Category Archives: Marketing and Media

Battle of the 2017 Super Bowl Ad Reviewers

Battle of the 2017 Super Bowl Ad Reviewers

Last year The Armchair MBA presciently foreshadowed our country’s potential slide into anarchy – – and we take no pride in noting that we appear to have been right.

Be that as it may, this glass case of emotion that we call the US must go on, and of course the Super Bowl is still the tentpole of our national identity.  So in the spirit of national unity, we herewith put forward our ratings and reviewer compilation of the advertising from this year’s Brady Bowl (or as some might call it from the Falcons’ perspective, the choking chickens Bowl).

super-bowl-montage
And as a perfect reflection of society, there is very little agreement among the dozen major reviewers we looked at.  This year we’ve added a feature of averaging the critics’ scores so you can see how YOU stack up.

At the bottom of this post is a chart comparing major reviewers for all the spots run during last Sunday’s game.
NOTE: ads are grouped by my rankings of green/yellow/pink and are now ranked by the reviewers’ average within those groups.

A few observations (all Super Bowl ads can be found here):

NO ANIMALS THIS YEAR!  Unless you count the dead (Spuds McKenzie), the 2-dimensional (Yellow Tail wine) or the sidelined (Rob Gronkowski).  I miss these furry diversions and was hoping the lack of reliance on a lowest common denominator would indicate lots of great spots.  Alas, twas not to be.
But there were some themes at work…

itsa10

High concept does not necessarily make for great advertising. The Armchair MBA is not a fan of co-opting a high-minded theme just to make a statement- often comes off as stilted or forced.
– Audi, 84 Lumber, Budweiser, AirBnB, and It’s A 10 Haircare (I know – who, right?) all went for the high road by tying into the topical (often sideswiping the President, the Real DJT).
Unfortunately, for this image-driven work to be effective it needs to create a strong link to the brand among a group that might be interested in the product (this is advertising, after all).
– It’s A 10 Haircare is a new brand and while their ad was cheeky and visually interesting, they could have done more to tell us why we should care.
– 84 Lumber is a regional competitor to Home Depot and Lowe’s and ran an emotional immigration spot that, partially due to network censorship, required a visit online to see the conclusion.  The average demo for this vertical is male/50, not necessarily a strong bet for following up online or changing their go-to building supply outlet without a reason. It did generate brand awareness, though.
– Audi made a passionate pitch for gender pay equality (with no apparent reason given for why this is related to Audi), then undermined the message by putting Dad (not Mom) in the hot sports car.

walken-timberlake

You simply cannot go wrong with Christopher Walken. He did it for Kia Motors last year, and this year changed sponsors to team with a deadpan/mute Justin Timberlake for one of the best-received spots – for Bai Antioxidant Drink.

mccarthymalkovich

Actually, celebrities were out in force, probably to the greatest degree ever, and generally to good effect.  In this high-stakes, high-octane environment, celebrities provide one of the only reliable ways to guarantee eyeballs. In addition to Walken:
John Malkovich’s arresting visage gave Squarespace breakthrough
– The Coen Brothers directed a Mercedes-Benz spot featuring Peter Fonda
– Kia traded Walken for Melissa McCarthy (and a few draft picks) for a generally entertaining spot for the new Niro
– A newly nerdly Justin Bieber drew attention for T-Mobile in his own polarizing way
– Other celebrities included Terry Bradshaw (Tide), Cam Newton (Buick), Kristen Schaal (T-Mobile), Lady Gaga (Tiffany), Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg (T-Mobile), LeBron James (Sprite), Morgan Freeman (Turkish Airlines), Tom Brady, even Bill Nye the Science Guy!  And the list goes on (including a slew of very amusing high school yearbook celebrity photos in a Honda spot).

honda-yearbook

Generally well-accepted spots had breakthrough and were straightforward (usually with some humor)
Honda, Bud, Avocados from Mexico, Skittles, Ford made this list.  Inexplicably so did a Bud Light spot featuring an exhumed Spuds McKenzie.

bieber

There were also some universally unloved spots, mostly due to lack of wit, relevance or originality.
American Petroleum Institute (paaaarrrty!) headed this list, followed closely by the generic twins Fiji Water and LIFEWTR, Yellow Tail Wine, KFC and Michelin.

Finally, our annual check-in with Weather Tech – for this, their 4th effort, they did kick back and have a beer (not while driving) and the result was a looser, more fun spot.  Well done.

This table compares 12 major reviewers, who clearly do not all see things the same.  (did you really expect Vogue to feel the same as the WSJ?) 
Simply click once or twice on the table
 to make it readable.

superbowl2017

Footnotes:
My evaluations are generally based on the Kellogg ADPLAN approachAttention
–Distinction
– Positioning
– Linkage
– Amplification
– Net Equity – – along with some personal gut feel.

Reviewers and links to reviews (if you were involved in any of the reviews and feel I got something wrong, let me know):
Kellogg Graduate School of Business – Northwestern University
Adweek
Ad Age
Bleacher Report
Chicago Tribune
Entertainment Weekly
The Guardian
New Yorker
USA Today
Variety
Vogue
Washington Post
Wall Street Journal

That’s it for this year – – as always, with The Armchair MBA, you get what you pay for!

Plus, I want that new Alfa Romeo.

See you next year!

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Making Sense of the Unexpected

By now everyone and his mother/brother/horse has opined about how Donald Trump, inarguably a petty, bombastic vulgarian, climbed to the highest perch in the land (at least from a status/power standpoint).

trump

So I will chime in, with a very able assist.  Professor Tim Calkins (Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University) has defined Trump’s ascent as an example of the concept of benefit vs values.  In short, people are attracted to and identify with values but ultimately vote for benefits.  A link to Prof. Calkins’s piece follows below.

Before that, however, a thought on how this can be applied to marketing.  Values may be good, but not necessarily sufficient to make the sale.  Strong clear benefits have a better shot.

A good example was provided by colleague Harvey Chimoff, regarding an innovative round paper towel (Ora Paper Towels) that provides dual benefits of one-hand grabbing and environmental benefit (no cardboard tube).  Scores very high on the innovation scale (although I remember round beach towels long ago that allowed rotating to catch the sun without moving your towel – – was interesting but didn’t really catch fire.)  Actually, this design ultimately proved unique but not trademarkable.

round-towel
As it relates to Ora, seems that the values are admirable but perhaps not earth-shaking enough to generate a change from the old familiar cylinders (higher cost; where do I put this stack; etc)

Regarding values vs benefits as a motivator: the Clinton campaign had sort of a feel-good, I’m with her, we’re on this bus together sort of feel but didn’t seem to have at its core a defined cause/benefit that people really were passionate about and willing to make a stand on. It was almost literally, vote for no change.

clinton-celebrities

The Trump campaign (and Sanders’s, for that matter), had at its core a group of people who were feeling disenfranchised, mad as hell, pitchforks and torches handy, skin in the game, and willing to hold their noses and vote for change. (hmm…sounds a little familiar…)

trump-supporters

In the end, seemed like a much higher level of passion, frustration and motivation (and maybe desperation) among Trump voters. And they acted on it.

And now, Professor Calkins’s adroit dissection:

http://timcalkins.com/brands-in-the-news/marketing-observations-on-the-trump-victory/

Clip and save for the next election!

April 1 is when the ad guys (and gals) REALLY get creative

Posted on

Many of you know that at The Armchair MBA we have at times indulged in a bit of tomfoolery, and April 1 is no exception.

The best April 1 pranks are those that have the initial feel of legitimacy, but as the reader continues there is a point where it just goes too far.   Like the frog that ultimately boils, when well done it’s sometimes hard to pin down the exact point of departure from truth.

MelaniaCare (last post) was one that, while fabricated, we have started to believe ourselves – – and it might come true yet.

The attached was also discovered on April 1 so posting here.

FITBIT® introduces Step CreditsTM

But the real prize is this collection of April Fool’s Day pranks, compiled by Lisa Lacy of Momentology.  If you have a moment, these delightfully demonstrate the magic that results when creative and devious minds are working for themselves and are liberated to listen to their own inner gremlins, rather than trying to placate some client.

http://www.momentology.com/10210-april-fools-day-marketing-moment/

Bon appétit!

Trump Bolsters His Brand with MelaniaCare

Posted on

The recent announcement on Donald Trump’s website about the development of MelaniaCare may end up being just more fodder for late night comics, but it actually is a smart move and entirely consistent with the Trump brand.

“MelaniaCare”, like ObamaCare, is a nickname – in this case for the Appearance Optimization Act (AOA), inspired by Mr. Trump’s wife.

In short, MelaniaCare proposes that all legal American residents be given access to affordable services that assist in optimizing physical appearance, including serious birth-related issues, but also a broad range of cosmetic deficiencies.   Treatments would be funded by a mandatory allocation of 10% of services of relevant professionals (such as plastic surgeons) to citizens with insufficient means to afford treatment. Mr. Trump has promised to personally fund procedures that he deems high priority.

MelaniaCare

In Mr. Trump’s words, “As much as we glorify education in this country, what is never talked about is the enormous, huge impact that appearance has on one’s ability to be hired and advance in a career. Appearance enhancement has until now been available only to the most privileged. MelaniaCare would assure that these procedures are available to all, so everyone would have an advantage. And believe me, in my campaign travels I’ve discovered that there is a huge need for these services, often for some very nice people.”

Under a Trump Presidency, if MelaniaCare is signed into law, here is what it would mean:

  • All legal female US residents over age 20 and under 60 would, within one year of enactment, be required to have a free appearance assessment, consisting of one facial photograph and two full body photographs (front and back), that would be taken at any US Post Office or passport office. Funding for these photographs would be through an extension of the ACA (ObamaCare).
  • Photographs would be assessed via computer algorithm, indexed against age ranges (20-29, 30-39, etc) as well as regional norms (West Coast, South, Midwest, New York,  Texas, etc.) as determined by regional panels of age-appropriate men. Similar to a draft number, each participating citizen would be given an ‘appeal’ rating from 1 to 10, with those ranking 1 having highest priority for immediate and mandatory enhancement services. Those ranking 7 or above are not expected to require any further treatment.
  • Level of subsidization will be calculated through a formula balancing severity of need with ability to pay, and will be administered by the Internal Revenue Service.
  • Treatment will be required within one year of receipt of appeal rating, after which time appearance will be reassessed by the same panel. Patients deemed to not have sufficient improvement will be ‘fired’ (in program parlance) and will be given appropriate visas and moving expenses to relocate to other countries, or to a rural ‘containment’ area within the US, where they will support the US telemarketing infrastructure.
ContainmentArea

CONTAINMENT AREA

MelaniaCare coverage would include these treatments (among selected others):

  • Nose job, breast augmentation, tummy tuck, eye lift, and in some cases the full ‘mommy makeover’

Acceptable conditions for treatment include:

  • Crow’s feet, turkey neck, buffalo hump, FUPA, jell bell, RBF, muffin top, muffin bottom, computer face, puff daddy, wenis, love handles, parentheses, saddlebags, banana rolls, marionette lines, bunny line, elevens, smoker’s lines, and bat wings

To keep costs under control, there would be no refunds, do-overs or appeal process in the event of unintended treatment-related effects such as: 

  • Trout pout, dog ears, bat brow, ping pong face, wind tunnel face, frozen face, skew-whiff eyelid, turkey tummy, pillow face

AssessmentStation

 

Men’s appearance will be addressed after all women have been assessed, treated and relocated as appropriate.

MelaniaCare was tested for 15 months in Scottsdale AZ and Palm Beach FL, and while the level of untreated citizenry was extremely low, the mechanics of the program worked well. Per Mr. Trump: “Scottsdale and Palm Beach were enormously successful tests of the system, which gives us really unbelievable confidence when we extend it to areas of extreme need like the Midwest and Appalachia”.

Attractiveness as a determinant of success is a taboo topic, but undeniably is a real factor that is perpetuated by popular media. Mr. Trump, true to form, is unapologetically addressing this issue head-on, and claims that ultimately it will help the American people “in a really big way”.

“Pardon the expression, but a hot woman gets more attention and preferential treatment than an ordinary-looking woman. Think of the advantages the US will have if we export those who have been given a fair chance but just aren’t making it, and we improve the appearance of everyone who remains. We will tilt the playing field in our favor and will be able to negotiate some unbelievably awesome deals”.

MakeAmericaHot

Mr. Trump has already unveiled a new baseball cap promoting the program.

Wags are predictably calling this the Affordable Hotness Act (AHA), and using it as further proof that Mr. Trump represents a new low in American political life and culture.

On the other hand, Mr. Trump has done nothing but flaunt convention in this election cycle by appealing to a core base and making it work for him. An unscientific poll of Trump supporters showed strong support of MelaniaCare should it be signed into law.

MelaniaCare would certainly face challenges in the House and Senate, but regardless of the outcome, consider it another example of how to aggressively extend one’s brand.

Inside Candidate URL Guerrilla Warfare!

Recently Donald Trump’s campaign acquired the domain for jebbush.com* and directed it to donaldjtrump.com.

This raises the question, what sort of campaign is Jeb! running when his staff hasn’t even registered his own name?

Classic domain warfare dictates scooping up all likely (as well as expected negative) URLs so you can control the message.

As it turns out, Jeb! is not the only one who has missed this rather basic tactic.  (the screen shots below can be clicked through to the actual sites).  In fact, depending on whether the middle initial ‘J’ is involved, The Donald missed a few himself.

—> http://www.tedcruz.com was taken over by a group promoting immigration reform, forcing Ted’s people to base operations on tedcruz.org (wouldn’t have been his first choice).

—> http://www.carlyfiorina.org was hijacked by someone with an axe to grind.  (spoiler alert: the last screen tells us it was 30,000 people – – all of whom had families)

…and Donald himself was caught flat-footed when he allowed http://www.trumpsucks.com to be directed to none other than Fox News’s Megyn Kelly!  Megyn punks Donald!

By the measure of controlling the URL landscape, overall, aside from the Megyn Kelly thing, Trump does pretty well.  He grabbed Jeb’s site (probably paid a squatter for it), and got ahead of a few ‘Ihate***.com’ sites, including some of his competitors. (see chart below)

Ted Cruz and Jeb! fare worst.  They don’t have their name.com URL and both need a less obvious URL for their base of operations.  Jeb particularly has been rumored as a presidential candidate for at least 30 years.  You would think he would have been savvy enough to get ahead of the game and grab his own name domain.

John Kasich, Bernie Sanders, Ben Carson, and Hillary Clinton have decided to invest in only one URL.  The others are somewhere in between.

Is URL control a huge deal?  Probably not – – someone who gets redirected is likely not going to be automatically swayed just by landing on an unexpected site.

But still, there’s something to be said for controlling access to your message.  Maybe it’s time for each of us to look at www.(your name)sucks.com and see what comes up!

URLMatrix

*in WordPress, jebbush auto-corrects to nebbish.  hmmm.

Battle of the 2016 Super Bowl Ad Reviewers

To take your mind off whatever tsuris you may be feeling about our nation hurtling toward anarchy, for the third year in a row we take you briefly back to Sunday’s state of guacomole-induced stupor, to compare critics’ reviews of the all-important Super Bowl ads.

SuperBowlads2016

Like our politicians, once again it’s clear that the critics can’t agree on much (unless it involves dachshunds dressed up as hot dogs.)

And once again we realize that John Wanamaker was right: 50% of advertising is wasted. Unlike Mr. Wanamaker, in this case we have a pretty good feeling about which 50% may have been involved.

Crouch-Super-Bowl-Ads-2016

At the bottom of this post is a remarkable chart comparing major reviewers (color-coded green/yellow/pink) for all the spots run during Sunday’s game.  It’s pithy!
NOTE: ads are grouped by my rankings of green/yellow/pink but are alphabetically listed within those large groups.

A few observations:

First of all, if Super Bowl 50 was such an amazing success, why were there approximately 260 CBS ads taking up valuable ad space?

Humor seems to be back, and boy do we need it. (Celebrities are back, too)
– unfortunately, sophomoric humor was also in full schwing! (Amy Schumer, I’m talking to you)

kia-walken-superbowl-ad

Generally well-accepted spots had breakthrough, were straightforward, enjoyable, had product as hero – – and you came away knowing what the brand was
Audi’s Commander, Kraft/Heinz Wiener Stampede, Toyota Prius The Longest Chase, Doritos Ultrasound (I was not a fan), Avocados from Mexico Avocados in Space, Bud Light Bud Light Party, Hyundai Genesis First Date, Hyundai Elantra Ryanville, Amazon Echo Baldwin Bowl Party, Advil Distant Memory

Disliked spots featured unappetizing topics or visuals, human ailments, made no detectable point, or were just stupid
AstraZeneca Opioid-Induced Constipation Envy, Squarespace Real Talk, SoFi Great Loans, Great People, Valeant Jublia Best Kept Secret, LG OLEG TV Man from the Future

PinkIntestine

Mtn Dew Kickstart PuppyMonkeyBaby carried the torch of 2014’s Doberhuahua, quite happy to spew the ridiculous in the craven quest for online buzz
– (by the way, it’s Mtn, not Mountain)

TurboTax_SuperBowl50NeveraSelloutEMBARGOEDFebruary7840pmET16

Some highlights:
– Anthony Hopkins’s perfectly executed tongue-in-cheek “I’m not selling out” pitch for TurboTax
Jeep’s spots (finally) taking advantage of its amazing legacy
Kia’s spot called ‘Walken Closet’ starring Christopher Walken. (Did the pun drive the copy?)

Key Peele

Some lowlights:
LG’s infuriatingly pointless waste of Liam Neeson and Ridley Scott’s talents
Squarespace’s infuriatingly pointless waste of Key & Peele’s talents
– Spots that required you to know the context (T-Mobile/Drake, T-Mobile/Steve Harvey, Hyundai Elantra/Ryan Reynolds)

A few spots had obviously high production values but were virtually ignored by reviewers – which makes one wonder if their $5 million+ was well spent:
Intel Experience Amazing, McDonald’s Good Morning, Bai Horse Whisperer, Pokémon 2.0, Wix.com Kung Fu Panda, Advil Distant Memory, Mobile Strike Fight

Finally, Weather Tech – this is I believe your 3rd Super Bowl ad.  You make a great product in an admirable way.  You are decent, hardworking, earnest people.
But maybe it’s time to step away from the cheese dip and have a beer.

weathertech

Click once or twice on the table below to make it more readable.

SuperBowl2016

Footnotes:
My evaluations are generally based on the Kellogg ADPLAN approachAttention
–Distinction
– Positioning
– Linkage
– Amplification
– Net Equity – – along with some personal gut feel.

Reviewers and links to reviews (if you were involved in any of the reviews and feel I got something wrong, let me know):
Kellogg Graduate School of Business – Northwestern University
Adweek
Ad Age
Chicago Tribune
Entertainment Weekly
New Yorker
Slate
USA Today
Variety
Washington Post
Wall Street Journal
Yahoo Sports

See you next year!

NEWS FLASH: Burger King Learns About Unintended Consequences

Last week Burger King ambushed McDonald’s with full-page ads in the New York Times and Chicago Tribune, suggesting the two chains combine forces with a one-time mash-up burger (the McWhopper), ostensibly to further the cause of World Peace.  McDonald’s CEO adroitly demurred via Facebook, suggesting there may be better ways to save the world.  This was covered by The Armchair MBA recently.

TreeLimb

BK’s goal seemed to be to bootstrap its profile inexpensively by forcing McDonald’s to publicly engage with a smaller competitor.

DennysBurger1

Now Burger King is dealing with smaller competitors trying to do the same thing to it.  Both Denny’s and Wayback Burgers (a 100-unit CT-based chain that features the ‘3 x 3’ —  a 9-patty burger) have reached out to Burger King, suggesting they would be happy to take McDonald’s place.

Wayback3x3

Denny’s took out its own tongue-in-cheek full-page ad in the New York Times, saying in part: “Hey @BurgerKing, We love the idea of a peace burger.  We’re just not sure what to call this thing.  Any ideas?  @DennysDiner

We have never heard of Wayback, and never considered Denny’s for burgers, so this seems like a great opportunistic play on their parts, driving awareness via media momentum initiated by someone else.

As for Burger King, while it hoped to trick the prom queen into a date, it is instead being asked to take its little sister to the movies.