Friday, February 3, 2012

Are you ready for some advertising?

This weekend marks the 28th Ad-gasm. Also known as the Super Bowl.

"But," I can hear you saying, "this is Super Bowl XLVI?"

While the football portion of the big game has been around since 1967, the Super Ad Bowl didn't officially start until 1984, when Apple ran its paean to George Orwell.

So this weekend you'll see corporate and ad agency egos on display on the largest ad stage all competing for your attention.

And that's the problem with most Super Bowl spots. They're more focused on getting attention than building the brand or driving sales.

In advertising's form of "teaching to the test" most commercials are created to satisfy the one-dimensional criterion of the USA Today Admeter, where animals, men getting hit in the groin, and scantily clad buxom babes are celebrated.

Even last year's third place finisher, VW's cute "Darth Vader" spot, had very little to do with the Volkswagen brand. It was a generic spot in which you could have substituted any car and received the same result.

Contrast that with Chrysler's fantastically effective "Imported From Detroit" which finished forty-third...

...behind these – ahem – stellar efforts from Groupon, Doritos, and Kia.

So I'll be watching again this year, hoping for both a good game and better spots. I think the Patriots and Giants will deliver.

We'll see about the Ad Industry.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Right. Now.

The pace of work is accelerating thanks to all the cool new tools we have at our disposal, the democratization of information and our ability to communicate with an ever expanding audience in an instant.

We can develop videos, ads and other messages in hours or minutes, instead of the weeks it used to take.

We can distribute them with the push of a button to millions of people via Twitter, Youtube, Facebook and other media.

But there's something more important than being fast in this era of instant communication – being right.

Just ask the folks at Blackberry, McDonald's and Qantas

Before you launch that next Social Media campaign, think about everything that can go wrong and plan for it before you push send.

Because you can't just be right now. 

You have to be right right now.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

That's all you got?

Lexus released its Super Bowl ad yesterday and all I can say is, "meh."

There's so much wrong with this spot, I almost don't know where to begin. So let's just start with the fact that it's on the Super Bowl.

I know other luxury manufacturers are there, but other than ego, is there really a reason for niche products to advertise on the only mass media event left on television? There's enough waste in this $4,000,000 buy that it makes a Real Housewives' shopping spree look thrifty.

Then there's the concept. Seen it. Over and over and over and over again. There's absolutely nothing surprising here. What's behind that steel door? Oh, a car. And not just any car, it's a souped up Camry. Oooooh.

The art direction is okay if you liked the lab scene in Jurassic Park.

They should have saved a couple of million bucks, cut their time in half and run their teaser.

At least there is a little intrigue at the end of this version. Maybe, just maybe people would have gone to the web or even visited a dealership to see what was behind the door.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Welcome back

Funny thing about branding. Unless you keep reminding people who you are, what you do and why you're worth the price, they tend to forget about you – no matter how big you are.

That's what Pepsi is finding out after underspending on marketing for the past decade.

Pepsi's market share peaked in 2004 has slowly slid to under 10% for their flagship brand. Yes, there are a lot of things working against Pepsi – health and diet trends, new competition, an aging population – but none of those are any real excuse. During those same years Coke's volume grew and their share increased to 17%.

What did Coke do right? Invest in good old fashioned advertising. They spent over $3 billion with a "b" last year, while Pepsi invested less than $2 billion.

While the wizards of Westchester were cutting budgets and chasing every shiny new marketing trend, Coke kept pounding away, sponsoring American Idol, buying Super Bowl spots, maintaining a very high profile and supporting it with great retail promotion.

This isn't rocket science. It's sugar water. It's not something people think a lot about. It's not something they want to engage with. They want to buy it, drink it, enjoy it and feel refreshed. Simple.

It's hard to admit your wrong. Even harder when that decision has cost you tens of millions of dollars or more in sales. But even worse than admitting your wrong is going down the same path and watching your business disappear. So Pepsi is expected to add $500 million dollars to its marketing budget this year.

Let's hope they've seen the light in time.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Throwing the brand out with the bathwater

The folks at Priceline and their ad agency either have balls the size of Jupiter or the mental capacity of rock salt.

After 14 years of building one of the most successful travel brands around William Shatner and his character, "The Negotiator," they're throwing him off a bridge and moving on to a new campaign.

Creating iconic advertising that is both memorable and effective is hard. And while associating your brand with a single celebrity is fraught with peril – as many of Tiger Woods' sponsors found out – Priceline and Shatner have had one of the rarest and most successful brand/spokesperson relationships in recent memory.

It's not as if the campaign was losing steam. The spots have still been fun and entertaining and Priceline continues to grow. Just last quarter their revenue increased 45% over the previous year's.

So why would they do this?

Priceline is expanding their product beyond just name your own price, to pre-negotiated deals with over 200,000 hotels, and they feel "The Negotiator" will limit their ability to get this message out.

I'd suggest that a greater danger lies ahead: Priceline will not be able to come up with a campaign that either stands out or has the staying power of the current campaign featuring Shatner. In trying to broaden their message, they may just lose their voice.

Think of the great spokesperson campaigns in recent memory – Cosby for Jello, Jordan for Nike, Dave Thomas for Wendy's – what came after?

Only in the case of Nike has the subsequent campaign been able to maintain the level of consistency and awareness. That's only because Nike built Jordan's image on the idea of "Just Do It," a broader campaign idea that supports all of their efforts. Priceline has no such platform.

My guess is that the marketing executives at Priceline, much like Pamela Ewing, will wake up from a year from now to find William Shatner's character in the shower, ready to go for another season. And this will all have been just a bad dream.