Monthly Archives: May 2008

Honda flies in face of reality

Speaking of planes, here’s how Honda attempts to get consumers to actually watch a TV commercial. This spot aired live in Britain last night, showing a team of skydivers spelling out H-O-N-D-A as they plunge to earth. Incredibly silly … and yet we watched the whole thing.

Honda and agency Wieden & Kennedy London get bonus points for airing the backstory on a blog and for a clever series of teaser spots that were unbranded, hinting at the upcoming jump. With 1 in 4 homes now possessing DVRs that can skip commercials, gritty realism is still worth a look.

60 seconds til landing

Photographer David Friedman has created a wonderful series of “60 seconds in the life of …” vignettes, by isolating subjects and filming them from unusual angles. It’s a nice, quiet reflection on how to really observe the world around us. Friedman is a former staff photographer for Ralph Lauren and we hear he once snuck on Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit during a photo shoot, when no one was looking. Nice.

As noted by Andy.

Dammit, Advergirl. We’ll never wear black socks again.

Are you about to meet with an agency team? Advergirl, aka Leigh Householder, advises you to size up ad agency personae by the types of socks they wear. Brilliant! For example, here is how she suggests you judge an agency sort who wears black socks.

Chances are you’re talking to the new biz guy. Used to spending his day traveling from one cliché corporate headquarters to another, he’s mastered the skill of the chameleon – blending in to his environs as if he had been there all along. Save the snazzy socks for those arty guys.

But, there’s a chance, too, that you’re dealing with the most treacherous kind of ad guy: the irrelevant middle manager who doesn’t yet know he’s irrelevant. This guy had a good year. An incredible year. A year that has made the agency loyal to him. Sadly, that year was over a decade ago. And since then, things have been … well, slow and sometimes, frankly, embarrassing. But, like the aging athlete who once won the big game in high school, this guy still believes he’s in the glory years. Align with him and take on all his gossipy baggage as your very own.

To tell the difference between these basic blacks, check the shoes. The new biz guy’s will be plain and shiny. The irrelevant middle manager, genuinely bad. Possibly even striking a jarring and unpleasant contrast to his pants.

We’re pleased to see our horizontal stripes make us the closer and strategist. Or, perhaps just a narcissist with funny-looking feet.

(Photo: Twenty Questions)

Porn’s unintended consequences

Ever think of the adverse impact of your marketing? Porn offers insight. Really.

Economist Daniel Hamermesh notes that a California assemblyman has proposed a 25% tax on pornography — at first, a seemingly good way to raise money for state coffers until one follows the logical consequences downstream.

I don’t expect sales to be reduced much if porn prices rise …
Hamermesh says. But demand is only one side of the market: A tax only in California gives producers an incentive to move their operations elsewhere. And that could create a net loss in revenue for the state.

Ah, unintended consequences. This plays out in marketing when an incentive designed to spur demand or change behavior ends up doing something else. Back in the 1960s, for example, the state of Vermont banned billboards to beautify the landscape … which led to a rash of bizarre, giant roadside sculptures designed to attract attention to businesses. Marketing offers, coupons, discounts, and loyalty programs can all backfire if you are really guiding customers to do the wrong thing.

So when stimulating demand, think about porn. If you push too hard in one area, your customers may move somewhere else.

FCC to wireless: Keep your clothes on

It seems the FCC may give away a chunk of the electromagnetic spectrum on the condition that the winner (a) give away free wireless internet access and (b) block pornography. It sounds, at first glance, like a good deal. But who defines pornography?

The internet has blurred the lines between what is worthy of communications and what is smut, and part of its diabolical beauty is there is no one setting rules. Sure, there is awful stuff online. But if you search for breast health, researching a mammogram that will save your life, will that get blocked too? What if you want stock art that involves the human figure? What if you email an off-color joke to a friend?

Interesting quandary. We love the idea of free mobile internet everywhere, but don’t like the idea of someone predicting what we adults should and should not see. Aren’t the days of gatekeepers over?

(Photo: Rogiro)

Esquire: Americans are still bigots

Ah, prejudice, still alive and well in America.

Esquire reports that 61% of Americans would be less likely to vote for a political candidate if he or she were atheist; 45% would be less likely if the candidate were Muslim; 25% if Mormon; 15% if Hispanic; 12% if a woman; 11% if Jewish; 7% if Catholic; and 6% if black. The data, based on a Pew Research study of 3,002 U.S. adults, provides a glimmer of hope in that some minorities have made strides; the dark side is religious prejudice is at the forefront in how people trust others.

The impact on advertising is a bit sad. As much as many marketers and agencies would like to believe their audience is fair and enlightened, there is a difference between what people say they like and how they really feel. The pre-judging and pre-conceptions in the population need to be evaluated carefully, in a trifecta of advertising performance. First, don’t offend. Second, generate a response. And third, be careful of the secret sexism and jingoism that could push some desirable prospects away, if they don’t like the people in your presentation.

(Photo: Ferran Jordà)

Please, make us an offer

Ad design gets creative types in sneakers. Schedules get media planners in slacks. Direct mail gets analysts with calculators.

So who is managing your offer?

The “offer” in the ad message often falls between the cracks, because too often there is no clear party responsible for managing it. Creative shops do brilliant design and out-of-the-box thinking, but aren’t pricing strategists. Media planners focus on making advertising targeted and efficient. Call center managers, marketing managers, direct mail agencies, customer analytics teams all have pieces of the marketing puzzle.

And the offer often touches on all, and yet none, of these disciplines.

So take this litmus test of your advertising “offer.”

– Who is responsible for the offer?
– Does it target profitable customers?
– Is your offer aligned with the creative design and media plan?
– Will it generate sales at an acceptable acquisition cost?
– Is it structured to encourage repeat sales in the future from the same customer?
– Or will the offer discourage repeat sales by customers who remember the initial discount?
– Is there a plan to test and refine the offer?
– If you currently have a good offer in place, are you actively testing future offers for improvement?
– Has your call center received deep training on offers in place, and how to sell them verbally when prospects respond?
– Do you have measurement systems in place to monitor any adverse impact of the offer (customer confusion at the call center, perhaps)?
– Are all channels aligned, or do different offers in sales, web, media and direct marketing undercut each other?
– Are you watching competitors’ current offers, and their response to yours?

Yeah, it’s complex. So put a team in place. And make them an offer.

Soda pop studies, or how to keep research on track

We’re knee-deep in research this week and constantly have to warn ourselves about chasing our own tail.

Let us explain. In research, as in particle physics, the act of observing a phenomenon can actually skew the results. Any data set is collected, and the process of collecting can pull you in the wrong direction. Say you launch a new campaign to sell a hydrogen fuel cell home energy system, and it costs $5,000, but you offer a very low subsidized price of $1,999 with aggressive financing … hoping to make money on fuel supplies in the future. Consumers respond.

1. Does this mean new consumers are your ideal audience, and you can extrapolate their profile to the entire population for long-term growth?
2. Or does it mean your aggressive ad campaign simply attracted a certain type of price-sensitive shopper, perhaps responding to a short-term spike in home heating and A/C costs?

The potential error, above, is the very offer and media plan itself may have attracted the wrong type of consumer, or a consumer group that in no way represents your ideal demographic and geographic targets. Like a dog chasing its tail, measuring the early results of a product launch can lead you in circles.

The solution is to validate early or internal data with outside data sets. What is the broader market doing? Is competitor media spending in line with your early findings? Are there lists of consumers who have purchased similar services that you can overlay on the U.S., to validate the assumptions from your earliest customers?

Information is powerful, but always watch how it is collected and always test it for accuracy … sort of like an industry soda study on little babies. (Tx Make the Logo Bigger)