Monthly Archives: January 2009

Miller’s 1-second Super Bowl ads outmaneuver Bud

When Budweiser struck an exclusive deal with Super Bowl XLIII for beer advertising priced at $3 million per 30-second pop, Miller High Life was shut out.

So in a genius end-run, MillerCoors cut a unique deal with local NBC affiliates who carry the game for them to run a series of 1-second spots. MillerCoors is building buzz for the campaign with an online backstory showing the logic — the guy in the series above riffs at length over why any idiot would spend $3 million for a single ad, and then brags he could convey the message in a second. The actual snippets that air may be the shortest ad buy in history, all while making the competition look slow. Brilliant.

Hat tip to Sarah Ely.

Why do Super Bowl ads cost 6 times as much?

If we could have your attention, please, you might ask for a moment why the inflation-adjusted cost of a Super Bowl ad has risen from $4.79 CPM in 1967 to $30.77 today. Are advertisers spending 600% more because they’re desperate to reach consumers in one of the few remaining mass mediums?

Well, yes. (CPM, for you non-ad types, is the cost to make 1,000 impressions on an audience and the basic benchmark to compare ad costs. The actual price of a 30-second spot this year is $3 million.) Critic Bob Garfield of Ad Age puzzles over why advertisers continue to throw money in “pursuit of an extravagant, terrible commercial,” but one hint comes from Vinny Warren, who led development of several Super Bowl commercials. Warren writes in Adweek “the Super Bowl is special because everyone watches it. You, your grandma, your youngest cousin. We all tune in. Last year, 97.5 million people watched the Giants beat the then-undefeated Patriots.” Young consumers look up from the internet, and older affluent homeowners put down the DVR button and stop skipping commercials.

Trouble is, the internet may eventually threaten even this mass-appeal model. Clever brands such as E*Trade are leveraging online communications to broaden the impact of their spots; the E*Trade talking baby trader now has a Twitter account and you can watch his video outtakes here. But other companies are feeling the pressure to issue previews of their spots, which may take some of the buzz out of them. We already have images of what Bridgestone, Miller, and Pixar will do. We know Tom Hanks will pitch the upcoming Dan Brown movie sequel and that will show two women in a shower. One Twitter page now has an ongoing stream of Super Bowl ad leaks.

Super Bowl ads still work. But if you give them away for free beforehand, will advertisers keep on paying to play?

The real use for Twitter: Predicting consumer trends

Marketers pondering how to cram ads inside social media may be missing the point. The real value of new communication networks such as Facebook and Twitter may be listening to what consumers want.

Listen carefully and you could predict the future.

Professor Yuval Shavitt of Tel Aviv University is building models that do just that, in his case analyzing a half billion queries on Gnutella, a vast file-sharing network, to predict which small-time bands will soon hit it big. He sorts references to artists by the geographic location of the consumer (using IP addresses), watches the patterns of downloads, and can predict with unnerving accuracy when a given musician is about to “tip” into an escalating-then-diminishing bell curve of national popularity. Seed Magazine notes Shavitt’s work is based on the “sociological theories of Mark Granovetter, who first described in the 1970s how micro-level interactions between individuals affect macro-level phenomena.”

The combination of real-time data on consumer thoughts, geographic locations, and algorithms that predict scaling popularity have huge applications for marketing consumer goods, public relations, politics, and even public health policy. For a simple look yourself, head over to and type in your brand name. You’ll see what 2 million people on Twitter are saying about you right now.

Marketers, boost the GRPs on sunny days

Dirk Singer points us to a brilliant psychological study on the effect of weather on consumer memory and judgments. Researchers put 73 subjects in a shop in Sydney and tested their ability to recall objects; half were tested on sunny days and half in rainy weather. As you’d expect, rainy-day subjects were in dour moods, but they had much better memories — recalling 3 times as many objects — and scrutinized objects carefully.

The British Psychological Society sums up: “The theory is that a bad mood triggers a more sceptical, careful mode of processing, in contrast to the less vigilant, conceptual thinking style that characterises a good mood.” If you hope to sell to consumers on a whim with vague, rosy product promises, we suggest you beef up the media schedule on bright, sunny days.

E*Trade baby outtakes

Yet another example of a campaign within a campaign, designed to build buzz on the web. Or should we say an alleged campaign since we can’t prove this was produced by E*Trade and certainly don’t want to worry about their lawyers. Man, all this legal worry stuff is putting a damper on marketers’ ability to go viral on the web. CMOs, please place a call to legal and call those sharks off.

Bloggers, now a word from Virgin America’s lawyers

Defamation, trademark infringement, false designation, and false and deceptive advertising are not words you want to hear from a lawyer, but that’s what the ad industry blog Adrants got after posting a spoof ad not created by Virgin America.

The airline’s demand for a jury trial seems overblown until you realize the growing power of blogs to persuade consumers. Traditional newspapers have whip-cracking editors to remove any whiff of libel or defamation. Adrants’ initial headline for the spoof review read “The Hudson Crash: Just One More Reason to Fly Virgin,” followed by the copy gaffe “so woot! slather your big reds all over those news shots, V!” suggesting Virgin America really was behind the ad. The grouchy editor we worked with 20 years ago would have whacked us with a red pencil.

We sympathize — cause we all move fast writing online, and Adrants has an immensely talented staff poking needed holes in the inflated egos of the ad industry — but it’s a cautionary tale that words on a screen are held by the same standard as ink on paper. Adrants traffic is up almost 25% this year to 130,000 unique visitors a month, and 1 in 4 of its readers makes more than $100k a year. Bloggers need to tread carefully as their subjects begin holding them accountable for content that could conceivably cause material damages among readers.

It will cast a chill over the blogosphere as reviewers with fast opinions begin thinking of every conceivable downside of a brand’s mention. Did we mention that Virgin America did not create this ad?

AdFreak, Cityfile and Make the Logo Bigger have details.

Sports fans swing for the lenses

We read once that human eyes lose their sensitivity to color over time, which is why memories of the green grass and blue sky from your toddler days seem so, well, green and blue. Fading eyesight explains why old people in Florida wear plaid pants, and perhaps why U.S. sports fans have now become dolts that watch 3-D television projections of the game while they sit in the very stadiums in which the game is being played.

Now we certainly don’t mean to offend anyone who enjoys watching people in spandex bump into each other; in some countries that is not tolerated but here in America we call it football. Our point: The emergence of cheap, giant-screen, flat-panel screens is starting to encroach on reality. Panasonic chief Toshihiro Sakamoto opened CES this year with a 150-inch plasma called, fittingly, the Life Screen — not to be confused with the Life Wall, another Panasonic treat that covers entire walls of a consumer’s home. (Imagine it: “Honey, I told you to turn off that wallpaper!”) Light-bulb-maker Philips has been playing with screens that intercept reality via clear glass, so you can look outside a window or wave your hand to grow a shade tree to block the neighbor’s view.

No real news here except the fakery of colored images has been arriving for a while; U.S. office workers spend one-third of each day in front of a screen moving numbers and words around, then drive home to watch the tube. The Super Bowl is almost here and consumers are talking more about the upcoming ads, to be shown on screens, than the game itself. The players meanwhile will dance around a moving yellow line on the field that doesn’t really exist, except for video projection and GPS camera technology giving fans at home a clear view of where the ball needs to go. Reality, it was lovely; we’ll miss you when you’re gone.

If wishes were horses we’d all ride like kings

Some optimist has figured out the terrible 14 percent decline in the Dow Jones Industrial Average in the days between Obama winning the vote and Inauguration Day almost mirrors exactly a similar slump in the stock market right before FDR’s presidency in 1933. And after FDR became president, the Dow rebounded with a wild 75 percent bull run upward in just a few months. It’s lovely to think stocks may come roaring back (we suggest you pin this chart up on your wall and gaze at it fondly for the next three months), but the real lesson here is how fast markets can turn. Very few business leaders look ahead with contingency plans for what happens if the marketplace for their services tomorrow has shifted from that of today. Via Shelton.

Seriously,, what do you want?

We took a close look at today to see how they are countering, and have some free strategic advice for conservatives trying to rebound from Obamamania. Please, Republicans, blow up your web site and start over.

Here’s why. If your audience doesn’t know what to do, you fail. The point of any communication is to create a desired action. Direct mail: Respond. TV ad: Go buy our stuff. Newspaper report: Read and be enlightened. While Obama has been direct in his messaging (first, donate, now, support the economic recovery plan) the site is all over the place. We count at least 18 calls to action:

1. Create a personal GOP profile!
2. Join the GOP Facebook group!
3. Contribute.
4. Join the Young Eagles!
5. Shop the GOP store.
6. Create a profile (redundant link).
7. Donate (redundant link).
8. Call talk radio.
9. Join GOP.
10. Register to vote.
11. Contribute (redundant link).
12. Path for (or to find?) elected officials.
13. Create MyGOP.
14. Get GOP stuff.
15. Make friends.
16. Visit the RNC’s Center for Republican Renewal.
17. Download the GOP search bar!
18. Check the event in January!

We imagine a future Rush Limbaugh hitting this site, desperate to get involved in restoring the Republicans to power … and falling asleep at his desk after 10 minutes of puzzling over what the hell to do.

For web strategy shops, we highly recommend you reach out to and pitch them a redesign. The right is struggling and this bizarre communications approach is going to get them nowhere. It’s a good test for your own business, too. If someone visits your web site, could they find what they want in 2 seconds? And can they understand what action you want them to take?