Advertising to women

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A Branding & Advertising Evolution: 1 in a Series of Musings Sparked by “The 100 Greatest Advertisements,” Julian Lewis Watkins, Dover Books, 1959

I’ve written about tobacco industry and government overreach before (here, here, here, and here). My feeling is that as long as tobacco is a legal product, and the government chooses to collect ever higher taxes from smokers, and as long as there are age restrictions and programs in place to educate young people, then there should be a balance. However, with the cost of employee health care guaranteed to keep rising, there will be ever-increasing pressure on people not to smoke, not to over eat, not to eat unhealthy foods, not to drink sugary drinks or those with artificial sweeteners, not to drive except to work, school, or essential errands, not to step off curbs. . .well, where does it end or does it ever end? The other day, I heard that some state is thinking of introducing legislation to prevent the public smoking of electronic cigarettes, the ones that produce no harmful byproducts or second-hand smoke, only steam. So, now it is the sight of someone deriving pleasure from an electronic device that simulates the smoking of a tobacco cigarette that is enough to cause psychic harm to bystanders? We have really lost our way.

When Ted Regan loaned me his copy of “The 100 Greatest Advertisements,” and began sharing Ayer stories, he didn’t know he was going to re-ignite the great tobacco/smokers’ rights debate again. This is rich territory that MadMen has visited in various episodes and might again this coming spring.

N.W. Ayer's introductory campaign to launch the then-new Camels brand.

N.W. Ayer's introductory campaign to launch the then-new Camels brand.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that one of the most iconic of cigarette brands began life as an N.W. Ayer account. When R. J. Reynolds blended a new cigarette that they wanted to roll out as a national brand, they acquired the Camel name from a small independent company in Philadelphia for $2,500. They then budgeted 10 times that amount, so Ayer could introduce it. First, there was testing to ensure the public liked the new cigarettes — many cartons were distributed and sold through the best retail stores in Cleveland, prominently placed on top of counters. Secondarily, it was moved to parts of stores where it competed for sales with regional brands. It did well in both areas of these stores. Ayer then developed a newspaper teaser ad campaign, coordinated with the implementation of new distribution, to create interest in demand for Camels (“Tomorrow There Will Be More Camels in This Town Than in Asia and Africa Combined”). The rest is brand history. Later on, a billboard painter was quoted as saying “I’d Walk A Mile For A Camel.” That was the genesis of one of the most famous slogans in advertising history.

This Lucky Strike campaign was aimed squarely at women and against candy.

This Lucky Strike campaign was aimed squarely at women and against candy.

Long before there were Virginia Slims, developed specifically to market as a women’s cigarette brand, the American Tobacco Company decided that Lucky Strikes could be effectively marketed (against the protests of the confectionary industry) as “Reach for a Lucky Instead of a Sweet.” Motion picture starlets were hired as spokespersons to pitch the dietary cravings advantage of cigarettes over candy to women. It was a huge success, and many believe that the campaign may have been the single greatest effort leading to creating women smokers.

Hedy Lamar continued the Lucky Strike trend of movie star brand spokespersons.

Hedy Lamar continued the Lucky Strike trend of movie star brand spokespersons.

Conversely, the tobacco brand forever most associated with men is Marlboro, thanks to the efforts of Leo Burnett, where the marketing effort began. Ironically, Marlboro already existed as a high-priced exclusive cigarette sold to sophisticates and women at hotels, cigar stores, and nightclubs. Philip Morris wanted to take the brand for a new entry into the popular-priced filter field. They wanted to appeal broadly to men, and secondarily to women.

Long before the "most interesting man in the world" there was the Marlboro Man.

Long before the "most interesting man in the world" there was the Marlboro Man.

The filtered segment began in response to health concerns (more on that in a minute), but flavor was still critical in brand decision-making. Burnett realized that image was critical. And so, the Marlboro Man was born — the cowboy who bought a new brand of filtered cigarettes because he liked the taste and they came in a distinctive crush-proof box.

The Emperor of All Maladies, A Biography of Cancer, is the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Siddhartha Mukherjee

The Emperor of All Maladies, A Biography of Cancer, is the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Ironically, the other book I’ve been reading concurrently with Ted Regan’s loaned Ayer and advertising volumes is the exceptional, Pulitzer Prize-winning,“The Emperor of All Maladies” by Siddhartha Mukherjee, subtitled “A Biography of Cancer.”  Two later chapters touch on the battle to beat lung cancer, and the subsequent start of the government’s own battle with the tobacco industry. At that time, the tobacco industry was far more dominant than they are today. When Richard Doll and Bradford Hill published a ground-breaking study on lung cancer in 1956, the adult American population had reached a peak of 45 percent who smoked. On average, Americans smoked 11 cigarettes per day. Hard to imagine those numbers today.

"A Frank Statement," American tobacco's first salvo against medical studies linking smoking and cancer.

"A Frank Statement," American tobacco's first salvo against medical studies linking smoking and cancer.

The study’s results for the first time strongly linked smoking, tar, and tobacco with lung cancer deaths, especially when contrasted against non-smokers. With bad publicity spreading, the heads of U.S. tobacco companies decided they could not sit back and ignore what would be increasingly damaging reports. The result was a counterattack that began with a full page ad in 400 major newspapers entitled “A Frank Statement.” The text cast doubt on the quality of the science (experiments on mice vs. humans, which actually was not the case in the Doll/Hill study) and disagreements in the medical community. The topping was the announcement that the industry would be conducting its own research by the Tobacco Industry Research Committee (no conflict of interest here). A recent trip to a Baltimore antique store hammered home to me that Big Tobacco’s efforts to assure the public of the safety of cigarettes didn’t end with “A Frank Statement.” Although it never evolved into a lasting brand, Country Doctor pipe tobacco may have been the ultimate attempt to mislead the public that cancer risks from smoking were minimal to the point that the medical profession had their own preferred pack.

Country Doctor brand cigarettes. To your health!

Country Doctor brand pipe tobacco. To your health!

     Any trip to Wawa will tell you by the number of tobacco products behind the counter that Americans are still smoking, chewing, pinching, and spitting. But you’ve come a long way, baby, from a market share of half the adult population. Smoking is still a pleasurable, stress-relieving activity for a lot of people, but those who partake do so with the knowledge that they may face a bevy of health risks or early death down the road. If ever there was a product that the phrase caveat emptor was invented for, it’s cigarettes.

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Hooters is looking to expand their demographics.

Hooters is looking to expand their demographics.

I consider myself a red-blooded American male, but I have a confession to make. I have never set foot inside a Hooters restaurant. Timing was always bad when male friends gathered at one for a round of drinks. I sure never felt unselfconscious enough to drop by alone for a beer and plate of wings. And I knew I might have an uphill battle convincing my wife that we should have a family dinner there. However, I always assumed I was in the minority. This article in Advertising Age about a new campaign suggests otherwise.

There was a time that Hooters totally owned the tacky territory of well-endowed waitresses in skimpy uniforms. They even extended the brand briefly to an airline (no flotation device jokes, please) and to supermarkets with their signature brand of wings hot sauce.

Now, the market segment Hooters invented has a name — breastaurants — and the chain has smaller chain competitors in Twin Peaks and Tilted Kilt. Truth be told, there are very few male-dominated bars in America that don’t follow the Hooters hiring model in selecting waitstaff.

Incredibly, the new consortium of private-equity firms that owns Hooters since the death of its founder in 2006, has brought in a new management team with new ideas. Unfortunately, from the Ad Age story, it sounds like they may know the chain restaurant business, but not the dangers of tampering with brand equity. Hooters, if it can be believed, is in the process of reinventing itself. The chain wants to expand by appealing to “younger people and women” and by becoming “an option for more dining occasions” (maybe now I can convince my wife about family dinner).

But just wait a wing-dipping minute. First of all, you can’t be all things to all people. Hooters is a place guys go to drink and eat man cave food with buddies, while enjoying the politically incorrect outfits of the waitresses. Most women, other than Hooters waitresses, have a visceral reaction when they hear the name Hooters and would never consider entering the establishment unless it was as part of a pitchfork mob. How you suddenly convert this chain into a place for date night or another Dave and Buster’s or Olive Garden is beyond me.

So, whom did the chain turn to in order to tackle this seemingly impossible assignment? Their first lead agency, Fitzgerald & Co., and Jody Hill, the director of that HBO-exclusive Shakespearean drama “Eastbound and Down” have collaborated on new commercials that create an inner dialogue a potential customer might have in his head (or on his shoulder) between an angel owl and a devil owl reminding him of the virtues of Hooters. Sounds funny, and it is clever, but the results are edgy and still seem aimed at the male funny bone. Media buys on ESPN and Fox Sports also skew heavily toward the testosterone crowd.

I am pretty damned sure that this new campaign is not going to change anything in the minds of Hooters key demographic —guys who like to ogle while they eat and drink. The danger is that by adding 30 different salads and probably bringing in a decorator who likes ferns but not big screen TVs or just big Ts, the new management team could be tampering with Hooters DNA. If I didn’t know better, I’d say NYC Mayor Bloomberg was behind this politically correct plot.  I promise to keep you updated on this tempest in a D cup.

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The NYTimes magazine features an amazing story on retailers' data collection and analysis practices.

The NYTimes magazine features an amazing story on retailers' data collection and analysis practices.

The answer is of course. We all are. Personal data is being collected on all of us at an alarming rate. We have written about it before and before that. The President and Congress and the Digital Advertising Alliance are looking at new legislation and new steps to protect consumer privacy. Meanwhile the databases continue to accumulate on you and me and your next-door neighbors and your cousin Louie and all credit card wielding members of the Kardashian family.

I’d like to thank Michael Smerconish and his drive time radio show for tipping me off to an amazing story on personal data collection and analysis from last Sunday’s New York Times magazine. I encourage you to read it in its entirety here and to watch the short video that accompanies it. There’s an amazing story about how data launched, crashed, and resurrected Febreze and a mini industry of household deodorizers. However, the main event is how Target is successfully collecting data and using it to predict key moments when customers might be induced to become even more loyal and big-spending customers.

The Target example given is focused on products that women purchase when they are in the early stages of pregnancy (evidently one of those retail window periods when customers might be influenced by special offers and promotions to become uber customers).  That sounds like a universal creepout and Target, smart marketers that they are, recognize how to use that data in such subtle ways that most customers will not even realize they are being beckoned siren song style by the ”growing family” clothing, feeding, and home decorating aisles.

Once the full ramifications of this article had sunk in, I began having nightmares about the data that various retailers are collecting on me and how they are interpreting it.

Does Starbucks know they have a serious caffeine addict on their hands and can now move beyond this gateway drug and start selling me crack lattes?

Must Wal-Mart be convinced by the number of boxes of Cap’n Crunch and other child-friendly cereals I purchase that I am now ready to acquire a steady stream of action figures and Pokemon cards?

Will Wegman’s tally up my craft beer six pack totals and write me off as asleep on the couch Rip Van Winkle style and unlikely to shop again prior to 2015?

Lord, please make CVS destroy the servers where my Rx and OTC pharmaceutical purchases are stored. They may be calling the asylum now.

I think we can all take some comfort that Ryan Braun, last season’s National League MVP, managed to get his drug testing suspension overturned this week. It may not restore the appearance of purity to Major League Baseball, but it’s one small blow against the data collectors and wielders.

On the second anniversary of our weekly blog. Thanks to all of you who read NewtonIdeas.net on an occasional or regular basis. This marks our 106th post. Last month, we broke the 10,000 unique visitors mark and it felt gratifying that the meta tagging of all those pornographic search terms are finally paying off.

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We’ve written before about the importance of jingles in broadcast for brand building. However, most tv and radio spots don’t use original music. They borrow the appeal of popular recordings. Some find hits played a billion times that have an obvious tie-in to the marketing message (back in the 80s, Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You” for AT&T; the Beatles’ “Help” currently pushing customer service for HH Gregg).  Others unearth really catchy gems, some from the archives and some current, not-yet-widely-known talent (Apple sold a lot of iPods and iTunes with great “Who did that song?” spots).

talbots

Currently, a new tv commercial from Talbots, the women’s clothing retailer, is effectively using music to stop everyone dead in their tracks and push “timeless” fashion and style. It is more than a catchy hook — it is propelled by a great vocal performance in sync with the visuals, spanning black and white to color of a confident Talbots customer parading down the street in her Talbots ensemble, with her Talbots bag, all in slo mo. If “History Repeating” by Shirley Bassey doesn’t help Talbots jumpstart sales, it will have at least succeeded in earning Talbots some serious brand awareness and recognition.

Ironically, Shirley Bassey came to fame in the 50s and is perhaps best known for her James Bond theme songs in the 60s and 70s, but “History Repeating” only recalls this period — it is actually a 1997 collaboration with British electronic music producers and ensemble, The Propellerheads. Here is the original video.

The music industry has long had a love-hate relationship with the advertising industry. Rock artists especially have had to weather taunts of sellout for taking fat royalty checks for licensing their music. Remember the outcry when the Beatles’ “Revolution” was used by Nike to sell sneakers?

So, it is only fitting to close out this week with a “live” opposing opinion on this subject from rock’s most notable, go-your-own-way guy, Neil Young.

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Julia Roberts and Christy Turlington retouched cosmetic ads have been banned in Britain.

Julia Roberts and Christy Turlington retouched cosmetic ads have been banned in Britain.

After a full week of the debt ceiling sideshow, I had an epiphany of what represents too much government and it comes from Europe, specifically the UK.  Here is where we don’t want the US to go, but it may be where we are headed if we keep ceding more power and responsibility to DC.

The Los Angeles Times reports this stupefying story from the world of advertising oversight — a bureaucracy called the British Advertising Standards Authority has just banned Lancome and Maybelline print ads featuring Julia Roberts and Christy Turlington because they are too heavily retouched. Where’s the evidence? Well, technically the ASA didn’t have any because Ms. Roberts’ contract with L’Oreal does not permit release of non-airbrushed photos (L’Oreal did not supply “before” photos of Ms. Turlington either). So, the government jury upheld the complaint. The article did not say who complained. A L’Oreal competitor? An ex of Ms. Roberts or Ms. Turlington? A bored ASA employee?

I find it incredible that a customer might have complained that Teint Miracle did not instantly convert her into a Julia Roberts lookalike circa Pretty Woman days. On the surface, this is all very amusing, but it is actually also incredibly insulting to Ms. Roberts and Ms. Turlington, as well as to the art director whose job it is improve upon raw photography through the digital tools of Photoshop, as well as to the British taxpayers who are funding the salaries and benefits of ASA employees.

Is there any way to quantify how much retouching is acceptable to the general public? Print or screen resolution, it still comes down to reproduction and presentation and what is appealing to the naked eye. Supposedly, Hollywood once smeared Vaseline on camera filters to achieve a softer hazy look when shooting older stars. Does anyone in government adequately understand Photoshop and its features (our earlier post on the President’s birth certificate should definitively answer that). And why stop with Photoshop? CGI capabilities in film/video/software create entire new worlds. Is the skin tone in Avatar too blue? Slippery slope here, folks.

What bothers me most about this is the myriad of instances where businesses and customers alike are being harmed and the government should be marshaling resources instead against these larger issues affecting the common good. Brand counterfeiting is a huge problem. Last week, it was a phony Apple Store in China (and Chinese consumers were outraged that they had been taken by pirates in their midst). Recently, a packaging client shared this 60 Minutes clip about counterfeit pharmaceuticals and packaging that is literally stealing people’s health, not to mention the economic damage it is inflicting on the global economy.

Is Julia Roberts’ skin flawless or merely perfect after using Teint Miracle foundation? Before this level of bureaucratic oversight idiocy ever reaches our shores, I humbly submit that it be included in any of the shell game budget cuts being bandied about in backrooms of the Capitol this week.

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Advertising, especially the creative side, has a long-lived reputation as the He-Man Woman-Haters Club. Just ask Peggy on MadMen. On the one hand, the creative side of this business has always set a high bar on talent. On the other, the rules have long been made by men. White men, too, but minority pressures to break into this business is a blog post for another day.

The BADVERTISING portion of the Jezebel web site takes on advertising for women.

The BADVERTISING portion of the Jezebel web site takes on advertising for women.

Certainly, in the past few decades, women have made amazing strides in ascending agency career ladders in advertising, marketing, and PR. But the work that gets produced doesn’t always win friends, especially when targeted to women. As evidence, I’d like to recommend you make the BADVERTISING wing of the Jezebel web site, which is part of the same network as Gawker. It is edited by Margaret Hartmann, who regularly weighs in on questionable advertising aimed at women. Everything from fashion ads that push the envelope by using too-young models too provocatively to sell Jeggings, to Naomi Campbell being compared with a new brand of chocolate.

What specifically brought me to the site was a headline link about Yoplait yogurt pulling a TV spot that has been accused of Promoting Eating Disorders. When I visited Jezebel, I was surprised that I had seen the commercial and it had not set off alarm bells in my head. It struck me as just one more ad telling women they could enjoy great taste and still watch their caloric intake.

However, after reading the article and the comments board, I felt like I needed some sensitivity training. Eating disorders and women’s obsessions with ideal body image are not too be taken lightly. If you have a daughter or sister grappling with anorexia or bulimia, it’s a life or death matter, and you don’t need another tv ad or late night talk show monologue sending her into a tailspin.

Many people, especially in this industry, will see this as a slippery slope. When edgy gets attention, where do you draw the line at playing it safe so as not to offend anyone. Yoplait clearly saw that enough women were disturbed by the weight anxiety issues this commercial triggered to decide to voluntarily agree to stop airing it. Since we’re talking about a lot more than hurt feelings here, I believe Yoplait made the right call.

I encourage you to follow BADVERTISING. Clearly, the site’s editor, Margaret Hartmann, is knowledgeable about advertising’s impact on women and won’t allow it be for worse. “We’ve come a long way, baby” since women having their own cigarette brand — Virginia Slims — was considered an equal rights moment. But obviously, we’ve still got a very long way to go.

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