Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Tuesday, August 04, 2021

I’ve already taken note of the new focus upon data-mining in online advertising. Thanks to recession-prompted constraints, the imperative to apply quantitative analytics has moved offline, to challenge the traditional dynamics within the advertising industry.

After years of calling the shots, the traditional Mad Men of advertising — the creative types who cooked up memorable sell-lines like “the ultimate driving machine” — are increasingly sharing the spotlight with, you guessed it, the nerds. Or as Jon Bond, a co-founder of Kirshenbaum Bond + Partners, which has done work for Target and Panasonic, says, “If we were in India, it would be as if the untouchables had suddenly become the ruling class.”

What has allowed the lowly quants to sit at the same table as the advertising Brahmin is a new way of thinking about the creation of desire. No longer is purchasing simply considered an emotional act, but rather one that can be measured with scientific precision. Our synapses, it turns out, are hardwired to respond to certain types of messages. And newly available numerical analysis is taking the guesswork out of deciphering which ads will best turn consumers into Pavlov’s dogs — purchasing not by will but by reflex.

The fundamental shift, from the creative-process side: Advertising is becoming less artistic, and more technical. That’s the hope, anyway — all in pursuit of eliminating the fabled “wasted half” in advertising budgets.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 08/04/2021 04:27pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Business, Creative, Science
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Monday, August 03, 2021

If, like me, you’ve caught a recent TV commercial for the Palm Pre and come away with a confused shudder, know that the agency behind the dreamlike look has an explanation:

It’s the how-it-works part of the Palm Pre push that [ad agency] Modernista has been holding back on in favor of more visually stimulating ads, while Sprint and its agency of record, Goodby Silverstein & Partners, tout the seamless integration of applications such as Facebook.

“It’s a very different look and feel for this sector,” [Modernista executive creative director Gary] Koepke said, comparing the humanized feel of Palm Pre’s ads to its competitors. “There’s nobody involved in an iPhone ad, and ‘Your life is on BlackBerry’ — isn’t that great? Instead of having a life? We wanted a middle ground between those two places — what about the people who want a really great smartphone?”

I wonder what’s in that pipe they’re smoking at Modernista, if they think that that fuzzy-soft lighting surrounding commercial actress/spokesperson Tamara Hope conveys a “humanized feel”. Combined with her monotoned monologue, the entire impression is almost anti-human. Presenting that as the pitch, absent any real focus on the supposed “iPhone killer” phone, results in a mushy mess. It might work if the spot were being oversaturated on every television channel like car commercials are, but it’s not, so it just doesn’t work.

Frankly, Koepke’s justification of this unconventional approach comes off as damage control. If the ads were really doing their job in generating effective product buzz, they wouldn’t need an explanation. And since the Pre doesn’t seem to be selling, I have a feeling Modernista will be 86ed soon enough.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 08/03/2021 05:51pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Creative, Tech
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Sunday, August 02, 2021

Decades after “pay TV” became commonplace, we still have a problem with the idea of enduring commercial interruptions along with our cable/satellite bills. So the ever-burrowing presence of interstitial ads, target-delivered via TiVo and set-top box programming, is sure to set off even more audience grousing.

But if the audience is unhappy, the real customers — i.e., the advertisers — should be thrilled with the relatively low cost of entry:

One ad buyer was told by TiVo that a “pause” ad costs $20,000 a week with exposure on 15 programs. That would be a bargain by some measures: A 30-second commercial airing once on prime time TV costs about $150,000, on average. TiVo would not confirm its rate, saying that what an advertiser ultimately pays can vary widely, depending on what’s negotiated.

Short of affixing a permanent bumpersticker on monitor screens, this is the most effective way of getting an ad in front of rapt eyeballs. So much for TiVo enthusiasts touting the benefits of fast-forwarding past the regular 30-second spots.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 08/02/2021 06:28pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Business, TV, Tech
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Amid the noise over potentially impending legalization, product designers wonder how best to package newly over-the-counter marijuana joints.

The concepts are professionally done, but erroneously antiseptic-looking. The clear-plastic bagging and sealed foil pockets are fine for medical marijuana, but that’s not going to be the primary selling market for these roll-ups. Because smokes are smokes, we all know what the corporate-crop rumors will beget at gas stations and bodegas across the land:

So those proposed pharmacy-product cigarettes are charmingly naive, when you just know that Philip Morris is primed to slap its Marlboro brandname onto endless packs of wacky tabacky. A natural complimentary offering to an established tobacco market. No sense in re-inventing the wheel.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 08/02/2021 03:55pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Creative
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Thursday, July 30, 2021

I’ve been harping on this for a while now (since 2006, in fact), and now I find an ally in Sky Road Consulting’s Kevin Mannion: We both think that online advertising metrics are unduly obsessed with the actionable clickthru.

Advertisers know these things, yet because of the promise of clickstream metrics, they have continued to hope against hope that somehow their Omniture server logs, their agencies and their online publishing partners will show them the metrics that their advertising is indeed working…

Let’s stop the insanity of trying to make display advertising something it is not. It cannot even win when display advertising is the primary reason a customer goes to a site and buys something. Display advertising has always been aimed above the sales funnel — to attract people into a brand engagement that begins with awareness. Using online search to find a product is seriously down the funnel, and searching for a specific vendor is near the end of the whole process.

It’s pretty simple: An eye-catching online ad doesn’t need to generate a click to be effective. The numbers that ultimately matter are the ones that end up in the cash register, and that’s impacted by enough advertising wherever consumer eyeballs are trained. There’s a certain degree of imprecision in the big picture, even with ever-improving datamining; and that’s something that new-media mavens are going to have to accept, like it or not.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 07/30/2009 07:59pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Business, Internet
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done garees
Combine sado-masochistic bondage headgear with the soft, comfortable fit of blue jeans, and you’ve got… Well, you’ve got a Wranglers ad that just screams “only in Japan”.

A muffled scream, by the looks of those masks. Good thing denim is a breathable fabric, or else the lack of air-holes for the nostrils might be a problem. Or not, depending on the kinky context. I also like how the mouth area is occupied by a back pocket with the Wrangler patch dead center, conveying the impression of an oral cavity. Not that I’d be brave enough to stick my hand into that pocket…

Just one more fashion-design observation, before my mind gets completely blown: Do you think there’s a zipper in the back of those things — standard sex-wear flourish — or, in keeping with the relaxed-fit motif, a button-fly?

Before you get too weirdly excited, the buzzkill: These gimp-inspired cowls are not for sale. I’m sure these print ad props are proudly displayed as conversation pieces in some studio apartment in Tokyo right now, though.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 07/30/2009 01:55pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Creative, Fashion, Pop Culture
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Monday, July 27, 2021

I’ve got two testicles too many to have taken part in this past weekend’s BlogHer conference in Chicago. But enough of my Twitterstream was attending, and tweeting updates, that I got the gist of it.

Attendees go to these things as much for the peer-to-peer contacts as for the sponsoring product/services presentations (and giveaways, naturally). For brands that want to associate themselves with outspoken new-media women (and thus pick up a good deal of women-centric business), BlogHer is the place to be. One participant, Kathy Casciani of DeVries Public Relations, identified with this product-consumer outreach so much that she actually requested additional corporate pitchers to sell to her:

Sponsors I’d personally like to see at next year’s #blogher: Advil, Red Bull, Metronaps, Dr. Scholls, Band Aid

The request for Advil, a pain reliever, in this X-chromosome context reminded me of another woman-targeted pharmaceutical: Motrin. An over-the-counter drug that’s still somewhat on the outs among a notable segment of the BlogHer community: Mommybloggers, who famously triggered an online “Motringate” backlash over some patronizing advertisements.

I’m sure the Motrin folks have been making amends ever since that episode, but here’s how to complete their atonement: Become a sponsor for next year’s BlogHer conference.

Having the Motrin brandname so intimately linked with the same consumer segment that they formerly offended would do wonders for repairing the damage. And the media buzz, both online and offline, such a move would generate would be priceless, for both Motrin and BlogHer. Both sides would get a boost from such a reconciliation (no matter how self-serving it would be).

I know Motrin’s corporate parent, Johnson & Johnson, was already a sponsor for BlogHer ’09. But it’s not the same thing. Planting the actual Motrin brandname into that list of sponsors makes this visible, and signifies the intent. Since J&J has an existing relationship with the conference, it shouldn’t be hard to get Motrin into the lineup for BlogHer ’10. It’s just a question of whether or not J&J wants to take that step; if nothing else, it would shut out the competing Advil (which, like Motrin, is basically just ibuprofen).

I see big potential for this, and fully expect to be reading about this “twist” in consumer-retail/online PR damage control a year from now.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 07/27/2009 11:33am
Category: Advert./Mktg., Bloggin', Business, Women
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Sunday, July 26, 2021

Contentiousness between advertisers and TV networks over ad rates is par for the course, particularly in a recession. Still, the stalemate over this year’s volume of unsold airtime inventory is especially acute when considering the tactics on the ad side:

For years, networks showcased their new shows, and advertisers lined up to buy into the programming. An early buy typically provides audience guarantees and better prices than advertisers can get when they buy on the fly. If they don’t buy in the upfront, they may face higher prices for whatever ad inventory remains in the so-called scatter market.

But advertisers are increasingly turning the tables on the networks and doing the pitching themselves. Rather than hear what great shows the networks have to offer, advertisers present their brand plans and ask networks to come up with ad solutions.

This boldness in calling the shots — really, attempting to define the context, i.e. programming content — stems from advertisers’ success in exercising more complete creative control on the Web’s social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Those “ad solutions” requested from television amounts to an emulation of the malleable content advertisers enjoy online.

And that wouldn’t be possible without the acknowledgment that more eyeballs are online, instead of in front of the TV screen. Which revives the debate over just how close the Web is to supplanting TV as the chief mass medium for the American consumer.

I haven’t bought the hyperbole that claims the Web is already the place to be. TV is still far more accessible and impactful for the wider population, and therefore more powerful; that’s reflected in much of what fuels Web content and activity. But certainly, the sands are shifting among key demographics: Tween and Gen-Y behavior is making it a zero-sum game, with television losing the viewership numbers there. With the ad dollars following them and influencing cross-media, I’m wondering if this is the year when the shift from one medium to the other doesn’t truly begin in earnest. The set of possibilities:

- Will we look back at the 2009 Fall/Back-To-School season as the moment when the Web really took over as Americans’ prime media outlet?

- Does TV begin a decade-long transformation, similar to what radio went through in the 1950s, with various shows and other programming migrating online, leaving behind… What? Infomercials and pharmaceutical ads on the boob tube, branding it as something that only “old people” watch?

- Do online ad rates finally scale upward in response, or does the Web’s boundless content keep such monetization permanently in check?

All things to check back in on in, oh, about five years or so.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 07/26/2009 10:38pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Social Media Online, Society, TV
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Saturday, July 18, 2021

I was walking up Lafayette Street when I saw it: A giant billboard for E! Network’s “Chelsea Lately”, starring the eponymous Chelsea Handler.

Hard to tell from the above cameraphone photo (even in embiggened Flickrized mode), but it’s actually a two-piece billboard: Handler’s head and shoulders are placed on the smaller top board, while the rest of her body accompanies the show title, broadcast time, and that “The Sharpest Tongue In Late Night” tagline on the larger board below. There’s a noticeable gap between the two sections, which gives her a disembodied look, which I guess is why I looked for longer than 5 seconds.

Then, as I kept walking and looking up, I noticed the parked van in the foreground, directly in my line of sight. The URL on the van’s back door is for Chelsea Rental, a local truck rental company.

Coincidental juxtaposition: Chelsea up above, and Chelsea down on street level. So I had to take the picture. And maybe there’s a gag in it somewhere — is it possible to rent Chelsea Handler?

And the kicker is that neither of these “Chelsea” visuals were anywhere near the actual Chelsea neighborhood, but rather, clear across town in NoHo. The van, I guess, will eventually find its way back to the West Side. The billboard stays perched above Lafayette, for now.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 07/18/2009 03:55pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Celebrity, New Yorkin', Photography, TV
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Friday, July 17, 2021

in disguise
Joining Twitter may not have boosted this blog’s traffic as much as I’d hoped, but it has paid off in other tangible, offline ways. To wit:

Last night was the first-ever Masquertweet party/meetup in New York, at 49 Grove. The theme, obviously, was to show up “in costume”, with a mere eyemask sufficing as the bare minimum in dress-up. I took this minimalism to heart by getting a lorgnette handle-held black mask (which got me some looks on the walk down Bleecker Street as I let it hang from my shirt collar like a pair of sunglasses). Perfect as an unobtrusive accessory, plus it put me in mind of Eyes Wide Shut

Proceeds from the cover charge were for charity (12for12k and Eye Care For Kids, specifically), so it was all good. I met some great people, most of them in the PR field or some offshoot. It’s always a little jarring to meet online acquaintances face-to-face, although I’d say most of the tweeters there were people I hadn’t been following up until then. I am glad I got to meet-and-greet with @prcog (who organized this event), @aerocles, @kibbe, @jdodd, and others. I was especially glad to meet @nikisnotes, who somehow charmed me into Flip-filming her host segments for an on-the-spot “Philanthropy Is Sexy” video…

While meeting people in real life is tangible enough, the real payoff came at the end of the night, when the raffle giveaway was drawn. I somehow wound up winning the grand prize of an HP Mini 110 Netbook! I was floored, because I never win these things. So I’m pretty stoked to have netted some free hardware, just for getting out of the house for once and networking/cocktailing. (I don’t have any real need for yet another techie device, but I’ll never turn down a freebie.) Thanks go to PR firm BurrellesLuce for donating the prize, along with some quality conversation.

And, ultimately, I wouldn’t have had this night of masquerade fun and gain if not for everybody’s favorite bird-themed social network. So I have to admit that Twitter is, indeed, good for something other than time-killing. Which I’ll be doing a bit more of, now that I’ve got another wireless toy on the way…

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 07/17/2009 12:08pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Fashion, New Yorkin', Social Media Online
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Thursday, July 16, 2021

Over the past couple of weeks, a trifecta of summertime sports curiosities took place and were widely reported:

- First, NBA superstar LeBron James gets dunked on by Xavier University sophomore Jordan Crawford during a pick-up basketball game (and fueled the fire by having the video confiscated to avoid embarrassment over this “Dunkgate”).

- Then, NFL quarterback Philip Rivers similarly gets outdueled by a high-school player during throwing drills at a football camp.

- And most recently, Wimbledon champion Serena Williams got schooled by Madison Keys, a 14-year-old girl, in an exhibition tennis singles event.

See a pattern here? What’s next, big-league baseball, hockey, golf, etc. professionals getting beat-downs from amateur-camp teenagers?

Call me a cynic, but I smell a rat. Twice is a coincidence, three times is a trend. Somehow, some way, there’s a corporate marketing campaign tying together these supposedly isolated incidents. It’s probably Nike, or Gatorade, promoting a David-beats-Goliath theme thanks to the help of the right sneaker/sugarwater/whatever. I wouldn’t even be surprised if SpikeTV’s idiotic “Pros vs. Joes” were behind this scheme, given the theme.

Yeah, I know: The kids involved couldn’t be in on it, because it would probably wreck their current or pending college careers. But they could just be innocent bystanders, and the pros are the ones in on it, purposely dogging it for the cameras. All in aid of making this look like a viral campaign.

Sure, it’s a conspiracy theory. But I wouldn’t dismiss it out of hand.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 07/16/2009 12:15pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Basketball, Football, Other Sports
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Wednesday, July 15, 2021

If this naming convention methodology is at all practiced in Detroit, it’s no wonder the auto industry is in the hole it’s in (pun intended):

Yesterday I learned another good rule of thumb for car naming: if it doesn’t sound hilarious with the word “anal” in front of it, it’s probably not a great car name. Think about it… Commander, Wrangler and Legacy good; CTS, MKT and Optima bad.

To underline just how much of a car consumer I’m not: This theory doesn’t work on me, because for me, anything sounds hilarious with the word “anal” in front of it. Or behind it, for that matter.

(Via dustbury)

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 07/15/2009 12:06pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Comedy, Creative
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Tuesday, July 07, 2021

fool's gold
Having learned its lesson with the negative taint it gave to the Chrome browser, Google has kicked “beta” to the curb completely, expunging the once-ubiquitous label from all of its high-profile product offerings.

As with Chrome, the move is substantively meaningless, but perceptionally key:

Practically speaking, the change will mean precious little to Gmail’s millions of users. But it could help Google’s efforts to get the paid version of its package of applications, which includes Gmail, Calendar, Docs and other products, adopted inside big companies. Corporate technology managers tend to shy away from beta products, and Google wants to remove any barriers to adoption that it can.

“For business customers, it is an important sign in terms of the maturity of our product offering and commitment to this business,” [Google director of product management Matt] Glotzbach said. “I’ve had C.I.O.s tell me that they would not consider a product labeled ‘beta.’”

So, once again, the irony: The removal of a “beta” designator underlines just how hollow the designator itself was. The bright side: With Google being an industry bellwether, maybe its actions here will finally end the concept of a perpetual beta culture in software and Web development.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 07/07/2021 09:44pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Business, Internet, Tech
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At least one good thing is coming out of this gobbledygook rebranding of Sci Fi Channel to Syfy: We’re getting free wireless Internet access!

Syfy will also be providing public Wi-Fi for a year in Rockefeller Plaza and, starting later this summer, in Union Square and other pedestrian hubs in Manhattan. While the service stresses Syfy’s civic-mindedness, says [network president Dave] Howe, it offers the additional upside of directing the million projected users to a Syfy-branded login page.

Solid. Good to know of some reliable hotspots around town, ideal for quick iTouch checks. I’ll endure the Syfy imagery; doubtful that it’ll spur me to actually tune into the channel, which is effectively non-existent to me now, regardless of the i/y substitution.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 07/07/2021 05:20pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., New Yorkin', TV, Wi-Fi
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Saturday, July 04, 2021

If there’s a more ludicrous re-branding effort out right now than Miracle Whip‘s current “We Will Not Tone It Down” campaign, I’d like to see it.

I mean, even in the symbol-heavy realm of food advertising, the juxtaposition of party-hearty 20-somethings with a jar of white glop is hard to take even remotely credibly:

Pulsating guitar rhythm, frenetic cut-away video sequences, a mock-defiant come-hither looking waif… Yeah, a mayo/salad dressing hybrid fits right in there. The entire spot is dripping with cynical calculation. I can only assume that ad agency AKQA drugged Kraft Foods execs with some past-due potato salad, and exploited the resultant hallucinatory state across the meeting table to pitch this mess. This, and the entire social media strategy designed to make Miracle Whip “cool” with the kids.

For the record, I don’t eat Miracle Whip. I don’t even want to know what’s in it. And I don’t even know what kind of sales reports Kraft got that compelled it to push this particular foodstuff onto the GenY/Millenials demo. What I do know is that, if people are still confusing MW with mayonnaise after decades of competition, it’s going to take more than a faux-hipster campaign to boost brand recognition.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 07/04/2021 03:26pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Food
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Wednesday, July 01, 2021

The continuing rockiness of the print media business was underscored yesterday when Vibe Magazine, one of the more recognizable pop music outlets, announced that it was shutting down.

Today, there’s news that co-founder Quincy Jones wants to buy back the publication and keep it alive. But note the approach:

“They [Wicks Group] just messed my magazine all up, but I’m gonna get it back. You better believe it, I’m'a take it online because print and all that stuff is over,” Jones told EbonyJet.com.

Jones sees a market for the magazine, especially in an online format, since Vibe magazine CEO Steve Aaron said the Web site was profitable.

Details are obviously sketchy at this early stage. But the “vibe” I’m getting is that Jones isn’t so much interested in saving the magazine that was Vibe — he primarily wants to keep the Vibe brandname going.

Because really, that name is what really holds the pop-cultural cachet. At its height, Vibe was the hiphop/soul/R&B equivalent of Rolling Stone, and was acknowledged as such. Toward that end, the Vibe brand was extended into areas beyond the magazine, notably as the notorious Vibe Music Awards — which, despite not being held in years, is still a familiar entity among music fans.

So yeah, I can see Quincy Jones lending his considerable reputation and resources toward preserving Vibe. But that preservation will be in the form of future Vibe concert tours, Vibe merchandise, Vibe music imprints — everything but a magazine, basically.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 07/01/2021 02:03pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Business, Pop Culture, Publishing
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Tuesday, June 30, 2021

If you haven’t seen the first marketing salvos for Sacha Baron Cohen‘s upcoming flick Brüno, you will soon enough. The above photo of a taxicab rooftop-signage placement has been a common-enough sight in New York for at least the past month.

What I like about it, and indeed, about much of the movie’s ad placements so far, is the presence of those two little dots above the “u”. That would be the umlaut, an accent-like diacritical marking that comes in for some heavy derision in North America:

You think you’re so damn cool, huh? Just hanging out, chillin’, above all those vowels. You’re all, “Ooh, look at me, I’m a chic umlaut. I make girls’ names look modish, like Zoë and Chloë… God, you’re such a poseur, umlaut. You’re nothing but two measly dots. You’re a Eurotrash colon lying down. Nobody thinks you’re cool.

This is precisely the effect that Baron Cohen is going for. Because it makes only the rarest of appearance in English (I believe “naïve” is the only word that uses it, and it routinely goes without the double-dotting), its appearance is an instantly-recognizable signifier of foreignness — and snooty European (if not Scandinavian) foreignness, to boot. So not only does Brüno employ it in the very title of the film, but also plants that umlaut freely among the promotional language, like a comedic badge. Thus does the theatrical release date in July become “Jüly”, and so on.

This joke wouldn’t work if umlaut usage wasn’t already pretty trod upon on this side of the Atlantic. Despite being actually useful in Germanic grammar (basically, the mark is a space-saving substitute for a following-letter “e”, so “Brüno” can also be spelled “Brueno”), its most common manifestation here has been as purely stylistic embellishment for pretentious rock band names.

So really, Brüno‘s wanton use of the umlaut is only reinforcing the established tradition of diacritical mis-marking in American pop culture. It’s a visual cue that we all pick up on, and laugh with. Which is the whole point of this type of comedy. It just so happens that, as a result, no vowel is safe.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 06/30/2009 11:29am
Category: Advert./Mktg., Comedy, Creative, Movies, Pop Culture, Wordsmithing
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Thursday, June 25, 2021

Flop No. 1: Meet Dave. Flop No. 2: Imagine That. Despite the back-to-back theatrical flameouts, Eddie Murphy is still enough of a name that studios are willing to bank millions in movie production costs behind him — to a point:

Mr. Murphy, 48, is one of a declining number of actors whose name alone can get a movie made. While studios are increasingly balking at paying top dollar for brand-name actors — and Mr. Murphy still asks for $20 million a picture and a cut of the gross — they still want to be in business with them because they believe it lessens their risk.

“The challenge with Eddie is that you have to put his brand on the right tin can,” said the consultant James Ulmer, who compiles the biannual report “The Ulmer Scale,” which rates the global bankability of actors. “His audiences are very straitjacketed in their expectations of him, and by that I mostly mean fat suit, fat suit, fat suit.”

In addition Mr. Murphy’s name is a marketing hook on a DVD, and he remains one of the few American comedians who can deliver results overseas.

This is probably just my bias, but I say that Murphy is worth watching only when he lets it rip with the adult material. The Disneyfication he underwent with Daddy Day Care and the like always seemed like odd fits (the Shrek voiceover work doesn’t really count). His last big hit was Norbit, and while it was pretty horrible (yes, I saw it) and gimmicky with the fat suits and multiple roles, it was an R-rated return to Murphy’s raunchy comedic roots. He needs to focus on more of that.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 06/25/2009 01:52pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Celebrity, Movies
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Wednesday, June 24, 2021

bank shot
The New York Mets balked at buying a matching nameplate for their stadium’s nearby subway stop in Queens, but the New Jersey Nets are game for it in their (hopeful) new home in Brooklyn. The NBA team will cough up $4 million for naming rights to the Atlantic Avenue, Pacific Street and Flatbush Avenue subway stations.

No, the stops won’t say “Nets” on them, but rather, “Barclays”:

This may seem odd, since Barclays is a bank based in London with offices in Manhattan, and the only Barclay Street on the city map is not even in Brooklyn. (It’s in Manhattan, in the financial district.)

There will, however, soon be a Barclays Center, the sports arena planned as the focal point of the Atlantic Yards project, and the developer, Forest City Ratner, has agreed to pay the transportation authority $200,000 a year for the next 20 years to rename one of the oldest and busiest stations in the borough.

Of course, a soft economy has rendered the Atlantic Yards project very much up in the air now, so there’s a good chance that this deal will dissolve. But that scarcely matters, because the precedent is now set for other companies to plaster their names onto MTA landmarks, for a price.

Not that any of them are rushing forward:

Still, while selling station names could bring the authority revenue it needs, advertising experts say companies may not be as well-served.

“To be effective, the viewer needs to understand the relevance of the ad,” said Allen Adamson of Landor, a branding firm. “To rename the 59th and Lex stop the McDonald’s stop — it ain’t going to work. I don’t think it will stick.”

Indeed, other cities have tried this with little success. Boston, for example, tried auctioning off four historic stations a few years ago and received no bids…

To determine its asking price for the Brooklyn station, the authority studied a few successful efforts, like a monorail in Las Vegas named for Nextel, the communications company, and streetcars in Tampa, Fla., named for a local electric utility. And the popularity of the station — the second-busiest in Brooklyn last year — was taken into account.

I’m not sure I understand the reticence by corporate America. You’re talking about millions of eyeballs seeing, hearing, and talking about your brand every single day — where else can you get that exposure? Diehards are always going to insist on snubbing a name that’s grafted onto an established station, but that’s not going to completely negate the presence. To me, it’s a golden opportunity to grab urban mindshare.

The only way such subway signage rights would be more attractive would be if they were being offered for virgin territory, i.e. the long-planned 2nd Avenue “T Line”. I’m guessing that when/if construction is ever completed on that new branch, every single station on that route will be corporately-monikered, with no arena or other landmark needed for justification.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 06/24/2009 02:02pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Basketball, New Yorkin', Politics, SportsBiz
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Tuesday, June 23, 2021

The party’s over for many a freebie-addicted blogger as the Federal Trade Commission plans to include blogs under its consumer-oversight aegis:

Mandatory disclosures could change how reviews are perceived online because many Internet users might never imagine that bloggers get compensation.

“I don’t think, for the average reader of a blog, it immediately comes to mind that they actually have a relationship with the company,” said Sam Bayard, a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. “You think about (blogs) as personal, informal, off the cuff and coming from the heart — unfiltered, uncensored and unplanned.”

This is the heart of it. You can spin the practices any number of ways, from firms encouraging “sponsored conversations” to the formalization of “word of mouth” marketing, but it all boils down to the same dynamic, to wit:

Readers perceive blogs to be first-person journals, and thus assign a certain level of personal trust to them that they withhold from recognizable commercial messaging. Advertisers covet the opportunity to penetrate this trust field with their sales pitches, because they feel the message will be more effective coming from this more-intimate voice.

There are plenty of caveats: A blog is really a format more than a medium, corporate and media blogs aren’t necessary regarded the same way as personal journals, certain campaigns work better than others via this method, etc. But basically, marketing via third-party bloggers involves co-opting a less-formal media channel and disguising the formal commercial arrangement from the audience.

There’s a lot of hemming and hawing about just how the FTC is going to implement its proposed enforcement over a blogosphere of billions. Obviously, it’s only got to worry about the U.S.-based bloggers, and even then, will rely on direct consumer complaints versus specific sites. Ultimately, it won’t bother to probe obvious splogs and hole-in-the-wall blogspot outlets; the blogs with recognizable traffic and reach will be the ones to watch.

I view this development with full acknowledgment that I’ve dipped my toe into this product-shilling. I’ve never been offered three thousand bucks for a glowing post, but I’ve agreed to free footballs and energy drinks, among other trinkets. I’ve always disclosed the arrangement with the advertiser, both because it was always stipulated and because I wouldn’t do it otherwise even if asked.

But in a sense, each individual post on this blog, or any other (for that matter) exists in a vacuum — an explicit disclaimer on a “bought” page doesn’t cover another page where some commercial product may be featured, even in a less-than-flattering light. In some ways, any mention is suspect, because of the precedent established by PayPerPost and other blatant content-hijackers. When the field’s already not level, an overarching policing agency — even if it is the FTC — will help to reset the table, with an assumption of transparency.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 06/23/2009 11:15am
Category: Advert./Mktg., Bloggin', Politics, Society
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Sunday, June 21, 2021

This commercial for Minute Maid‘s Enhanced Juice Drinks has been on the air for at least a month and a half, but it’s new to me:

And here’s the funny-fun transcription:

Woman: Excuse me? I think you’re the father of one of my kids.
Man: Nnn… Oh… Cancun? Spring Break ’99?
Woman: What??
Man: No?!
Woman: No.


Woman: Excuse me? I think you’re the father of one of my kids.
Man: Oh! My daughter’s in your art class! Sister Mary Catherine.
Woman: Yeah!


Uncommonly sharp comedy for a beverage commercial. All thanks to the sensibilities of the 18-34-year-old male consumer, with whom college-level raunchiness plays especially well. A rare instance of a creative approach matching up with its target audience.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 06/21/2009 03:50pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Comedy, Food
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