"Shoot, I kinda liked this thing before that last round of edits."
Advertising is a subjective business. Certainly, we’ve seen our fair share of juvenile, misguided, and downright offensive advertisements in 2013. (For example, this genius Berlusconi ad from Ford’s agency in India).
That said, my position—and I realize this contradicts the common wisdom—is that an offensive ad can never be truly terrible. Because it's doing something. It's driving the conversation somewhere.
The question I ask when evaluating an offensive ad is whether or not the ad is so offensive that I would never again consider buying from the company, no matter how tempting their products and offers.
And that’s a pretty high bar. After all, Gap is still around, and those clothes are made by child slaves in Asia. So clearly, we have a great talent as Americans for ignoring the outrageously horrible.
Speaking of outrageous, remember that GoDaddy.com Super Bowl ad with supermodel Bar Rafaeli and that nerdy tech guy making out? Fantastic ad, I thought—got people talking by grossing them out.
(Quick sidebar: What does it say about our society that we're made uncomfortable watching an attractive person kissing an unattractive person? I'm not grandstanding here and saying I'm better than that; I squirmed just as much as anyone. I'm just a little worried about what that says about our culture...)
Anyway, after the Super Bowl, almost everyone I talked to officially "hated" the ad. And yet they were talking about it, endlessly, everywhere. Mindshare, people, mindshare!
So, following my previously stated offensiveness criterion: Is anyone going to see the ad and affirmatively boycott GoDaddy.com? Probably not. Remember this is a fairly commoditized Web domain and services business we’re talking about. They don't really care what you think about their values; they just want you price shopping on their website, and to get you there, they need to stay top-of-mind.
Now, does this mean that I’m saying all one needs for a winning SuperBowl ad is close-up footage of a man passing a kidney stone, followed by a BP logo?
Yes! That’s precisely what I’m saying.
But enough about great ads. Let’s get on to the real point of this blog, which is the worst ad I've ever seen. As regular readers know, I often write about why B2B and B2G marketing is so much poorer than the B2C variety. But today, let's focus instead on a much easier question: How precisely do we achieve such drivel?
Typically, it begins as B2B and B2G professional services companies devise their unique selling proposition, which invariably turns out to be: "We do good stuff."
(Naturally, if you needed good stuff done, you'd turn to these guys—owning to all the good stuff that they're clearly doing.)
"We do good stuff" is sometimes supplemented by two powerful companion messages: 1. "We exist,” and 2. "We have money for advertising."
From the messaging stage we move to the ad creative. Now here, the logo is going to do most of the heavy lifting, because our greatness is self-evident. We're not trying to convince people of anything, only to gently remind them of their unquestioned affinity for our superior brand of military-grade industrial lubricant.
So that’s the process. And here’s the result: a DC Metro ad that undoubtedly garnered high-fives and “nailed it” whispers from every person in Harris upper management:
Let’s just count the ways in which this ad is terrible, using the Internet’s most valuable currency—snark.
Oh, you’re IT experts, are you? You specialize in the thing that everyone else in this area specializes in? That's just super. Way to differentiate yourself, Harris. You just need two more words added to the beginning of that headline: “Trust Us.”
Not so much sentences as a series of ambiguous verbs. We also get a sub-head that’s basically just a second, unrelated headline. It’s as if they couldn’t decide which headline they liked best, so they just used both. Great job in not backing up an incredibly vague headline with any type of actual message or argument.
What am I even looking at here? It's a computer and a man in the shape of an X? What could this possibly tell me about Harris? Oh wait, I remember now from the headline... they do IT. Obviously, this image reinforces the fact that they deal with computers, as opposed to burgers. Super helpful.
4. QR code
OK, these are just terrible—always. It’s a scientific fact that no one in the history of the universe has ever actually activated a QR code. And yet they keep popping up—probably because marketers think they're trendy and forward-thinking. Never mind the complete absence of utility.
So there you have it—the most innocuous, forgettable, milquetoast ad that's ever been produced. It will offend no one, but it will impact no one.
And therefore, it’s an exercise in futility—the worst kind of marketing malpractice. Like they say in my University of Phoenix philosophy class: If a tree falls in the forest, and nobody cares, do you still get to bill for the chainsaw?
Not satisfied? Need still more examples of B2B marketing shadenfreude? Then check out this white paper below. I promise, things only get worse on the Web...
Over the past week, I’ve sat back and listened to all the buzz and commentary about this year’s Super Bowl commercials. So, I’m finally taking the time to weigh in on whether or not companies really took advantage of their $4 million, 30-second opportunity to make Americans love their brands. And first, I’d like to personally thank those companies who kept their ads a secret until the big day, companies like Chrysler, Oreo, and Tide. Although, those who revealed their ads early may have been taking advantage of the chance for additional viewings (Last year, Super Bowl ads released early were watched 600 percent more times -- with 9.1 million average views -- than ones released after the game, according to YouTube.com), to me, it killed the excitement. It’s like “Black Friday” which is now actually the entire month of November. Nothing is exclusive anymore – but that’s an entirely different post.
I will say, that I was really hoping this year’s commercials would impress me more than last year’s, but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Just like last year, there were a few standouts that were memorable advertisements, but nothing amazing. Or again, maybe some fell flat for me because I had seen them splashed all over social media for voting (Doritos’ crash the Super Bowl campaign). So, without further ado, here are my favorites:
- Of course, the Budweiser Clydesdale Ad: Not only was it my favorite, but it also was USA Today’s official winner according to their 25-year anniversary Ad Meter. However, based on an unofficial study of no more than 15 people that I randomly talked to throughout the last week, this one seemed to be more popular with the ladies. But, how couldn’t it be? It was like a one-minute episode of the veterinarian version of Grey’s Anatomy. In my book, and obviously many others’, this was a job well done, Anheuser-Busch. Kudos.
- Geico: "Happier Than Dikembe Mutombo": Lets all be honest, there’s just something really funny about people swatting at things. I think this commercial was way under-rated by the media. OK, so maybe the “super young generation” didn’t know who Dikembe Mutombo was at first viewing, but they should all be able to look him up on their iPads before the commercial was even over. Either way, I thought this was hilarious.
- Dodge Ram “God Made a Farmer”: So, maybe I was a sucker for the sentimental ads this year, but it was mostly because the “funny” ads just weren’t really that funny. That said, this was the perfect ad to play during the Super Bowl, in my opinion. What goes better with All-American football than the All-American farmer? And, those were some powerful images with a moving script.
Of course, there were also the ads I just didn’t get at all. Here they are and here’s why:
- Go Daddy “Perfect Match”: I really did not enjoy watching this commercial. It grossed me out. I haven’t even been able to watch it a second time because I remember exactly how uncomfortable I felt the first time I watched it. That said, in the same, super unofficial survey I took of my random friends and co-workers, the men seemed to not be as turned off by this ad. I have my own speculation for why that may be, but I’m not sure this is the best outlet for my theory. Despite the fact that I will never, ever watch this commercial again voluntarily, everyone is talking about it…still. So, in this case, I’ll agree with a recent Huffington Post article, which stated “When it comes to Super Bowl ads, it may be better to offend than to merely flop.”
- Bud Light “Lucky Chair”: “It’s only weird if it doesn’t work,” is right. And, this just didn’t work, which made it weird. But, at least Anheuser-Busch had a hit with the Clydesdale Ad to make up for it.
- Beck’s Sapphire “No Diggity”: Really? You spent millions and this was the best you could come up with? I just didn’t get it. I didn’t get the fish or the song or the fish singing the song. And, I definitely didn’t feel enticed to try the product or really even think about it further, other than for the sake of this post. Epic fail.
I’m sure everyone had different opinions and surely may not agree with mine regarding this year’s Super Bowl commercials, but I’d love to hear them. Feel free to agree, disagree or simply let me know what your favorites were and why. Here’s to hoping next year’s ads really “wow” us!
"Silly rabbit, tricks are for Internet publishing moguls."
In January, I stumbled upon the secret to Google search advertising:
"Google Adwords,” I wrote, “are successful because of a trick; most people don't realize they're just ads designed to look like real Google search results. Google wants display advertising (much more suited to mobile platforms) to take off and find similar success. But there's no way to trick users into thinking that display ads are anything other than ads."
Admittedly, that’s a fairly cynical theory. But I stand by it: Adwords is a scam, and display advertising is on the verge of extinction.
What I was clearly wrong about, however, is Google’s monopoly on advertising trickery; there isn’t one.
A few weeks ago, the Atlantic joined the likes of BuzzFeed (there's your first red flag) in an ominous new scheme to replace display advertising as mobile content's primary revenue source.
Here's how it works: Instead of paying money to Internet publishers to run your company's own ad creative, you'll pay for time with the publisher's editorial staff -- who will then design your "native ad" for you, in the style of the magazine's own journalism.
As usual, the Onion nails it.
Now, how is this different from the classic "advertorial" in Cosmo, you ask.
Well, the principle is the same. But, per usual, interactive media has enabled a creepy new twist.
You see, when the Atlantic sold editorial space to the Church of Scientology (always a great choice for no-fuss, under-the-radar ad engagements), it gave its buyer administrative control over the comments section, as well.
Hence, while every other page of the online magazine had an open comments section, Scientology had an (undisclosed) filter that siphoned out negative commentary, while promoting the illusion of a free dialogue.
So, instead of 400,000 comments about the characteristics of cultish behavior, there were 40-some comments about the relative merits of Jack Reacher.
And that's a win, albeit a grossly dishonest one.
Long-term, however, I'm not quite so sanguine as Joe Coleman, content marketer Contently's co-founder and CEO, who blogged that "[the Atlantic's] misstep was an opportunity to examine the “bright line” that separates quality branded content from sketchy advertorial."
“Branded content is incredibly transparent; readers know exactly who is backing a piece of content, so self-serving content is immediately recognizable. Ignoring this rule is insulting to readers and can seriously damage a brand.”
Sorry, but my eyes aren't nearly muscular enough to produce the kind of extended rolling action that these comments warrant.
Of course content marketing is deceptive! That's not to say it can't also have utility for the reader. But let's not pretend we're out picking rosebuds for sickly orphans.
P.T. Barnum was one of the biggest tricksters in the business, and also one of the most successful marketers in history. Better than most, he understood the contours of our social compact: Advertisers will trick, they will twist, they will stretch and outright deceive.
And, if they're entertaining and innovative enough, we'll forgive them.
Did you watch the Super Bowl last night? Did you care about the game or were you just there to see the commercials and watch Beyonce? It’s ok, I’m a huge football fan and the commercials and Beyonce were my main reason for tuning in this year since my beloved Packers were forced out by the 49ers. I give a resounding “eh” to both the commercials and Beyonce’s performance, for what it’s worth.
Every year there is so much hype about the commercials that are going to air during the Super Bowl and my colleague Kate will be along shortly to wrap it all up nicely for you but for now, I’m here to tell you that you probably missed some of the best ads of the night if you weren’t on Twitter.
Nobody will ever forget that this is the Super Bowl the lights went out on and it was clear that CBS did not have any commercials on reserve in case the game ran long or something caused a delay. And, it’s not like you can just quickly whip up a TV commercial when something unexpected, like a power outage, occurs. But, if you’re a smart brand and prepared for such a scenario, you can quick whip up some banter on Twitter and make a “print” ad out of nothing.
Oreo has by far received the most praise for their quick wit and quick thinking. Within minutes of the power going out at the Superdome, Oreo took to Twitter with the following tweet:
As of today, that tweet has been retweeted more than 14,886 times! So how did Oreo react so fast? According to Buzzfeed Oreo didn’t just place all their eggs in the “Cookie or Creme” commercial basket, they had a full team on standby, including agency reps and Oreo brand team members, ready to strike if the opportunity presented itself.
And Oreo wasn’t the only one to get in on the action. Tide was right behind them putting out this tweet, and ad, a mere three minutes later.
Even Walgreens had some fun with the situation:
While it’s fun to share these images and talk about the Super Bowl winners (personally, I’m still tearing up over the Budweiser Clydesdales commercial) and losers (anything GoDaddy does) the real point is the continued power of social media. Oreo was ready to strike and it paid off for them – big time. I know many people who still turn their noses up at social media and scoff at the idea of using it, but when timed correctly it can be incredibly effective. Oreo paid millions to have their commercial run during the Super Bowl but being quick to post that ad on Twitter is priceless. Not every company should try to replicate exactly what Oreo, Tide and Walgreens did but it does go to show that you should never put your social media on autopilot. Too often we push social media to the side, assign it to an intern to handle or worse, set it and forget it. Social media isn’t going away and brands like Oreo are already light years ahead in their mastery of how to use it effectively.
On February 3rd, people all over the United States will tune in to CBS to watch the most exciting event of the year…Super Bowl XLVII of Advertising. Yeah, I’m sure two cities (tops) and those who placed high-stakes bets may actually be tuning in for the football game, as well, but most viewers will be tuned in to see which companies spent an insane $4 million for 30 seconds of exposure. Yes, I said $4 million – the highest price tag for Super Bowl ads ever, up $500,000 from last year’s event according to a recent Huffington Post article.
Back on January 8th, Broadcasting and Cable also reported
that the ads for this year’s game have officially sold out, although not as quickly as in the past two years. Maybe the price tag hike had some companies double thinking the purchase. The article also quoted CBS Corp. president and CEO Leslie Moonves saying, "Yes, we are sold out. But obviously, if some of those movie companies want to come in at the last minute and pay us five or six million dollars, we will find a place for you." (Obviously!)
But how do the Super Bowl ads of the past compare to one another? The folks at USA Today are counting down the top 25 ads in honor of the 25th anniversary of their Ad Meter. They’ll be revealing one per day in the month of January until they announce the number 1 ad on January 28th. Be sure to check them out as they are announced here. Here's number 21 on their list and one of my personal faves:
Want to see who is already signed up for the big day of advertising (and, maybe football) on February 3rd? Business Insider has been reporting on confirmed participants, which include:
- Best Buy
- Century 21
- Ford (Lincoln)
- Fiat (Chrysler)
- Gildan’s Activewear (WHO?)
- Go Daddy
- SodaStream International
- Taco Bell
- The Walking Dead
- Wonderful Pistachios
"So I noticed you made a purchase at Hot Topic and thought you might be interested in the following stripper jobs..."
Here's something new: I just paid actual money for Internet content. Actual, legitimate American dollars.
Was I at knife point, you ask. In fact, I was not.
I made this decision willingly, and here's why, as summarized by the New York Times Magazine's Jeffery Rosen:
"From the perspective of [free Internet purveyers like Google]... I am not the consumer; I am the product, waiting to be sold to advertisers.”
Hmm... So if I'm the product, how much am I worth?
"Some people," Rosen writes, "will be more valuable products than others, and they will live in a different virtual world as a result."
In other words: online microtargeting inevitably leads to price discrimination.
But I'm even more concerned about this:
"Yahoo has beta-tested a media interest manager that recommends 'news for you' based on its predictions of the stories Yahoo thinks you'll be most interested in."
Oh wait, we already have that. It's called Cable News.
Creepy to think that it's not just our ad selection, but our information consumption (and resulting worldview) that's going to be affected by these ad exchanges though, isn't it?
The Nazis had microtargeting too. (And it went great!)
And then there's Google Now. Oh, Google...
"Along with answering user-initiated queries, Google Now passively delivers information to the user that it predicts they will want, based on their search habits."
Translation: "information that Google Now predicts advertisers will want users to see."
Oh, and we're also seeing news outlets like the Denver Post steering us to "commercially valuable content" -- news stories created on demand that dovetail with advertiser demographic targeting.
Wait, we already have that too. It's called "what I do every day."
So yeah, in spite of my own self interests, I'm ponying up the dough for one of my favorite bloggers (Andrew Sullivan) who's getting rid of all corporate backers and advertisers.
So far, he raised $300,000 in 24 hours from subscribers like me, without giving away so much as a tote bag (though there's some reason to think this model is less replicable than it outwardly appears).
I think it's a smart move, for two reasons:
1. (The obvious point) Advertising kills content quality. Instead of writing for readers, we're writing for advertisers -- chasing short-term page views instead of long-term loyalty.
2. (The controversial point) I'm far from convinced that display advertising -- the backbone of our mobile computing economy -- actually works.
Oh, and I have numbers on that: One recent estimate puts average display click-through at less than 0.1 percent worldwide.
Yikes! And that's just click-through! Don't even get me started on the often spurious link between click-through and sales conversion.
The thing is, Google Adwords ads are successful because of a trick; most people don't realize they're just ads designed to look like real Google search results.
Google wants display advertising (much more suited to mobile platforms) to take off and find similar success. But there's no way to trick users into thinking that display ads are anything other than ads.
(Actually there are ways, but they're so devious as to completely alienate the few rubes who do end up clicking.)
So... to compensate for the failings of display ads, Google is increasing the specificity of its targeting -- which works up to a point (though evidently microtargeter BlueKai thinks I'm a 54 year-old housewife).
Make no mistake, this is big business. Last year, microtargeted real-time bidding represented 12 percent of display advertising on the Internet. By 2017, that number is projected to reach 34 percent.
And the collateral damage from this will be far-reaching. Think politics can't get any more polarized? Just you wait...
A few of us decided to take the Bing It On Challenge the other day, at Jonathan's suggestion, and I found the results to be kind of interesting.
All of us (Kathryn, Jennifer and myself) except for Jonathan chose Google. And Google didn't just win by one point, we chose it overwhelmingly. The challenge itself is simple, you search five terms and pick which results you prefer. You can base your choice on whatever matters to you most and at the end it will tell you which search engine you chose in each round.
If you decide to take the challenge and are a regular Google user you’ll notice that some of the results in the blind comparison don’t look like they do in real life. This is mainly because location services aren’t available. Additionally, the challenge doesn’t allow for news searches, image searches or reverse image searches which can be pretty useful.
I’d be interested to see real-time stats on who’s winning. The Bing landing page says that people choose Bing Web results over Google nearly 2 to 1 in blind comparison tests but with our internal tests and some other tests online, I just find that hard to believe.
Personally, what I learned in this challenge is that Bing works just as well as Google – but I’m a Google girl, living in a Google world (and a creature of habit). I’m already signed into Google all day for my email, calendar, reader and more, and I use Chrome so I think I’m going to continue to use Google for search.
Have you taken the Bing It On Challenge? Which did you choose?
The golden age of mobile ads.
Ask any mobile advertiser what she wants more than anything, and she'll invariably tell you: "Clicks."
Millions of impressions? Worthless. Word of mouth? Pointless. Sure, these things might help your brand. But the new reality in advertising (sometimes referred to as the McNamara Fallacy) is this:
If it can't be measured, it doesn't exist.
Having said all that, I'd now like to address why this is terrible advice for mobile advertisers.
(Note: If I’m unable to finish this post, it’s because I’ve just been taken out by an AdMob sniper on the Westpark grassy knoll.)
Let me explain it this way:
Inside every ad campaign is an ongoing struggle between what’s good for the customer and what’s good for the marketer.
In the old days, you couldn’t “click” on ads. You just saw them, read them, or ignored them. They didn’t dance around provocatively, coaxing you into a reluctant click. They didn’t demand your interaction. They simply existed to tell you something as simply and directly as possible.
Obviously, those days are long gone. The prevailing ad technique today is not the "big message," but rather the "big tease" – the persuasion (by hook or by crook) to get customers to click.
So my question is: Who really benefits from the clickability of these ads? Are customers really clamoring for more in-depth, interactive ADVERTISEMENTS? (As if we were suffering from a dearth of non-promotional Web content.)
No, let’s not kid ourselves. What’s really driving the clickability of ads is the benefit to the marketers and the company CMOs. Clicks produce metrics, and boy do we marketers love metrics.
The only problem is, giving marketers metrics is like giving the Iranians centrifuges. They don’t really know how to use them, and sooner or later they’re probably going to blow themselves up.
So it is with clickable ads. Yes, they get clicks. (Anytime I have to click on something in order to stop a dancing clown from blocking my view of the ESPN scoreboard, I’m likely to do so). But they aren’t engendering good will among customers – which is sort of the whole point of advertising.
At least it used to be.
In the trenches of the smartphone wars, it appears that Samsung is not frightened by the iPhone 5. In fact, the company is using the oversaturation of Apple fanboys to take aim at the new device, especially with its “The next big thing is already here” tagline and viral video campaign.
While viral videos don’t always have the desired impact, Samsung is crushing viral share numbers, according to Unruly Media, which tracks online video views. While Apple likely doesn’t have much to fear, Samsung’s exposure can only help sales of the Galaxy S III, which is portrayed as having more features and greater technical capacity than the iPhone 5.
So is this success indicative of changing waters in the viral video world? Not necessarily from my perspective. Relying on the fickle nature of the Internet to propel a product or campaign to fame is a dangerous game at best and a set up for failure at worst. Samsung’s success is due to massive (and strategic) ad buys in addition to stellar creative, which requires huge stacks of cold hard cash to do effectively.
What do you think about Samsung’s campaign? Cleverly creative or just lucky opportunism?
Ni hao ma, friends. Katzo Polo here, back from the Orient to teach you fine folks about the magic of Far Eastern advertising.
So let's dive right in, shall we?
The first thing you should know is that almost all Chinese advertisements look like this:
Yes, I realize these images are sideways. Our CMS was being persnickety.
Notice the three core elements of the composition:
2. Baby peeing and/or emerging from flower
3. Unintelligible symbols which are probably Chinese characters, but who really knows
You're probably asking: Jonathan, is all Chinese advertising really this bizarre? Well, you tell me.
Be sure to note the URL: www.kedo.gov.cn. Is this a GOVERNMENT AD?
Oh... I actually think I may understand this one, only I wish I didn't.
Look, the truth is that “weirdness” is a subjective and relative concept. As my Chinese tour guide liked to say, “it isn’t right; it isn’t wrong; it’s just different.”
For one thing, marketing communications are bound to be a bit different in a "communist" country. (I put communist in quotes because in some ways modern China is an exceedingly capitalist society.) But what really bothers me about communism is that --
[THIS IS SECTION MUST TO REMOVED BY PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC. PLEASE TO ENJOY CHINESE LOYALTY OATH:
本 网北京3月20日讯 记者赵阳 为引导广大律师牢固树立做中国特色社会主义法律工作者的信念，自觉践行“忠诚、为民、公正、廉洁”的核心价值观，切实提高律师队伍思想政治素质、职业道德 素质和业务素质，不断增强律师的职业使命感、荣誉感和社会责任感，培育和形成中国特色社会主义律师执业精神，司法部决定建立律师宣誓制度，并于前不久下发 了《关于印发〈关于建立律师宣誓制度的决定〉的通知》。
决定明确参加宣誓人员范围，规定了组织宣誓仪式的机构、时间和宣誓方式，对宣 誓仪式和宣誓程序等都作出了具体规定。经司法行政机关许可，首次取 得或者重新申请取得律师执业证书的人员，均应参加律师宣誓。律师宣誓仪式，应当在律师获得执业许可之日起3个月内，由设区的市或者直辖市司法行政机关会同 律师协会，采取分批集中的方式组织进行。
决定规定，律师宣誓誓词为：“我志愿成为一名中华人民共和国执业律师，我保证忠实履行中国特 色社会主义法律工作者的神圣使命，忠于祖国，忠于人 民，拥护中国共产党的领导，拥护社会主义制度，维护宪法和法律尊严，执业为民，勤勉敬业，诚信廉洁，维护当事人合法权益，维护法律正确实施，维护社会公平 正义，为中国特色社会主义事业努力奋斗！”誓词充分体现了近年来党中央国务院对律师工作和律师队伍的新要求，体现了修订后律师法的精神和“忠诚、为民、公 正、廉洁”的核心价值观。]
-- so that's what bugs me about communism. Anyway, thanks to government control, there's no Facebook or Twitter in China. And that's significant, because most of the avant garde advertising in the US is being done through social channels.
So it stands to reason that without a strong social component, traditional advertising would have an added need to challenge and surprise its target consumers. Hence advertisements like these:
3 out of 4 sleepy dragon impersonators choose Osim pillows.
I know, Leo. I'm concerned about your endorsement choices also.
More on my China adventure coming soon...