Tag Archives: ads

super bowl™ ads, through the eyes of students.

The Super Bowl™ presents an excellent opportunity for people, like me, who teach advertising to tie it to key lessons. And, as often happens in classes, I learned almost as much from what students thought were effective ads.

For Broadcasting 328: Media Advertising, I’ve asked all my students to sign up for Twitter (the subject of a future blog post) and each session includes a less-than-140-character homework assignment. This one: Tweet about an ad you thought was effective and mark it with a #brc328 tag.

So while USA Today had its ever-popular AdMeter ratings, the Web was all a-twitter over various commercials and every pundit had their take, the students provided a different view (in a much-sought-after demographic, no less). I learned the three most important things to them were 1) humor, 2) great visuals, 3) a memorable idea. Most popular campaigns with them were:

1. Bud Light/Budweiser. Biggest buzz surrounded the Bud Light House. Clearly, it represents fantasy fulfillment, but it made people laugh, provided a concrete visual and was a clever execution. Moreover, the product was not only the hero, but dominated the screen. They also liked the Lost parody and the T-Pain/autotune spot — both using humor and playing on popular culture. What all ads had in common: They equated Bud Light with partying and fun. The Budweiser bridge spot also proved popular because of its visual impact. I continue to maintain that it’s unclear whether Budweiser gains market share for the outlay, but if college students are impressed and remember the product, that says something.

2. Doritos. One student explained the simple brilliance of the Playing Nice ad: When the child tells his mother’s suitor: Keep your hands off my momma. Keep your hands off my Doritos, it pretty clearly sets the priorities in his world. Hyperbole? Sure. But it makes its point succinctly. The snappy execution of Dog Collar and the (weird, imho) Tim’s Locker/Samurai spots also scored.

3. Denny’s. When’s the last time anyone even talked about Denny’s? Yet the screaming chicken ads, while potentially annoying, sure captured attention. One student shrewdly noted it highlighted special offers for Free Grand Slam Day and free Grand Slam on your birthday. Simple idea — everyone will want Denny’s breakfasts, so chickens have to work harder — that came across loud and clear.

Other thoughts:

Surprising revelation: Many pundits wrote off the Boost Mobile ad because they assumed using the 1985 Chicago Bears couldn’t sell to young adults. Big disconnect, right? Wrong. Every student in my class claims to know the Super Bowl™ Shuffle, perhaps because of how we recycle pop culture. Thus we know what happens when we assume …

Betty White scores: The Snickers ad earned the most positive buzz among people I follow on Twitter (and topped AdMeter ratings), plus the students loved it too. They may not have known who Abe Vigoda was, but they all knew Betty White from Golden Girls. And once you got past the shock of White being creamed in a backyard football game, you got the concept: Snickers picks you up.

Where’s the outrage?: The young women weren’t terribly offended by the Dodge Charger ad, even though it seemed the most excoriated spot on Twitter. Some saw the overstatement and shrugged it off; others didn’t find it any more offensive than the other messages that regularly bombard us.

My personal favorite?: The Google ad. Why Google would need to advertise (imho: to counter Bing) is a fair question, but in terms of simple storytelling and demonstrating the product’s effectiveness, I loved it. A tale of boy meets girl, with some cool music, the brand as hero and a bit of humor. It won’t affect my use of Google, but as standalone branding, I found it just about pitch-perfect.

So you have the opinions of a couple dozen college students and an older dude who works in communication. What did you think? And will you think of any of these observations next time you try to market to students?


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super bowl ads? the timmy goes to …

When I taught advertising in spring semesters, I would assign the class to watch at least part of the Super Bowl™ and come prepared with a commercial to discuss. Since I’m writing a book instead of teaching that class right now, I wasn’t quite as into it as previously. But then I wasn’t alone. NBC managed to find almost no takers at the $3 million per spot it wanted and struggled to fill the slots even at lower prices. And the resulting ads were more satisfactory than sizzling.

The closest thing to An Event, adwise, was a 3D break just after the first half. And while the promo for Aliens vs. Monsters was just decent, the 3D ad for Sobe was chaotic, unfocused and did nothing for the product. After that FAIL, I muttered: There’s several million dollars they’ll never get back.

The economy generally kept the lid on anything too crazy, the opposite of the year in the Go-Go ’90s that Web domains piled money on elaborate commercials that told us nothing about their soon-to-go-bust products. So I’m left to try to make some sense of the ads, which brings us to the first-ever Timmy Awards.

Best Impact Ad: The Pedigree adoption program. Very funny setup by showing us how bad a rhinoceros, ostrich or warthog would make as pets, then pulling at our heartstrings with the adoption angle. This is what advertising should be.
Best Advertising Two-Fer: Bridgestone Tires scored twice with first Mr. and Mr. Potatohead then the Moon Lander spot. Funny and remembered to sell a product. (Is this too much to ask?)
Most Stylish Ad: Audi’s Progress is Beautiful spot with action star Jason Statham grabbing a succession of vehicles, finally an Audi A6, for a series of getaways. Over the top and excessive, yet breathtaking and driving home a branding point.
Funniest Moment in a Creepy Ad: The new baby singing Mr. Mister’s “Broken Wings” in the eTrade spot. It will get old the second time, but at least it drew fleeting attention.
Most Compelling Movie Promo: The new Star Trek, though I have a bias knowing the excellent Simon Pegg is playing Scotty.
Career in the Toilet Movie Promo: Vin Diesel’s back for Fast and Furious 4? Maybe he had to do something until Babysitter 2 got the green light.
Best of NBC’s 3972 Self-Promos: The Office. No contest. Almost every other spot told us some really very extra special episode of some NBC show was airing soon, a technique that got old back in the 1980s.
Most Inside Joke Ad: The Pepsi commercial using SNL’s MacGruder likely hit home with fans of the MacGuyver spoof. Since most viewers had no idea what was going on, the poor execution left many people saying huh?
Too Much of a Good Thing Award: Budweiser showed us that one Clydesdale ad during a Super Bowl™ is usually memorable, but three are probably too much. Know when to say when!
Best Setup for Least Payoff: In presenting the story of a exceptionally confident man since birth who nonetheless fears buying vehicles, cars.com built up to a mediocre conclusion.
What are You Selling? Ignoble Award: So GoDaddy is sending viewers to its site for softcore porn now? That seems to be the takeaway, certainly not their product.

There may have been more ads worth noting, but to be honest, it was all quite unmemorable. Thoughts?


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tackling dummies.

On the eve of the Super Bowl™, the annual showcase where advertisers pay just under $3 million per 30-second spot, some group called Common Sense Media announced it somehow logged more than 5,000 ads during 50 NFL games this season and came to a shocking conclusion. I hope you’re sitting down for it.

Here goes: Ads during football games feature lots of sex, violence and alcohol. Should I get the smelling salts?

Are you shocked *SHOCKED*? Not so much? As an advertising professor, I know there are a lot of bad commercials — in strategy and execution, as well as content. But since football games are the most likely programs holding the attention of the young male viewers advertisers covet, why shouldn’t we expect ad agencies chase the lowest common denominator?

The study found erectile dysfunction ads appeared on 40 percent of games and that 46.5 percent of what the group deemed sexual or violent spots — although we don’t know their judging criteria — were network promos for their own shows (CSI: Jacksonville, Law & Order Titillating Crime Unit, etc.). Again, not surprising.

But wait, let’s check those statistics again. The CSM screams that at least one ad during half the commercial breaks contain the above content. OK, most stopsets are four ads, so that’s 1,250 breaks. Half the breaks are 625. Estimating high, let’s say 1.25 ads per break have this kind of content, and round it up to 800. That’s about 16 percent of all commercials which is … not headline-grabbing. And if 46.5 of those are network promos, that means about 8.6 percent [428] would be buyer content CSM finds offensive.

Let’s be serious though: Have you seen the TV programs themselves? Do you think more than 16 percent of prime-time network shows feature violence, sex or alcohol/drugs? Sure. More than 16 percent, I’d say. Just like the football games themselves feature violent collisions, scantily clad cheerleaders and huge beer banners and/or shots of fans consuming alcohol.

What really offends me is this quote from CSM founder and CEO James Steyer (a Stanford law professor), who says he’s talked to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, then adds: We’re starting with the NFL but trust me, we’ll ask our friends at the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission and in Congress to look at the other leagues if they don’t clean up their act.

Um … what? The use of my tax dollars to enforce someone’s standards of decency notwithstanding, Steyer misses the phallic-shaped boat on this one: Who sells advertising? Whose promos represented 46.5 of their naughty content? The TV networks. So why the CSM is pilloring sports leagues — who have less control over advertising content than the networks who sell commercial time — seems fishy.

Or maybe they just know how to find a lazy media horde looking for any football-related news peg. Waving a sports-seeming story about sex and violence in front of reporters on Super Bowl™ week is as sure to get a Pavlovian response as flashing images of half-naked women in front of an amped-up football fan.


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top 3 advertising FAILs of 2008.

Teaching advertising the past few years means always looking out for good and bad examples to show the class. I tell them that much of the advertising out there is garbage and shouldn’t be automatically seen as examples. So just my luck that I went on teaching leave this semester to write a book, and three of the biggest advertising FAILs come down the pipeline as potential teachable moments.

Here, without further ado, are the top (bottom?) 3 advertising FAILs of 2008:

3. Revenge of the Motrin Moms. It probably seemed clever at the time, an online Motrin ad poking fun at the trend of women wearing babies in a sling and promoting the pain reliever. Many concerned mothers, however, were not amused. So they mobilized on blogs and Twitter, rallying under a #MotrinMoms hashtag, some calling for a boycott of Motrin and parent Johnson & Johnson. The company tried to end the pain with a prominent apology on its home page — a contrite use of prominent real estate — and bore the brunt of such a public pillorying.

Losers: Motrin, Johnson & Johnson. Winner: Twitter, receiving its breakout moment.

2. What Claus Is This? In the 1990s, McDonald’s tried to rebrand Ronald McDonald as all grown up to promote its new Arch Deluxe sandwich. The campaign and sandwich both bombed. Not learning history’s lessons, the new AT&T Palm Centro campaign does McD’s one worse by trying to rebrand Santa Claus as Claus, a would-be urban/urbane hipster whose life is transformed by the use of the poor man’s iPhone.

Besides the ads being embarrassingly bad, the campaign violates two tenets. First, you don’t try to rebrand an icon during an economic downturn; with banks failing and automakers looking for a public bailout, familiar and comfortable icons and institutions retain the highest value. Secondly, you DO NOT try to rebrand Santa Claus. We’ve come to accept him as a benevolent and oddly omniscient old man, not a tech-obsessed wank.

Losers: AT&T, Santa Claus, the ghost of Norman Rockwell. Winners: None.

1. Microsoft’s $100 million campaign about nothing. The buzz was Microsoft had corralled Jerry Seinfeld to launch a $100 million campaign to answer Apple’s simple but stupendously successful Hello, I’m A Mac campaign. Then the first ad came out, with Seinfeld and Bill Gates chatting in a shoe store, to a collective Huh? A second literally forgettable ad, featuring the duo as not-quite-invited houseguests or something, followed briefly. Then Seinfeld unceremoniously disappeared, replaced by a series of people you wouldn’t invite over for dinner saying I’m A PC and explaining what they did with their computers. That was apparently supplanted with too-little too-late gee-whiz paeans to Microsoft Vista/Mojave/Arch Deluxe.

Ultimately this failed on every advertising level: Neither the strategy, nor the execution, nor the branding statement were consistent or effective. The abrupt shift from the slick Seinfeld-Gates ads about nothing to DIY user testimonials was so jarring, it’s hard to even see this as one well-planned campaign. Meanwhile, the Hello I’m A Mac campaign keeps chugging along with a clear strategy, execution and branding statement.

Losers: Microsoft, Bill Gates, Jerry Seinfeld’s pitchman credentials, viewers. Winners: Microsoft haters, Apple.


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