Save Our Saucepans

SOS Print Ad 1938 Ladies Home Journal

Last night at Pop-Up Magazine I was chatting with two people, one from Clorox and one from a Clorox steel wool supplier, who gave me a quiz I failed: What does SOS stand for in SOS pads? Turns out it’s Save Our Saucepans. Whatever those letters stand for, there’s nothing that polishes your aluminum pans “like new and like magic” like SOS. At least if you believe (as I do) this 1938 ad from Ladies Home Journal.

The Valley of Ambiguity

The Valley of Ambiguity

From Annalee Newitz’s (excellent) theory on viral journalism and the valley of ambiguity. Newitz is the editor-in-chief of io9 and author of Scatter, Adapt and Remember: How Humans Will Survive A Mass Extinction.

TED videos, often seasoned with cheery platitudes, become viral for the same reason that grumpy cat pictures do. They don’t ask us to think critically — just to enjoy, or be amused and enlightened without the time-consuming labor of skepticism and doubt clouding our clicks. Why do we want to share these stories? Because in some sense they are not open to interpretation. You don’t have to worry whether your friends will wonder why you shared this — it’s obvious.

The same goes for viral journalism on the other side of my chart. These stories, like explainers, how-to guides, Mythbusters-style debunkery, and truth-telling investigative journalism, are in some ways the opposite of a stupid video or a LOLcat. They are about truth, rather than amusement. But in fact, they go viral for exactly the same reason LOLcats do. They are not open to interpretation.

I guess we can all publish more feel-guide self-help guides, or just pretend that our low tweet counts (ahem) are a sign that we have asked our readers to do some critical thinking — and, by extension, we’re brilliant.

Prescient Print Ads from the 70s #tbt

The spirit of #tbt got me flipping through old print ads from the 1970s, and among them I noticed a few that feature an unexpected element of soothsay-ery.

For example, it’s like the copywriters at American Airlines in 1976 wrote a joke about the company’s commitment to customer service whose punchline would be delivered three decades later: “The less time passengers spend with me,” says the employee featured in the ad, “the better.”

American Airlines Print Ads 1970s

In Apple’s case (in this ad from 1979), it’s as if they knew they’d roll out Apple TV one day and “turn any color TV into a dazzling array of color graphics.”

Apple Print Ad 1979

Word Association Ads at Starbucks

Is this new, or have Starbucks and Google been running these silly-question ads for a while? I just logged on to the free wifi at a Starbucks location in San Francisco, and it served up a quick word-association quiz. When I say salsa, do you say dancers or tacos? After I picked tacos, I was served a taco-oriented video ad (provided by Google) for my viewing pleasure.

Word Association Ad at Starbucks

I wonder how this format is working. I participated in Part I (I answered the quiz question), but skipped Part II (watching the video ad). Anyone have experience with this kind of campaign? Are people other than me tuning in to the ads?

Being Authentic In Your Fakeness, Part II

Authentic Food Court Flavor

In response to that Fozzie and Kermit video, and my comment that an admission of fakeness can increase one’s authenticity, Boing Boing’s David Pescovitz alerted me to Bourbon Chicken Grill’N Dip, which promotes its “Authentic Food Court Flavoring.” Yum.

His source: James Gilmore and Joe Pine, authors of The Experience Economy and Authenticity.

Liking a Brand Enough That You’ll Never Sue Them

Cheerios Necklace
(Photo from My Natural Family.)

Early Wednesday morning, sitting above my cereal bowl — full of oats most likely toasted by General Mills — I read that clicking the Like button on the Facebook page of my favorite brands might abdicate my right to sue the company if it later does something that causes me harm. From the New York Times:

General Mills, the maker of cereals like Cheerios and Chex as well as brands like Bisquick and Betty Crocker, has quietly added language to its website to alert consumers that they give up their right to sue the company if they download coupons, “join” it in online communities like Facebook, enter a company-sponsored sweepstakes or contest or interact with it in a variety of other ways.

In fact, consumers may not even need to hit the Like button to give up their right to sue:

In language added on Tuesday after The New York Times contacted it about the changes, General Mills seemed to go even further, suggesting that buying its products would bind consumers to those terms.

This is hard for me to get my head around. Obviously a brand doesn’t make a move like that with the intention of delighting its customers. (It’s Friday, almost three days after the news broke, and it continues to dominate the conversation — none of it positive — on Twitter for #Cheerios.)

#Cheerios in Twitter

So why do it?

General Mills seems to have a gigantic number of happy customers who spent almost $18 billion on General Mills cereals and baking mixes last year, up seven percent from the year before. Do a lot of them end up suing the company in the end? I’m guessing they don’t. A chipped tooth here, or the occasional turd in a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, right? It’s not like they’re selling toxic, smokable chemicals or fire arms.

Which put a weird thought in my head. I froze mid bite, staring down a spoonful of milky breakfast flakes, and wondered: Do the lawyers at General Mills know something I don’t? Some secret poisonous ingredient we don’t know about yet?!

I mean why else would they go after their very best customers — the one who are befriending them in Facebook, and trumpeting their brands across social media? Baffling. Maybe the CMO was out sick the day they updated the privacy policy.

Being Authentic In Your Fakeness

“Well Fozzie, the thing of it is though you’re not a real bear. You’re not a real natural bear. I mean, you’re talking about a bear in its natural habitat…. What do you have, you have sort of a fake fur. You’ve got foam rubber. You’ve got foam rubber and fake fur. You’re an artificial bear. Have you ever seen a bear with a magenta nose?”

It’s funny: As I watched Kermit and Fozzie call each other out for being fake, I found them to be more real than ever. Sure, they’re fake animals, but we already knew that. Meanwhile, they are so authentic as — what, brands? — that a lot of people consider them friends.

From a camera test for original The Muppet Movie back in 1979. Full story at Laughing Squid.

Low Likelihood That Disengaged Readers Will Return To Your Site

Shocking but true!! New data from Chartbeat shows a pretty tight correlation between reader engagement (measured in minutes spent visiting a website) and propensity to return to that site within a week.

Time Spent v Likelihood to Return

From Herbert Lui’s post at Contently:

Chartbeat CEO Tony Haile believes in measuring the time readers spend on the page engaging — scrolling, clicking, writing, reading, and watching — and correlating that number with the average reader’s propensity to return. This method helps determine the progress of publishers’ platform development based on the likelihood of readers to return in 30 days.

Don’t build traffic, says Lui, build an audience. Amen. I recently made a similar argument, that media doesn’t work if no one is paying attention.

3D Advertising in Newspaper’s Classifieds Section

3D Classifieds Advertising

From Adweek:

Innovative newspaper ads are a rare beast…. Here’s an interesting one from Colombia. It’s an ad for kitchens hidden inside a fake classifieds page — thanks to a nifty 3-D effect applied to the text. “The kitchen you are imagining is in HiperCentro Corona,” says the headline.

Pretty excellent, I say.

Native Ad That Even The Sponsor Didn’t See Coming

Among my favorite email publications (ever) is Dave Pell’s NextDraft. Pando Daily calls it “perhaps the world’s best email newsletter,” and who am I to argue? I even like how Dave does integrated advertising. Yesterday, among his list of the ten most fascinating news stories of the day, he gave over the Number Nine spot to a thank-you note aimed at the newsletter’s sponsor, Automattic, maker of WordPress and other software products.

Native Advertising on NextDraft

It’s pretty cool that Automattic supports Dave’s newsletter with sponsorship dollars and doesn’t ask for anything in return, like say banner ads or harvested logs of session cookies. Maybe they think the mere existence of great websites and newsletters might inspire more people to launch their own, perhaps becoming Automattic customers in the process. Who knows. Some companies just go further than others to take care of business partners, and maybe Automattic is one of them. I bet they aren’t regretting that practice today.