Screenshot from Elliot Loh, who was reading Serious Eats on his phone when a McDonalds McChicken Deluxe ad served up at the bottom of an article about whether or not McDonalds hamburgers decompose over time. Who knows, maybe an article beating up on McDonalds hamburgers boosts sales by making McChicken Deluxes sound relatively more appetizing.
I get all warm and fuzzy watching those gold-filtered Visa ads voiced by Morgan Freeman, but the editorial team here at ChasNote prefers campaigns that take more creative risks. Here are a few that would land on the podium if “cutest product placement” or “weirdest TV commercial” were Olympic events.
In that first category gold goes to Mini. Those one-fourth-sized mini Minis that retrieve javelins, discuses and hammers are even more adorable than the full-sized cars — and the concept is consistent with the smaller-is-better positioning that’s long been the core of Mini messaging. (More info and pictures at NOTCOT.) But as far as product placement goes, it’s rather subtle. Almost too subtle, eh?
Others complain that International Olympic Committee is violating its own rules prohibiting advertising on the field of play. From Eurosport:
The remote-controlled cars whizzing around the athletics stadium have triggered branding questions. The Olympic venues at the London Games are supposed to be strictly ad-free, but the use of the distinctive cars appears to be blatant advertising. The International Olympic Committee ensures adverts or logos of products are not visible in the fields of play in line with its Olympic Charter despite sponsors paying hundreds of millions of dollars to be associated with the Games. The Minis, made by German car manufacturer BMW who is also a Games sponsor, may not carry visible logos but are instantly recognisable for what they are.
In the “wow, that worked out well” category, we’re going with McDonalds and the widely-covered remark by Usain Bolt, when he filled us in on the dietary regimen of the world’s fastest man on race day: “I had some plaintains, some hash browns, fruit, then a wrap from McDonald’s. For lunch I had rice and pork and some apple juice.” Was that exceptionally good luck, or just the product of making darn good wraps?
In the “weirdest TV commercial” competition we decided against awarding medals. If that weren’t the case, though, Ragu would take the big prize. The preferred pasta sauce for kids who are traumatized by watching their parents have sex?! Oh my. That’s just a terribly conceived ad.
In cooperation with Polish State Railways, McDonalds launched the Hamburger Timetable, a system of food icons presented on the automated schedule board to indicate wait time in units of Big Macs, fries and coffees you have time to consume before your train arrives. The Warsaw station McDonalds saw an increase of 4500 customers in the first month of the campaign. Full story at PSFK.
The above McDonalds-logo-in-flowers is just an idea, PhotoShopped together by Sean Click, but it’s a brilliant one — unless, of course, you’re one of those people who wouldn’t want a permanent Golden Arches-shaped flower display alongside a highway near you. California law says you can’t pick or destroy California Poppies, so it would be a floral ad unit that would bloom indefinitely.
The folks at Toyota should have used California Poppies in their living billboard alongside LA’s I-10 back in 2009!
I’m guessing you’ve already seen this video made by graphic designer Adam Ladd and his five-year-old daughter. She thinks Google Chrome looks like a beachball, and “beachballs are really colorful!” To her Jaguar, Puma and Greyhound logos are all the same — cheetahs! — which is probably great for Greyhound, but not so great for the other two that a young innocent set of eyes can’t tell their logos apart from the one for a long-distance bus line. And I love her interpretation of the Golden Arches: An M for McDonalds that’s made out of french fries. (Does everyone think that? I never made the french fry connection.)
What’s most interesting to me, though, is how thoroughly the logos in her life have come stand in for whole categories of products and services. I’m guessing her family doesn’t own an X-Box, but her friend does and she thinks of its logo as “the thing that controls the TV at Ryan’s house.” She knows that the Mercedes logo is attached to cars and recognizes the Pepsi logo as “the pop from the pizza place.” Starbucks and BP symbols have achieved even more: They’ve become visual synonyms for coffee and gas, products this kids is still years away from consuming herself.
Awesome images at Alphaila compare real fast-food burgers to their advertised selves. Taco Bell, Jack In the Box and Burger King don’t perform so well on the truth-in-advertising scale, even when Alphaila “fluffed up the cheese” for them.
The winner, without much competition, is the McDonalds Big N’ Tasty.
Advertising that exaggerates a product’s virtues certainly is not new or uncommon. It may not be especially ethical, but you can see the logic in it. The point of advertising is to create an appetite for your stuff, so to speak. It’s only embarrassing (and perhaps a liability to your brand, if your brand affinity relies on consumer trust) when customers are presented with reality versus advertising at such close proximity. Ironic, then, that fast food restaurants make it so easy to do this visual comparison yourselves — as you eat their burgers. Again from Alphaila:
People around the world know fast food as one of the most reliable distributors of disappointment ever produced by the business world. We know that if we ever feel the need to complain about something, we can just grab a page out of a coupon booklet, adorned in pictures of juicy burgers, go to a fast food place, then have a party. Why, the places themselves usually plaster their walls with pictures of juicy burgers — often hanging right over your table — so you need only open your eyes to find something to compare your food with, while you eat it.
A little harsh, maybe. If we’re all so disappointed, why do we keep going back for more? I wonder if the popularity of fast food, despite the large apparent “disappointment gap” between their advertising images and the real items, is merely evidence that advertising need only get us in the door, and from there it’s our tastebuds (not our eyes) that will turn us into repeat customers. Marketing’s job ends at the restaurant’s parking lot; Product’s job picks up when you place your first order. If that’s the case, the argument for truth in advertising will fall on deaf ears. Lie, cheat and steal, if you must, to get people to try the product. If they don’t come back — if they’re disappointed — it’s not the fault of the advertising campaign.
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 McDonalds billboard in Sweden invites passers-by to play pong on the big screen. Players who keep the pong “ball” in motion for 30 seconds win coupons for free food, redeemable at nearby McDonalds restaurants. A nice touch — players don’t need to download a separate app to play. It works with any geo-location-enabled mobile browser.
Combine the popularity of photos, the affordability of police mugshots, the tough economics at newspapers and the increasing population of employees who are required to wear corporate colors, and this is what you get: Brands showing up in all the wrong places. From BrandChannel:
“[A] kind of negative exposure is emerging as newspapers catch on to the grim popularity of publishing mug shots in a police blotter section. In addition to The Smoking Gun website, news outlets across the US, from St. Louis to Kentucky to Ft. Myers, are increasingly featuring mug shots. (Last year, Change.org even posed the question, ‘Can mug shots save the newspaper industry?’)”