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December, 2012

Graduates Sue Their Law Schools For Illegal Marketing Tactics

Fifty-one recent law school graduates are suing their alma maters in New York, California, Illinois, Delaware and Florida for consumer fraud, the Wall Street Journal reported December 27.

And according to an article by University of Missouri law professor Ben Trachtenberg, to be published in the June 2013 Nebraska Law Review, the biggest question is what took them so long.

For years, he notes, law schools nationwide have been routinely practicing the kind of illegal marketing tactics that would get any other marketer hauled up before the FTC – with no consequences other than the forced resignation of two law school deans over as many years.

“In their efforts to maintain enrollment,” Trachtenberg writes, “law school officials have engaged in deceit and misrepresentation,” using “highly misleading advertising,” “misleading statistics” and “bald-faced lies.”

“The abuses here weren’t so small,” one legal blogger notes:

Law schools made specific representations about salaries, scholarships, and other facts to encourage six-figure investments. The people making the representations were professionals with advanced degrees, who had inside knowledge of the legal industry. Most of the people receiving the representations were college students with relatively little knowledge of either law schools or law practice.

Lies, damn lies and statistics

One example of misleading marketing, which Trachtenberg calls a “brazen falsehood,” was falsifying undergraduate GPA and LSAT scores.

Another is padding graduates’ employment and salary statistics. Read more →

M&m Returns To Super Bowl Ad Lineup, And Other Updates

Mars Chocolate North America is returning to the Super Bowl, Advertising Age reported yesterday.

They’ll be running a :30 in the first quarter to promote M&Ms. This time, though, instead of featuring individual M&M characters, such as Red or Ms. Brown, chief consumer officer Roy Benin suggested in a statement that their commercial will be more of an ensemble than a solo act.

In other Super Bowl advertising updates:

  • CBS still has “a handful” of availabilities unsold, so if you’ve got $3.8 million plus production costs to spare, now’s your chance.
  • Lexus will be imitating Jurassic Park. Its new spot, “The Beast,” likens the GS model to an animal whose wild ride “cannot be contained.”
  • Axe brand director Gaston Vaneri announced in a Unilever company statement that “We have some extraordinary news to announce in 2013, taking our interaction with our fans to new heights, so the Super Bowl became the obvious platform to share it with the world,” whatever that means. Read more →

Did Mediocre Advertising Help Depress Holiday Retail Shopping?

Despite in-store promotions and despite discounts up to 60 percent, holiday foot traffic and sales numbers were down 4.3 percent this year, according to ShopperTalk.

Falling consumer confidence may have been one reason. It “dipped to its lowest point in December since July amid rising economic worries,” an AP report noted. “Shoppers are increasingly worried about the ‘fiscal cliff’ deadline — the possibility that a stalemate between Congress and the White House over the U.S. budget could trigger a series of tax increases and spending cuts starting Jan. 1,” it added.

“There was this absence of joy for the holiday,” said Marshal Cohen, chief research analyst at market research firm NPD Inc. “There was no Christmas spirit.”

Though nobody’s mentioning it, this year’s advertising may also have been a factor. Good advertising is supposed to boost sales, but bad advertising depresses them.

And if you look at AceMetrix’s just-released picks of 2012’s best holiday commercials and videos, you’ll see that the best is none too good. Read more →

2012’s Worst Online Marketing Blunders

You’d think that marketers would learn from last year’s online blunders, because through the magic of the Internet, they get punished so instantly and massively.

But no.

2012 had more than its share of egregious online marketing blunders, too. While some resulted from unintended consequences, others provoked consequences that were all too predictable, had anyone used a few human brains to think about them. Or if they’d simply tried common sense instead of blind greed.

January: Using a web tool he’d created, Lewis Peckover catches O2, the UK’s largest mobile phone network, leaking customers’ mobile smartphone numbers, browsing information and operating system versions to other websites. “O2 seems to be transparently proxying HTTP traffic and inserting this header,” he says. “If you’re on O2’s UK mobile network, you’ll see a line beginning with x-up-calling-line-id – followed by your mobile phone number in plain text. It is logical to conclude that this same information is sent to all other websites too.”

February: Apple’s iAd mobile advertising platform cuts its minimum annual advertising requirement by 90 percent – to a mere $100,000 – and starts breaking in its third top executive in two years. Read more →

Marketers Still Don’t Get It: More Qr Code Blunders

Back in October of last year and January of this year, we reported on the main reason QR codes don’t work the way marketers intended. And that’s that marketers display them in ways that make them physically impossible to scan.

You’d think that the industry might have learned something over the past year or so, but they haven’t. Maybe they’ve wised up about QR code placement in static media such as newspapers and magazines (or, in the case of the Croatian national postal service, on postage stamps), but when it comes to out-of-home, they’re still making enough bonehead mistakes to fill the wtfqrcodes.com blog with posts.

These blunders include

  • towing a QR code on an airborne banner, where only eagles with smartphones can scan them.
  • inviting highway pileups by posting them on the backs of moving buses.
  • posting them on the farthest walls from the platforms of subway stations, so that it takes either a smartphone with a telephoto lens or a consumer willing to risk the third rail to scan them.
  • posting them on website contact pages, so that you go to the page, scan the QR code and instantly whisk…back to the contact page, where you started.

So check out this slide show. And when you get through laughing, take those blunders seriously. They’re great guides to what not to do when you’re tempted to display QR codes.

Gm Starts Disassembling The Advertising Structure Its Fired Cmo Built Up

One of the biggest advertising and marketing stories of 2012 was GM’s precipitous and unceremonious firing of Joel Ewanick, the worldwide chief marketing officer it had brought on board with great fanfare.

In an August 2 conference call to analysts and reporters, CFO Dan Ammann stated, “The fundamental approach is, no change” in the wake of Ewanick’s abrupt dismissal. “The consolidation of agency spend, all the things we did with our media buy, those are all very real drivers of efficiencies and we’re absolutely going to continue with those.”

Like a politician’s promise, that statement came with an expiration date – namely, today.

Actions speak louder than words

One of the major themes of Ewanick’s tenure was cost retrenchment. To this end, he announced GM was cancelling a $10 million Facebook advertising buy on the eve of its IPO and tried to achieve economies of scale by consolidating GM’s advertising agency roster into an entity called Commonwealth – a hybrid comprising teams from  Omnicom- and Interpublic-owned agencies, with Ewanick’s favorite, Goodby Silverstein & Partners, taking the lead on Chevrolet.

Today, Advertising Age reports, GM took a chunk out of Commonwealth and handed it over to former GM agency Leo Burnett.

So much for consolidation and economies of scale. Read more →

‘bic For Her’ Promotion Provokes Huge Consumer Response – All Negative

The intended target audience?

When BiC did some targeted product development and launched BiC for Her pens – “designed to fit comfortably in a woman’s hand” and with “attractive barrel design available in pink in purple,” they got tons of consumer response.

Unfortunately, it was all derisive.

One commenter on the feminist website jezebel.com, for example, wrote “Oh thank the heavens above! My feeble, female hands were just a-strugglin’ with those bulky man pens.”

But it wasn’t just feminists who were outraged.

When Amazon put the pens up for sale online, angry women – and men – flooded the reviews with ridicule:

  • “Before these pens, I was nothing. I was a mere inconsequential woman, stumbling around writing nonsense with big pens that made me look ridiculous.”
  • “I could barely write my name without having to sit down afterwards- it’s nine letters long and thus really takes it out of me when writing with a normal pen designed for men.”
  • “These pens actually make me feel liberated! At last my delicate feminine needs and tastes are being considered!” Read more →

Ad Age Names Apple ‘the Most Damaged Big Brand Of The Year’

“It pains me to think of what’s happened to [Apple] this year,” Advertising Age columnist Simon Dumenco writes today in the Ad Age Daily online newsletter. “One of the most inspiring ongoing narratives of American corporate innovation and technological awesomeness has been diminished.”

Stocks down 29 percent

That’s not the the only thing.

Apple’s share price has been diminished, too. It’s down 29 percent, from a $705 52-week high to $503.36 as of this morning – and that figure in itself represents a 6.4 percent drop from yesterday.

‘Potentially life threatening’ new app

Last week, Australian police called Apple Maps “potentially life threatening” after the app directed drivers looking for the town of Mildura to the middle of a national park with   100-plus-degree (Fahrenheit) temperatures and no water supply some 40 miles distant from the town itself.

(Apple has announced that they’re replacing their proprietary application with the much more reliable Google Maps.) Read more →

The World’s Worst Ads Of 2012

When science-fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon first promulgated the principle that “90 percent of everything is crap,” he must have had advertising in mind.

With so much garbage out there, it’s hard to narrow down to the ten absolutely worst. But the dauntless staff of Business Insider was willing to grit their teeth, hold their noses and make a manful effort.

Here, from around the English-speaking world, are their picks for 2012’s worst of the worst:

10th Worst – Stanley Steemer “Rock ‘n’ Roll Carpet,” The Ron Forth Agency, Columbus, OH: This is a 30-second commercial; it only feels much longer.  Dee Snyder and Twisted Sister show up to party in some poor, defenseless woman’s home and really mess up the carpet. But that’s okay, because “Stanley Steemer gets the rock ‘n’ roll out of your carpet,” with “rocking savings.” Get it?

9th Worst – Chanel No. 5 “There you are,” Joe Wright: Not obnoxious, just pointless. Brad Pitt in black and white against a no-seam backdrop with changing lighting talks to someone or other off camera about something or other. Might have been a winner with a decent script. Read more →

Are These Really The World’s 18 Best Commercials?

Business Insider thinks that “choosing the...best ads of 2012 is a tough task” because “the line between ‘the great’ and ‘the absolute best’ is thin indeed.”

Maybe.

But when you look at their picks for the world’s ten best and eight runners-up, it may strikes you that most didn’t come anywhere near that line, much less cross it.

Because while most are rich in production values and dramatic, often computer-generated, special effects, they’re for the most part weak on ideas and message. All too many are of the all-too-familiar all-windup-and-no-pitch school, where a long – in one case over three-minute-long – setup leads to a one-line message that may or may not have anything to do with it.

Others use cinematic parodies, sometimes with good effect, sometimes not.

Three of the ten best (two deservedly so) came from one advertising agency – Wieden + Kennedy from Portland, OR.

But most of these commercials didn’t air in the United States, and some of those that were online still had limited exposure here, so you may enjoy seeing them for the first time.

And now, the winners: Read more →