Rants on all the ads that suck. Updated whenever it tickles my fancy to do so. Now moved to http://adsthatsuck.ca

THIS SITE HAS MOVED TO http://www.adsthatsuck.ca


Blogvertising or Adverblogging?

The great thing about the insurgence of blogging on the web is sheer number of new terms emerging every day that include the word "blog." My personal favourite is "Neighblog," which is used to describe blogs that are geographically close to you, and not, as I first assumed, blogs about horses.

I've been reading a lot lately about the use of blogs for advertising. To me, this completely misses the point of the power of the blog - or more accurately, the POTENTIAL power of the blog. Juicy Fruit tried to be an early adopter of using blogs solely to hawk a product and failed miserably. Honestly, I could write a whole entry on why the Juicy Fruit blog is terrible to the point of being offensive to anyone with half a brain, but I really want to talk about blogs as a whole.

I was recently in Victoria, where I was talking to a friend about how to promote a retail athletic wear store. They're boutique - they're not Sportchek. It's for athletes, by athletes, and you can really tell that everyone in the store knows what they're doing and wants to help. Really a unique business approach, it would seem.

Naturally, blogging came up. A great marketer, but only vaguely aware of blogs, his first instinct was that the blog would advertise sales and events. Maybe, but that's not the real power of the blog. Blogs are excellent (for now) at pulling back the layers of bullshit, and exposing something a little more real. Naturally, corporate blogs are still marketing devices, so they have to tow the party line, but the reason that people are identifying so much with blogs (in my opinion) is because it's not a sales pitch. Much like the nice people on WestJet who talked to me like I was a person instead of a customer, blogs all but do away with advertising speak and open up a conversation.

Sure, but at the core, you're still advertising, right?

I wasn't sure the answer to this question when I was first asked. The conclusion that I came to is that advertising might be a side-effect of blogging, but if you go into it with that as your main goal, it's going to fail. Nobody is going to read it, because it will seem contrived.

If I am going to go back to your blog day after day, you better give me a reason, and it's not going to be your cleverly crafted slogans.
You can't just have your characters announce how they feel! That makes me feel angry!
- The Robot Devil, from Futurama
The effect of crafting a corporate blog is a lot like crafting a play. I need to be lead to believe in what you're saying, not told outright. If an actor simply announce that he was sad, you wouldn't believe it. If his actions lead you to believe he's sad, it's much more powerful. The same is true with blogs.

If you say "we have great service and we really care about you," you're just another voice saying the same thing as every other business. If you show me, I know you mean it. Blogs are an excellent opportunity to show me your intentions without me coming into the store. Once I believe it from the comfort of my home, I'm more likely to come in and try on that new model of Asics.

In a way, it's advertising. In another way, it's much more real.

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Advertising vs. Reality

I just discovered Flickr. It's a brilliant site for photographers to post their digital shots to the web, and to allow people to comment on them. The reason it's taken me so long to get on the Flickr train is mainly because I don't have a digital camera. I've always had a 35mm SLR, so the idea of moving from that to a compact was not exactly appealing.

However, after spending a week in BC, taking photos with my roommate's Sony digital, I opened a Flickr account, and immediately wanted one. Today, I decided to act on my whim and make the purchase.

There aren't many places near my house that sell digital cameras, and I didn't feel like making a trip downtown, since I have to go there tonight. So, I consulted the part of my brain that stores advertising messages, and remembered that there was a "The Source by Circuit City" not a five minute walk away.

I had never been to said "The Source," as I still couldn't reconcile my hatred for their past company Radio Shack. The ads told me they were different, they told me they could change. And I decided to give them one more chance.

I walked in to the cabinet full of digital cameras and looked at the prices and specs. Having worked in a camera store, and been a photography nerd in university, I know what I'm talking about when it comes to cameras, so what was on the little cards didn't interest me all that much. I was interested in using one - to get a sense for the feel, the usability, the reaction time.

I stood by the cabinet for about three minutes before I wandered over to the counter in hopes that someone would acknowledge me. I stood there for another five minutes, while the salespeople talked to customers about how great it is to own an iPod (he wasn't buying one, he just had one) and tried to figure out how to work their POS system. The kids behind the counter (not older than 18, I'm sure) served people who had started waiting after I got there, sometimes taking two people to serve one customer. The other kid leaned against the wall while a guy looked at cell phones.

I waited, in total, almost 15 minutes in a not-very-busy store before expressing my disgust and walking out.

I went across town to go to another store and while I was there, went into another "The Source" to see if the results would be any different. Three people working. Three people in the 750 sq.ft. store. I waited five minutes without anyone so much as making eye contact with me.

All in all, Circuit City spent millions of dollars and months to convince me that they were the place to get digital cameras. Despite the fact that their campaign was boring and unimaginative, it still managed to place "The Source" in my mindspace.

It took a few minutes to lose a $500 sale that I was fully intending to make, and to make sure that I never shop there again.

If you meet someone on the internet who tells you that they look like a model, and they turn out to be 400 pounds and ugly as sin when you meet, there's probably not going to be a second date.

The Source isn't getting a second date.

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Damn you, Molson. Damn you.

Those of you who have read my post on the Rickard's Red commercial will know just how happy I am to see this in my email this morning.

Attention Photo Desk/Assignment Desk:
Media Advisory - Crimson Choir begins quest for Pint of Glory in Toronto

TORONTO, Sept. 21 /CNW/ - On Thursday morning, 18 red-robed members of the Crimson Choir will arrive at Toronto's Union Station to begin a 12-hour journey that will take them through Toronto, singing the praises of the perfect Pint of Glory.
The journey begins with an impromptu concert for the thousands of Toronto commuters moving through Union Station.
Their next performance will take place in the heart of the financial district, at Commerce Court, where Crimson Choir members will honour the perfect pint in song.

Photo opportunity No. 1
Date: Thursday, September 22
Time: 8:30 a.m. - 9:00 a.m.
Location: Main entrance at Union Station (Front Street)
Opportunity: Impromptu concert for Toronto commuters by eight members of the Crimson Choir

Photo opportunity No. 2
Date: Thursday, September 22
Time: 11:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
Location: Commerce Court (by the outdoor fountain)
Opportunity: The 18-member Crimson Choir to sing the praises of the perfect pint


Thanks, Joe.

THIS SITE HAS MOVED TO http://www.adsthatsuck.ca


Over one million arteries clogged

I came across this ad on Seth Godin's blog, and I couldn't resist commenting on it.

I hope you're as big a fan of irony as I am.

This one hits a little close to home. Right now, I'm bogged down in a major campaign to educate parents about childhood obesity - something that is creeping up on us so quietly we can't hear it, but which is going to kill a lot of people far too young. Ten-year olds with hypertension are showing up all over the place... some are so overweight they can't even get blood taken to check.

It's sad that we accept the practice of selling kids this kind of refuse and calling it food, associating it with happy childhood memories and sending them out into the world unable to distinguish between what is nutritious and what shouldn't even be put in dogfood.

Yeah... we're all the masters of our own destiny, but if anyone honestly thinks that the average person can compete with the glut of messages telling them to eat more and more - to suck back bacon-ranch infused grade F meat, then that person is either an idiot or not living in reality. It's not a fair fight - especially when the target is children.

I hope that one day society realizes exactly what they're doing to themselves and to their kids, and that the proliferation of fast food and childhood obesity (25% of Canadian children under 5 are obese) are related. Until then, healthcare is going to have a hard time keeping up.

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Advertising is where you find it

I'm currently sitting at gate A4 in departures, waiting for a delayed flight from Vancouver to Ottawa. This week was my first experience with Westjet, and I have to say that after these flights, I don't know that I'd fly with anyone else.

Okay, so it's not advertising in the traditional sense. But, it is creating the conditions for something that people like to call "word of mouth advertising," which may or may not be a complete misnomer.

Imagine if this became part of your marketing strategy:

Be nice to your customers.

This doesn't mean wishing all of them a lovely day, or thanking them for calling Bell, or any prescripted crap that just keeps me in the store, on the phone, or otherwise away from the million things I have to do that much longer. I mean REALLY BEING NICE. It's enough to blow your mind, isn't it?

Everyone I've spoken to at Westjet has been nice. Helpful, genuine and nice. They haven't tried to upsell me on anything, but they were sure to let me know that if I checked in online, I could save time in line at the airport. The flight crew tells corny jokes, and heckles the passengers when they undo their seatbelts before the light goes off. It's casual, and helps to put you at ease. And if there's anywhere you want to be put at east, it's at 40,000 feet above sea level.

Off-topic, I know. If it helps, there is an ad that is displayed just as you get off the plane that says "I dare you to yell "I Love Westjet"" Not only that, it creates something that doesn't happen with Air Canada... people want to talk about what a great experience they've had. Everyone I've talked to before the flight and since, and me talking to you now.

I'd say that is worth far more than the price of a billboard.

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Reading between the lines

Work is still abject madness, and I've chosen this time to go on a week's vacation to Vancouver starting Wednesday, so I expect this will be the only post of the week, but I couldn't go away knowing that I'd left you hanging for over two weeks (I'm so arrogant), so let's get to this.

I would just like to go on record as saying that I do not usually watch the gameshow network. I was at a friend's this weekend, cruising through the channels, and since he had recently signed up with Rogers Digital Cable, he still had the free trial of all the stations that you would probably never watch unless you were somebody's grandmother or unemployed.

It's something I know intellectually, but it always amazes me how different the commercials are on stations that I don't watch. Advertisers know I don't watch these channels, and as a result, don't aim messages at me. It's there that you can get away with the really underhanded stuff, because (and this is a total generalization) people watching these channels aren't necessarily thinking as critically as someone watching, say, the CBC. I'm thinking I might just get the gameshow network so I can watch the commercials.

Anyway, the one that really stood out for me was probably the most complex weasel of a commercial I've ever seen. It got me - for about a second, and then I thought about it.

It was for Allstate Insurance - a friendly black man (very important!) stood by some kind of natural disaster and talked about how they give teddy bears to children who have lost all of their toys in floods, and how to them, it's so much more than just a teddy bear. He explained that this sort of natural disaster can happen to anyone, and that Allstate is there to help.

It ended with "If you have been affected by Hurricane Katrina, please call us so we can help you process your claim."

Now, how's that for an insurance agency? They can't contact you, so they want you to contact them, so that they can make sure that you get your claim processed and you can get back on your feet. Would YOUR insurance agency do that? Probably not.

Now, before you pick up your phone and transfer all of your policies, think about this:
  1. Hurricanes are "acts of God," and usually wouldn't be covered by most insurance policies.
  2. Nobody who has had all of their belongings destroyed in the flood is watching the gameshow network right now.
Now, I'm not saying that everyone in New Orleans is SOL for insurance - I don't know that. But, given what I do know about insurance policies, I would wager that most of them probably are.

So who is this ad aimed at?

This ad is aimed at the people watching the gameshow network, who are uninsured or underinsured. The ad is proving to these people that they are a company who can be trusted, and who will go out of their way to get your money to you... even if they have to take out advertising space to do it.

In reality, that may or may not be the case... but the target audience for this ad isn't what they lead you to believe it is.

Advertising can be underhanded sometimes, can't it?

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I'm not dead

I know I haven't posted in some time, and I'm afraid today's isn't going to be much better.

Every once in a while, in my line of work, you get a project that is all-encompassing, debilitating and frustrating that there's nothing else you can do with your life. You come home from work drained of any energy you might have had, and you dread the next day when you have to start it all over again..

It looks innocent enough, but it gets inside you quickly, like a suckerfish that swims up your urethra and extends its barbed hooks, sucking your blood from the inside, getting bigger and bigger until one of you dies.

That is the kind of project I am working on right now. Anyone who does client work knows what I mean.

Let it never be said that I don't have a penchant for the overdramatic.

In the meantime, Joe made an entry about advertising today. You should read it.