Category Archives: Advertising/Marketing Campaigns

Ethics in Advertising: Drawing the Line or Crossing It

Ethics can be defined as the rules of conduct or moral principles of a particular group/culture, though its definition can differ from one person to the next. When it comes to advertising, this same sentiment holds true. Depicting a crucified Christ to sell bicycle gear may be an acceptable expression of the advertiser’s “passion” for its business for some, but an offensive appropration of a religious icon for others.
Advertising is always striving to push the boundaries of acceptance and tradition, as all avenues of artistic expression do. But since advertising is often a much more public and accessible medium of expression than some music or art, advertisers must constantly remind themselves of ethics and decide whether the message of the ad is worth sacrificing public opinion or trust. In some cases, the loss of a few ultra-conservative consumers may be a fine trade for an ad that impacted and resonated with millions more. In other cases, it’s just not worth the backlash.
I consider myself to be pretty liberal in my views, but this anti-smoking ad is an obvious connection to the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center.
I will admit, smoking is a serious and life-threatening issue, but putting an advertisement on the same level as a horrific, nationally, politically, and socially life-altering event is offensive, and an affront to every American who experienced the tragedy of that day. Topics that inspire strong, negative personal opinions or associations are better left out of the often humorous, joking world of advertising.
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TV spots: Obselete or Bringing Home the Bacon?

With the dawn of DVRs and video on demand, the landscape of television has changed dramatically in the last decade. What makes TV watching more convenient and accessible for consumers has traditional TV advertisers scrambling for a way to still get their message across. Like the radio, advancement in technology and pop culture has relegated TV commercials to an almost obselete medium, with consumers favoring the viral videos and interactive media available online.

The TV commercial’s lone champion in its fight for survival is the Superbowl, the annual television program who receives as much hype, if not more, for the corresponding advertising as for the actual game. Unfortunately, at least in my opinion, most of the presented spots of the last few Superbowls have been disappointing, tired, and boring. If TV spots’ “big dance” is lackluster and unstimulating, there’s not much hope for consumer interest and support throughout the rest of the year- something advertisers don’t want to hear.

As with all advertising, there are always a few standouts who come up with innovative and unusual ideas to promote their product or service. One of the standouts who recently created such a commercial is Logitech and their commercial with Kevin Bacon for Revue with Google TV:

This kind of humor, surprising and unique in relation to most other slapstick, cheesy TV spots, in addition to inspiring creative ideas is what will keep television advertising alive, at least for another decade.

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Interactive: Incredibly Inspiring

To catch someone’s attention, ads in non-traditional media have to do more than just look pretty. They have to inspire consumers to interact, thus, the title of this category of advertising. An ad that inspires interaction in more ways than one is Nike’s Chalkbot for LIVESTRONG and the Lance Armstrong Foundation, created by Wieden+Kennedy. Building on the tradition of chalking the Tour de France route, Wieden+Kennedy took the action a step further to establish the route as a canvas for Chalkbot, a robot that takes SMS, Twitter, web banners, and wearyellow.com messages sent to it and chalks them onto the route riders bike a few hours later.

Here’s a video explaining it:

The best part about the ad is its ability for people to see the inspiring message they sent actually printed on the course. So not only is the ad interactive for consumers the first time, inspiring them to send in a message, it reinforces itself and acknowledges consumer’s participation, building on the idea of universal, shared inspiration to overcome any adversity. For consumers, to see a physical manifestation of their effort is a powerful confirmation for them individually and for their relationship with the brand or organization.

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The Virus Everybody Wants to Spread: Viral Videos

It’s clear to everyone in the industry that the world of advertising is ever-expanding. Along with the use of social media and guerrilla marketing, viral videos are one of the newest ways for advertisers to contact consumers, whether they realize it or not. A small budget production, viral videos have some sort of unusual, often humorous topic to draw in internet users, delighting them to the point where they feel they must share it with their friends.

Take this one, created for Ray Ban sunglasses.

A guy catches a pair of classic Ray Ban shades with his face that are thrown to him by his friend from great distances and heights. The short video culminates in the guy catching the Ray Bans with his face while sitting in the front seat of a moving vehicle. No indication of Ray Ban as a sponsor is apparent until the end of the video when the retailer’s tagline, Never Hide, is written through dirt on the car’s window. The video represents the take-charge, smoothly suave, irreverent attitude of the brand without forcing itself onto its typically laid-back consumers, creating another opportunity for advertising and brand development.

With 4,945,954 views as of 6:16 PM on 3/27/11, the video has achieved viral status and was appreciated enough to inspire a hilarious spoof:

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Campaigns: Ads that make you think, and think again

Campaigns are generally a series of ads with multiple executions expressing a single big idea. Many campaigns simply execute the ad’s main concept through variations on one creative idea, a boring and repetitive waste of time, effort and money. An example of the opposite is available to anyone who’s traveled through a major airport within the last 6 months. The HSBC campaign centering on different points of view in relation to different cultural, religious, social and political traditions or opinions has been logically plastered along almost every long expanse of wall space in airport terminals, skyways and along luggage carousels.


In the space where people’s minds are free to wander while waiting for their flight to be called, their boarding pass to be checked, or their luggage to be returned, HSBC encourages consumers to understand, as HSBC does, that differing opinions are opportunities for potential and a more unified world. The visuals, cropped images with a word superimposed on top, are simple and direct, yet powerful in in their allowance for open-ended interpretations. These ads express a theme that is interesting and relevant not only to consumers in general, but also to HSBC, each in a new, thought-provoking way.

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Reductionism: An Ad’s Best Friend

Between headline, copy, visual, tagline and logo, the intended message of an ad can be lost. To be simple and direct, and to make an impression on viewers, accomplished ads have shown that reductionism is key. These ads choose one or two elements and make them powerful on their own, but not so much so that they clash with or overlap the others.


This ad for Gaylea spreadable butter is interesting in its execution, using a strong image to draw in butter-using and toast-eating readers. The unusual headline, especially with the word “brutality,” is definitely an attention-getter, but the awkward yellow square at the bottom left is unnecessary and repeats the ad’s idea multiple times. Just the headline, the visual, and a picture of the butter container that says Spreadables would have gotten the “Butter that spreads” idea across more succinctly.

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When Visuals Say It All

As consumers, we are inundated on a daily basis with visuals advertising a product or service. While some may be attention-grabbing or arresting and lead viewers to read the accompanying copy, some are powerful enough in their visual impact alone, conveying the desired message succinctly without the assistance of extended copy. Visual ads with just a tagline or the advertiser’s logo can express an idea, simple or complex, in an unusual, entertaining, intriguing, or comical way.

This print ad for Goldstar beer does just that:

The ad uses a flow chart style, the everyday symbols indicating a restroom for men or for women, and expands upon both. Playing on the idea that women take complex mental routes to arrive to their drink and outfit of choice, the straightforward man with a direct, unquestionable route to his Goldstar beer is set in comparison. The “Thank God you’re a man.” tagline reinforces the visual’s male-targeted concept.

Other ads in the campaign are similar in design and idea, incorporating other differences between men and women, like this one of a woman’s interpretation and contrived meaning of actions when drinking alcohol contrasted with the simple, ultimate intention of a man drinking Goldstar beer.

Both of these ads are effective because they play on truths, on the actions that real women universally partake in, whether they know they are doing it or not. By specifically targeting men and in some cases alienating women, the ads narrow their complexity even further. Some may find the ads to be sexist and the insights portrayed to be incorrect, but for a beer advertisement, can you really expect more than cheap humor at the expense of women? Visually unusual, the ads cleverly position Goldstar beer as a man’s drink, plain and simple.

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Long Copy: Alive or Dead?

STOP! STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING! STOP WHAT YOU’RE THINKING ABOUT RIGHT NOW! STOP RIGHT THIS SECOND AND LOOK AT THIS AD!

This is something like the impression that advertising creatives hope to convey when they create an ad. Jolting, impressionable, and direct, something that triggers a consumer’s mind to take that extra second and switch gears to actually consider what they’re seeing. Many ads focus on the visual impact of an ad. Fearing the lack of reading interest, the copy is kept short, often only a headline or two and a quippy tagline. But since this has become the popular and almost mainstream style of advertising, does an ad really have the power to differentiate itself from everything else around it?

What about long copy? Is it worth the time to write it? It most definitely is. Whether every word is read or just the tagline, long copy can be used to make an advertisement stand out. Pete Barry’s quotation of Luke Sullivan from his book The Advertising Concept reinforces this idea: “Even if a customer doesn’t read every word, it looks like the company has a lot to say.” Long copy allows advertiser’s to tell consumers more about the proposed product and if it’s engaging enough, also allows advertisers to draw consumer’s focus and attention for a longer period of time, a successful result when most average consumers see nearly 5,000 ads a day.

Effective long copy ads express an idea or thought that is shared by the reader and is important to the reader’s individual self. People do like to read and enjoy editorial copy for that reason, so structuring advertising in a similar way helps make the message more readable and real. The Jack Daniels London Underground Tube advertisements are freuqently long copy ads, interesting and structured like a newspaper article with headlines and body paragraphs. Acknowledging commuters unavoidable time spent waiting for the next train, the advertisment effectively combines visuals with catchy copy. During my time abroad in London and the many hours spent in the Underground, I learned more about Jack Daniels than I ever thought I would and can attest to its impressionable nature. Is long copy alive or dead? Oh, it’s alive all right. Alive and kickin’.

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Social Media Done Right: Ford’s Fiesta Campaign

Ford Fiesta

For The Newhouse Eric Mower Advertising Forum’s first spring event, Matt VanDyke, Director of Marketing Communications at Ford in the U.S., brought to life a presentation entitled “Breaking Out of the Box.” After quickly detailing Ford’s recent history in the automotive industry and its future plans, VanDyke explained the company’s thriving marketing efforts in traditional and non-traditional arenas, including print, TV, and radio as well as within the erupting digital arena.

In an effort to revive the automobile manufacturer after the hard-hitting 2008 recession, VanDyke and the Ford Marketing team focused on a single mission: to improve consumer opinion and consideration of Ford in comparison to its U.S. competition. Four main automobile qualities were found to interest consumers the most: Quality, safety, green operating ability/fuel economy, and technology. Ford built on these interests, developing a campaign centered on engaging the consumer in order to create an open conversation, not merely the one-way dialogue produced by the usual mass television and print advertisements.

Uniting the company’s marketing teams across the globe, Ford narrowed the number of different platforms or messages presented to the public. A constant stream of communication allowed teams in every country and continent to measure the success or failure of inventive social media marketing strategies presented in a test country. By employing interested consumers to become “agents,” Ford reintroduced their Fiesta model to the U.S.; allowing consumers to test drive the car for 6 months and in return to post a minimum of 6 responses to an online site. An overwhelming response of “agent” applicants as well as videos/posts from the chosen applicants led to an explosion of online attention from consumers and media outlets. With a 56% vehicle familiarity before the Ford Fiesta was even officially launched, the campaign was labeled a success and propelled Ford to be named one of the Top 10 social media brands by Ad Age.

Extending the success of the Fiesta campaign, Ford has begun a similar effort for the Ford Focus entitled the Ford Focus Rally. Instead of spending money on traditional media when the cars first roll onto dealer lots, Ford has developed a Pre-Launch, Launch, and Post-Launch method of advertising, a combination of social media and traditional advertising used to enact the fullest potential of consumer interaction and response.

VanDyke’s clear and concise presentation of Ford’s inspiring work was well worth the time. For someone who knows very little about cars, I now, as a consumer, feel very informed and empowered. Ford’s strategy of putting the consumer’s interests first isn’t revolutionary, but the way the company went about proving their intentions was ingenious. The Ford Marketing Communications team was named Ad Age’s 2010 Marketer of the Year, a well-deserved honor for incredible work that has certainly raised the bar.

The Ultimate Ad Arena: Superbowl XLV

After months of hype,  previews, and rate runaround, advertising’s main stage was set for a competition like no other: the annual Superbowl. Commercials from the traditional advertisers such as Bud Light, E*Trade, Coca Cola, Doritos, Pepsi, GoDaddy.com, and various automobile companies proved that the use of humor is still alive and well in television sports-related advertising. But one unique commercial caught my attention and separated itself from the rest.

Chrysler’s Imported From Detroit commercial was serious, thought-provoking, relevant to current events, real, engaging, upfront, and honest. After seeing countless commercials, all created in a similar manner, touting similar car benefits, Chrysler recognized its reputation as a leading US auto manufacturer, located in the plagued city of Detroit. Despite the city’s deteriorating and economically distraught rep, Chrysler took these negative connotations and turned them positive, attributing hard work, perseverance, and sincerity to the city’s incomparable strength and character. With the inclusion of Eminem and his Academy Award winning song “Lose Yourself” in the commercial, viewers drew on the powerful messages sent through the film 8 Mile and associated them with Chrysler’s inspired mission, creating luxury vehicles with determination and conviction.

One of my favorite lines of copy from the ad:

“We’re from America, but this isn’t New York City, or The Windy City, or Sin City, and we’re certainly no one’s Emerald City. This is the Motor City. And this is what we do.”

Take a look:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=usJSQVO4VrE
Another set of commercials from a different advertiser grabbed my attention, but for a different reason. The Groupon commercials with Elizabeth Hurley and Timothy Hutton were confusing and a little offensive. Playing on the popular use of commercial advertising to draw empathy and financial donations for charitable causes, the Groupon commercials suggested that though the Tibetan culture and the Brazilian rain forest are in danger, it doesn’t matter since the consumer saved money on a meal at a Tibetan restaurant in Chicago or a bikini waxing at a NYC spa. In this way, Groupon’s first national television commercials portray their customers as selfish, conceited, and self-centered. Some viewers may have seen the unexpected plot switch of both commercials as funny, but I was left more confused than amused.

Take a look:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O89q-RDHRjc

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtH_Zka_o7U

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Good Ad, Bad Ad

For our first assignment, we have been asked to look at the print ads posted on Ads of the World (http://adsoftheworld.com) and discuss one ad that was good in its execution and one that was lacking.

I came across this ad in a set created by the Serviceplan agency in Munich, Germany for Lego toys. The amusing photo with an aged tint recreates a living room scene from the 1980s. The accuracy of the room decoration and the clothing worn immediately transports the viewer back to their own 1980s living room and the hours spent on the floor building with Lego blocks.

Baffled and somewhat confused by their son’s Lego creation, the parents look on in amazement and with curiosity. The ad’s tagline, “Builders of Tomorrow” matches the scene perfectly as the young boy continues to enjoy building his wind turbine model despite his parents’ bemusement. The ad clearly displays the product, the positive emotion received from direct use of the product, and the limitless possibilities available. The Lego brand logo is subtly, yet effectively included in the ad.

I was very confused when I first saw this ad for Ford by Bronx, Curitiba, Brazil. The Ford label and small image of the promoted car are clear, but seemed disconnected in relation to the larger picture. After studying the picture and finding no hidden details in the image besides the tracks made in the dirt, I concluded that the ad is trying to say something about the Satellite Tracking Feature, but I’m not sure what. The copy, “New Ford Focus With Satellite Tracking Feature,” does not do enough to communicate the purpose of the ad or the reason this image of a street was chosen.

Boring, frustrating, and difficult, this Ford Focus ad misses the mark in almost all senses. The street image may be attractive, but its relation to purchasing a Ford Focus and its conveyance of the satellite tracking feature is unapparent