Friday, January 14, 2011

Celebrities are not a substitute for ideas

Recently Ace Metrix, a company that measures the effectiveness of advertising for profit, and apparently fun, released a study (download the study here) concluding that most ads featuring celebrities perform poorly when compared to ads without them.

Here are some of the reasons why these ads don't work according to the study.

The celebrity confuses the message.
Lance Armstrong doesn't really have a lot to do with Radio Shack and the spot hasn't done a great job of connecting him to the premise or the brand.

The celebrity is polarizing or actively disliked.
Tiger Woods, Brett Favre, Snookie, Rod Blagojevich, Sarah Jessica Parker, The Donald. The list is endless and obvious. Why would I buy from any of these people?

The ad is boring.
Just because you put a celebrity in an ad, doesn't make it interesting. The cosmetics industry is especially guilty of this. 

That's not to say that celebrities never work. 

The Betty White spot for Snickers scored highly. As does Troy Polamalu for Head and Shoulders. These commercials don't use celebrities as a substitute for the idea, they are integral to the idea. That's why they work. They're relevant. They're memorable. And they make a real point about the product.

Something all good advertising is supposed to do.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Be remarkable

Jonathan Klinger is my hero.

Well, maybe not hero, but he's definitely doing something very cool.

Since October 13th of last year he's been using a 1930 Ford Model A as his only and everyday car. You can read about it on his blog, 365 Days of A.

I discovered his lunacy through a story in the New York Times that talked about his journey from Traverse City, Michigan to Detroit to visit the North American International Auto Show, a round-trip of about 540 miles.

Klinger isn't just an classic car nut and an engineer (something that comes in handy in order to keep the car running) he's also a PR manager for Hagerty Insurance, a company that specializes in providing coverage for classic and collectible cars.

Clearly he's doing his job well.

Now I'm not sure whether this is a publicity stunt funded by Hagerty – the article in the Times quotes Klinger as saying his boss dared him to do it – or if he's doing it out of passion and his company is getting thousands of dollars of incredibly relevant publicity due to his efforts. Either way it just shows that when you do something extraordinary it gets noticed.

And that, my friends, is the first job of marketing.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Commercials are history

Today, the Museum of Broadcast Communications is launching a new section of its website.

Headlined, "We'll be right back, 60 Years of Television Commercials," it's a wonderful collection of spots and a interesting look at the evolution of television advertising. It's not incredibly comprehensive but the spots they included are all memorable and contributed to the pop culture landscape.

Today's television advertising is a far cry from the quaint images from the earliest efforts of the forefathers of my profession, but this collection reminds us that all great advertising is great storytelling, with memorable visuals and incredibly well crafted copy hooks.

If nothing else, it's a wonderful time waster. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Battle tested

Last night's Tostito's Fiesta Bowl wasn't just a clash between Auburn and Oregon. Two heavyweights in the sports apparel business were on the undercard: Nike and Under Armour.

How did a company that wasn't even around 15 years ago find itself going head to head with Nike in the biggest college football game of the year? 

It's an interesting story and one that's not too dissimilar from Nike's.

Kevin Plank, a University of Maryland football player, hated changing undershirts throughout practice as they became sweat soaked and wondered why his undershirts couldn't be made of moisture wicking fabric like his shorts. The answer, of course, was they could. So he started Under Armour in his basement and marketed the product by word of mouth.

Phil Knight was a middle distance runner for University of Oregon and was frustrated that he couldn't find shoes specifically designed for his sport. So he made Nike shoes with waffle soles specifically for  his needs and sold them out of the trunk of his car at track meets.

Both started with a simple insight, began as a single functional product and grew through a disciplined approach, moving into categories where there was less competition from the big player in the market. After track, Nike took on baseball, a niche market for Adidas.

When Under Armour wanted to get into the shoe business, they tackled football, leveraging their equity into a relatively small segment of the business but one in which they could provide a unique product and create a profitable business.

The recipe is pretty simple. Mix passion with insight, add a healthy dose of strategy, be prepared to eat ramen for a few years while you build your business and you too can build a major international brand.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Where is Dr. Doolittle when you need him?

Advertising claims are a tricky business. Figuring out just the right claim to demonstrate your products superiority and proving it are not always easy. Many a lawsuit has been waged when one company believes another has cooked the books to create some bogus claim. And now into the breach comes kitty litter.

It seems that the folks at Church & Dwight have taken offense to Clorox's claim that cats prefer Fresh Step cat litter to Arm & Hammer brand. The key component of their argument? Cats can't talk so there's know way to know which they prefer. Fair enough.

As one who's spent hundreds of hours in focus groups trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to figure out what humans prefer, I can't imagine trying to see what cats prefer. I'm sure there's some behavioral study somewhere that Fresh Step will trot out, but in the end, does it really matter. Do cat owners really care what their cats prefer when it comes to cat litter? Or do they really want it to take care of the odors and make it easy to scoop?

I'd bet the latter and this little cat fight is just a waste of time and money.