Apples, Oranges and Natural Disasters (the case of Liberty Mutual)

Hello again,

I simply must share this ad with you. I would love to hear your opinion, so maybe I can stop yelling at the TV when this ad comes on. “Why?” you ask. Because I am enraged! How can Liberty Mutual even compare hurricane and fire disasters to car accidents? If this is not a slap in the face of the victims of natural disasters, I don’t really know what it is. Maybe covering the auto, home and life insurance offerings in one ad is just too ambitious.

What’s even worse is that Liberty Mutual tries to make the ad relevant to Sochi 2014 by adding a couple of bad falls and Olympic disappointments to the mix. How can my blood not boil? Call me dramatic (I’m Italian after all), but if I were a victim of a natural disaster, I would at least consider suing Liberty Mutual for emotional distress. Well, suing may be a bit much, but don’t you agree that Liberty Mutual is comparing apples to oranges here?

I did appreciate the “take two” version of its Sochi 2014 ad.

This version only focuses on athletes’ #rise to the top despite the initial setbacks. I’d argue that it’s quite hard to link this ad to an insurance company (an energy drinks, perhaps?), but I get the pressure to fit in the Olympics buzz.

So, what do you think? Is my blood boiling for the right reasons, or should I just chill out?

once more, I look forward to reading your thoughts!

Thanks,

Novi

Chobani VS Sochi: It’s Cold War II 

Hi there,

As the Winter Olympics are on, I want to talk about the Chobani’s #howmatters campaign. I find it quite simple, yet powerful. Its strength is in the flipped brand-athletes relationship. So many other brands sponsor the athletes or their teams, but don’t you agree that it’s easier to emotionally connect with people when an individual athlete sponsors the brand? Even the “U.S.A, U.S.A” chanting in the background evokes patriotism and pride. I’m not even American and still felt inspired. They must have gotten this right! Right?

Now, I don’t eat yogurt. The Chobani ad isn’t going to make me change my mind. Nor would I put this campaign in the list of my top 10 best ads ever. I only talk about this ad because of the media buzz. At first Chobani is banned from Sochi 2014, and  the war begins. The conflict is short lived, though, as Chobani surrenders and donates the controversial yogurt to people in need. Seriously?!

I also had to search the “how matters” hash tag. I did not understand what the heck it meant, nor why it was associated with this campaign. However, I will attribute this ignorance to my (hopefully temporary) lack of time for either TV or grocery shopping. Or should I reconsider the ad altogether?

As always, I look forward to your comments.

Thanks,

Novi

Stop the Train, I Ain’t Going to School!

I want to first apologize for the long wait. No excuses this time, I’ll just make it up to you by writing a post you’ll hopefully find interesting and somehow different.

I had this idea one day as I was riding the T (A.K.A. subway). I was lost in my thoughts as always, but as my eyes briefly wandered over the fist advertisement I’ll talk about, I had to go back to it and actually read it. So I snapped a picture of this, umm, interesting advertisement and decided to find a couple more on the T worth talking about. Needless to say, I found only two that sparked my attention: both are trying to push the reader to make a similar decision, but the message chosen is completely different. The quality of the pictures might not be the best due to the fact that I used my iPhone while pushing people out of my way to get to my target. But let’s get into it.

Let’s first talk about the positioning of this ad on the train: it was at eye sight if seated (or even standing if you are as tall as I am) and quite big, not on the top of the T near the roof, but on one of the side panels of the green line. So far no major problems. The positioning is great and people can actually read it without much effort if they are seated across from or standing in its proximity. But let’s go back to what I said at the beginning: my eyes were just wondering around, not really focusing on anything in particular. Most people where listening to music, and others were reading their kindles. The only reason I looked at it more closely is because I’m an “advertising freak” who loves to find what’s right and what’s wrong in an ad: had I been an half asleep teenager (whom I think is this ad targets) listening to my music either unwillingly going to school or finally going back home after an “awful day at stupid school”, I would have just read the “Don’t Go to College” top line and said: “Darn right I’m not going to college. I’ll take a year off after I’m finally over with this useless high school and go somewhere cool like that girl in the picture did!” And I would have probably started listing the places I could visit, or the things I could have done without the burden of school and homework. Or I would have just gone back to listening to my music feeling better about not going to college. Definitely not what the New England School of Business really intended.

So here’s the question: why in the world would you write “Don’t Go to College” in such a big font while “We’ll Come to You” is awkwardly placed in the girl’s laptop and barely noticeable? Plus, don’t universities usually add a stack of information cards to their T ads? People can take one of these cards, mail it in and get an information kit back. Moreover, the website and other information are too small to even be seen in the picture which was taken very closely. Bad, very bad: confusing message and hard to remember contact information, I’d fire the agency that put this ad together (but reader, if you happen to work for this agency, or if you like this ad, please leave a comment to start a conversation on why you think this ad works or not).

I also noticed once again the ad that got me to apply for the part-time MBA (PEMBA) at Boston University. As a BU student, I might be a bit biased, so please send as many comments as you can possibly think of to point out flaws I might be missing (and sorry for the very shiny and crooked picture.)

Last year this ad was slightly different since BU evening MBA had been voted #1 program in Boston by Business Week, and this award was stated at the top of left of the ad if I remember correctly. This year the ad is exactly the same but it doesn’t mention Business week. Instead, it asks you to find out why the PEMBA is the #1 in Boston. This second version may not pack the punch of the previous year’s version without the business week name, but the message remains powerful: do you want to attend the best program? Then you have to choose us. It’s a pretty authoritative message, and it doesn’t just say “trust us on this”, but it asks the reader to find out why they are making this claim (I love when ads call the reader for an action, I find them more effective.) Let’s pretend I’m not a PEMBA student for a second, and since I am quite a skeptical person, I’d definitely check the website out to see if this claim were true or nothing but baloney! Turns out this is how they got me. I did not want to compromise the quality of my education just because I could not stop working full time, and in a sentence they told me just that: you can keep your job and attend the best program in Boston. Sometimes you really can have it all! So I did check the website and went to an information session and even attended a couple of classes… and I applied!

If I have to be picky, The BU logo could be bigger, (this ad is not on the T but on the T track so quite far from the readers), but the use of red (BU’s color), might be good enough for Bostonians who very likely know the university colors due to their football team. I find it very easy to understand why BU kept this claim even without the Business week back up: it’s short, to the point, and it works. There are so many good evening programs in Boston, but BU is bold enough to say it is the number 1!

Now the ball is in your court, feed me your thoughts and let’s exchange ideas.

Ciao

Novi

Say What?

Hello readers,

I want to start this post by saying that my spare time is nonexistent since I started my MBA: school, work, homework, keep up with my blog, sleep sometime… I just don’t ever get a chance to sit down and watch TV or read a magazine. And that’s why the ads I talk about are quite old (to say the least!) To get to the point, I really need your help: I’d love for you to suggest some ads I can check out on youtube and start a conversation from there!

This said, here’s a print ad I want to show:

This ad dates to 2010. Back then Equinox was a growing chain of gyms (not too famous yet, I would say) competing against high-end gyms like Sports Club LA. The question here is: can you tell that this ad is talking about a gym? My answer is NO WAY, JOSE! Unless you know the brand (the logo is positioned in the left corner, and it’s particularly small and easy to miss), you can very likely think that this ad advertises plastic surgery or whatever else comes to your mind when you see semi naked bodies with a “happily ever” promise… I give you permission to go wild with your imagination, I won’t tell.

I did a case study at Harvard Extension School on this ad: my teammates, Erin and Talayeh, and I had to come up with a better ad for Equinox. Best school project ever!

The main focus was to find a compelling promise to build our ad around. First step: find out everything possible about Equinox. While going through its website, I noticed that Equinox had a proprietary online software called MYEQ that allowed members to track workout history, see improvements and set new goals. MYEQ, together with 9 other possible competitive promises we found compelling enough, was part of a questionnaire that we created and presented to 50 randomly chosen people that fit the target market we thought best described Equinox’s.

MYEQ was chosen as most likely motivator for respondents to join Equinox by over 80% of the sample…  We had our Promise: a more effective workout and better results backed by software that made these very generic statements a differentiating reality.
From the questionnaire we also found out that the target wanted the ad to be clean, —simple, —trendy, modern and high-tech.

We agreed that the logo needed to be highlighted, so we placed it in the top right corner and made it bigger (same goes for the awesome tag line “it’s not fitness, it’s life” that was barely visible in the original ad.) We wanted to make sure that people knew that MYEQ was easy to use, smart, and highly accessible (it was even available for people’s BlackBerries and iPhones… wow,  I guess this ad is really old, the iPhone is in the back behind a BlackBerry!) And lastly, we added Equinox’s contact information. I mean, seriously, not only could you not decipher what the original ad was saying, but it wasn’t even driving the audience to the website or 1-800 number.  If you ask me, that was a waste of money. And what’s worse it was just one of many ads of that kind… and the strategy hasn’t changed with time. I do not believe that Equinox gained any market share thanks to their ad campaign. If they did, it must have been through world-of-mouth because they are a chain of beautiful, clean and trendy gyms.

But (drumroll) here’s the ad my team came up with:

And here are my questions to you: how do you think our ad stacks up to the original? What would you have done differently? I look forward to a good discussion!

Until next time,

Novi

Car Ads: Hamsters to the Rescue

I have to set the matter straight from the beginning: I not only think that car commercials are among the most boring ads on TV, I also don’t believe car brands are willing to do anything different for fear of losing market share. And so the story goes on and on, with the same commercials repeated over and over.

As an example, let’s very briefly take a look at the heavy duty trucks approach: how many dang ways are there to show that these trucks can haul or bear very heavy loads? Congrats to those who come up with a new item to carry or drop on a truck each time, but enough already! I got the point…a million ads ago!

One day, though, back when I actually had the time to watch TV, one commercial made me say “Wow! This is different.. I kinda like it!” It was maybe 2010, and the Kia Soul was just coming out with its hamster series ads.

The first one was catchy, maybe a bit quirky. It showed a bunch of little hamsters running on wheels trying futilely to go to work. I had two hamsters myself. I don’t remember their names, but what I do remember is that those little animals LOVE running on that darn wheel. In the ad, as soon as the fire red Kia Soul passes by, their jaws drop. And when the window rolls down, you see the hamsters inside, and they are COOL! Listening to cool music on their iPod (back then I don’t think many cars in that category had that feature already installed, but the consumers definitely wanted it,) and they are loving it: bobbing their heads to the music, tapping their little paws, and actually “speeding” on their way to work (and finding a parking spot easily.) The tag line “Soul. A new way to roll” connects perfectly with the music and visual vibe in the ad. It made me laugh.  I really took a liking to those hamsters and, I’ll admit it, would bob my head with them smiling at their undeniable charisma.

But then it got even better.. the commercial that really got me to love this series is the one that uses Black Sheep’s “The Choice is Yours”:

First of all let’s talk about the choice of music: Black Sheep. Who wants to be just a boring sheep who follows the flock? I don’t. I want to differentiate myself from the crowd, be the black sheep, be unique and cool, be seen and admired when I drive down the streets. This is the car that will make me stand out.  I feel like I must have the car (and all I need to do is find the money.)

Secondly, the car is no longer the main subject of the commercial (WOW, this is new!): the hamsters, dressed like hip-hop artists, are. And the ad itself is directed like a rap video (if you like rap, you know that rappers always show extremely expensive and impressive cars in their videos — still don’t really get why!) These hamsters, who I want to emulate because they’re so cool, are giving you a choice: pick any other car (shaped like a toaster or cardboard box) and be a loser, or pick Kia Soul and be as cool as they are — after all the choice is yours!

A few other ads in the series were produced, but I still believe that this ad was their best. It all fell into place: the development of a character (that rapping hamsters) that endorse the car, references to competitors’ uninspiring cars, and the choice of a song that strongly suggest that not choosing the Kia Soul makes you uncool. I stand up and applaud Kia’s bold move.

As always, this is what I think, but I really want to hear your thoughts on this.  Do you have any car ads that you’d like to discuss?

Next time I’ll look at a certain print ad that has gotten my attention.  I’m looking forward to it.

Thanks for reading my post.

Ciao

Novi

P&G: Shot Through the Heart and You’re to Blame

I spent my years in college hearing nothing but praises for Procter and Gamble:  their excellent branding strategy and their right-to-the-target advertising campaigns (or their choices of the best ad agencies, I guess). It’s pretty easy to understand why my dream was to eventually work for P&G. But dreams don’t always come true, not right away at least, so I ended up doing PR, event planning, and social media for a beauty salon. But this is not the story.

I recently read an article online that was talking about how for years P&G used “dumb creativity” and repeated ads to win their target, and how only with their Olympics campaign they finally broke that spell (www.brightorangeadv.com/2012/07/pgs-olympics-ad-campaign-could-destroy-its-reputation). That’s not what they thought me in college! And, regardless, I have to disagree.

I think that P&G recent advertising strategy (even before the Olympics) has been focused on taking advantage of emotions to bond with their target (at least for some of their brands.) I might agree that a good percentage of their ads in general is not the epitome of creativity, but can’t we argue that focusing on that emotional connection is different from what most of the competition is doing? And if so, isn’t that creative? I believe so, Your Honor! To me, it’s not only creative:  it’s smart. Win their hearts, win their wallets.

For example, let’s talk about batteries: how can you make a battery evoke emotions in your target? How can something you don’t even think about until your remote control dies (and you have to leave the couch to flick through channels) speak to the heart of a buyer? Well, Duracell has been doing it over and over! While the competition has tried for years to say that they are the best because they last longer (A.K.A. the Energizer’s bunny campaign — I’m a little sick of that pink bunny, by the way), Duracell has played the cupid of the industry — and that way has kept the market leadership. And just to set the matter straight, that annoying pink bunny (that, as some of you might remember is nothing but a copycat first invented by Duracell itself) is even telling a (slight) lie if you believe the tests done by this website: www.zbattery.com/batteryinfo.html.

Let me talk about one particular campaign in the Duracell series that struck me. We will never forget September 11th, we will forever mourn those who perished, and forever honor the heroes who tried to save as many lives as they could: the firefighters. P&G might have not had the intention of using that image in their commercial, nor there’s any reference to the event (although I doubt it’s a coincidence), but, about 2 years ago, they came out with an ad showing firefighters at work. I’m sure many Americans thought of the Twin Towers when they saw this ad playing on TV. Here’s the ad:

http://youtu.be/Gj_Ap5LmRMs

In this commercial they transformed a battery into a hero itself that, at the last minute, saves the life of those who we consider heroes. Why would you buy a battery sponsored by a pink bunny who just keeps on going clapping its cymbals, while you can buy a battery that’s a hero? Your remote will be a like superman (ok, I’m being a bit sarcastic here!) Obviously “de gustibus non disputandum est” (I had to use this quote after5 years spent studying Latin in high school. And since we are at it, if you look it up online, you’ll see the verb “est” in the wrong place since in Latin the verb always goes at the end of the sentence (show off, I know.) I’m sure there are still people who prefer Energizer (or very likely just pick the first batteries they find and they happen to be Energizer), but if you ask me, and this is my blog after all, the first brand that comes to my mind is Duracell. Not only I make sure to but Duracell and Duracell only (loyal to the bone), I even have trouble to remember the name “Energizer” — I have to pause for a second and think really hard about it (maybe not after this post!)

But the Duracell campaign is full of other emotion filled ads. They found what works and rolled with it. They found their “strike through the heart” campaign (yes, you got me, I love Bon Jovi) and just kept on looking for more emotional situation to engage the consumers with.

But, moving on, what I really want to talk about is the Olympics “Proud sponsor of moms” campaign. After all every body is talking about it. And I do agree with the article I mentioned at the beginning: they simply nailed it!

http://youtu.be/0ruHOaHrGnQ

Let me first say that every time I see this ad I tear up, even writing about it makes me all emotional. Yes, I’m a huge sucker for commercials — I’m their best target, and they totally get me all the time.

But let’s go back to P&G strategy. This ad reminds me of a hunter chasing the biggest deer in the forest aiming at its heart and going for the kill. Yes, it’s a bit of a violent comparison, I know, but let’s face it, mom’s heart  was P&G bull’s eye, and they totally hit it straight in the center.

First of all, they sponsor moms! Not the Olympics (like everyone else was doing), not the athletes (the subject of oh so many ads), but moms: their number one target. This alone is genial (of course my humble opinion): they not only spoke directly to their audience, but they also succeeded in differentiating themselves from the sea of commercials going on during the games.

Second of all, they are suggesting that the real reason why these athletes win is because their moms were there to wake them up, prepare breakfast, and support them (while doing all the other chores that require P&G products!) all the way through the big day. These moms are the real winners. Even the athletes know that, and their first glance and thank you goes to the tearing up moms. How can you not win a mother’s heart this way? Finally being recognized for all the hard work is just what every woman needs and deserves, even if their kids never did or will participate in the Olympics.

And then, as another piece of “here’s how it’s done!”, they throw in there some of their most recognized brands, just so that moms know for sure who this P&G actually is (they have so many brands under their umbrella that people might not know it.) If I were a mom, no doubt that the next time I have to buy something at the store, I’d check to see if P&G made it. I mean, they sponsor me and my effort, so I should reciprocate their love, right?

You might argue that I chose two easy examples. I give two more, and I’ll let you be the judge.

http://youtu.be/NSltrjwZmy4

http://youtu.be/MuXyhvtnMrE

I just want to say one thing about this last ad: so many cleaning products tell us that we’ll get the job done faster and have more spare time, but the fact that she is able to spend that saved time on the porch with her son is pretty clever (more time to be with your loved ones.)

Unfortunately though, after re-watching the commercials for most of the other P&G brands in search for other examples, I have to agree with the already mentioned article: there isn’t much of interest to talk about (just imagine a sad face here.) Maybe some humor here and there, http://youtu.be/X2cs8gnb42A, but nothing more than that.

But my point stands: P&G discovered the alchemist’s formula, and I hope they keep on bringing their targets on this emotional trip. So bring it on P&G, my tissue box is ready to be used!

As always, I’ll be looking forward to your comments.

Ciao,

Novi

PS: Next topic: Car ads: Hamsters to the Rescue. Stay tuned.

Hi, nice to meet you!

Hello World!

Here I am, straight from Italy (straight from the boat, I should say!) trying to live the American Dream! I have a passion for advertising, fashion, and rock climbing. But these are just three of my many interests, and, as you can tell, they are very eclectic! Don’t worry, though, I’m not going to bore you with a long list — I want your attention, not to make you fall asleep! If you care to know what the other interests are, just ask.

Right now I’m getting my MBA at Boston University while working full time.. man, it’s tough! But it’s so worth it.

My goal for this blog is to share my opinions on the advertising world (from an outsider perspective) to try starting a discussion and, hopefully, learn from insiders!

Lastly, you might be wondering why I put the “Welcome to Las Vegas” picture as my header. Well, Las Vegas is the land of “big, loud, and romanced” (not a quote, just my words!). I love advertising, but I leave you with this question: “Isn’t advertising a bit like Vegas?”

Ciao,

Novi