Archive for Rants

Not Entertaining

I watch a lot of movies and a lot of TV (sick vices that I’ve come to terms with). But, I really enjoy being entertained and I enjoy comedy as my primary genre. But, what’s really been irritating me lately (and I don’t know why, I’ve been sick and probably cranky) is FORCED COMEDY.

I realize that nearly everything I watch is scripted. I get that. But when you’re painfully aware that an actor is reading a line that is supposed to be funny, it has quite the opposite effect. More specifically, I can not stand when a character is forced to spout a line that is very unlike who they are. Examples:

  1. Children saying very adult or insightful-beyond-their-years things: “I like to start every day with a strong cup of Joe and a Readers’ Digest. I find that the aroma of Columbian roast and a few chortles brings me to a place that only Elizabeth Barret Browning could accurately capture.”
  2. Old people saying overtly sexual or “dirty” things: “When I give a man a %#^&( ^&#%, I always !#@$% the !^%$@.”
  3. Old people using street slang: “Hoes be trippin. You need to kick that chickenhead to da curb, homie!”
  4. White suburban girls using street slang: “Girlfriend, why you frontin on my baby daddy?”
  5. Children saying overly cute things. They’re KIDS! They’re already cute and they already say cute things. Let a kid be a kid and say normal kid things!

Wassup, my ninjas?

I just think the “shock” of it all is so forced. It feels lazy.

So, this is me declaring that let’s just stop this approach. I’m very sorry Betty White – you’re awesome. I’m very sorry Adam Sandler – I friggin love you but you seem to have all these kids with forced cuteness in your movies lately. And I’m sorry all Disney Channel Tween Sitcoms – not every character on the show can be the whacky overactor.

All that being said – what do I know? I’ve never made a dime on any attempt for comedy. The market pays for what the market wants. I’m just not laughing at the forced comedy. Let’s step it up.

photo via flickr (jpmatth)

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QR Code Obsession

QR Code Obsession

QR Codes are cool. I agree. I’ve been talking about them in digital media presentations for about three years now. I like them! I think they have a ton of possibilities. But, for the love of Pete, we’re becoming obsessed with QR codes. They’re the shiny new toy. Everybody wants to use them. But they are being used stupidly. Ignore the fact that smart phones only have about a 30% market penetration in the US. Ignore the fact that only like 10% of internet traffic comes from mobile phones. Ignore the fact that the people that do have smart phones do not all have scanners nor do they know how to get/use one. People are being just plain non-strategic and impractical. I think there are some cool ways and some lame ways to use QR Codes. Here goes:

  1. Cool Way: On food packaging. I think it’s great when a box of food has a QR Code on it and scanning brings you to a video of how to prepare a recipe, or a list of ingredients needed to make a recipe. That gives value. I’m going to tag “Recipe Book” on to this example. It’s too similar to make it its own. But a cookbook should be full of QR codes that download a tutorial video for preparing a dish.
  2. Lame Way: On your website. There is almost NO REASON you should ever have a QR Code on your website. It especially infuriates me when the QR code brings me to your homepage or another page in your site. I’m already there! Just give me a link. That’s ridiculous. Yet I see it time and time again. Stop putting QR Codes on your website!
  3. Cool Way: Selling a house. I like this idea. A QR Code next to an ad for a house, or on the sales sign out front. Scanning brings you to a virtual tour and/or information about the house (the MLS listing, etc), and the Realtor to contact to make arrangements to see the house in person. Let’s get rid of those crappy, water-soaked, black & white photocopies that sit in that plastic bin.
  4. Lame Way: In an email blast. OK, this is really similar to the website one, but it’s equally as lame. Do not make me scan something that I can just click. Don’t put me through all that effort when I could just click a link. These seem like ways to use QR Codes just to use them.
  5. Cool Way: Scavenger Hunts. I think this is actually kind of fun. QR Codes can be posted or hidden in various spots and finding one reveals a clue (video or photo or text or something more interactive) to the location of the next clue.
  6. Lame Way: On clothes and/or name badges. I know that some people think that printing these on shirts, scarves, hats or name badges at conferences is cool. I don’t. Yeah, people could scan and get your information. OR, they could talk to you like a human being if they’re going to be that close to you.
  7. Cool Way: Next to artwork or items in a museum. People can scan to get more information about the artist, the item the history behind it, etc. I think QR Codes are really applicable in these situations where it would be visually disturbing and impractically to have an enormous wealth of information on the wall. This could apply to art galleries, museums, zoos, theme park lines (God, they’re long and dull!). This provides people with curiosity a way to really dive into something they’re interested in.
  8. Lame Way: Tattoos. Really? That’s just stupid. What if this QR Code doesn’t last? What site or resource are you sending people to? Just a really bad idea to tattoo a QR Code on to your body. Get a tattoo of a unicorn playing checkers. It’s timeless.
  9. Cool Way: Assembly directions. Now, I never need to look at assembly directions because I’m a man and therefore naturally apt at assembling things. But, some people may be very confused by the ridiculously complex directions that come with some products. A QR Code could be stickered on the product in case the directions aren’t included, or link to a video that gives a really good step-by-step assembly tutorial.
  10. Lame Way: Outdoor billboard. Especially those on the side of the road/freeways. Do you really expect people to whip out their phone, pull up their scanner app and get the QR Code snapped? Besides being extremely dangerous, you don’t have the time to make that happen. That’s why you typically get 7 words on a billboard. There’s no time for anything more. There’s certainly no point in putting a QR Code on a billboard.
  11. Cool Way: Conference mobile app. I actually just experienced this one not too long ago. Scanning the QR Code downloaded an app to my phone that was specific to the conference with a full schedule, options to add sessions to my personal calendar, maps, exhibitor information, etc. It was actually really valuable and a practical use since an application went to my phone.
  12. Cool or Lame (you decide): Tombstones. I actually kind of think this is cool. I was surprised at how many people have a QR Code on their tombstone. Scanning would bring you to a site about the person, maybe video, photos, etc. Thoughts on this one? Is putting a QR Code on a tombstone taking it too far?
Here’s the bottom line for me: use these strategically and don’t just use a QR Code to say you’ve used it. Give value to your clients and visitors. It’s enticing, I know, to want to slap a QR Code on everything because they seem so freaking cool! But, show some discipline before I need to schedule a QR Code intervention.

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Imagine Advertising with Creative Copywriting

photo by matt.hintsa via flickr

“Imagine more shoes than you could ever imagine.”

…rewind…

“Imagine more shoes than you could ever imagine.”

OK, that’s what I thought it said. That’s some of the worst copywriting I’ve ever heard. This was the lead-in line to a TV advertisement for Off Broadway Shoes. I’ll concede that perhaps the copywriters were trying to get attention by having this very confusing line. But, I think it’s simply not a good line. How do I imagine more shoes than I could ever imagine? I tried. I couldn’t do it. No matter how many shoes I imagined, I could never imagine more than I could ever imagine.

Bad line.

Off Broadway Shoes doesn’t have a version of this ad available to embed here on the blog. But they have it here on their website or here on Facebook.

Is it just me, or does anyone else think this is a bad line? Anyone think it’s a good line?

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Dove for Men and Oprah – Sponsorship Fail?

I happened to be home early this afternoon because I had to take my son to a doctor’s appointment. He was a little fussy and it sometimes distracts him when the TV is on, so I thought I’d give it a shot. When I turned on the TV, Oprah‘s show was on. Within a minute or so, she took a commercial break. As we transitioned to the commercials, there was a message informing us that the Oprah show was brought to us by Dove Men+Care. “Hmmm…” I thought to myself, “That’s an odd partnership.”

Flickr via nayrb7

As I’ve posted before, there are some marketing and advertising placement decisions that just don’t make sense, especially in very clearly male or female-targeted programming. This seems to be one of those situations. Why would a product line that is very clearly targeted for men sponsor a very clearly female program like Oprah? In fact, according to Quantcast, the viewing audience of Oprah.com is 70% Female (Sorry, I couldn’t find reliable TV show viewer demographics, but we can easily conclude that the demographics are dominantly female as well). If you want to sell to men, sponsor a men’s program, right?

Flickr via theimpulsivebuy

I did have to consider that their marketing strategy was to target women since they tend to make many of the household purchasing decisions. But, Dove Men+Care marketing is directed toward men. Check out some of the TV advertising. Actually, I really like this advertisement. I think it’s funny and I think that it actually speaks to men very well. But this only serves to further confuse me. This is a marketing campaign that targets men!!! Why are they sponsoring the Oprah show?!?

So, I’m turning to the fine folks at Dove to help me understand your strategy. Perhaps it makes a lot of sense. But, on the surface, I can’t tell why you would spend a lot of money (and I know it’s a LOT of money) to sponsor the Oprah show, which is going to expose your product line to women, when your other Dove Men+Care marketing and advertising speaks to men. So, any of you Dove marketers who subscribe to my blog (and I’m certain there are dozens of you), I’m waiting. What’s going on?

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Do You Hear Yourself Speak?

If you only knew me based on this blog, you may think that a lot of things bother me because I sometimes use this as a forum to talk about things that irk me. Fine – I’ll concede to that. And yes, this is another post like that. This one is about perhaps my greatest of pet peeves – grammatical errors and misspoken words and phrases. For one reason or another, it drives me crazy. I could easily write a post about misspellings and misuses of words (there, they’re, their), but I found this brilliant post on The Oatmeal, so I’ll just refer you to them. Here are a few examples of the screwed-up words and phrases (also known as malapropisms) that really make me grind my teeth. I’d love to hear some of yours, too…

CORRECT: ALL INTENTS AND PURPOSES
THE SCREWED-UP WAY YOU SAY IT: ALL INTENSIVE PURPOSES

The initial wording is reportedly “to all intents, constructions and purposes,” instead of all intents and purposes. It basically means under most usual circumstances, in most practical situations, or for purposes that are practical. “Intensive” implies the level of intensity of the purposes. I know, they’re kind of close, but you’re saying it wrong.

CORRECT: ET CETERA (ETC.)
THE SCREWED-UP WAY YOU SAY IT: ECK-CETTERA (ECT.)
There’s just no excuse for this one. The word is et cetera – it’s a Latin term meaning “and other things” or “and so forth.”

CORRECT: ACROSS
THE SCREWED-UP WAY YOU SAY IT:
ACROSSED
“Guess who I came acrossed at the nude pep-rally today?” or “The puppy mill is acrossed the street from Wendy’s.” These are SO wrong. Acrossed does not exist. Quit adding that extra sound at the end of the word. Seriously. You sound stupid.

CORRECT: TOUGH ROW TO HOE
THE SCREWED-UP WAY YOU SAY IT: TOUGH ROAD TO HOE
Think about this one. Why in the hell would you be hoeing a road? Do you know what a hoe is (smart-asses need not answer this question)? It’s a gardening tool used to dig trenches in soil, uproot weeds, etc. So, go ahead and scrape a hoe along the asphalt – I guess that would be pretty tough.

CORRECT: FLESH OUT
THE SCREWED-UP WAY YOU SAY IT: FLUSH OUT
If you have an idea that is incomplete and needs more thinking and more substance, you need to flesh it out, not flush it out. Fleshing out an idea is like a sculptor giving flesh to a skeletal form. An incomplete idea is like the skeleton – you need to flesh it out to make it whole. Flushing it out refers to chasing it into the open like a criminal or a bird or a criminal bird.

I think I’ve made the world a little better place by educating the few of you that read my blog. Please know that if you use these words and phrases incorrectly around me, I will want to slam your head in a car door.

Anybody else have some they’d like to share?

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Have You Seen Our Ad?

I was watching football on Sunday morning, and an advertisement came on for Symbicort that featured an older gentlemen working on his truck. He’s talking about Symbicort generically improving his life. You know how these medication commercials go – sometimes you get to the end of the commercial and you still have no clue what the medication does. Does it help with blood pressure, give you an erection, make your eyelashes longer, or all of the above? Well, it turns out that Symbicort is for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – basically, it’s like an inhaler that helps you breathe easier. I’ve included a shot of the ad below, as I couldn’t find the video online. Also – sorry about the resolution – I took the photo with my iPhone on a my non-hi-def TV in the bedroom.

Symbicort TV Ad

Symbicort TV Ad

My problem is not with the script for the advertisement, but rather with a line that appeared at the bottom: See our ad in Ladies Home Journal.

TV Ad 2

I have two issues with this:

1. Who is your target audience? COPD is not exclusive to men. In fact, it seems to inflict approximately the same number of men as women. This ad appeared during football on Sunday, which is dominantly male. OK, no problem, you want to reach the guys watching football. Why does your ad ask me to see the ad in Ladies Home Journal? Do you really think that a lot of the people that watch football on Sundays (men) read Ladies Home Journal? It’s not only unlikely, it’s stupid. Let’s say that in your channel planning, you decided to run  TV ads and magazine ads. Fine. And you decided to buy air time during a dominantly male program. Fine. Would you not also purchase an ad in a dominantly male magazine, like Sports Illustrated? THEN, it would be far more logical to say, “See our ad in Sports Illustrated.” I’m not mad at you for placing an ad in Ladies Home Journal – just don’t tell me about it during men’s programming.

2. See your ad in a magazine? Seriously? Why even add this line to TV ads? Unless you have the magazine in your home, you’re not going to head down to the grocery store and grab the magazine to find out more about an obscure drug ad. We already know that fewer and fewer people are reading magazines – they’re going out of business left and right. We’re going to go online to find out more information. In their defense, they did include their URL. I think my bottom line is that it’s a outdated technique to put, “See our ad in…” Don’t get me wrong, integrated marketing campaigns are supremely important. But, I think this technique misses the mark completely.

What do you all think? Was this poor marketing, or was it smart integration?

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Social Media Porn Star

I was watching some show on MTV today about people being addicted to porn. In fact, one woman was so addicted, that she wanted to become a porn star herself. The show goes on to show scenes of her crying because her parents aren’t proud of her being a porn star, etc, etc. But here’s what occurred to me: why does anybody who does porn automatically become a porn star? You’re a star after just one film, regardless of the quality? The world doesn’t work like this. What’s with this self-anointed stardom?

And then I realized there is another group of people that are just like “porn stars”: The ever-popular Social Media Expert. I know, it’s super popular to criticize the social media expert – and I don’t want to jump on that bandwagon. But, understanding social media as a channel for strategic and effective communications is a large part of my job, and there are many many people who are really undermining the level of understanding needed to be a “star.” With little to no experience in understanding social media as a communication tool, folks are fully prepared to anoint themselves as experts and oversell their under-qualified services.

If your girlfriend set up a camera in the bedroom one night, would you start listing “porn star” on your resume? No? Well, then why do you believe that you’re a social media “expert” because you decided to set up a Facebook page in 2008? My point is simply that you’re no more a Social Media Expert than the girl who got breast implants and decided to do a film in her neighbor’s garage for $50 is a porn star.

There’s more to being a star; there’s more to being an expert. Don’t kid yourself. And, for everybody else: don’t believe everyone who tells you they’re a star.

"I'm a star, baby" (photo by danielcorba via flickr)

"I'm a star, baby" (photo by danielcorba via flickr)

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Twitter Sinners

I know… “Another post about Twitter? I’m sick of it!” 

Sorry, but folks are still so blatantly abusing Twitter, I’m forced back on my platform to expose the heathens. Twitter is not a new advertising platform. It’s not a new place for SPAM. I don’t know how many times I have to repeat this VERY SIMPLE law of most all social media: treat it like a real relationship. Right now, you’re not treating Twitter right. You’re abusing it – and that makes you a Twitter Sinner. I’m here to save your soul.

1. Social Media is not about collecting friends. How many friends do you have in real life? I need an exact number. You don’t know, do you? Why not? Because you don’t collect friends. That’s not how friendship, or any relationship, works. So, why do people think that social media is about collecting friends? Do not obsess about how many friends or followers you have. You’re not a better person if you have more followers. 70,000 – oh my! There is no direct correlation between followers/friends and your worth. Deal with it!

2. Give value to your relationship. Any good relationship is symbiotic – you give to me, I give to you. Too often, Twitter relationship are parasitic – one party consumes and doesn’t give back. These are the worst Twitter sinners. Are your messages purely promotional? Or do you offer value to the relationship you’ve created? Do you share articles, insights, breaking news, anything of value? No, telling people you can make them a millionaire is not a post of value. It’s a selfish, promotional tweet.

3. Content before followers. You should post a dozen updates (arbitrary number) with some sort of value before you start hunting for relationships (followers). You’re disgusting, following 800 people with 4 updates. If you want to have a relationship with me, I want to know it will be worthwhile. This is also a rule about giving value to your relationships. 

4. Be upfront with who you are. Are you a company that will be posting promotions, sneak peaks, extras, etc? Are you a person, who will sprinkle tweets with updates about your personal life? It doesn’t matter what you are, I just need to know. I need to know what kind of relationship I’m getting into here. 

5. Do more than re-tweet. Look at your stream of updates – how often are you beginning it with “RT” (ReTweet)? You’re just an aggregator. Have an opinion. Generate your own stuff. Sometimes it’s nice to have somebody passing info along from multiple sources – so I understand if my position on this is controversial, but you’re asking me to have a relationship with YOU. You are the guy at the party, who, when asked his opinion on a matter, quotes somebody else. You’re Matt Damon‘s character on Good Will Hunting. And nobody likes Matt Damon. (OK, just kidding. That was a cheap shot at Damon). 

Here’s a few Twitter Sinners I’ve collected just today. Repent, and change your ways…

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Geico, Who Are You?

Geico‘s marketing efforts are confusing me. They’re really inconsistent. What’s the campaign? Is it the lizard? Is it the caveman? Is it the celebrity testimonial? Oh, maybe it’s the stack of money with the googly eyes. Er, perhaps it’s one of these motorcycle or ATV ads that have nothing to do with any of the others. Remember the, “I’ve got good news… I just saved a ton of money by switching to Geico?” 

Seriously, there seems to be a group of people sitting around a table and coming up with good ideas, and nobody to say, “no, let’s try to be consistent in our marketing efforts.” Instead, they just picked all the ideas, and said, “go with it.” 

Beside the logo slate at the end of a TV spot, I can’t tell that I’m watching a Geico spot. Sure, they’re all kind of quirky, and that is part of their brand, but they’re all so different that they don’t feel related. They don’t feel like a campaign. There are 10 different ideas, 10 different campaigns on the air. Here’s the tragedy in it all – Geico has done of good job of creating strong brand awareness, thanks to the gecko ads that started running in 1999/2000. If you recall, the (now famous) gecko pleaded with people to stop mistakenly calling him to save money on auto insurance. I’ll give Geico credit – they have a strong brand awareness. That’s why it’s tragic…

Why not use this awareness more to your advantage? I feel like with some consistency in marketing, you could leverage that recognition even further. But, until then, I’ll just be confused as to how a lizard, a caveman, squirrels, Joan Rivers, cash with a piercing stare, a baseball coach, a man on a beach with his motorcycle, and a bodyguard are a part of a cohesive ad campaign.

Here’s a list of links to some of the spots I mentioned. I figured links instead of embedding videos, to cut down on loading time.

Lizard – “Free Pie and Chips”

All Caveman Commercials

Squirrels

Joan Rivers Celebrity Testimonial

Googly-Eyed Cash

Motorcycle on the Beach

Female Bodybuilder

Secret Agent

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Living Well in a Recession – $3,000 T-Shirt

Stumbled upon this t-shirt today at Zazzle.com that reads, “Fuck the Recession. I’m Still Rich.” You may not have a problem with it, but I think this is an awful idea. Don’t get me wrong – I get the gag – based on irony. A t-shirt that says something like this is usually not actually worn by somebody who has money. That’s what I thought, until I saw the price tag. $3,325.00! Ridiculous. I thought maybe the price itself was a joke, but I added the item to my cart, and sure enough, it costs $3,300! 

Tshirt Front

Tshirt Front

Tshirt back

Tshirt back

$3,325 at checkout

$3,325 at checkout

Here’s my problem with it. When we’re in a “recession,” you should not (as an individual or a business or organization) show signs of living or spending opulently. It’s tacky. It’s insensitive. I guess I just don’t think it’s that funny or novel to spend $3,000 on a t-shirt in this economy. People are hurting. Genuinely hurting.

To waltz around with signs of spending money lavishly is really socially insensitive to me. There are some companies that are doing this – sending out postcards that are gilded, printing Annual Reports with ornamental and lavish features. Stop doing this! Granted, in my line of business (advertising and marketing), I wish clients were spending more money – but I think it makes such poor business sense. If you even look like you’re spending a lot of money right now, you will offend customers. I don’t care if you got a good deal. Perception is reality – if you look like you spent a ton of money, you spent a ton of  money. Be aware of the messages you’re sending.

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