monday morning quarterbacks

We’re in the 24-hour period when everyone in America is an ad critic, but it’s not as great this year. As I tweeted during the “big game”:

I’m not going to get into critiques of the individual ads. In general, I agree with the ad critiques of most of the major critics with three exceptions: I liked Kia’s “Sandman” and I disliked Chrysler’s “Halftime in America” and the Coke polar bears.

But here are some larger points about the biggest night of the year for advertising:

1) Out of a little over 50 total ads, around 38 ads were released BEFORE the game. This ruins the Super Bowl advertising experience. While it does create a little pre-game buzz for some advertisers, it ensures that your ad will be seen by consumers as a ‘rerun’ during the game and an excuse to go get another spoonful of guacamole.

2) The main problem with many Super Bowl ads (and a lot of advertising in general) is that the agency and the client forget what advertising is meant to do. There needs to be a call-to-action. You must raise awareness of your brand. At some point, the ad needs to make someone come to you and give you money in exchange for goods/services. Prime example last night was the kid peeing in the pool. Clever ad. What was the ad for? Some people might remember tax prep, but what kind of tax prep?

3) Sure seems to be a lot of excitement over TV ads. Traditional media is not dead. It’s just transformed.

4) I beg one thing from the creative teams who will work on concepts for next year’s ads. Don’t try to make a “great Super Bowl ad”. Instead, try to create a “great ad” and it will shine in any media placement. We’re sick of monkeys, celebrities, talking babies, and the like. Super Bowl ads have become clichés. Don’t be a cliché.

recycling ideas

I led a daylong training for the Executive Directors of the American Advertising Federation back in 2008 at the AAF National Conference in Atlanta. This was their imaging for the conference:
2008 AAF National Conference

Flashforward to the present where the Wired Business Conference is happening today.
Wired Business Conference

Maybe they’ll talk about unique and fresh design.

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!

so bad it’s good

On the local level, small businesses develop their print/broadcast creative for ad campaigns in 1 of 4 ways:

  1. Some entrepreneurs are either creative or stole somebody else’s good idea. (the best ideas are always stolen ideas) These people either have a good marketing head or they hired someone who knew what they’re doing. Some of this local “homemade” advertising is as good (and some is much better) than what would come out of a traditional agency.
  2. Some small businesses waste their marketing money on generic template or spotrunner type ads where they just stick their logo and phone number in a generic ad and then wonder why they get generic results. (If your whole business can be represented by a generic stock photo, then it’s not going to be hard for a competitor to replace you.)
  3. Some let the graphic artist burger flippers down at the radio/tv station or newspaper develop their entire marketing philosophy for them on the assembly line
  4. And then there are the people who have no idea what they’re doing, but still decide to create their own advertising. For me, these have always been like watching car wrecks. It’s horrible, but you can’t look away. In fact, some of these ads are so bad — they’re good…like enjoying a really bad movie.

The comedy duo of Rhett and Link have capitalized on local bad advertising from this 4th group with their “Custom-built, Micro-Budget Commercials for MicroBilt Customers” series. They took a few real small businesses in North Carolina and made a farce out of a farce.

(Update: If you’re reading this through RSS, you may have to click through to the site to see the following videos)

One of the spots, Black and White People Furniture, is getting some buzz because of the racial issue and the simple fact it’s so bizarre.

There are lots of businesses that are the one stop shop like Bobby Dennings:

And the Cuban Gynecologist Auto Salesman is just odd:

Even though these spots are causing the phone to ring for these local businesses, I’m not ready to advocate that you change your tv campaign. But it’s a growing trend for professional marketers to “Astroturf” a grassroots phenomenon both online and in traditional media with a tongue stuck in their cheek.

The key to all marketing, homemade or store-bought, is grabbing attention and keeping that buzz.