will volkswagen make super bowl lightning strike twice?

Without a doubt, Volkswagen’s “The Force” was the winner of the 2011 Super Bowl the ‘big’ game™ advertising contest. I would even go as far to say that, in terms of buzz, the ad was the best ad of 2011 overall.

But, as so often is the case, when business finds a winner they keep going to the well, killing the golden goose, etc.

VW has released a prequel / teaser of their 2012 Super Bowl the ‘big’ game™ effort. Watch it here or embedded below.

It is a clever creative execution. Each time I watch it I notice another detail. Ashamed to admit that I didn’t notice that each of the dogs corresponds to a different Star Wars character until my third viewing. I did get the Vader lab and the greyhound AT-AT immediately. (btw – there’s controversy because VW may have ripped off the greyhound AT-AT idea)

But why serve leftovers? Why center your biggest ad buy of the year on what you did last year which was based on a 35 year old movie?

Encores are nice. But they need to occur right after the show, not at the next performance.

The biggest danger for Volkswagen is that this 2012 ad WILL be successful. And it probably will be considering the reaction from last year and the American public’s insane attachment to canines. The video was uploaded to YouTube on Wednesday and already has over 3 million views and counting.

But VW could be like ‘that guy’ who tells a good joke which gets such a good reaction that he repeats the punchline over and over until no one laughs and it creates an uncomfortable atmosphere.

Volkswagen’s 2013 ad may also be Star Wars centric. I see an Ewok or Jar-Jar centric ad in our future. It won’t be long until they’re just producing a Star Wars parody spot each year with little or nothing to do with … you know … VW vehicles.

It happens alot with Super Bowl the ‘big’ game™ advertising (cavemen, monkeys, burt reynolds, betty white, godaddy girls, etc).

There’s also a huge PR danger that VW has opened themselves up to again with an unintended but sinister connection in these Star Wars spots. Volkswagen was originally founded by a Nazi trade union. George Lucas has said he based the concept and much of the visual imagary of the Empire in Star Wars on Nazi Germany. Volkwagen somewhat avoided mentions of this last year, but someone could make the Nazi connection go viral this year. 

 I may be wrong. (shocking disclaimer: I have been wrong before.) Super Bowl the ‘big’ game™ advertising is a different animal that doesn’t correspond to the normal rules. But I say bask in your victory and then go into another battle.

UPDATE: They should have stuck with the barking dogs. The actual Volkswagen Super Bowl commercial stinks.

oprah hates your billboard

I don’t think Oprah would be happy that you put a QR code on a billboard.

qr codes on highway billboards are dumbBut put aside the whole distracting driving and near certain chance of death thing and just use some common sense.

In this great article about the shortcomings of QR codes, the author found that:

it took an average of 47 seconds for them to take out their phone and find the application to read the QR code — not exactly a “quick response.”

My rule for highway billboards has always been “one idea, you’ve only got three seconds” as the audience zips past. QR codes just don’t fit that. That’s not to ban them from all outdoor or transit placements. In a place where people are bored and waiting (bus stops, subway platforms/cars, etc), I think they work great.

The bigger problem here lies in that what SHOULD be an excellent tool to sync your mobile marketing strategy is rapidly jumping the shark because marketers are misusing it. The idea of QR codes has also trickled down to the dead-wood-from-the-neck-up managerial level who have no idea what they’re doing. Use a QR code where it makes sense, not just because you can use it.

My list of bad placements for QR codes continues to grow:

  • Highway Billboard
  • Tombstone (not the pizza)
  • TV commercial
  • Tattoo (not the Fantasy Island one)
  • Web site (use a link, not a 47 second detour!)
  • What’s the worst placement of a QR code that you’ve seen?

twitter gets (more) political

Twitter has announced that they will begin accepting political ads. While anyone who has spent any time on Twitter knows it can be a politically charged environment, political advertisers need to be cautious with a media buy like this.

Currently 85 senators, 360 house members, 42 governors and all major presidential candidates have a Twitter handle.

Those numbers immediately cause me to think of a question with other numbers. What are 15 senators, 75 representatives, and 8 governors waiting for?

Twitter and other forms of new media are a good way to communicate with constituents and potential voters.

But most politicians are used to one-way communication. As they venture out into social media because some consultant told them to, a disaster is in the making for many of them. Usually when politicians wade into new communication waters, there are gaffes like email spam  or telemarketing scams.

Political media buys on social networks, especially Twitter, will be hijacked by the opposition. The buyer should expect this and plan accordingly.

advertising lessons from coca-cola summer

It’s summertime. I know this for two reasons: It’s hot and I’m hearing more Coke commercials on the radio.

Whenever I hear Coca-Cola jingles on the radio, my mind goes back to the mid-1990s and the “Always Coca-Cola” campaign.

Those were my radio days and I distinctly remember the Coke commercial reel at the station. I was still doing production grunt work and I had to dub the Coke commercials we needed off the 7-inch reel (which I’m sure was half track stereo tails out at 15 ips) onto a cart for use on the air.

The reel had a lot on it. There was the standard jingle, but the reel also had about 20 different tracks in :30 and :60 versions. There were different cuts for different radio station formats. It was essentially the same jingle that had been remixed as a country version, an urban one, a rock mix, etc.

I found all those customized cuts remarkable at the time because it helped us keep the format of the station on track even during stop-sets. But looking back with branding and advertising strategy in mind, there’s a good lesson there for any business. Customize your message for your audience.

In the nineties, only companies like Coca-Cola could work on that level of customization with mass media. Today with targeted keywords, landing pages, social media channels, and much more; anyone can do it. It’s lazy not to customize your marketing.

Also looking back, I wish that I had lifted one of those reels out of the station. It would have been a unique piece of Coke memorabilia. I’m sure it stayed in the production filing cabinet until I probably threw it away when we moved the studios.

(side note for the observant reader: Why is this version only :48 instead of :60? It’s for the local station to drop a :12 tag at the end.)

creepy fancy feast

The first time I saw this my immediate thought was that it was some sort of joke. But the punchline never came. It’s real.

Obviously, I’m not in the target demo of “cat lady wanting love”, but I’m dumbfounded (and a little creeped out) by it.

Yet I can’t quite put my finger on the problem. The big thing is that it’s just so over the top that it stops being effective. From the music to the looks on their faces to the entire creative concept, it seems like a parody as evidenced by my initial reaction.

I think the casting is a big issue as well. AdFreak is calling it the WASP-iest ad ever created and says “feels like a housing association’s welcome video for living the Hamptons”. I agree.

The media placements have included shows like ABC’s “The Bachelor” where the target demo has already opened the tender parts of their heart. Maybe it’s a genius ploy to associate the Fancy Feast brand with strong emotional ties while the consumer has her defenses down.

There should be alternate male P.O.V. version where the guy expresses remorse that he took the trouble to paint and redecorate the room after the stains and smell set in. (As Hank Jr. declared, “and I’m against cats in the house.“)

And in case you’re not sick enough after just the :60 broadcast version, there’s a 2:42 extended cut!

learning marketing from local media

So your {insert local media outlet} is offering a free seminar that will “teach you how to market your business”.

How benevolent of them to offer such a community service.

I’m amazed at how many small businesses are suckered into attending these events and don’t realize the true motivation behind the “seminar”.

If the radio station is sponsoring this knowledge fest, I’ll bet you my hat that they will try to convince people that radio is the best option. The newspaper seminar will tell you the printed word is the way to go. The TV station’s seminar will tell you why radio and newspaper are a waste of money. And now added to the mix, you have agencies that have a small social media following teaching the way to Facebook and Twitter bliss.

Think about this: Would you go to the “How to choose the best place to buy a car” seminar hosted by the local car dealership?

The truth is that every advertising medium has strengths and weaknesses. It depends on what you’re trying to communicate and who you’re trying to reach.

Just because a salesperson has the words “marketing consultant” on their business card doesn’t mean you should listen to them about your overall marketing strategy. They’re doing their job trying to capture as much of your marketing budget as they can. You should never let someone sell you advertising; you should buy it.

The only reason to ever go to the local media outlet’s seminars is that they typically offer some really good deal to the attendees. If you’re planning on buying from them anyway, it’s a good way to save some money. It’s like going on vacation and sitting through an hour of a timeshare pitch just to get free theme park tickets.

And shame on marketing speakers who lead biased events like this.

social media math

This post is not about the numbers. It’s about common sense.

It doesn’t really matter how many followers you have or what your Klout score is — just as long as you’re using those social media channels to engage your target market, drive traffic, make money, or whatever you’re wanting to do with it.

But.

There are currently ALOT of marketing and ad “agencies” who are feeling the traditional crunch and have turned to showing their clients the social media ropes.

The trouble is that, just like the fact that ad agencies don’t know how to maintain a website, advertising agencies also have poor social media presences.

As he has been cyber job stalking, Jetpacks has found several agencies that are AWOL on Twitter

…two “leading” Orlando agencies, or so their sites would have you believe – though I have my doubts about one of them, whose Twitter account hasn’t been updated since October. You can’t really talk about how adept you are in the “social media space” when you don’t use it yourselves.

Realistically, when you’re searching for professional social media help, you do need to look at the numbers and who those numbers represent. If an “agency” only has 198 followers and you subtract their staff, their buddies, their mother, and the spammers, they may only have a few real followers. And yet they are out beating the drums and saying they have all the answers.

Of course, the trouble is that you have people buying cars who don’t know how to drive. People hiring these agencies don’t know how to properly kick the tires to make sure they’re not getting taken. They don’t have the knowledge base to understand they’re hiring someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing.

This doesn’t affect all agencies. There are several shops who are doing really good work in the social media space and are helping their clients do the same. But there are some agencies who really need to take social off their list of services and outsource it until they understand how to do it themselves. If they don’t, clients will eventually figure it out and the firm will lose all the business.

What do you think?

the new principles of Advertising

Do you know someone who needs a better understanding of the “new” world of media, advertising, and PR? From 24-Jan to 13-May, I’ve been asked to teach an online course on the Principles of Advertising for Western Kentucky University.

Officially, the JOUR341 class at Western is “a survey course in the fundamental principles and practices of advertising including study of the techniques of creating advertisements, functions of advertising agencies, budgets, media selection, research and other topics”.

And we’ll do all that; but with an emphasis on the next generation of media and marketing including social, mobile, and more. We’ll also discuss traditional media’s place in a digital world and how traditional media and methods can be adapted to a new media mindset.

For a synopsis of the mindset of this class, take a look at this Nov-2010 Fast Company article: www.fastcompany.com/magazine/151/mayhem-on-madison-avenue It will be one of the first reading assignments.

My class is one of three courses offered by the WKU School of Journalism and Broadcasting though a new initiative called Ad+PR Online. (press release) As it’s an online course, it’s built to be a convenient way for professionals or businesspeople to get current on their media and marketing skills without missing work. Class participants will build on the work experience they have and further their knowledge in an area that is not only applicable, but also essential for business success in today’s recovering economy.

Sound good? You can find more info at www.wkufusion.com or by emailing cliff.shaluta AT wku dot edu. You can also search for CRN 21814 or JOUR-341-700 in the WKU TopNet scheduling system (spring 2011)

I’m still working on the syllabus, but I’ll post here when I get it worked out.

social media marketing perfection

Small businesses and large corporations are all atwitter about how to do social media. (pun intended)

They hire snake oil social media gurus or they rely on advice from an agency (who only has 13 facebook fans and 81 twitter followers — mostly their employees and spammers) to sell them things that are common sense.

A few weekends ago, I enjoyed the perfect social media incident. Nashville’s Noshville Deli placed these Facebook updates in their followers’ streams on a lazy rainy Sunday morning.

And that’s all there is to it. You’ve placed your brand in the online lifestream of your customers. Just interact with them (and sell) based on what’s happening with their lives.

The secret to all marketing (not just social media) is pretty simple: It’s not about what you have to sell. It’s about what people want to buy.

It’s not rocket science. (unless you’re selling rockets)

caught with their pants down

Back in February during “the big game”, there were two commercials with surprisingly similar creative executions. Both Dockers and CareerBuilder had spots that featured men without pants.

If you can’t (or won’t) remember the ads, watch the Dockers ad here or the CareerBuilder one here.

These two spots aired back-to-back in the same commercial break. During the Monday morning advertising quarterback critiques, Lil Miss Jen had a refreshing change on Super Bowl ad blog posts from the media placement viewpoint rather than the typical “more monkeys” creative viewpoint. One of the points in her post was about how sloppy the CBS media scheduling was to allow these two similar ads to be scheduled like they were.

Seems that CBS thought so too because they gave Dockers some free make-goods earlier this month. My question at the time was, “What about CareerBuilder?

According to a story on AdAge.com, CBS’ answer is to treat one advertiser differently than the other…

CareerBuilder said it was engaged in discussions with CBS as well. Now, despite the discussions, CareerBuilder says it does not expect to benefit from a similar arrangement, and is frustrated by that outcome.
The Super Bowl is “the focal point of commercial advertising,” said Richard Castellini, chief marketing officer of CareerBuilder, in an interview. “You would think that as much due diligence and as much pre-thought-out placement and trafficking would be given to this as possible, and it just doesn’t seem like that was the case.”

While there are several other reasons given in the AdAge story for the disparity, this just doesn’t seem fair to CareerBuilder. If I were an exec at CBS, I’d be nicer to CareerBuilder. If network TV keeps going on the track it’s on, the CBS execs may need CareerBuilder’s services in the future.