July, 2013

Politics Trump Professionalism In Obamacare Advertising Decisions


If predictions that Obamacare advertising will total more than $1 billion this coming year come true, the vast majority – more than 68 percent – will go to promoting the plan. “The total amount to be spent nationally on publicity, marketing and advertising will be at least $684 million, according to data compiled by The Associated Press from federal and state sources,” a July 24 report noted.

“As President Barack Obama’s health care law moves from theory to reality in the coming months,” the AP report continues, “its success may hinge on whether the best minds in advertising can reach one of the hardest-to-find parts of the population: people without health coverage.”

But that may be wrong on two counts:

  • The agencies chosen for the statewide campaigns aren’t necessarily “the best minds in advertising.”
  • According to at least one source, the target audience isn’t “people without health coverage,” but rather voters in swing states where Democratic representatives and senators appear vulnerable in next year’s November elections.

Copycat campaign

While AP may write about “the best minds in advertising,” a closer look at the three agencies they mentioned suggests that wasn’t exactly the main selection criterion. Read more →

Best And Worst Royal Baby Tweets From Marketers

There’s a saying in the advertising industry about creative work: “The closer the deadline, the better it looks.” That explains these royal baby tweets, which Advertising Age was good enough to plow through and rate on July 22, so we don’t have to.

Human biology being what it is, advertisers had nine months to come up with cool tweets to congratulate Their Royal Highnesses on the birth of another Royal Highness. Even the best results are kinda blah, and the retweet and favorite numbers show it.

By contrast, nobody could have predicted this year’s 35-minute Super Bowl blackout; yet, advertisers  rose to the challenge with some topical, witty and much more popular tweets – in mere minutes. That’s real real-time marketing.

The stated purpose of topical tweets is to make people smile and therefore feel good about the brand (it’s called relationship-building) while at the same time sneaking in a product-related message that will remind people of the overall brand advertising.

The Super Bowl Oreo tweet, which reminded viewers you could still dunk in the dark, and Allstate’s tweet from Mayhem, “I meant to turn off the scoreboard. Sorry, everybody. Wrong switch,” did both in minutes’ creation and approval time – and got responses measured in the mid-five digits.

The Royal Baby tweets, not so much: Read more →

July 30 Workshop Levels The Internet Marketing Field For Small Businesses


To many small business owners and marketing managers, the mere prospect of competing in the Internet marketplace is daunting.

US advertisers will be spending $46.5 billion on digital advertising – everything from website display ads to Facebook, Twitter, mobile, e-mail and then some – this year, and by 2016, that should reach an even $62 billion.

From 300,000 tweets per day in January, 2008, Twitter grew to 400 million per day as of October, 2012. And the end is nowhere in sight.

Internet marketing is so huge that last year alone, mobile advertisers lost the cost of 1,925 Lamborghinis just on accidental clickthroughs.

No wonder small business feel just a wee bit intimidated. But there are several reasons they shouldn’t be.

One reason is that as a local small business owner, you don’t have to compete with all of America’s corporate giants. Quite often, the “competition” is your target audience’s ignorance of what you sell and why they should buy from you.

Another is that, unlike, say, print or television, media can be either free or dirt-cheap – especially when you’re marketing on a neighborhood or local level.

Come Tuesday, July 30, there’ll be another reason for small businesses to compete on equal terms. That’s Read more →

Mideast War Erupts On Seattle Bus Ads


After a two-year truce, a new front has opened in the conflict between Palestinians and Israel. Fortunately, it’s confined to Seattle county bus posters and it’s only a war of words, according to a July 19 MCT report.

The first shot

It all started in December, 2010, when an organization calling itself the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign (SeaMAC for short) placed an “ad alleging Israeli war crimes” on King County Metro buses. “[A]fter widespread public objections,” the report says, Metro removed the ad, as “a response to threats of violence and disruption of bus service.” The report doesn’t specify which side the threats came from.

A sort-of truce

In subsequent litigation, US District Court Judge Richard Jones approved the ban on public safety grounds, the threats posing an imminent danger.

His decision is still under review by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, but meanwhile, just to play it safe and be even-handed, Metro banned from the insides and outsides of their buses all advertising that wasn’t strictly product- or service-oriented and commercial.

That ban stood for almost five months, when a new policy allowed public-service ads from nonprofit groups, but kept the ban on ads from political parties and candidates, along with ads which expressed views “on matters of public debate about economic, political, religious or social issues,” according to County Executive Dow Constantine.

This ban barred such innocuous messages as “Buy American” and shop locally, both of which were “economic” – until a Seattle Times story forced Metro to reclassify the ads as promoting purchases, which was okay, as opposed to expressing an opinion, which wasn’t.

Of course, the ban and its partial rescisions both ignored a little thing called the Citizens United case, in which, in June, 2009, the US Supreme Court  ruled that corporations (both for-profit and nonprofit) and unions enjoyed the same First Amendment rights to free speech as flesh-and-blood citizens.

So in January, 2012, “we took a look at the legal parameters and we looked at the national best [advertising] practices,” according to Metro spokesman Jeff Switzer, and Metro General Manager Kevin Desmond quietly signed a new policy allowing political ads to return to Seattle bus advertising – so long as the ads were free from false or misleading statements, demeaning or disparaging content, and – oh, yes – disruptive of bus service.

Fighting resumes

This led SeaMAC to spring into action with verbal guns blazing, running “Equal Rights for Palestinians” ads on the outsides of 12 Seattle and Bellevue buses and resizes inside several more. But in something of a tactical retreat from their 2010 war-crimes accusations, this year’s bus ads just claim that “Equality for Palestinians” is “The Way to Peace.”

And now, an organization called American Freedom Defense Initiative is counterattacking. Their campaign, which will run for four months on six Bellevue buses, calls for “Equal Rights for Jews” and quotes a Palestinian Authority statement “Calling for a Jew-free state.”

The two campaigns are eerily similar (maybe as a form of that military tactic called camouflage). Except for one word, the tag lines are identical. Both feature what looks like the same background, in the same lighting, with the camera shooting from a slightly different spot. Both lead with white type in what looks like the same font and size. Both have subheads set in a smaller size and both in a shade of yellow. And both have their logos in the same position, though the AFDI’s is larger.

The war of words isn’t confined to ads, either.

SeaMac spokesman Ed Mast called AFDI an anti-Muslim hate group and accused it of misrepresenting the PA’s position by quoting it – obviously  a “false, distorted, made-up accusation.” Also obviously different from SeaMAC’s earlier “fact-based, well- documented” war-crimes ad – as if facts or documentation could substantiate as vague and bland a claim as “The Way to Peace.”

AFDI President Pamela Geller fired back, emailing that the county demanded “abundant documentation” of AFDI’s ad content and that they accepted the ad only under threat of lawsuit. “[SeaMAC] smear us as ‘hateful’ because they cannot refute what we say,” she concluded. AFDI’s lawyer also claimed that Metro refused the ad multiple times before finally accepting it. Metro spokesman Switzer denies this. And, at the risk of being repetitive, apparently unequal demands for documentation may result from one campaign being vague and bland while the other’s very specific.

Neither side wins (but two others do)

In a shooting war, there’s at most one winner. But in the Seattle bus system war of words, there are two:

Metro’s $5 million advertising bottom line.

And the First Amendment.

Make your advertising more effective. Visit


Guess Who’ll Be America’s Third-biggest Advertiser This Coming Year

Barack Obama, Mona Magnat, Hershey Garner, Richard Evans

Spend over a billion dollars on advertising in a year, and where does it get you? To being ranked America’s third-largest advertiser, that’s where.

According to Advertising Age rankings released July 8, it makes you a bigger spender than everyone except AT&T (number one with a $1.59 billion annual ad budget) and Verizon (number two with $1.43 billion).  And it makes you big enough to bump Chevrolet (a mere $958 million) out of the number-three spot.

So just who is this new giant on our nation’s advertising scene?

None other than Obamacare, that’s who.

“More than $1 billion will be spent on advertising for and against the Affordable Care Act,” wrote US News July 9, citing a report from Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group. And that’s not counting the “more than $500 million [that] has already been spent” – including a brace of currently running spots produced and placed by the former Obama for America campaign organization (now called Organizing for America) – “on trying to sway public opinion and political races tied to the issue.”

Not quite the same

But there are four big differences between the coming deluge of Obamacare advertising and the Chevrolet campaign it’s set to supplant in third place. Read more →

Directv Is Going To The Dogs

dog with remote

With hundreds of channels, cable and satellite television are great for demographic and behavioral audience segmentation. But DirecTV may be taking things just a tiny bit too far.

According to a July 9 Variety report, “DogTV — touted as the first TV network aimed at man’s best friend — is a real 24-hour channel that will be unleashed on DirecTV starting Aug. 1.”

‘Dog-approved’ – by humans

While this may seem like craziness, PTV, the channel’s owner, claims it actually spent more than four years – that’s more than 28 in dog years – developing and testing this 24-hour channel.

Since focus-grouping dogs obviously doesn’t work, they did all four years of this development and testing with humans.

Humans involved in the development included Prof. Nicholas Dodman, director of the animal behavior department of clinical sciences at Tufts University, and Victoria Stilwell, of Animal Planet’s “It’s Me or the Dog.”

“Testing” consisted of obtaining endorsements from the Humane Society, the ASPCA and the American Veterinary Medicine Association. Somehow, they feel, this gives them the basis for calling their programming “dog-approved.” Read more →

Mobile Advertising’s Not All It’s Cracked Up To Be




Mobile advertising is huge. Every day, Americans collectively spend over 1 million months on their smart phones, according to a SolveMedia report, and men are more likely to sleep with their smartphones than to wash their hands after using the toilet (something worth knowing before you ask to use some guy’s smartphone).

But looked at as a whole, it’s also hugely ineffective.

A waste of money

Last year alone, the revenue mobile advertisers lost due to accidental clicks could have bought 1,925 Lamborghinis – at full sticker price.

Americans other than Dennis Rodman are more likely to view North Korea favorably than mobile ads.

You’re 116 times more likely to survive a rattlesnake bite than to click a mobile banner ad on purpose.

You’re twice as likely to not even see a mobile ad than to respond to one you’ve actually seen. Which, in a way, is not the least bit surprising when you consider that the average mobile banner ad is about one-third the size of an earthworm.

And one place where mobile advertising is particularly ineffective is in retail stores. Read more →

Clorox Loses A Battle In The War On Men



When we wrote last week that advertising’s war on men – and particularly fathers, whom television commercials consistently portrayed as mindless, bumbling oafs – may be ending, we were wrong.

But not as wrong as Clorox.

Just days after Father’s Day, Clorox put up an essay titled “6 Mistakes New Dads Make” on its website. Within 24 hours, they had to take it down.


“Saying ‘No-no’ is not just for baby,” it began. “Like dogs or other house pets, new dads are filled with good intentions but lacking the judgment and fine motor skills to execute well.”

And that was just the beginning.

It went on to list the six mistakes these creatures possessing the intelligence of a dog and lacking fine motor skills make: Read more →

At Last, A Commercial That Doesn’t Diss Men



A new commercial that launched July 4 is doing something remarkable in television advertising. It’s actually treating men with respect.

dangerfieldFrom the black-and-white sitcoms of the 1950s through last year’s disastrous Huggies campaign, television has depicted America’s husbands and fathers as the most hapless, clueless, clumsy, inept shlubs in the universe.

This Chevrolet Silverado truck commercial attempts to change all that, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Today, men are a minority in college and graduate school admissions. Unemployment throughout the five years and counting of the Obama economy has disproportionately hit men. It’s so bad, Dr. Helen Smith says in her Amazon-best-selling book, Men on Strike, that, according to the book description,

American society has become anti-male. Men are sensing the backlash and are consciously and unconsciously going “on strike.” They are dropping out of college, leaving the workforce and avoiding marriage and fatherhood at alarming rates…

[But] men aren’t dropping out because they are stuck in arrested development. They are instead acting rationally in response to the lack of incentives society offers them to be responsible fathers, husbands and providers. [emphasis in original]

Good strategy

It makes good sense for GM to buck this trend, because by doing so, they’re once again talking to their core audience.

Before the recession, says Edmunds senior analyst Michelle Krebs, truck sales were soaring because “people were just buying them whether they needed them or not…they were cool.” That was then. Now, with full-size pickup trucks’ sticker prices rivaling those of luxury cars, the only ones who can buy them are people who need them, mainly for work. That means mostly men – those who are still working, that is. Read more →