So Good You Can’t Even Tell

Warner Bros logoI finally got around to watching The Dark Knight on DVD last night. Fairly impressive, but I’m not here to write about the film itself.

I was struck by a promotional video that ran before the feature, right after the god-awful reworking of Casablanca into a warning not to pirate movies (Shame on you, Ilsa).

The promo featured big, impressive, immersive shots from some big Warner Bros. movies, including A Clockwork Orange, Blade Runner, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Matrix, Goodfellas, V for Vendetta, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and Batman Begins. For the most part, these were shots intended to make the audience go “oooh,” like Neo stopping a barrage of bullets (ooh), or the Houses of Parliament exploding (ooh).

The voice-over that went with these big visuals went as follows:

Something has come along that changes our movies.

It changes the way you see them, hear them, feel them.

It changes the experience.

It opens our eyes to something new.

We invite you to dig deeper, to find things that you’ve never experienced before.

This is the difference between watching our movies and living them.

Experience our movies on Blu-ray.

This is how our movies are meant to be… lived

Blu-ray logoOK. It was a promo for the glory, the splendor and the majesty that is Blu-ray. Fine. But it raised a few questions for me.

As I’ve already mentioned, these were big, impressive images. I was watching on a standard DVD, on an eye of hell that’s neither HD, plasma, giant, or even flat, with the sound running through a stereo that’s about 30 years old — well, the speakers are only about 10, but there are only two of them. And I got the message that I was supposed to be impressed by these images.

So if I’m impressed, how are they supposed to sell me on ditching all of my equipment and getting a Blu-ray setup? Obviously, they can’t show me how a Blu-ray image is better than what I’ve got if they’re showing it to me via what I’ve got. Maybe they should have lowered the quality of the images they showed me, like I was watching on a pitiful portable picnic player, as little Alex might point out. Then they could have told me that if I wanted to experience the true gorgeousness and gorgeosity of the pictures and properly hear the angel trumpets and devil trombones, I’d best upgrade.

Or I suppose they might have added a few lines to the voice-over (I think it might have been Kiefer Sutherland, using his “this is America” Bank of America voice rather than his “tell me now or you’re dead” 24 voice, by the way), like

Do these scenes look good to you? Then you’re an idiot. This stuff is pure crap. You can’t see how good these scenes really are, because your hardware is shit.

There needs to be some comparison if I’m to be convinced that what I don’t have is better than what I have. Remember the theme song to WKRP in Cincinnati? The first few bars were engineered to sound like AM radio, and then it opened up to something fuller, so even though you were listening to the whole thing through a tiny, tinny monaural speaker, you could hear the difference. You got the message that AM radio sounds like KRaP.

And there’s that last line in the promo: This is how our movies are meant to be… lived.

Is it really? Have they forgotten about movie theatres, many of which still have bigger screens and better sound systems than the average living room? Are they suggesting that this is what the filmmakers had in mind?

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Love the New Logo

Walmart logo

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Murray Poppins

Hey, Kidz

If the jolly bowler-wearing, enormous-red-umbrella-carrying old man from Travelers should happen to come around when you’re in need…

Run!

We don’t know for certain who this man is, but he is not the magical new nanny who will turn your life into a singing, dancing fantasy with cartoon animals. I know, the English can be very entertaining, with their comical teeth and outrageous accents, but I don’t think they’ve gotten over the loss of their empire. They’re not to be trusted.

Umbrellas don’t fly. It’s as simple as that, little ones. If you and your little friend sit down in his handle with him between the two of you, insisting he hold you tightly so that you don’t fall, and it really does feel to you like you’ve been swept up into the sky, just promise me you’ll tell your parents about it as soon as possible. You may have been drugged.

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Google Me This

I received a piece of mail a few days ago — old fashioned, analog mail, that is. It was a bright yellow postcard from a local company that provides a service to homeowners. I don’t want to give their name away, but it’s three words: an adjective expressing a quality of service, followed by a noun (the thing they work on), and a noun based on the action they perform. Let’s say it was Best Floor Refinishers, just to make things easier.

So… Best Floor Refinishers sent me (“RESIDENT”) a postcard offering a $30 “off-season” discount rate. (Yes, I know floor refinishers don’t have an off season. The name is just an example. Pay attention.) The postcard also displayed the logo of some apparently authoritative national agency, implying that they have every right to use that “Best” (or something like that) in their company name. There was a toll-free telephone number, along with three other numbers for specific towns in the area: Cambridge, Needham, and Medford (say it with me: “Meffa”).

The postcard also contained a message addressed to “Dear Past Customer or Current Resident,” about the importance of refinishing my floors (or whatever) for safety’s sake. “BE SAFE, CALL TODAY!!” Moreover, I needn’t worry, because my “satisfaction is GUARANTEED !!!!!!”

Fascinating as all that may be, the thing that really caught my attention was right under the company’s name and logo: It was the word “Google” in a font very similar to Google’s own logo, but in all black letters, followed by a colon and the first two words of their company name, mashed together into one word and intercapped. Sort of like this:

Google:
BestFloor

OK, fine. I ran the search, and here’s what I got:

Google result for search on BestFloor: Did you mean Best Floor?

Well, no Google. I meant “BestFloor,” because that’s what the postcard said to search for.

At any rate, the top result for both [Best Floor] and [BestFloor] was the same site: bestfloor.com, which happens to be the site of Best Floor Refinishers. Pretty impressive, eh?

No! It’s not impressive at all. What are they trying to tell me — are they bragging that they rank #1 for the first two words of their company name? That they rule the SERP for their domain name? Wowzers.

I think they just wanted to let me know where to find their site, but rather than just telling me the URL, they tell me to search for the domain.

I’ve known plenty of people who navigated around the web this way. If they wanted to go to Qwerty’s Qoncepts and they knew the URL, they’d go to Google or Yahoo and search for qwertysqoncepts.com. This is what we in the search marketing business refer to with the technical term “stupid.”

It’s doubly stupid for a company to promote itself by telling people to search for its domain name, especially without the TLD. What would happen if their competitors over at bestfloor.net got to work on improving their site and took the top spot for [bestfloor]? Our postcard pals would be sending their potential customers straight to the other guys.

A word to the wise: if you want your print material to let people know where they can find your website, give them the damned URL. A one-step hunt for it is one step too many. At best it’s stupid. At worst, it’s an advert for the competition.

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Know Your Audience

I was doing some research last week, looking for niche directories in the medical/health vertical, and there are quite a few out there. Some of them are quite general, others deal with specific parts of the field, such as various medical specialties, exercise and fitness, alternative health care, men’s health, and women’s health. One site in the latter category is the aptly named Women Health Links.

Based on its content, it looks to be a serious, authoritative site. I didn’t see any trashy or off-topic listings. The directory doesn’t have a ton of backlinks, but they all seem to be on topic. It’s been online for a couple of years, and it looks like it’s updated on a monthly basis.

It’s pretty clear why the site exists: to provide access to trusted sites that provide information on women’s health — sites on reproductive health, sexuality, menopause, pregnancy, abortion, infertility, etc. I think it’s pretty safe to assume that women make up the majority of the directory’s users.

And that makes me wonder why the advertising the directory displays is the sort you see below, in the lower-left of the image.

page from womenhealthlinks.com

Oooh. Hotties. Babes galore. Just what every red blooded male breeder wants.

Anna Nicole Smith in an advertisementHere’s another ad from the site:

But how many red blooded male breeders are checking out this site? Yes, I was there, but I was on the clock, so I didn’t click any of the adverts. Had I been on my own time… yowzah! (Well, maybe not.) Could I have been wrong in assuming that the directory’s audience was mostly female? No, I don’t think so. I certainly don’t think that anyone hoping to find porn is going to go to a directory about women’s health.

Maybe these ads are for porn sites for women… No, only if those women are looking for pictures and videos of women. And this doesn’t look like porn that’s being marketed to lesbians. I’ve been shown such things by real, live lesbians, and this ain’t it.

So what’s going on with these ads? They’re being served by a company called CPX Interactive. So, what do they have to say about themselves?

CPX is a different kind of ad network, focused on leveraging the underlying truths of the Internet to unlock unprecedented efficiency in the buying and selling of online display advertising. Advertisers leverage the network to receive optimized global reach at dynamically efficient pricing, while Publishers realize the benefit of 100% inventory fill technology.

The underlying truths of the Internet, such as “everyone loves boobies,” I suppose. And how do they do it?

Campaigns are continually optimized across our entire network, shifting placements, on-the-fly, toward sites where the offer is converting most cost effectively and away from those that are not.

How it works:

  1. Specific campaign goals and targeted audiences are honed.
  2. Maximum CPM necessary to deliver on goals is identified, based on historical data.
  3. Campaign is trafficked with a RON strategy developed to reach targeted audience, maintain maximum designated CPM and efficiently deliver ROI goals.
  4. Placements and CPMs are continuously monitored across network and optimized, in real-time, based on client’s specific goals and strategies.
  5. Conversion efficiency is continually “ratcheted down” as system “learns” perfect network mix for specific campaign.

So apparently the system has “learned” that straight porn delivers the best ROI for this site.

Drill-Down Targeting

Unlimited dynamically-created demographic channels.

More than 20 pre-defined psychographic interest channels (with more than 200 subchannel categories):

  • Arts & Humanities
  • Fashion & Beauty
  • Entertainment
  • Automotive
  • Hobbies & Interest
  • Family, Home, & Health
  • Business / Finance
  • Lifestyle
  • Shopping & Retail
  • Career & Education
  • News & Reference
  • Sports
  • Dating & Social Networking
  • Science, Tech, & Web
  • Travel & Leisure

So which of those categories would include Your Tit Parade? Maybe a better question would be whether any of them doesn’t include it.

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Viva Commerce! (#15)

Dear freecreditreport.com,

First of all, I have to respect your chutzpah. The free credit report mentioned in your domain name isn’t actually your product, but a little bonus that comes with membership in Triple Advantage, but you bravely branded the whole deal as if the little freebie was the real product, singing the praises of the free credit report and then quickly mumbling that the “offer applies with enrollment to Triple Advantage” right at the end. You could have set up a site at tripleadvantage.com, branded the product as Triple Advantage and mentioned the free credit report that comes with a trial membership, but that wouldn’t have been as much fun.

And it’s not as if you’re ashamed of Triple Advantage. If I want to, I can go to your parent company’s site and use its internal search to get to its official page, or I can read about it on the FAQ page at freecreditreport.com. And while I’m at the FAQ, I can even read about how any US resident has the right to a free credit report each year, without joining Triple Advantage. Clearly, you’re not hiding a thing.

Apart from that, I was hoping we could discuss the ads you’re currently running on the eye of hell — the ones featuring that ironically cheerful troubadour with bad credit, singing to us about his financial difficulties.

Well, I married my dream girl
I married my dream girl
But she didn’t tell me her credit was bad
So now instead of living in a pleasant suburb
We’re living in the basement at her mom and dad’s

Great stuff. I find myself singing that one in the shower all the time.

I’ve got a problem with the other one, though. I believe it’s called “Pirate“. In it, our friend is dressed as a pirate, working in a seafood restaurant, because some hacker stole his identity (and now he’s in there every evening serving chowder and iced tea).

What confuses me is this couplet:

Should have gone with freecreditreport.com
I could have seen this coming at me like an atom bomb

Does that make sense? I mean, is an atom bomb really an exemplar of something one can easily see coming? I don’t think anyone’s ever seen an atom bomb coming at them, actually. For one thing, atom bombs have only come at people a couple of times in history, and both times they fell out of the sky. If anyone had noticed them coming at all, it wouldn’t have been for more than a second before they were incinerated, and since those people were among the first to have an atom bomb coming at them, I don’t suppose that second would have involved them thinking, “Say, that’s an atom bomb coming at me.”

I get that you needed a rhyme for “com,” but why couldn’t you go with something like

  • I could have gotten a big loan just like my buddy Tom
  • Then I’d complete my collection of the films of Herbert Lom
  • I wouldn’t have to borrow money from my dear old mom

Just trying to be helpful.

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Viva Commerce! (#14)

Honda AccordDear Honda,

I just caught your latest spot on the eye of hell, in which you ask the question, “Just how new is the all new Honda Accord?”

Are you fucking kidding me? What kind of smart-ass question is that? Haven’t you been paying attention?

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Taken by Surprise by a Trio of Roguish Ads

I wrote last year about the way Nissan was going a tad far in product placements on Heroes.

On Heroes, Hiro and his friend are renting a car and Hiro is absolutely insistent that it must be a Nissan Versa. Ostensibly, this is because that’s the car they rent in the comic book that’s predicting his future, but does it actually name the car in the comic, or is Hiro just an expert at picking out the model of any car he sees? Keep in mind that Hiro is from Japan, where if the Versa is even sold, it probably goes by a different model name. And of course, there’s an ad about the car on the show’s home page, and a commercial or two for the car during the broadcast.

Nissan RogueThey’re at it again, but this time it may be going even further. In the season’s premiere episode, Claire’s father gives her a Nissan Rogue (the fabulous new crossover the commercials for which whore out the Clash). That episode was presented with “limited commercial interruption” by Nissan, which included three Rogue commercials in a row. One of the features they push about the Rogue is its “intelligent key that never has to leave your pocket.”

In episode two, Claire’s car gets stolen. She goes to the copy shop where her father is working and admits what’s happened, taking the blame by indicating that she forgot to lock it. She forgot to lock it? But it has an intelligent key that never has to leave your pocket. I know it does, because the nice people at Nissan told me so. Three times.

I’m predicting that in next week’s episode, we’re going to find out that the car was taken by someone with special abilities. Maybe Sylar’s already found Claire and he took the car for a joyride before slicing her head open. I don’t know. But it can’t simply be that some normal human just opened the door and drove off. They couldn’t. The Rogue has an intelligent key that never has to leave your pocket.

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Viva Commerce! (#13)

McDonaldDear McDonald’s,

I notice that in one of your recent advertisements for the double cheeseburger, you describe the sandwich as “melty” and “beefy”. I’m familiar with the latter word, which Webster’s defines as

1 a : heavily and powerfully built [a beefy thug] b : SUBSTANTIAL, STURDY [beefy shock absorbers]
2 a : of or suggesting beef [a beefy flavor] b : full of beef [a beefy steak]

Since I don’t eat beef, I’ll just give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that at least one of those definitions accurately describes your burger. It does seem fairly sturdy in the ad.

This brings us to that other adjective: melty. I looked, and it’s just not in there. It’s not really a word, folks.

Taco Bell logoI’m guessing you got it from Taco Bell, with their “melty, melty, melty” cheese. Well, I’m here to tell you that Taco Bell is wrong, and I would have thought you’d know better than to use a word just because they do. If Taco Bell jumped off a cliff, would you follow them?

I’m very disappointed in you.

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The Dylan Virus

This is an absolutely terrific use of a film clip that’s already recognizable by a huge number of people, which serves to make it even more viral. Apparently, it’s been around for a few weeks, but I’ve only just found out about it from a post by Muhammed Saleem at Pronet Advertising.

It’s all to promote a new Dylan greatest hits album, because the world just can’t live without yet another Dylan greatest hits album, but who cares? Sometimes the promotion is better than the product being promoted. Remember Subservient Chicken? I thought that was great, but it sure as shit didn’t convince me to eat at Burger King.

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