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Recently our city was all abuzz about a group of people running a shock campaign holding signs with graphic images on them that would be enough to turn the stomach of even the most jaded of us. Their goal was to show the “truth” about abortion by displaying gory images of dead dismembered babies, and to therefore sway people to their point of view.

The problem with this campaign is all it seems to do is piss people off.

I heard from people on all sides of the issue and the only thing people were talking about was how awful it was that these people, who claim to be doing this “for the children,” were displaying these horrific images in public places where all ages were subjected to them. Even people who agreed with their basic message disagreed with their methods.

There is a history of lawsuits and uproar concerning this kind of shock advertising, and time and time again it has been protected under the first amendment. Freedom of Speech. One of our most valued freedoms. And yet, we seem to forget sometimes that what we CAN do isn’t necessarily what we SHOULD do, much less what will be successful in getting our point across. When trying to generate buzz on a topic or a product, the last thing you want to do is have people across the board talking negatively about your method, rather than discussing the real issue at hand.

Is all buzz good buzz? I say absolutely not, and it’s a lesson we should all keep in mind during a time when “viral” is everyone’s goal.

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pepsi

So at this point, anyone who is a fan of Pepsi will have noticed the major overhaul that has been done. The old red white and blue “swash ball” logo with the sans serif block font has been replaced with a new, slimmed-down look with lower case thin lettering and a renovated swash on the ball. This change seemed to come out of nowhere to me, and I was surprised at first, and not really sure what I thought of the new look. 

Now, the more I see it, I’m thinking I agree with a lot of the commenters here. The new typeface is elegant, understated and clean; but the crooked white swash in the icon is really annoying. It’s not a smooth curve and one is left wondering what exactly that shape is meant to invoke. The old shape was a simple, even curve through a ball, but the new shape has a fat part and a thin part, and angles in such a way that one wonders if it’s supposed to be a sail, a ribbon, a road? Some have even compared it to a smirk, which is not a very positive association to make.

I discovered today on Pepsi’s website that the swash ball actually changes from can to can. Now that, to me, seems like a colossal branding mistake. Your icon is your image – why throw off your consumers by making it fluctuate? I think I see what they’re trying to do, by communicating “Pepsi Max” with a fatter swash and the low-cal options with a thinner swash. But the problem here is you probably wouldn’t notice the difference unless you were comparing the cans side-by-side, so they end up looking like they couldn’t decide between logo versions 1-4 during the design process and decided to just use them all. 

What do you think? Some have compared the icon to the Obama campaign logo or even Girl Scouts of America. Do you see any other similarities?

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Well, I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus from posting on this blog, but what better way to come back than with another witty holiday skewering of life as an advertiser by the folks over at World Wide Wadio. Last year I enjoyed their “Make the Logo Bigger” video. This year, they have a more musical take on things with a rousing Christmas carol created by committee. Spare but well-timed animated type accompanies this timely commentary on the frustration of the cut & paste client. Enjoy!

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When the big summer blockbusters hit, the average citizen is as unlikely to notice as if an atomic bomb went off in their living room. Typically the movie is accompanied by promotions by fast food, candy, soda, beer, chips, car companies, cellular phone carriers, vacation destinations… the list goes on and on. And on the same token, the average citizen is unlikely to question these pairings, as they’ve become an accepted and expected part of the moviegoing experience. Do these huge movies really need product placements in order to make their money, when their box office sales often run into the hundreds of millions?

An article on Advertising Age today discusses this topic, suggesting that while the movie benefits from the increased exposure created by the hype, the real winner is the advertiser who benefits from being associated with the movie, as well as the “event” surrounding it. Who doesn’t want to be part of the biggest party on the block?

So my question is, who decides which products are right for a movie? There are the legends of product placement that often happen by accident – E.T. and Reese’s Pieces, for example – but lately it seems to be pretty random. Apparently Dr. Pepper is going to be one of the big advertisers for the new Indiana Jones movie. But I can’t think of a moment in the previous three movies where Indiana Jones said anything about preferring that particular brand of cola. So it becomes a forced association, along with M&Ms, Expedia, Kraft Lunchables and Burger King. At least BK is giving their Whopper the nickname “Indy” for the time being, making it seem at least somewhat connected. 

It seems the bottom line is that the big guys talking about each other gets the word out, and nobody really cares if it’s relevant. You think Indiana Jones, maybe Dr. Pepper pops into your head (pops… get it?) and you’d be more likely to buy a super-grande combo Dr. Pepper drink at the concession counter on your way to see the movie. Or maybe not. But it must work, or it wouldn’t be worth the trouble.

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In honor of Earth Day, here’s a very very happy ad for the Discovery Channel.

Called “I Love the World,” it begins with a conversation between two astronauts hovering over Ol’ Blue. “It never gets old, huh?” says one. “Nope.” comes the reply. And then they break into song, which is carried by a wide variety of happy people, from Bear Grylls (from Man vs. Wild) to Stephen Hawking. A few of my favorite moments include Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs crawling through some kind of disgusting pipe, singing “I love real dirty things,” and Adam from Mythbusters casually setting Jamie’s sleeve on fire while merrily singing the “boom-di-a-da” refrain. Like a preview for Mamma Mia, it just makes me feel happy.

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I’m a huge fan of the Sony Bravia commercials that feature brightly colored randomness in public places (San Francisco bouncy balls, exploding paint barrels on old apartment buildings, claymation bunnies in downtown New York City). I’ve even reported on an apparently local effort for the same effect, colored string on a pyramid. But a good advertiser should know when it’s been “done” and move on to newer things.

Unfortunately this doesn’t seem to be the case. A new TV spot goes back to the big “balls” success, now attempting to wow its audience with streets filled with soap foam. People play in the foam. They photograph the foam. They get hit in the face with foam. And overall, the spot comes across as a dry attempt to cash in on past success. 

It’s quite sad, really, but it’s a reminder to advertisers out there who are tempted to return to the same old ideas that worked before – a new idea only works when it’s new. Creativity doesn’t run out, people just get lazy. The last thing a client wants is an audience rolling its eyes and saying, “Next!”

Found on AdFreak.

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A few months back I discussed how men are being used in advertising as the ultimate fall guys. When comedy is needed and someone needs to look stupid, ultimately it’s the guy in the spot who has to act the part. Fathers and husbands especially are the clueless “Homer Simpson” types who can’t do the simplest task without being correctly by a patient and amused wife, or even the exasperated kids.

It seems that this view is beginning to gain steam in the advertising community, as demonstrated by an article found today on Advertising Age called Men Are Not Idiots. I say it’s about time. I’m all for comedy in advertising, and taking these messages with a grain of salt – but equal-opportunity bashing is called for here. When was the last time an ad was shown where the bumbling, clueless character was the cute-as-a-button little girl in pigtails?

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