Monday, December 31, 2012

Dropping The Ball On Another Year…2012 In Non-Poetry

As the calendar kicks over to 2013, like most people, I'm inclined to take a look back at the previous 365 days. And, as I reflected on some of the advice, rants, and general non-poetry I've troweled out over the last year, I was again deeply grateful for everyone who took the time out of their busy lives to read He's Not A Poet.  And with that in mind, I'd like to review some of 2012's more popular posts as well as one or two you may have missed.

The hardest and least adequate entry I posted this year was my tribute to my Uncle, Ray Ackerman, who passed away in October. He was a hero, icon, friend, and surrogate Father to me, and every day I thank the heavens for the time I got to spend with him.

Next to that one on the popularity scale, lots of people came by to read about B.C. Clark's other holiday tradition and learned why it's such an effective marketing tool.

On the opposite side of the spectrum was the 2012 Super Bowl Ad Awards For The Non-Poetic (or SBAAFTNP if you’re into the whole brevity thing). This year's edition proved more popular than any others I've doled out (three total if you're counting...) and kudos to for winning their unprecedented third consecutive Please, For The Love of God, Go Away Award...

And speaking of the whole brevity thing, my thoughts on what The Big Lebowski can teach you about advertising really tied the room together. Plus, getting a bit of love from the Achievers at LebowskiFest was, on a personal level, a real honor.

He's Not A Poet also did a bit of traveling this year, as we journeyed to Margaritaville and Kansas for some advertising and branding dos and don'ts. And along the way, we pointed out lots of bad advertising on Craigslistbad logos, and just bad copy.

Finally, though professional cycling endured plenty of black eyes in 2012, we produced not one, but two posts that showed what you can learn about advertising from the Tour de France (with or without performance enhancing drugs).

Thank you again for dropping by today, for your readership and encouragement, and for considering Ph Communications for your advertising (and non-poetry) needs. May 2013 bring you all continued health, happiness, and prosperity!

Friday, November 30, 2012

What You Can learn From That Other B.C. Clark Holiday Tradition

If you've lived in central Oklahoma for any length of time, you're no doubt quite familiar with the B.C. Clark's Christmas jingle. However, there's another B.C. Clark Christmas tradition which, while less well known than their jingle, packs every bit the marketing punch. 

When I was a young non-poet, we spent a lot of time at my maternal Grandmother's house (at least what seemed like a lot of time to a little kid). Much of that time was spent sitting at her cool, Art Deco kitchen table watching her make those special breads, cakes, and cookies that Grandmas make. In the corner of Mamaw's breakfast nook there was a little, triangular china hutch with glass doors. I don't recall too much of what was in there, but the thing that always stood out to me was a Christmas plate (like the one pictured to the right), which she had displayed front and center, all year round. I never knew its background, but my impression was it must have been special to Mamaw if she displayed it with such pride.

Fast forward 20 or 25 years to my Mom letting my wife rifle through her china cabinet and what do we see? Not just one, but an entire stack of Christmas plates just like the one my Grandmother had displayed so proudly for so long. In an instant I was flooded with all those warm memories of time spent in Mamaw's kitchen. My Mom told us they came from B.C. Clark and, in an instant, handed them to my Christmas-crazy wife. Right then, a new Christmas dessert plate tradition was born at our house.

When I did did some investigating (and by "investigating", I mean "grilled B.C. Clark Executive Vice President Mitchell Clark with questions"), I discovered that B.C. Clark has given out those Christmas plates as a gift to their customers every year since the mid-60s. The company simply sends out a coupon which customers can redeem for the plate at one of their stores and, as Mitchell put it, "The gift is always well received and creates another bond between us and our customers."

For me, that bond is the plate that takes me back to my Grandmother's kitchen. And, according to Mitchell, many other people appreciate those plates as part of their family's Christmas tradition too.
So what do all of those traditions and memories have in common? That B.C. Clark Christmas plate makes an emotional connection with their customer.

Just as their jingle means "Christmas" to many folks, that simple, traditional little marketing tool of giving away a plate every year makes a connection with their customers deeper than any Facebook Like, banner ad, or direct mail card could ever hope to achieve. Yes, it's likely expensive, but it also brings customers into their stores, raises their public profile, and enhances their brand's image.

What else does an emotional connection do for your marketing? Simple. As Mitchell said, it makes a bond with your customer. It makes a deep impression with your target audience and keeps your name top of mind when they're ready to buy. It helps people identify with your company and they then become ambassadors for your brand. They tell their family and friends. Your brand becomes a part of their life.

For me, that emotional connection that started with my Grandmother will grow even stronger this holiday season, as my wife picked up our first, non-inherited B.C. Clark Christmas plate a couple weeks ago and, as I write this, my seven year old is singing the company's jingle as he plays in the hall outside my office.

What is your marketing doing to make a personal connection with your customers? Are you selling to your audience or engaging with them? Are you focused on building relationships or just building your sales? You don't have to hand out plates to make a connection but, if you can build a bond with your customers, you'll build more than a business. You'll build a solid base of loyal customers and friends...

Many thanks to Mitchell Clark for his assistance with this post and for sharing the story of the B.C. Clark Christmas plate tradition!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Small Words For A Giant Of A Man

(In the name of full disclosure, Ray Ackerman, who passed away this morning at the age of 90, was my Uncle and I've had the pleasure of knowing him all my life. I think he  called me "Tiger" until I was in my late 20s. I'm also pretty sure I was his favorite nephew!~)
As one who makes his living (as it is) with words, it's incredibly frustrating when, while trying to express the love and respect I have for a guy like Ray Ackerman, the best word I can come up with is "big."  But, as I struggled for the right words to honor his mark on this world, I realized that simple, three letter word was the perfect adjective for just about every part of the man's life.

First off, lets start with the obvious; Ray Ackerman was physically big. I believe he told me he went about 6'4" and to a little kid, he looked even taller.  Mix in his Mad Men era wardrobe and/or the all black Western ensembles he wore in the 70s when the agency had the Nocona and Resistol accounts, and the man just towered.

Then there was his huge personality.  If you met Ray Ackerman once, you never had trouble finding him in any room again. His deep voice and distinctive, engaging laugh made him instantly recognizable and immediately unforgettable.

At the same time, his singing voice, though maybe not always on key, was equally as recognizable. When I was a younger non-poet, serving as an altar boy at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, I never had any trouble figuring out if Uncle Ray was in the congregation. And I seldom needed more than the first hymn to find where he was sitting from my spot on the altar.

In my eyes, Ray Ackerman was also the embodiment of The Greatest Generation. My God, did the man lead a big life. Grew up in Pittsburgh, flew for the Navy in World War II, learned how to fly on a Stearman biplane, took off from and landed on aircraft carriers, and ultimately flew jets. (Somewhere in the 50's, when his wingman accidentally cut off his wing, he also ejected from a jet.) Stayed in the Navy Reserve and became a Rear Admiral. Came to Oklahoma City after the war with two suits and his childhood Lionel train set. Met the girl he would marry and raised six kids. Bought a small advertising agency that ultimately turned into one of the largest in the southwest.

Needless to say, Ray wasn't afraid to dream big for his adopted hometown of Oklahoma City. He wrote a book called Tomorrow Belongs To 1964! He was on more civic boards than I can count and would always tell you about what was new in Oklahoma City. He also wasn't shy about giving back, as I'm pretty sure there aren't too many museums or charitable endeavors in OKC that don't have his name on the wall as a contributor.

Ray was the guy who saw what the potential of the North Canadian River though town could be. Coming from Pittsburgh, the city of three rivers, he came to be known as Old Man River and, today, the Oklahoma River is a beehive of activity and shining tribute to his vision.  And, his bigger than life statue sits right next to the sparkling river he always promoted.

Finally, he just lived big. He drove a big car. He and Aunt Lou always had big parties and picnics with family and friends. He had a big family that lived in a huge house by a lake, with one wall that was a gigantic window looking out on the lake. At Christmas time, he would special order an equally big, live Christmas tree to put up in that window (mix in the tinsel, the carpet, and the dry air, and that tree was also always good for a big static shock too). And when he and Aunt Lou moved to a smaller house after all the kids left home, it too had a cathedral ceiling and I always teased that he'd bought that house just so he could continue buying those huge Christmas trees.

On that Christmas tree, he had an ornament that was a blinking movie theater with It's A Wonderful Life on the marquee. And it's the last line of that movie that, when applied to my Uncle, provides a fitting summation of the man…

To Ray Ackerman, the biggest man in town!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Good Advice For Effective Advertising

Recently a couple friends asked for my advice and help in finding a bicycle. Fortunately, though their needs and budgets were different, I was able to give them both the same, hugely important tip. It also meant I started checking the bikes for sale on craigslist and, in doing so, I discovered lots of people don't know squat about how to advertise something!

Now before I get into this, I'll admit I'm jaded and, being both a bike nerd and advertising copywriter, I'm being hypercritical. I also admit that, since most craigslist ads are created by people who don't have advertising experience, I'm swinging at low hanging fruit. However, with all that said, let's make fun of some really poor ads!

Let's start with this one (click on the photos for a larger version):

"Just out of the box. Its brand new. Traveled only 1 block. Call or text..."

OK, there's no description but, if you're looking for this kind of bike, why not let the photo say it all, right? Well, the picture may be worth a thousand words but it also contains one glaring error; the front fork that holds the front wheel is aligned backward (and, in this configuration, the rider would never be able to align the wheel to go straight!). It's easily fixed (you can literally hold the fork between your legs and rotate the handlebars 180°) but, if you don't know bikes very well and just want something to cruise the neighborhood, you may not know that.

Lesson 1: Photos and graphics should project the best possible image of what you're selling.

Then, there's this one:

Not too bad. Decent, informative, honest description. Several photos showing a fair amount of detail. So what's the issue? The headline:

"Red and black road bike"

If you're looking for a red and black bike, then this is a great headline! Otherwise it tells you nothing about the bike for sale other than it's a road bike (that's red and black).

Lesson 2: Your headline should grab your customer's attention and draw them in.

And finally, there's this:

If a picture is indeed worth a thousand words, and this ad contains three pictures, then we have three thousand words that do nothing to describe or sell the bike. What size is it? How old is it? How much has it been ridden? Would it be the right bike for me? These are all small details that someone may want to know, especially before they drop $800 on a bike! All we can ascertain from this ad is that the Cannondale bike is either so hot, so fragile, or so brittle that it has to be handled with heavy duty work gloves (or the bike is stolen and our perp is going to great lengths to not leave any fingerprints...)

Lesson 3: Copy should be used to sell your product or brand. Highlight the features and benefits (the selling points) of a product. Reinforce the promise your brand (or the brand you're selling) makes to the buyer.

So, there you go. Three ads, three easy lessons to remember when advertising your business. For more examples of how not to advertise (like the above), check out craigslist. And, for more advice on advertising that will get your business rolling, check us out at

Notes From The Road

As I'm freshly home from a family vacation that took me across the Kansas (the state, not the band) on our way to Colorado Springs (where we visited a large number of gift shops with tourist attractions attached), I just wanted to share a couple examples of why some people could still use some help with their advertising. (Please bear with me, as I drove on I-70 across Western Kansas and, quite frankly, as abundantly scenic as it is, there's not a whole lot of there there, and my mind did tend to wander a bit)

Let's start with the photo above. Granted, as America's national obesity problem continues to...grow, you're likely to see more signs like this in the future but, for now, this one points out the fine art of perception. Quick! Which term sounds lighter? One pound or 16 ounces? Sure, they're the same but, if you care about what and how much you ingest, what would you rather order? If you said 16 ounces, then congratulations, you have a chance to live beyond the age of 50. And that's why perhaps every restaurant in the world with the exception of Montana Mike's in Hays, KS (including what might be the most famous roadside steak restaurant in the Southwest), sells their entrees based on ounces, not pounds.

Then we have this from Prairie Dog Town in Oakley, KS (this was the second of three consecutive signs plugging Prairie Dog Town):

Let's read those last two lines literally, shall we? "See Live Rattlesnakes Pet The Baby Pigs" You know, we didn't stop (I don't do freak shows at home or on vacation), but I'm thinking just seeing one live rattlesnake pet the baby pigs would have been worth the price of admission. Yes, 99.9% of the people who drive by that sign see those lines as separate entities, but for those of us who are bored out of our minds and look for the absurdity in non-existent punctuation, it's another graphic example of why, sometimes, every business can use a little help with their advertising.

Yes, both the examples of poor writing/advertising are the product of my idle mind but, let them also serve as a lesson that, for even the simplest form of advertising, it always helps to write clearly so that your advertising helps your business put its' best foot forward. And, whether you're in Kansas (the state or the band) or any other state, if you need a little help with your advertising, feel free to drop us a line, and see how Ph Communications can put your business and brand on the road to bigger sales. We might even buy you a steak!

See also, last year's vacation fun, Advertising Isn't Rocket Science

Saturday, July 21, 2012

How Cool Do You Want To Be?

Special Tour de France As Advertising Metaphor Bonus Content!

Behold one Mario Cipollini, known as the Lion King and one of the most dominant sprinters in professional cycling in the 90's (and not to be confused with Mario Cipollina the former bassist for Huey Lewis and the News or Mario Batali, that obnoxious TV chef guy). As a good looking, outspoken, and flamboyant Italian, Cipollini got plenty of TV time and, if you watched the Tour de France during that period, you were pretty much assured of two things:
1. He would win at least one stage during the race, if not more, and be in contention every day, and
2. He would suddenly develop an "allergy" to altitude and drop out of the Tour as soon as the race reached the high mountain stages of the Alps or the Pyreness.

I bring all this up because Mario Cipollini, just by riding in the Tour for the Saeco-Cannondale racing team, made me want a Saeco espresso machine. I'd never seen one, I didn't drink that much espresso, and I'd never even heard of them until Cipollini's dominant run in the Tour. Why did I want one then? To be cool and have that cool association with the Tour de France and Mario Cipollini. Everyone else could have their shiny Krups or Cuisinart machines, but I was gonna be the only guy to be continental enough and worldly enough to own a Saeco. Did I want to pay $350 or more to own such a beautiful machine and be one of the beautiful people? Though I wasn't quite as jaded as I am now, that was a lot of coin for a coffee machine, so my answer was…non, merci (or no, grazie to Cipollini)!

So what have we learned? Well, Saeco did a wonderful job finding the right vehicle (both the cycling team and Mario Cipollini) to promote their brand. Using me as their target audience (then a young, upwardly mobile gadget snob, coffee drinker, and cycling fan), the repeated impressions ultimately caused me to act and find out more about what they offered and then created demand for their product.

Two, there was the public relations triumph, in that the company promoted their brand through sponsorship of a cycling team that participated in the Tour de France. I certainly wanted to be associated with the cool factor of the Tour and thus, people like me developed a favorable opinion of Saeco. And, though I wasn't ready to buy a coffee machine at the time, that favorable opinion has stayed with me every time I've had to make a coffee machine buying decision. (In a related note, I now also hold quite the favorable opinion of my current coffee machine, but that's a blog for another day.)

How does it all apply to you? How cool you want your brand to be is in your hands. How and where you advertise matters. The impressions you make on consumers (both opinion-wise and number of exposures) matter. Know your target audience and use the media that will best put your brand in front of them (If you don't know who your target audience is, then you it's likely you won't be able to reach them). Know where your target demographics associate and make sure your brand associates there too. Promote in a manner that will not only explain the promise your brand offers, but also creates a positive opinion of your company, product, or service.

Think of developing an ad plan to make your brand cool like a bicycling stage race. There are plenty of riders who can win a day here or there, but there may be only one who can make your brand a winner at the end of the race. Pick the right vehicle, know what makes you cool (your universal selling proposition), then pay close attention to where and how you promote your brand and how it's perceived, and you'll be a winner at the finish line.

See also: Keep Your Marketing Momentum Going

Monday, July 16, 2012

Keep Your Marketing Momentum Going

As I write this, the 2012 edition of the  Tour de France is entering the final week of its three week circle around France. That means it's time for my annual non-poetic rambling on the Tour as advertising/marketing metaphor (though I know most of you have them committed to memory and posted on your refrigerator, if you want to catch up on my previous entries, you can see them here: 2011, 2010, and 2009).

If this is your first TDF as advertising non-poetry, my contention is this: The Tour de France was started to sell newspapers and, today, its one big rolling ad for any and every product or service imaginable. Everything has a paid sponsor, from the official timer to the official drink on down to the multiple logos and sponsor names on the riders' jerseys, and the race itself is preceded on each day's route by a Mardi Gras type parade of advertisers and promoters. Hence, it makes a fitting metaphor for illustrating some thoughts on how one can improve their advertising.

Though the Tour de France is a relentless, three week race of over 2,000 miles around France, there is always a rest day or two built in to the Tour schedule. While these days often allow the Tour caravan, personnel, and machinery to relocate to a more distant locale for the next stage, many people are surprised to find out the riders actually ride on their "rest day." Why on earth would they do that? Simply put, given their level of fitness, their bodies are attuned to riding every day and, to keep up their fitness, they need to keep riding, even on their off day. Granted, it's not a really long ride (at least by pro cyclist standards) and it's not at race pace, but the goal is to simply keep their body's physical momentum going forward while at the same time allowing for some rest, recovery, and recharging (and maybe even trimming your sideburns).

Coincidentally, if you're marketing your business, the same principle should apply. That is, you should keep the wheels rolling on your marketing machine to keep your momentum going. While it's easy to drop a bunch of money and make a big splash with TV, radio, direct mail, web ads, or email blast (and yes, even newspaper), ask yourself one question: Will the ads you ran in January still resonate with your customers in July?

If the answer is "no" (and barring an ad featuring a human sacrifice or carnal act, it will be) then you need to make sure you have an annual ad plan that will spread your advertising expenditures over the course of the year to insure your brand stays in front of your customers. You can adjust as you go and plan accordingly based on your sales and the seasons but, just like the Tour riders, the goal is to keep your momentum going so that your advertising (in whatever format) works together to keep your brand at the top of your customer's mind when they're ready to buy.

I said it last year and it applies here too: Think of your marketing like a bicycle. If you stop pedaling a bike, it stops rolling. And if you stop peddling your business, your sales stop rolling. Set up an ad plan and budget, spread out your ad expenditures to keep your name in front of your customers, and keep your marketing momentum rolling throughout the year.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Logo Fail (or You Get What You Pay For!)

Recently, I came across a new retail store that looks pretty neat. Though they describe themselves as, "a lifestyle company that brings you the latest trends in Action Sports and Lifestyle Apparel and Accessories" and they carry such trendy brands as Ugg, Hurley, Oakley, Billabong, Fox Apparel, Sanuk and, apparently, a whole bunch of unlicensed NBA and NCAA apparel, there's one little problem: Their logo sucks!

If they were a dollar store or discount store, that logo would be great. But no, this retailer is selling trendy, high end stuff at what I'm guessing is full retail price. Throw in the fact that these folks are also located in a town of around 30,000, less than an hour from a large city of over 700,000 and Houston, we have a problem.

If a true designer did this logo, he or she should be shot. My feeling is it was created by a "Build your own Logo" website, one of those "designers" you see advertising logos for $5 (and, if so, he or she was wildly overpaid), or someone who has absolutely no business in advertising. Why? Easy! To start, dollar signs are for dollar stores and discounters, not high end, boutique retailers. Not surprisingly, the top comment on their Facebook page right now is, "R U retail or an overstock kind of store?"

Oh, and the cute little NSN thing will only work if they manage to leverage this thing into a cable TV or etail operation (and only then, if the prices are as discount as their logo).

Your logo is the face of your brand. If your brand is the promise you make to your customer of what your business will deliver, your logo has to reflect that. That's why, if you want to build a business and, by extension, a brand, you need to start with the foundation of a solid logo. If your logo doesn't sell your business, your business won't be selling for long either.

See also: Dumb Disclaimer of the Day

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Margaritaville And The Four Ps Of Branding Magic

Jimmy Buffett margaritaville
( First off, let me point out that, no, this post is not coming to you from Margaritaville, nor is it being written with toes in the sand and drink in hand. Instead, know that you're reading original, first rate blog material, fresh from the beehive of activity that is the Home Office of Ph Communications.)

For one week in May of 1977, Jimmy Buffett hit Number One on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart with his song Margaritaville. Though he would have lesser hits on the charts before and after, Margaritaville was Buffett's only number one song. However, instead of becoming what many would call a "One-Hit Wonder," Buffett turned Margaritaville into a multi-billion dollar brand. How? By selling the dream of Margaritaville.

When questioned about the lyrics behind the song, Buffett defined Margaritaville as a state of mind where one can always find a warm beach, blue skies, and a cold drink to help wash your cares and troubles away. And today, millions of people spend millions of dollars each year to have their little piece of the dream Buffett is selling. (DISCLAIMER: In a more innocent, less cynical age, I too once dreamed of living the Jimmy Buffett Margaritaville lifestyle. However, finding out that Buffett was more interested in selling the lifestyle than he was in actually living it was one of the greatest disappointments of my life. See also: Santa Claus, There Isn't A)

Today, everything Jimmy Buffett does is geared to sell the "dream" of Margaritaville. His concerts (often outdoor shows) are setup as beach parties and his music relies heavily on the themes of high times and low tides, beach barbeques, boat drinks, and bar stools. If you want to take a little bit of it home with you, a Buffett concert merchandise stand offers a variety of Margaritaville-themed hat and clothing options (he even has his own line of Margaritaville apparel and footwear). And, if you get hungry or thirsty, there's Margaritaville brand Chips and Salsa, frozen seafood, a Frozen Concoction Maker, Chicken Wings, margarita mix, tequila, and Margaritaville branded LandShark Lager (which sucks, btw). You can enjoy it all while lounging on your very own Margaritaville Outdoor and Beach furniture. And, if you want to find your own Margaritaville, you can visit a Margaritaville Cafe, Margartaville Casino, Margaritaville nightclub, Margaritaville airport lounge, or Margaritaville beach resort hotel. There's also the Radio Margaritaville channel on Sirius/XM satellite radio, which plays Jimmy Buffett's music, concerts, and others artists from the same genre, 24/7/365 and, if you only have a few minutes, there's even a Margaritaville iPad and Facebook online game (though maybe not everyone was excited about that). Oh, and just in case he doesn't have enough money, his greatest hits album is among the Top 200 selling albums of all time and his Margaritaville inspired books have sold millions of copies!

Now, with all that in mind, think about your company and your brand and ask yourself how you cover the four Ps of branding:

• Promise If a brand is defined by the promises a company or organization makes to its audiences, what promises or dream does your brand offer your customers? Jimmy Buffett sells the dream of Margaritaville. Identify what makes your brand special and make sure everything you do is focused on selling that dream and fulfilling that promise.

• Position Does your brand make you stand out from your competition? What makes your brand unique? Though many have tried to glom on to Buffett's sound and style (Garth Brooks, Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson, et al) no one has been able to top the dream of Margaritaville (or write a song half as enduring). How do you position your brand in your marketplace? What makes you stand out from the crowd? What do your goods or services offer that the other guys don't. The key to successful branding is to not only know those differences but to also know how capitalize on them.

• Promote How consistent is your marketing in promoting your brand? Through his music, his concerts, and every bit of branded merchandise he sells, Buffett reinforces his brand, the dream of Margaritaville. How does your marketing and advertising fare in comparison? Make sure every marketing message you put out, be it radio, TV, direct mail, print, email, blog entry, tweet, or Facebook post works together to promote your brand.

• Patience The Margaritaville brand and all its' extensions didn't happen overnight. Just as Jimmy Buffett continues to tour and sell his brand, branding your product or business doesn't have a finish line. Establishing your brand is one thing, but it takes work, and an ongoing, concerted effort to build on your brand equity as your customers evolve.

You don't need a hit song to build a successful brand. Instead, just remember the Four Ps of Branding. And if you think you need help building your brand, just call the fifth P...Ph Communications, and let's talk about it over a margarita!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Absolutely Brilliant!

Thanks to the Copyranter blog, I was alerted to this wonderfully brilliant St. Patty's Day spot for Guinness. At over two minutes, it's way too long for the American attention span and, as it was produced for the UK market, it derives it's humor from actual creative writing rather than the moronic slapstick most US beer advertisers employ. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Overly Alarmist Ad of the Day

On this "Super Tuesday" you gotta love a political action committee that simplifies the issues for us. From the pro-Gingrich Super PAC Winning Our Future we get this very simple takeaway: forget cancer, global warming, nuclear attack, natural disaster, or the Plague...Vote For Newt or Die!

See also Bad Outdoor Boards

Monday, February 20, 2012

Dumb Disclaimer Of The Day

I received this in an email offering a week or two ago and, after reading the poorly written copy and offer, I was shocked, SHOCKED, to see the disclaimer warning me that a product called "Goldenberg's Peanut Chews" contains…peanuts!

I understand ours is a litigious society and that there are people who have peanut allergies but, is America really this stupid? Even in a world with artificial everything, we actually have to be warned in the ad copy that something called a Peanut Chew (and uses the word "Peanut" seven times in the (bad) sales copy and image) actually contains peanuts? On this President's day, I've never been more proud of what our forefathers helped build…

Monday, February 6, 2012

Your 2012 Super Bowl Ad Awards For The Non-Poetic!

Welcome to the 2012 Super Bowl Ad Awards For The Non-Poetic! Super Bowl XLVI is in the books, the New York media is breathlessly trying to turn Eli Manning into the second coming of Tim Tebow, and it's time to reveal our judging panel's (me and Office Dog) favorites from this year's crop of Super Bowl ads. Note that while everyone has their opinions of the best and worst, funniest and failures, award winners and money wasters, noteworthy and not worthy, our honors may stray wildly from the standard Super Bowl advertising award fare. Our goal is to recognize the ads that stuck, the ads that sucked, and the ads resonated with the guy or gal who watched the game first, the commercials second, and had a beer or two while actually enjoying the entire show (from the viewpoint of an advertising guy who worked Super Bowl promotions in bars for 15 years). So, without further non-poetry…

Best Spot Seen Only By Canadians Eh, Award
Canadians love their hockey (as does your faithful Non-Poet), so it's perfectly natural that Budweiser Canada's Super Bowl spot glorifies hockey, not football. If you're unfamiliar with the concept, adults who aren't professionals but still want to play hockey play in "recreational leagues," "rec leagues," or as they're most commonly known, "beer leagues," in that you're only playing for the love of the game and the beers with the guys afterwards. To my hockey loving eye, though predictable, a little heavy handed, and borderline cliché, this ad still sells the joy of spending time with friends and a couple beers far more than Clydesdales or babes in bikinis and ranks up there as one of the top ten beer ads I've ever seen. That I didn't see it in an edited form during the game today (like all the others previewed on YouTube before the game) only made me appreciate the full spot more (though it still didn't make me want to actually drink a Budweiser). h/t Greg Wyshinski/Puck Daddy



The Office Dog Honors Award
VW Dog Strikes Back

It seems dogs are the new monkeys in Super Bowl advertising and the many canine appearances in this year's ads (I think I counted at least six) had Office Dog foaming at the mouth (it was either that or the queso dip he got into in the 3rd quarter). So, at his insistence, this award recognizes the Volkswagen Dog Strikes Back ad as the best Super Bowl spot with a dog or dogs. And, while there were plenty of dogs to choose from this year, I'm thinking Office Dog was swayed by the teaser that VW put online about two weeks before the Super Bowl...

Honorable Mention
Skechers, Go Run



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

I really liked this spot but had several problems with it. I thought it tried just a little too hard, as it was in many ways a rehash of last year's spot and I thought it sold "America" far more than it sold Chryslers. Obviously it failed in my eyes to make the connection between Detroit, Chrysler, and America. Now, had they gotten Clint Eastwood for last year's spot instead of Eminem, we might not be having this conversation today...



The WTF Award
MetLife I Can Do This

Here's another one where I really like the spot but, in this case, I'm not sure how it's gonna sell life insurance. Given the cartoon overload, it would be a candidate for a Thank God For The Internet Award, so one could try to catch all the cartoon characters but, otherwise this spot was far more nostalgic than notable. And what the hell was Daphne doing getting out of a limo when Scooby, Shaggy, and the Mystery Machine had already arrived on the scene?

The Hell Yeah! Award
Audi Vampire Party

This is the one that scored big with every man who's seen his wife sucked into the 14-year old girl vampire lit/TV show/movie trend. Honestly, what man in the above category (including your faithful Non-Poet) didn't say "Hell yeah!" seeing all the vampires vaporized? I don't think it will sell Audis (especially since very few people buy a car for its headlights) and the fact that it ran in the first quarter meant it was lost in the shuffle however, it certainly got the attention of the gals and ultimately scored with the guys. The soundtrack by Echo and The Bunnymen and the hashtag at the end were nice touches too.



Please, For The Love of God, Go Away Award
We have our first three-time winner! Congrats go once again to for airing sleazy, condescendingly sexist spots that use titillating imagery and the lure of x-rated content on the web in the name of selling web hosting. You'd think after a year of generally bad publicity, a flip-flop on supporting the controversial SOPA legislation and record numbers of lost domains, the Wal-Mart of web hosts might actually try a new approach. But no, they continued down the same tired path that grew stale within seconds after it's first use several years ago with not one, but two spots in SB 46. And for that, becomes the first three-time Super Bowl Ad Award For The Non-Poetic winner...

The I Love Football Award
NFL Timeline

Plain and simple, I just loved this spot. Granted, I love football so this was an easy sell, but this spot was beautifully done and it definitely scored with everyone who appreciates the game like I do...

And finally...



The Water Cooler Winner

While I don't think this is the strongest concept to sell a car, I have to admit, this is the ad people will most likely be talking about at the water cooler on Monday morning. The fact that Ferris Beuller's Day Off was/is such a touchstone movie for so many people tells me that, for whatever faults the spot may have, it resonated with enough people who hold the movie dear to generate plenty of talk and buzz well beyond the Super Bowl. That it was released online in extended form prior to the game may mute some of that buzz, but I'm sticking with my gut reaction...

Honorable Mention
Doritos, Sling Baby


So, there ya take on the the ads from Super Bowl 46. Some good, some bad, some creative, some cliché. Feel free to leave your thoughts, picks, pans, favorites and failures in the comments. And, until then, when does the 2012 football season start?

Monday, January 30, 2012

And The Most Important Keyword For Your Business Is...

Quick, name the song title by the classic rock group Foreigner that should apply to almost every ad campaign! Answer after the jump...

Two things happened recently that reminded me to commit this post to blog. The first was Dr. Pepper Snapple's purchase and subsequent closing of their Dublin, TX distributorship. The Dublin version of Dr. Pepper was still made via the original recipe using cane sugar (not high fructose corn syrup) as the sweetener and, though the parent company said the cane sugar version would still be available, the end of the Dublin produced Dr. Pepper (specially labelled with "Dublin") sent its' devotees on a buying frenzy to snap up what they could before it was all gone.

The other thing I thought worthy of mention was McDonald's marketing of their McRib sandwich. Their recent social media McMeltdown aside, McDonald's always manages to create a frenzy for their disgusting slab of pork bits and God knows what else shaped into patty resembling a side of ribs, slathered in sauce, topped with pickles and onions, and slapped between a bun. How? They serve it only for limited time and those folks who actually hate themselves enough to actually ingest one or more McRib sandwiches scramble to get as many as they can during the limited run. In fact, there are actually networks and websites devoted to locating McDonald's outlets serving the McRib. That McDonald's is marketing savvy enough to limit serving the McRib to roughly once a year (no doubt in hopes people will forget how truly awful it really is in the interim) is sheer marketing genius.

So what do these two events have in common with a song from Foreigner?

Urgency! Though one was user created and one marketer created, both these examples show what urgency can do for your marketing. It's the little trick that can compel consumers to act on your advertising. Think about it. How many times have you jumped when you've heard the words "Limited Time Offer," "Quantities are Limited," or "Sale Ends On..."? If those words have ever compelled you to shop somewhere or buy an item you hadn't planned on purchasing, then you've experienced the power of urgency in marketing.

Granted, adding urgency doesn't apply to every advertising application but, if you've got something to sell at a specific price point, limited quantity or time period, then be sure there's urgency in your advertising and call to action. It can be as simple as any of the phrases above or as complex as spelling it out in the fine print. No matter how you do it, make sure your customers know now is the time to buy what you're selling.

In summary, I'll leave you with two takeaways. If you want your advertising, be it print, direct mail, TV, radio or online, to generate immediate action, remember the words of Foreigner and make it urgent. And, before you enjoy a delightful McRib sandwich, be sure to make note of the nearest urgent care clinic...

And The Incomparably Bad Headline Of The Day Award Goes To...


Sheets is also endorsed by LeBron James, which pretty much screams "class" in advertising. Beyond that, I have no words...

UPDATE: There are also TV spots that are every bit as sheety as the shelter signage. And, no shock here, they were apparently written and produced by LeBron James himself! Don't quit your day job LeBron...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

What The big Lebowski Can Teach You About Advertising

If you've seen The Big Lebowski, you're likely well-versed in the Coen brothers' tale of Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski, his rug, a case of mistaken identity, kidnapping, embezzlement, White Russians, bowling, and what have you. Oh, and some Creedence tapes. If you haven't seen it (obviously, you're not a golfer NSFW), you should buy, rent, download, stream, or bootleg it immediately! Then go to the definitive Lebowski website, Lebowskifest, buy the book, I'm A Lebowski, You're A Lebowski and find out more about everyone in the movie, including bowlers, achievers, pornographers, pederasts, pacifists, nihilists, Fascists, nymphos, a stranger, a car thief, a brother shamus, and Knox Harrington (the video artist).

The book also highlights the people, stories, and events that were ultimately merged by the Coen brothers to really tie the script together for The Big Lebowski. That included a guy who goes by the nickname "The Dude", a notable rug (that really tied the room together), a Vietnam vet friend turned private eye and security consultant, and a professor who confronted the teen he believed had stolen his car. In other words, a lotta ins, a lotta of outs, and a lotta strands in the Coen brothers' heads came together to create The Big Lebowski.

So how does all this apply to advertising? I'll tell you what I'm blathering about:

I'm the Dude, so that's what you call me. Though the character of The Dude was based on a real guy, that was only a part of the movie. And the same should go for your advertising. There can be one predominant element, be it Twitter, Facebook, a blog, banner ads, email, radio, direct mail, TV or print, but it shouldn't be the only media you use to advertise your business. Relying on only one media can help you build business, but it won't allow you to grow your business. Repeating the same message to the same audience means you'll get tuned out. In the digital age, the consumer sees and hears more "noise" than ever, so your message might have difficulty getting through on only one channel. Spread your message across the spectrum to insure your advertising reaches both existing and new customers. This will also help insure you're top of mind when your customer is ready to act.

...From Moses to Sandy Koufax. Just as the Coen brothers went into production with a cohesive script that tied together all the diverse elements that influenced the story, make sure you have a solid, 12 month ad plan to serve as your guide throughout the year. Though it may appear that way to some viewers, The Big Lebowski wasn't made up as they went along. Setting a goal in January to tweet more and post more to Facebook isn't an ad plan. Take the time to put together a marketing plan for the next 12 months now. Consider every media option, be it TV, radio, direct mail, email, blogging, banner ads, and yes, even print.  Edit as needed, but stick to the plan.

If you will it, Dude, it is no dream. The Big Lebowski was hardly a hit at the box office, but it became a huge cult success when it was released to home video. When it comes to your advertising plan, don't expect immediate success. A 12 month ad plan should be designed to build and maintain your success over the course of the year. The traditional view was that it took seven impressions for one to act on an advertiser's message. In the digital age, that number is likely higher. Take the time to make impressions. Impressions build trust. Impressions help overcome objections. Impressions help encourage sampling. All of that takes time. Keep on message and focus on the big picture all year long.

• Your roll, man. The script for The Big Lebowski, and the people and events that inspired it, didn't just occur to the Coen Brothers overnight.  It was built over time and edited as they went along. After they filmed it, there were even more scenes left on the cutting room floor. Do the same with your advertising plan. Develop a budget that will spread your message across several channels throughout the year. Track your results. Stick with what works consistently over the course of the year and edit out what doesn't.

Were you listening to the Dude's story?  Creating a yearly ad plan for your business doesn't have to be a Hollywood production. Simply take the time to put together a comprehensive, multi-pronged plan that will really tie things together, budget for the expenditures, and then put it to work for your business. It might not make you star, but it will help your business do some big box office. And that would be far out...