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Tide: Detergent of Choice Among Dealers

Last year my daughter’s 4th grade science project involved splashing cherry juice on scraps from a white cotton t-shirt, and testing the cleaning power of various laundry detergents. She emerged from the lab unable to perceive a difference among the contestants — the popular brand (Tide), the eco-friendly brand and the generic alternative from Safeway. They all performed about as well as the control wash, nothing but cold water.

Tide meanwhile is 50% more expensive than other similar liquid detergents, and shoppers still buy twice as much of it as its nearest competitor. And it’s not just winning the mindshare game among the coveted Chief Household Officers, either. Jugs of Tide — not just any brand of liquid laundry detergent, mind you, the National Retail Federation’s report calls out Tide specifically — are disappearing from store shelves and ending up in the hands of drug dealers.

From New York Magazine:

As the cases piled up after his team’s first Tide-theft bust, [Organized Retail Crime Unit sergeant] Thompson sought an answer to the riddle at the center of the crimes: What did thieves want with so much laundry soap? To find out, he and his unit pored over security recordings to identify prolific perpetrators, whom officers then tracked down and detained for questioning…. It turned out the detergent wasn’t ­being used as an ingredient in some new recipe for getting high, but instead to buy drugs themselves. Tide bottles have become ad hoc street currency, with a 150-ounce bottle going for either $5 cash or $10 worth of weed or crack cocaine. On certain corners, the detergent has earned a new nickname: ‘Liquid gold.’ The Tide people would never sanction that tag line, of course. But this unlikely black market would not have formed if they weren’t so good at pushing their product.

I’m going to ask my daughter to re-run her experiment. I mean, how can anyone say Tide isn’t the most bad-ass of laundry soaps?!

Eyelashes Too Good to Be True

Procter & Gamble has pulled a CoverGirl ad featuring a photo of Taylor Swift. From Tanzina Vega’s piece at NY Times:

In the ad, for CoverGirl NatureLuxe Mousse Mascara, Ms. Swift’s eyelashes have been enhanced after the fact to look even fuller, and, as a result, the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus ruled this month that it was misleading.

The ad itself disclosed the touch-up work: Copy underneath the photo said that her eyelashes had been “enhanced in post production.” And what ad, after all, hasn’t been enhanced in post production? According to a spokesperson for the NAD, though, this case was different: “The photograph stands as a product demonstration. Your eyelashes will look like this if you use this product.”

In the past few years the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority has forced Johnson & Johnson (here) and P&G’s Olay (here) to pull ads for false claims for anti-aging creams, but in both cases the violation was sketchy scientific claims. More recently it ruled against L’Oreal (here) for going too far on lighting effects and post production touch-ups on Julia Roberts’s and Christy Turlington’s skin.

Hmmm, this is tough one. The L’Oreal and CoverGirl ads strike me as more explicit versions of what most beauty ads do: They bring together a young, beautiful person with a small team of magicians (stylists, lighting technicians, professional photographers and Photoshop gurus) to imply that we could all look like that young, beautiful person even without the magicians. At what point does it cross into photo-as-product-demonstration?

200 Brands With the Largest Ad Budgets

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.

Top Auto Ad Spenders

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

Google's Biggest Advertisers in June 2010 (And What They Tell Us About Online Media)

Top 10 Google Advertisers June 2010

Hats off to Michael Learmonth at Ad Age for getting his hands on this sensitive document!

“While the search-spending document obtained by Advertising Age is not a complete list of advertisers on Google, the accuracy of its data was verified by multiple sources with direct knowledge of spending levels. It’s a revealing cross-section of Google’s business that gives some clarity to one of the most opaque areas of ad spending, and the lifeblood of many American businesses. “

Two noteworthy items in this story.

One, Google’s revenues are well distributed: Its top 10 advertisers (in June, anyway) represent only 5% of its total revenue. While 47 advertisers spent more than $1 million in the month, another 71 spent between $500,000 and $1 million, and other 357 spent between $100,000 and $500,000.

Two, Google’s revenues — which represents around half of all online ad spending — continue to skew heavily toward direct-response advertising versus brand advertising. Google’s top 10 includes University of Phoenix parent Apollo Group, Expedia, Amazon, eBay, and Living Social. Compare that to the list of top 10 US advertising spenders across all media:

Top 10 Advertisers Across All Media

Outside of AT&T, they are entirely different lists. At this point in the history of the Internet, it’s hard to argue that the big brands haven’t yet gotten hip to the crazy new technology. The only reasonable explanation is this: The giants of ad-supported online media — portals, publishers and social media platforms — are not offering solutions that do the stuff of brand marketing. Nobody beats search and behavioral targeting when it comes to serving up a coupon when we’re hunting for a product. But clearly the big spenders on the brand side aren’t convinced online ads can turn us on to a new shampoo or shaver, or convince us to walk into a dealership when our old car is still running fine.

P&G Doesn't Want Another Banner Ad on Facebook

Says Ted McConnell, general manager-interactive marketing and innovation at Procter & Gamble, (from Ad Age), “I really don’t want to buy any more banner ads on Facebook.”

“That’s not to say he believes P&G should end all involvement with Facebook. He cited Facebook applications as a potentially valuable vehicle for advertisers, one in which they can create an environment that’s favorable for their brands and consumers alike.”

Measuring Ad Effectivenss on a Cost-Per-Guru Basis

It’s great when advertising drives sales growth that you can attribute back to a particular campaign, such as Jones Soda’s Graffiti drawing contest, which they called out in the companys Q2 2008 earning’s call:

“We ran two very targeted online My Jones programs on Facebook’s Graffiti application along with the very popular I Can Has Cheezburger site. These programs along with increased awareness of My Jones drove our online sales to double versus the same period a year ago.”

But often marketing programs work with more subtlety, building brand preference that ultimately motivates customers to buy products (and, if done exceptionally well, to buy those products at a premium price over competitive wares) even though all the transactions don’t occur as impulse buys triggered by banner ads or 1-800 phone numbers. Sometimes the best marketing is hard to measure.

Microsoft’s recent TV commercial for Windows Vista got me thinking about measurement. The spot, starring Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates, is pretty funny, but one might argue that it’s hard to see how it will drive sales or bolster confidence in the Windows Vista brand among computer users. In fact, much of the punditry is panning it (see a round up at Techdirt). Perhaps Microsoft itself has doubts; company representatives are calling reporters to explain the campaign. And Microsoft is hiring 155 Windows Vista “gurus” to deploy in Best Buy, Circuit City and other retail stores to do what the advertising may not — close the deal.

If we had a cost-per-guru scale, where naturally-occurring brand evangelists each added a point and paid gurus each subtracted one, Microsoft would start this campaign with a negative 155.

On the flip side, marketers that take a more conversational approach to advertising can launch campaigns in positive territory on the “CPG” gauge. I’ve posted a few examples here at ChasNote of conversational marketing programs that FM has played a role in. The Luvs unit of P&G, which built an ad campaign around a parenting-content site called TheMomSpeak, came out of the gates with a positive 1, when online retailer Momma’s Jewels plugged the site in its own customers newsletter. Intel’s sponsorship of PopURLs, the Blue Edition sparked 59 blog reactions, all positive as far as I can tell, according to Technorati. Or the 222 reactions to American Express’s OPEN Forum blog, which licenses content from leading small business authors.

I know, I know. I’m comparing apples to kiwis, maybe fish to bicycles. First off, some of those blog reactions may come from a single blogger, so it wouldn’t be fair to give Intel +59 or Amex +222. And maybe some negative sentiments are expressed in posts where I don’t read the language. There’s a difference, too, between a blogger writing a post and pointing his or her readers to a brand, and a guru making a 40-hour-a-week job of evangelizing a brand. Finally, it’s not an indictment of your advertising creative to also have a smart and aggressive retail strategy (like Microsoft’s Vista gurus or Apple’s “genius bar” staffers) or paid employees who share the gospel from public blogs (like GM’s or Sun’s). Hey, my cost-per-guru metric is still in beta!

But our industry would benefit from a deeper look at the amplification effect (or attenuation effect, as the case may be) initiated by advertising. The data is there; we just need to make better sense of it.

Caveats, disclosures and apologies:

FM, my employer, helped facilitate and received payment for the Jones Soda, P&G, Intel and American Express campaigns mentioned above. We have no formal relationship with Jerry Seinfeld.

One noteworthy FM campaign that felt the wrath of negative gurus is written up (defensively, my critics tell me) here.

P&G's The MomSpeak Blog Gets Unexpected Promotion

In a recent post on The MomSpeak, a site featuring editorial content from several parenting bloggers and sponsored exclusively by P&G’s LUVs brand, Liz Gumbinner of CoolMomPicks offers tips on stylish accessorizing, even after having kids. Among them:

“Rule of thumb for jewelry: If you wouldn’t have worn it before kids, don’t wear it now. There’s plenty of truly great keepsake jewelry out there. And those teething necklaces that claim to look just like stylish necklaces? They don’t. Really. One exception: Momma’s Jewels, whose sterling teething pendants are fantastic.”

The folks at Momma’s Jewels took notice, and featured the quote (along with a link) in their customer newsletter. Must be nice for P&G to have other companies shouldering some of their advertising load!

Momma’s Jewels Newsletter

(Credits: Tiff Liu at Mediavest along with Matt Trotta, Nicole Cook, Leona Laurie and Jana Hartz at FM.)

P&G Launches The Mom Speak Site with Leading Parenting Bloggers

P&G’s Luvs brand, in cahoots with several FM parenting authors, launches The MomSpeak, a “parenting conversation hub.”

The MomSpeak Site

More on this shortly.

P&G Invites Customer Feedback on Media Plan


Following the controversy over P&G Productions’ sponsored storyline featuring two men kissing, P&G has opened a toll-free feedback line. What a simple and great idea: I bet the mere act of listening will dilute the critics’ venom, like Dell’s Direct2Dell site did following the Dell Hell blogstorm.

This forum — albeit an old-school telephone forum — does something else, too. It creates a platform for discussion (in a sense) among opposing points of view. The conservative group American Family Association started the fight with P&G. By opening the toll-free number campaign, P&G has let other customer constituency fight back on their behalf:

“Celebrity gossip site this morning posted a reference to the ‘Nuke’ controversy, urging readers to call P&G’s hotline in support of the couple. By this afternoon, Kip Williams, a blogger on the, also had weighed in, also asking readers to call P&G’s hotline in support.

“Perez Hilton, with an Alexa traffic rank of 430 indicating daily visits by 2.6 million people worldwide, and the Huffington Post, with an Alexa rank of 687 and around 2 million daily visitors, would appear to carry more weight in popular culture than Donald Wildmon, whose site has an Alexa rank of 59,596, indicating daily visits from around 30,000.”

Let the big boys and girls wage battle while you sit safely on the sidelines. Man, I wish I has used that technique on the school yards of my youth. Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that P&G choreographed this ingenious act of self-defense, given it makes the #1 antibacterial soap worldwide, Safeguard.