Tag Archives: advertising

Say It Ain’t So

CLIO is an organization of advertisers, by advertisers, and for advertisers to give awards to advertisers promoting advertising. This is much more efficient than independent bodies debating whom should be honored, such as the Nobel Prize Committee

Clio awards honor many categories of ads in many media. This year it gave a “general” award to comedian and sometime ad pitchman Jerry Seinfeld.

In his mocumental acceptance speech, Seinfeld praised advertising because he “likes lying.” He goes to summarize the classic criticisms of marketing and advertising – deception, vulgarity, crass materialism, and value distortion. If you’re a marketer,  you know the rest. As marketers, it probably helps, if we say it first. In an ad driven world, where the purest of politicians competes first on fund raising, what’s a little lying?

Bull Reaches New Heights

On October 14th, Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner set several records including:

  • the highest balloon ascent
  • the longest skydive
  • the first man to break the sound barrier in free fall

Baumgartner didn’t float silently into the Guinness World Records on his logoed parachute. The feat garnered front page mention in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and leading world newspapers. It was featured on major broadcasts, while some 8 million viewed the jump streaming live in some 50 countries. In PR speak, it got a lot of ink.

Don’t try this from home:

Felix Baumartner about to jump

The big jump was more than the work of a stuntman and a few of his buddies going for bragging rights. It was the joint effort of a sizable technical and scientific team, which has been working on the project since 2007.  Who funded this effort? Fellow Austrian company, Red Bull, the maker of the caffeinated and sugared “energy drink,” seen in skinny 8.4 oz. cans.

Privately held Red Bull, won’t disclose the cost of this project, but from the roster of equipment and experts, it would have had to been eight figures. Whatever the budget, it could have bought Red Bull could have bought a lot of traditional advertising and sales promotion.

Red Bull sponsors sports and games such as skate boarding, BMX biking, and surfing. Events it believes will appeal to its aspirational target – young, , cool, active, male. In this case, it both connected with core customers and transcended conventional marketing to creating a phenomenon. The positioning and messaging were as on target as Baumbartner’s flawless landing. No amount of advertising alone could have done so.

We may never have the resources to stage such an event. Instead of being yet another sponsor at yet another show, we can still strive for promotions, which are relevant and remarkable.


iCame iSaw iPad

Apple’s iPad is off to a very strong start – over a million units priced from $499  to $829  sold in its first month. The number would be even higher if Apple could produce more. There are long waiting lists at Apple’s retail and online stores.

A factor in the iPad’s run away success may be its marketing. The iPad’s marketing mix includes news releases, teasers, advertising, a Facebook page for iPad applications and a dedicated YouTube channel. Amid all the celebratory hype is something often missing in most product launches, including Apple’s. Namely the experience of using the product, as in the example below.

This ad doesn’t bombard the viewer with a classic Unique Selling Proposition or a straight list of – benefits so common in marketing of either technology or consumer products including Apples own iPod and flagship Mac computers. The iPad marketing doesn’t dwell on clichés such as that of Apple’s MacBook Pro ad, which proclaims that the “unibody enclosure is carved from a single piece of aluminum.” It’s a commercial, reminiscent of classic auto and watch ads, that focus on what goes into the product rather than what you get out of it.

In a sense, the iPad hearkens back to some of the early successes of personal computing. Back in the day, software was sold (not marketed) to customers, who more or less knew what they wanted. Along came Lotus and its spreadsheet program. There were other spreadsheets, but the category was not firmly established. What Lotus did to establish the category and its position as the leading brand in it, was to send squads of reps out to the field to show, in brief demos, how an average user could solve a useful problem in a few minutes.

Critics of the iPad ask what can you do with an iPad, that you couldn’t do with a laptop, smart phone or combination of the two. Apple’s reply is to show how it feels to use one. Here, for example, is what it’s like to use the iPad as an e-book reader.

The effect of this “show ’em don’t tell ’em” was once revolutionary  and appears to be so again.

BTW, I’m writing this on an iPad.

Unbound Marketing

I recently attended one of those ubiquitous presentations on Internet marketing. This one, hosted by marketing agency HubSpot was on “inbound marketing.” It was one of those real world imitations of a webinar, except they give you sandwiches.

The argument was familiar. The presenter proclaimed that he used double email spam filters, caller ID, the Do Not Call Registry, listened to an iPod rather than radio, had removed himself from mailing lists, and watched TV via Tivo so he could skip the ads. As such, he asserted that marketers can’t reach him (and by implication can’t reach most other customers) through advertising via these “outbound” media. Therefore the alternative – “inbound” marketing – is the way to go. Specifically, Hubspot recommends a marketing mix including their proprietary SEO/SEM service while curtailing what they call “outbound marketing.” Outbound includes such mundane media as broadcast, cable, direct mail, print, and display advertising.

Certainly these are tough times for media and their customers, the advertisers. TNS media estimates that total ad spending declined 14% in the first Quarter of 2009 vs. 2008. Not all media revenue declined at the same rate. For example, network TV was down 4.2%, local newspaper down 14.3%, while ads in national magazines declined 20.6%. Even Internet advertising declined 5% after five years of steady growth, as the chart from the Internet Advertising Bureau shows. As in the past recession, advertising will probably increase as the economy recovers.


Do these declines validate the inbound model? Neither they nor evidence presented by Hubspot get us there. Advertising is not static and it’s becoming ever harder to filter and avoid. Use a DVR, digital video recorder, such as a Tivo to skip ads and the shows have product placements. Get TV programming through web sites, such as hulu, and ads, which can’t be skipped, are embedded. Use social networks like Facebook and MySpace, and ads have crept in.  Listen to podcasts or internet radio like Pandora or Sticher – you guessed it – ads.

The media landscape is changing. Advertising is evolving too, but it’s not going away.

Running on Water or Just All Wet?


Sports shoe and apparel maker Puma has been making footware since 1924. Olympic champions from Jesse Owens in 1936 to Usain Bolt in 2008 have worn its running shoes while setting world records. Yet in the race for market share, it barely wins the bronze in shoes and finishes without a medal in apparel.

What to do when competing in a crowded category during a worldwide recession? I could have imagined many initiatives from channel development to grass roots social networking to a basketball connection with a prominent amateur (think 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.).

How about joining with a number of mostly money losing companies such as Volvo in a round the world sailing competition. Apparently golf tournaments are not elitist enough. And the image portrayed in much of Puma’s communication is closer to urban street kid.

In each port its racing yacht visits, it will assemble a modular performance space/nightclub/bar with built in gear store called Puma City. Puma City even has its own Facebook page. At a recent reception there, everyone seemed to be having a good time. Yet no one seemed to be patronizing the store.

Puma does make deck shoes and foul weather jackets, but their sales contribute negligibly to overall revenue. The race has eleven ports of call, only one of which is in North America, namely Boston. It’s tough to see how this will develop the market.

The race is being supported by mixed media ranging from subway placards and traditional PR in Boston to a suite of social media including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Blogs. So far, it seems not to have a lot of traction or the internal logic of Puma’s running events and sports clinics.

Is this yet another case of let’s spend the stockholders’ money on what someone in management thinks might be fun or has a suppressed desire to try? Did someone in corporate marketing read Two Years Before The Mast? Anyway, who needs ROI, when you’ve built the meanest looking racing yacht of the bunch?