August, 2012

After 50 Years, Avis Kills ‘we Try Harder’

Half a century ago, Avis revolutionized car rental marketing by advertising that they were “Only Number 2″ and were trying harder.

Gone but not forgotten

As of last year, Avis was no longer number two by one measure, its fleet (285,000 cars in service) being smaller than Hertz’s (320,000) and Enterprise Holdings’ combined Alamo, Enterprise and National brands (920,681).

And as of this week, they’re no longer trying harder.

Avis announced that it’s officially killing the slogan that saved them from financial disaster in 1962.

The tag line that saved a company

When then-Avis CEO Robert Townsend approached then-upstart advertising agency Doyle Dane Bernbach for help, the company had just racked up its thirteenth consecutive annual loss, this time of   $3.2 million ($22.8 million in 2010 dollars).

When copywriter Paula Green and art director Helmut Krone studied the company, they learned that there were only two good things they could honestly say about it — that it was only number two (behind Hertz) and that it would try harder (to keep ashtrays empty, cars clean, gas tanks filled, provide friendly service, etc.).

In just one year, their advertising campaign turned around not only the whole car rental industry, but Avis’s financial picture as well, propelling them to a $1.2 million ($8.5 million in 2010 dollars) profit.

The car rental company stuck with that slogan for 50 years. “In a period when taglines and brand positioning typically come and go every few years,” Ad Age writes, “the endurance of the ‘We Try Harder’ motto was unique.”

But no more. Read more →

How Microsoft Got To Its New Logo

Some brands’ logos evolve slowly but gradually over the years, so subtly that only a before-and-after look will reveal the difference.

Others change abruptly, like quantum leaps.

Microsoft’s new logo is firmly in the abrupt change camp. But that’s nothing new for them, as you’ll see from viewing their logos over the years.

The new logo features a square icon made up of four colored squares. It’s supposed to “express the company’s diverse portfolio of products.” A cynic would say it expresses the company’s culture.

New Research Reveals Why You’re Going To Believe This Post

This post may not be true. (Actually, it is.) But you’re more likely to think it’s true — more likely than some others.

That’s because it has something some others don’t — a picture.

Advertising professionals have long known that a picture makes an ad stand out and attract more readership than an all-type ad.

They’ve also known that pictures can go beyond being illustrative to becoming a vital part of the communication.

Sometimes they do this by appearing to contradict the headline, as in the classic Volkswagen ad that showed a picture of an apparently perfect VW Beetle over the headline “Lemon.” (The body copy explained that inspectors had uncovered a minor blemish which VW fixed before sending the car out into the marketplace.)

And sometimes they do it by communicating an important piece of information more powerfully than the headline can.

But even the ad pros didn’t know that, according to experiment results from New Zealand and Canada, the mere presence of a photograph, regardless of subject matter, can make ads more believable.

Research confirms some old cliches

You’d have to be deaf, blind or illiterate not to have heard, seen or read the old adages that “seeing is believing” or that “one picture is worth a thousand words.”

Now, scientific research proves them. Read more →

Dishonest Gm Commercial Has A Run-in With The Law

GM running dishonest, misleading commercials is practically a dog-bites-man story, too commonplace to warrant news coverage.

This time they got caught.

But this time, it’s man bites dog. Because this time, they got caught.

And they got caught because of where they tried to run it.

The UK Advertising Authority has just banned a Chevrolet Volt commercial for making ridiculously misleading claims about its battery mileage.

A Volt by any other name…

Literally speaking, it wasn’t a Chevy Volt commercial.

GM’s $659 million deal to put the Chevrolet bowtie on the back of soccer team Manchester Union’s uniform jerseys notwithstanding, GM doesn’t sell Chevrolets anywhere in Europe. And that includes the British Isles.

There, the same car — but with the driver’s seat on the right — is rebadged as the Vauxhall Ampera. On the mainland — with the driver’s seat on the left — it’s the Opel Ampera.

But whatever you call the car, Britain’s official advertising regulatory authority called its commercial misleading.

They ‘forgot’ the engine

“For carbon-conscious drivers, the advert for an electric car with an impressive 360-mile range seemed too good to be true,” reports the Daily Mail. “Unfortunately, it appears it was, as the real range of the electric batteries in the Vauxhall Ampera is a rather more modest 50 miles. And to go beyond that, it relies on help from a somewhat less green source – a petrol engine.” Read more →

Creative Director Of Apple “genius” Campaign Quits

Scot Trattner, the executive creative director who oversaw the creation of Apple’s universally hated “Genius” television campaign, has quit his job at TBWA/Media Arts Lab.

He’s leaving for a similar post at agency 72andSunny, where he’ll get to work on more, smaller, brands instead of one humongous one.

Having created Apple’s “I’m a Mac” campaign, which was everything the “Genius” campaign wasn’t, Trattner’s no slouch at creating good, effective advertising.

Under the terms of his agreement with TBWA/MAL, Trattner can’t comment on the reasons for his departure. But with a swan song like that, he’s not exactly going out in a blaze of glory.

Only following orders?

According to Ad Age, though, Trattner and his “Genius” campaign creative team may have only been doing what they were told to do, namely, following through on a strategic inference Apple made, based on one datum from online research firm YouGov. Read more →

More Advertising Pros Say Apple Campaign Was No Stroke Of Genius

Two days ago, thanks to rising stock prices, Apple Computer replaced Microsoft as the world’s most valuable company in history.

Gone but not forgotten

But the stock of its gone but not forgotten “Genius” television campaign is at an all-time low with advertising professionals, who overwhelmingly believe the commercials sold the brand short.

Selling the brand short

New York copywriter Tom Carden spoke for the vast majority when he commented, “These goofy genius spots made Apple products seem difficult to master. Apple’s position is just the opposite.”

He also found executional as well as strategic fault. “[A]ll the casting was awful,” he added. “Both geniuses and Apple users seemed silly. Hard to believe they let these run.”

Other commenters suggested different reasons why Apple did let these run.

Wrong input?

Jeff Mullen, an associate creative director from New York, thinks it was because Apple didn’t listen to focus groups. “Hard to understand how these were approved, given clients’ propensity for intensive focus groups prior to media spends,” he says.

On the other hand, Tom Freyer, a creative director from Austin, thinks it was because they did. Read more →

Colleges Think Marketing Will Solve Admissions Declines

In an interview in today’s New York Times book review section, National Public Radio host Ira Glass declared that messaging outweighs reality.

"Costs and dead-end majors are driving students away, but, hey, we'll fix it all with marketing."

“Could someone please write a book,” he asked, “explaining why the Democratic Party and its allies are so much less effective at crafting a message and having a vision than their Republican counterparts?”

Well, Ira, if public radio and screenwriting ever go bad for you, six-figure jobs are waiting for you at universities that share your belief that messaging is superior to fact.

Colleges across the country (but apparently neither the University of Richmond nor VCU) are hiring chief marketing officers to create messages that will divert prospective students’ attention from the harsh realities of their schools’ very real product and pricing problems.

“[A] number of universities, wary of the public perception that the degrees they offer may not be worth the student loan burden, have taken to hiring highly-paid ‘CMOs’ (Chief Marketing Officers) to build their brands and coordinate their admissions offices’ sales pitch,” Walter Russell Mead writes.

The advertising industry has long believed that consumer perceptions — even counterfactual perceptions — are marketing realities that no effective strategy or execution can afford to ignore.

In this case, though, the perceptions are totally factual.

High costs, broken promises

According to the Economic Policy Institute:

For young college graduates, the unemployment rate jumped from 5.7 percent in 2007 to 10.4 percent in 2010, dwarfing the increases in prior recessions.

Between 2000 and 2011, the real (inflation-adjusted) wages…of young college graduates declined by 5.4 percent.

The cost of higher education has grown far more rapidly than median family income, leaving students with little choice but to take out loans, which, upon graduating into a labor market with limited job opportunities, they may not have the funds to repay.

Average debt for graduating seniors at public universities was $21,105 in 2008, and average debt for graduating seniors at private non-profit universities was $28,888.

While the Obama Recession accelerated these trends, it didn’t create them, the EPI notes. “[W]ages of young graduates were dropping even before the Great Recession began.”

For those college graduates who can somehow get work commensurate with their learning, the added value of that bachelor’s degree is a mere shadow of what Fraser Nelson calls “the mis-selling of higher education” led them to expect. This, he adds, “is one of the least remarked-upon scandals of our time.” Read more →

Cable Declines Pose Growing Problem For Local Advertisers

How does an advertiser reach a Westchester County, NY, television audience without having to pay for New Jersey, Connecticut, New York City, and Long Island?

How do you reach Northern Virginia without buying Maryland or DC?

How do you reach western Henrico County without paying for the Richmond/Petersburg metro?

The answer is cable television. But it may not be for much longer.

Cable subscriptions down — again

According to a Leichtman Research Group report released yesterday, the nine largest cable companies lost 540,000 video customers in this year’s second quarter (and it’s little consolation that the loss is only 90% of the same period’s last year).

The 13 largest multichannel cable, satellite and telephone company operators lost 325,000 customers — slightly more than same time last year.

Satellite television companies alone lost 62,000 subscribers, and DirecTV (possibly because of its losing 26 Viacom channels including AMC, MTV and Nickelodeon) suffered its first net loss of subscribers (52,000 of them) ever.

If this trend continues, it could pose almost as big a problem for local advertisers as for cable and satellite systems.

No good choices

Viewers’ desertion of cable for online streaming video — either from broadcast and cable channels themselves or from less-expensive-than-cable sites such as Hulu, none of which run local advertising — can potentially leave smaller local advertisers with only bad alternatives. Read more →

Cmo Firing Was Just The Beginning Of Gm’s Problems

When it comes to sales and marketing problems, GM’s firing of worldwide marketing chief Joel Ewanick the beginning of this month was just the tip of the iceberg, according to reports surfacing August 13 and 14.

$659 million to trash brand equity

The proximate cause of Ewanick’s ouster, you may recall, was his negotiation of a $659 million sponsorship deal to put the Chevrolet bowtie icon on the backs of soccer team Manchester United’s uniform jerseys. Most Man U fans live in countries where Opels and Vauxhalls and Holdens, not Chevrolets, are sold.

This was one step in what Daily Caller blogger Mickey Kaus calls “General Motors’ plan to displace the venerable and respected Opel brand in Europe with a new Chevrolet ‘global’ brand.”

Automotive News editor-in-chief Keith Crain agrees with Kaus’s contention that this plan “really is as insane as it seems.”

“[I]nstead of trying to fix” the money-losing Opel brand, Crain wrote yesterday, GM will trash “decades of strong [brand] recognition with Europeans,” which, he adds will take decades for the Chevrolet nameplate to establish:

People who know the car business realize how difficult and expensive it is to establish a brand in a market, particularly an American brand that is an import to Europeans…

GM got rid of some pretty strong car brands in North America, including Pontiac, and is starting from scratch to introduce Chevrolet in Europe. GM will spend billions of euros to establish a new brand and dealer organization when it already has the well-established Opel and Vauxhall brands.

GM should allocate that money to fixing Opel rather than trashing a strong existing brand.

GM needs good car people and European finance folks to figure out what Opel needs and then do it. It would be more productive and less expensive than starting another brand in Europe.

Cooking the books?

One of the cardinal sins that allegedly cost Ewanick his job was using irregular accounting practices — dividing the cost of the Man U sponsorship among several different marketing budgets — to conceal its humongous total.

If so, he was perfectly in line with standard accounting practices, GM-style. Read more →

The Winning Olympics Ads Weren’t About The Olympics

Now that they’ve put out the torch in London, research firm Ace Metrix has named the Olympic advertising winners.

It's all about emotional cnnection.

In surveys of representative samples of American consumers, Ace averages scores of commercials’ content, based on relevance to viewers, persuasion, interest (which Ace calls “watchability”), information and attention to come up with a score from 1 to 950.

The top commercials come in somewhere in the mid-600 range — and the funny thing is, they’re not about the Olympics.

Team winners: P&G

If you measure in terms of total wins, like the U.S. vs. China, then Procter & Gamble is the overall winner. Their “Proud Sponsor of Moms” campaign glorified not the Olympic athletes, but the mothers who raised, nourished, supported and rooted for them from very young childhood on — and, by extension, mothers throughout the world (who, incidentally, comprise the target audience for Procter & Gamble products).

No commercial  brings this message home so single-mindedly as their “Best Job,” which earned an Ace Score of 638. “Kids 2012,” which dramatized how mothers still see their grown-up athletes by showing children suited up and competing in Olympic events, was close behind with 636.

Another measure declared Procter & Gamble the winner in the social media competition. Unruly Media’s Brand Tracker measures effectiveness by number of times a viral video was shared, and with 2,489,451 shares, the P&G campaign won by 1.60934 kilometers (a mile to all us non-metric yahoos).

Individual winner: GE

General Electric’s highest-scoring (646 on the Ace Metrix scale) spot, “First Chance,” didn’t show or mention the Olympics at all. Read more →