Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Not All Publicity Is Good Publicity

Advertisers are a strange group. For supposedly being so deeply in touch with people, they really don’t know us at all. Ads in general are hit and miss and more often miss than hit. Most are entirely pointless, i.e. wasted money. And some are actually harmful. Indeed, advertisers subscribe to an axiom that couldn’t be more wrong: there’s no such thing as bad publicity. This is something I’ve literally heard from dozens of advertisers -- in classes, in person and in interviews, and it's just delusional.

Here’s the thinking. Getting the audience’s attention is a win no matter how you do it because people aren’t smart enough to remember why they remember your product. Thus, the next time they need a motor oil or a grave liner, your brand name will pop into their heads and they won’t think twice about the offensive ad that put it there.

But that’s not how reality works. In reality, people mute offensive ads or change the channel long before they even figure out what the product is. And if they do figure it out, they store their anger right next to the product name in their minds. So whenever the product comes up, out pour the words "oh, I hate them." I literally cannot tell you how many times I’ve held an ad against a company and how many times people have proudly told me in line at a store, “I’m buying this one because I hate the other company’s annoying ads.”

The latest example of this woefully wrong philosophy comes from an advertisement for an AT&T/Samsung Infuse (which appears to be a phone for assh~les). This ad begins with some indifferent “business people” sitting around a table in a restaurant when Jerk No. 1’s phone suddenly shows an image of a spider. Jerkette No. 2 starts screaming at the top of her lungs. Jerk No. 3 then starts beating the phone with his shoe, presumably because he doesn't like the product either. The rest of the commercial is irrelevant because by that point I’ve either hit mute or changed the channel (I actually had to watch the ad through just to find out what the product was to write this article). I can’t tell you how offended I am to have a woman screaming at me at full throat during a commercial break. Whining babies get the same response, as does rampant liberalism. . . if that’s not redundant.

This ad has cost the company severely. By forcing that ad upon me, they have generated such ill will that their product now has a huge hurdle to overcome before I would even consider it. Without this ad, I would consider this phone along with all the others. Now, this one falls into the "no, I hate them, and unless they're super special I won't reward them" category. And AT&T ain't special.

So it seems that not all publicity is good after all.

What commercials anger you and why? What commercials do you like? I find myself very impressed with a recent Heineken advertisement called “the entrance,” where the guy enters a party and interacts with several guests before getting his beer. It’s a clever ad. And the most interesting man in the world ads are kind of fun too. . . no screaming.


Tennessee Jed said...

I agree that offensives ads can and do backfire . . . but not always. Likewise ads can be really cool, like the Heinnekin ad (kind of reminds me of Dox XXX campaign,) however, I drink neither of those beers. I think it almost is a case by case basis. Ads run on 8 week cycles, financially, as I recall. Sometimes, an ad can be non-offensive, but become so after you have been forced to watch it 1,000 times :D

rlaWTX said...

I hate that spider one... there are a couple with an annoying-voice girl that I'm still not sure what they are for... OH and those with that smarta** kid talking down about parents with uncool cars.

my grandparents always mute commercials, so sometimes I have to give them the short version of what the pictures are saying. I generally channel flip during commercial breaks...

and speaking of commercial breaks, I had nothing else to watch Sunday, so I tried Falling Skies again. It was better than the first one - but there were commercials every 10 minutes... if I accidentally come across the show I might stick, but I'm not seeking it out.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, Very true, repetition can be a killer.

I've actually long doubted the effectiveness of advertising except to raise awareness of a product. I don't believe individual ads have the power to influence -- though longer term they probably do. That made me a heretic in advertising class. But I stand by it.

Indeed, while I do like the Heineken ad, I don't drink the beer, nor will I because I don't like the taste. So while I appreciate the ad, it doesn't change my mind about the underlying product.

One of the other interesting aspects of modern ads to me, is how often they don't actually make you think of the product. That's one thing I think the Heineken ad does well -- the product is front and center during each moment. By comparsion, there are ads that I kind of like where I can't even tell you what the product is when it's over. These are often the ads that win awards for creativity.

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, I rarely watch commercials myself -- I'm big on flipping channels or muting. But my parents are "old school" and they sit there staring at the ads. :-(

I know the kid you're talking about and I hate that kid. In fact, I hate all ads where they have kids speaking like they are adults -- and especially when they are smart~ss kids.

On Falling Skies, I'm thinking even if it was a better show, I couldn't watch it because of the ads. TNT is a joke when it comes to ads. Not only do they run ads every few minutes, but they even have ads intruding on the show. It's ridiculous. I stopped watching their network a couple years back for that very reason, and trying to watch Falling Skies was all the reminder I needed why I never went back.

Cheryl said...

I find that lines from commercials stick with me and the fam and they become part of our vernacular, sort of like an inside joke, the same way movie lines stick with us, but I couldn't tell you what product they were advertising.

AndrewPrice said...

Cheryl, I think that happens a lot where an ad is much more memorable than the product it was advertising. That's why I think all the great slogans/jingles of the past all had some particular relevance to the product and usually incorporated the company name. A commercial could be the most witty thing in the world, but if it doesn't connect you to the product, then it's a waste of money.

Retro Hound said...

My wife and I haven't been in a Hardees for years because of the commercials.

CrispyRice said...

Oh, don't get me started on ads I hate. I'm more a radio listener, but at the top of my "must die" list is Flo, the Progressive Insurance *(#&%(*@#$^&(*. I'm seething with rage at her mere existence. And, yes, she eventually bugged me enough that I dropped their insurance and paid more to go with Geico. (Cute little gecko anyway...)

Also, the Sam's Club ads on the radio. Like, I swear, they made by 12 year old valley girls. Yeah!!

Thanks, Andrew. I'm seeing red now.

AndrewPrice said...

Retro Hound, I don't think I've seen a Hardees ad? What's up with those?

I know I don't like the Sonic ads with the idiots in the cars picking on each other. I do like the Jack in the Box ads though. I like Jack as a spokesman.

AndrewPrice said...

Any time Crispy, I actually work for a manufacturer of blood pressure medication -- VeinBlow -- and I try to get everyone nice and upset! ;-)

I don't care for Flo either, but my beef is that she's a cynical attempt to create a phenomena like the cave men. Grrr. I don't like feeling manipulated.

I don't know the Sam's ad you're talking about, but I am not a fan of kids in ads.

CrispyRice said...

Oh, they're not actually children - that's the horrific part! They're meant to be Moms. But they must have grown up like valley girls. They speak with that inflection where they super-stress the second-to-last syllable of every sentence. I thank god I'm a Costco member, LOL!

Veinblow, eh? We're getting there.

And yes, I love the Jack in the Box ads, too!

CrispyRice said...

On the other hand, probably my favorite ad ever....

It's the Boom Dee Ya Da song from the Discovery Channel. I actually downloaded it to my own player so I can watch it from time to time. It always leaves me with a smile. :D

AndrewPrice said...

I know what you mean about Valley Speak. There is nothing more ignorant sounding. One of the local radio stations where I used to live had this DJ who spoke like that and literally got me to remove the station from my play list because I couldn't take it. Grrr.

I love the one where Jack has the truck painted with the American flag and the Constitution -- though I can't find it right now.

AndrewPrice said...

Crispy, I remember this ad -- it's excellent!

Here's the link: LINK

Anonymous said...

You have to assume that, for every ad created, there were a dozen that ended up in the reject pile. When I lived in LA, I got invited to a marketing focus group for Yahoo! ads. We were shown ten ads in storyboard form with narration and sound effects. We had to write down what we liked, didn't like, etc. Fascinating process.

I've managed to tune out most advertising. Even my mother will ask me, "Scott, did you see the commercial for XYZ?" and I tell her, "No, I wasn't paying attention!"

The Got Milk? ads were pretty good. The first one ("Aaron Burr?") was directed by a young Michael Bay. I also enjoy most Superbowl ads. The one from this year with "young Darth Vader" trying to use the Force was adorable.

On the other end of the spectrum, there was once an ad that showed a cockroach crawling across a white space, as if it were on the TV itself. I read more than one story about people who broke their TVs because they would take a shoe to the screen. Also: anything advertised by a cast member from Jersey Shore.

I also enjoy watching local ads on YouTube... and making fun of them. :-)

P.S. Retro Hound might be referring to the Hardees commercial with Paris Hilton. They got some flack for that.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, It's a very cynical process - just like film making is becoming.... focus groups, surveys, ads designed by committee to hit key demographic points. Blech. And that anyone would make a film this way is sickening.

The ads that I see as the most cynical are the ones that try to tell you that you need to buy their product because you share similar traits to other people who use their products. These are usually disguised list of traits that are supposed to get you to say "hey, that's me!" And presumably, then you will follow up with "and my life will be complete with the new ?????". I can't stand the human herd instinct. Think for yourselves people!!!!

** bangs head into wall **

Anything with Paris Hilton or the Real Housewives of Anywhere or the Jersey Anythings is a huge turn off.

I like the Got Milk ads -- very understated.

Cheryl said...

Crispy Rice: lol, would you believe I actually tried that toilet paper because of that commercial?

Yep. Just got married and his was too hard for me (that's what she said ;) and mine was too soft for him, so this ad perfectly spoke to our consumer need.


Great example of advertising that explains what they offer in a way that makes people want the product.

Koshcat said...

Commercials are such a part of our lives they almost take on a life of their own. But it seems that the "jingle" has died. I still remember: two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onion on a sesame bun.

I actually kind of like the Chrysler ads using the eminem song. The "imported from Detroit". Not enough to buy it, but I find it memorable in a positive way. And, yes I can see eminem driving through Detroit in a fancy Chrysler. The song is a great fit: young nervous man competing; complete underdog but comes out a winner on the other side.

There are too many ads I hate to mention them all. I hate acceptable violent ads, such as the pepsi ad where the guy's wife throws the can and hits another girl. Guys being guys are ok ads, but guys are stupid grate me. I hate anything from GE. I hate the Carls Junior ads with all the slurping and dripping ketchup-yuck!The darth vader ad was ok but in general I hate having some kid either sell me or guilt me into buying some crap. There is no way they have any idea what the heck they are talking about. The most recent ad that irritates me are these Trojan vibrator ads. Why do we need these? Do guys really get that excited because his wife got a vibrator for a present? I think I would punch the gifter in the mouth. -what are you sayin'? I can't perform adequately for my woman? You think that's funny?-(said in a Pesci accent)

AndrewPrice said...

Koshcat, I agree on all point actually!

I like the Chrysler ads, though I can't explain why. I like the one with the Detroit Lion (former Nebraska Cornhusker too). It's the same music, but about having a humble beginning.

I miss good jingles. I can still remember dozens of them and I absolutely remember the McDonald's ad. It's almost as strong in my mind as the Alphabet Song.

I don't like the violent ads either or the ads with kids. Kids are props and manipulative props at that. And I hate ads that try to guilt me into anything -- I do not respond well to guilt appeals.

And I HATE the stupid guy ads.

Yeah, great point about the Trojan ads. Not only are the ads ridiculous, but talk about mixed signals!

There are many ads that seem to send mixed signals. And I'm amazed how easily an ad will pretend that you are a loser unless you buy a particular product. That seems like a dangerous way to sell a product, but they keep doing it.

T-Rav said...

Yeah, I can't stand that stupid spider commercial either. If I was the owner of that phone, I'd take the pieces left and shove them down that stupid girl's...wait, too dark. I keep forgetting. (*The violent thoughts expressed by me do not necessarily reflect those of the Commentarama managers or viewers or of Blogger in general. They just probably do.*)

Oh, and I also never liked that stupid Quizno's commercial with the cats singing an off-key rendition of "Three Blind Mice" or whatever the heck it was. Ones I do like? Off the top of my head, virtually anything for Budweiser.

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, We would never advocate injuring or torturing actors. . . except when we do. :-) My beef is with the whole ad. I don't care much about the actors either way in that one, I hate the whole concept. Don't scream at me during a commercial break!!!

Bud ads haven't been memorable to me for years (I guess I'm not the target demographic anymore) -- at least not since the frogs... Bud ... Wei... Zer.

AndrewPrice said...

As an aside, back in the day, when Saturday Night Live was good, one of the things they did well was make fake commercials. Here is my favorite:

Citiwide Bank

Unknown said...

The reaction of the Samsung people to the picture on the phone is a little different from what mine would be. Instead of screaming, there would have been a loud explitive, probably starting with sh or f, followed by the table being overturned and stomped on. OK, I'm arachnophobic. I'm with the crowd that changes channels immediately when the commercials come on. I always have the remote close-by for that purpose. Even then, sometimes I not quick enough.

I agree that Falling Skies got a little better, but not enough. And the commercials do seem to come constantly. I changed the channel during one of the commercials, then forgot to go back, so I have no idea how the story ended, and don't much care either.

I honestly can't think of a single product I've ever bought because I saw their commercial. But a long time ago, they were at least good enough to remind me to buy something I did like, like Band-Aids, Oscar Mayer weiners, Oreos (and milk).

I admit to watching one series of commercials all the way through--like watching a train wreck. I know I shouldn't, but I can't help myself. It's the Chrysler commercials. They're supposed to convince me to buy the reborn Chrysler product and the reborn Detroit. I ain't buyin' either. Mostly the commercials look like something that's a joint effort between Sean Puff Daddy Puffy P Diddy Diddy Combs and the Detroit Anti-Mass Exodus Committee.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, I can't think of an ad either that's made me want to buy a product. But there have been quite a few that reminded me of products I liked but had forgotten about. And you're right, those are almost always jingles that suddenly go off in the store!

It's funny how many old products I can sing the jingle too, and how many new products just draw a blank for me.

On the Chrysler ad, I have no idea what it is about those ads, but they are very watchable. I don't care for the new 300 -- it lost it's character, but I do like the ads for some reason.

Unknown said...

Andrew: You're probably not even old enough to remember the Oreo jingle that first got me humming it: "Little girls have pretty curls, but I like Oreo." LOL And though it never got me to buy their brand of milk (or not buy it either), there were the hilarious "all us cows do our best for Jerseymaid." As for Band-Aids, I think I was in my thirties before I realized there even were other brands.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, Truthfully, I don't know the Oreo jingle, it was before my time.

BandAids though have been "stuck on BankAid brand cause BandAids stick on me" for as long as I can remember.

And one I will always remember though it isn't technically a jingle is "time to make the donuts..." LOL!

Tennessee Jed said...

Andrew - my only point about the beers is that you can't really count since you don't drink anyway. I tend to drink more wine than beer, but on a hot day after golf . . . My point is, I've had enough experience with that product category to drink what I like.

As far as Hardee's, maybe that is a product that isn't out west. They do the thick burger with hot thin babes biting into 50 lb. loaded burgers (among others.)

I think where an ad campaign or commercial CAN be effective is in the following circumstances 1) you are in the market for the product 2) You are aware of the major players, but really undecided. 3) the commercial "speaks to you.

Let me give you an example. I know a little bit about computers, but was hardly a "tekkie." I had always had MS products including Windows. Windows would crash alot, freeze up, etc. I had recently gotten an ipod when Napster was at it's peak. I was ready for a new computer. The Apple ads with Justin Long were quite effective with me in reinforcing the notion I wanted to try something different. While I agree with your point about the OS for both, from the other day, I will admit that I have been generally happier than with MS.

Tennessee Jed said...

One other area where ad campaigns have been very effective is high end audeo/video. When I was in the market, I would buy the trade magazines and read the reviews. I ended up with Runco which had a great reputation at the high end. They had their dealers set up "appointment only" consultations, and went with a print ad campaign "only a Runco" that seems dorky and cheesey, but was actually quite effective.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I think ads are effective primarily in letting you know something exists (or reminding you), and I think they have LONG term benefit for building up an image for certain quality products.

Apple is a good example. Apple sells itself as a club as much as a computer and thus, the ads are very effective in telling people what kind of club they are joining. People embrace not only the product, but the reputation and the lifestyle.

In the same vein, certain high end products have run long term campaigns that gave their product a reputation which made them desirable. The classic example of this is probably De Beers, which took a relatively common stone and turned it into a must have piece of "rare" jewelry.

But I think these tend to be long term influences that take years to build as the companies spend a fortune telling people what to associate with the product. I also think these ads have to have the product to back them up or people reject the ads.

What's more, I think you can destroy decades of advertising with one bad campaign or one big enough scandal. For example, if you get caught with a worm in your burger or cheap breaks on your car, ten years of good will can be lost over night.

The area where I don't believe ads work is (1) in making you buy something you weren't prepared to buy in the first place, and (2) getting you to try a product despite your proven dislike for the product or other concerns about its quality. In other words, if I don't like Pizza X, no amount of Pizza X ads can make me buy one. Nor do I think an ad for some product like life insurance, no matter how clever can make me buy it if I don't need it.

Too many of the ad people I've spoken too genuinely believe they can get people to do anything. I think that's just wrong. And it's certainly wrong when I hate their ads.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Hi Andrew!

Great post! I concur that not all publicity is good or wise, and that definitely goes for ads.

I used to like that old alka seltzer ad: "plop plop fizz fizz oh what a relief it is," and "I can't believe I ate the whole thing," lol.

Then there was Wendy's "where's the beef?!" using that really adorable little old lady.

Not only was the ad funny but it was true, at that time that only Wendy's (talking about big chain restaurants here) gave us a choice of putting on more beef (up to 3 quarter pound patties! and probably more if you ask)!

Needless to say it became my favorite burger because I actually like more beef than bun and fixin's (not that there's anything wrong with buns and fixin's...but me, I'm all about the beef if I'm gonna spring for a burger).
Plus, it really is more like "old fashioned" burgers.

I think between them and Burger King (have it your way) they revolutionallized the fast food industry because now they all have those options.
Never like Burger king though, 'cause their burgers are always dry like hockey pucks and not juicy like Wendy's.

Flamebroiled is fine if you don't overcook the burger but it hardly works in a fast food setting.

Speaking of BK, since they started using that guy dressed up with the creepy king head n' tights I really hate their commercials.
They also have one where "everyday folks like me" (yeah right) sing a horrendous ditty with a bad tune, and mostly off key at that.

I like most of the Geico commercials, especially the one with Gunny Ermey as a psychiatrist, lol.
IMO, drill instructors would make far better psychiatrists than most psychiatrists.
Self confidence is much more useful than an over inflated self esteem.

But I don't use Geico because although I might save 15% or more I would lose the far more substantial savings I get from being with Allstate for a long time.

And I don't wanna piss off that "mayhem" guy, lol.

I also agree with Jed about liking the Budweiser commercials.
Although not as entertaining as the frogs, horses or the "taste great!" Less filling!" (Bud Lite) ads of the past, I do like the ones where they salute our military heroes and I also like their beer. :^)

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, Thanks!

I agree totally about burgers. Wendy's has the most burgery burger and I like that -- meat is a plus, bun is not. BK is too dry and McDonalds is too processed -- though I will eat there occasionally (but I prefer their breakfasts).

I really hated those BK King ads. It was very, very creepy. In fact, I'm not sure BK has ever had a good ad campaign now that I think back upon it? At least there's nothing memorable -- though I'm glad they pioneered the "have it your way" thing because I do like having choices.

I like a lot of the Geico ads. And I really liked the Ermey ones -- especially when he throws the tissues at the guy, I thought the whole concept was great! I like the Gekko too before he got kind of dull. I really liked him singing Kung Fu Fighting!

Oddly, I have a lot of goodwill toward Allstate from their ads, though I don't have their insurance. I can't think of the guy's name (black guy), but he is an excellent spokesman.

Anonymous said...

What I want to know is why the pizzas at my local Pizza Hut don't look nearly as good as they do on TV? They used to years ago and they tasted great, but not so much anymore.

A couple of fairly recent commercials that I really like: the one for Farmer's Insurance showing that distracted driving can be really hazardous and the one with Tony Stewart advertising Armor All (I just love the gas guy from his pit crew pouring milk in his cereal from the gas can). Both of them had me really cracking up.


rlaWTX said...

I hate Allstate, but the guy from The Unit can nearly sell me! I loved when the show made it big and they placed Allstate commercials during the show.

I like the Mayhem commercials. and the gecko. But I already have Geico. And I hate the BK guy - creepy! I vaguely remember something about BK from the 80's being a good commercial - but obviously not good enough to actually remember!
Wendy's also had the fashion show commercials - pre-end-of-cold-war "svimwear"... loved those. And there was a commercial for "Doxadan?" in the late 80s with a guy sitting on a stool with his guitar on an empty set singing this awful jingle about a suppository or something - it FREAKED my mom and she'd nearly kill herself to get the volume off (pre-remote). otherwise, I would not remember the ad at all.

we have a local car salesman who, according to the rumor mill, is as slimy as one expects a car salesman to be. even without the rumors, his commercials ick me out, with the rumors I want to take a shower afterward. And the ones where he uses his bimbo wife and kid are beyond words bad.
There's another one that is soooo stupid (his dog is supposed to say "I wov wu" but never does) but he looks like he is having so much fun doing it that you have to smile.

Retro Hound said...

Hardees and Carl JR. are the same company I think. Fast food hamburger joints. Hardees ads are just offensive and when they aren't offensive, they are juvenile and stupid. And by "stupid" I mean they make no sense.

AndrewPrice said...

TJ, I like those too. The milk thing is really funny.

On Pizza Hut, I honestly can't tell you. I know what you mean though. It struck me that it was a better pizza years ago, but then it could just be my memory? As for not looking like the commercials... yeah, truth and accuracy are not exactly big things in advertising.

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, We used to have a local company called Germers -- they sold jeans. They prided themselves on having obnoxious ads. But by modern standards, they were very, very tame. The guy shouted his deals into the camera -- that was it. That made him into a local celebrity, but I'm not sure it ultimately worked because he did end up going out of business.

AndrewPrice said...

Retro Hound, I checked and we do have Hardies here, but they don't advertise (or at least, I don't see them). But I looked up some of their ads on the web and yeah, they stink.

Anonymous said...

"As for not looking like the commercials... yeah, truth and accuracy are not exactly big things in advertising." I know what you mean, but the Pizza Hut pizzas really used to look that good in person.

One thing I can't stand is advertisements for "New and Improved". They usually mean "Awful": Coke anyone? If they have something good, why do they feel the need to tinker with it? Grrrr!!


AndrewPrice said...

TJ, Same here. First, every time they "fix" something I like, they make it worse. Uggg!!!!

Secondly, "new and improved" always strikes me that they're trying to pull something over on me -- like they've cut the volume and they're trying to hide it behind a new label or something.

Clearly, I have a low opinion of advertisers! LOL!

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