Monday, February 28, 2011

Are You Wasting Your Ad Dollars? (And Why I'm Not Going Back To Pizza Hut)

On February 14th, the missus walked in from work and asked, "What are we doing for dinner?" What with it being Valentine's Day and me knowing she'd had a hard day, I thoughtfully responded, "Well, what special Valentines dinner are you gonna cook for me?" No, she didn't throw anything at me, primarily because she was afraid she might aim for me and hit our son. My beloved wife possesses neither a good aim nor an appreciation for my sense of humor...

Since we celebrate Valentine's Day on any night but February 14th, this night was going to be a "grab dinner out" night. Hence, looking for something affordable and fast that everyone in the family would enjoy, we made the decision to call Pizza Hut and get a $10 pizza. (In the name of full disclosure, I've worked on the Pizza Hut account, done radio voiceovers for them, and even appeared in one of their print ads as a hand model in an ironically titled FSI). Placing the order on the phone was easy and I was told my pizza would be ready in 25-30 minutes. That was the first thing they got wrong.

I arrived at the Hut to pick up our dinner 30 minutes later only to be informed it was still in the oven. No timeline on when it would be ready was given. I was then ignored for 30 minutes with no updates, no apologies, nothing. I was joined in my wait by others who had also been informed their dinner would be ready in 25-30 minutes. Together with my new "friends" in pathetic pizza service, we all giggled every time someone else arrived expecting their pizza to be ready. We shook our heads and muttered when we heard Hut employees tell delivery callers their order would take 90 minutes to two hours to arrive. We watched in disbelief as one woman who'd ordered her pizza online arrived only to find there was no record of her order at all.

Finally, an hour and five minutes after I was told my order would be ready in 25 to 30 minutes, I was handed my pizza and bread sticks (with no apology and no explanation, just an autopilot "Thanks!"). I rushed to the car, eager to get dinner home for my son before he had to go to bed. Once I put the pizza down in the car however, I remembered I'd also ordered a bottle of soda. It took another five minutes to get that and, by the time I finally got home with our sumptuous Pizza Hut dinner (I'm five minutes away from my nearest Hut location), it was lukewarm at best.

So aside from a rant and me venting, what's the lesson in all this? The old adage is that a satisfied customer will tell one person about what they enjoyed about a business, but the dissatisfied customer will tell seven about their bad experience (in the Internet age, one could multiply that by at least a factor of 10). That they failed on so many levels in my experience means I won't be subjecting myself to Pizza Hut again, since they obviously can't deliver on what they promise (at least during peak times). Hence, any further ad dollars they spend to reach someone like me will be wasted.

Now, given Pizza Hut's advertising budget and market footprint, I'm quite aware losing me as customer won't do them a bit of harm. I also understand my local Hut might have been having a bad night. But, as I said above, the total failure on every level tells me that, though their ads may be convincing, they apparently lack the resources to do what they spend millions to say they'll deliver.

Now think about what you advertise and what you promise in your ads and promotional materials. You see and hear plenty of promises in every form of advertising but, what does your message say that makes you stand out from the crowd? Once the customer has acted on your advertising message, look at how you keep the promises you make. Does your product measure up the quality you promise? Do you deliver on your promise (service before, during, and after the sale) with the same level of quality you advertise? Finally can your business afford to not deliver on your promise to any customer?

In my career, I've had several clients state they thought advertising was a waste of money. And, while I've always done my best to show them the value and return-on-investment advertising offers, if you can't deliver on what you promise in your advertising and marketing efforts, you really are wasting your money!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Super Bowl Ad Awards For The Non Poetic, 2011 Edition

Super Bowl XLV (that's 45 for those of you don't speak Roman) is in the books, Jerry Jones has once again demonstrated he's a greedy jackass, and all the ads have been run, enjoyed, lauded, dissed, and dissected. And, while everyone has their opinions of the best and worst, funniest and failures, award winners and money wasters, noteworthy and not worthy, it's time for me to dish out my own recognition that may stray wildly from the standard Super Bowl advertising award fare. They may not recognize the best, but they'll certainly resonate with the folks who watched the game first, the commercials second, and had a beer or two while actually enjoying the whole spectacle of the day. So, without further non-poetry...

The Water Cooler Winner
Though they may not score the highest marks with critics, this is my award for the ad that's going to be talked about or have the catchphrase repeated at the office water cooler Monday morning. As I write this, the confetti's still flying over the field, so I'm going to declare this one a three-way tie between:

The Teleflora spot with Faith Hill,

The Budweiser Wild West spot,

And the Mini Cooper Cram It In The Boot spot:

The Teleflora and Mini Cooper spots made the cut for their memorable spots featuring lines which, I promise, will quickly enter the vernacular this week ("Your rack is unreal" and "Cram It In The Boot!," respectively, if you missed them.). And Budweiser scored with their Wild West spot, for which they'd run preview spots. The follow up, which featured a bad hombre in an Old West saloon breaking into Elton John's Tiny Dancer after tasting his Bud (and climaxing with the whole place in a singalong) was funny and unexpected enough that it will have people talking today.

Honorable Mention
VW: The Force

On most everyone else's list, the VW Darth Vader spot will hold the top spot and I certainly won't argue. However, that VW released the spot in a :60 second format on the web Friday for press buzz (where it was viewed 13 million times before the game) left the :30 second spot they ran during the game lacking a bit. Thus, the mini-Vader misses out on my Water Cooler award...

A For Execution, But... Award
Chrysler Imported From Detroit

Many advertising pundits loved the two minute spot Chrysler bought in the third quarter (bad timing for a spot that took a bit to grab the viewer) and it was a well made ad with a clever tagline. However, my problem with it was the fact that a pretty two minute spot, showing the beauty and blight of Detroit, isn't going to undo ten years of crappy cars. Nor do I expect the presence of Eminem (who allegedly doesn't do commercials, even though he appeared in two this year) to compel the rap-addled masses to start buying Chryslers. And finally, the shiny spot did nothing to alleviate the fact that the Chrysler 200, which was featured in the ad, still looks a bit like a rounded off Chrysler K-Car. (Thanks to Jason Baffrey for the perfect Chrysler comparison!)

The WTF Award
By giving us a claymation version of the heavily accented, street talking of the Black Eyed Peas extolling the virtues of a website that offers a private, social network for companies (ummm, what?), took the award for the ad that left many people scratching their heads as to what in the world they were offering. I've now watched the ad five times and, at least from what I can tell, offers Black Eyed Peas tour dates and little else. That it ran right before half time and was followed with another equally muddled spot right after half time didn't help matters...

Honorable Mention: Adrien Brody "Crooning" For Stella Artois. Someone tell me again, how does this spot establish an image for or even sell beer? And, with InBev's ad budget, the best they could get was Adrien Brody (who, in doing this commercial, shows has far his star had fallen since his Oscar win)?

Worst Use of Monkeys Award
I've often said that you can't go wrong when you use monkeys in a TV spot, especially on Super Bowl Sunday. So imagine my disappointment when who, I dare say, set the standard for monkeys in a Super Bowl spot, brought back the monkeys and had them do nothing but badly park cars. Ultimately, it didn't do much of a job selling and the opportunity for more monkey magic was wasted...

The Thank God For The Internet Award
Another tie here, this time between the NFL American Family spot and the Hyundai Anachronistic City. Both of these spots really grabbed my eye for their use of the past. In the case of the NFL spot, snippets from TV shows past and present were digitally enhanced to portray the characters getting ready for the game in their NFL gear and, in the Hyundai spot, original technology (i.e. brick cell phones, monochrome Pong games) were shown in a modern context to demonstrate what might have happened had we settled for the earliest version of what we take for granted today. In each case, I found myself watching the spot several times to catch all the references.

And finally...

The Please, For The Love Of God, Go Away! Award

Our first repeat winner and, not surprisingly, this one was the easiest for our judging panel (me and the office dog) to decide and, again, I'm not even gonna dignify it with a link: While I was ready to cut them a break when they set up the tease they'd established in years past but then broke out Joan Rivers as their new spokesmodel in the first half, the Wal-Mart of web hosts ultimately had to revert to form and go back to the cheap, tired, "go online and see the too hot for TV content" gimmick that lost its' appeal about five seconds after they first used it several years ago. Once again, the opportunity to take whatever equity they've established and try to burnish their image as more than just a cheap (and lame) web host was wasted going for frothy web hits...

So, there's my take on the roughly 40 minutes of Super Bowl 45 ads based on my likes, dislikes, and my notable lack of skills as a poet. Now...when does the 2011 football season kick off?