Larry the Ad Man's Blog

I hope you learn from my small business marketing and advertising tips.

"Advertising is to trade what Steam is to machinery" Thomas Cook.
It was an honor to be nominated for 2011 Canadian Weblog Awards.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

1984, George Orwell's landmark achievement. Steve Jobs too!

Inspired again by Terry O'Reilly's CBC radio show "Under the Influence" where he speaks of Steve Jobs marketing genius (Part 1 of 2 ran yesterday) and how his landmark commercial, 1984, will not be like 1984, made me think of the originator of the book, author George Orwell.
Mr. Orwell's story in many ways is a parallel for Steve Jobs. Both thought outside the box, against conventional wisdom. Both had ideas rejected by others and stayed with their convictions until their vision was realized. "Animal Farm" and "1984" were written many years before a publisher had the vision to publish them. Both books were groundbreaking and have lessons that continue today about the fragility of democracy and how hard we need to work to keep the ideals of democracy alive. Complacency is it's greatest enemy.

With Apple and Steve Jobs, again it's a parallel. Instead of democracy, it's business. Complacency was Jobs greatest enemy in business. He always spoke out against it. When he came back to Apple in 1997, he told the executive they were better than this and he needed to see some innovation or heads would roll. Complacency, the safe route, would not be tolerated. He put Apple back on the map as an innovator of products, but also as a Bold marketer.

As I have said in many Blogs before, your business must live up to your marketing. In George Orwell's case, where he has written about the challenges of communism and technology taking over the world, this helped society make sure neither was the case. If people had let Communism or Big Brother take over, his words and books would not have stood the test of time. In the case of Apple and Steve Jobs, if the innovative products had met with safe, boring commercials, or his products were boring, with fantastic advertising, the success Apple had as a corporation or as a changer of everyday society would also be greatly diminished. See Apple's performance as a business when Jobs was let go.

So as a small business, if you wish to grow, you must think like Jobs and Orwell or spend the rest of your business career in a safe environment that is vulnerable to the changes in paradigms. Stick to your vision and convictions, whatever they may be. Until next time, I am Larry "The Ad Man"

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Would you like to be chased by a tree?

In another of what is becoming a long list of bizarre television commercials, Kia comes up with a tree, coming to life and chasing a Kia.

I think we can all agree, that the message here is not a practical one. So.. what is the point? What is the emotion they are trying to link to the vehicle? The only one I can conceive is that the car is fast on snow. But how can we relate it to a running tree? Are tree's known for their speed? Do you as a consumer often get chased by someone? or something? Is that a need in the marketplace?

I certainly would have enjoyed being at the table when they conceptualized this one. Until next time, I am Larry "The Ad Man".

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Marketing's biggest day... The Super Bowl

Today is the day advertising professionals live for. Super Bowl Sunday is here! The creativity of advertisers have made this event more about the advertising than football. Major networks will air the commercials during their newscasts around the globe and the commercials themselves will become viral on the Internet and I will do my bit and show you a few:
There are many more than this, but you will see the common thread is humorous and entertaining spots that speak very little to the product, but do capture a feeling about the product. They key to advertising now is a feeling a product gives you. Even if you don't have Millions to spend on epic television commercials, your ads should speak to a simple message of how your product or service makes you feel. Tag an emotion to your ads and they will sing back long after you run them. The VW commercials themselves actually sing back to a popular commercial they ran during a previous Superbowl:

You may also ask yourself how marketers know whether the ads work or not? A simple increase in sales, even of 1% shows them it works. After all would you stop in and tell the VW dealer that you came in and bought this $20,000 because you saw a dog chase a car during the Superbowl? Probably not, but you did in part. It takes 7 impressions get action in most cases. Asking customers how they found out about you only paints part of the picture. Chances are they will only give you one impression, not all 7. They may even say, "I heard" something about your business, which may have been from an ad. Enjoy the Super Bowl, the spectacle and keep attune to how the whole event and the commercials make you feel, because that is the key to you what you want to achieve with your ads. Until Next time, I am Larry "The Ad Man"

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Some good ways of killing a good ad campaign.

You may have read in some of my Blogs in the past about walking the walk when it comes to advertising and how your competitors gain from your advertising. To further explore that idea, I'll start with a book I am reading called "13 Ways to Kill Your Community" authored by Alberta MLA Doug Griffiths and newspaper writer Kelly Clemmer.

In chapter 2, the tongue in cheek approach is "Don't attract Business", which many would say of course a community needs to attract business. But how? What if the Mayor owns the only Gas station in town and someone wants to put in a gas station? It is a real life case study that Griffiths talks about in the book. One of the other ideas presented that business can learn from is the following: (from his speech on the subject) " In touring the province we found that communities of about one thousand people in which there was one grocery store, that grocery store owner barely made enough money to support his or her family. However, in communities of roughly the same size where there were two grocery stores, interestingly enough, both did quite well. Likewise was the case in communities of three to five thousand when it came to restaurants. Where there were only a couple of restaurants both suffered, but where there were many restaurants they all seemed to do well. There are many more examples I could provide but space is limited.

What is more important is why that would occur.  And they like to feel they are purchasing in a competitive environment that assures them the best price. In communities where competition is limited we found that people would chose to drive to another community where there was more choice, more variety, and better prices because of competition. Essentially, their dollars would leave town

Interestingly enough, through my years as an Advertising Consultant, I have had a number of clients who have had an expectation that they would have exclusivity in their business category in our publications. It was never spoken of prior to placing ads, but when the time came when a competitor advertised with us, they took offense and pulled their ads from our publications. That is one way to kill a good ad campaign.

So did the value of our publication to their ad campaign change? Did their competitive advantage over their competition change? Was their message any less effective with a competing business advertising near them? Simply put, the relationship, the marriage if you will, was lost because they had an unrealistic view that I was offering exclusivity. The relationship between a customer and a business is more like dating than a marriage. Do one thing to upset a customer and they will storm out and never come back, regardless of how many great years your business has been them. Those are the customers that are up for grabs in the competitive business of advertising. The free agents, the single, the recently dumped. Don't lose sight of that when you are putting together your ads. If your customers are not comparing you in our publication, they will compare you with ads in other media. Perhaps the worst is, they may not compare you with anyone at all.

Remember what the book said "People in general like choice and variety". With that in mind, you should be placing ads in places where the competition is, or encourage your competition to place ads where you are. You are more likely to get the response you are hoping for and so will your competition. Until next time, I am Larry "The Ad Man"

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Did you run away from this product?

Here is another example (you will see a few in my Blog) of a commercial that takes an awful risk. Dentyne Frost Bites took humor to a new level in this spot. Some might enjoy this humor, those of the Horror Film variety, but many might be repulsed by the product in this classically bad commercial which debuted in September 2004:
I'm sure I don't have to tell you the risk Dentyne took with this TV spot? A look at their product list on the website and behold, No Dentyne Frost Bites Gum. I would suspect that this commercial was the reason the product is not listed. It just didn't connect with the end user. I know I saw this hundreds of times, so Dentyne must have spent a small fortune worldwide.

Don't get me wrong, risks can pay off. Just make sure you have enough to fall back on if it doesn't work. Dentyne did. Until next time, I am Larry "The Ad Man"

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Subliminal Advertising, creative or immoral ?

Subliminal Ads are generally found in Television or radio ads, but also can be in print ads. They are illegal and many media will pull them if there is an accusation. Defined, subliminal means "existing or operating below the threshold of consciousness; being or employing stimuli insufficiently intense to produce a discrete sensation but often being or designed to be intense enough to influence the mental processes or the behavior of the individual: a subliminal stimulus; subliminal advertising."

Have a look at this KFC commercial. Some nice people on the video will point out a dollar bill hidden in the lettuce of the burger.
Some might argue it's creative, many would argue it's playing mind games. Researchers have said that the affects are neither strong or long lasting, yet it is frowned upon in this industry. Would making this legal open up a slippery slope of brain washing? It was once believed that propaganda movies during the second world war did exactly that, but contemporary research does not back that up.

You will see many claims of print ads and logo's of a sexual nature. Many phallic symbols seem to find their way into relatively benign photographs and drawings. Have a look at this Blog on it ( ) . It seems artist Mike had a one track mind in this one? And Sex again takes the front row on this urban legend from Red Dog Beer:
Do we really think the graphic artist that made this logo had intentions on Batman doing this when thinking about how to help sell some beer?

You be the judge... click on the google ads to the right of this Blog.... Subliminal advertising. Creative or Immoral? Would love to heard from you.. until next time, I am "Larry The Ad Man."

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Do focus groups give honest answers?

McDonalds is one of the number one advertisers worldwide. You would think that all marketing and advertising would go through a focus group? One wonders if people who are asked to participate in focus groups give honest answers? Most people, are likely to give you the answer they think you want.

I was once asked to be involved in a focus group about cell phones. It was WAY back in the dark ages prior to the advent of the flip phone. Early days. One of the questions centred around my feelings about AT&T. I answered "American". The shocked administrator then probed further to find that I preferred to deal with Canadian companies. Again, this seemed to shock him like he had never heard this or even considered it. It was not long after that, the WWE (Then called WWF) had one of their most popular story lines of Canada Vs. USA. So clearly, many Canadians felt the way I did, but the company came north and clearly others did not voice their opinions. AT&T Canada didn't last long here.

So back to the McDonalds example, which came to my door:
A nicely printed, direct mail piece complete with full colour photo's and money saving coupons. One might say a slick look that should get some play with people in January when dollars are a bit tight after Christmas time. The word Crave is a nice word relating to restaurants and food, descriptive, yet open to interpretation. But one must also consider the impact of the film, "Supersize me" and the healthy eating revolution that has been the theme of media for the last decade. McDonalds themselves have tried to add some healthier options to the menu, at significant cost. Did no one in the focus group, or at the board room table, when considering fonts think about the VERY FIRST impression I got when this came to the door? A little correction tape and 10 seconds later it becomes this:
Did the play on words not come up? or did the yes people decide not to rock the boat? Add to that how quick a photo like this can make it's way around the Internet..... in a heartbeat! One must consider all the ways people have access to, to make a joke. Humor on the world wide web spreads like wildfire.

The lesson, be careful of your perception, be careful of your slogans and make sure that your words and advertising can not be taken the wrong way. Many businesses have learned this the hard way over the years, especially when translating ads into different languages. A bad decision on wording can cost more than the advertising itself and you may never get back to the level you were before the mistake. Until Next time, I am Larry "The Ad Man"