You know advertising has an identity problem when even actors in Coke commercials view a Coke billboard with distain.
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Next week Coke will air several new commercials that address rising obesity and the perception that sugary soft drinks contribute to the problem. The ads will suggest ways to burn off 140 calories and recommend a beverage diet that includes more of the sugar-free alternatives. But it doesn’t sound like Coke will be taking any direct responsibility for the fact that people drink too much of their liquid goodness. From Salon:
Coca-Cola said its ads aren’t a reaction to negative public sentiment. Instead, the idea was to raise awareness about what the company has done and the work it plans to do in coming months regarding obesity, said Stuart Kronauge, general manager of sparkling beverages for Coca-Cola North America….
In the ad, a narrator notes that obesity is an issue that ‘concerns all of us’ but that people can make a difference when they ‘come together.’ The spot was produced by Brighthouse and Citizen2 and is intended to reflect Coca-Cola’s corporate responsibility among cable news viewers.
There’s nothing untrue about that — it’s not like Coke is forcing us to drink its soda. But that sounds a little evasive, no? A bit like the argument my gun-enthusiast friend once gave me when I blamed gun deaths on guns: Guns don’t kill people, he told me, bullets do — guns just make them go really fast.
Over dinner tonight with three colleagues, the conversation quickly made its way to the commercial breaks at yesterday’s Superbowl. We agreed on handful of favorites: Both Doritos spots (Man’s Best Friend and Slingshot Baby), the debut of Ms Brown for M&Ms, Clint Eastwood’s Halftime in America for Chrysler, and Matthew Broderick’s day off with a Honda CR-V. We could agree that GoDaddy’s ads were the worst. But in between there was no consensus. So I thought I’d seek out a scientific approach.
Facebook and USA Today teamed up on the Ad Meter, a broad-based poll that’s still collecting votes as well as a panel of viewers who logged their preferences as they watched. The Ad Meter’s top 5: Doritos (Slingshot Baby), Kia, Bud Light (Weego), M&Ms and Doritos (Man’s Best Friend). The worst 5 included two GoDaddy spots and two Bud Light Platinum spots.
Ace Metrix, a company that specializes in research on TV ads, applied a numerical score to each Superbowl ad. I can’t vouch for its methodology, but the company’s website says they “defined the concept of Creative Lifecycle Management” (with a trademark TM), which sounds impressive. Doritos, Clint Eastwood, Ms Brown and Matthew Broderick all took top spots — with those boring if mildly cute Coke polar bears also grabbing two of the top 10 spots. Among the worst 10, according to Ace, were three from Budweiser, one from Bud Light (Platinum), H&M (David Beckham), and that odd Century 21 spot that seemed to imply Donald Trump is one of the world’s smartest people.
The Boston.com / Mullen Advertising collaboration called Brand Bowl 2012 measured the twitter buzz. While the Doritos ads racked up the biggest numbers, Ms Brown won the sentiment contest, with more than 41% of tweets about her spot saying something favorable. (If you’re a size-matters type of person, David Beckham’s spot for H&M finished second after Doritos in total number of tweets.)
Michael Learmonth at Ad Age pursued a different angle. Forget about the in-the-moment indicators such as buzz and tweets. Which ads did we like so much that we sought them out online to watch them again? If that’s the measure of success, Honda blew Doritos away. And the much-hyped VW’s Dog Strikes Back — which landed 14 spots down on the Ace survey, and #6 by Ad Meter — heads into the online competition in the #2 position, spitting distance from the trophy.
This 1968 German commercial for Afri-Cola surfaced on Boing Boing again recently. Here’s the original Boing Boing post from 2005. As much as one may enjoy (??) the spot’s unusual blend of nuns, soft-core porn and free love advocacy, it wasn’t enough to maintain leadership for Germany’s one-time dominant soft drink brand. From Wikipedia:
After the Second World War, Afri-Cola became one of the most popular drinks in Germany and a symbol of the German Wirtschaftswunder. In 1952, the company launched Bluna, a lemonade similar to Fanta, which also became a hit among customers. However, in the hard competition of the 60s, Afri-Cola started to lose its influence on the German market to Coca Cola and Pepsi. The commercial designer and photographer Charles Wilp started a marketing campaign to regain its image. However, the market share of Afri-Cola continued to dwindle during the 1980s and 1990s.
When the CMO of Coke includes this anti-Coke PSA in her presentation at the 2011 IAB Leadership Meeting, you’d think every Coke agency — including small ones that work on regional co-op campaigns in partnership with groceries chains like Safeway — would know about it, and would avoid using materials from the original “Let It Pour” campaign in subsequent ads. Well, apparently not. This billboard is back in rotation in San Francisco.
Billboard at the corner of Valencia and 24th Streets.
Would you have guessed that Chevy spends more than Ford or Toyota? Or that Macy’s spends more than Target? Other rankings that surprised me: Arm & Hammer spends more than Gatorade, Kia spends more than Volkswagen, and Ashley Furniture spends more than Ikea.
Check out this great infographic that ranks the top 200 brands by the size of their 2009 and 2010 ad budgets.
The top two in each category (first, second):
Auto: Chevy, Ford
Retail: Walmart, Macy’s
Apparel: Skechers, Nike
Telecom: AT&T, Verizon
Restaurants: McDonald’s, Subway
Food and Beverage: Coke, Campbell
Beer: Budweiser, Miller
Cleaning Products: Tide, Clorox
Financial Services: American Express, Chase
Beauty and Personal Care: L’Oreal Paris, Olay
Insurance: Geico, Progressive
Consumer Electronics: Microsoft, Apple
Media: DirecTV, Dish Network
Drugs: Lipitor, Cialis
This campaign won the Gold Lion at Cannes in the Outdoor category and is a favorite among the folks at Adverblog.
I’m not so sure. Cute idea for a party, but I’ve got to believe the delightful novelty wears off quick.
The above quote is from Jeff Dunn, the former Coke executive who’s now the CEO of mega carrot producer Bolthouse Farms.
Doug McGray’s Fast Company profile (How Carrots Became the New Junk Food) goes behind the scenes on how those offbeat TV commercials came to be. I’m still not sold on this particular spot, but I’m now convinced there’s a stroke of genius behind the campaign’s bigger idea.
After a decade in which peeled and bagged “baby carrots” contributed to a doubling of carrot consumption in the US, in the past few years that growth has gone negative. And it’s not like we’ve forgotten, all of sudden, that carrots are healthy. It turns out the recession has pushed us back to buying them in their natural, un-baby form, and we end up eating fewer carrots when they’re more vegetable-like.
The recipe for revival, says Crispin Porter’s Omid Farhang, is to turn the ultimate healthy snack into junk food. And when you hear him tell it — “They’re neon orange, they’re crunchy, they’re dippable, they’re kind of addictive” — you’re kind of ready to believe.
Looking back over my notes, tweets and the #iabalm stream, here are my favorite nuggets from this year’s IAB get-together:
One tweet that captured the 3-day conversation pretty well is Josh Chasin’s: “If advertisers want engagement but digital is selling efficient real time access to cookies — isn’t that a profound disconnect?”
I missed the Sunday night keynote from Google’s Eric Schmidt, but several attendees passed along this quote: “Children these days have two states — sleeping and online.” Hmm, that’s a sad thought.
Coke’s Wendy Clark (about whom my colleague Bob Lisbonne tweeted “Coke isn’t just great at marketing. They’re even impressive at marketing the marketing”) is a marvel. No wonder we collectively drink 1.6 billion servings of Coke every day.
They’re putting up big numbers against their social marketing efforts: Coke has enlisted 23 million Facebook fans (adding another million every 11 days), and those fans are networked to 585 million others — quite a media channel, if it can get those fans to share something nice about Coke. Speaking of media channels, Coke considers Walmart “media” rather than a retailer; with 200 million people walking into their stores each week, it’s got a much bigger audience than American Idol.
Meanwhile, she told marketers to prepare for social-media blowbacks: They will happen, the key is how you respond. Toyota, she said, responded to the recall crisis brilliantly. The only mistake was that they responded too late. She picked this anti-Coke PSA to prove her point:
Yup, bad press happens. Spoofs and attacks will come your way. And with this image giant-ly behind her, she offered up the money quote of event: “The truth is irrelevant. Your truth matters. My truth matters. THE truth is irrelevant.” Boom! Did she really say that?!
And I love this. Coke’s creative brief for the bottle in 1960s, according to Clark: “It should be known in the dark.” (Whether or not that’s THE truth, we’ll never know.)
Hulu’s Jason Kilar invited us to imagine a media landscape in which every ad asks us: You don’t like this ad? Click and we’ll give you a different one. Apparently that’s coming soon — replacing the current landscape where you just skip, block or ignore the ads you don’t like. He attributed this stat to Mary Meeker: For every person using the Internet, advertisers are spending $46 in online ads. Hulu, meanwhile, made $263 million last year on an audience of 30 million — $8.77 per unique. Come on, advertising people, let’s give Hulu its fair share!
He also broke down the money supporting the TV business. Forty-one percent comes from ads, 28% transactions and 31% subscription products. I need to look a little deeper into that one…. First I want to understand what “transactions” are. Per-inquiry TV spots for direct-response marketers? Set-top boxes? I also want know what he’s counting in the “TV business.” Just TV networks, or are the cable operators in there too?
Microsoft’s Rik Van der Kooi says Coke’s 23 million Facebook fans are an opportunity for what his team calls Relationship Impressions. If Dumb Impressions are worth 1x and Targeted Impressions based on cookie data are worth 4x, Relationship Impressions will be worth 10x. Sure, I buy that.
Rubicon Project’s Kara Weber points out, though, that Van der Kooi’s “Relationship Impressions” sound a lot like moments of engagement that Coke calls “Expressions.” You get the sense that Coke marketers have spent a lot more time with real, live human beings than the crew at Microsoft has. And if the goal is connecting with people, that experience (and choice of words) matters.
Cluetrain Manifesto author Doc Searles says “Obsessing about privacy is not productive.” Some new innovation will get us past the current hairball. He points to Foursquare check-ins as a possible new paradigm, replacing data-tracking cookies will opt-in sharing of personal data. (Or perhaps 600 million of us will tell our deepest darkest secrets to Facebook.)
Deep Focus’s Ian Schafer: Automation will further commoditize inventory unless targeting compensates for it. (I think automated targeting might do its own commoditizing, though.)
In unveiling the IAB’s new ad formats, Cadreon’s Quentin George said: “Reach-and-frequency is the penalty for bad advertising.” Aparently we have been very, very bad.
My take on the new formats: They’re bigger. One, the Filmstrip from Microsoft, is a 300×3000-pixel scrolling unit that fits into a 300×600 placement. I’m wondering how often someone makes her way all the way down to pixel 3000. Another, the Sidekick from Unicast, starts as a skyscraper-like unit and then expands into something that fills the gutters to the left and right of the content, and launches a video player on top of the content.
GigaOM’s Om Malik tweets: “I wonder if making bigger ad sizes is really the answer.” (To which I replied: “Totally agree, Om. If the creative stinks, bigger ads just make them stinkier.”) My reaction to new IAB formats is the same as my reaction to TV or print ad formats: When I like the brand and creative, I love the format. If I don’t, the format fails. But when you think about it, that’s real progress among banner ads.