The best Super Bowl 2014 ad…that never aired (and one that only aired in Savannah, GA)

The Internet is abuzz about how the much-anticipated and very expensive Ad Bowl fared in Sunday’s big game. Good thing: the game itself was such a blowout it was not one for the ages, so at least we had Bruno Mars and the ads to look forward to. Otherwise, that’s a lot of bean dip and chips that would have gone to waste.

I was underwhelmed by most of the ads this year. They were either retreads of creative ideas that were successful in years past (hello, 2011) or let-downs after weeks of sneak-peek buildup (really, hidden cameras? random celeb cameos? Yawn.) There were cute puppies making friends with Clydesdales that made me tear up (but not buy the beer). There were famous actresses selling homemade soda with the been-there/done-that sex appeal of a GoDaddy gal (again, yawn) but with a new twist of actually laughing at herself a bit (“My real job of saving the world?” Priceless). A little bit of unexpected physical comedy for Greek yogurt.

On the bright side, there was a clever spot from Audi about never compromising (the Doberhuahua). A  great one for Goldieblox to encourage little girls to play with more than just princesses and pink (and sponsored by QuickBooks in support of small business – nice touch), And this one for T-Mobile with Tim Tebow putting on a great performance (if only his QB-ing was as good). And I admit I kinda loved this Microsoft ad about how technology has changed lives (so moving).

But it was this campaign from Newcastle Brown Ale that I adored the most. A campaign which poked fun at the “Mega Huge Football Ad Newcastle Never Made.” One ad features a saucy Anna Kendrick, complaining about how Newcastle asked her to do the ad and then they didn’t have the money to make it. If you don’t already love her, you will after you watch this! I loved it because it was inventive, savvy (they took advantage of the Super Bowl hype without the Super Bowl price) and was on-brand for this very down to earth beer. This is how you create buzz, people (over 4 million views for Anna’s ad and counting…)

Still, I’m not sure there are words for this 2-minute epic local ad that only aired in Savannah, Georgia.  This guy has cajones, I’ll give him that. And a friend who thinks he’s the next Scorsese. But also kind of reminds me of Guns ‘n Roses November Rain video. I’m not sure I like it but I can’t look away.

What was your favorite (or most hated) ad during the Super Bowl? Please share in the Comments below (and include a link to YouTube if you can!)



Shared purpose and animated pigs that make you cry

Can an animated ad touch your heart and make you weep? It happened to me during the Grammy Awards last week. Everyone’s been talking about the Chipotle 2- minute long commercial that aired. My husband and I were literally turning the TV off and going to bed when it came on and stopped dead in our tracks in silence to watch the whole thing.

The killer choice of the mournful Willie Nelson song didn’t hurt, either.

Chipotle has built a brand around offering fresh, nutritious food in a convenient way. They have bucked the trend that fast-food needs to taste like crap – and be just as bad for you.

Lynn over at Power Chicks International did a great video interview with business coach Tara Gentile and they briefly talked about this ad. What I loved is Tara’s theory that this ad works because it’s about shared purpose. Chipotle communicated that they were on the same side as their customers, that they were after the same goal. As Tara states, if a multi-million dollar company can make you root for them, than any business can do the same thing.

But it comes down to a strong brand strategy and living that brand out in your actual operations, products and services. If it turns out Chipotle’s suppliers are actually mistreating animals and injecting them with all sorts of homones in horrible living condititions, then they will have a huge brand crisis on their hands. But I am an optimist – and I’ve also eaten their delicious food – so I hope not.

The reason I work with branding clients on their mission statement is that it’s the linchpin of your brand. It concisely articulates what you stand for, what you believe and gives you a guiding light for running your busines.  But it also gives your customers a shared purpose to support.

Watch the ad above. Then please tell us what you think about it in the Comments below and get some link love back to your site!



Microsoft grabs the right position

Are you a Mac or a PC? The epic battle between Apple and Microsoft rages onward, although these days Apple appears to be kicking butt – at least on the consumer front. It’s hard to believe that the iPhone has only been around a few years, not to mention the even younger iPad.

The Apple brand is a storied case study in what it means to capture imagination and emotion – and create a defined archetype of the “type of person who uses Apple products.” The latest Samsung ads poke fun at the Apple stereotype of hip, young, too-cool-for-school upstarts by mocking their desire to wait hours in line just to have the “right” brand of phone in their pocket. (The best line?, “I could never get a Samsung. I’m creative.” His friend’s snarky reply: “Dude, you’re a barista.”)

While Windows is “still the overwhelming market leader among desktop operating systems” it did slide from 92% share in September 2011 to (gasp) 91% in November 2011. So while concerned, the company is not crying yet. And XBOX continues to dominate the console gaming market. But let’s face it: as an overall company brand, Microsoft and Windows will never “outcool” Apple- at least not anytime soon.

And you know what? I think they are okay with that.

Because they’ve recently been finding a position that can own. One that’s credible. And one Apple is not necessarily going after: families.

You’ve probably seen the TV ads touting “It’s a great time to be a family.” One ad depicts a father running around a grocery store crossing off a shopping list on his Windows Phone, when odd items like coconuts nad candy start to get added to his list. He realizes his giggling sons are at home, updating the list in real-time from their PC. So he types back, “Do your homework” and it pops up on their screen. Another one shows a son struggling to solve long division problems on his computer while his dad grapples with a sales presentation. As the dad takes over the son’s computer to help with his homework, the son instantly turns his dad’s humdrum sales presentation into a rocking extravanza with music, explosion and color. Other ads can be found here.

And on my first trip to a Microsoft retail store, I was pleasantly surprised. At first glance, yes, it mimics the Apple store concept. But then I looked a little closer. The place was packed just before Christmas. Teenagers were playing a Kinect Dance game in the front, busy moms and dads whipped around with strollers. Staffpeople were helping toddlers figure out games on the PCs. I realized that, unlike the Apple store across the street, this place was full of families, not brooding hipsters. And you know what? That’s okay.

Microsoft is showing that you don’t always have to go after the same exact people in order to be successful. This is what is meant by “positioning.” Where does your brand play? Where does it “fit?” Instead of trying to out-Apple Apple, maybe Microsoft is playing to its brand strengths and building off of the success it’s already found with XBOX and Kinect, as well as the great strides it’s taken with Windows 7 and with Windows Phone (which I love, by the way.)

When others zig, maybe it’s the right move to stop trying to catch them and to zag instead. (hint – that’s a tweetable!) Where do you fit? That is what positioning is all about, my lovelies!

Best and Worst of Super Bowl XLV: Do you agree?

I don’t.

First off, GO PACKERS! I was excited to see them win if I couldn’t have the Jets in the game. 

Secondly, was anyone else a bit disappointed in the ad fare this year?  Given how much companies are spending these days for a :30 spot ($3.1 million, and that’s just for the airtime, never mind the production cost of the ad itself), you’d have thought you’d get….I don’t know, MORE.

Here’s what Brand Channel deemed the best and worst brand spots. Do you agree?  Please post in the Comments.

I disagree with Telefora as a miss. I thought this was the best surprise of the night as to what I thought was going to be a schmaltz-fest with country singer Faith Hill – as many country songs and videos are known to be.  I loved the surprise of the guys vulgar line at the end, combined with the “we’ll help you say it beautifully” message – because “clearly you can’t.” I also kind of liked the Richard Lewis ad for Snickers, although it was too lame of a bet to try to repeat the magic from last year’s Betty White ads. The reason it worked last year is that it was completely unexpected. Still, I thought Richard Lewis (and Roseanne Barr, for that matter) were nice obscure choices.

I do agree that the Career Builder ad was just tired and lazy, Kim Kardashian needs to go away as a spokesperson for anything and the Go Daddy ad was scary and horrible at the same time. Go Daddy’s branding always makes me sad because they are such a great company with killer customer service and tech support, and they don’t need to go the shock value route. Almost makes me NOT want to use them, which is kind of against the point of brand advertising.

And, what the heck were you thinking? All that money, wasted on an ad that left people outside of the tech industry confused as to what Chatter does (made it appear like a competitor to Facebook, rather than a collaboration tool a la Sharepoint.)  And securing the Black Eyed Peas involvement to boot? Ay yay yay. Thanks a lot. You just convinced other B2B CEO’s why investing in brand ads is a waste of money. Note to those CEO’s: If you do it right, it is not.

As for Best spots, I had not caught the Chevy Cruze First Date ad, as I was hosting, chipping and dipping our own party. But after viewing it online, I adored it. What a great way to show the differentiation between their FB capabilities and Ford’s. And it was just a sweet spot. And as much as I hate Justin Bieber, the Best Buy ad with him and Ozzy was hilarious. “What’s a Bieber?” is my new catchphrase. The Chevy truck ad was very well done, using references to both Lassie and the Balloon Boy (didn’t know that was possible) I think what was great about these ads is that they showed you can still communicate a brand message and differentiator while producing a clever, memorable ad. This is in stark contract to just trying to create a “buzzworthy” ad that gets people talking, without it communicating the brand position you want.

Case in point: Groupon. Another pronounced Hit that I call a severe Miss. They went for the shock factor and it backfired, in my opinion. Yes, I know they were poking fun at celebrity PSA’s and yes, I can take a controversial joke as much as the next guy (after al, I’m a Daniel Tosh fan). But poking fun at Tibet, endangered animals and the like seemed just pointless and off-strategy for Groupon, whose brand is supposed to be all about “community”, “supporting local business” and  highlighting the “underdog small business guy.”  That’s what happens when you aim for buzz rather than brand.  Groupon may have just lost me as a customer – not because I’m offended by the ads, but more offended by the marketing stupidity that someone thought this was a good branding idea and wasted all of that money. The ads were just dumb. Period.

When companies get it right, they really get it right and show the world the power of effective brand advertising.  Effective being the operative word.

Until next year…..!  What do you guys think? What were your faves and misses? Please Share in the Comments.

Mobile, Mea Culpa and the Brat Pack: 2011 Advertising Trends

bratpackLoved this WSJ article by Suzanne Vranica on Monday about the 2011 trends in advertising.  Not surprisingly, interactivity, personalization and new technologies lead the pack in what’s hot for 2011. But just as with fashion, there are a few interesting themes emerging (or re-emerging, as the case may be) that might look good on the catwalk this year, but frighten us the next. The trend that made me squeal with delight is revealed at the end of this post.

So what’s the deal in 2011?

Mobile ads are getting hotter and hotter. Between location-based services and the rise in smart phones, mobile has shown us how “sexy” it can be – now it’s time to up the game. Look out for more ads that enable you to bypass the store completely and purchase directly from the brand ad on your phone. And you know how brand apps followed quickly on the heels of game apps for your phone, enabling you to compare prices, find stores or even find clean restrooms (courtesy of Charmin)? Same will hold true this year for your TV.  With cable set-top boxes and gaming systems, look for more brands to bring apps to your TV set.

Suzanne also cites that longer brand ads will be the norm, as we try to cut through the clutter and offer more engaging, deeper experiences. Such “films” may also encourage the trend of an interactive virtual product demo, like the one that Mitsubishi did with its Online Test Drive for the 2011 Outlander Sport last year.

Sports marketing will expand in the sponsorship area but more for the “everyday” athlete and not just the Super Bowl. The trend in health, wellness and lifestyle activities will see more and more companies sponsoring lifestyle sports events, like marathons, triathlons and yoga.

Transparency and authenticity – things that Red Slice has mentioned more than a few times – has finally caught up to larger companies. As we saw with Domino’s recent campaign for changing it’s tasteless formula, the trend will be more and more companies doing the equivalent of “checking themselves into rehab” and writing a tell-all about their recovery. Look for more honesty, confession and “warts and all” advertising to be the norm to engender trust and loyalty. This one should be an interesting one to watch unfold!

Other trends involve government regulations on internet privacy and food regulation (please, please, set a standard for what a brand can call “organic" and “natural”!). And in case you haven’t noticed, as my husband and I have recently, commercial jungles are making a comeback. Remember “Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz” or the old McDonald’s jingle that still haunts me (“Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame-seed bun.")? The article quotes Susan Credle of Leo Burnett saying, “Coming out of the depression in the 30’s, happy music became very important.” Oh my.

And the one I’m most psyched about, probably from being a teen who grew up with John Hughes’ films? The Return of the 1980’s! The article states The Brat Pack may be pitching more products as we enjoy an 80’s renaissance. Por que? Well, the country may be trying to recapture the confidence and swagger of the Reagan years to get back on our feet again. Oh boy. Not only will I get to enjoy Rob Lowe in his hilarious role on Parks and Rec (that casting was pure genius) but he might be pushing Audi’s or Snuggies?! Sign.  Me. Up.

Microsoft finds the brand sauce…finally

I’m pleased as punch about Microsoft’s new branding directions lately. They are finally starting to connect on an emotional level with some consistency across their consumer products. Hurrah!

OK, I’m not on drugs: I know they don’t necessarily have the rabid fans of Apple. but they are making strides for a company that has previously made all their consumer products feel disconnected (and with poor, confusing names, I might add – but that’s for another post).

After their success with Windows 7 “My Idea” campaign, which showed how users just want technologies to fit our lives and be what WE need them to be, they continued those efforts with Bing. Presenting Bing not just as another Google, but as an alternative to every search engine by being more about finding the right answer versus “search overload proved effective, believable and got people talking.  Bing is indeed a different experience from Google. May not tear Google die-hards away, but their point was not to do that. It was to provide the alternative to those looking for one; for those who were not getting the experience they wanted from Google.

Now Microsoft will be launching it’s brand new Windows 7 phone. A bit late to the party? Hell yes. But from all accounts, I’ve heard this will be pretty sweet indeed. And they were smart about it. Their brand campaign will not be about “another smartphone:” It’s not about competing with the existing phones on the market – Blackberry, iPhone, and Android – but about turning the entire way we look at all smartphones on its head. According to a recent article in the Puget Sound Business Journal. it’s a commentary on our “culture of mobile distraction”. Ads will show horrible predicaments caused by people lost in their phones, texting, playing games, etc and the consequences of that. Then it will present Windows 7 phones as being able to “get you in, and out, and back to life.”

When others zig, sometimes you have no choice but to zag.

Microsoft knows they need to stand out. They need to be a bit edgy, a bit devil’s advocate, because they are lagging in this market. But I for one feel like their brand efforts are finally going in the right direction and are beginning to uniformly stand for something: making technology work for us, not the other way around. We shall see if this new brand effort actually delivers on its promise.

How to interview…and be interviewed: Advice from Katie Couric

Many of you out there promoting your businesses or serving as spokespeople will hopefully be doing more and more press and informational interviews. PR is a core tactic in your brand building strategy and you want to ensure you are further conveying your brand messages when you are on camera, on the radio or in print.

The best advice I can share is whether you are a beginner or have been at this a while is to get media trained. We featured top tips in our Ask the Expert interview with Bronwyn Saglimbeni a while back from her work in media and presence coaching. Even if you just do a refresher every year, this is a great idea to ensure your messages are coming across in the media exactly as you desire. Interviewers can be wily and time is short so you need to know about presence, polish and soundbites – and how to avoid getting dragged down a rathole – in order to get the most bang for your PR buck. You may never get that kind of audience again, so leverage it well.

Many of you reading this also have blogs or radio shows that you use to promote your business, so you need to be wise to the ways of effective interviewing. It may not be your core business or competency, but if you have a listening or viewing audience, you need to serve them to the best of your ability or risk tarnishing your own brand in the process.

Katie Couric gave some great advice applicable to both interviewer and interviewee in this video. Check it out and ensure you are on point no matter which side of the mic you are on.

What are your favorite TV shows subliminally telling you to do?

We all know about product placement as a way to cut through the ad clutter and still enable content providers to attract marketers. This is when they embed the product into the actual show, like Coke strategically placing branded cups at the judges’ table on American Idol or Cisco’s video conferencing equipment playing a crucial storyline role on CSI.  The other day, I even saw one of the most blatant (and frankly, tacky) ones on Bones: two female characters are driving along and the passenger says to the driver, “Do you have kids?” The driver says no, and the passenger asks her why she has a Minivan. The driver says, (paraphrasing) “Oh, I love my Sienna. First of all, I’m an artist so there’s room for all my stuff. And I don’t even have to struggle with parallel parking anymore, which I hate.” I’m sure the show’s writers cringed and felt like they needed a shower to wipe the cheesiness off of them after writing those lines.

But I’m okay with product placement if it allows us to enjoy good content without having to pay a lot for it. Subsidizing content development with advertising  is a better alternative to me – I always find it funny that people want something for nothing in this world. And seriously, product placement goes way back: remember, “soap operas” are so named because of the early days when soap and detergent companies would sponsor them.

But the newest thing is “behavior placement:’” sending softer messages through TV content so that advertisers can then have a more receptive audience to their message. This WSJ article talks about how NBC Universal plans a week of programming across their networks that emphasizes healthy eating and exercise or environmental responsibility and the shows’ storylines address this behavior in some way. For example, “The Office” had a storyline about Dwight being a “Recyclops” superhero as he humorously and overzealously encouraged the office to recycle.  A Telemundo show had a character whose job was to recruit people for the Census – an important message to the Latino community, which is usually undercounted. And “Top Chef” promoted buying locally grown foods by having competing chefs prepare a meal using only organic and local produce and ingredients. Some behavior placements are more subtle, as when a plotline on NBC’s new show, “Trauma” involved someone reporting an emergency from their hybrid vehicle or when Bravo’s “Millionaire Matchmaker” featured a client who owned an eco-friendly clothing line.

As NBC Universal coordinates these themes across their shows during certain time periods (like Green Week), they are then able to attract advertisers who benefit from those behaviors. For example, Soy Joy, a health food manufacturer, or carmakers pushing Hybrids. They can even offer special ads with characters from the shows, as Kenneth the page from “30 Rock” did for Pepsi’s Sun Chips brand who had just launched a compostable bag: they produced a skit with him that will run during a commercial break.

The networks know they can’t be too pushy or preachy or they risk alienating their audience. And if the behavior makes sense in context and maintains the show’s flow and integrity, that is cool with me. “The Office” producers say they had been thinking about doing this with Dwight’s character even before the network came to them and ordered “an environmental storyline.”  But what are your thoughts? Would you rather pay more for programming development devoid of such tactics? Or are you fine with a few ad messages here and there if it results in quality programming at a decent price for you?

When Brand Advertising Goes Bad

Catching up on some football this weekend, a TV ad provoked such ire in me, that I had to share.

Before I reveal it, let me defend why I have such strong feelings. Marketing and branding has rceived such a bad rap over the years as litle more than “pretty pictures” and wasted budget. OK, this might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I’ve never not had to fight and claw my way through an expenditure justification meeting with a CFO. And I get it, I really do. There has been such misguided marketing shoveled out over the years (and I admit, I shoveled my share of it, too). And you can’t just spend money with no ROI – you need to be able to track and manage ROI on any investment you make. That’s just sound business, and while I might be in marketing, I did earn a business degree so I understand that the name of the game, at the end of the day, is revenue.

So I have spent my career learning to be a diligent “measurer.” Whether that’s tracking website visits, leads, conversion rates, unaided recall, PR hits, focus groups, etc. the Type A in me has always enjoyed the challenge of proving that marketing – when it’s done right – should affect the bottom line and is not all fun and games. It takes a lot of skill to tap into people’s needs and prompt them to act. Yes, sometimes it still all falls down because of product quality, a flawed business model or some sales reps who can’t seem to close the deal – but you can only control what you can control, right?

And then, I see advdertising like I did this past weekend. And I want to slap somebody. Hard.

Pacific Life is running a TV ad that I’m sure cost a pretty penny. It’s an ad showing dolphins jumping up out of the ocean, set to an epic soundtrack. Then, the Pacific Life product categories (annuities, etc.) flash across the screen for about a second and the commercial ends. Someone feels so smug about this ad, they actually have it on the home page of their website, titled Dancing Whales.

What the…..?!

Yes, the logo has a whale on it. Yes, whales are cute and I like watching them. Yes, I believe that not all ads should be dry, feature-function-benefit informercials, but can showcase a lifestyle or an attitude. But whose idea was it to say, “Hey, our logo has a whale! Let’s spend money on a 30-second spot with jumping whales and that will definitely show people a) why we’re different from every other financial services company out there; b) will help people get to know our values; and c) entice them to contact their Pacific Life rep today!”

This is indeed what happens when people that think marketing and advertising are easy make decisions. OK, maybe I’m being harsh for comedic effect, but truly: how does this ad in any way help them differentiate, tell their story, show me what value I get from being their customer, or all of the above?

I call this the “Perfume ad conundrum” You know how some perfume ads have gone so far down the lifestyle branding path that their abstract ads are now mocked for being pretentious and nonsensical? That’s a result of someone saying, “Consumers are dumb, If we just put 30 seconds of (enter adjective here) up onthe screen, will associate us with (insert same adjective) and we will be ‘branded’.”

Uh uh. Not how it works. A good branding campaign does not forget the fundamentals of communication and marketing: value propositions (even if you just focus on 1 per ad, as Apple doesso well), differentiation (how can only this company provide what they are promising?), and clear mssaging (can I understand exactly what they are telling me?)

Ok, you could argure that I remembered this ad and am ranting about it, so didn’t it work? Um, not all talk is good talk that makes people buy your stuff. Many “water cooler” ads are ones in which the gossipers can’t remember which company they were even for, so how does that help people spend their money on you?

So, yes, I get a little out of joint when I see millions of dollars being spent by big companies that should have experienced marketing professionals who know better. Otherwise, it just makes it that much harder for those of us who value the depth and discipline of marketing to get our budgets approved. It’s bad enough that brand marketing is cited as pretty fluff (when execs are being kind) and a money sinkhole (when they are not) – can’t those of you blessed to get your budgets approved practice it at a more worthy level that positively impacts the bottom line?