Archive for the 'Marketing' Category

Viva Commerce! (#21)

Dear Marshalls,Marshalls logo

Welcome to Remedial Discount Mathematics. Shall we begin?

Your ads on the eye of hell say that a shopper can save “up to 50%” off of department store prices. As an example, you show a sweater, priced at $40.00 at the department store.

How much is up to 50% of $40.00? That’s right, it’s anything from 0 to $20.00. So if your customers can save up to 50% on that scarf, how much can you charge?

No, if you charge $19.99 they’re saving more than 50%, which is more than “up to 50%”. See, a price of $19.99 represents a discount of $20.01 from the original price of $40.00, and $20.01 is 50.025% of $40.00.

50.025% is actually more than 50%, and “up to 50%” isn’t supposed to go higher than 50%.

Maybe we can get Capt. James T. Negotiator to tutor you. He had a similar problem last year.

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Buy Our Product. Hurt People.

Advertising is often about comparison: our product is better than their product.

It’s not uncommon for that to extend to a representation of the people using the products. That is, because our product is better than their product, the users of our product have some advantage over those who use their product. They may be happier, more successful, sexier, wealthier, etc.

Sometimes, this rubs off on the user of the superior product, making them kind of cocky. They’ve made the right choice, and they seem to feel that that makes them better than the poor slob who’s stuck with Brand X.

It’s one thing for the winning consumer to be a bit of an asshole, but some advertisers now appear to have decided that picking the right product gives one the right to take things a step or two further.

National Car Rental logoIn a current spot for National Car Rental, John McEnroe explains the advantages of National’s Emerald Club and its new Emerald Aisle (faith and begorrah) feature: not only can you bypass the counter and all the paperwork, but you just go into the lot and pick whichever car you’d like.

Sounds pretty good, right? Keep in mind that this is John McEnroe, who is equally famous for tennis and temper. He demonstrates his freedom of choice in a lot full of cars by yelling, “Hey, Pal! That car’s mine!” at what appears to be one of maybe three other customers there, pulling a tennis racket and ball out of his carry-on, and serving the ball right into the poor man’s head, knocking him to the concrete, coffee cup, briefcase and all. If the tennis ball doesn’t give him a concussion, I’m sure the pavement does.

It should be noted that the Emerald Club rules stipulate that:

National Car Rental may disqualify any Member for any reason including such Member’s unacceptable driving record. Such disqualification is effective when it is entered into National Car Rental’s computer system.

I wonder if “any reason” includes assault on fellow Emerald Club members.

We’ve got a similar situation with Hall’s cough drops.

In the old days, a Hall’s ad would involve a person who had a bit of a cough or congestion. They’d pop a Hall’s and that menthol-lyptus stuff would go to work, sending waves of gentle, healing warmth through them, and they’d find themselves cleared out, comfortable, and happy. Nice and simple. But no more.

In a current spot on the eye of hell, our protagonist is in an elevator, standing right in the middle of the car. The door opens, and someone walks in. Our hero is pushed a bit to the side, expresses a touch of irritation on his face, and moves back into the middle of the car. The door opens again, and again he has to move out of the way to let someone through, again he becomes a little irritated, and again he moves back into the center of the elevator. The door opens yet again, and our hero is not a happy guy. You’d think that by now he’d have figured out that if he moved into a corner of the elevator, he could finish his ride thoroughly untouched, but he seems to believe that he has the right both to stand in the center and to have an invisible buffer zone around him. He thinks that other people should enter the elevator by pressing themselves up against the wall and squeezing by him as carefully and respectfully as possible.

So what does he do about it? He pulls out a Hall’s and pops it into his mouth. We see those waves of warmth and comfort like before… but something is different. Those waves are now weapons, forcing the other people up against the wall and literally flattening them — most likely causing permanent damage, perhaps death.

Is this really the message advertisers want to send? When did it become necessary for consumers to feel so superior for purchasing the right product that they believe they have the right to kill?

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Choosing An Announcer

Obama coinSo, you’ve come up with the idea for a new product that you believe is going to tap right into the current zeitgeist and really excite the public. Congratulations. Obviously, you’re going to advertise online, since that’s such a cost-effective medium these days. Are you thinking about running spots on the eye of hell as well? That’s going to increase your costs, but it will guarantee a lot more eyes. And don’t forget that you don’t just have to pay for the time your ad spends on the air. You’ve also got to deal with the cost of production, which is likely to be a lot more than your web development budget.

A big part of that budget is going to go to getting a voice-over artist to read your copy. My advice is to spend the money to get this right. Listen closely to the people you audition. Obviously, you want them to convey the right mood. You want them to be able to get your audience excited about your product. But you also want them to sound like they know what they’re talking about. For example, if your product is powerful, and you want to make sure the public knows the product is powerful, be careful to hire an announcer who can say the word “powerful” without it coming out as “parful.”

Let’s say you’re selling a limited edition, uncirculated inaugural coin, layered in pure 24 karat gold. Sounds good? Well, that depends on how your announcer says those words. Don’t make the mistake these folks did.

Innoggeral? Uncirckalated? Those aren’t words. Laird is a word, albeit a somewhat archaic one, but I don’t think you want your potential customers to think they can buy a Scottish landowner who’s been dipped in gold — not from you, anyway. You’re going to have to deal with an awful lot of returns if you make that mistake.

Let this be a warning to you: if you’re going to advertise in a medium that requires voice-over talent, either choose an announcer who can say your words, or choose words your announcer can say. I don’t think that’s asking too much of you.

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It’s All in the Branding

This site is probably going to be almost as busy as the NYFT today. Of course, since little of that traffic is likely to be coming from the Amarillo area, it’s not likely to make the owner rich.

Joe the Plumber

This isn’t the Joe the Plumber who was referred to some 25 times during last night’s debate. It’s just the lucky domain name owner of the day.

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Viva Commerce! (#20)

Mercedes logoDear Mercedes-Benz,

Your latest spot for the C Class on the eye of hell opens with the following:

300 horsepower is fast.
400 will take your breath away.
That’s why we gave it 451.

Sorry, but I’ve just got to ask: why exactly did you give it 451?

Do you want me to lose control of the vehicle and get myself killed?

Are you trying to belittle me? Oooh, I don’t think you should buy this car. It’s much too powerful for little old you. You might hurt yourself.

Maybe it’s your idea of a dare: I just bet you can’t drive this car without killing somebody.

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Love the New Logo

Walmart logo

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Waiting for the Great Leap Forward

No, this post is not about Mao, or even Billy Bragg. Rather, it’s about an advance I have to admit I’d waited for all my life, and had frankly given up on seeing come to fruition. Why? Because it’s an advance on the eye of hell, where things change pretty damned slowly. In fact, the advance is in advertising on the eye of hell, where things, for the most part, don’t change at all.

I wrote a couple of years ago (yikes! I’ve been blogging for two years!) that words like “period” and “menstruation” had finally started replacing “time of the month,” although such things are still visually represented by blue fluid. This is easily as big as that.

Hidden Valley Ranch salad dressing bottleI think I was about 10 or 11 when I first noticed the problem. I’d see ads that spoke of a special little town called Hidden Valley, where the kids never complained about eating their vegetables, because they all came with a thick coating of mayonnaisey spoodge that made them oh-so-tasty. I’d be watching these packs of kids happily downing their dripping broccoli, and it occurred to me that they were all white! The happy town of Hidden Valley was restricted!

Well, this week I saw an ad for Hidden Valley in which the veggie-lovin’ local kids were crowding around what looked like an ice cream truck, which in fact, served cones of salad drowning in the glory that is ranch dressing. And among those kids, I was astonished to see one or two of African descent! At last, these children were being judged not by the color of their skin, but of the content of their salad cones! It was beautiful.

Of course, salad dressing is just one example of the long list of products that have been segregated on the eye of hell all these long years. For decades, Madison Avenue has tried to convince us that separate detergents, fast food establishments, shoes, and pet foods could be equal. Those days may at last be gone.

eHarmony logoThink about dating services. For as long as they’ve advertised on the eye of hell, they’ve demonstrated their successes by showing us couples who always just happened to share ethnicity along with chemistry. Was it a decades-long series of coincidences, like the coin flips in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead? I doubt it. I don’t know if they ever had rules regarding interracial couples, and if they did, I don’t know when those rules changed, but on the eye of hell, it had always clearly been a strict “no miscegenation” policy.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw an ad for eHarmony (one of the first, I believe, to do without the presence of Dr. Neil Clark Warren) in which a black man was shown next to a set of three thumbnail images of women, apparently representing the choices picked for him by their computer. Two of them were black, but one was white.

Then, just last week, I saw a spot for the service that showed three happy couples, two of which were of mixed ethnicity. Wow.

I have to wonder what the cause of this long-delayed advance might be. I suppose it’s possible that the fact that we’re (hopefully) on the verge of electing our first mixed-race president might be an indication to the ad execs that we just might be ready for such a radical concept. I really don’t know, but I’m glad to see it finally happening.

Next up: gender roles and sexuality. Don’t hold your breath.

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Say Hey, Billy Mays

Billy MaysOh, that Billy Mays. What can you say about a fella like Billy Mays?

Billy Mays knows how to say “power,” and Billy Mays knows how to say “full,” but ironically, Billy Mays can’t seem to say “powerful” without it sounding like “parful.” And wouldn’t you know it, many of the products promoted by Billy Mays are powerful, so he has no choice but to keep trying to get that darned word right. Poor old long-suffering Billy Mays.

Billy Mays works in the wonderful world of the eye of hell, but happy, innocent guy that he is, Billy Mays doesn’t understand that that thing they clip to his shirt is a microphone, and that they can control the level of his voice. Instead, Billy Mays screams at the top of his lungs about his various and sundry “parful” products. That silly Billy Mays.

For more about Billy Mays, be sure to check out Billy Mays Mayhem, which features a collection of the sounds of Billy Mays! Sadly, the collection doesn’t include Billy Mays saying “parful.” You’ll just have to take my word for it on that one.

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Viva Commerce! (#19)

Dear Hertz,

Hertz logoI was hoping we could discuss your recent spot on the eye of hell. There are a few things in there that I find a bit surprising.

We start off with Mr. and Ms. All-American-Youthful-White-Couple. Ms. AAYWC is in the passenger seat of a little yellow convertible. Mr. AAYWC, from behind the car, runs up to the rear bumper, and launches himself off of it, flipping over the car and into the driver’s seat, then immediately zooms off.

Questions and Comments

  • Those shiny, colorful bumpers on contemporary American cars are really just bumper covers. They more decorative than anything else. I don’t think they’re intended to support your weight, even if you’re Mr. All-American-Youthful-White-Couple.
  • That leap into the car is somewhat reminiscent of the old Hertz ads in which OJ Simpson is carried through the airport and into his rental by the omnipotent, invisible hand of Hertz. In this case, however, there’s no indication that Hertz is helping with the trick. If that’s correct, he’s jumping on his own, and that’s somehow more worrisome than the magic realism you utilized in the past. I sure hope he managed the jump without hurting himself.
  • I didn’t see you (or your lovely companion, for that matter) buckle your safety belts before peeling out. I don’t know what state you’re in, but I don’t think that’s legal.

Back to our exciting commercial. We see the happy couple zipping around in the car. From a bird’s eye view, we see them weaving through highway traffic at high speed — significantly faster than anyone else on the road. They drive by a crowded gas station because Hertz, unlike other car rental agencies, will fill the tank for them for just a nominal fee. Finally, we see them driving past an airport, apparently faster than a jet that’s taking off behind them. And all the while, the car leaves a glowing yellow trail behind — sort of a cross between a contrail and a thick, radioactive lemonade.

Further Questions and Comments

  • I wonder if they’re even bothering to signal their lane changes on the highway. Clearly they’re speeding, acting without any regard for the safety of their fellow drivers.
  • Is that yellow cloud the car is spewing at all dangerous? It doesn’t look like it dissipates very quickly. Instead, it just lays there, menacingly glowing at those you’ve left behind.
  • Can you imagine how those poor souls at the gas station feel? We only get the briefest of reaction shots of them, and they just seem confused, but I’ll bet that within a few seconds at least some of them are bound to wonder if that mysterious yellow fog might explode.

So, let’s see what we’ve got here. You’re performing acrobatics to get into the car, you’re not wearing safety belts, you’re speeding, you’re switching from lane to lane like you’re running a slalom, and you clearly have no concern for the health, safety, comfort, or even vision of other people, be they other drivers or pedestrians.

And at no time do you offer any sort of caveat to the viewer. I’m sure you don’t want your customers to take part in these activities, particularly in your vehicles. Maybe you should consider adding a little note of warning at the bottom of the screen. Something like “do not attempt” ought to get the message across, don’t you think?

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Viva Commerce! (#18)

Ciroc vodka bottleDear CÎROC Vodka people,

I’d be happy to try your vodka, but your adverts on the eye of hell keep insisting that it’s for celebrations. That would be fine, but you’ve got that Diddy Daddy Puffy Puff Puff Daddy P-Diddy Padiddle Puffy Huffy Wuffy HR Pufnstuff fellow sitting there scowling through the whole spot. He’s in a room full of people having a fine time, he’s surrounded by beautiful young ladies who seem to be enjoying his company, but he just sits there, ordering drink after drink, holding it up and putting on that sour face.

If he isn’t enjoying himself, then what makes you think that I’ll enjoy sitting in my underwear, drinking it in the company of my cats and watching cable?

Why is Mr. Diddy so angry? Does your vodka taste bad? Is he upset because of the music playing at the party? It looks like it’s his party. He could get up and change the music. He could even send somebody out to get some Stoly.

Maybe he’s trying to pick a fight with me. Well, I’m sorry Mr. Puffy Wuffy. That’s just not my style. I think maybe you should send your guests home and look into getting some professional help.

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