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.)

on the right track

I totally agree with Jetpacks. This is a great spot.

Actually, it rises to the level of a case study of how to use creative advertising that actually shows the benefit of the product. Without ever having to shove the message down your throat, you immediately understand and agree with the message.

Of course, the problem is that you realize on the subconscious level that the commerical is a complete lie. The product they’re selling doesn’t really exist.

  • I can walk out my doorway, get in the car, and drive anywhere easily and cheaply (even with rough gas prices).
  • I can drive 90 minutes north or south and be at an international airport.
  • But to catch the closest passenger train, I would have to drive four hours on horrible roads in order to catch the City of New Orleans at 2 o’clock in the morning.

It’s all Ike’s fault. I’ve often said we should have poured the Interstate money into cost effective mass transit like trains. It would have stopped urban sprawl and maybe we wouldn’t have paved over half the country with zombie interstates. As Charles Karalt once said, “Thanks to the interstate highway system, it is now possible to travel from coast to coast without seeing anything”

the chickens eat mice wearing red shorts

It’s one of my major mantras. Brand does not equal logo. Brand is an emotional relationship with a product or service.

Too many times companies just slap a logo onto something and say they’re selling a brand.

Today’s Exhibit: Disney Eggs — Regular incredible edible eggs that have been stamped with a Mickey Mouse, Lightning McQueen, or other Disney character.

While on the surface it’s silly, it will probably work on the primary purchase level. The true decision maker on the grocery trip (the kids) will see the packaging and make someone buy them. However, the brand exposure won’t last beyond that unless the kid eats his eggs hard-boiled.

The real trouble is that brand extensions are like crack cocaine — once you start you can’t stop. When you dilute a brand like Disney so much that you’ve gone to raw agricultural goods, you’re severely damaging the brand.

rubbing pelvic region with pumpkin

There’s a fine line between publicity that makes people notice you and publicity that makes people think you’re an idiot.

The kids at Peta like to cross that line on a regular basis.

From suggesting that Ben and Jerry’s replace cow’s milk with human breast milk in its ice cream to the campaign to rebrand fish as “sea kittens”, it seems that Peta has been wackier than usual lately.

But Super Bowl “big game” ads bring out the truly stupid in every organization. Apparently part of Peta’s Super Bowl “big game” media strategy each year is to get their spots rejected by the network. (but unlike GoDaddy, Peta actually wants to be rejected. It’s exposure with no ad dollars spent!) Last year, they got creepy with their arch-enemy, the Colonel. This year, NBC’s advertising standards department rejected Peta’s ad(maybe nsfw) because the ad basically was just several shots of women who appeared to be pleasuring themselves with fruits and vegetables.

And after Nipplegate, you just can’t have that sort of thing in the Super Bowl “big game” unless you count Bruce Springsteen’s crotch (hope you didn’t have the 3-d glasses on) or if you’re a Tucson Comcast subscriber.

Obviously, Peta is being outrageous just to get the attention. But after a few times of generating “false outrageousness” — you just become a laughingstock. And then people stop paying attention to you at all.

ad and marketing phrases that I hate

Don’t make me hate you. Don’t use these.

new state of the art website
As opposed to our old website which was run by steam and coal.

got (insert product here)?
We got milk and that was enough. Thanks.

free gift
Ever paid anyone for a gift that you received?

“sports minded business / salespeople”
Respond to a classified employment ad with these words and you’ll either find an idiot sales manager or a pyramid scheme. Or both.

anything that’s “crazy”
Why do car dealers, furniture stores, etc feel it’s a sales boost if their customers think they suffer from mental illness?

these prices are too low to advertise
Original use of this phrase is based in early 20th century antitrust law which also launched the concept of MSRP. But the law only applies to the manufacturer/retailer relationship. 99% of the time you hear it today in ads, it’s baloney.

any phrase in a “conversation” spot
Jim, have you thought of having those hemorrhoids looked at?

cyberspace
1997 called and they want their ____ back.

anything that comes out of the mouth of Sprint CEO Dan Hesse
Isn’t it amazing that these devices can tell everyone how much you hate shaky camera work?

we have to reduce our inventory
The whole point of being in business is to reduce inventory.

I’m sure there are more that annoy me, but these were the ones off the top of my head. What about you? Leave your suggestions in the comments.

fidel watches the price is right

Surely, if you’re breathing and have watched any amount of TV in the last few months, you know that your over-the-air TV ain’t gonna work next February unless you take some steps. I got my “government cheese” digital TV conversion coupon a few months ago. Now instead of watching through periods of slight static, the show I’m watching is replaced momentarily by a completely dark screen with the words “searching for signal” on it. We’re on the cutting edge.

(Don’t get me started about the fact that I now have to hit 4 or 5 buttons to change channels — one of which is a decimal point that is located in the most un-ergonomic place on the remote.)

Our local stations have beat it into the ground with badly produced promos that run incessantly. In fact, every time the “digital conversion is coming in February of 2009. Will you be ready?” promo comes on, my three-year-old son says “we’re ready”. Because he knows the new box on top of the TV is what the promo is talking about.

So I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s so bloody simple that a 3-year-old can understand it. But, perhaps you’ve noticed in your daily life that there are some people walking around who aren’t this bright.

There are groups who are criticizing the government’s publicity efforts and are asking for more money to publicize the switch. And that’s insane. While it has been a typical bureaucratic fiasco, the message has been pushed about as far as a marketing campaign can go.

Plus there’s a good reason that the switch won’t be as painful as the detractors say it will be. The local TV stations aren’t going to let the little old ladies watching The Price Is Right disappear — because those little old ladies also love the dollar they get from Neilsen to fill out a diary. And in general, the local stations will correct the problem and bring all the stragglers of all ages on board for self-preservation economic reasons.

But some of the points addressed in the article make sense: Why is there an expiration for the coupons? I nearly let my 90 day window pass by and used it a few days before it expired. Government handouts shouldn’t expire! And it is hard to find the boxes now. I can imagine they’ll be very hard to find next February. And some people like the little old lady in the NYT story are just plain stubborn and won’t change until they’re forced to. (like in Cuba, she says.)

sing what’s in the brackets

Shotgun Marketing Blog presents: Real Media Spending Cutbacks
[Real Media Spending Cutbacks!]

Today we salute you, Mr. Anheuser-Busch Media Buyer.
[Mr. Anheuser-Busch Media Buyer!]

Anheuser-Busch has slashed radio spending that will hurt the broadcasting industry especially large radio companies like Clear Channel.
[Let’s play Monopoly!]

The bigwigs say they’re just moving money around. Sure. Moving it out of reach from Hits 97.3FM.

Why spend money in a local market when you can buy Super Bowl spots like they’re on the Dollar Menu?
[waldrobe malfunction!]

So crack open an ice cold newspaper classified section, Mr. Anheuser-Busch Media Buyer. Because it’s either that or picking up a shovel down in the Clydesdales‘ stables.
[Mr. Anheuser-Busch Media Buyer!]

Anheuser-Busch, St. Louis, Missouri Leuven, Belgium.

—————
(After writing this, I have new respect for the copywriters who do the Real Men of Genius campaign. You have to get the cadence exactly right or it doesn’t work.)

look at me!!!

So Firebrand failed. That’s amazing. Hard to believe that people don’t want to watch a show or web channel that has nothing but ads.

In several of my marketing talks, I make the implicit point that no one cares about your marketing except you. And the only people who actually look for ads are the people paying for them and the people who sell them.

But for some reason, many companies feel that their advertising is an entertainment source. Visit a company’s web site and see a big flashy-blinky that says “Click to view our latest TV commercial!” Companies upload their spot to the Google Tubes and think they’re offering substance. Of course, you know the idea du jour. Stagger in like a greasy used care salesman in a blog, try to be my “friend” on Facebook, or crash some other private party.

Sure, people are interested in advertising and become ad experts around the time of the “big game”. But for the most part, people try to avoid “advertising”. What people want is answers to their problems. And sometimes advertising shows them an answer. But most advertising I see is undirected and loud — and not really concerned about connecting with the right people.

Stop advertising and start providing answers to your customers’ problems. And you might have to do that through a print ad or a TV spot. Just remember that people are concerned about the message — not the messenger.

weird doesn’t even begin

I know I said that I wouldn’t be commenting on Super Bowl ads. But these two ads are like a fetish car wreck. They’re so bizarre and twisted that I can’t look away. Apparently, both were rejected by Fox (*Fox has standards!) for the Super Bowl. And it’s easy to see why.

Not only did the Colonel get messed over by John Y, now he’s the scorn of those happy-go-lucky souls over at PETA.

Mmmm, now for the finger lickin goodness… (The second one is weirder than the first … if that’s even possible)

I gave it a shot

I didn’t like the original Geico Cavemen ads, so I wasn’t surprised that critics were dissing the Cavemen TV series on ABC.

I tried watching the premiere tonight.

I gave up after about 10 minutes. I got tired of the same joke. And I can’t understand why they’re so angry all the time. It’s hard to stretch one mediocre idea into something long running. (But don’t people try!)

Frankly, I would have prefered a show with the Geico Gecko. (if at all)

What ad mascots would you like to see have their own TV show?