June, 2013

Why Geico’s Catching Up To Allstate – For Now



According to SNL Financial data, Geico’s about to replace Allstate as the second-largest US auto insurance company. According to a June 28 Advertising Age report, maybe not.

For the first quarter ever – January 1 to March 31,  2013 – Geico overtook Allstate sales, writing $4.72 billion in direct auto insurance premiums while Allstate wrote $4.53 billion. Of course, both combined add up to just $0.82 billion more than category leader State Farm wrote in the same period.

It’s a horse race

But for the year ending March 31, instead of just the quarter, Allstate remained ahead, albeit by a nose, with a $17.65 billion-to-$17.16 billion lead.

In any event, the horse race is far from the finish line. While reporting that “after years of consistent premium growth, Geico is in position to become the second-largest U.S. personal auto writer in 2013,” SNL also warns that its business is more seasonal than Allstate’s. Read more →

Yet Another Apple Commercial Flops With Viewers




The latest in a series of Apple commercials – one boasting about how good their products make people feel – is making people feel…bored. In Ace Metrix advertising effectiveness research, the latest spot scored below the other 25 commercials that Apple’s aired this year, below industry average and way below the brand’s earlier advertising, Ad Age Digital reported June 27.

Adding insult to injury, it even scored lower than commercials for Microsoft’s Surface tablet. And when you can’t do better than a bunch of people mindlessly dancing around, like in a ’90s Pringles “When you pop, you can’t stop” commercial, you’re in trouble.

That may even be understating things. On the YouTube page where the commercial’s posted, someone disabled comments – and that’s never a good sign.

A televised vision statement

The minute-long commercial shows people using Apple products in various real (e.g., kids using iPads in a classroom) and fanciful (e.g., a couple under an umbrella in the rain taking selfies with an iPhone) situations, while a voice-over recites corporate vision statements (e.g., “We spend a lot of time on a few great things.”) Read more →

Logos And Branding Are Now Terrorist Weapons


Terrorists are getting more corporate these days. Last month, there was the discovery of a ten-page Al Qaeda memo giving a North African regional manager a poor performance review for lousy work attitude, lack of initiative and failure to file expense reports. Now, says a June 23 review, there’s a book about terrorist organizations’ branding efforts.

The business of terrorism

“Branding Terror: The Logotypes and Iconography of Insurgent Groups and Terrorist Organizations” shows how such outfits as Hamas, Hezbollah and Al Qaeda use visual branding techniques for the same purposes that less malignant organizations do – recruiting, employee loyalty, consumer awareness, share of mind, and differentiation from competitors in the same markets and product categories.

It’s just that the markets and categories here happen to be insurrection, kidnapping, suicide bombing and beheading.

After all, as co-author Artur Beifuss writes in the book’s introduction,

Branding, marketing and the visual communication of ideas and messages are tools that are used not only by corporations and political parties. Every organization that tries to put a message across, to influence an audience and to stand out in a highly competitive sector, or even to mark a claimed territory… needs a well-defined visual identity.

Design, not politics

As a United Nations counter-terrorism analyst, Beifuss makes no political judgments in the book.

So rather than compiling their own lists of terrorist organizations, he and his co-author, graphic designer Francisco Bellini, used established lists from the US, the European Union, Australia, Russia and India for their examples. Read more →

New Research Shows That, Yes, The Rich Are Different

Back in 1926, some 87 years ago, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me.” According to two June 19 MediaPost reports on recent consumer research, he was right – and also wrong.

"Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me."

“Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me.”

In order to understand why, it helps to define just who today’s rich are, and Ipsos MediaCT’s ongoing study of “Affluent” Americans very conveniently does that for us [link unabailable].

The Affluent

The study concentrates on “roughly the top 20 percent of Americans in household income (HHI),” which today translates into earning at least $100,000 a year.

The Affluents are about twice as well educated as the population as a whole, 60 percent having college degrees versus 30 percent of the general population.

They’re more married – 70 percent versus 50 percent – and that second paycheck is what gets them above the $100,000 HHI threshold.

But according to Steve Kraus, Ipsos SVP, Chief Insights Officer, that just makes them affluent, not rich.


The rich

The difference between affluence and riches, he says, is assets. In addition to that $100,000+ HHI, the rich have at least $1 million in liquid assets.

By this standard, only 12 percent of the Affluents are rich. Or, to do the arithmetic another way, the much-maligned “1 percent” are actually 2.4 percent of the population as a whole. Read more →

In Desperation, Bud Light Hires Ad People To Do Their Advertising

It’s so crazy, it just might work. After two years of turning their key brand’s advertising over to the likes of Jay-Z, Justin Timberlake, and former recording executive Steve Stoute’s

Not an advertising person

Not an advertising person

agency Translation, parent company A-B InBev is returning to advertising agency BBDO, Advertising Age reported June 19.

BBDO’s Chicago office will be the lead agency for Bud Light, the brewer’s biggest brand, while Translation will continue to work on Bud Light’s pseudo-craftsy extensions. “Translation will focus on the extensions, where they have done extremely well,” said VP-marketing Paul Chibe, “and BBDO will focus on the base business.”

Coincident with Translation’s turning Bud Light Platinum’s advertising over to “creative director and musical curator” Justin Timberlake, the extension brand’s sales dropped 36 percent during four weeks in April. If that’s doing “exteremely well,” what’s Chibe’s idea of doing poorly?

Excuses, excuses

Of course, that wasn’t the advertising’s fault. At the time, A-B InBev CEO Carlos Brito blamed their brands’ volume and share declines on everything from a cold winter to higher payroll taxes and delayed income-tax refunds to high (but actually dropping) gasoline prices. Read more →

Will A $20 Million Ad Campaign Bring Myspace Back From The Dead?

rising from the grave

A seven-week, $20 million advertising campaign to bring the old MySpace social site back to life launched June 12 with 30-second spots on Comedy Central, MTV, MTV2, Fuse, BET, Adult Swim and ESPN. It will continue with multiple airings during the June 13 NBA Finals and on radio and digital media after that.

And, if initial response is any guide, that $20 million will probably all be wasted.

Rise and fall

MySpace was launched ten years ago, in August, 2003, as a social site for starting and up-and-coming musicians to showcase themselves, their bands and their songs. But it soon grew beyond that. From 2005 to 2008, it was the world’s most visited social networking site. In 2006, in fact, it got more US hits than Google. But then Facebook overtook it – in unique worldwide visitors in 2008 and unique US visitors in 2009 – and never looked back.

With the site ranked 220th in total web traffic and 133rd in the US as of February, 2013, it’s now trying to return to its original music roots – but in some very unoriginal ways. Read more →

Some Cities Buck The National Newspaper Readership Decline


It should come as no surprise that daily newspaper readership has fallen dramatically since the turn of the century. But what may be surprising is that that fall is very uneven, a June 11 Advertising Age report says.

Scarborough, which has been researching daily paper and online readership of newspapers since 2001, notes an almost 20 percent decline in readers over the past dozen years. In 2012, some 37.5 percent of adults surveyed nationwide claimed they read a print newspaper.

But that’s an average, and averages can be misleading. If you have your feet in the oven and your head in the freezer, you’re at a comfortable average temperature.

Newspaper readership in Pittsburgh, the city with the highest reported daily use (51 percent) is more than double the lowest, Atlanta’s (23 percent).

There’s also geographical clumping. Except for Honolulu, the cities with the highest readership are all in the United States as it existed on March 1, 1803, when Ohio become the seventeenth state of the union. And most, but not all, of the low-readership markets are in the old Confederacy.

There’s also numerical clumping; the top-readership cities’ totals are within a 4 percent spread and the bottom cities withing 3 percent of each other. Read more →

Facebook Audience May Be Shifting, Not Shrinking


Ever since two May survey reports showed Facebook use declining, marketers have been proclaiming the social network an endangered species. But according to a June 10 Advertising Age report, those dire pronouncements may be  premature.

It all depends on how you look at the numbers – and how those numbers reflect the way consumers look at Facebook.


In 2011 and again a year later, research firm Kleiner Perkins asked 2,000 social media users aged 12 to 64 which specific social media they use. YouTube was up. Twitter was up. Google+ and LinkedIn were up. Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr and Foursquare were up. Even MySpace – anyone out there remember MySpace? – was up.

But Facebook use was down. Not catastrophically, but down nonetheless.

Or maybe it was catastrophic. According to Nielsen research conducted in the US from March, 2012, to March of this year, Facebook use was down by 11 million active monthly users for those 12 months as a whole, and down 16 million from an August. 2012, peak.

“But wait!” says Ad Age. “For every Facebook-is-in-trouble story, there is, of course, a counter-narrative.” And that counter-narrative requires a shift in perspective. Read more →

Facebook Introduces Misleading Ad Technique


First, brands started sneaking advertising messages into online publications disguised as editorial content, to trick consumers into reading them. Now, according to a June 7 report, Facebook has taken that misleading process one step further.

“In a controversial move,” writes US business editor Katherine Rushton in the (UK) Telegraph, “the social network will standardise [sic] its adverts, blurring the boundary between paid-for content and user posts…The only indicator will be the word ‘sponsored’ which will appear in small grey print below.”

In other words, they’re disguising ads to look like posts and updates from your friends.

New medium, old sleaze

While the medium is new, the sleaze isn’t. If you don’t believe that, just look in your mailbox.

Ever since the early days of direct mail, advertisers who couldn’t bother to create intrinsically interesting messages have been disguising their sell – as letters that appear to come from the government, for example – to con consumers into opening the envelope.

It’s the same kind of thinking that produced ads disguised as newspaper or magazine articles (i.e., advertorials) and 30- to 120-minute-long commercials disguised as television programs (i.e., infomercials). But at least those purported to come from the medium, not from your friends. Read more →

Consumers Love The Interracial Cheerios Commercial That Youtube Trolls Hated


In case anyone really needed it, a June 5 Ace Metrix report brings proof that Internet trolls with axes to grind don’t speak for consumers.

Conventional concept, unconventional casting

The report deals with consumer reaction to a Cherios television commercial that launched a week before. The spot itself is okay, though not particularly remarkable in concept:

A little girl asks her mother if what her father said about Cheerios being good for the heart is true. The mother says yes, adding a sales point about oats. The girl smiles and walks off camera with a Cheerios box. Cut to the father, waking up from a nap on the couch to discover that someone poured Cheerios all over the left side of his chest.

To some people, though, the execution was a different story – particularly the casting. Because the mother’s white, the father’s black, and the child’s biracial.

That was enough to provoke a storm of angry comments on YouTube, where the commercial was posted. While not getting specific, vp-marketing for Cheerios Camille Gibson e-mailed, “We are a family brand and not all of the comments were family-friendly.” Read more →