Full disclosure: I am a scaredy cat. It doesn’t take much to startle me and get my heart racing. In fact, walk into my office when I’m not paying attention and that’ll probably do it.
That being said, I would be surprised if I’m the only one bothered by some of the latest exploits of a growing trend, “prankvertising” (the use of a practical joke or stunt to garner attention for a brand).
I have two bones to pick with this tactic:
1) Sometimes it’s just plain mean. And I don’t want to support mean brands.
2) Other times, it doesn’t create a strong connection with the brand message.
But before I dive into the criticism, I think there are a couple brands who have found the sweet spot of making a splash in the world of viral videos, without scaring and annoying consumers in the process.
As part of their “Make Boring Brilliant” campaign, vitaminwater’s art gallery stunt stopped bystanders in their tracks as they watched a fellow gallery attendee change the “art” before their eyes. Vitamin Water has teamed up with College Humor for a few other harmless tricks as part of the effort.
Another favorite is Adobe’s impromptu bus shelter Photoshopping. They showed off the product capabilities and ease of use with a sense of humor that fit the brand.
Finally, ToysRUs made children’s wishes come true when they let kids play with all the newest toys of the holiday season and take home their favorite. Not only did they offer an opportunity to interact with their brand, but they made their audience happy along the way. Sounds like success to me.
There are also a couple brands that fall into the middle of the road category. While they may not be creating life-long detractors, I think their prankvertising efforts could have been put to better use.
In the case of Carlsberg, the brand asked participants to volunteer a friend for a seemingly life-or-death challenge. While I partially blame these friends for causing the distress, I also feel that the brand payoff had a weak connection: “Standing up for a friend. That calls for a Carlsberg.”
Then there’s LG—perhaps the most talked about prankvertiser of the moment. In their End of the World stunt, job applicants were probably permanently traumatized. But I have to admit, next time I go shopping for a TV, their message will surely come to mind.
Lastly, I’ve seen a couple examples of prankvertising that I simply can’t forgive.
After watching actors repeatedly terrify innocent coffee shop dwellers in an effort to promote the latest Carrie remake, I vowed to avoid the movie at all costs.
And last but certainly not least, there’s Nivea. While I understand their attempt at linking the brand to stressful situations, the act of making airport travelers feel like wanted criminals just seems a bit extreme. Shouldn’t the brand be relieving stress instead of causing it?
Perhaps I’m being too sensitive. After all, most of these stunts have received millions of views, obviously catching the attention of consumers. But I have to wonder, at what cost?
I’ve been seeing a lot of Walmart ads lately. Mostly, it’s Darrell with his Rollback announcements, but more and more, I’ve been catching “The Real Walmart.” That campaign where they try to undo my 30 years of (not so positive) impressions of them in 30 seconds. And I have to say, it’s not working for me.
Still, this has become a common tactic for brands. Perdue launched its “We believe in a better chicken” campaign while Food, Inc. was still topping Netflix documentaries. And we all remember the Comcast “Dream Big” spots, painting a world where Comcast users sing with joy. What’s next, a United commercial about punctuality and ample overhead space?
So it got me thinking. Can brands ever really win by addressing image issues head-on in advertising?
It’s certainly not easy. Taking a brand position that goes against what people believe can feel confusing, inauthentic, and even irritating. The examples above actually reignited my negative associations for each brand instead of changing them. One exception that comes to mind is Domino’s. When they launched their campaign about quality issues, I actually tried their pizza again. They admitted to their shortcomings, made changes, and asked for a second chance, with total transparency. Had they simply skipped to how great-tasting their new pizza was, the response would’ve been much different.
TV is a powerful medium – it helps us make snap judgments about brands before we even experience them. But undoing brand perceptions can be much more difficult. If it’s an image you’re trying to reverse, check the BS meter on your message. You may find your campaign will do more harm than good, and that actions would speak louder than ads.
Before I was a Planner, I often asked agency professionals what their typical day might consist of (now I know how truly difficult a question that is to answer…). While the answers from the Brand Planners, Account Managers, and Media Planners varied widely, they had one thing in common: none of them ever mentioned capabilities calls.
For those of you who don’t know, “capabilities calls” are pre-arranged meetings where various vendors try to sell their services to agencies. Vendors may offer qualitative or quantitative research capabilities, social listening tools, media connections, etc.
So as months and years spent at agencies passed and I realized that these meetings are quite regular occurrences for a variety of departments, I wondered why no one had ever mentioned them. After sitting through my first few, I learned the answer: most capabilities calls aren’t all that memorable. Or impactful.
After a recent vendor meeting (where I left feeling unsure of how they could help our department), I tried earnestly to put myself in their shoes. If I were trying to win my business, how would I approach a one-hour chunk of time to impress myself? Then it struck me: capabilities calls have a lot in common with job interviews.
In fact, there are five common tips that interviewees follow that I think could greatly benefit vendors when preparing for calls with agency folk:
Send your resume ahead of time: A prepared audience is an interested audience. If I’m able to understand the basics of your background, experience, and current responsibilities, I’m much more apt to come prepared with appropriate questions, and I may be able to help you narrow your presentation to the most relevant areas of expertise.
Keep it short: The old one-page rule applies here too. Provide a brief, relevant history, but focus your energy on explaining your current specialties. By keeping the background short, you’ll increase the chances of your audience members reading it before the meeting, leaving more time for active discussion.
Provide clear, specific answers: While the excellent one-pager that you sent prior to the meeting will be helpful, your audience members will still have questions about what you can do for them. Come prepared with a range of explanations and examples that leave nothing to the imagination. While you may be tempted to speak broadly about your array of services, specifics prove your understanding of your business and answer nagging uncertainties.
Know your audience: Even if you don’t know exactly who will be in the room when you present, you should know the general ins and outs of the department you’re meeting with. Take into consideration their unique needs for your services, their familiarity with any technology you work with, and their time and budgetary restraints, if applicable.
Supply a leave-behind: Like most job interviews, you’ll likely miss out on the chance to share some of your best case studies and successes. By having a (preferably short) “portfolio” of sorts prepared, you can provide your audience members with additional information right as their interest is piqued.
I believe that by following these tips, more vendors could ace their agency interviews. And they wouldn’t even have to wear suits to do it.
As a kid, I remember being lost in a good book for hours. Rainy Saturday mornings were never wasted, thanks to so many unread chapters. On weeknights, I would head to bed an hour early to crack open the latest Harry Potter, only to be forced to close the book once I realized I was only a few hours away from my alarm clock sounding.
Today, I cannot go an entire chapter without wanting to check my phone for the latest tweet or updates in my newsfeed. Call it “fear of missing out,” a mainstream ADD, or whatever you’d like, but I have unwillingly fallen victim to the habits I’ve consciously tried to avoid. I want to get lost in the writings of Kerouac or read The Atlantic’s latest feature in its entirety, but my hand subconsciously reaches to my right and I’m back on Twitter again.
My brain is learning to jump back and forth, taking in little bits of a lot of different things. I’m intermixing John Hamm’s ESPY monologue with Paul Krugman’s latest blog post and soon telling my colleagues Dwight Howard left the LA Lakers because they couldn’t fund his pension.
Some may argue our generation is more informed than ever. Access to breaking news and stories in the palm of our hands – from worldwide stories on hostility in foreign countries to what your favorite singer ate for breakfast. If you’re interested, you probably have instant access to it.
Call it content overload. Tweets, articles, blog posts, advertisements, television programs on cable or network or streaming online – the list is endless. It is certainly content, and a lot of it.
We know more about a lot of topics, but not a lot of any one topic. Ask someone at the water cooler tomorrow about Detroit going bankrupt, and the likely answer will sound like a headline:
“Yeah, I saw that … Largest US city to ever file for bankruptcy … Crazy. Have you caught up on Game of Thrones yet?”
Our conversations feel like a newsfeed. Headlines and one-liners, and voices proud to just add a single line of input. Missing: in-depth conversation.
This week, I’m putting my phone in the other room while I read more of one piece of content. I know I will not be up to speed on the gossip leading up to an actual story, but the Times will have the complete news before my morning commute.
And, hours before I hit the water cooler.
I took my nephews to a movie this weekend, and while leaving the theater, was greeted by a woman with a stack of papers. What did she want from me? To fill out a survey about the movie I just saw. The results of the survey would “go directly to the producer,” she said. This excited me, and from what I could tell, everyone else walking out was pretty excited that their thoughts would go directly to the producers of a big Hollywood movie. Truth is, this is what we expect as consumers in today’s world. We expect to be able to tell brands what we think, and have them act on our feedback. Give us better experiences that keep us coming back. And for that reason, I watched almost everyone walk out of the theater and start filling out the survey. Then, about 5 minutes in, people started turning over the piece of paper and groaning. There was a whole 2nd page crammed with just as many questions as page 1. Now, if all these people were anything like me, they likely breezed through the first page, skipping all of the open ends, and then gave up about two questions in on the 2nd page. Talk about bad data. I know, I should know better than to breeze through a survey like that, but who has the time to fill out a lengthy paper survey after a movie? The researchers putting on this survey wanted to understand how to give moviegoers a better experience, and what would get them to tell their friends about the movie, but they didn’t think about the research experience in and of itself. If you want useful feedback you need to inspire it, and this experience was not at all inspiring. Here are a few things the “producers of the big Hollywood movie” and their research partner should have thought about when designing this research:
1. Context: When are these people taking the survey? What kind of mood will they be in when they are handed the survey? Will they be alone? In a hurry? This survey was handed out after an animated children’s movie. Everyone in the theater was with one or more children under the age of 10 who just ate and drank their weight in sugar. Perfect time to hand out a two-page survey crammed with multiple choice and open-ended questions? Probably not.
2. Simplicity: Consumers today expect everything to be quick and easy. We are all busy and have short attention spans, so if you want good feedback, don’t hand out 20-question paper surveys during a mall intercept. If it is on paper, ask a few short questions, and if possible, ask them the questions and record their answers for them. Make it more of a conversation. If you have more than a few questions, why not put them on a tablet, or give consumers the chance to take it on their personal tablets or smartphones now, or later, when they have some free time.
3. Inspiration: Just as we as advertising professionals need inspiration for creating ads and experiences that get attention, consumers need to be inspired to give us feedback that will help us create those ads and experiences. Yes, incentives can help, but it is more than that. Be creative in the design of your research; ask questions in a way that really gets consumers thinking. There are many companies out there that know how to bring inspiration into their research, from adding image response to online surveys, to bringing focus groups and interviews out of research facilities and into the places “where the real magic happens,” to having consumers use their mobile phones to document shopping experiences, and the list goes on.
The point is, research that is simple, inspiring, and designed for the context in which it is given is more likely to result in better experiences that will keep your customers loyal and recommending you to their friends. And perhaps most importantly, research that is designed with all of these things in mind will do a better job at keeping consumers interested in participating in future studies.
These days it’s tough to find a sports arena or stadium that isn’t named after a company or brand. Long gone are the days when stadiums were named after an individual, location, or, heaven forbid, the team itself. Reliant Energy signed a $320 million deal to slap its name on the Houston Texans’ stadium. MetLife paid $400 million to name the home of the New York Giants, Super Bowl champs of 2011. Colossal monetary deals such as these are becoming more prevalent in the realm of professional sports.
Back in 1953, the St. Louis Cardinals and Anheuser-Busch president August Busch II proposed changing the name of Sportsman’s Park, home of the Cardinals, to “Budweiser Stadium.” The commissioner of baseball at the time rejected his proposal due to its obvious nod to a brand name. August then proposed naming the stadium “Busch Stadium” after the company’s founder. The commissioner approved. Soon after, Anheuser-Busch had a new product on the shelves – Busch beer. In a roundabout way, Mr. Busch was able to successfully name an American stadium after a product. His actions led the way for today’s multi-million dollar sponsorship deals.
On a much smaller scale, companies are placing their logos on just about anything the leagues will allow, from the press conference mic to the outfield scoreboard. Some ad placements simply blend into the scenery of the sporting event, while others seemingly scream at viewers. When does ad placement cross the line into becoming a distraction and who is at fault?
Take the recent approval by the NBA to allow companies to purchase space on top of the highly visible backboards and in front of the team bench. The 2013-2014 NBA season will be a trial period for this new inventory. Deals will only be sold locally, and brand decals will be removed for any nationally televised games. In the past, the courtside apron in front of the team bench has been limited to the team’s logo or website, but now the league allows that area to be sold as part of a sponsorship package. Instead of posting up at the three-point line to drain a shot, Ray Allen will square up on top of a big-name airline or the hottest sports apparel brand. Yes, the brand gets obvious exposure, but does the decal take away from the viewing pleasure of yours truly? Brands walk a very fine line, but who can blame them? The professional league makes the decision to allow certain areas of the sporting venue to be sponsored, so, of course, companies are going to snatch up the opportunity to get their logos in front of an avid fan’s eyeballs. If they don’t, their competitors will.
Place-based media can also lead to conflicts of interest between brands and their highly paid endorsers. Back in 2010, the NFL began allowing brands to purchase space on non-game uniforms. Timex signed a deal with the Giants to allow placement of a patch with the Timex logo on all practice jerseys. Golden boy quarterback Eli Manning was a spokesperson for Citizen watches, a direct competitor of Timex. Manning gave press interviews before practice in a T-shirt and, after practice, stripped down to his chest pads before exiting the field.
Professional sports teams continue to push for game jersey advertising year after year. The commissioners of both the NFL and the NBA have shelved their proposals, but for how long? Will the NBA uniforms of the future resemble those worn by Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon? I sure hope not. How far is too far in the world of place-based media? Where do we draw the line? Brands must find the happy medium between bringing awareness to the masses and interrupting the fan’s viewing experience. If not, the refs may be distracted by the Golden Arches on LeBron’s shoulder the next time he flops to the floor…
People love this cartoon. I love this cartoon. It’s a great reminder that consumers don’t appreciate being talked to as if they’re walking, talking moneybags. Instead, they gravitate toward brands that are honest and real—brands that try to connect with them on a more personal level (sometimes, anyway).
Recently, market trends have supported this idea, pushing brands to be more personable and transparent. Have a personality, the experts say. Be authentic. Make relationships with your customers. As a result, consumers are seeing some pretty cool brand communications, as well as some that, quite frankly, fall a little flat.
Let’s take two (semi) recent events that required advertisers to respond quickly on social media and decide just how authentic they were.
First, the 2013 Super Bowl. Oreo’s “Dunk in the Dark” tweet was not only a relevant message coming from that brand, but a true expression of their quirky personality. I’d say it was received quite well—the brand got more than 15,000 retweets within 24 hours. And then there’s the Buffalo Wild Wings tweet, which absolutely earned high praise, as sports make up the very core of the brand.
Some brands didn’t get quite as much love. Jim Beam forced a connection to the power outage, and cars.com simply used the excuse to put the spotlight back on their commercial. Not exactly authentic; not exactly likeable.
Now let’s look at an entirely different kind of event: the recent Boston Marathon bombing. In the midst of news updates, opinions from friends, and updates from family members, I found myself reading brands’ expressions of grief on social media. And I wondered, is it okay for brands to play a role here? The Super Bowl has brands all over it, but a national tragedy? Definitely a grey area.
Brands like Southwest Airlines shared pertinent information that helped those affected maneuver the days that followed, and brands with no relevant ties simply stated “our hearts go out to Boston.” And then there were some brands, who just couldn’t help but shamelessly promote themselves.
So back to my question: Is it fair for brands to insert themselves in situations like these? Are they being authentic and real? Do people want to punch them in the face?
Like most things, I believe it’s best done in moderation, so I’ll paraphrase a great Disney learning: If you don’t have anything relevant to say, don’t say anything at all.
According to Nielsen’s Year In Sports report, 2012 had a 45% increase in sports programming hours across cable and broadcast over 2011. While the Olympics helped bolster that number, the availability and accessibility of sports programming and content are continuously expanding.
The combination of more volume and accessibility naturally creates fragmentation to customize sports viewing. There is already on-demand access to the most recent scores, commentary, highlights and news through any device anywhere. And with increased accessibility, does this really mean cannibalization will occur, similar to the effects of streaming video on prime time ratings and cable subscriptions?
The answer is no. Sports is different. Here’s why:
ComScore and Google reported that consumers watch on average 17% more TV when using multiple screens to consume sports content. Total time spent also increased as screens were added, with total engaged time doubling from one to four screens. And with more vendors adopting an authentication model, you’ll need to keep your cable subscriptions anyway in order to access the content (legally) on other devices.
So, sports content consumption is becoming predominantly multi-screen, and simultaneous usage across multiple channels is increasing. TV, digital, mobile, and social platforms all go hand in hand with sports content. They create a multiplier effect of total media consumption that’s natural to the evolution of sports viewership patterns. It’s rare that you can organically include yourself in consumers’ normal behavior and engage them on multiple screens without soliciting an action or being obtrusive.
It’s not a question of which screen, but how to use the strengths of each screen holistically. The focus needs to be media aggregation and message amplification across all screens. The brands that will stand apart in this space will succeed at leveraging all those strengths, not cannibalizing one for the other. Fans aren’t doing that. They are on all of them, and you should be too.
Last week I took a step out of my comfort zone and spent a day at the Florida state capitol with Ad 2 Tampa Bay as part of their annual Ad Day in Tallahassee! In case you have no idea what Ad Day is and how it could possibly involve the government, listen up.
First off, Ad 2 Tampa Bay is a part of the American Advertising Federation (AAF) and it’s made up of young professionals under the age of 32 who work in the advertising and marketing industry. They host educational workshops, public service events, networking events and social outings, and one of their main goals is to “encourage advertising self-regulation and continuous improvement to raise industry benchmarks.” Ad Day (March 19th) supports that mission and gives Ad 2 members the opportunity to show legislators who we are, what we do as advertising professionals in the state of Florida and how our work impacts the state economy. We visited the offices of several delegates within the House of Representatives. Super intimidating, but as one of my fellow Ad 2 delegates said, “They’re people, too.” So true! All of the Representatives we talked to were very down to earth, and it was interesting listening to some of the frustrations they have in their work. They’re fighting to get bills passed that help disabled veterans pump their gas, while I get frustrated when my WiFi is down at our agency’s first 22 PopUP event. Kinda puts things into perspective… The day really focused on reminding our state Senators and Representatives that we’re paying attention to our industry’s tax exemption status or other proposed regulations that could affect our business and our clients’ bottom lines.
The AAF 4th District – which includes Ad 2 and AAF Tampa Bay, the latter of which is for advertising professionals age 32 and above – have been visiting Tallahassee since 1987, when the State first repealed the Services Tax. Those initial efforts paid off, so they decided to keep the tradition alive. Ad Day was previously referred to as the “Advertising Fly-In” and the “Rally in Tally.” I kinda like the “Rally in Tally,” but I guess it doesn’t make sense when there’s not always something to rally about…like this year! And that’s a good thing, because it means our industry is currently in a good place.
In addition to interacting with government officials from around Florida, we were able to tour the old Capitol building and sit in the Senate Chamber, where we listened to Pinellas Senator Jack Latvala talk about his advertising background and how he got started in the Senate. His perspective was invaluable, and we all felt pride knowing that a former ad exec is now in a position to help move our industry forward at a regulatory level.
For those of you considering joining Ad 2 Tampa Bay or AAF Tampa Bay, I highly recommend it. Ad Day was both a reminder of things we sometimes take for granted, and an opportunity to be grateful for those who fight for what we do.
Following the March 7th announcement from Facebook around the News Feed update, 22squared prepared a collaborative 5-point POV document analyzing the brand implications. The biggest note is that Facebook is taking a user-first approach to its update, and 22squared’s POV reflects this.
While our team has considered user implications as well, our POV specifically focuses on brands. This POV is intended to provide our clients and colleagues digestible and insightful context around the changes. The outline shows how we plan to proactive about the News Feed changes, so our clients and agency will create the best social executions and digital content, with a user-first viewpoint.
Despite the rapid changes seen within social and digital marketing, 22squared is prepared to interpret the changes with the most valuable insight for education and strategy. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about 22squared Social Marketing practice, please contact Juliana Bowman at 404-347-8895 or via email for more information.