Friday, February 11, 2011

A tasty use for Twitter

200 million people are on Twitter, but it's hardly a mass medium. It's a great way to send messages to your friends a few followers, very few marketers, however, have figured out how to use it to sell products to the general public.

Unless your hungry for Tacos in Texas.

In a creative combination of two relatively new technologies, Stripes Convenience Stores is reposting tweets onto digital billboards around lunch and dinner time, letting people share their love of tacos to a wider audience than just their followers.

While the design of the board isn't very good and the Tweets aren't incredibly creative, it's a nice way to bring the immediacy of social media to outdoor and have real people endorse the product at the most appropriate time.

Earth shattering? No. Smart? Definitely.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A brief history of the future of books

If I could see into the future (which clearly I can't because I would have invested in Apple and Tesla instead of Motorola and GM), it would seem to me the publishing industry is going to look a little different in a few years than it does today.

While some are swimming against the tide of digitalization of the written word, as is witnessed by the Portland area bookstore that will trade you real books for your Kindle and prides itself on low cost titles, it won't be long until the bulk of our reading material is distributed digitally.

How do I know this? Because it has happened before.

Just look at the music industry. It wasn't long ago that vinyl ruled the day. From the start of recorded music until the late '60s the only option was stax of wax. Then cassette tapes started showing up making it easier for people to take their music with them. This accelerated with the advent of compact discs, and when Napster and iTunes showed up, it was all over but the shouting. Almost.

You see there's a booming niche business out there in old school music technology. Some people still so value the vinyl experience that they're willing to pay significantly more than ever for turntables, records and other paraphernalia.

So what does this mean for books, magazines and newspapers?

Because the production and distribution systems for e-readers are so much more efficient than traditional printing, most people will shift from paper to pixels assuming those efficiencies significantly lower the price. But those who crave the experience of ink on paper will pay more and businesses that cater to those bibliophiles will create ever more interesting and special environments and products.

So Borders attempt to reinvent itself as a mass market bookseller will ultimately fail. If Barnes & Noble survives it will look much different than it does today. And the independent bookstores, rather than joining the race to the bottom, will find new life by catering to a small, passionate cadre of customers who are willing to pay a little more for their increasingly rare beloved tomes.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Saving Groupon

It didn't take long for the parodies to begin. And as usual Conan is brilliant. (Sorry for the pre-roll ads, but aparently Team Coco has to eat).

How does Groupon recover from this mess?

First, pull all the ads.

Second, don't explain. Apologize.

Third, take the $10 million or so you spent on production and media and commit it to doing good works. Not a big grand gesture like a multi-million dollar donation to each of the causes you insulted, but a community-based, grass-roots effort that will rebuild your trust with the people who matter most, your customers.

Every Friday, would be "Groupon Gives" day, and feature a local non-profit in every area that Groupon does business. People can donate to the non-profit and Groupon matches the donation. Also create a mechanism for people to connect and volunteer with the non-profits if they so choose.

Groupon tried and failed to tell people how committed they are to serving the greater good. They need to do something that demonstrates it.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Groupon Controversy

I am one of the many who thought the Groupon ad making fun of Tibet was not a very smart move.

Groupon is doing their best to spin this fiasco. They've been talking ad nauseam about the fact that if you go to the site you can donate to great causes. Hmmm, you think they might have wanted to mention that in say... THEIR ADVERTISING!

And now the Chairman of MDC, parent company of Crispin & Porter, the perpetrators of this fiasco, is touting the fact that 50,000 people signed up for Groupon yesterday after the Super Bowl.

It's math time, kiddos.

50,000 is .00045% of the 111,000,000 who watched the game. That response rate is atrocious. It's worse than direct mail, worse than web banners, worse even than the dreaded telemarketing.

This "creative" was designed to generate controversy and stroke the egos of its originators. It was not, apparently, designed to drive sales.

If Groupon had just put up this...

... for 30 seconds, they would have received millions of subscribers. Yes, they would still be ridiculed for being boring and uncreative, but at least they'd have a significant number of new customers for the millions of dollars they were counseled to spend.

What they got instead were a handful of new customers and others like me who hit unsubscribe when the latest Groupon email arrived yesterday morning.

This ad wasn't just bad, it was advertising malpractice. The charlatans at Crispin should do the right thing and give Groupon their money back.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Big (Ad) Game

There's joy in Cheeseland this morning thanks to the Packers' win over the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV. I only wish there were as much joy in Adland.

What turned out to be a great football game that kept its viewership in front of the set right up until the final seconds didn't deliver the same kind of thrills during the commercials breaks. Sure, there were some high points. But there were very few standouts and some major thuds.

Some overall comments and then on to my favorite spot from the night.

Apparently, it's not the Super Bowl unless...
  • We see women dressed in tight black tank tops hawking domain names
  • Someone gets hit in the groin
  • The joke is completely irrelevant to the product being advertised
  • An animal takes revenge on a stupid, cruel human
  • Some advertiser thinks spectacular special effects will fool people into thinking their product isn't incredibly ordinary
  • We see Ozzy
  • We're subjected to a dizzying array of movie trailers
  • At least four advertisers cross pretty well defined lines (for the record there's nothing funny about shaken baby syndrome, people who have been oppressed for years by a totalitarian neighbor, "Cram it in the Boot," and Roseanne)
  • Sexual double-entendres rule the day
As bad as most of the spots were (I'm looking at you Crispin and Goodby) there was one bright spot, and if you've been reading this blog you'll know that no one is more surprised than I am about its origin. 

Chrysler scored big with its two-minute epic for the 200.

Unlike most "Detroit" spots that apologize for the city's past, this one embraces it and uses it to make its point. The cinematography exquisitely captures not just the decay, but also the incredible beauty, art and passion that can be found in the Motor City. The message is simple, clear and compelling. The copy is evocative without being overwrought. The car actually looks good. And the celebrity cameo is relevant. 

If a the purpose of advertising is to make people sit up and take notice, to reevaluate one's perception of a brand, then this one did more for its sponsor than all the disjointed Chevy spots, Audi's inexplicably inane luxury prison break and Ford's gimmicky Focus Rally, combined.

Nicely done Chrysler. Well played Wieden. Lets hope this is the start of a new and more interesting chapter for the brand.

Honorable Mentions
The best of the rest? 

VW's "The Force" featuring a mini Darth Vader was funny, but the 60 second version is much, much better. 
Carmax "Gas Station" was a nice demonstration of customer service as a differentiator.
Bridgestone's "Beaver" spot was a nice twist on an old story.
And finally, Fox's promo department nailed it with this spot.