mADwoman advertising

December 20, 2009

Marketing Evil: Why My Kid Won’t Be Wearing Adidas

Filed under: advertising,Uncategorized — Laurie Morrow, Ph.D. @ 2:21 pm
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Over at Mashable is a post about a marketing campaign Adidas is launching in January to promote their new Star Wars-inspired line.  Instead of aligning the product with the positive, heroic figures in the familiar tale, Adidas is integrating Facebook with Google Maps to create a sort of ‘game’ called the Star Wars Death Star Superlaser, in which participants are encouraged to emulate the evil Darth Vader.

The game opens with a video in which you see the street you live on — thanks to the Google Maps app, you see the buildings on your actual street — reduced to rubble.  The app then allows you to subject the streets your Facebook friends live on to similar destruction at your will.  The cutesy-sociopathic tagline that appears at the video’s end: “Hitting your street in January 2010.”

It’s been less than a decade since the 9/11 terrorist attack reduced a significant portion of lower Manhattan turned to dust, with the loss of several thousand innocent lives.  The vast majority of Americans consider this real-world act evil, just as they considered the imaginary, vicious actions of the fictional character Darth Vader evil.

Normal people find it troubling, not amusing, to contemplate the destruction of particular people and places they care about.   Normal people don’t think it’s fun to visualize the destruction of their friends’ lives, homes, and neighbors.

If the market Adidas is going after consists of sociopaths and would-be terrorists, this is one dandy promotion.

If, however, Adidas hopes to sell sneakers to normal people who cringe at the thought of terrible things happening to their friends, they may want to use another approach.  Unless and until they do, I can promise you that my kid won’t be wearing Adidas.

November 7, 2009

Keith Lane among the Lizards

In “Living the Creative Life,” a compelling interview by Shawn Read at CDIABlog,  that maddest and most delightful of madmen Keith Lane recounts a recent experience pitching to a major corporation:

. . . I got a call from an unnamed corporation, a CEO, let’s call him Chaz, that offered me a new advertising campaign. It was a freezing cold sleety day. My windshield wiper snapped off.

I pulled into the building.  The wind was blowing 50mph. The parking lot was filled with European cars. I went into this boardroom. Even the women at this place were named Chaz, everyone had the same gray suit. I was soaking wet, freezing.

Chaz, the head of the company, said, “I’m so glad you could make it. Our sales tumbled due to the horrific economy. We’d like to rent your brain for three months. You develop our entire ad campaign and we’ll gladly reimburse you if the economy turns around.”

I then pulled an Alec Baldwin from GlenGary Glen Ross.  I said: “Put your blackberries down.”

It was dead silent.

“You are a for-profit corporation.  I do a lot of pro bono work. You all garner really nice salaries. If you all took 20% pay cuts, you could afford me.

“Or:  you could leave everything and come work for me for three months for free, and then, maybe, I’ll pay you. Want to take me up on that offer?”

Dead silence. Corporations who are employing this reptilian strategy need to stop doing this to people in the creative industry because it is disgraceful behavior and they should be ashamed of themselves.”

Kudos! to Keith, for standing up to these Lizardim, and to Shawn Read, for a great interview.

Keith’s account got me wondering:  what prompted Chaz & Co. to consider making such an absurd and insulting suggestion?

They’d hardly go to a restaurant and say, “We’ll have the coquilles Saint Jacques, and if you are so fortunate that they meet with our approval, we may pay you for the meal.”

Perhaps the business world’s increasing reliance on interns is responsible for this assumption that they can get something for nothing.  In a down market, poorly managed businesses develop a kind of myopia; they make decisions with long-term impact on the basis of short-term thinking.  Rather than focus on the profits great creative work will generate over the long term, they fixate on the bottom line for the next quarter.  Rather than hire a professional with significant personal investment in his own and his client’s success, the Chaz’s of the world think:  “We can get an intern to do the same work for free!”

Now, Chaz is subject to no such confusion about value when it comes to his personal financial choices.  You’ll not find him going to the local école de beauté to get a $10 hair cut.  When it comes to what really matters to him — his personal brand — he invests well.

But when it comes to making decisions regarding the corporation that pays him lavishly enough to keep him in Gieves & Hawkes suits & have a standing weekly spa appointment at the Cranwell, for Chaz & Co., cheap trumps quality.  Unlike his personal brand, when it comes to the business he works for, he’ll put the image of his company at risk, at a particularly perilous financial time, entrusting it to those least able to procure decent compensation.

In 5 years, Keith Lane Creative will still be around, and will be pursued with even greater vigor by wise clients who know what talent’s worth.  Chances are, Chaz will have found another comfy rock on which to absorb some warmth and seem almost human.

What won’t be around, however, are corporations that don’t understand there are few business risks more perilous than trusting your company’s image to those with talent so minimal they have to give their work away.

October 27, 2009

Microsoft’s Abandonment of ‘Family Guy’: Smarter Than It Seems?

Filed under: Computing,Entertainment,Television — Laurie Morrow, Ph.D. @ 2:01 pm
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In today’s Ad Age, Michael Learmonth reports that Microsoft has pulled out of their Family Guy promotion deal with Seth MacFarlane.

So, Microsoft was shocked, shocked! to discover that the usual suspects were doing that which they’re famous for doing.

Perhaps they were as surprised as they claim.  Perhaps they were as ignorant of the show as most people assume.

Or, perhaps, not.

Presumably, somewhere in the fine print of the deal, Microsoft’s attorneys will have included a clause to the effect that Microsoft need not pay at all — or will pay only a modest amount — for a work product it deems unusable.

The deal resulted in Microsoft’s enjoying considerable buzz in one of their primary markets — college students – probably at minimal cost, and certainly without offending their main focus, the business market, which would be likely to respond with considerably less enthusiasm to yuks about incest and the disabled than the kegophiles at Kappa Kappa Kappa.

Seth MacFarlane comes out of the deal with, one assumes, considerably less money than he’d anticipated this relationship would produce.  Assuming he wants this work product to produce additional revenue for him, he has a complex editing task ahead of him, excising every mention of Microsoft.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that he’s contemplating adding to all the computers pictured the symbol for a different company – say, “Peachy Computing.”

October 19, 2009

Powerful commercial for Liberty Mutual by Ernie Schenk

A very powerful commercial for Liberty Mutual, by Ernie Schenck Creative.

Our only child is profoundly autistic, and I’m the daughter of a woman who suffered from Alzheimer’s.  So for me, helping financial and legal professionals who do special needs trusts with their advertising, marketing, and communications needs is more than a job:  it’s a calling.

Ernie Schenck’s work here is brilliant and stunning.  He has set the bar high, indeed, for the marketing of financial products that make tragedy manageable.  Thank you for helping people find solutions to impossible problems.

October 16, 2009

In-Your-Face Facebook Advertising

Filed under: Uncategorized — Laurie Morrow, Ph.D. @ 5:12 pm
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Just how many times must I mark an ad on my Facebook page “offensive” or “misleading,” before Facebook stops posting it on my home page?

When I first started using Facebook, I was impressed by their apparent embrace of “permission advertising.”  Facebook appeared to understand the “What I Want, When I Want It” nature of 21st-century marketing.  Each advertisement on my home page solicited my approval or disapproval of the ad.  If you indicate you dislike an ad, they even provide an easy-to-use checklist of objections, so that the user can offer specific feedback as to the problem – that one found the ad offensive, or misleading, or repetitive, or irrelevant, etc.  It seemed they were trying to put match the ads on Facebook users’ home pages with the individual preferences of the users.

I thought this showed great good sense in marketing, that somebody at Facebook was reading their Seth Godin—until, that is, I sent in a negative response regarding an ad campaign I considered misleading.

I followed FB procedure, indicating the ad was “misleading.”  The ad immediately disappeared — and was replaced a few seconds later by a nearly identical ad for the same company.  The content of the ad, which was the problem, was unchanged; what did change were the colors and the font.  It took 3 reports until the ad disappeared.  But a few hours later that day, when I returned to my Facebook page, the ad I thought I was rid of had returned.   I did another “Dislike” report, and was again subjected to the same cosmetic, not substantive, changes.  Perhaps, I thought, it just took a day or two for Facebook to catch up with these reports.

A couple of days later I logged on again.  Like Freddy Kreuger, the ad again arose before me. I upped the ante, now labeling this ad “offensive.” I repeated the reporting procedure the rest of that week.  And the next week.   Still now, months later, despite my consistently and repeatedly reporting I find these ads misleading and offensive, they appear every day on my home page.

This experience has significantly altered my opinion of the company doing the advertising.  They had a clever TV ad I used to enjoy.   Now, I loathe this company.  I long to read that they are in bankruptcy proceedings.  If Facebook ran ads for VooDoo dolls bearing this company’s logo, I’d buy a case of them.

Had this company simply posted their ads, with no feedback mechanism, I would’ve glanced at their advertisements, vaguely disliked them, and not thought about them again.

What stokes my anger is the pretense that my opinion matters, that I have some sort of influence over which ads are presented to me.  I apparently have as much influence over the ads on my Facebook page as I do over who tucks a flyer under my windshield wiper.

When a new pizzeria in town does this, I don’t mind.  It’s the best they can do with the tools they have.  If it’s a nicely done flyer, I’ll probably even order a couple of pizzas.

But Facebook’s advertisers can, and should, do better.  Advertising that solicits, then ignores, individual consumer preferences does no one any good.

October 1, 2009

Sesame Street Parody of MadMen

Filed under: Television — Laurie Morrow, Ph.D. @ 11:33 pm
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Tip o’ the fedora to Agency Spy, for this charming Sesame Street parody of the AMC television series Mad Men.

September 30, 2009

Color Me Granny-Apple Green: Cider Jack Campaign by Nail Communications

Filed under: Uncategorized — Laurie Morrow, Ph.D. @ 6:55 pm
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Once again, Nail‘s nailed it.

The Ad Club of Boston posted a photo of Cider Jack, Nail’s Hatch Award submission.   This is stellar work.

The graphics on both the bottle and the carton are stunning.  The color palette and the font are evocative of 19th century advertising, yet contemposophisticated.  And the product name is perfect, too.

This is branding at its best.  Color me Granny-Apple green with envy.

September 16, 2009

An E-Z way to sell La-Z-Boys

Filed under: Furniture,Uncategorized — Laurie Morrow, Ph.D. @ 10:40 pm
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While driving through a small town in Vermont this afternoon, I noticed a furniture store was advertising its sale on La-Z-Boys by having a young man stand at one of the main intersections holding a sign.

The sign caught my eye for a moment, because it was the size and shape of a union picket sign, and because it was red.  This effort did succeed in catching my attention — for a moment.

But this store missed a great opportunity to communicate the merits of the product they’re trying to sell.

Rather that make the poor kid stand there all afternoon waving a sign, the store should’ve put one of the chairs down on the sidewalk, and put the SALE! sign on an easel beside him, or attached signs to the sides and back of the chair, or have him hold it on his lap.

In some towns, this wouldn’t work, but where he was standing, there’s plenty of room to do this.  The hardware store down the street, for example, puts large barbecue grills and other cumbersome objects outside.

Sitting comfortably in a La-Z-Boy,  the young man would have attracted even more attention, and would have reminded those passing what a lovely thing a La-Z-Boy is to come home to.

September 15, 2009

TDA’s Great Cloudveil Campaign: Nothing to Feel Sorry About

Filed under: Clothing — Laurie Morrow, Ph.D. @ 7:47 pm
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Kudos! to Boulder, Colorado’s TDA Advertising and Design, for a charming and innovative new ad campaign based on the apology.

TDA adapted the idea of the “apology gift,” for a print and online campaign for Cloudveil Mountain Works, a manufacturer of fine clothing for people serious about outdoor sports.  TDA’s ads consist of suggestions for gifts to give a loved one whom a Cloudveil customer forgot about because they were having too good a time outdoors, wearing Cloudveil gear.

The basic concept is plenty clever.  But Cloudveil takes the joke brilliantly further:  rather than just suggest funny, generic gifts, the ads feature actual gifts one can purchase from actual companies, such as Zazzle and 1-800-FLOWERS, with live links enabling one to actually buy these gifts from Cloudveil’s website.  This is charming, funny, totally brilliant stuff that reinvents the concept of cross-promotion.

TDA, better dust off a shelf:  if there’s any justice in Advertisingland, this one’s going to win some awards.

I’m just really, really sorry I didn’t think of this great idea first.  Congratulations, team TDA!

September 14, 2009

GM’s New Ad Strategy: Remember how awful our cars were?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Laurie Morrow, Ph.D. @ 5:31 pm
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Just when you’re hoping GM might be able to pull a brash, new, vigorous rabbit out of its marketing hat, the illusion dissipates in a puff of tailpipe smoke with a new GM commercial featuring GM Chairman Ed Whitacre. Rather than let Creative show us how fast and fun and splendid a product GM produces, Mr. Whitacre holds a walking meeting with us, during which he reminds us of our doubts about GM products; tells us he has shared those doubts; and then, at a time in which any promise from a corporate leader is apt to generate a universe of eye-rolling, assures us that GM will take the car back, if it turns out to be the same old crap we’re afraid it is (though he doesn’t quite put it that way).  It’s really stunning:  a commercial which, in its final moments, prompts potential purchasers to recall why they’ve been avoiding buying the product.

Remember how bad our cars were?  Me, too!  But now that I run the company, I don’t think they’re so bad.  Actually, they’re pretty good.  And if they are awful, we’ll take them back. This is great advertising strategy for GM?  I bet they think so, over at Ford.

The message GM should be conveying — by showing us, not telling us — is that GM makes hot, gorgeous cars that are safe, reliable, and fun.   And while having ads that are unique can be a good thing, right now GM needs to produce ads that are as similar as possible in style and format to their competitors’ ads, so that their ads subliminally convey that GM cars are the competitive equals of other companies’ products.  You don’t see the head of Ford or Hyundai taking a meeting with the audience to assure them the product isn’t bad.  The problem isn’t Mr. Whitacre’s fault, but the concept of the commercial, which  almost inevitably had to result in a backward-looking, defensive message.

On the plus side — at least GM isn’t guilty of making that deeply creepy Prius commercial, in which human beings are reduced to anonymous plants in the landscape.

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