Why I usually like Bob Garfield

excerpt from his final AdReview column in Advertising Age:

On the other hand, I harbor no regrets whatsoever for eviscerating the most repugnant advertisers of my tenure: Benetton, for ostentatiously exploiting disease, war, religion and the victims of social injustice to push pricey mix ‘n’ match separates; Calvin Klein, arsonist, for using increasingly aggressive sexual images to ignite outrage, knowing that the media engines and ladders would inevitably race to the scene; GoDaddy, for trafficking in the most puerile and degrading T&A; Swiftboat Veterans for Truth, for smears of the ugliest kind (2004); Camel and Kool (1991), the lowest of the tobacco-marketing low, for using cartoon characters to cultivate children; Nintendo (1994), for telling adolescents to “hock a loogie at life”; and General Motors, for 1) jumping on the gruesome tragedy of 9/11 to sell Chevys and Pontiacs with its perverse “Keep America Rolling” 3,000-dead sale-a-bration (2001), and 2) having the gall on Earth Day, after decades of lobbying against emissions and mileage standards, to celebrate “environmental progress” (1990).

This, I said, was akin to “John Wayne Gacy celebrating the International Year of the Child.”

The AdReview staff was proud of that one.

After 25 years critiquing the ad industry in Advertising Age, Bob Garfield is retiring his weekly reviews. “For Ad Age, he will be extending his thought leadership on the digital revolution with a column titled “Listenomics.” He will also be launching a limited consulting practice in association with several strategic partners to be announced later in the spring. […] Mr. Garfield’s opinions on advertising, doled out in the weekly Ad Review, have challenged the industry, rankled creatives and rewarded great work.” (source)

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Isaac Asimov’s predictions

The March 29 issue of Advertising Age has a feature on the history of advertising.  One article is a reprint of a 1977 essay by Isaac Asimov, forecasting “what the advertising future would be like in 2000”.  It’s impressive how accurate a lot of his ideas are.  It’s also amusing how many sci-fi writings from the 60s and 70s mention microfilm as the media of the future.  I remember reading old articles in library school and laughing at that.  Asimov’s predictions focus on the personalization of media consumption and advertising, which has obviously become reality. The odd thing is that he describes it as if consumers would voluntarily subscribe to certain types of ads, instead of ads being targeted at consumers based on company-created consumer profiles. Excerpt:

Ad Specialties Inc. is, for instance, widely recognized among the advertising community representatives as being the wave of the future. It produces coded ads much as a library produces a coded catalog.

Its philosophy is that people who view ads as intrusions on their newspaper or on their TV programs do so because most of the time they have no interest in the product being advertised. If they were looking upon, or reading, an ad dealing with something that they very much want at that time, it would be the news or the program that would be viewed as the intrusion.

It is now possible, therefore, for subscribers to Ad Specialties Inc. to inspect an elaborate catalog of product listings (“from plasma lights to plastic leads,” one of its own ads says) and then code their TV sets for the reception of ads dealing with some particular type of product. They can inspect the various ads for that product, facsimile those they choose to, and be prepared for further inquiries.

Then the grandiose but equally prescient suggestion that advertising and marketing tactics can play a part in political and social change:

We must sell the world, through the persuasion techniques developed by advertology, on the necessity of reducing population, of conserving and recycling the Earth’s resources, of exploiting space to supplement Earth’s energy supply. Most of all, humanity must be sold on the necessity of employing its aggressive impulses not against itself, but in battling ignorance and folly and in extending the frontiers of knowledge and wisdom.

And in that manner, we may all be saved.

He also talks about holograms. ❤ Asimov ❤


(image from positivepsychologynews.com)

“Ambient marketing”

Awhile ago I overheard some students on the bus talking about how marketing is infiltrating our daily lives, and ads are popping up in places they never used to be. One of them began sharing some ideas he had for taking this type of marketing “to the next level”: putting Braille advertisements on handrails, for example, and instead of having a crosswalk that beeps when the walk sign is illuminated, it would instead be an automated voice saying “geico, geico, geico”. I think he was joking, but have you seen how college football now has ads on the nets that are stretched between the uprights for field goals?

I think it’s only a matter of time until NFL players’ uniforms look more like Nascar drivers’: covered in logos. Another example is the appearance of ads in the bottom of the bins you put your shoes in when going through airport security. You’d think people wouldn’t want their brand associated with that harrowing experience, but Amtrak marketing itself that way is pretty clever. The first ad of that type I saw was for Zappos, and while I get the connection, I was more freaked out to see an ad there than I was struck by the need to go purchase new shoes online.

The cover story in the Winter 2010 issue of Marketing Health Services is on ambient media, and I couldn’t resist sharing some of their (admittedly creative, though a bit unsettling) suggestions for marketing health-related products and services out in the world:

Messages on the floors of the pain reliever aisles in drug stores for joint replacement services. “Why settle for temporary pain relief?”

Sponsored goal-post pads for a sports medicine practice. “When you break more than a tackle.”

Multiple-choice movie trivia quiz to match doctor characters with their film titles to promote a physician network. “Choosing a doctor has never been easier.”

Grocery cart advertising to promote OB and well baby services. “Shop around before you decide where to have your baby.”

Brochure racks next to community ashtrays outside prominent public buildings for smoking cessation assistance. “Wouldn’t you rather be inside in the fresh air?”

Posters at mass transit shelters to promote leading-edge oncology services. “Cancer stops here.”

I have such mixed feelings about marketing in general. Some of it is so creative, and I can’t help appreciating something that is original and well-executed. This is probably why there’s such an obsession with Superbowl ads, which, let’s face it, have not lived up to their reputation for awhile now. But that’s TV advertising. There’s another degree of creativity involved in ambient marketing because it makes a connection between space and what people supposedly do/think/feel in that space. A 2007 article in B&T Weekly puts it succinctly: “Ambient marketing has to constantly re-evaluate and surprise so the medium doesn’t become too mainstream and lose its appeal”.

But, to put that another way:

Advertising works somewhat like bacteria: After its hosts (consumers) are exposed, they become immune, so new strains of ads must develop and grow. These new strains are quickly copied, adding clutter, requiring new strains to emerge. Over time, advertising clutter leads to diminishing returns for individual campaigns. The more advertising grows, the more it must grow. The cycle accelerates and what was formerly considered unethical, offensive, or gauche is gradually mainstreamed out of necessity.

-“Ad creep – ambient advertising” Stay Free! Magazine

As much as I appreciate creativity, it bothers and frustrates me to be bombarded with ads everywhere I go. Ambient media is the epitome of corporations getting up in my face to the extent that it makes me mad. Some might even call it aesthetic pollution. Just writing this post brought me to some interesting articles on ad fatigue and media saturation.

According to Advertising Age and the Encyclopedia of American Industries (2006 ed.) the outdoor marketing industry is growing faster than other mass media, and is likely to outperform “traditional media counterparts such as radio, TV and print” even in times of decelerated growth (aka all of 2009). Makes me think the future could resemble the cities portrayed in sci-fi novels, where virtual ads tailored to your “demographic” pop-up and talk to you as you try to navigate through virtual or realspace.

Brasyl illustration by Stephan Martiniere

Ads of the world

Ads of the world

I just came across this website through my extracurricular blog reading, but it seems like it could be useful for some of the marketing research questions we receive at the library (especially on the elusive topic of online advertising). The ad images and embedded videos can be browsed by media type, region, country, or industry. “Or” being an important word there, because it doesn’t seem like you can combine these categories to refine your search. Using the free text search box and searching by the category names (e.g. “TV Americas”) will return results, but they’re not limited just to ads that are tagged with those terms. Additionally, you can browse logos by category/industry and country. All the examples I looked at included production/creator credits for the ads. It seems like this might be a good way to track marketing trends, although it’s unclear how broad the coverage is. Also, it’s unclear exactly what criteria determine whether ads make it (or don’t make it) onto the site. The “Upload” page seems to imply that most, if not all, the content is submitted by advertising professionals and/or students, aka the people who are responsible for creating the content. Then there’s some sort of editorial/filtering process.

Even if I never end up using this site to help with research questions, I will definitely have fun browsing it. It’s interesting just to see the colors and styles that predominate certain media types, regions, and industries.

Bu$ine$$ periodicals hall of shame

(I’m porting this post, and others, over from my old blog because I want my obsession with journals to be all in one place on the internet)

I can’t stand it any longer.  I have to share some of the choice covers that show up on the periodicals I display (against my will) and shelve each day.  You’d think that in a field that includes marketing, things like this wouldn’t happen:

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You gotta love the literal translation of text into images.  Not only is Main St. sinking….it’s taking the former U.S. comptroller general with it!!?!

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Best’s is always good for the floating heads, and the real unflattering pictures of people.

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That’s from the cover of this month’s The Region / Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.  “Hey, stand by these evergreens and look like you’re in the middle of saying something, okay?”

And the all-time winner of shame is….

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I wanted to include NPA Magazine, but could’nt find any cover images for it.  Instead, my search for it brought me to:

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http://www.purebredpigeon.com/