cast so from the light and warmth of the simple pleasures we desire most.

Exeunt Dmitri and Vladimir stage left. End scene.

Or in 3-panel strip form, if you prefer it.

Like many of you, for years I have seen Sonic ads on TV, shaken my fist at the heavens, spat at almighty God and persevered. Or just went to Five Guys. I don’t want to make pithy banter with a balding friend or dumpy-looking wife or chubby Paris Hilton lookalike and even more busted female. And by busted I don’t mean she has nice mammaries or resembles a plaster cast from the shoulders up. I mean that when photons bounce off her body and are recorded by a camera, and this recording is played back so that more photons in the pattern of her visage scurry in the direction of my ocular cavity, the net result is an unpleasant sensation in my cerebellum. No, I just want a burger.

Last week some coworkers and I took a little 20-minute excursion up I-95 to get to the nearest Sonic, which was out in Bensalem in a run down industrial area that I would have no reason to go to otherwise. This kind of thing isn’t uncommon for us; we’ve driven a half hour to get to an Arby’s because, let’s be honest, time out of the office is time out of the office any way you slice it. Sonic’s website says “[t]here are more than 3400 SONIC® Drive-In locations across the country.” Just none where you live. Especially if you live in a city. Bensalem is not a city. In any case, if you haven’t been or even seen one (both my seeing and tasting cherries were popped with one thrust), Sonic is indeed delicious, though it would have been more delicious if a girl on roller skates brought out our food on one of those trays that hooks onto the car door.

But all this skullduggery does have an explanation, and a method behind the apparent scattershot advertising strategy. National cable advertising is, at certain volumes, cheaper than regionally targeted advertising, so that’s a no brainer right there. But the genius of the whole thing is that it drives people mad with wonder and envy. How flabbergasting it must be, as say, a resident of metropolitan New York, to find yourself jealous of some yokel from Georgia or Tennessee or where-bumblefucking-ever because they have a Sonic and you don’t, and you have to pay out the ass for McDonald’s in NY. They’ve stumbled upon the holy grail of marketing, sort of. They’ve achieved the kind of viral, word-of-mouth-driven national discussion that everyone wants, over the subject of “where the fuck is there a Sonic,” simply by advertising something that’s not available. Now, whenever they open a new joint, they get all kinds of media coverage and blog hype and lines around the block because they’ve been advertising for years to people who want to be customers but can’t.

This is not a new strategy or phenomenon. Companies have been doing this for decades in areas where they plan to launch. You’ll notice the ambiguous “Respekt” outdoor ads for Cricket mobile phone services around Philadelphia presently. They’re not available here yet, but they will be soon, and at that point they’ll start to demystify their messaging and identify that top-heavy K with their wordmark/logotype (a befuddling design choice). The difference here is Cricket isn’t offering any specific deal or even saying who they are, which is…I don’t know, who cares. But Sonic is offering free tots and gigantic slushies for under $1 to anyone in the nation lucky enough to live by or drive by one and that’s apparently been pretty rabble-rousing. The more significant difference is that Cricket’s hype/awareness campaign, and most things of that nature, will last maybe weeks or months. I’m not positive but Leap, their owner, has indicated they hope to that by the end of this year they will have rolled out service in all 27 markets they won bids on in the 2006 FCC auction. By contrast, Sonic has been advertising in Philadelphia and other major metropolitan areas for years and have yet to announce any new locations there. In fact there may never be a Sonic in Philly. But their incessant advertising has given them a legion of customers-in-waiting who are ready for a cross-country road trip, or like me, the opportunity to take an extra long lunch.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that, as a marketing guy, I am delighted that a protracted campaign designed to frustrate and drive people bats might actually work really well. It would sure be fun to try.

PS: holy balls.

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February 12, 2009 at 2:54 PM Leave a comment

Born to be cool

©Jeremy & Claire Weiss Photography/Day19.

via day 19 - super cool photos

I had a week-long love affair with some white plastic fake-Bans this summer. I thought I had really become cool for the rest of my life. Standing calf-deep in a pool with a cigarette in my mouth, my awesome fake-Ban sunglasses, and a beer, I was positive living in general didn’t get much better. That was until some jerk broke my sunglasses. Thankfully I have good friends and got a sweet new pair for the holidays. So obviously I might be partial to Ray Ban’s viral campaign.

Normally my thoughts are as follows. Viral campaign; The phrase makes me want to have a viral vomit all over the interwebs. It’s just a stupid way of saying ‘We got a lot of people to look at our advertising without them knowing it was advertising!’ Sure, if you want, you can pretend that you tricked me. But it’s pretty easy to trick someone into watching a youtube video and not taking it for advertising because you actually got creative. When I say creative, I mean that you left your logo out of 70% of the mini-movie, commercial or whatever. Normally, I know you advertisers, you said “Can we make that bigger?” or “Can we put our logo in there?” The answer is, you can put your enlarged logo up your ass, and that’s why viral campaigns.. … .. sorry, I retch a little in my mouth just saying the phrase.. that’s why these campaigns are effective marketing. Now that’s an oxymoron, hah! Effective Marketing. Ha ha ha!

It’s all about having the right tools and making it your own. I’m not going to over analyze what makes this successful, but it helps there are several other farm oriented birthing videos on youtube.

Being as opinionated as I am, sometimes I am forced to eat my words. That’s okay, my words taste mighty delicious!

January 9, 2009 at 3:57 PM 2 comments

Meet the new media, same as the old media

play defense goddamnit

I must be out of market or not watching enough college ball because I’ve never seen this ad on TV. How much do you think it would cost to get Bobby for a birthday party?

There’s a marginally interesting article in today’s New York Times about the struggles that brand advertisers face in working with social networks. It focuses on Proctor & Gamble’s strained relationship with Facebook, but the crux of the argument is thus:

When major brands place banner advertisements on the side of a member’s home page, they pay inexpensive prices, but the ads receive little attention. Seth Goldstein, co-founder of SocialMedia Networks, an online advertising company, wrote on his Facebook blog that a banner ad “is universally disregarded as irrelevant if it’s not ignored entirely.”

When advertisers invite members to come to pages dedicated to their products, they can attract visitors only by investing in expensive creative material or old-fashioned promotions like prize contests.

And when they try to take advantage of new “social advertising,” extending their commercial message to a member’s friends, their ads will be noticed, all right, but not necessarily favorably. Members are understandably reluctant to become shills. IDC, the technology research firm, published a study last month that reported that just 3 percent of Internet users in the United States would willingly let publishers use their friends for advertising. The report described social advertising as “stillborn.”

I know, you’re as shocked as I am. “Stillborn”? I chuckled, and that’s exactly why I know that kind of language is completely inappropriate. But seriously, why is this news? What kind of person reads this hard-hitting report and has their mind changed rather than their suspicions confirmed? My boss’s boss’s boss, that’s who.

Like a lot of you, I work with a sizable contingent of people who are completely divorced from the reality of being a middle class consumer even though they in fact are exactly that, people who think their particular company or sector is the exception rather than the rule, people who are foolish enough to think that if they care enough they can make other people care too. This thought disease is the fuel that powers the marketing and advertising business today. But you’ll hardly ever see any Times articles on how hard it is to create a successful TV or print campaign because the metrics for tracking these are no where near as precise as the metrics for tracking internet campaigns. When companies ran a campaign on a medium half a century old and got a hazy post-mortem and now run a campaign on a relatively new medium and get a brutally empirical post-mortem, it isn’t hard to imagine why some executives are so skeptical about new media. Their old media campaigns can be just as ineffective but the inconclusiveness of the data they get back makes it easy for them embellish a bit and imagine success where there is none.

Might I posit that the following be considered an axiom of marketing: all commercial messages are universally disregarded as irrelevant if they are not ignored entirely. Perhaps this is a personal tick or something, but I’m convinced that every ad produces some level of negative brand association just out of the simple fact that every ad is an interruption or intrusion and that’s just plain rude. I’m very popular around the office. Theories aside, when it comes down to brass tacks, which is a bigger waste of money: Figure 1 or Figure 2?

Seth Goldstein is right that banner ads are ignored but he and scores of other marketers are convinced that they can create something different, that somewhere in the muckymuck there is a way to do it right, and maybe it has to do with privacy and engagement and creating “real conversation and interaction around certain products and brands”. In his own words: “We don’t get paid to put you in ads. We’re getting paid to present you with the opportunity to interact with a product socially.”

Except that real people don’t do that. At all. I’m too busy pirating DVDs, reading comics and trying to get laid to care about your brand. Intelligent people with disposable income don’t waste time using mini-apps to do the same thing that the macro-app (Facebook, or the internet at large, telephone) can do far better and less fundamentally dickwadishly. Seth’s products hinge on the bet that if I see a little message on Facebook that Hotrod Johnny is washing his denim jacket with Tide presently, I will somehow be more likely to buy a bottle of Tide or have a positive association with the brand than if I were shown a traditional display ad. And what he’s really hoping is that I’ll write back to Johnny, “Hey dude, that’s awesome! I just washed my daisy dukes with Tide yesterday. Let’s fornicate.” Which is rubbish, quite frankly, because it’s going to take a lot more than spring-fresh outerwear to get me to even remotely consider committing a homosexual act. A display ad I can ignore and move on with my day, but I really liked Hotrod Johnny and now here he is shilling out Tide to me. Now I’m disenchanted with Facebook, I’m really adverse to not just Tide but laundry in general, and I’m beginning to reconsider whether I should even try to have sex with Hotrod Johnny at all if he’s gonna be a tool like that. There is a very short list of consumer items that my friends and I will ever bring up in normal conversation (in order of frequency): booze, Apple products, video games, bike parts, and contraception. I don’t need your widgety-woo to facilitate that interaction and, believe you me, you want no part in that conversation either.

On the flip side of this filth coin, consider what brands really want. In a rare exception to the rule, people do have real conversations about the Apple brand and its products. If Samsung is interested in competing with the iPhone, do they want people to update little status messages and hope other people pay attention or do they want to generate real word of mouth about their handset? One kind of “conversation” can be facilitated with a widgety-woo. The other kind that actually moves units only comes from making an awesome phone and getting David Pogue to write about it. Does anyone really think Apple would sell any fewer iPhones if they pulled their ads? Might I suggest that Samsung concentrate on manufacturing such a device and Proctor & Gamble simply come to terms with the fact that no one cares about their brands because detergent is boring as all fuck.

The bottom line is that advertising as we know it is a dead paradigm that has yet to be replaced, and in this writer’s opinion, may not be replaced at all. There is such an overabundance of things to buy and information on why or why not one should that we all can make important and mundane purchasing decisions with relative ease and little interest. But more importantly, we as a culture have become so inured to self-promotion in all its guises, including the much-ballyhooed “social interaction” as advertisement, that these messages no longer register. In the worlds of products and brands, there will always be peacocks and pigeons. In marketing, just as with human interaction, there is a clear distinction between those who make fools of themselves at parties by shouting obnoxiously and those who can hold a good conversation. And then there are those boring dudes who have nothing interesting or obnoxious to say because they’re accountants or something so they just stand in the corner and sip their beers like effete turds, holding the bottle by the neck and dribbling on their collars. Above all, it’s always easy to spot those who are inappropriately muscling themselves into the conversation and they are so not getting laid tonight. The best thing marketers can do is make a good offer for a good product at a good price and hope it sticks.

Yes, as a new media developer myself, I realize that this evangel isn’t quite in keeping with my self-preservation, but that’s probably why talk of this sort isn’t given much of a voice in the industry itself, and that’s why this piece in the Times might be valuable. Marketing professionals are usually louder cheerleaders for tech innovations than their engineers. But when the interactive marketing manager at the world’s biggest ad-spender publicly states he’s disinterested in working with the world’s biggest social network and unenthusiastic about behavioral targeting, one has to wonder what he is enthusiastic about. Is Ted McConnell a unique outlier in an industry of confident marketers or the first rat to scurry from the sinking ship? Either way, he deserves a Facebook poke for being so candid; I doubt his recent remarks are making him any new friends.

-Posted by RussellMania3000

December 15, 2008 at 10:09 PM 1 comment


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