Entries from September 2010 ↓
September 27th, 2010 — Marketing, Words and writing
Maybe it’s too soon to call the campaign a runaway success, but the respected Middletown, OH Journal is reporting that at least some students at Cincinnati high schools are indeed purchasing baby carrots out of vending machines now that they have been repositioned as junk food.
Evil baby carrots in their vending machine jackets
The campaign was produced by Crispin Porter + Bogusky though I assume without the participation of Alex Bogusky, who pronounced he was sick of advertising and quit earlier this year. It’s not a big media buy, $25M total, so in order to see their edgy commercials you’ll have to hit the right teen programming or just watch them on the web. The most popular seems to be a spot in which a woman fires baby carrots out of a Gatling gun at a guy who is trying to catch them in his mouth.
To me, baby carrots are kind of quease inducing to begin with. They are not actually “babies” at all but mature carrots with minor blemishes which have been tumbled and shaved until they are small and cute. (Thank goodness human babies are not made this way.) And apparently the process makes them last forever since they are typically sold without refrigeration in supermarkets and, I assume, in high school vending machines. Sometimes they get a white powdery coating with age, a kind of patina. But I guess that’s okay, right?
But what’s evil about this is the cynicism of the agency creatives, who seized upon this loophole in the creative brief: we don’t have to make kids eat them, just BUY them from the vending machine. And thus the pro bonos of the healthy school movement are satisfied even though most of the carrots are likely being used as projectiles, bookmarks, doorstops or god forbid this. (A demo of carrot warfare can be found in a fortunately timed V-8 commercial in which two kids are flicking baby carrots at each other across a table in the cafeteria but one of the kids is OK because he’s drinking a V-8… quite possibly containing some of the shavings that were a byproduct of those very baby carrots.)
Changing behavior through an ad campaign is hard, especially when it involves a pliable young audience with a shifting definition of cool. A campaign that did succeed was the “Truth” effort in Florida, aimed at reducing teen smoking by making it cool to attack adults who manipulate kids to smoke. See how many memes are encapsulated just in the description of that campaign? A villain… who may well be your own parent. A superhero… transformed from an ordinary teen. That’s your ad dollars at work.
By contrast, the Baby Carrot people took $25 million that could very well have been used to do something good and spent it on a smirk. Maybe Bogusky quit because he just didn’t want to work with these characters any more. Or maybe he just wanted to go off and be a farmer of great big, foot-long carrots.
September 22nd, 2010 — Marketing, Words and writing
It’s time to start beating the drum for my session at the Direct Marketing Association’s annual conference in San Francisco, which will happen at 3:15 3:00 pm on Monday, October 11th. The title is “How Twitter Killed Direct Marketing Copywriting (Just Kidding)” but it’s really a broader look at the creative side of social media and how apparently random and spontaneous social/viral marketers actually use some very ingenious traditional communications and brand strategies to get their point across. (And, this being the DMA, I’ll also talk about how traditional DM’ers can make the transition to being successful in social.)
The DMA has just added a session right after mine, at 4:25, called “The Social Media Faceoff”, in which a number of agency luminaries will exchange viewpoints (and, implies the DMA, possibly some virtual fisticuffs) on how marketers can monetize their social media efforts. Being from the home of the Travers Stakes, I will point out that this makes the perfect Exacta: join me for the apps, then move on down the hall for the main course.
September 16th, 2010 — Copywriting 101, Everything else, Marketing
We’ve talked before about verisimilitude—the principle that, in addition to actually being true, an advertising message must appear to be true or the skeptical public won’t trust it. A parallel concept is context… in any given environment the audience expects to receive information in a certain way and you can either fit in with this convention, or startle and gain attention by doing the opposite.
Ads or banners that look like editorial content go down like butter. Direct mail packages that look like they are official notices get opened automatically. Of course, you need to stay in character or the audience may feel duped if your message turns out different than it appears.
Frost's fake bank book inserted in the Wall Street Journal
For the “startle” approach, a good example was inserted with a recent Wall Street Journal (home delivered in Dallas, where I was traveling): unfold the paper and a bankbook falls out. Whoa, a bankbook! But it’s not really a bankbook because it has a headline on the front: What we believe.
Inside, we have ten spreads containing statements of belief, most of them no more than a sentence. Example: “We believe you get what you pay for.” It’s not until the very last page that the advertiser is revealed along with a CTA: We believe there is only so much you can learn from a book. Call (tollfree). WhatFrostBelieves.com Frost (logo)
Now, there’s nothing terrible about any of this… for a corporate website, or an annual report. But this isn’t marcom, it’s ADVERTISING and quite expensive advertising at that. I can see the boardroom wheels turning: Wall Street Journal readers are well heeled influencers. Let’s impress them with our sincerity and maybe they will become our customers.
Not likely. There is just too great a leap between a statement of purpose and high mindedness, and the actual activity of deciding to do business with a bank. A few readers may pass the bankbook around their office as a curiosity but very few are going to do the thoughr process of “these guys seem decent enough, they’ve proved it by not trying to sell me too hard, therefore I will get a loan or open an account with them.”
The thing is, there is a way this promotion could have potentially been VERY successful: make it look like a real bank book. With nothing on the cover so you don’t give away that it’s marketing… or, wait a minute, let’s put the Frost logo on. That’s realistic and establishes brand up front.
Inside, some stage management—fake transactions. The account holder has built up a huge balance, earned some nice interest, then withdrawn it all. (This is Texas, remember.) Tell a story with the numbers. The Wall Street Journal reader will like this. Then on the last page, a call to action: save a point on your business loan when you return this bankbook to Frost. That’s how you buy business by being out of context.