May, 2013

Carnival Solves Massive Ship Problems By Firing Ad Agency


What do you do when your product keeps breaking down while in use, costs dozens of customers their lives, endangers the health of hundreds of others, and fails to deliver what thousands paid for?

Well, if you’re Carnival Cruise Lines, you fire your advertising agency, according to a May 30 Advertising Age report.

Brands have a habit of firing agencies over issues that have nothing to do with advertising. GM, for example, did it to undermine ousted global CMO Joel Ewanick’s legacy. JCPenney did it because their marketing guru Sergio Zyman likes working with big agencies – like the one that helped him disastrously introduce New Coke.

But compared to Carnival, these decisions seem to have Mr. Spock-like rationality.

A sea of problems

As the world’s largest cruise company (They also own Holland America, Princess Cruises, Seabourn, P&O Cruises, Cunard, Costa Cruises, Aida and Iberocruceros.), they’re the heir, by mergers and acquisitions, to the line that owned the Titanic. And while none of their ships has struck an iceberg and sunk in the North Atlantic – at least not yet – this past year they’ve been awash in a sea of problems: Read more →

Kmart Doubles Down On Pre-adolescent Potty Humor As Creative Strategy


Hoping to lift its sales figures out of the toilet, Kmart is doubling down on its viral and television campaign based on preteen potty puns, Advertising Age reported May 23.

Specifically, they’re following their “Ship My Pants” video with a new one about “Big Gas Savings.” (If you don’t get the intended humor, either click the links or try saying the titles aloud. Fast.)

Too little, too late?

In all fairness, the teenage toilet jokes aren’t there in a vacuum; they’re based on actual shopping features Kmart wanted to promote – “Ship My Pants” on free shipping of some “65 million products on line” – but only items they can’t find in the store – and “Big Gas Savings” on a deal that lets members of the store’s Shop Your Way rewards program save 30 cents a gallon of gas at Kmart pumps whenever they buy $50 worth of merchandise.

Execution aside, they’re kinda late to the party. Read more →

Stand-alone Digital Marketing Silos May Disappear By 2023

abandoned silo

Digital media have transformed advertising and spawned what seems to be zillions of stand-alone agencies specializing in digital, social, and similar forms of marketing. But according to a May 22 MediaPost report, their days may be numbered.

In a March and April Mediaschool Group survey of 2,000 marketing students across Europe, fully 80 percent predicted that these specialized silos will disappear within ten years.

If true, this may a good thing.

As digital media grew, they grew in complexity; and few, if any, practitioners of advertising had sufficient mastery of all the rapidly evolving technical ins and outs.

So enter an army of technical, coding and other specialists who had little to no mastery of advertising and marketing.

Button-pushers run rampant

While their work produced some great successes, such as Ford’s Explorer Facebook campaign that saw a 104 percent increase in shopping activity, it’s also produced a huge number of blunders whose consequences were anything from laughable to tasteless to downright creepy. Read more →

Why More Than 30 Percent Of Mobile Advertising Dollars Are Wasted


According to a May 22 Advertising Age report, about 30 percent of desktop ads and an even higher percentage of mobile ads are a total waste of money.

That has nothing whatever to do with the quality, effectiveness or targeting of the ads themselves, digital analytics firm ComScore found recently.

Nor is it part of the usual rant about how clicks, likes and other forms of buzz don’t equal sales.

It’s because that proportion of the advertising is simply unviewable.

New medium, old problem

The problem of wasted media dollars goes back at least as far as the beginning of another newfangled technology – commercial broadcasting.

By their very nature, radio and television reach audiences that advertisers really don’t want to pay for.

Part of this is geographic, because by definition broadcasting covers a – wait for it – broad area. So if you’re a restaurant owner trying to drum up local lunch business in downtown Richmond, radio, for example, will help – but at the cost of buying useless (to you) listeners all the way from Charlottesville to Norfolk. Read more →

Truth In Advertising

This is our second year of advertising how great our client Bikram Hot Yoga Richmond is at helping peopleBikram_Web_Avatar_Lose lose weight faster, build strength faster and ease pain faster.

Style Weekly readers evidently believe our ads are true, because they’ve voted Bikram Hot Yoga Richmond’s best yoga studio. Again.

Congratulations, for the second year running, to owner Garland Hume and her whole staff.




Coming From Gm: Streaming Ad Videos In Your Car

One person died in this three-car crash. (KATU News photo)

GM CEO Dan Akerson thinks there’s one problem with his company’s cars: They don’t make enough money from their owners. So his company’s hard at work to remedy that– by turning them into smartphones on wheels, complete with streaming video and paid advertising, by the 2015 model year, according to a May 9 MediaPost Marketing Daily report (link not available).

Chump change

The car maker already takes in about $1.5 billion a year from its OnStar safety and security system, but to Akerson that’s chump change. “We have never been properly compensated,” he complained, so GM will be changing OnStar to “make some real money.” While he wouldn’t say just what those changes might be, he did say, “We do want to change this from a safety and security business to one that is much more feature-rich.”

But OnStar won’t be the only thing changing.

By mid-2014, Reuters reports, GM “will start selling internet-capable vehicles that GM says allow passengers in the backseat to watch streaming video,” complete with streaming commercials.  By 2015, most Chevrolets, Buicks, GMCs and Cadillacs will also have “4G LTE mobile broadband.”

‘Brought to you by Allstate’

“For example,” Akerson enthused, “what happens if when the logo shows up on your screen, it says ‘brought to you by Allstate’? How many times is that going to pop? And how much can you get from Allstate?” Read more →

Critics Slam New York’s ‘open For Business’ Ad Campaign As Costly ‘fluff’


Little more than half a year after Hurricane Sandy, New York is undergoing a storm of criticism over a business development advertising campaign that’s long on cost and short on reality, The American Interest blog reported May 5.

The cost

The Cuomo administration set aside about $140 million to fund the campaign. The governor’s office, according to the New York Times, claims that “the scale of the campaign is similar to that in other states.”

But other states whose tax, labor and regulatory policies have caused them to hemorrhage businesses are applying less costly tourniquets. “Connecticut is spending $27 million promoting its state, Michigan $25 million…California spent $50 million on a campaign to promote its state,” state operations manager Howard Glaser told the Times. All three  are less than $140 million. Combined.

The source

What’s prompted even more criticism than the cost is the source of all that money, namely, “ostensibly independent” state agencies that have functions other than paying for advertising.

A state official said the early stages of the ad campaign were partly financed by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, which runs programs intended to reduce energy consumption and improve the environment, and the Dormitory Authority of New York, which supports universities and nonprofit institutions.

Last December, the Cuomo administration added another $50 million. The money came from the State Power Authority, which was created to generate and provide cheap electricity to lower bills for residents and business.

Last month, the state expanded the “Open for Business” campaign, using $40 million from the federal aid package intended to help New Yorkers recover from Hurricane Sandy, records show.

“These authorities should be lowering electric rates, building dormitories and otherwise doing what they were created to do, rather than being raided” to pay for the commercials and air time, former Westchester County state assemblyman Richard Brodsky (a Democrat, incidentally), told the Times. Read more →

Bud Light Marketing Strategy Ignores The First Law Of Holes


Advertising Age reported on Bud Light’s summer marketing plans May 1, and they’re straight out of the 13-year-old Saturday Night Live “More Cowbell” sketch.

You remember – the one where Christopher Walken, playing a music producer, keeps telling a band to add more and more cowbell until the take is totally ruined.

Doubling down on music

Having put “major resources” behind a Labor Day weekend music festival in Philadelphia last year, parent company A-B InBev

is rolling out a program called “Bud Light Music First” that will culminate Aug[ust] 1 with one concert in all 50 states.

The event, called “50/50/1,” will be staged everywhere from Anchorage, Alaska[,] to Albuquerque, N.M.[,] and feature acts including Kendrick Lamar, Sublime with Rome, Alex Clare and the Flaming Lips. Bud Light will promote the event on MySpace, which will host a hub for the program in which fans can get concert updates, listen to featured artists and download a special app that can be used to win prizes, including concert tickets.

They’re also bringing back Justin Timberlake as “music curator” front man for  pseudo-craft beer Bud Light Platinum’s advertising campaign.

Misery loves company?

Even the fact that Bud Light’s partnering with MySpace is deja vu all over again.

You remember MySpace, don’t you?

That’s the social network that people used to go to until Facebook came along. Read more →

New Jc Penney Ad Begs Customers To Return


When Young & Rubicam CEO David Sable announced his advertising agency’s win of the J C Penney business on April 25, he said, “I and the whole team look forward to helping JC Penney as they write a great new chapter.” May 1, a new television commercial showed consumers the first page.

The spot will run for less than a week on broadcast channels, Facebook and YouTube, then slip away to possibly well deserved oblivion in time for a Mother’s Day promotion.

It takes the form of a plea and an apology to customers that ousted CEO Ron Johnson’s “fair and square pricing” marketing strategy alienated in droves, costing the retailer a 25 percent drop in sales and a $985 million loss in just one year.

Creative and production work began several months ago, while Penney was still sharpening up the axe for Johnson, according to a May 1 Bloomberg News report.

It uses footage from Penney’s previous “Yours Truly” campaign that debuted during the Oscars broadcast, over which a female voice says

It’s no secret, recently JC Penny changed. Some changes you liked and some you didn’t, but what matters from mistakes is what we learn. We learned a very simple thing, to listen to you. To hear what you need, to make your life more beautiful. Come back to JCPenney, we heard you. Now, we’d love to see you.

“We want to give customers our assurance that what they loved about JCPenney’s trusted brands, great style and affordable prices will be inherent to every shopping experience,” a spokeswoman said.

Since the retailer was bleeding (though not yet hemorrhaging) money before Johnson’s disastrous 17-month makeover, there may not have been that much love. And, based on online comments, there’s a lot of residual hate. Read more →

Three More Advertisers Forced To Pull ‘insensitive’ Commercials


In the wake of Hyundai pulling and abjectly apologizing for a UK commercial that upset a London copywriter whose father committed suicide, three more brands have had to follow suit, Advertising Age reported May 2.


One of these was the last of a three-spot campaign for Mountain Dew, the first two having apparently escaped offending anyone’s tender sensitivities.

When an organization calling itself the Black World Coalition denounced it as “arguably the most racist commercial in history,” parent company Pepsico cancelled the entire campaign – which is slightly ironic when one considers that rapper Tyler, the Creator, who, well, created it is himself black.

In the first commercial of the series, Felicia the Goat (whose voice Tyler based on his mother’s) beats up a (white) waitress for serving Mountain Dew. Why, nobody knows. In the second spot, the goat escapes and is pulled over for DewUI (Get it?). In the third, “most racist commercial in history,” the battered waitress is asked to pick out her assailant from a lineup comprising  the goat and five black men.

And that’s where the “racism” comes in. “Of course, in the world of Mountain Dew, every single suspect is black,” the Black World Coalition complains. But this neglects the fact that in order for a lineup to work, all the subjects (who can sometimes include police officers) need to look and dress alike in order to avoid bias; so if one person in the lineup is black, the others have to be, too. Tyler could have easily cast a lineup of white thugs, but then someone might have whined about the spot having a lily-white cast. Read more →