July 26, 2011

A wasted effort: John Hancock Financial Services

While traveling Europe a few years ago, I came across various kinds of markets, e.g. in Amsterdam it was a ginormous flower market, and in Hamburg quite a unique fish market. Both markets had one thing in common. Pretty much all the vendors offered the same thing: in Amsterdam flowers, in Hamburg fish.

Now who do you think sold the most flowers, or fish respectively? The silent vendors with the most subtle appearance, flying under the radar, trying to be smart? Or the ones that were screaming one witty punch line after another into the audience?

I can't really say that the dear folks at Hill Holliday, the advertising agency in Boston, who are responsible for this disaster, don't get advertising, and are a sub-par shop. Quite the opposite. Their latest work for Dunkin' Donuts actually earns a +5 on the Mad Ad Score scale. But their team working on its John Hancock account simply seemed to have gotten lost in a bad idea.

Why is this so bad? Well, let's go back to basics.

The TV audience doesn't watch TV to seek out witty commercials. They don't really watch the commercials. Commercials are a nuisance, white noise, thrown at you by the networks. No one asked for them. No one, except a few mad people like me, actually pay attention.

Hence, you cannot assume that the audience, in between Yankees innings, or the latest C.S.I. episode, are desperately waiting to read typed text on their TV screen that tries to sell them on financial products. Granted, the messages are relevant, and investing for one's retirement is a serious subject matter and shouldn't be left to chance.

But, please! Not making use of the audio component? WTF? Were the minds at Hill Holliday actually on holiday? Or were they just too much in love with their idea? Back to advertising 101: with a TV commercial you get:
a) :30 sec of moving images to tell a story, and
b) a radio commercial on top of it.

Still don't get it? OK, let's take the behavioral approach. Taking into consideration the behavior described above, it's pretty much safe to assume that most folks watching TV, while on commercial break, either:
- go to the bathroom
- check their iPhone, bberry
- grab their iPad, Laptop
- snack on some popcorn, get a drink
- read the mail, a newspaper clip
- ... you fill in the blanks here

The one thing most of them don't do is: watch! Yet still, they do have ears, and if they don't mute the TV, they still will - to some degree - be able to listen to your message.

If you do what HH did for John Hancock above (and there is a bunch of other very bad examples online, see link below), you are wasting pretty much half of your media buy on the home-TV-watching audience. Whoever is out at a bar won't be able to listen anyway.


Message: 0, because no one is reading it
Creative: 0, it's boring
Context: 0, you got in front of me, but you didn't get through to me
Impact: -1, it's all together a wasted effort
Intangibles: -1, this has got nothing special to it

Related links:
More examples on Hill Holiday's agency website
More about Mad Ad Scores

July 25, 2011

Disastrous: Rihanna & Vita Coco Water

I have been in this industry for many years, and if there is one truth that has solidified itself over the years, it is that most of the advertising involving celebrities is poorly done.

And now they present to us: Rihanna & Vita Coco Water. Oh my... Not that the combination of the two is bad right from the start. No, not at all. But whoever executed this - both strategically and creatively - needs to be fired. Seriously. Why? Well, here is why:

"Hydrate Naturally. From a tree, not a lab." Visual: Rihanna with RED, dyed hair. The color in her hair is clearly from a lab. It's beyond me that no one on the creative team got the irony of it.

Besides the fact that there is nothing natural about dyed, red hair, let's focus on the image. Rihanna is a beautiful, energetic person. That's how we know her. Yet whoever took this image managed to turn her into an apathetic, emotionless, neutral human something, void of any expression. What a disaster!

Whenever you have to tell the audience that the celebrity you are showing them is the celebrity you are showing them, in this case in UPPERCASE letters right next to her face, then you are doing it for a reason, right? Someone must have figured out that some people may not recognize Rihanna in the picture, which raises the question: if so, why choose her in the first place?

Michael Jordan never needed a caption of his name on anything bearing his image. Neither did Kobe, LeBron, or Michael Jackson. Yet according to Matt Delzell, an account director in the celebrity entertainment division of The Marketing Arm, the Omnicom agency who cooked up this dish: "She [Rihanna] is known by more than 82 percent of all US consumers -- she's about as well known as Gwen Stefani, Derek Jeter and Sting." If 82% know her, then why show the name? For the 18% who don't know her? Doesn't make sense to me.

In order to make the formula of 1) Rihanna + 2) Vita Coco work, the agency had two options:

You turn Vita Coco into a 'lifestyle meets health' refreshing beverage for the young and hip. Rihanna lends her image. Vita Coco brings the health aspect to the table. You redesign the carton box packaging. Then you shoot the whole thing and create a visual where the energy of the shot makes the image vibrate on your page. Think of her laughing, thousands of water drops splashing, her hair flying... sounds familiar? You bet. Here is a screen grab from her 'Umbrella' video. Much more powerful than the dud they ended up producing.

Rihanna in 'Umbrella'

If Vita Coco is all about brand strategy, and a clear brand DNA, well, then they wouldn't have chosen Rihanna in the first place. They should have saved themselves a million dollars in fees, and put that money to good use by:
a) hiring a model that reflects the attributes 'natural' and 'health'
b) sponsoring regional, grassroots events, promoting a healthy lifestyle (the Wholefoods consumer is much more into credibility and honest messages than celebrity endorsements)
c) spending it on an additional million dollar media buy to get the word out
d) sponsor a 'Summer-Hydration-Bus-Tour', providing dehydrated citizens with all natural hydration all around the country

Any of these would have made much more sense than doing what they did, which is some weird kind of hybrid of A) and B), which is all wrong. And poorly executed. And just very, very bad. So bad - it hurts.

MAD SCORE: -2 (Yes, that's pretty bad)

Message: -1, because see above
Creative execution: -1, see above
Context: +1, it got my attention at a phone booth
Impact: 0, indifferent here
Intangibles: -1, too much is wrong with this mess.

For detailed criteria on the Mad Ad Score click here.

July 14, 2011

Raising Prices? Huge Mistake, Netflix!

Two days ago, subscribers of Netflix have gotten the email shown above, informing them that they now have to pay more. Just like that. No honoring existing contracts. No grandfathering down previous arrangements. No. You pay more now. That's how it is. Like it or not. That was pretty much the message. Of course they tried to suger-coat it in some nice ad speak language.

The public reaction has been tremendous. Just got to Netflix facebook page, and read some of the 62,000+ comments this price change has generated. That's 4% of their facebook fans. Many of them only 'liked' Netflix so they can voice their anger. Almost none of the comments were positive.

Customers feel betrayed, and taken advantage of. I myself was really angry, not because the increase was outrageous, but because of the way I was treated. Not like a valued customer, but like a cow that Netflix think they can milk any way they want.

Netflix simply has gotten arrogant. Or their Brand Management team is just very bad. Or they just don't care. Who knows. At the end of the day, this behavior show that they seem to have lost their edge, and have forgotten what made them successful in the first place.

The rise of Netflix, and subsequently the fall of Blockbuster has taught us one important lesson: a simple, yet significant change in the service you offer can win you millions of customers (by stealing them away from a big company that has gotten arrogant and slow).

Netflix and Blockbuster basically offered the same: movie entertainment. Yet while BB was relying on the old Store/DVD model, Netflix introduced DVDs by mail. Then they added streaming. BB never caught on, and when they tried to, it was too late to catch up.

So now Netflix is the big, arrogant player, and if there is any smart competitor out there, then listen: NOW is the time to win over hundreds of thousands of customers from Netflix. NOW they are open for alternatives. NOW they email, exchange information, listen to you. NOW. A week ago they didn't. In a week or two they might not. NOW is the time.

You bet that the majority of Netflix customers is angry. And if it's true that under normal circumstances only 1% of facebook fans are active commenters, then the 4% here show that this is an issue that Netflix has to take absolutely seriously. Or they are gonna take a major hit.

I canceled the streaming option. The movies were B and C movies only anyway. It was a 'nice to have', but not necessary. I kept the DVD by mail option though. That's where the good movies are. That's $8 less in their pocket a month. Take just 50,000 subscribers doing the same, and Netflix has lost $400K a month, or roughly $5 Million a year. I bet you though it is more than that. This is absolutely serious. Not sure Netflix understands.

July 13, 2011

Very nice: Toyota Venza Social Life

This one made me laugh. Someone here actually understood the meaning of the term 'social'. Just look at her, sitting there all by herself, with her 687 "friends". Online. On her "social" network. Does she look familiar to you? Yes? I am pretty damn sure you have someone like her in your circle of friends, constantly wired, either on their laptop, their iPad, their mobile device...

I run into these people on Manhattan sidewalks all the time. They are like androids, on remote control - walking, staring at their tiny screen, bumping into you. They sit in restaurants - just like the two girls today in a cafe on 7th Avenue sharing the same table - looking not at each other, but staring on the tiny screen in front of them.

They come to your dinner parties, house parties, or join you for brunch, only to whip out their iPhone, bberry, or whatever, and check their email, facebook, twitter or whatever. It makes me wanna scream.

My friend recently had dinner with her boyfriend, and I think he couldn't stand the bberry between them any longer. So he took it, and dumped it into the water glass in front of her. She got the message. Dinner now is quality time. No phone. No distractions.

And if you ask me - I'd rather hang with this girl's parents, riding my bike, and then enjoying a nice grilled steak somewhere.

Oh, and the car? Well, the message here is: "This is a car for fun people." Unfortunately, they don't tell us more than that. Still a nice story. Well done, Saatchi & Saatchi.



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