Archive for the ‘advertising’ category

Louis Vuitton Ad Deserves a Gold Medal

August 20th, 2012


There’s an absurd mini-controversy brewing about whether Michael Phelps will be stripped of any of his medals because some Louis Vuitton ads in which he appears were leaked before the Olympics.  (This will soon blow over, as it’s clear that neither Phelps nor Louis Vuitton intentionally violated the ban on pre-Olympics advertising.)  Lost amidst all this needless angst is the fact that the above ad is absolutely brilliant.

When I saw it in last Thursday’s Wall Street Journal, I was was struck first by the elegance of the photo, and then by my curiosity over the “mystery woman” pictured with Phelps.  When I read the fine print and learned that it’s Larisa Latynina–the woman whose record for 18 career Olympics medals Phelps broke–I could not have been more impressed.  Talk about a classy idea…and a classy execution.

In almost all cases, I’m critical of ads that require you to read the fine print, simply because almost no ad is capable of getting a meaningful percentage of readers to do that.  I’m also critical of ads without large, clean, creative headlines and, even more so, ads without prominent mention of the brand name or logo.  However, when you have a stunning, provocative photo–and when that photo prominently features your highly recognizable product–it turns out you can be effective without a headline and without a large logo.

Please don’t try this at home, however; unless your product is as distinctive as a Louis Vuitton bag, and your art director and photographer are as gifted as the people who created this ad, going without a strong headline and strong logo is a sure route to a complete waste of your advertising dollars.

So just sit back and appreciate the above ad for being as much an exception to the rules of advertising as Michael Phelps and Larisa Latynina are to the sports of swimming and gymnastics.

State Farm Looks Great in Khakis

June 28th, 2012

Over the past several years, State Farm has wasted tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars on mediocre advertising.  (See my posts in  2011 and 2009.)  Fortunately, a little over a year ago they hired a new ad agency (DDB Chicago), and the result has been one of the strongest ad campaigns in any product category.

My favorite ad from  the campaign is “Jake from State Farm” , which I never tire of seeing even though it’s been on the air for about a year.   The writing, casting and acting are simply perfect.  If they gave Academy Awards for commercials, the people  who play the husband and wife would get my vote for Best Actor and Best Actress.  And whoever created such lines such “I’m married. . .Does it matter?….You’d do that for me?” and “Well she sounds hideous!” would be up for a Best Writing award.

What I especially love is that you hear the brand “State Farm” five times in 30 seconds, and the phrase “It’s Jake from State Farm” has become part of the popular culture.  In other words, there’s no question who the advertiser is. . .or that they’re offering such good policies that at least one customer was motivated to contact them at 3:00 am.

And if five brand name mentions weren’t enough, the campaign also wisely leverages the brand name with its “Get to a Better State” tagline.

Clearly, the state of State Farm’s advertising could not be better.

Suburu Spot Superb

May 26th, 2012

Great  marketing is essentially great storytelling, and that’s certainly the case with this  commercial from Suburu.  This spot was extremely well-written, well-cast and well-produced.

First it grabs you with the visual of a 4-year-old girl who’s apparently about to take the car for a spin.  It holds you with great acting–especially by the 4-year-old–and finally makes you smile when you see that little girl suddenly transformed into a 16-year-old who has just received her license.

This spot oozes empathy.  What parent can’t relate to the father stressing about having  his teenager make her first solo drive?  And what human being can resist the charms of the incredibly cute 4-year-old, or the subtly confident smile of the attractive young woman she’s become?

Normally I’m not big on commercials that don’t mention the brand name until the end, but I’ll make an exception here.  My rationale: the spot is ultimately about safety, and since Suburu has successfully positioned itself as a safety-oriented brand over the years, I suspect that most viewers recognize this as a Suburu commercial.  In addition, because the spot does such a great job of holding your attention throughout, it’s hard to miss the Suburu brand at the commercial’s end.

I can personally attest that there’s no feeling quite so special as being the father of a daughter.  And there are few things that capture that feeling as powerfully as this superb thirty-second piece of storytelling from Suburu.

VW Beetle Ad Rates a High 5–and a 14th Floor!

May 23rd, 2012

Who wouldn’t want to drive a car that other motorists love?  And has there ever been a car loved–or beloved–by more people than the VW Beetle?

And that’s what makes this commercial for the 2012 VW Beetle so brilliant. Arguably no other “retired” car brand in history could be welcomed back as warmly as the iconic “Bug”, and this commercial captures that fact in an attention-grabbing, highly infectious way. The visuals are very clever, and the music makes you want to not only listen but watch.  And, best of all, you see the product–a very stylish one at that–repeatedly throughout the spot.  (Unfortunately, I could only find a 15-second spot online; the 30-second spot currently on the air does an even better job of showcasing the product and making the viewer smile.)

No other car could possibly have run this commercial, and that’s high praise indeed.

This ad merits not only a “14th Floor” rating, but my favorite German adjective:  Ausgezeichnet!

P.S. And how perfect is it that this ad campaign was developed by a U.S. agency named “Deutsch”?

Stella Artois “Chalice Factory” Fails to Clear the Bar

April 30th, 2012

I consider Stella Artois to be one of the better and more flavorful lagers, as well as one of the best-marketed beers in the world.  But its “Chalice Factoryonline promotion fell flat for me.

I love it when a brand leverages a distinctive asset, which is exactly what Stella has done with the chalice-shaped glass in its print and TV advertising for years.  So the idea of taking consumers to an online “Chalice Factory” and giving them a chance to win their own chalice is an intriguing one.  The problem is that as I went through the interactive video, I became increasingly confident that I was going to win a chalice.  Why the high expectations?  Perhaps because the video was more time-consuming than I’d expected, leading me to think, “There’s no way they’re going to make me endure this whole experience and then not reward me for my time!”  So when I was told, “Sorry, but we’re out of chalices,” I felt both disappointed and betrayed.

Don’t get me wrong; the interactive video wasn’t bad; it’s just that it wasn’t great, and great is what I’ve come to expect from the marketing folks at Stella Artois.  But this time, they let me down on two counts:  they failed to meet my expectations from an entertainment standpoint, and they didn’t give me the prize they’d convinced me–intentionally or not–that I was about to win.

Just as with great athletes, the bar is higher for great marketers.  And when they fail to clear the bar, it’s a bigger deal than it is for lesser players.  This “Chalice Factory” promotion was a fairly bold gamble on Stella’s part–the marketing equivalent of stepping up to take the game-winning shot.  In this case, however, Stella Artois missed the shot at the buzzer, and in the process missed a shot at some great marketing buzz.

Target’s Grammy Ad Rates “21″ on a 10-Scale

February 14th, 2012

There was a lot of class and creativity on display on the recent Grammy Awards broadcast.  I was blown away by the performances of LL Cool J (who could not have set a more perfect tone as host), Jennifer Hudson, Bruce Springsteen, Bruno Mars, Taylor Swift, Paul McCartney and of course, the night’s biggest winner, the lovely and immensely talented Adele.  But the musicians weren’t the only ones whose creative brilliance was on display this night.  Equally impressive to me was this ad run by Target.

I find this ad to be brilliant on several levels:

  1. It was extremely entertaining to first hear the young bus-rider beautifully singing Adele’s powerful “Rolling in the Deep”, with her fellow bus-riders handling background vocals, and then to have her voice seamlessly segue into Adele’s.
  2. It very effectively sells the spectacular product being advertised–Adele’s “21″ CD.  (Anyone hearing this song who didn’t already own it and didn’t immediately plan to buy it needs to have his or her taste examined.)
  3. The placement of the ad couldn’t have smarter.  Adele had already won a few Grammys on the show, and she would go on to win all 6 awards for which she was nominated.  On top of that, only a few months after vocal chord surgery, she gave a powerful live performance of the already-iconic “Rolling in the Deep” that brought the house down.
  4. Target wasn’t just advertising a “commodity” product; its version of “21″ contains several songs that cannot be found on any other version.  Clearly, if you don’t already own “21″, this is the one to buy.

All in all, it’s hard to imagine a more intelligent piece of marketing.  I just regret that my ratings elevator only goes up to the 14th floor.

Kia and Michelle Wie Both Have Soul

December 13th, 2011

One of the keys to success in professional golf is having a caddy you can trust to recommend the right club.  I think Kia‘s ad agency could not have recommended a better celebrity than 22-year-old golfer Michelle Wie for this TV commercial for its new Soul sub-contact car.

This ad does a wonderful job of targeting the Soul at young people contemplating their first new car purchase.  If you want a car that would never be driven by your parents–not to mention the stuffy country club set–this is it.  And a big part of the credit for that perception goes to the infectious song (“Pro Nails” by Kid Sister) that plays throughout the spot.

On a more subtle note, one other thing that makes this commercial work so well is the fact that both Kia and Michelle Wie are of Korean descent.  (She was born in Hawaii to South Korean immigrants.)  Kia, like its sister Korean company Hyundai, has made great strides in building its brand equity over the past few years through high quality ratings and appealing product design. Aligning the Soul brand with a popular, attractive young Korean-American will surely make “Korean”–and Kia–even cooler.

But then again, what would you expect from a company based in Seoul?

British Airways: To Fly. To Serve. To Sell.

December 11th, 2011

I often criticize ads that don’t give enough prominence to the brand name.  I’ve even gone so far as to suggest that their ad agencies perhaps would rather be making movies than “mere commercials.”  These ads are often entertaining–some via humor, others via cool music or striking visuals–but they rarely do their intended job, which is to sell.

In this new “advert” from British Airways, you won’t hear the brand name a single time, and half of the logos you see are for prior generations of the company’s name (like “Imperial Airways” and “BOAC”). Yet I think this ad is one of the best ads I’ve seen this year.

So why–if I’m right–does this “advert” succeed despite breaking the rules of brand registration?  One reason is the British narrator; it’s clearly an airline ad, so once you hear that elegant British accent, you know it must be a British Airways ad. (Who else could it be?)  Another reason is that the combination of the cinematography and the background music is so engrossing that you want to pay close attention–to soak up every detail–and in the process you can’t help but notice the occasional British Airways logo on one of the many eye-catching aircraft featured later in the spot.

Yet another reason for this ad’s impact is that the beautifully written and delivered narration and the exceptional production values scream quality.  My subconscious brain can only conclude, “This airline obviously has great planes, great mechanics and great pilots.”

And finally, there’s the tagline:  “To fly.  To serve.” And this is much more than a tagline; as the narrator informs us, it’s “the same four words stitched into every uniform of every captain who takes their command.”  The message:  these people love to fly, and they love to take exquisite care of their passengers.

And they clearly love to make great advertising.

McDonald’s French Fries Commercial Is a Keeper

November 29th, 2011

When I was first starting out in the wonderful world of marketing, McDonald’s was one of the most creative and effective advertisers in the world.  For years their ads simultaneously tantalized your taste buds and tugged at your heartstrings, and they played a huge role in clearly elevating the brand far above all fast food competitors.  Sadly, it’s been at least 10 or 15 years since McDonald’s so consistently worked its marketing magic.

Recently, however, I’ve been seeing some signs that the old magic might be returning.  Perhaps the most encouraging example is their current  french fries commercial. This warmly-shot spot is charming in its simplicity, and the surprise ending makes me smile no matter how many times I see it.

This could have featured a customer saying “I love McDonald’s fries” or an announcer citing statistics documenting how McDonald’s fries are preferred over the competition’s at a statistically significant level of confidence.  Obviously, however, such flat-footed approaches couldn’t come close to the impact of having three kids running and riding full-speed off a dock in pursuit of a McDonald’s  french fry on the end of a fishing hook.

To me, this spot both reminds me of how delicious McDonald’s fries are and makes me like McDonald’s just a little bit more.  It’s highly entertaining yet almost believable. In short, it’s the ultimate fish story.

Subway Takes the Low Road by Entertaining Rather Than Selling

November 28th, 2011

I’ve never been a fan of Subway’s advertising )such as their cloying and annoying “5 Dollar Footlong” campaign).   Their latest  TV campaign, however, is a particular puzzler.  A lot of my friends and readers who’ve seen this campaign have asked me why the ads feature adults talking like kids, and my honest answer is that I have no idea.

The device of giving children’s voices to adult actors is arguably entertaining the first few times you see it. but it does nothing to make the viewer want to hop in the car and drive to the nearest Subway.  The ad doesn’t feature fascinating footage of the sandwich, or describe its tantalizing taste in drool-inducing detail, or give you compelling facts about its nutritional advantages.  In short, it doesn’t sell; it simply entertains…sort of.

If Subway was trying to make the point that its sandwiches “bring out the kid in you” or “remind you of when you were a kid”, using kids’ voices would at least have some degree of underlying logic.  But that’s hardly the case here.

So what’s Subway thinking?  I don’t have a clue.  And neither, it appears, do they.