Friday, January 31, 2014

Which Super Bowl Ads Are Super?


Friday, June 22, 2012

McDonald's Ad:Food Photos Never What You Get

The most elaborate photo shoot I've been involved in to date was for a popular candy bar. By the time I got to the shoot, the crew had been working for several hours under the direction of an acclaimed food photographer and our art director. On a table were two foot-long candy bar models that had been carefully fabricated out of plastic to make sure they matched the "hero" (or hand-made to be perfect) candy bars we had been provided by the manufacturer. In the case of this product, the "decoration" or wavy pattern on the top had a specific design and the chocolate was without blemishes (like the air holes that occur during the normal manufacturing process). There were two assistants in waders, knee deep in a vat of chocolate. A complex rig had been developed that would create waves in the vat and another rig was designed to bring the two halves of the chocolate bar out of the vat in a smooth motion. On the counter, were several hand-manufactured candy bars and two food stylists were working with paint brushes and various jars containing liquids artfully creating smooth delectable-looking chocolate. Nine hours later, we had a signature ending that would last a fraction under 5 seconds to end our TV commercials. McDonald's of Canada has put a YouTube video up showing how they prepare a Quarter Pounder with Cheese sandwich for a photo shoot and I must admit I was surprised at how little they do. How does what they do compare to what is done in the industry to make the food you buy appeal to you in advertisements? In the YouTube video, Hope Begozzi, the Director of Marketing for McDonalds Canada first goes to a local McDonald's and orders a burger. She takes it out of the package to show the camera, reboxes it and takes it to their commercial photographer. He places the store-bought burger on a table top in front of the camera and photographs it. We then see a food stylist style a burger which is placed next to the first burger. There is a marked difference in the styled burger. The mustard and catsup are put into place with a syringe. The onions and pickles are all hand placed. The resulting product looks magnificent. And every ingredient used in the shoot was an actually item used in the store. Over the course of my career I have seen acrylic ice cubes, Karo syrup used for the sweat on beer bottles, liquids like motor oil and cranberry juice to make liquids look more appealing, tooth picks, super glue, wood stain and shoe polish. And throughout my career, every piece of meat has been undercooked (nearly raw actually) to make it appear juicy and succulent. The average McDonalds employee makes under $8 an hour. The average food stylist takes home up to $150 per hour. It takes, at minimum, an art director, food stylist, prop stylist and a retoucher to make food look like you want to eat it. I went across the street at lunchtime to watch a large crowd eat at McDonald's. I didn't see anyone that looked like a food critic there. Just a large, diverse crowd trying to stay cool and get their grub on. A couple of years ago, Domino's Pizza became the first large food franchise to announce it would no longer retouch its food photography in an attempt to keep its pledge to be honest and transparent to its customers. As the internet and social media force more industry secrets out into the open here's hoping more companies will follow suit even though you might find that when it comes to food a little fantasy and presentation may be in order.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

How the Dish Networks' Ad-Zapping 'Hopper' Could Change the TV Industry, But Not Yet

The broadcast industry "upfronts" were held earlier this month. Advertising agency media types put on their best dresses and Sunday suits and attend lavish presentations complete with TV stars, food and beverages. Kelly Clarkson, Robin Thicke and John Legend performed at ABC's Upfront VIP Party. During Upfront presentations, networks roll out next season's television programming and present their best cases for why they should get their share of the more than $60 billion spent annually on television advertising. In spite of the growth of internet and mobile advertising, television is still the number one platform for advertising and up to 80 percent of commercial inventory is sold during the upfront season. So you can imagine why Dish Networks unveiling of the "Hopper" – a DVR device that would allow subscribers to "auto-hop" (skip) the commercials they record –was considered hard, cold rain on the parade. This is big, right? The ability to watch a show when you want to and without commercials, well that's like cake and ice cream with no calories. Not so fast there, cowgirl. Although the idea of skipping commercials spurs an interesting debate, in the end not so much is happening …yet. The networks are bent out of shape because free TV is built on the advertising model. That's where the money comes from to make and air the shows. Subscription services, like cable TV are another revenue model, but advertising plays a big part in that as well. The networks argue that if advertisers begin leaving TV, subscription prices will go up and less content will be made. Plus, they argue, it is a copyright infringement for Dish Network to allow the recording, saving and airing of content without the commercials. Dish Network dismisses the allegations out of hand arguing that if they make it easier, more TV will be watched and that's better for the networks. Further, they state, since the user is taping the program, they can choose to watch the commercials if they want and that makes it no different than fast-forwarding. The battle of words took a turn for the worse when Dish Network sued the networks. Dish Network is looking for a ruling on whether or not the device infringes on copyrights. Fox, CBS and NBCUniversal subsequently sued Dish Network alleging copyright infringement. In reality, everyone may be out of the gate a little early. According to Neilson, only 12 percent of broadcast homes have Dish and only about half of those have DVR's. Add to that the fact that over 80 percent of viewers view recorded shows the same day and with the Hopper, you can't actually skip the commercial until the next day and you realize that there very little to fight about right now. But, devices like the Hopper and online sites like Hulu (savvy web users have been using programs like Firefox's AdBloc to skip the commercials) are bringing in to question whether we are experiencing the warning shots in the coming battle that will give more control to the consumer about how they will view sponsored content. This column first appeared on the site on May 30, 2012. To view on the ABC News site click here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

There’s an Ad Agency on Mobaso Road in Nairobi

Do Ad Networks Practice Double Standard When It Comes To African American Consumers? Those of you who know me, know that I’m a research nut. I like to find information and I’ll go to great lengths to get at interesting facts. This inquisitiveness has served me well over the span of my career. Information is power, it helps you prove points. It helps shine a light on inequities. I like to think ultimately, information leads to truth and truth has interesting qualities. William Cullen Bryant said that “Truth crushed to the earth will rise again”. So, follow along as I tell you what I just found out. It all started with an article I saw yesterday that talked about Omnicom’s TBWA setting up shop in Nairobi to compete in the fast growing Kenyan advertising market, which according to sources grew 30% last year. 30% is nothing to sneeze at and their clients GSK, Visa and Unilever among others are all blue top shelf clients. I started snooping around to find out more about the Kenyan market. There are a lot of international agencies there from the US, Asia and The UK. McCann and Ogilvy are there as are Porter Novelli and Y&R. (Y&R is the agency I refer to in the title –they are in Panesar’s Centre on Mobaso Road). The firms there handle many international clients like Toyota and Coca Cola as well as local clients like Telkom Kenya and Jamii, a broadband provider. The Gross Nation Income of Kenya is $68 Billion. Its population is 40 Million people. By contrast the calculated GNI of African Americans who are about 39 Million people is 803 Billion and the median household income is $35,425 compared to $2,000 per year for the average Kenyan family. What is my point? Simply that Advertising agencies and their holding companies go to the far reaches of the globe and do hand-to-hand combat for market share in one of the poorest countries in the world. Kenya currently ranks 180th out of 210 countries yet go out of their way to justify why they will not target the African American market and use the proven market experts to do it. I call on clients that know they derive a significant share of their business from the African American market (If you don’t know call me and I’ll run a quick GfK MRI analysis on your brand and help you out) to get with the program, do what’s right and spend your marketing dollars with the advertising agencies, media companies, newspapers, radio stations and consumers from whom you derive significant profit.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Do You Know Any Queen-agers?

I’ve been seeing the trend develop for a while. It is buried in Mary Lou Quinlan’s book Just Ask A Woman which spends its time focusing on woman as consumers. It is the subtext to Miriam Muléy’s book The 85% Niche, which also is aimed at how to target women’s purchasing power. But now, a little more of the significance of the trend is emerging and there is a wonderful name that’s so descriptive I think it will catch on: Queen-Ager. The Sidney Morning Herald published a short article in yesterday’s newspaper entitled: Queen-agers Rule the Net. Their hypothesis is that there is a group of women sandwiched between Gen Y and the Baby Boomers. The bulls eye age is 45, and the largest part of the group is 40-49. These are tech savvy women whose focus is not on babies, beauty or fashion necessarily but who seek the information and respect to confidently go where they traditionally have not had easy access. In many ways it is about reinvention and the catalyst has been the internet. The internet with its easy access to information has empowered this generation by providing the hard facts that can help them overcome the aggressiveness of their fathers, brothers and their husbands (I believe I do it unwittingly) in performing tasks like negotiating the purchase of a car, computers or white goods. But also to do and achieve much more. According to Muléy, women hold the purse strings and make or influence 85% of all purchases. That’s economic clout but falls short of true significance. The idea behind Queen-agers is control and self-actualization. It is the idea that the combination of times we are living in and the information accessible by the internet, allow women of a certain age to move in a steeper trajectory than they set out on when they were teen-agers and they were just staring out and deciding who they wanted to be and what they wanted to achieve; now they can revisit and in some cases redefine themselves and live more fulfilling lives. This is powerful stuff if you think about it. It’s like waking up and discovering you’re bionic. I know a few Queen-agers and I’ll bet you do too.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Worldwide Charity Uses Tech To Target. Women, Girls.

Facial recognition software being used in UK campaign to determine gender of viewer.

Now this is interesting! A worldwide charity called Plan, which focuses on helping millions of underprivileged children in over 50 developing nations, has launched an innovative ad campaign in the UK. The transit campaign called Because I Am A Girl uses facial recognition software to determine the gender of the person standing in front of it. If the scan determines the viewer is female, a 40-second ad plays that features three young teenage girls each from a different country. Men and boys are not shown the ads but are directed to information allowing them to give so that girls can have choices.
The powerful ads informs the viewer that as many as 75 million girls are denied the right to education or forced into marriages where many have children while still being children themselves. The point of the ads is to educate as well as to actually demonstrate how girls in many countries are denied access.
The ads have a computer, a touch screen and a hi-definition camera. The software scans a face and then uses algorithm that compares facial features to a standard using distance between the eyes, width of nose, length of the jaw line and shape of cheekbones. It has tested about 90% accurate.
This isn’t the first time facial recognition has been used in a campaign, but here it is being used in a very unique manner. Selecting gender in this case, is part of the creative strategy and reinforces the message. As planners, our goal is always to have the creative drive home the insight. This campaign has the potential to do just that.
The campaign also uses digital, social media and PR. The plan has been around as a charity since 1937. The campaign is running everywhere on the web, but only in Canada and the UK does it go beyond the web and so far only in London does it use the facial recognition ad described here. The interactive display was created by Clear Channel with the help of 3D Exposure and Curb Media.
I believe it is just a matter of time before we start seeing more innovative technology collaborations hit the US market.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Next Big Thing? Adaptive Marketing

Marketers working hard to market using data captured though sales and social media.

This week KLM Dutch Airlines thrust Adaptive Marketing into the headlines with its announcement that it was working on a program to allow customers to use social media like Facebook to choose who they would like to sit with on a flight. It's an interesting concept and actually not that difficult to implement. Many travelers already use the internet to purchase their tickets and choose their seats. Airlines have been working hard to increase their presence in social media and millions of travelers use Facebook or Linked-in. KLM found in their research that a large group of travelers like to flirt on flights. This leads them to believe that facilitating social interaction on flights might be good for business. Or not. Most flights these days are full and once in the air, the likelihood of changes seats is low. Airlines are not equipped to handle multiple passenger request to move seats. Unless both passengers agree, there might be some sticky legal issues involved with taking the randomness out of seat assignments. While the idea of connecting travelers through social media might not fly, it is clear that marketers are looking for and will increasingly find ways to make use of technology and the great wealth of data that can be culled, compared and matched to give them the ability to connect to consumers in new ways. This is Adaptive Marketing: enhancing traditional marketing with information gained through technology. It is in its infancy, but it is everywhere. Amazon uses it to suggest books based on what you purchase and look at while on their site. Domino's Pizza allows you to virtually follow your pizza being made and track it to your house. Coke is testing vending machines that allow you to customize the combination of flavors you want to drink. But it's deeper than all of this. We have presented a concept to General Motors to help them utilize the data they already have. Imagine going on vacation and renting a car. When you credit card is swiped, you have effectively provided preliminary credit information a well as your address. after driving the car on your vacation which amounts to a test drive, you return the car. We've suggested a perforated section at the bottom of your receipt that would list a few local dealers as well as a coupon for a pre-determined rebate on the car model, if purchased within the next 90 days. We've also counseled a few professional sports teams on how to look at their entire, nationwide fan base, not just those in their immediate area. Imagine marketing apparel not just to the million fans that come to your stadium but to the 25 million fans that follow you across the country. Adaptive marketing involves collecting, organizing and mining the data as well as extending advertising and marketing messages into building communities using social media and gleaned information about customers. It also involves listening very carefully as the consumers talks about you when you're not in the room. We call that "pillow talk" and have developed an ethnograhic research tool of the same name.
We're entering into a brave new world where soon advertisers will know way too much about us and have way too many avenues for reaching us even when we are in places we consider off-limits to commercial messages. Marketers who crack the code on how to get information and use it to give customers what they want when they want it will gain exponentially. Marketers who use the data to find you with heavy-handed and intrusive messages when and where you don't want them will be penalized by the loss of sales and customer goodwill.

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