Tag Archives: Advertising

Yawn, chocolate is plain vanilla in February

Is anyone else sick of chocolate recipes yet?

Apparently, chocolate is the only thing to push in February because it’s, you know, Valentine’s Day in February:

  • Practically every library I’ve visited in the past four weeks is pushing their “History of Chocolate” or “Chocolate Tasting Class” in February because it’s, you know, Valentine’s Day.
  • The cover of Food Network Magazine is plastered in chocolate. Today’s Food section in the Chicago Tribune had not one, but two recipes for chocolate mousse because, you know, you serve your loved ones chocolate on Valentine’s Day.
  • A passel of emails that have invaded my In Box in recent days have touted chocolate cocktails, chocolate tea, champagne chocolate truffles, chocolate at the movies and chocolate for dessert at a nearby vegetarian restaurant. Why? Because Valentine’s Day, you know, isn’t complete without chocolate.

Marketers lacking the creativity gene sell back to school in September, monsters and vampires in October, gratitude in November, “the holidays” (used to be Christmas) in December, losing weight resolutions in January and chocolate in February. Set your calendar to their predictability.

Frankly, most of us should embrace a sale on gym memberships year-round, not just January. Chocolate (and chocolate sales) are delicious any time of year, not only when we’re dropping hints for our main squeezes.

I know, secretly, it’s not the marketers who aren’t creative. The ones who aren’t creative are a lot higher on the ladder, and too often they’re looking for the safe bet. Especially if it helps them maintain or beat last year’s sales, month over month.

I wish Madison Avenue’s monthly themes were a little more broad: Maybe perseverance in January, warmth in February, freshness in March, etc. Happy Freshness Day, anyone?

So we are left with chocolate, chocolate everywhere this time of year because chocolate says love like nothing else, I guess. No one is willing to promote a cup of sweet cream ice cream with almonds, peanut butter and Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup mix-ins. That’s what I had for dessert tonight at Cold Stone Creamery. No emails. No ads. No sale prices. But it hit the creative mark for a February craving.

I loved it.

Some Superbowl ads didn’t work and even worse, didn’t sell

One of the biggest mistakes otherwise excellent marketers make is to appeal to themselves.

Word to the wise: Know your audience.

Two commercials during the second half of the Superbowl brought this truism home. Did Carmax really intend to appeal to an audience who knows what a full-service gas station does? Or who a milkman is? Do people who buy Carmax products really remember when a milkman delivered milk in glass bottles right to your door? I remember this, but just barely. I was probably 8 when a milkman was taking twice-weekly orders for cottage cheese and eggs at my front door.

And does your average American have any idea what a “boot” is when you’re referring to a car? I doubt it. I visited Great Britain more than a couple of times before I understood the “boot” was a trunk. And then to “cram it in the boot”? Really, does a lot of trunk space sell cars? In America? Horsepower, I get. Lots of drink holders, I understand. But “cram it in the boot”? Somebody somewhere with a lot more globe-trotting under his belt than your average American found this funny. But it isn’t going to sell any cars.

And the car manufacturer (I can’t even tell you who it was) spent a lot of money on that 30 seconds.

Too bad.

When trying to appeal to the masses, do not talk over the masses’ heads. Aim a lot lower (like the wallet, for example, but sure, talking out of your arse works, too). Being clever, or even funny, doesn’t sell products. Do as Wal-mart does: Be simple and direct. The lowest common denominator understands “Save money, live better” but “cram it in the boot”? No way.

So good it’s badvertising

Being a marketer myself, I can appreciate clever marketing from a professional perspective even when it’s sort of irritating from a personal perspective.

Lately, I’m appreciating and being irritated by the clever places companies are choosing to advertise.

Long ago, it was ingenious when a company chose to advertise on the inside of bathroom stalls, a prime location for captive audiences. But almost every bar and restaurant does this nowadays. Ditto for movies: Smart theaters dumped the cartoons and capitalized on movie goers waiting for the flick to start by showing advertising on the big screen.

Now, adroit advertisers are turning up:

  • On log-in screens. Every computer user on the planet has dozens of usernames and passwords to type in order to buy, bank, be entertained and befriend. Instead of a clean white screen to type your info, now we’re seeing ads there.
  • During television programs. “Placement” advertising remains pretty cunning (like when “Survivor” castaways win a reward of camp cookware from Sears or when James Bond drives a BMW), but I’m talking about the little pop-ups that show up on the bottom of the screen during the program. I saw one on “Chuck” recently: They were advertising the DVD set of the last season of “Chuck” in animation on the bottom of the screen while Chuck and Morgan discussed their next move. And I love (hate) when baseball announcers discuss the Just for Men Replay of the Game or Toro’s Mow ‘Em Down Strike Report.
  • On blog entries on my smart phone. On my post about global warming? An ad about BP’s response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. On the post about local computer doctors? An ad about virus removal. (If you click on it, WordPress is collecting the royalties, not me.) It’s smart technology that marries relevant content with appropriate advertisers. Brilliant!

Good marketing results in greater sales so advertising will be with us as long as money is. Look for it inside a coffin near you!

In a land where the river runs free, in a land to a shining sea … and you and me are free to … wear polyester

Target’s new ad touting its back-to-school wares and featuring the 1972 album “Free To Be You and Me” aired on the episode of “Project Runway” I taped last week, and when I caught a snippet of it while fast-forwarding through the commercials, I just had to stop and listen.

I was instantly transported to spring 1977. I was in fourth grade, wearing a pink polyester high-necked dress that my mother had shortened after I was appointed to wear the floor-length version while lighting candles at my uncle and aunt’s wedding. The pink material was broken up by white puffy blossoms. Cut just above the knee, that dress perfectly showed off my white knee-highs with the pink and pastel blue elastic tops.

I stood at the microphone reciting a sketch of some sort from the “Free To Be You and Me” album my music teacher had transformed into the fourth grade pageant. (I remember that music teacher’s black and brown velvet pants, which I imagined she wore when she had her period. It’s in fourth grade that girls learn about menstruation; when one first learns to be terrified of “spotting,” one is watching for how to disguise it. I also remember my fourth grade teacher’s bosom — big and round — the sort every fourth grade girl dreams of. But I digress.)

Anyway, I remember standing on stage at Memorial Auditorium reciting something I had memorized, but I don’t recall the bit. I do remember “Boy Meets Girl” originally voiced by Marlo Thomas and Mel Brooks about gender stereotypes. I believe David Christianson, with his gravelly voice even in fourth grade, played the “boy” part, while Stephanie Tapley played the “girl” part with perky bubblegum flourish. I also remember a line from my recitation included a reference to Lena Horne. She is not mentioned in the “Boy Meets Girl” schtick, and Lena Horne did not play a part in the “Free To Be You and Me” album, so perhaps I am misremembering.

If you want to be transported, too, check this out:


Honestly, Dear Reader, this blog post is not evidence of my best work. Before clicking above, check out another one of my posts. Consider bookmarking me and following me for awhile. While it’s my blog and I’m free to be me, most of my other posts have better endings. And better writing. This one, well, tapped into some sort of cultural consciousness with the “river runs free” line and I’m getting dozens of hits a day on it, but you really shouldn’t miss the rest of this blog.

But I can’t blog in a magazine …

If you read magazines at all, you’ve seen the ad campaign by now.

The headline, “We surf the internet. We swim in magazines,” across from a close-up shot of Michael Phelps.

It’s part of an ad campaign backed by five major magazine companies to promote, well, themselves: Magazines. The campaign is supposed to run seven months. A second phase, which will start appearing in June issues, will embed multiple cover images from widely recognized publications into the ad’s text to convey key phrases, according to the Magazine Publishers of America.

One of the lines from the ad: “Think of it this way: during the 12-year life of Google, magazine readership actually increased 11 percent.”

When my stepson was doing research for an English paper several weeks ago, I remembered index cards and stacks of Time magazine I checked out from the library. He sat in front of his computer trying to sift through relevant web sites.

Another line: “An established medium can continue to flourish so long as it continues to offer a unique experience. And, as reader loyalty and growth demonstrate, magazines do.”

As a former newspaper reporter, I’m a big print fan. I subscribe to two newspapers, and I have stacks of read and unread magazines all around the house (much to my Beloved’s chagrin).

At the bottom of the ad is a logo created with the distinctive typographies of multiple magazine logos: “M” from Time, “A” from Vanity Fair, “G” from Rolling Stone, “A from Entertainment Weekly, “Z” from Harper’s Bazaar, “i” from Marie Claire, “N” from Fortune and “ES” from Esquire.

I loved the ad, and I found the whole thing very eye-catching and powerful.

But you know what I looked for at the bottom but didn’t find?

The website.