May, 2015

Quick, What’s The Worst Possible Brand Name In The World?

hitler ice cream 1

What’s the absolutely worst, most repulsive brand name you could possibly think of? Well, an ice cream cone manufacturer named M. V. F. Products in India already thought of it. “Indian ice cream lovers are putting their favorite treat in a cone named after Adolf Hitler,” the Times of Israel reported May 29, 2005. “The boxes of Hitler ice cream cones bear the unsmiling image of the Nazi leader dressed in a military uniform. The cones are available throughout India”. Some of the Hitler Ice Cream Cone boxes feature a realistic illustration of Adolf in his brown Nazi uniform glaring at the brand’s logotype. Others, bizarrely, show him in a cartoony illustration sporting a dinner jacket and red bowtie, tipping a striped, Uncle Sam-type top hat with a swastika on the crown. “Even for the most dedicated of ice cream lovers this sweet treat may prove a little hard to swallow,” The Daily Mail wrote.

The UK newspaper goes on to offer ignorance as a possible excuse. “A lack of Holocaust education in India means that people on the sub-continent know little about the Nazi leader,” they explained. But India’s own history shows how lame an excuse that is.

Mohandas Ghandi, the George Washington of India, certainly knew about and publicly commented on the Holocaust. “Hitler killed five million Jews. It is the greatest crime of our time,” he said. “But the Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher’s knife. They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs. It would have aroused the world and the people of Germany…As it is they succumbed anyway.”

The Hitler Ice Cream Cone brand name has provoked howls of outrage – but not from India. The German newspaper Bild, for example, called the brand “a macabre publicity stunt.” Many Twitter users called it “tasteless!” But according to one Berliner, it goes beyond tastelessness. “There is taste and there is tastelessness,” he said. “The people of India should be made aware of the terrible crimes committed by him [Hitler].”

Tasteless or worse as it is, the Hitler brand name is, for some reason, popular throughout India. In 2012, after hundreds of complaints from Jews and non-Jews alike, municipal government officials in the Indian state of Gujarat forced a men’s clothing store named Hitler to take down its sign, which featured a cute little swastika as the dot over the “i”.

And in 2011, India’s Zee TV introduced a daily network soap opera called “Hitler Didi” that ran not only nationally but also on the network’s affiliates in other countries, including the US. Among those complaining about the title was the Anti-Defamation League, which wrote urging the production company’s CEO, chairman and managing editor to “preserve the name ‘Hitler’ as a villain of incomparable evil and not trivialize his legacy or the Holocaust with a serial TV title.”

The show’s title translates from the Hindi as “Aunt Hitler.” That was the nickname of its lead character, who was “a young woman known in her locality as a strict disciplinarian who takes a no-nonsense attitude with her family.” Well, at least she didn’t send the kids to the gas chamber for being hyper.

Why This Summer’s A Good Time To Get Sick In Phoenix Or Austin

What you have to go through just to see a doctor for the first time can be enough to make you sick. At least that’s what health care consultant firm Merritt Hawkins found when they phoned doctors’ offices throughout 15 metropolitan areas to set up initial, non-emergency appointments. The wait between making an appointment and actually seeing a family physician, for example, averaged as long as 56 days in Boston to as short as five days in Dallas. For an obstetrician/gynecologist, it ranged from 46 days in Boston to ten days in Seattle; for a dermatologist, 72 days in Boston to 16 days in Miami; to see a cardiologist for a routine heart checkup, 32 days in Washington to 11 days in Atlanta; and to see an orthopedic surgeon for a knee injury, 18 days in San Diego to five days in Philadelphia, Minneapolis or Houston.

And that was in 2013. Before Obamacare made 4.7 million households lose the health plans and doctors they’d been told they could keep – period. And before another 10 million with employer-based coverage – ten times the original estimate – will follow in their footsteps, according to Congressional Budget Office figures.

That’s an awful lot of people looking for doctors, and this week an online service called ZocDoc launched an advertising test campaign to help consumers find one, much in the way that Uber helps people find taxis. In addition to time lags between making appointments and seeing doctors, there’s what marketing vp Richard Fine calls “friction in the patient experience.” This, he wrote in a May 19 email, is “difficulty and frustration booking a doctor’s appointment—whether its [sic] excruciating hold time and music or a doctor not accepting new patients.” An audit of health care providers nationwide “revealed that 60% of patients are not able to successfully book an appointment on the first phone call,” he added.

Yet, even though there’s an impending shortage of doctors – a nationwide shortfall of 91,500 by 2025, the Association of American Medical Colleges predicts – doctors have a surplus of time. Cancellations, no-shows and shifting schedules can take up as much as 25 percent of a doctor’s day, and by accessing what Fine calls this “hidden supply” of potential appointment time, ZocDoc can make the claim that their “typical patient sees a doctor within 24 hours.”

That’s one thing that differs from the doctor referral services that hospital organizations like HCA have been advertising in media from television to email for decades. Three others are that, being online, ZocDoc works 24/7; it lets you check out doctors in advance with verified reviews, and it lets you fill out the reams of initial paperwork, including medical history, just once regardless of how many different doctors in their system you’re seeing.

This week, ZocDoc launched a test-market advertising campaign to run from now through this summer to communicate these differences to consumers in Phoenix and Austin. They’ve bought morning and prime time television on the four alphabet networks, along with cable channels E!, TLC, Bravo and Food Network; color pages in city magazines including Phoenix Magazine, Austin Magazine, Austin Fit and Raising Arizona Kids; radio on five of each market’s top ten stations, along with Pandora targeted only to subscribers in those metros; outdoor; and digital ads running online during midday and right after end of the work day, when most doctor appointments are booked.

While chances are excellent that target audiences will be exposed to the messages, the odds are longer that they’ll actually get the messages they’re exposed to. One reason for this is that the television/radio and print/digital campaigns have two completely different looks and feels. So instead of reinforcing the message, they’ll likely work to fragment it. Another is that, because it’s more interesting, the executions in all media dwell almost completely on an aspect of the problem and go just short of blowing off the solution – perhaps because they think consumers already know as much about ZocDoc as the client and agency do.

One television spot, for example, shows 25 seconds of a woman in a corporate cube farm furtively whispering her symptoms into her phone so no one will hear and just five seconds with information about the product. This information consists, in its entirety, of silent titles which say, “Book doctors online,” “Get better better,” and show a still shot of a smartphone, the logo, and the URL. Same for the second spot, in which a woman, at home, unconvincingly reels off imaginary rabies symptoms in order to jump the appointment line. Same deal in the last five seconds, except instead of saying “Book doctors online,” the title says, “Doctors when you want them.” And it’s not just a matter of time constraints; after some hilarious parody on-hold music while the patient holds the line, the 60-second radio commercial has just 6 seconds of specific product sell, but that’s enough to clinch the deal: “You can now find doctors, read reviews and book online at ZocDoc-dot-com. Get Better Better.” While the print, outdoor and digital ads  share the white-type-on-teal (the health care equivalent of blue pinstripes)-background look of the television’s last five seconds, they feature cartoon illustration rather than photography, so they look very different.

Between endemic visibility problems, abysmally low clickthrough rates, and the draconian restraints that the small space of digital ads imposes on copywriting, verbal clarity is essential. Many of the digital ads rise to the challenge (“Find the right doctor for what’s wrong with you” and “Next Thursday doesn’t always work for your malaria,” for example, along with “Focus on being a doctor, not a salesman” aimed at getting doctors to sign up), while some don’t (e.g., “Let us do the nagging for you”).

This underlines three lessons that all advertisers – regardless of product or service, regardless of medium, regardless of budget (or lack thereof) – need to learn:

  1. Never, ever, assume that your audience knows as much about your brand as you do or that your selling points are obvious.
  2. Consistency of look and feel from one medium to the next reinforces your communication instead of fragmenting it.
  3. Clarity of communication is essential – even if it means shortening the windup in your 30-second television commercial to add another second or two to the pitch.

Sophisiticated Neuroscience Research ‘discovers’ What Good Copywriters Have Known All Along


Talk about killing flies with an elephant gun. Nielsen, the audience research company, put together a consumer neuroscience group to help advertisers learn how to “break trough the clutter” of “competing messages constantly fighting for consumers’ attention.” A worthy goal when you consider that in an average day, every man, woman and child in this country is bombarded with 1,800 advertising sales  messages. Over 16 waking hours, that’s 112.5 ad messages an hour, 1.875 a minute, or one sales message every 32 seconds. (It’s almost as bad as spending your whole life watching an endless parade of television :30s.) In a massive deployment of the latest whizzy super high tech, they assembled “a combination of electroencephalography (EEG) and eye-tracking measurements” to “capture people’s reactions, long before they are able to consciously verbalize their thoughts…provide insights that survey-based questionnaires cannot replicate” and “measure not only overall response to a given [advertising] execution but also what captures viewers’ attention, what engages them on an emotional level and what will be retained in memory.”

Then they deployed this Big Brother-like neuroscientific array on behalf of the United Nations World Food Programme to test American and British consumers’ responsiveness to an assortment of print ads. They monitored “eye-tracking measurements” and “levels of memory activation, emotional engagement and action intent.” Let’s forget for the moment that sitting around a lab with brains wired for sound and who knows what else doesn’t exactly replicate how consumers see and react to ads in their homes or in the marketplace and assume that Nielsen’s conclusions were still fairly accurate.

Do you know what those conclusions were? Make sure you’re sitting down for this:

What all this big-time neuroscience technology found was [drum roll] that “including a simple benefit statement allowed viewers to connect how their response would make a tangible impact and consequently was shown to increase action intent.” Translated into simple, everyday, nonscientific language that means that people are most interested in “What’s in it for me?”

This astonishing revelation is something that good advertising copywriters have known for decades, if not for at least a century. Ad makers have always known that sales points can be broken down into a hierarchy of four categories: features, attributes, benefits and end benefits. A feature is something built into the product. An attribute is a quality or characteristic that results from that feature. A benefit is something good that the product or service’s features and attributes do for you, the consumer. And an end benefit is something even better that the benefit does for you. Long before Neilsen started blinding advertiers with neuroscience, copywriters knew that features and attributes were the weakest selling points, while benefits and end benefits were the strongest.

Miller used this knowledge to revolutionize beer advertising in 1979. Before then, most beer advertising was feature-driven, with commercials rhapsodizing over the quality of the hops, barley and water that comprised each brew’s ingredients. The “Miller Time” campaign changed all that by positioning its beer as a great way to reward yourself for a hard day’s blue-collar work. Budweiser shortly adopted the same positioning with its “For all you do, this Bud’s for you” campaign.

Until 2012, Wal-Mart advertising was built around a feature – everyday low prices, with specific examples that updated from week to week. Then, in an outreach to higher-end consumers, they switched to a four-word campaign line – “Save Money. Live Better.” that combined a benefit and end benefit. Saving money was the benefit that resulted from everyday low prices. And living better was the end benefit you could enjoy by virtue of having saved money.

In the most effective ads, you see benefits and end benefits as the brand’s main promise, with attributes and features, if they’re there at all, as support points for the promise. That’s because human beings are hard-wired to look out for their own best interests – something so obvious, it doesn’t take high-tech neuroscience to discover.

Older And Newer Media Are Eating Cable Television’s Lunch


Cable television is caught between the jaws of a vise. One jaw, says the Washington Post, is a newer medium – the Internet, with its instantaneous social-media news bulletins and streaming longer-format shows and movies. But the other jaw is an older medium – one which it looked for several decades that cable would replace, namely, over-the-air broadcast television (OTA, as it’s known for short). More than 12.3 million households “depend solely on over-the-air broadcasting for their live TV viewing” according to Nielsen audience research, the Los Angeles Times reports. That’s just 11 percent of all television homes, but it may be only the beginning. There’s also this number from Nielsen: From the end of 2013 to the end of 2014, the number of US homes using a combination of broadband and OTA for their television viewing grew almost 10 percent, from 5.6 to 6.1 million.

OTA’s threat to cable is partly economic, but mostly demographic. While some homes are abandoning cable because they can’t afford it, writes Stephen Battaglio, “a growing number of [cable-cutters] are millennials who use over-the-air TV for live sports and broadcast network shows on ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox[,] while getting a wide array of programs from streaming video services such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. They are happy to pay for broadband Internet, but not TV.” When the National Association of Broadcasters gave away 1,000 TV antennas last year, notes NAB evp Dennis Wharton,  the Washington, DC, event attracted not only “people who disconnected their cable or satellite TV service to save money,” but also “plenty of congressional staffers and millennials who have taken to over-the-air viewing in the way they have made vinyl records hot again in the music business.”

For consumers and advertisers alike, broadcast technology has severely eroded a cable superiority over OTA – the number and variety of channels. While analog OTA could offer at most a dozen channels – and that many only in a very major market – cable offered hundreds. But the 2009 switchover to digital OTA has freed up spectrum, which broadcasters are starting to use, with dozens of new digital channels. For viewers, this means more to watch for free. For advertisers, it means better ability to target audiences demographically and psychographically, according to program content, just as they now do with cable. Particularly in major markets like Los Angeles and New York, OTA is a very efficient medium for ethnic advertisers, with a wide range of non-English-language programs and higher penetration among Latinos (16 percent) and Asian Americans (15 percent) than among the population as a whole.

The other jaw of the vise is the Internet, which has been crushing cable ratings, particularly ratings of cable news channels. Combined viewership for Fox, CNN and MSNBC has fallen 19 percent overall since 2009 (coincidentally the year that OTA went digital), 26 percent during prime time. MSNBC alone lost 14 percent of its overall audience and 8 percent of prime-time viewers last year. With fewer viewers for the category, cable news channels are fighting for bigger slices of a shrinking pie. Cable and satellite televiison is a mature industry; few, if any, new homes remain to be hooked up. But while cable penertration is, at best, static, “fast Internet connections have exploded, shifting the demand for instantaneous news from TV sets to smartphones, tablets and desktop computers. With its lengthy, linear storytelling style, cable news seems poorly adapted for social media, which emphasizes [sic] bite-size, shareable stories and clips.”

And cable news channels could very well be only the first of the falling dominos. Business channels (CNBC, Fox Business, Bloomberg TV), tabloid channels, and even that staple for reaching business travelers, the Weather Channel, are also hurting. After all, when was the last time you turned on your television for a fairly recent weather report instead of clicking on your smartphone, tablet or laptop to see what the weather is right here and right now?

You wouldn’t know it from the cable channels’ balance sheets, though. That’s because while advertising revenues are based on audience size, they’re far from the main source of cable television revenue. That source is carriage fees – the sum that cable and satellite systems pay the cable channels to carry their programs to subscribers. Those were set years ago, when cable audiences were bigger; when the contracts run out, cable channels can look forward to some aggressive renegotiation.

Some cable system operators are already starting to, in effect, abandon the cable channels that were once their raison d’être; Cablevision, for example, has started packaging broadband Internet with OTA antennas. And cable channels, such as HBO, have developed an Internet presence with streaming programs and partnerships with Amazon video. But while many consumers will find commercial-free HBO content worth paying subscription fees for, the same can’t be said of, say MSNBC.