Friday, February 27, 2009

Brian Williams (& more Colbert) on Twitter

This first clip is from last night's episode of The Daily Show. Host Jon Stewart and guest Brian Williams of the NBC Nightly News discuss the use of Twitter by members of Congress and the news media:

Then, on last night's The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert yet again discusses members of Congress using Twitter during President Obama's address Tuesday night:

Does all this discussion of congressional Tweeting help or hurt Twitter? Will the younger generation be less likely to adopt Twitter; viewing it lame and pointless? Has it reached its saturation point? Read more!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Pontiac Stinger: powerful like a gorilla, yet soft and yielding like a Nerf ball

Remember this car? In an episode during the 2nd season of The Simpsons, Homer was put in charge of designing a car for regular Joes like him. The result was The Homer. It cost $82,000 (this was in 1991). Its features included:

- Extremely large beverage holder
- Tail fins
- Bubble domes
- Shag carpeting
- Several horns that all play "La Cucaracha"
- A second soundproof bubble dome with optional straps and muzzles for kids

The Homer failed miserably and bankrupted the manufacturer.

This long lost tribute to the auto industry immediately popped into my head when I saw this commercial for the Pontiac Stinger. Thank God this monstrosity never caught on. One look at this and you know why Pontiac is no more:

Read more!

Monday, February 23, 2009


Take a look at these two orange juice cartons. If they were side by side at your neighborhood grocer, which one would you choose to purchase? Well, THE JOKE'S ON YOU! They're the exact same brand of orange juice!! The carton on the left is Tropicana's new packaging design. Some very vocal consumers, however, prefer the carton on the right. They can rest easy tonight, Tropicana announced they are returning to the old design.

Last month Tropicana was proud to introduce a new packaging design for their orange juice. Gone was their iconic orange with a straw stuck in it, and in its place was a tall glass of OJ. The redesign was accompanied with a $35 million campaign with placement everywhere including print, billboards and television.


Even though Tropicana focused grouped the new design to death, consumers did not like the new package. Some loyal fans were downright outraged. They felt an attachment to the old logo, and felt the new design made the product appear like a generic brand of orange juice.

“Do any of these package-design people actually shop for orange juice?” one e-mail complaint asked. “Because I do, and the new cartons stink.” (Courtesy of NYT article below)

Thanks to social media tools like Twitter, as well as using blogs and e-mail to spread word of mouth, consumers were able to make their voices heard. More importantly, Tropicana was willing to listen and quickly change course. The old packaging should be back in the stores some time next month.

There are 2 key takeaways here:

1) Consumers use social media to organize and make their voice heard. Tropicana admits that only a small fraction of their audience complained, it was a very vocal and loyal fraction. Brands should listen to what is being said about them and be willing to respond if needed. By changing course so quickly, Tropicana avoided the further spread of backlash and anger that could have lead to a significant sales decrease.

Consumers can complain about anything. When I was little my sister wrote a letter to General Mills because she felt that they did not change the content on the back of the Frosted Mini-Wheats box often enough, and she was tired of looking at the same old info every morning. They sent a form letter thanking her for her loyalty in response. I wonder what she could do now with social media. Would she get more than a form letter if she was able to organize a group who felt the same way she did? Probably. Social Media has given the consumer that power.

2) Every logo matters. Tropicana president Neil Campbell admitted he did not realize consumers had such an attachment to the orange and straw logo. While it isn't as iconic as Coca-Cola's use of red or the Nike swoosh, the logo was recognizable. To completely remove it from the packaging was a mistake. Focusing on a glass or orange juice would have been fine, as long as that orange/straw image was present somewhere (even add the red and white straw IN the glass of orange juice). If you want to overhaul a logo, do what Pepsi did (which owns Tropicana) and make slight design changes that seem different while still being recognizable as the brand's logo.

What do you think? Did the new packaging bother you? Did you even notice it?

Tropicana Discovers Some Buyers Are Passionate About Packaging - NYT Read more!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Simpsons Fun Facts: Ralph Wiggum

His favorite book is "Go, Dog, Go."

His favorite swear word is "mitten."

Wants to grow up to be either a principal or a caterpillar.

Special skills include puppy imitations, consuming and digesting vast quantities of crayons, turning invisible by closing his eyes, and acting.

His happiest day was when the doctor told him he didn't have worms anymore.
Read more!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Who Does Starbucks Think They Are?

With the announcement of VIA this week, Starbucks is continuing to have an identity crisis: are they a high-end coffeehouse that values the art of a good roasted bean, a drive thru coffee drip for all the drones on their way to work, or something inbetween?

Let's take a trip back in time, shall we? Don't worry, it's not the crazy nose-bleeding, brain-scrambling Lost-style time travel. We are going on a short trip to January 2008. This was the first month of Starbuck's triumphant return to its coffee brewing roots. After declining sales and a loss of market share to the likes of McDonald's and Dunkin' Donuts, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz returned to set the ship straight again.

Upon his return after leaving his post in 2000, Schultz promised a return to what made Starbucks great: a love of fine coffee and the art of brewing the perfect cup. Schultz felt that Starbucks expanded too fast and overextended its brand by attaching the Starbucks name to grocery store coffee, ice cream, candy bars, and numerous other products (not to mention record labels and movie production companies). One of his first acts as CEO 2.0 was to close 100 underperforming stores, slow down the opening of new stores, and discontinue the sale of warm breakfast sandwiches that according to Schultz, "interferes with the coffee aroma in our stores."

The next step towards making a better coffee was in the machine. In March 2007, Starbucks purchased the maker of the $11,000 Clover coffee brewer, the Coffee Equipment Company of Seattle. The Clover is a top shelf machine that brews only one cup of coffee at a time, grinding the beans fresh and filling the room with the aroma of coffee.

Schultz put Clover machines in six of his top Boston and Seattle stores. Other shops installed new and improved espresso machines in locations visible to everyone in the shop as a shrine to coffee. Starbucks even closed down ALL of their stores for three hours to re-educate their employees on the new machines and the art of making the perfect espresso. It seemed that Starbucks brand position was clear: Yes, we cost a little bit more than the other guys, but our focus is coffee and coffee only, so our product is much better. For a while there I was falling for it.
Then Pike Place came along. Have you tried that stuff? Awful sludge. Instead of serving several different blends of coffee every day, Starbucks decided consistency was best. Pike Place started brewing late last spring. It's a basic roast meant to compete with McD's and DD's blends. It is a step backwards that didn't seem to align itself with the rest of Starbuck's new position statement. If they are the brand that is a step above all the other places, why are they slumming it with them by focusing on Pike Place? Their eyes were bigger than their stomach. Starbucks wanted both the coffee aficionado, and the casual drive-drinker who prefers their coffee cheap.

Of course, we are in a recession, and even after their rebranding, Starbucks is hurting. Consumers don't want to give up their coffee, but they want a good deal. Starbucks to the rescue! Last week Starbucks announced a new value menu that will launch in March. For $3.95 consumers have the choice of a tall latte with oatmeal or coffee cake. The other option is a tall coffee with a NEW artisan bacon sandwich, NEW artisan ham sandwich, sausage breakfast sandwich, or reduced-fat turkey bacon breakfast sandwich. That's right, they are going to serve the same warm breakfast sandwich's they discontinued a year ago because they interfered with the smell of their premium coffee. Another step backwards.

Now, this week Schultz proudly announced the launch of Starbucks VIA Ready Brew, water soluble instant-coffee powder. VIA will be sold in March as single serving pouches for about $1 a cup. The same company that less than a year ago justified spending $11,000 on coffee machines that perfectly grounded and brewed one cup at a time, is now selling powder you can pick up at your nearest Target (starting in 2010). One more step backwards.

Starbucks, who do you think you are?! Schultz has no idea what to do with the brand and as a result he's trying to be everything to everyone. That isn't helping the brand, just diluting it further. Schultz says that they have been developing VIA for years and that it is not a panic move due to the recession. That does not make it any better. That means you have been wasting shareholders money for years on developing a product that does not align itself with what you claim the Starbucks brand is. Schultz, you're diluting your brands' hold on the coffee category. If you keep flip-flopping every couple of months, it's just going to get worse. Pick a position and stick with it, through good and bad times. If you need to make changes, make sure your decisions are aligned with what the Starbucks brand is (if you even know what it is anymore). Do you own the luxury coffee brand or not?

What do you think? Has your feelings towards Starbucks changed over the past couple of years? Have you tasted a coffee that's worse than Pike Place? Will you give VIA a try (I'll at least try it).
Read more!

Adventures in Product Placement: 24

This week's episode of 24 had another not-so-subtle placement of the Hyundai Genesis. This has happened before (the video is no longer available), and will probably happen again. Hyundai has signed on for placement in the series for this entire season. They take the place of Ford, which was the vehicle of choice for Jack Bauer in previous seasons.

The Ford placement, however, was never so in-your-face. With Hyundai, 24 has written entire scenes existing only to showcase the Genesis.

This season was supposed to air last year, but was put on hold due to the writer's strike. At the time of the strike, nearly 14 months ago, half of this season was already shot and ready to go. When the strike ended in March 2008, they resumed production and completed the entire season by the end of the summer. It was around this time that the Genesis deal came along. Producer's then had to go back into those first 12 episodes filmed in 2007, and insert scenes that featured the 2009 Hyundai Genesis.

This week featured one of those scenes. It was by no means a scene necessary to the ongoing plot. It felt more like a car commercial, complete with a loving family and a child safely in the back seat. There were obligatory dashboard navigation shots, as many shots of the entire car as they could squeeze in, and shots that start low and focused on the car and then slowly pan up to the actors.

Again, I don't mind product placement; it is necessary to counter rising production costs and a good way for brands to generate awareness. However, it does not need to be so obvious that it takes viewers out of the show. Ford never had that problem in previous 24 seasons. Do the producer's think we won't notice the placement? It's laughable how obvious it is. Does it bother you? Take a look:

Fox's '24' In Gear with Hyundai Integration Read more!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Simpsons Fun Facts: Otto

Courtesy of The Simpsons 2009 Laugh-a-Day 365-Day Box Calendar:

Has a Big Daddy Roth tattoo on his butt

Special skills include air guitar, carnival Rocket Car operator, and faking his own death.

Has had fifteen crashes without a single fatality

Likes to read "stuff from the vampire's point of view." Read more!

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Simpsons (Now with Higher Definition!)

Take a look at these two videos and tell me if you see any differences between the two of them:

That's right! Wow, you are really observant (and can read the title of this post)! Last night The Simpsons aired in high-definition for the first time. Welcome to the future. I seem to recall reading an interview with the show's producer's about two years back where they claimed that the show would NEVER convert to widescreen hi-def because that would be sacrilegious. The Simpsons, they claimed, was a television show, and that meant broadcasting in a 4:3 ratio forever!

Well, forever wasn't as long as they thought. Broadcasting in high-def didn't really add that much to The Simpsons visually, but the colors were brighter, the lines were more defined, the occasionally crude drawing stood out more, and there is more room for potential sight gags.

With this convergence, is there any program still airing in standard-def that you wish would catch up with the times? I can't think of any program in particular, but I wish Time Warner Cable of Cleveland would get their act together and offer more than a handful of HDTV channels. Every other cable provider in the area offers at least twice as many HD channels. What are you waiting for TWC? You are certainly charging us enough! If The Simpsons can do it, so can you. Read more!

Friday, February 13, 2009

UPDATE - Adventures in Product Placement: 30 Rock

My bad.

Apparently the press, the blogosphere, and yours truly jumped the gun a little bit when accusing 30 Rock of shameless McFlurry product placement (see previous post below). The outcry was getting loud enough, that showrunner/head writer/star Tina Fey felt the need to clear things up:

"“It gives me great pleasure to inform you that the references to McDonald's in last night's episode of 30 Rock were in no way product placement. (Nor were they an attempt at product placement that fell through.) We received no money from the McDonald's Corporation. We were actually a little worried they might sue us. That's just the kind of revenue-generating masterminds we are.

Also, the upcoming story line where Liz Lemon starts dating Grimace is just based on a recurring dream I have.

Seriously, though, it's not product placement.

Also, whoever is writing my Twitter account is pretty funny, but it's not me.” - Tina Fey

Again, my bad, but your reputation does precede you. Next time I'll give you benefit of the doubt. Read more!

Adventures in Product Placement: 30 Rock

From early on in its now 2.5 year lifespan, 30 Rock has been an adapter of shameless product placement. I give Tina Fey and crew credit, though, because they are fully aware they are "selling out to the man" and they try to poke fun at it. Usually their product placement is followed by a meta wink to the audience, or in the case of one episode, literally looking into the camera and saying, "Can we have our money now?"

Last night's episode included a shameless plug for McDonalds and their McFlurry dessert. This time, however, I felt the plug was ever-so-slightly crossing the line of their typical clever/meta joke into annoying promotion. I almost missed all the jokes because I was paying too much attention to all the McShilling that was going on. I'll let it slide though. If I have to take the occasional shameless promotion in order to keep 30 Rock on the air, I'm more than willing to do it.

Read more!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Post-Election, Newsweek Attempts Re-Branding


That’s what everyone is saying. Every passing week brings word of magazines folding and newspapers laying off staff members. Old standards are being forced to change their game plan; The New York Times has even started running ads on their front page Now, this week brought the announcement that weekly magazine Newsweek will be changing its strategy in order to appeal to a smaller audience: the rich.

In the spring Newsweek will begin to focus less on covering the straight news stories of the week, and focus more on opinion and analysis geared towards a wealthy demographic (after all, they are the only ones with the expendable income to subscribe to magazines). The overhaul includes a new design, a smaller size, and an increase in subscription rates.

Will this re-branding strategy work? Possibly. While appealing to the masses, Newsweek has always seemed like a second run issue of Time. They could benefit by distinguishing itself as the magazine that delves deeper into the issues of the week, while talking (and advertising) to their core audience of wealthy, educated news-junkies. Maybe then we will take them seriously as a source of expert opinion, and reward them with our hard earned money.

Or maybe not. I am not so sure Newsweek's web presence is aligned with their new strategy. Take a look at this new web-series produced by NTV (hat tip to Julie for bringing this to my attention):

“The District” is a satirical look at Obama’s administration. It is funny, but does it fit with the rest of Newsweek's new branding strategy. How serious are we supposed to take them? Do they want to be the New Yorker or the print version of They say their editorial position is geared toward "not just analysis and commentary, but an opinionated, prescriptive or offbeat take on events." I guess this web series falls into that category.

Regardless of their new image, during this brand transition, Newsweek should make sure their print strategy is aligned with their online strategy, and commit to the re-branding: be consistent with the presentation of the message, even if it means a decrease in sales for the first few months. If you say you are not going to cover traditional news anymore, don’t. NO EXCEPTIONS!

Does this re-branding make you more or less likely to read Newsweek? Is the reason you don't read it now because it is too broad, or is it because you get most of your news online (unless you're in a dentist's waiting room)?

Newsweek Plans Makeover to Fit a Smaller Audience Read more!

Creating a Legacy

Yesterday was my birthday. I had a fun relaxing day that ended with a great dinner at Momocho and surprise tickets to tonight’s Cavs/Suns game. I hope it’s a good one. We have to cleanse ourselves of the 2 tough losses this week.

I turned 27. Yep, I’m getting old. In these twilight years I have thought a lot about my legacy: What will the name JD Drake mean generations from now? How will they speak of my grand achievements? What will those achievements mean to the world? I’m not getting any younger, I better get achieving. My problem is, I don’t have a lot of free time, and I don’t want to work too hard for a legacy.

My solution: create a sauce. I’m not sure what kind of sauce it will be yet: barbecue, salsa, cajun, marinara, or maybe teriyaki. All I need to do is create a classic recipe by the time my future offspring/business partner is old enough to learn it to perfection. He/She will then pass the recipe on to the grandchildren, who will then begin to sell and distribute it to grocery stores. By the time my great-grandchildren are in the Drake Sauce business it will be one of the best-selling specialty sauces in the country.

Now I don’t want to be too specific here, but the front of the sauce jar could have a cartoon rendering of my likeness giving the thumbs up (possibly with a chef’s hat or wooden spoon in my hand). On the back could be a blurb, something like:

“Four generations ago, in a modest Ohio kitchen, our great-grandfather Drake cooked up a dream of bringing friends and family together with a love of (insert type of sauce here). Today, his dream is a reality at kitchen tables across the country, thanks to Drake’s Sauces. This core belief has been at the core of our sauce making core for decades, and shall continue for decades to come.

So crack open a jar and enjoy! As great-granddad always said, ‘You can’t make sauce without a spoon and a smile!’ "

There, I have already done most of the leg work. All I have to do now is throw some stuff in a pot and let my progeny do the rest. LEGACY CREATED! Now to see what’s on TV. Read more!

Simpsons Fun Facts: Gabbo & Arthur Crandall

They nearly ruin Krusty by stealing both his audience and "Itchy & Scratchy."

Gabbo's special skills include doing the Hully Gully, imitating Vin Scully, and traveling back in time.

Arthur Crandall's special skills include smoking and ventriloquizing simultaneously.

Gabbo products and services include Gabbo dolls, Gabbo doorstops, Gabbo Brand Air Freshener, Gabbo's Guide to Gargling, and Gabbo Airlines.

Read more!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Around Cleveland: 2 Fun Charity Events this Week

I want to make you all aware:

Cleveland Twestival – Thursday Feb. 12, Harry Buffalo on E. 4th St., 6p.m. – 9p.m. $15. Proceeds support Charity:Water

This Thursday, in 175 cities around the world, people are using Twitter to organize and promote events to benefit Charity:Water, an organization working to provide clean drinking water to those who need it.

Cleveland’s contribution will take place at Harry Buffalo on E. 4th St. downtown. $15 at the door gets you free wings, pizza, good conversation, a cornhole tournament, and excellent raffle prizes. Cleveland has an active social media community (check out the Cleveland Social Media Club by clicking on the badge on the right) that has worked hard in the past few weeks to organize this event. It should be fun.

For more information or to purchase tickets online, check out the Cleveland Twestival website.

Cleveland Free Clinic Benefit Concert & Art Auction– Friday Feb. 13, Beachland Ballroom, 9p.m.-12a.m. $7.

On Friday night a mere $7 will get you access to four bands at a legendary venue. All proceeds benefit the Free Clinic of Greater Cleveland. An art auction will also be taking place at the nearby Waterloo 7 gallery (an after party will also be held at the gallery after the shows). Bands performing include Oldboy, Sparrows & Arrows, Tastycakes, & Beardo Bandini.

For more info check out the Beachland Ballroom website Read more!

Grammys: Too long, too nostalgic, too boring

Remember Soy Bomb? He was the stage crasher during Bob Dylan’s performance at the 1998 Grammy Awards. Where did he go? The Grammys could use him again.

I was finally able to watch the Grammys from Sunday night. I had to watch it on DVR, I wasn’t about to sit through three and a half hours of glad handing and country music for what ended up being 45 minutes of somewhat watchable material.

THREE AND A HALF HOURS!!!?? No awards show should be that long. Especially when you only hand out something like 10 awards (tops), and then fill the rest with endless performances (I lost count around 20). The producers could easily cut an hour from the program. After the jump, let’s see what performances we could have cut from this year’s program to make it shorter and more relevant(take note for next year):

U2: The Grammys is not a show meant to reward music in general, but music from the past year. A new U2 song from an album that has yet to be released does not qualify. Save it for next year.

Al Green/Justin Timberlake: This was a last minute performance to fill in for Chris Brown/Rhiananana so I can let it slide, but has Al Green sung anything besides “Let’s stay together” in the last 30 years? He had a new NOMINATED album; couldn’t he perform something from that?

Coldplay: Of course they needed to perform, but for the sake of time let’s keep each performer to one song. If they wanted to do this 2-song combo they should’ve opened up the show instead of U2.

Stevie Wonder: Is it in his record contract that he has to perform on the Grammys EVERY YEAR? When was the last time he actually released new music (besides that song he sang at the end)? Unless you are nominated during that year, you should not perform.

Kenny Chesney/Taylor Swift/Carrie Underwood/Sugarland/Kid Rock: Too much country music. Cut back.

Katy Perry: This was just bad; we could have done without it.

Paul McCartney/ 4 Topps/ Neil Diamond: Maybe the most pointless performances of the night. This is exactly what is wrong with the Grammys. If you want to know why the ratings for the 18-34 demographic decrease every year, let’s start here. Stop clinging to the past. For a show meant to award the music of the past year, the Grammys spends too much time being nostalgic for the music of the good ol’ days.

If you want to reward the past, create another awards show and fill it with classic performers singing their hits, reuniting, and singing duets with the up and coming stars of today. Leave the Grammys alone and let them focus on the music of the present and introducing new artists to the mainstream.

During the same year as the Soy Bomb incident, the world was introduced to a new Latin singer who brought the house down with his performance. He was relatively unknown outside of his genre, but after his Grammy performance, he went on to achieve international success for years. He ended up being Ricky Martin, but that’s beside the point. The Kings of Leon are a great live rock band (coming to Cleveland in May) that could’ve benefited from a performance, but instead we got Jamie Fox singing old Doo Wop songs. YAWN!

Bottom line: the show should focus on the music of the past year and the unique artists and performances who contributed to it. Until the old dogs learn some new tricks worth rewarding, let them phone in their old hits someplace else.

EXCEPTION: Honoring the dead. I have no problem with the Bo Diddly tribute. One performance every year honoring the passing of a legend is alright. This tribute to the Clash’s Joe Strummer from the 2003 Grammys was awesome (and the last time I remember seeing an unforgettable Grammy performance):

Read more!

Monday, February 9, 2009

AMC Best Picture Showcase: 1 day, 5 movies, loads of scenery chewing

The Grammys have come and gone. Just two more weeks and the airwaves will be award show free for a little while. The Oscars will be held on Feb. 22. Are you prepared? Do you have your brackets filled out? Can you argue for your favorite film among the 5 Best Picture nominees? Well, it's kind of hard to do that if you haven't seen them all, you better get your act together and run out to the theatre.

OR as we all do with most things, you can conduct a last minute cram session. AMC theatres can help you through your procrastination. On Feb. 21, the Saturday before the Oscars, AMC theatres around the country will hold their annual Best Picture Showcase: $30 gets you all 5 Best Pictures and unlimited popcorn & soda.

From 10:30 a.m. until 11:30 p.m. you can relax in a theatre and watch Milk, The Reader, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Slumdog Millionaire, and Frost/Nixon (in that order). You also receive a special pass that lets you come and go as you please in case you would rather run errands than watch the boring parts of Benny Button again (a.k.a ALL OF IT!).

If you like movies, it really is a fun time. My wife and I did this 2 years ago, had a blast, and hung out with some fun people.

Only 1 theatre in the Cleveland area is participating: AMC Ridge Park Square 8 in Brooklyn (Ridge Rd at I-480). For other locations or more information check out the AMC website.

Now get to work ! What movie do you think is the true BEST picture? Read more!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Facebook's "25 Things .." says a lot about social media

Chances are, if you have a Facebook account you have been made aware of the "25 Random things" note that has spread like wildfire over the past week. It has been pretty hard to avoid. The premise of this viral note is simple: List 25 things about yourself and then tag 25 friends who must then do the same.

According to a story in USA Today no one is quite sure where the note originated, but Facebook reps report that the number of notes posted has more than doubled over the past week and the number of daily people tagged has grown more than 5 times.

This note didn't include a funny video, marketing gimmick, or offer for free stuff. It was just a simple way for people to share information about themselves (# 7. I once played Boggle with Michael Stipe (and won), #16. My first real job was collecting shopping carts from the Wal-Mart parking lot on The Strip).

Despite all the blogging and Twittering about the marketing potential of social media, it is helpful to remember why most people use it: to SOCIALIZE; to keep up with friends and family. Socialization is still at the core of social media. Here is a note that is not trying to market or sell anything, and it is one of the fastest spreading games on Facebook.

A marketer's reason for participating in social media can differ from their audiences' reason. Users are only willing to accept being marketed to when it adds value to their socializing. This can be done through entertainment, providing helpful information, or using a brand to establish a personal identity (which I found in several "25 things" notes I read. Lots of people confessed their love for specific brands).

Some are predicting that this is only the start of these type of notes on Facebook. I've already seen one note about children and one about music. I'm sure the backlash will soon follow. I know I'm not going to fill out every note that gets sent my way. Facebook isn't MySpace; that's where pointless surveys belong.

Nevertheless, it has been fun to learn new things about my friends over the past week. If we're not friends on Facebook yet, and you want to be, just click on the badge on the right (the one with my former roommate Steve striking a pose), and we'll be the bestest of friends forever and ever.

Read more!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Super Bowl Ads 2009: Do the big brands really gain the most?

It's inevitable, I cannot have a blog that focuses on marketing, advertising, and television without mentioning the Super Bowl ads. There's not much to say about them though. From a creative standpoint it seems like Doritos' ad was the winner. This is according to USA Today's popular Ad Meter as well as an online poll taken by Hulu (whose own Super Bowl ad returned decent poll numbers):

This proves one thing: Americans LOVE watching people getting hit in the crotch. Next Super Bowl I better see 30 seconds of random crotch hits followed by the State Farm Insurance logo. Tagline: State Farm is there through the good times ... and the bad. INSTANT HIT!

An annual tournament-style competition by Cleveland advertising agency Liggett-Stashower returned different results (video courtesy of the Cleveland Plain Dealer and
Super Bowl ads go head to head

I tend to agree with these results more. Those E-trade babies have not gotten old yet, and Miller High Life had a clever (and cheap) idea.

But will any of these ads cause you to take action? Did anyone run out to the store and buy some Doritos, or at least THINK about buying Doritos? Did anyone stand in line at Denny's this morning to earn your free breakfast?

There is always a lot of talk and hype about Super Bowl ads, but in the end it is usually the well established brands that earn the most buzz: Frito-Lay, Pepsi, Budweiser, etc. But what about the smaller up-and-coming brands? They have the most to gain (or lose) from a Super Bowl ad. Were there any ads for a company or product that you had never heard of, that you may now consider using?

I think Hulu will see a huge spike in traffic after their ad with Alec Baldwin. Online buzz for the Jack Black/Michael Cera movie "Year One" will probably increase after their funny trailer. That is a movie that has largely been kept under wraps until now (Unlike "Transformers", "GI Joe", etc.).

Who do you think are the winners and losers of this year's batch? Read more!

Simpsons Fun Facts: C. Montgomery Burns

Courtesy of today's page on The Simpsons 2009 Laugh-a-Day 365-Day Box Calendar:

His Social Security number is 000-00-0002

His excellent possessions have included the only existing nude photo of Mark Twain, a trillion-dollar bill, the sword Excalibur, and a rare first draft of the U.S. Constitution with the word "suckers" in it.

Has lived through 12 recessions, 8 panics, and 5 years of McKinleynomics.

His secret shame is that he is physically weaker than an infant.

Read more!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Adventures in Product Placement: Saturday Night Live & Pepsi

Wow! That was quite a Super Bowl. Well, it was quite a 4th quarter at least. As a Cleveland Browns fan I was pulling for the Cardinals, but their defense just couldn't stop the Steelers when they needed to. Oh well.

So what did you think of the commercials? Any favorites? General reaction seems to be that the Doritos' Crystal Ball ad and Budweiser's' Clydesdale in love ad were the favorites (Watch all the ads and see viewer's quantitative response at USA Today's Ad Meter). Towards the end of the game did you catch this odd ad from Pepsi?:

For those of you unaware MacGruber is a recurring character on "Saturday Night Live." On the show, each MacGruber skit is broken up into 3 parts and aired throughout that night's program. The premise is always the same: Placed in a tough spot, MacGruber tries to escape MacGyver-style (nice cameo by Richard Dean Anderson in the skit), only he never makes it in time because of some ridiculous argument. The 3 skits usually have a common thread that becomes more and more absurd with each skit.

This past week's episode of "Saturday Night Live" (with host Steve Martin) featured 3 MacGruber skits all about Pepsi. The above video, which was repurposed during the Super Bowl, was the 2nd of the 3 skits. Here is the 1st and 3rd:

Funny? I think so. They're as funny as any of the other MacGruber sketches. But they aren't comedy sketches, they are ad time purchased by Pepsi and aired during commercial breaks. "SNL" and Pepsi chose to blur those lines a little when airing the ads on Saturday night.

Known for their commercial parodies, "SNL" begins and ends each commercial break with a short bumper to let the audience know they are leaving parody territory and entering the real world of advertising. These bumpers are usually quick images of NYC cityscape with the "SNL" logo or an announcement of who's' hosting next week. These MacGruber commercials all aired IMMEDIATELY AFTER the bumpers, tricking the audience into thinking they are still watching the show. It worked on me, I didn't fast-forward over them.

Is this OK? Bumpers have been a staple in children's programming for decades; used as an ethical way to tell kids they are no longer being entertained to, they are being pitched to. As adults, we're just supposed to recognize that. If the MacGruber ads aired during the middle of the commercial breaks I don't think anyone would raise a fuss. "30 Rock" has done this in the past. Instead, they are being treated as sketches by "SNL" and NBC (even being listed as such on their respective websites), and as advertisements by Pepsi. Which one is it? I don't think you can have it both ways. "SNL" should just admit they created some "SNL"-themed Pepsi commercials. There is nothing wrong with that. But there is something wrong with passing them off as 3 minutes of air time not purchased by Pepsi.

What do you think? Would you be OK seeing more of this? Read more!