Archive for the ‘Advertising’ Category

Service of Too Big and Too Powerful

Thursday, March 29th, 2018

In my line of work, I’m thrilled by the stories I bring to media that they embrace. I’m critical of some I read, see or hear when I think of a few appropriate leads I’ve proposed that were rejected by key players. The most glaring example of “how did this get past the editor/producer?” is the constant coverage by legitimate media that gave credibility to the shenanigans of the current chief of state when he started his campaign.

Photo: boldomatic.com

But PR, with its constraints, is the game I’m in and when I hit pay dirt I still get a thrill; when I don’t I try harder.

Richard Whitman’s commentary on Mediapost.com struck a nerve because he wrote about the advertising world that unlike PR pays for its communications and if what it sells is legitimate, gets in. The commentary dealt with an uncooperative gatekeeper setting up a roadblock for dissemination of essential information that could save young lives.

In “Cancer Awareness Campaign Supported by Google, But Apple Won’t Play Ball,” he wrote about an advertising campaign for the Testicular Cancer Awareness Foundation to “raise money and awareness to fight the disease via a set of testicle emojis that consumers can download for $3.99.”

Photo: emel.com

Whitman reports the foundation’s findings: There’s a 95 percent survival rate when the disease is detected early. Also, it is the leading cancer for boys/men 15 to 24.

The ad agency, Oberland, prepared the sticker packs to launch with April, Testicular Cancer Awareness Month. Oberland reported that Apple’s reason for declining was: “Your sticker pack is not in compliance with the App Store Review guidelines.” Whitman commented: “Whatever that means.”

Photo: emojiisland.com

He wrote: “Oberland appealed, even sharing a note from the founder of the Testicular Cancer Awareness Foundation — Kim Jones — which included a personal story of the passing of her son Jordan from the disease at the tragically early age of 22. But the appeal was denied.”

He concluded: “And Apple seems to be going out of its way to prevent that message from being heard by more people than it otherwise might. That’s a head scratcher.  What gives, Apple?”

Photo: psychmechanics.com

I once reported to an editor who would wrinkle her nose, hand copy back to me and say, “I don’t like it.” I’d ask what she didn’t like—the topic? the headline? the lead? It was my first magazine job and I was flummoxed when her only response was the look of disgust. Apple acted just the same. Someone could have said to Oberland, “this is what you must do for the app to be accepted.” Nobody did.

Advertising is a different game than PR. It’s more costly and those doing it have control of the message and where/when it plays. Or do they these days—when the gatekeeper to a crucial target audience is a giant corporation that carries a lot of weight? Is this a healthy precedent?

Photo: everydayinterviewtips.com

Service of Irritating and Charming Commercials: Phony and Legitimate Laughs

Thursday, March 15th, 2018

Photo: tripsavvy.com

It was less than a year ago that I wrote about the commercials that drove me nuts. Clearly I’ve been listening to the radio and watching TV too much as there are two more to add to the “I immediately change stations or channels as soon as I hear them” list.

This time I’ll also share some adverts I like.

Photo: davekraft.org

Fake giggles over unfunny circumstances are the worst. The prize goes to 1-800-I-Got-Junk for radio commercials in which business or homeowners laugh hysterically when the junk crew tosses out a piece of rubbish. My hands can be wet or sticky but off goes the station at the first sign of this shrill irritation and sometimes I don’t return. In looking for a link to it, which I didn’t find you’ll be relieved to know, I noticed a similar reaction to it on a website “Commercials I Hate!

 

DJ Nana. Photo: twitter.com

Speaking of laughter, I can envision the room of 30-something creative types cracking up as they developed and produced the E*Trade commercial to scare people into saving money so they have funds for their retirement. Sung to the tune of “Banana Boat Song” that Harry Belafonte made famous, it consists of 85 year olds still working and looking foolish as they drop packages they’re trying to deliver, are dragged around by a heavy fire hose, are compared to model-perfect lifeguards and “DJ Nana” spinning records while hideously dolled up. Subconsciously, it could be this ad that inspired my post earlier in the week, “Service of Aging Gracefully.” The commercial isn’t aimed at me but at 30-somethings whose Nana’s and grandpas are, I hope, spending their time making money under more appropriate, dignified circumstances.

And I love “Banana Boat Song.”

“Triathlete” Photo: NYU Langone

I also enjoy the catchy tune that NYU Langone, a well-regarded NYC hospital, uses in some of its TV commercials which make me smile. There’s a series of which “Winter” and “Athletes on their Feet” are only two. Kudos NYU Langone! [And please take good care of my friend who has not been well.]

I wish there were more State Farm “Hall of Claims” commercials as this series is clever. My first favorite is the Mer-Mutts scene where the family pooch turns on the water in the kitchen and floods the living room transformed into a swimming pool. The woof and his pals perform a water ballet while their human mom and pop look on horrified. Actor J.K. Simmons is terrific. Some other good ones are The Truck-Cicle; Frightning-bolt and Vengeful Vermin.

My bet is that the ads that aggravate sell their products like crazy and the ones I like don’t—but I’m not in advertising so what do I know? Are there ads that motivate you to change channel or station in an instant and others you don’t mind hearing and even enjoy?

Vengeful Vermin Photo: Youtube

Service of It Must Work Because I Keep Hearing It

Thursday, June 15th, 2017

Some commercials have always irritated me and they don’t get better with time. The adverts must do well or they would either be pulled or changed. For me they cause one action: I change stations.

I never again want to hear about My Pillow. While clearly a great success—bloomberg.com reported that Michael Lindell has sold 26 million of them at $45 or more each and has a workforce of 1,500–I’m not tempted and I’m clearly alone. According to Josh Dean in “The Preposterous Success Story of America’s Pillow King” “…a huge number of them [are sold] directly to consumers who call and order by phone after seeing or hearing one of his inescapable TV and radio ads.”

FortuneBuilder seminar Photo: pinterest

In the Flip This House commercial you learn that the company is looking for “a few good people,” to join them. By now, in the NY Metro area alone, they must have found thousands or, based on years of hearing the same ad, they are really selling something else, like classes, which they are. FortuneBuilders is the name of the company that produces free 90 minute seminars offering the opportunity for more that you pay for. The Central Texas Better Business Bureau president Bill McGuire, with 22 years as a banker under his belt, told Brooke West, a reporter at theeagle.com “‘if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. Most of the folks [who will attend the seminars] are regular people interested in making money, and that’s what their focus is,’ McGuire said. ‘But these [FortuneBuilder representatives] are going to get into their back pockets.’” ‘Nuff said.

I haven’t heard lately the incessant jingle for “Kars4Kids.” This might be related to recent publicity. I read on nonprofitorquartely.org Ruth McCambridge’s article “Kars4Kids: What the Jingle Leaves Out,” that first appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. She wrote “…. how many among the general public know that Kars4Kids is directly affiliated with—and sends 90 percent of those proceeds that go to charity to—Oorah, a single youth charity in New Jersey which, according to tax forms, is “a Jewish outreach organization for the purpose of imparting Jewish education, values, and traditions, as well as guidance and support, to Jewish children who lack access to these fundamentals?” Key words in this quote are “that go to charity.”

Photo: youtube.com

McCambridge continues to share the findings of a 300 page report by Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson. For example: “out of $3 million raised in that state from 2012 to 2014, less than $12,000 went to children’s services in Minnesota…. She additionally found that though Kars4Kids reports spending 63 percent on mission, in actuality, of the $88 million raised nationally from 2012 to 2014, only 44 percent was given to charity, with $40 million going to Oorah. (When it comes to car donation programs in general, that 44 percent probably puts it on the high side, actually.)”

Do some commercials that you’ve heard for years drive you up walls? Have you bought anything after you heard or saw an ad for the billionth time? Does Genucel’s Chamonix cream really remove those bags under your eyes?

Photo: parenting.com

Service of Marketing Slipups for Bud Light & Twitter

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

  Oh no 1

Is there a single soul who hasn’t felt that heart-sinking feeling of “Oh no!” after clicking on “enter” or “continue” whether they’ve inadvertently sent an email to the wrong person, allowed spell check to have its way with them or incorrectly completed an online form due to a runaway autofill function on a computer.

sendSome missteps can be avoided with a diverse marketing team—I suspect the first example occurred because decision makers were all men. Others are due to computer glitches that will happen increasingly as corporations race to market a service with insufficiently tested technology.

Don’t Take This Lightly

Budweiser ClydesdalesErica Martell sent me “Bud Light Label Snafu Teaches the Value of Proper Message Vetting,” by Christine Birkner in Marketing News Weekly. Birkner wrote: “On April 28, Leuven, Belgium-based Anheuser-Busch InBev NV pulled Bud Light labels with the message: ‘The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night. #UpForWhatever.’ The label messaging had ignited a social media firestorm because some consumers perceived it as promoting rape culture.”

I don’t know about you but that was the first thing I thought of. The label was part of the brand’s #UpForWhatever campaign to appeal to ingratiate themselves with millennials with a devil-may-care approach to life. In addition, Bud Light created a beer festival in Crested Butte, Colo, a town they renamed “Whatever, USA.”

According to Birkner here were some of the reactions:

  • “A Change.org petition asked A-B InBev to remove the labels, stating, ‘The brand is blatantly linking their product to sexually assaulting people while under the influence of alcohol.’”
  • “The Center for Reproductive Rights tweeted: ‘So gross. Nope, definitely not #UpForWhatever.’” 
  •  “Other marketplace responses on Twitter included comments such as, ‘Budweiser execs  should be ashamed,’” and,
  • “‘Maybe I’ll drink a bunch of @budlight & then drive a bulldozer into their corporate headquarters, since I’ll be #UpForWhatever.’”
  • “Twitter users created a hashtag in response to the label: #UpForThingsIExplicitlyConsentTo.”

Chirp

Bird with bugSpeaking of Twitter, in Social Media & Marketing Daily Erik Sass wrote “Whoops: Twitter Runs Ads Next to Porn.” Sass wrote that affected brands included Nielsen, Duane Reade, NBCUniversal, and Gatorade.

Sass credits Adweek, which broke the story, and continued: “The Promoted Tweets appeared in Twitter feeds that were clearly inappropriate, with profile names like ‘Daily Dick Pictures,’ helpful purveyor of all your day-to-day dick pic needs, and ‘Homemade Porn,’ which sounds nice and crafty. The naughty ad placements apparently resulted from a bug, and unsurprisingly marketers are suspending their campaigns until Twitter fixes the technical glitch.”

All male boardroomCan you share other examples of lamebrained marketing? In the Bud Light case, does it happen because the marketers are too rushed or, as I suggest above, all male? Given that Bud is now owned by a Belgium-based company, might it be an example of global marketing run amok? As for Twitter, in its rush to sell ads, did it jump the gun before its staff understood how to use the technology or was someone in the digital layout department not paying attention–simultaneously tweeting friends, perhaps?

Lamebrain

Service of False Advertising

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

Free Pizza Blackboard

Driving down the street in the small upstate NY town of Millbrook I saw the sign above. Because I was watching out for pedestrians and hoping the traffic light wouldn’t change, my eye only caught the words FREE PIZZA, which was what the restaurant wanted me to see. I had to stop because the light was now red and I then saw what else was written on the chalkboard: That what is “free” is Wifi and that their pizza is “awesome.” The sign may have been an attempt at humor but it annoyed me enough for me to change my luncheon plans that day.

DirecTVKatie Lobosco wrote about a swindle in “The FTC has charged DirecTV with fraud, claiming that it misled customers with its popular 12-month discount package,” on money.cnn.com. According to Lobosco, “The satellite company advertises a 12-month plan for as little as $19.95, but fails to make it clear that a two-year contract is required, according to the Federal Trade Commission. That means customers are getting stuck with a longer contract than they wanted. What’s worse: The package’s price jumps in the second year by between $25 and $45 per month. Customers that try to cancel early are hit with a fee of up to $480, according to the complaint.”

I recently fell for a promotion. The monthly charge is $40+ more than I thought it would be once the rental of this or that piece of essential equipment and the taxes and other fees are added in. We have a two year contract and I fully expect the price to reach the stratosphere as soon as the contract is up.

Used car salesmanI’ve written before about my grandfather who was the first to draw such chicanery to my attention when I was about eight. I saw banners touting unbelievably cheap car prices and Grandpa mumbled that those were for cars without steering wheels and brakes and that the charge would be far higher if you wanted those essentials in your car.

Laws and regulations aside, this technique is ancient, tiring and off-putting. It focuses on tricking people into immediate sales with no view to the long term. What’s nutty is that the restaurant makes good pizza and DirecTV [which we have upstate] and the company that provides a phone/TV/Internet package we now have provide quality products as well. Why do they need to stoop to such measures? Have you felt fleeced by or noticed similar shady sales practices that irritate you? Have you changed your mind about buying a product or service as a result?

Bait and switch

Service of Negative Marketing

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

elephant donkey fighting

I missed the class on the effectiveness of negative advertising which serves politicians so well even though these ads are counterintuitive. Given 30 or 60 seconds to state your case–at major cost–you’d think you’d want to tout a candidate’s great ideas, victories and accomplishments. Positive messages these days would  no doubt result in negative polling figures and goodness knows what outcome on election day.

Politicians aren’t alone.

They lived commercialHave you seen the “They Lived” automotive TV commercial? It shows a series of cars so smooshed and flattened in car accidents that they look as though they were made of the cheapest tin can material. Someone yells “They Lived” at the worker, in hardhat, who is motioning the crane holding a metal heap that once was a car into a big pile of the same, referring to the passengers. Brrrrr—gives me the shivers.

I just got off the phone with a stranger who said, “Hiya Jeanne, this is Mike Morrow from Merrill Lynch.” I thanked Mike for calling, told him I was on deadline and someone was waiting for me with which he slammed down the phone or clicked off the connection, racing to the next patsy. Result: Bad taste in my mouth. Too bad he spoke so clearly. I can hardly understand most telemarketers. A “sorry,” would have been nice.

wold cup logo USWhat about the US World Cup team coach Jurgen Klinsmann who announced, before the games, that his team wasn’t ready to win?

And then there’s CheapOair. The name makes me want to avoid everything to do with the online Internet travel agency. I’d anticipate shoddy service from them and goodness knows what from their travel partners. They might be the most responsible travel agency on the Internet and many might consider the name of this company a hoot but travel is serious business. I’m a fan of discounts and great prices, but cheap? Not so much.

Do you respond in a positive way to negative marketing? Why is it so effective? Have you noticed other examples?

 

puzzled look

 

 

Service of Statistics and Studies: Tablet Sales, MPA on Magazine Ad Sales & Gallup on the Public’s News Sources

Monday, July 29th, 2013

Statistics

I like to tease out the significance of statistics, studies and findings and check them against my instinct and anecdotal observations. One place to find plenty of material is Mediabistro.com, a superb aggregator. From this site, in coverage about Barnes & Noble’s chief executive stepping down, I also read a digest-size update about the tablet business for books.

What a Pill

Book TabletsBarnes & Noble’s Nook and Amazon.com’s Kindle, among the best rated tablets for books, aren’t doing as well as expected and neither come near the iPad. Linking to TechCrunch’s coverage, Mediabistro noted that the Nook division’s income dropped 34 percent from last year at this time.

I imagine one reason for the disappointing results for Nooks and Kindles is that people think of them delivering “books exclusively”–maybe magazines, comics, a few games and kid’s flicks too, options that are just a start for the remarkable iPad with its apps and multiple functions.

On a recent visit to Barnes & Noble I saw the latest versions that do far more–almost everything an iPad can–email, tweet, access apps, minus the picture-taking function and for hundreds of dollars less. But who knew? A crucial breach in getting out the info to the hoi polloi perhaps?

Based on my observations on NYC subways, busses and Metro area commuter railroads, I thought the book tablet industry was booming. Shows yet again how unrepresentative of the rest of the country NYers are; how commuting by public transportation vs. private car must impact the need for and therefore the national sales of such devices; that the reading demographic uses iPads or still reads books on paper or simply that fewer are reading.

Galloping Along

Town CrierThe same July day Mediabistro shared highlights of a Gallup poll of almost 2,050 adults who said that they get their news from TV in 55 percent of cases followed by the Internet at 21 percent. They voiced their responses without the help of options provided by the survey taker.

I thought that the Internet would have done better if not best. According to Dylan Byers on Politico, “For all the focus on ‘social,’ including Facebook and Twitter, only 2 of the 21 percent mentioned such networks as their primary source for news,” he wrote in “Gallup: TV dominates as U.S. news source.” Newspapers or print material came in at nine percent with radio at six.

How Does This Add Up?

Vintage magazine adMediabistro picked up FishbowlNY.com news which covered a Magazine Publishers Association report about the decline by five percent of consumer magazine advertising pages in the first quarter of this year compared to last. Wish this was a revelation.

The exceptions with “double digit ad page growth,” are also of little surprise given the health of the pharma/OTC health remedy and fashion industries: Prevention, Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, and Women’s Health; Vogue, GQ and Elle. Only one, Saveur, was about food and one about decorating—HGTV Magazine 

Unless you already own one or both, were you to buy a tablet, would you buy an iPad or one of the others that cost $300 less? If you own a tablet, do you still read traditional books?  Where do you get news? Are you surprised about the magazines rich with ad pages or that some categories or titles are missing from the list?

Surprised

Service of Asking the Right Questions

Monday, June 24th, 2013

 

Ask Me questionsI’d like to share a few questions to ask in a range of circumstances that might save you from costly mistakes in time and money. Asking the right questions will serve you far better in evaluating a vendor and ensuring a positive outcome than depending on websites that direct readers to the best ones.

Agency

Marketing StrategyWhen hiring a marketing, PR or advertising agency, ask to speak with four or five former clients. There are countless legitimate reasons a company changes vendors. The test of the character and smarts of the principals can often be found with those with whom they are no longer associated professionally.

You’ll learn if the counsel was sound and the work top quality; if the account people fit the company’s culture and how responsive they were as marketing needs changed. The fact that an agency is still in touch with its former clients—or isn’t–also says a lot.

Contractor 

ContractorHiring a contractor? Ask for contact information for his/her last three to five jobs. You’ll likely have a more accurate picture of the good and the bad when you call these people for recommendations than if you let the contractor make the picks. My first encounter with a contractor was disappointing and shocking because we thought we’d done our due diligence. We’d spoken with the homeowners and visited nine jobs: Three for each contender. But all the choices of jobs were the contractors’.

Hotel

Booking a hotel with a lineup of ballrooms? Ask who is scheduled for the adjacent rooms and what their entertainment plans and schedules are. This became obvious one night when nobody could hear the speakers in our room because the relentlessly earsplitting band next door wouldn’t take a break even though hotel staff and event producers pleaded with this uncooperative neighbor-for-the-night.

hotel ballroomThe cocktail hour at another event took place in the generously proportioned hallway in front of the ballroom. The hotel had proposed this concept to all its clients. Trouble was the women at the event on the way to ours were dressed as southern belles, with huge hoop skirts that took up all the floor space. We had a difficult and uncomfortable time reaching our destination. The hotel should have put the belles at the end of the hallway, not near the elevator. Nobody asked.

Buying or Renting a House

Ask about weather anomalies. In North Dakota I lived on an Air Force base in the last house in a line of two family homes. Wind on our–and on all corners–was so fierce that far more snow piled up in our driveway than in anyone else’s.

I wonder how many of these questions are universal and if they would apply in any culture. Did any of them surprise you? Hope you’ll share your tips for questions to ask in these or other instances.

house in snow

Service of Bragging

Monday, August 27th, 2012

toothorn

Elizabeth Bernstein’s description of Facebook entries in “Are We All Braggarts Now?” and many of the updates I see remind me of December holiday letters. There’s news about the kids, all top of class at Harvard; an exhausting half million dollar remodeling project on a bungalow; brilliant new jobs; magical weeks in Paris and Hawaii and more.

spanishstepsIn Facebook, boasts are minute-to-minute: You and the gang at a four star restaurant, the view of the Spanish Steps in Rome from your hotel bedroom, the $1,000 bouquet of gratitude from a client or the name of your current [famous of course] significant other.

Friends tell me I’m a patsy for boasts. I take people literally. When someone says they are interviewing for a $300,000 job or they are pitching a multi-million $ account–and their agency is no bigger than mine–I believe them.

womaninermineA very successful PR woman I once knew collected fur coats. Her source: a prestigious NYC thrift shop. She had a magnificent ermine, fox and mink for starters and yet she never wore one when meeting clients.

Heavy handed braggarts are annoying. They make me squirm as much as a bad comedian. Their words fall flat on my ears but obviously impress others.

Bernstein wrote that this is how you should deal with a braggart: “‘Feel sorry for them, because they’re doing this impulsive, destructive thing that won’t help them in the long run,’ says Simine Vazire, a research psychologist and associate professor at Washington University in St. Louis. Research on self-enhancement shows that people who brag make a good first impression, but that it diminishes over time.”

That’s nice, but doesn’t this mean that the braggart gets the job and the client?

I refuse to promise what I can’t be sure to deliver, only that I will knock myself out trying. How many PR people are asked to get their client’s product or story in The New York Times, Vogue or on “Good Morning America?” How many of them say they’ve done this for countless other clients, forgetting to note that those clients had life-changing news, were major advertisers or that this happened 30 years ago. It’s safter and more accurate to suggest that to guarantee exposure in such venues, the client had best buy an ad.

I’m in a business where people are expected to brag and boast to their current and prospective clients about how they are the best in the world at what they do. I believe in third party endorsement. That’s what PR is based on. I’d rather my record and others tell the story than a bunch of blah blah on my part.

Are you good at bragging? What distinguishes a clumsy boast and brag from a legitimate sales pitch?

buyme

Service of Déjà Vu

Monday, June 25th, 2012

newspapers

This post is about marketing.

I worry about the newspaper industry for more than the obvious reasons: Shrinking readership, slashed editorial budgets, the good reporters are melting away, little competition and negligible investigative reporting. I think many publishers are following a shortsighted, sure-to-fail marketing strategy that I’ve watched others try, one that has landed others facedown in the mud with a splat.

In Jennifer Saba’s article for Reuters: “Analysis: In scare for newspapers, digital ad growth stalls,” she wrote: “As more newspapers cut back on print to reduce costs and focus on their websites, a troubling trend has emerged: online advertising sales are stalling.”

adspacehereWhy?: “A flood of excess advertising space, the rise of electronic advertising exchanges that sell ads at cut-rate prices, and the weak U.S. economy are all contributing to the slowdown, publishing executives and observers say.”

The electronic advertising exchange concept alarms me the most. The rationale behind using them reminds me of the advent of the 800 numbers. Manufacturers bemoaned them for selling their goods at cut-rate prices. [I wondered: “How did your brand get there and did you have no control over this?”] There were severe discounting strategies and licensing frenzies. Some sold goods with their brands posted prominently at both big boxes and boutiques, the former versions of inferior quality. This demeaned their brands leading to the demise of many. In addition, why would anyone pay full freight for a product that was available at umpteen places for half price or less?

Back to the advertising exchanges, Saba explained that they: “…are electronic platforms that allow buyers to bid on and purchase advertising space at drastically reduced prices. Many websites — not just newspaper sites — rely on these exchanges to sell unclaimed advertising spots, known in industry parlance as excess inventory. The thinking is it’s better to get something than nothing at all.”

Saba continued, “But it also trains ad buyers to expect lower advertising prices. ‘It’s like a publisher trying to sell me an Armani suit for $3,000 but I can walk around the corner and buy it from Google for 90 percent less,’ said Shawn Riegsecker, chief executive of Centro, an agency that specializes in buying and selling digital ads, and counts many newspapers as its clients.”

wallpaperWith the strategy of cavernous discounts and helter skelter product placement, manufacturers lost sight of the value–and sizzle–of their lifeblood. Try to Google images for “wallpaper”  and you’ll not see a slice of the decorative kind–just the electronic variety. I cringe to see newspapers follow the same destructive path.

What can stop this spiral? What other product lines or industries have been destroyed by deep dish discounting and sloppy marketing?

spiral

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