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A Branding & Advertising Evolution: 4 in a Series of Musings Sparked by “The 100 Greatest Advertisements,” Julian Lewis Watkins, Dover Books, 1959

This week, President Obama made one of those statements he probably wanted to retract as soon as he expressed it. He was lauding Kamala Harris, the Attorney General of California, for her many accomplishments and her legal experience, when he did something guys of another era used to do all the time — he complimented Ms. Harris for being attractive. Instantly, attractive women felt marginalized (He only admires her for her looks.), unattractive women felt even more marginalized (I bet he’d never say that about me.), attractive men were confused (What’s wrong with that?), and unattractive men were also confused (What’s wrong with that?).  Surely, the President got a later earful from the First Lady and his two daughters. All around it was an awkward moment that momentarily tilted the world off its access.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=EQTyxNTQTtk&noredirect=1

Meanwhile in the world of advertising, super models are the daily norm and sensitivities be damned. Attractive people have always been used in commercials and catalogs to build brands and sell products. When that dynamic is tampered with, as GoDaddy did in their commercial during the last SuperBowl, having super model Bar Refaeli soulfully kiss computer nerd Walter, to illustrate the blending of sexy and smart, something doesn’t feel right (maybe having Danica Patrick announce the moment?). In this case, the situation was meant for comic effect, but there was something cruel about it. I know the young man wasn’t complaining about having to do take after interminable take to get the camera angle right, but he was clearly the butt of a joke in front of that audience of 108.4 million viewers. At times, we are overly sensitive, while at others like this one, we aren’t nearly sensitive enough. Take Target this week and their “manatee grey” plus size dress. Did they think anyone (everyone?) was going to miss that inference?

The Lonesome Girl learns how to make a dress.

All of which brings me back to the “100 Greatest Advertisements” collection, which features some ads that play on sensitive subjects, especially on women’s insecurities. “The Diary of a Lonesome Girl” makes every other copy-heavy ad seem like haiku. But it is worth a read to get a sense of the pitch for the Woman’s Institute, which is a mail order teaching curriculum. In this case, the course is on dress-making and it is the salvation of the Lonesome Girl from the headline. The ad is a diary account of a young lady who is practically destitute, living at home, sequestered in her room because she can’t afford to go to her neighbor’s parties, tormented because she can hear those parties and knows that her neighbor is dancing with Tom, and embarrassed that she only owns that old blue crepe dress. Since President Obama wasn’t around at the time to lift her spirits by calling her attractive, the narrator of the ad has to turn to the Woman’s Institute, which she does, discovers the art of dress making, and eventually she throws her own parties and wows Tom and her neighbor. I’ll never worry about over-promising in one of my ads again.

You may be attractive, but it's actually your breath that's stopping traffic.

You may be attractive, but it's actually your breath that's stopping traffic.

There are two ads that follow, further unnerving women readers who are unattached. An early ad for Listerine reveals why one woman is often a “Bridesmaid but Never a Bride.” Evidently, because she cannot smell her own breath, the thought of halitosis has never occurred to her. The ushers’ shriveled-up boutonnieres from the last 8 weddings never raised a red flag?

Pepsodent was on teeth film long before white strips.

Pepsodent was on teeth film long before white strips.

Meanwhile, if we think teeth whitening strips and treatments are a recent obsession, Pepsodent can remind us that we’ve been concerned with dingy-colored teeth for a very long time. Once again, a woman’s appearance is hugely important to her. And sometimes it is a matter of Presidential importance.

Diamonds. Attracting women since forever.

Diamonds. Attracting women since forever.

Finally, this N.W. Ayer ad for DeBeers was one of many to launch a long association between diamond jewelry and advertising (1939-1947), and the famous slogan, “A Diamond is Forever.”  One thing we can all agree upon when it comes to the word “attractive,” it is safe to say in public that women find diamonds very attractive.

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Advertising typically reflects the spirit of the times it occurs in.  Lately, I’ve been thinking of building a time machine to escape to the MadMen era. I’ve been seeing a trend that reflects what DC likes to refer to as “our new reality”.  It is a reality that I don’t think many Americans are eager or willing to accept, which might fall under the heading of downsized dreams.

In the past few weeks, as the nation’s investment rating was downgraded and Warren Buffett expressed the odd belief that he and other millionaires weren’t paying enough in taxes, I have begun to notice some of this sentiment creeping into ads. Some of it is subtle, but the subtext seems to be that the American dream is dead or at the very least dying.

VIST Financial borrows an unfortunate image from the Depression

VIST Financial borrows an unfortunate image from the Depression

The first time I noticed it was in print and online ads for VIST Financial. The campaign showcased employees holding up “Will Work for Your Trust” signs that unintentionally (or perhaps intentionally) mirrored the Depression era imagery of the perpetually unemployed holding signs that read “Will Work for Food”.  What next? Apple Annie? Pencil sales on the corner? Bank employees jumping out of office windows after each day’s stock market decline? Can we find another theme? Forget about earning trust; this is confidence-rattling.

Moving on to automobiles, we’ve graduated from Cash for Clunkers to scenes of a Mad Max future. It started with the Eminem SuperBowl spot that showcased Detroit’s grit, but the latest Dodge Durango advertising is right out of Bruce Springsteen’s “rattlesnake speedway in the Utah desert.” The message is that naysayers shouldn’t be declaring America’s auto industry dead yet, but the visuals suggest that it is on life support. If this is a message of hope, Norman Vincent Peale is like a rotisserie chicken in his grave.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EcY4Di6OgWw

Then, there is the spot that led me to write this post — a really well produced spot. It was so well produced that I thought I was watching an ad for one of the big banks. The scene takes place as a couple prepares their nursery for their new baby. The voiceovers and supers promote the idea of starting a college fund for their kids, then for their kids’ kids, then for hundreds of kids in their community. Saving early has always been a great idea. Except the ad isn’t about investing wisely and often. It is about buying Mega Millions lottery tickets. Unintended underlying message — this may be the only way the next few generations will be able to afford higher education. Yikes!

I think we are all in need of an attitude adjustment. We don’t need Pollyanna preaching, but a little positivity in advertising would go a long way toward relieving the grim mood of the moment. Americans want to be inspired, not discouraged that the sun won’t come out tomorrow. We have TV news for that messaging.

And a moment of silence (followed by the opening chords of Layla). This week, a different kind of era sadly ended with the announcement that classic rock station WYSP would fade out, soon to be replaced with an FM simulcast of AM sister station’s WIP sports talk format. WYSP, for a long time the home of Howard Stern before his move to XM, has also long been a staple of the Philadelphia region’s rock scene. It has always been a rival of WMMR, but increasingly, other stations began carrying classic rock fare, from WMGK to BEN FM. Although classic rock has enjoyed a resurgence among younger listeners, the youth music market has many other alternatives from top 40, to hip hop. Like every other medium, radio is a numbers game and with Philadelphia’s love affair with their professional sports teams, it makes sense that WIP can reach an even wider audience via the FM dial, where it can go head to head with its own rival,  97.5 — The Phanatic. Well, at least WYSP fulfilled the wish of The Who, “to die before I get old.”

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NFL Films is one of the area's premier brands.

NFL Films is one of the area's premier brands.

It was a pleasant surprise to read that 94 year old Ed Sabol, founder of NFL Films is being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH this weekend as a contributor. Sabol only turbocharged the  success of the NFL with his artful, loving, slo mo recreations of the game’s greatest plays each week — in so doing, he built his own successful NFL franchise, one of the region’s top film production companies (including corporate videos and tv commercials), while boosting the game’s popularity over all other professional sports. The NFL owes Ed Sabol a huge debt of gratitude. Not sure what took them so long to recognize his achievement, but it’s great that they finally have.

Unfortunately, a different kind of repayment has been coming in the form of NFL Networks, which has been trading on the NFL Films brand, while letting its style and content languish over the past few years. Two recent articles at Philly.com highlight Sabol’s long overdue honor and the current sad state of affairs at both NFL Films and NFL Network.

Ed Sabol and Steve Sabol of NFL Films

Ed Sabol and Steve Sabol of NFL Films

Compound the bad NFL Networks business decisions with the fact that Ed’s son, Steve Sabol, who has run NFL Films since 1995, has been recently diagnosed with brain cancer and you have a company and brand that is battling to regain its glory days. Best wishes to Steve Sabol who doesn’t deserve this fight on top of battling cancer  — working with others at the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society who have loved ones or co-workers currently battling blood cancers has taught me how tough it is to focus on much else.

But NFL Films have had other losses in recent years. Great voiceover work has always distinguished them, starting with the golden pipes of John Facenda, who became synonymous with the Sunday week-in-review replay presentations. When John passed away, NFL Films was astute enough to enlist Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas, also no slouch in the magical vocal chords and flawless delivery department.  With Harry’s passing, there has been no obvious voiceover legend to create “theater of the mind” moments.  With such signature talent, NFL Films has lost large blocks of other employees, dropping from over 300 to 215. Among them, the great writer and commentator. Ray Didinger, whose encyclopedic knowledge and analytical skills of NFL player personnel, history, rules, news, and trends is a gaping hole that NFL Films is hard pressed to fill.

Reading about NFL Films made me sad — Ed Sabol deserved this Canton honor long before now, his company is struggling, his son is battling cancer, and it sounds like a Philadelphia area treasure is in danger of getting further marginalized. We need NFL Films now more than ever — the Eagles appear to be poised to make another SuperBowl run (and hopefully win a championship this time). It would be a shame if NFL Films was not operating at peak performance to chronicle the coming season.

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Chrysler's "Imported from Detroit" 2-minute SuperBowl spot

Chrysler's "Imported from Detroit" 2-minute SuperBowl spot

Originally, I was only going to devote one post to SuperBowl commercials. However, a lot of blog-worthy controversy erupted over two banned spots going into the game. By last Sunday, the majority of spots were posted to YouTube and elsewhere prior to the game that I was able to blog about my favorites even before kickoff. This week, on to other marketing matters. Well, not quite.

Last Sunday’s SuperBowl set the all-time TV viewership record, 111 million viewers, eclipsing the prior year’s Saints-Colts matchup of 106.5 million viewers, which had finally beaten the long-held record of 106 million viewers held by the 1983 finale of M*A*S*H. Wow, now that’s 222 million eyeballs (give or take a few fans who may have finally dozed off during the Vince Lombardi trophy ceremony).  I would say that all those advertisers who shelled out $3 million per 30-second spot got their money’s worth in viewership.

Well, maybe not, and that’s the reason for Part III. A week later, people are still talking about SuperBowl commercials on talk radio, in social media, around the water cooler, but not especially in a good way.

It’s not like 1984 when Apple’s vision of the digital future smashing an Orwellian present with a Thor-like hammer seized everyone’s attention and imagination. This year’s conversation was all about specific “what were they thinking?” controversies.

The spot that I think came closest to a “1984” statement was Chrysler’s 2-minute gritty ode to the resilience and spirit of Detroit, featuring Eminem, unidentified at first, as he drove viewers around his hometown and the voiceover narrator shared some pretty inspirational thoughts. It resonated with me and a lot of other viewers. At least until I multiplied 30 seconds times 4 and arrived at a $12 million advertising media price tag for a car company that just two years ago was getting bailed out by Uncle Sam. Hard to make those numbers add up. The line between “warm and fuzzy” and “fuzzy math” got a lot blurrier.

Creatively, my favorite work from the SuperBowl is still Audi’s, although not a huge number share my opinion. I hope the car company sticks with this campaign and gives it the exposure it deserves. I posted a link to last week’s blog in five different ad and marketing LinkedIn groups I belong to as a way to get discussion going about the SuperBowl spots. A lot of people weighed in with their own favorites, thoughts on the controversies, and insider baseball. Kerry Antezana, a Creative Director from Seattle, shared this particularly good link to the BrandBowl site that blended stats from Twitter responses to pick ad winners (Chrysler for overall, so maybe that $12 million was well spent).  There were a lot of comments that everyone was underwhelmed by the creativity of this year’s spots, but that even the lamest spots resonated more than social media’s role in all this.

Edginess of spots did not automatically mean people were talking about them. Doritos scored more for their amazing pug on a hunger mission than the cringe-worthy ad where a cheese-flavor-obsessed Doritos lover sucked the fingers of a co-worker and pulled the cheese-dust-covered pants off another.

However, Pepsi Max managed to turn edgy humor into racial controversy on the floor of the U.S. Congress when Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee denounced its stereotypes as a sorry distraction from Black History Month. I don’t think most viewers saw it that way. It was more about relationship humor, but it was neither funny enough nor edgy enough to register much on either the laughs or controversy scale.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O89q-RDHRjc

The biggest controversy belonged to Groupon, who sought to have some snarky fun with the seriousness of social causes, by having Tim Hutton flip the mention of political turmoil in Tibet around to this week’s Groupon deal for Tibetan restaurant cuisine. Tasteless? Yes. Intentional? Yes, in a Saturday Night Live commercial parody kind of way. Successful? Obviously not, in light of the nearly universal righteous anger it generated. Some of the posters in the LinkedIn discussions noted that it may not have affected Groupon as much as originally predicted, but by week’s end, the company pulled the offending spot.

Closing thoughts. When you are spending $3 million per 30 seconds of SuperBowl time, a little more spent for a focus group might be warranted (not to tweak creative, but to act as a canary in a coal mine). As for the impact of all this? Put in the context of events in Egypt this week, it’s a little silly and a lot self-important. The freedom we have to enjoy the NFL, commercials, and commerce should not be taken for granted. Here’s hoping for a better life for Egyptians, Tibetans, and the rest of the world.

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Audi's Terrific New "Luxury Prison" Campaign is This Year's SuperBowl Champ

Audi's Terrific New "Luxury Prison" Campaign is This Year's SuperBowl Champ

The hype over SuperBowl commercials gets bigger every year. That’s because the number of advertisers willing to pony up $3 million per 30-second spot has mushroomed. That’s excluding creative strategy, development, and production costs. If you have a celebrity endorser, the price tag goes even higher. Obviously, this is a competition only the biggest brands can compete in. The real value is in the opportunity to cut through the clutter with some truly memorable messaging and brand positioning.

Ironically, with the advent of YouTube and social media, the buzz generation machine was in full swing the last few weeks. The vast majority of the spots, or teaser versions of those spots, are up on YouTube and sites like this and this and this. The best place to take the temperature of hot, hotter, hottest spots, however, is Mashable, which has compiled Twitter results on the ads generating the most advance interest. Advertisers and agencies have caught on to the formula that Hollywood uses, releasing various versions of movie trailers and stills, especially among “fan boys,” to build excitement to a fever pitch when big budget blockbusters hit the theaters.

Even with this unprecedented opportunity to win fans in advance of the big game, some brands still don’t get it.  The posted clips are long-form making of the spot promos (Mercedes) or celebrity behind-the-scenes documentaries (Faith Hill for Teleflora).  And amazingly, Coca-Cola has told Mashable to take down their video because of copyright issues (it’s free publicity, folks!).  David Meerman Scott’s book, “The New Rules of Marketing and PR,” recounts a similar tone-deafness to new media opportunities when the soda giant ignored opportunities to leverage the viral video phenomenon created by dropping Mentos candies into open liter bottles of Diet Coke (the ultimate junior high science fair experiment).

According to Mashable’s Twitter tracking results, Volkswagen has won the SuperBowl advertising fan poll with an entertaining spot of a young Darth Vader wannabee trying to marshal the “Force” by interacting with a variety of things around his household. Its popularity is earned and it will definitely be a water cooler favorite on Monday morning.

The real winner, though, came in second in those Twitter results. It is an audacious new campaign for Audi that is so creatively and strategically original that the car company deserves to reap huge rewards in new car sales in the months ahead.  Previously, if pressed, I couldn’t name you a single Audi commercial, marketing theme, or slogan. For a luxury brand, their advertising has been unmemorable as wallpaper. Not any more.

The change started in recent weeks with a spot that was a narrated voiceover takeoff on the children’s bedtime classic, “Good Night, Moon.” That spot began to redefine luxury and set the stage for something totally unexpected that came next.

The new campaign for Audi is a parody of  the landmark 1978 documentary “Scared Straight,” in which lifers from Rahway Prison spoke to juvenile offenders to paint an unflinching unforgettable portrayal of hard times they can expect from the penal system if they don’t turn their young lives around immediately. Not exactly material for selling luxury cars, right?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9MIs0sBBwBo

That’s the beauty of the new “Startled Smart” spots and extended YouTube videos that are set in a “luxury prison” where old money convicts are enlisted to talk sense into a group of Generation X drivers who think they understand status and how to spend their inherited wealth. The segments are so new, unexpected, and hilarious that you can’t wait to replay them. The real strategic brilliance is that Audi’s creative team has found a way to entertain baby boomers who remember the rawness of the Rahway inmates, as well as Generation X who are down with spending less to get luxury and to sharing these spots via social media.

Following on the first spot’s heels is a second that adds yet another rich layer. It is devoted to the quelling of riots at this luxury prison. The answer is none other than smooth jazz elevator music sax man, Kenny G, having tremendous fun at his own expense.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oXE6L2gUDKQ&NR=1

Audi has managed to turn the luxury category on its head with unexpected, truly inspired humor. In the process, it will make a much bigger name for itself, with all those SuperBowl eyeballs. It deserves to win the big game ad contest hands down over all those beer and snack food retreads devoted to all too familiar themes.

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JesusHatesObama.com spot was rightly banned from this year's SuperBowl.

JesusHatesObama.com spot was rightly banned from this year's SuperBowl.

The big game isn’t even here yet, but some businesses are already leveraging the attention that the SuperBowl brings. Two advertisers have already gotten the boot from Fox Sports for spots too controversial for prime time. I’m sure neither business ever expected their commercials to air and are all too happy to be basking in the resulting “news” attention from being banished to viral YouTube heaven.

Here is a link to the story behind banned commercial number one — an online store that sells “humorous” novelty items. It was launched by a supposed conservative comedian. His site is called JesusHatesObama.com. The spot depicts bobblehead dolls of President Obama and Jesus, with the latter scowling at the former and the former mysteriously bobbling off a ledge into a glass of water.

HahahaNOT. This spot isn’t funny. It is just dumb. Last time I checked, Jesus never expressed hatred for anyone, even the moneychangers in the temple (they did piss him off, though). And while President Obama has a knack for pissing off conservatives, of which I count myself, this spot is not remotely humorous. It isn’t goofy. It is just lame.

I am not above a good “Jesus hates” joke, however, which is why when I saw this tee shirt in a window on South Street, I had to laugh and I had to snap a cellphone photo.

Some "Jesus hates" jokes are actually funny.

Some "Jesus hates" jokes are actually funny.

Not sure the exact reason for Fox’s decision, but they are entitled to make a decision based on their own broadcast standards. I am just glad this terrible idea for a web site and a political statement is not going to get any additional exposure during the SuperBowl.

Banned spot number two is troubling for a far different reason. Read all about it here. It is for a matchmaking (hooking up?) web site known as AshleyMadison.com. Its business model? Enabling those interested in extra-marital affairs to meet like-minded individuals. The site itself got a lot of negative publicity when it launched a few years ago. The fact that it is going strong enough to pay for a SuperBowl commercial is a sad sign of the times.

I remember seeing its founder interviewed on TV and explaining that his site is strictly business. He is filling a need and if he didn’t start AshleyMadison.com, someone else would. Great, can we expect him to follow up soon with HitsRUs.com for those who want to hire an assassin anonymously? The most recent example of this muddled thinking was PA Governor Ed Rendell going medieval on Leslie Stahl during a 60 Minutes interview about the state forging ahead with casino gambling. The governor was enraged that Stahl and her team just didn’t get it that PA residents with gambling problems were going to gamble regardless of whether the state was making money off their vice or not. So, PA might as well make up some of their revenue shortfalls. Right? Wrong.

One way to start righting wrongs is to stop creating additional wrongs. We’re sluicing down some slippery slopes, folks. Hats off to Fox for refusing to be party to either sorry spectacle.

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Michael Vick is redefining himself and the concept of athlete as role model.

Michael Vick is redefining himself and the concept of athlete as role model.

Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback, is in the midst of an amazing run, rewriting NFL record books, making a strong case for his team as SuperBowl contender, but also testing every fan’s personal standard for forgiveness. Last Sunday, my pastor, with his tongue-firmly-in-cheek, gave a sermon noting that it is a lot easier to forgive Michael Vick when he is winning.
The Vick saga is an amazing arc of highs, lows, and now highs again. Ironically, Vick seems to trigger a visceral reaction, even now, among a significant portion of the population, those who own and love dogs. Animal cruelty is an especially heinous crime and one that is hard for people to fathom. Ironically, those on the long list of athletes who mistreat women are judged less harshly over time.
But Michael Vick was not alone in his transgressions. It was an unholy mess of family and friends running a seedy sports betting business built around dog fighting, to include dog torturing and dog killing. However, Vick was substantially and personally involved enough to be found guilty, stripped of his lucrative NFL contract and career, and sent to prison. Having done hard time, last year, he was given something most of us never get — a well defined second chance at the brass ring. To Vick’s credit, he has largely made the most of that opportunity, and in a way that challenges people to rethink how they judge him specifically, and others in general.
Vick has raised his athleticism and QB skills to an incredible level. He has been generous toward spreading offensive opportunities among his teammates. He has also been gracious in recent interviews. There hasn’t been a hint of vindictiveness toward detractors. He seems to exhibit a quality all of us claim to value, but its appearance is so rare that we seldom know how to react to it. Vick understands personal accountability. He knows that he was ultimately responsible for his own downfall and he went to prison for it. Even after paying that price, he does not appear to be embittered by the experience. Instead, he has been motivated to become a better person and (gasp) a role model. Today, he makes time to speak to students and others about his experience and why animal cruelty is so wrong.
Although I am an Eagles fan, I would love to see Vick continue his amazing personal turnaround even if he were helming the Cowboys (blasphemy). What a powerful message to send to people of all ages. That we are all human, capable of horrendous mistakes, but also of turning things around by working hard and changing course.
That brings me to my original premise, which is the tipping point at which personal redemption adds up to regained advertising endorsement contracts. My pastor and pigskinlovinglady.com reveal that I am late to the party on this subject. However, I would also like to suggest a seemingly outrageous endorsement op — Michael Vick and any major dog food company. It would be an instant buzz generator (fiercely argued about on both sides). Alpo, once long and successfully associated with Lorne Greene because of his Bonanza popularity, could tell a different story of image and reality with Michael Vick as endorser. PetSmart could show how smart they are at leveraging media moments by signing a controversial spokesperson. That’s quite a chance for big corporations to take, but Michael Vick could sweeten the deal, by donating his earnings from the contract to the SPCA. Good things can come out of even the worst of circumstances. You just have to work hard to make them happen.

Update: Michael Vick has his first endorsement deal and it’s not dog food!

Update 2: This is what I meant by Vick provoking visceral reactions. Here is a well-stated opposing opinion from one of Newton Associates’s friends, Lonny Strum, an experienced consultant, a knowledgeable sports fan, and a customer (former) of the car dealership that has Michael Vick at the center of its new ad campaign. It underscores the risk of nearly every celebrity endorsement deal and why Vick is riskier than most. This is why nearly everything Vick does of this nature needs to be balanced with a charitable component.

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The World Series isn't the Super Bowl when it comes to marketing.

The World Series isn't the Super Bowl when it comes to marketing.

Major League Baseball would love to replicate the advertising juggernaut that is the Super Bowl. The championship match between the two remaining survivors of a brutal NFL schedule. A half-time concert by one of rock’s superstars. A whole lot of pre- and during game hoopla. All those zillions of eyeballs glued to TV sets around the country (and increasingly around the globe). A multi-hour epic time slot in which to sell the world’s most expensive (and in a few cases, the world’s best) commercials.
The World Series is just a very different equation. Like the Super Bowl, it features two prizefighters still slugging it out after a ridiculously long season and post season. But a best of seven series doesn’t have the attention-holding power of a one-night extravaganza. It is less a gladiator battle than a prolonged chess match. The seventh inning stretch is enough time for a local artist to sing God Bless America, but it’s not a mini Stones concert.
Those are all the obvious reasons. However, MLB seems to consistently shoot itself in the foot even by its own standards. Games start at a reasonable hour, but thanks to prolonged pitching changes, they often end deep into the night. Sometimes, like two years ago during a monsoon and following a Bud Selig brain cramp, games are held, delayed, started, stopped, and finished the next day. What starts out as a family event ends as an endurance contest for the heavily caffeinated. Broadcast booth commentary that holds some nominal interest for ardent baseball fans becomes repetitive and a definition of torture under the Geneva Convention by game seven.
Even when there are new faces (bearded ones) like this year’s entrants, the San Francisco Giants and the Texas Rangers, who supplanted last year’s favored New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies, some larger spark is missing. Fox Sports’ ratings are down 25% over last year. It is attributed to the size of the metro markets of the league series winners, but a baseball championship should hold much more than local interest. Fans seem to follow their teams most of the season, then fade away when the field whittles down to eight in the post-season. Here’s a good take by a Giants newsletter writer.
Maybe MLB needs to challenge the marketing community to identify ways to improve the trappings around the game without disturbing the game itself. A few years ago, the NHL (and Fox Sports again) went to a glowing blue circle during TV coverage of the Stanley Cup that highlighted where the puck was at all times. That gimmick didn’t catch on, but at least it was an attempt to engage more viewers.

Erectile dysfunction spots are revealing of MLB demographics.

Erectile dysfunction spots are revealing of MLB demographics.

The clearest example of the need to expand the MLB demographics is the most frequent advertisers that the World Series does attract — erectile dysfunction drugs. Insert your own broken bat single joke here.

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Sign of the Times: Will Market for Food

Sign of the Times: Will Market for Food

The harsh economic reality is that during this prolonged economic downturn, most companies are spending as little as absolutely possible on marketing. Chief marketing officers are under intense pressure to show measurable results on marketing dollars allocated. Companies are willing to spend on technology, such as marketing automation systems, if it enables them to track and tweak every program in every marketing channel. Meanwhile, media spending is way down. A lot of good people have been cut loose and are on the street. There is constant grumbling about sales numbers.
What is missing, besides funding of marketing, is any anticipation of, or excitement over, a great idea. With everyone thinking small and smaller, we are all losing sight of the big picture and transformative thinking. When everyone is fearful of losing their job, there isn’t a long line of managers waiting to take a chance on something that doesn’t resemble wallpaper to blend into.
Standing out is what marketing used to be all about, before the appearance of one-size-fits-all templates. Today, I heard a radio spot for the UPS Store promoting their easy 1-2-3 marketing materials (instant brochures, business cards, etc.). UPS does terrific branding, marketing, and ads for its own global delivery services. Why are they trying to sell the opposite (cookie cutter answers) to Main Street businesses?
Great branding and advertising can make a huge difference. People anticipate the Super Bowl every year as much for the Super Bowl ads as for the football game. Why not make coming up with a Super Bowl level idea a daily pursuit instead of just a one-and-done event. There is nothing exciting about current economic numbers and I suspect the bean counters are running out of ways to cut costs and make them more palatable. Those who understand the value of superior marketing, then support and fund it will be the ones coming out ahead when the economy improves.

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