September, 2013

New Saudi Television Commercial Spokesman Kicks Off A Furor


First a wacky Korean advertiser uses a Kim Jong Un lookalike to sell pistachio nuts in a television spot. And now those zany Saudi Arabians have gone them one better. Saudi-owned satellite network MBC Action has started airing promos starring none other than Adolph Hitler, according to a September 21 YNet News report.

Actually, it’s not the genocidal Nazi humself back from the grave. It’s a lookalike in scenes from an American feature-length movie.

The ad campaign for MBC Action, which is based in Dubai, features clips from the 2009 Quentin Tarantino film “Inglourious Basterds,” where the Nazi dictator is shown speaking in a room to other Nazi officials.

Arabic subtitles inserted under the images focus on the television network’s new programming in September. Hitler is made to say, “Look at the achievements of MBC Action. They will control the entire region. They are preparing for a campaign called ‘September to Remember.’”

Hitler, by the way, created the original September to Remember when, 73 Septembers ago, he launched an invasion of Poland, starting World War II. Pretty memorable, huh?

The fuhrer kicks off a furor

The Hitler promo campaign has created something of a, uh, furor in the United States. Read more →

Coke Cancels Campaign That Shocked And Offended Consumers

Business man with hands to his face with shocked expression

Some Canadians just can’t take a joke.

Consumers’ shock and outrage over words and phrases in what was supposed to be a humorous promotional campaign caused Coca-Cola Refreshments Canada to cancel it, the Vancouver Sun reported September 20.

‘You retard’? ‘Douche’?

The promotion involved printing two words – one in each of Canada’s two official languages, French and English – inside Coca-Cola products’ bottle caps.

Shannon Denny, director of brand communications with Coca-Cola Refreshments Canada, said consumers were supposed to collect the caps to combine words into humorous sentences.

Anglophones would use the English words and Francophones would use the French ones, she explained.

So far, so good.

But the people compiling the French word list never compared notes with the people compiling the English world list, and vice versa.

And nobody stopped to think that some French words that are spelled just like English words maybe, just maybe, might have different meanings.

Like “retard.” Read more →

Oregon Blows One-third Of Obamacare Ad Budget On ‘acid Trip’ Commercial

If you thought Minnesota’s Obamacare advertising campaign – in which a Paul Bunyan statue gets beat up  like Mr. Bill on old Saturday Night Live episodes – was odd, take a look at Oregon’s new contribution to the nation’s $1 billion Obamacare promotion effort.


Posting at conservative website September 17, blogger Mary Katherine Ham likened the new Cover Oregon spot to an “acid trip,” noting that “[i]t includes no actual information about the health care exchanges, but a retro hipstery busker flying over the Orwellian rainbows of Portland.”

She may have been the harshest critic, but she was far from the only one. Read more →

New Wonderful Pistachios Commercial Features Nutty New Celebrity

Kim Jong-un

When it comes to cars and electronics, Koreans have shown great intelligence and understanding of the US market. But when it comes to pistachio nuts – well, their brand-new television commercial caused Advertising Age to wonder, in a September 17 subhead, “What were they thinking?”

One thing that’s bizarre is why pistachios – which grow in Afghanistan, Egypt, Greece, India, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Sicily, Syria, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, ,Uzbekistan, and California – are being flogged by a company from Korea, of all places.

But that pales in comparison to the mega-bizarreness of Wonderful Pistachios’ latest marketing effort. As Ad Age describes it: Read more →

New Campbell’s Soup Ad Campaign Combines Two Old Memes


A new Campbell’s Soup digital billboard lit up Times Square September 17. Passers-by can be excused for having a certain sense of déja vu – or, more accurately two senses.

Derivative execution

That’s because the board itself – along with the five television commercials, nine print ads, two widget applications and umpty-ump tweets, online videos and other social media exposures that join it as part of the campaign – is doubly derivative.

It’s like a hybrid of the seven-year-old Dos Equis “The Most Interesting Man in the World” campaign and the 41-year-old Kung Fu television series starring David Carradine (see photo). In it, an eight-year-old boy takes over Keye Luke’s role as Master Po.

This boy – called “The Wisest Kid in the Whole Wide World” (sound familiar?) – has a long, long blond beard, sits atop a presumably Himalayan mountain and offers pseudo-Zen advice such as, “When the mouth slurps, the belly smiles” to parents distraught over how to keep their children happy at mealtime.

Smart strategy

The strategy’s wiser than the execution.

One trap that marketers often fall into is positioning their product only against direct competition, which in this case would be other condensed soups – not exactly a big-time kids’ food category. Read more →

Ftc To ‘weigh’ Ads Masquerading As Content

wolf in sheepskin


The Federal Trade Commission will look into so-called native advertising – ad content that, except for almost invisible disclaimers, looks and sounds just like editorial content on websites – this December, Advertising Age reported September 17.

While the feds will be trying to learn whether consumers do, in fact, “clearly recognize sponsored content as advertising,” digital publishers will be saying, of course they do.

Big bucks

Lots of money’s riding on the answer.

According to Digiday,

  • One Twitter promoted topic sells for $120,000, Supporting tweets are $80,000. Each.
  • One BuzzFeed sponsored article is $20,000 – a bargain $100,000 for a package of six.

Raging debate

“[A] debate is raging around whether publishers are making it clear to readers that the content they’re consuming is sponsored,” Ad Age notes, and the FTC’s involvement is just its latest extension. “We certainly are aware of the internal debate on the topic,” FTC attorney Laura Sullivan confirmed. Read more →

Doritos Scours The World For People Willing To Do Free Commercials For Them


Apparently, the United States is running out of suckers. So Doritos is going global to find more people to do television commercials for them – for free.

“Doritos’ ‘Crash the Super Bowl’ is going global, with the PepsiCo brand opening the annual contest to people in all 46 countries where the chips are sold,” Advertising Age reported September 12.

In the previous seven years, the user-generated ad contest had only been open to U.S. consumers… Plans [to promote the contest across the globe] include outreach at film festivals and sporting events, as well as collaborations with universities that specialize in creativity, executives said.

Rationale or excuse?

Also unlike the previous seven years, Doritos is disassociating its cash prizes from winning commercials’ rankings on USA Today’s Ad Meter, where (American) consumers vote for the best Super Bowl commercials.

If you listen to Frito-Lay North America VP-marketing Ram Krishnan, both changes are because the domestic US market is ever so provincial, don’t you know. “Great content comes from anywhere,” he told AdAge. And besides, the USA Today Ad Meter is irrelevant overseas.

But some recent history tells a different story. Read more →

Americans Resent Crass At&t 9/11 Tweet


“Tomorrow is my Twitter Christmas,” comedian and retweeter Joe Mande tweeted September 10, no doubt in anticipation of lots of advertisers’ 9/11 commemorative messages.

He wasn’t disappointed, but lots of Americans were – by an AT&T tweet whose perceived crassness generated so many complaints that the mobile phone company had to pull it, according to a September 11 Advertising Age report:

Marketers including AT&T are getting schooled on the fact that jumping in on the social conversation around national tragedies is not the safest arena for real-time marketing.

A handful of brands are being smacked around today for posting 9/11 commemoration tweets perceived as inane at best and insensitive at worst. AT&T received the brunt of the outrage after tweeting a picture of the beams of light shooting up from the Twin Towers site, captured in the screen of a phone that’s poised to take a photo, with the text “Never Forget.”

Buzzfeed put it much more succinctly: “The reactions have been a resounding and unanimous ‘ew.'”

“AT&T,” they headlined, “Has Made Without A Doubt The Tackiest 9/11 Memorial On The Internet.” [capitalization in the original]

Consumers who tweeted back agreed unanimously that “This is not a time for an Oreo moment.”

Who’s Winning The Android-iphone Battle Depends On What ‘winning’ Means


It’s been a year since Android captured the lead from iOS in mobile phone operating systems. But according to a new AdTruth study, more Americans do more mobile-phone shopping, and spend more money, on their iPhones, Advertising Age reported September 12.

A gap, not a chasm

In the first half of 2013, iOS accounted for 57 percent of mobile commerce transactions nationally, with Android second at 43 percent – not a yawning chasm, but still a gap. Read more →

Ho, Ho, Ho: Christmas Advertising Starts Earlier And Earlier

Australia Beach Christmas

With only a mere 105 shopping days till Christmas, the holiday advertising season kicked off September 9.

Earlier and earlier

It used to be that Christmas-gift advertising had the decency to wait until after Thanksgiving to start running.

Then the norm became after Election Day. Then after Halloween.

“In years past,” writes Advertising Age, “it’s not been unusual for retailers to begin digital promotions or social media efforts well in advance of the holidays. But TV ads have typically been kept under wraps until late October.”

Last year, Target broke its holiday campaign a shockingly early October 7. Its commercial “featured an upbeat tune with the cheery chorus ‘Are You Ready?’ and an oversized version of Target mascot Bullseye trotting through snow-covered streets with a shopping bag in his mouth.”

But even that, apparently, wasn’t early enough for Kmart.

Just one week after Labor Day, and barely after the start of the school year, the Sears-owned chain launched a 30-second television spot for its Christmas layaway plan. In it, a human-size gingerbread man sneaks up on a woman working in her office cubicle. “Don’t let the holidays sneak up on you,” the voice-over says. It goes on to explain that if you start laying away money for gifts now, Kmart will waive the normal layaway fees. Read more →