With the dozens of reality competitions that television offers - including fashion designing, modeling, singing, dancing, cooking, creating art and interior designing - it's no surprise that advertising has finally been added to the queue. With the return of AMC's Mad Men, it seems as though advertising has reclaimed a seat in the spotlight as one of the most glamorous and cutthroat professions. A sneak preview of a new reality show competition called The Pitch aired after this week's episode of Mad Men and I couldn't NOT watch. In the episode, two well-known agencies - McKinney and WDCW - competed against one another to create a winning ad campaign for Subway's breakfast menu. The agencies met with Subway's marketing director to get a feel for what the restaurant was hoping for in an ad campaign, which was to get the elusive 18-24 year-old demographic to eat breakfast at Subway, and after a ten-minute briefing the agencies parted ways and got to work on creating their pitches. I won't reveal any spoilers, but my only negative comment is that I wasn't all too impressed with the ideas tossed around during the brainstorming sessions. But, who am I to judge creativity? That said, I'm not a huge fan of WDCW's work in general (Does anyone else recall the awful Quizno's commercials with the hamsters? Um, yea...), but it was interesting to see the disparity between the creative processes of two very different agencies. You'll have to tune in to the actual premiere on April 30th to find out which group of creatives won, but I highly recommend this reality show. It's not only interesting, but also boasts more substance and legitimacy than, say, Fashion Star - don't even get me started on that one...
We're all aware that once we leak our information into cyberspace there's no going back. Google knows things about us from the brand of shoes we pine after to our favorite dessert, knowledge they use to bombard us with targeted ads for Jimmy Choos and French Macaroons. The same goes for super stores like Target; swipe your credit card at Target and you're immediately assigned a unique customer ID number used to track every single one of your purchases so they can then mail you relevant coupons and ads (I'm sure you've heard about the father who found out about his daughter's pregnancy from Target?). Well, one company is taking this "invasion of privacy" one step further with high tech facial recognition software. "Plan UK's 'Because I Am A Girl' campaign uses facial recognition software mounted on a bus stop and, if it recognizes a female face - which the charity says it does accurately 90 percent of the time - shows the viewer a video from the 'Because I Am a Girl' campaign urging them to support the education of young women in developing countries." If the facial recognition technology detects a male face brief stats and a URL are shown, rather than the full video, in an attempt to drive the point home about what life is like for women who are not allowed basic rights. Does anyone else feel like this is a scene out of Minority Report? This new technology isn't necessarily taking note of your personal information, it's merely recognizing your sex, but is the advancement of technology and its use in advertising going too far? Will our great grandkids live in a world, like the one depicted in Minority Report, where we're greeted by holograms when we enter the GAP and our irises are scanned so they can provide us with suggestions based on previous purchases? I'm all for embracing new technology, so I'm not going to write this off just yet (I actually think it's pretty cool), but it does seem like our world is evolving into a place straight from the pages of a science fiction novel. Next thing you know we'll be perfecting the science cryogenics and ordering our burgers from androids.
As QR codes continue to gain popularity, and art directors continue to cringe, companies are taking the scannable bar code to new levels. Skanz, a tech startup, is the first to create what they claim to be the world’s largest QR code. The 10,000 square foot QR code at Wall Stadium Speedway in New Jersey seems like quite a lot of labor for a rather dubious payoff. In fact, Skanz’s giant QR code is no longer a novelty; an “art-and-tech collective” in Charlotte, North Carolina recently created it’s own 10,000 square foot QR code on the roof of a scrap yard. The creator of the giant QR code in Charlotte admits, “This one doesn’t have that much of a practical purpose, other than it’s a fun project and it beats sitting around watching TV.” Although the honesty is appreciated, I wonder why either company didn’t use the time, manpower and 80 gallons of paint used to create their giant QR codes to produce something more artistic and aesthetically pleasing. On top of being pretty unattractive, these giant QR codes aren’t even scannable, so what’s the point? Do you think this was a waste of time and money or significant advertising?
I’d like to propose a "challenge" to you based on a recent feature on Adweek.com by Mehmet Gozetlik. Gozetlik argues that less is always more when it comes to advertising, especially products’ packaging. Below are variations of the packaging for well-known, international brands. I’d like to know which versions you find most attractive and/or which versions you think would be most effective in selling the product – the original packaging, the simpler packaging or the simplest packaging? Is a minimalist packaging design more aesthetically pleasing or are the "bells and whistles" essential?
When it comes to advertising, European countries get away with a lot more than the United States. Their ads often push the envelope, and if you’ve ever watched something like TBS’s annual Funniest Commercials, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Shackleton, an advertising agency based in Madrid, produced some really creepy ads for some run-of-the-mill household appliances. The two ads, for a toaster and a set of knives, were specifically created for Calle 13, a European horror channel where black humor and offensive images have the potential to be a hit among viewers.
Another agency, Jung von Matt/Spree GmbH, located in Berlin, created equally “horrifying” ads for the same television channel. This time, the ads were for the channel itself, broadcasting their “Crime Night on 13th Street Sundays.”
There’s no denying that these horror-themed ads are creative, but the question remains: Are these ads darkly humorous and suitable for the particular medium or are they a tad overboard and disturbing? I don’t know about you, but I’m having a difficult time deciding.
OMG! So, I’m reading an article on anxious retailers and predictions of the ever-encroaching blast of pre-Halloween and earlier Christmas messages expected this year. Man, I haven’t even bagged my white-tails yet, and they’re already thinking about pitching Christmas to me!
It is still in the 100’s in our state, and the mere thought of a jacket send beads of sweat running everywhere. No doubt we are all concerned about the economy, our very reactionary and shaky stock market, and what is likely to happen in the forthcoming Presidential election.
But, is delivering a very early Christmas buying message going to change consumer behavior and turn us into crazed early purchasers, or will some (like myself) revolt at the idea of such non – seasonal nonsense?
I know many smart shoppers buy for the holidays all year long, and in so doing, manage some really great bargains. But, most of us need a little external coaching – like a couple of blasts of fresh northern cold air – and a timetable that puts the end-of-the-year holiday within a simmering eggnog’s whiff of being at least around the corner.
The 109 days til Christmas is a long way off to get me excited about rushing into shopping madness.
And, if it is the promise of greatly discounted merchandise that retailers are counting on..."forget about it.” I already expect low discounted prices everywhere I shop. After all, I have been well trained to wait only 30 days following new merchandise introductions in department stores for the discounting to begin. Not to mention the outlet malls! Who buys retail like we used to anymore?
So, I’m confused. Will the consumer see a great advantage in shopping early? Do retailers imagine that, by some miracle, the average consumer has been hoarding a big stash of money waiting for the economy to stabilize and government to right itself? Don’t think so – that would be large corporations or other lenders that are neither hiring nor lending, for the most part. The pie will only slice so many ways and it just isn’t any larger than it has been. August was a better retail month. Not a windfall month. And there is no sign of sudden economic improvement on the horizon.
Please, everyone, just take a break. Let’s celebrate the holidays as they occur. Trying to force consumers into perking up sales this early in the season, in this economy, is at best a risky stretch as a solution. If it doesn’t work, advertisers have spent money they either don’t have or eroded normal holiday advertising budgets.
Retailers, please let me get out of my Halloween costume before you start ringing Christmas bells! (Because I know you won’t wait until after Thanksgiving!)