Please, Make It Stop!

People are annoyed by advertising every day. That’s just how it is. To a certain degree consumers have gotten pretty desensitized to it, so it’s our job as advertisers to rise above all that generic, annoying clutter, and stand out in a meaningful way that presents value to the consumer. But every once in a while something comes along that does its job of breaking through the clutter, but in a bad way.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been punched, slapped and beaten over the head with a commercial, to the point that I scramble for the mute button every time it comes on. I’m sure you’ve seen it. It’s a Zales spot that shows couples in a few different romantic scenarios, accompanied by different lines of copy like “The Falling For You Store” and a song that I really liked at first – “If it wasn’t for you, don’t know what I’d do…” (It reminded me of The Rosebuds).

So it has a good song, some nice cinematography and a pretty good message. The only problem is that the commercial has been following me everywhere I go. Aside from reaching me at home every night, during every single freaking commercial break, the spot has interrupted my YouTube viewing, annoyed me at in-store TV displays and stalked me at a sports bar. It’s ruthless. If I could file a protection order against it I would. And one can’t argue that I’m not in the target audience, because I’m recently engaged; they’re just a little too late. So now I despise the song and resent Zales for torturing me. You know they used this same tactic as an interrogation method at Guantanamo Bay, right?

I definitely think there is such a thing as too much frequency in advertising. We spend so much time focusing on making sure the consumer receives the message, we forget that reaching them too much might have the opposite effect. You know how when you were a kid and your mom told you to do something over and over again, so much that you wanted to deliberately NOT do it just out of spite? That’s what this is like. The first 10 times I saw the commercial I had a positive reaction, and because of that, if I were in the market for jewelry I would have considered buying from them. But they didn’t stop there. They continued beating me senseless until I couldn’t take it any longer.

You can argue that in the end the ad did its job. It broke through the clutter and placed Zales top of mind as a jewelry brand. But does the end justify the means? Is it ok to twist consumers’ arms until they say uncle, or is it better to make them genuinely like you? I would think the latter, but then again, I’m just a fussy, whinny copywriter.

– Andrew

Hamm’s, the brand refreshing…

Since I commute to work from Brookings, I spend the night at my parents’ house in Sioux Falls once a week to save a little money on gas. When I’m there I’m treated to great dishes like roasted chicken, grilled steaks, awesome appetizers, and it’s all washed down with merlot or my dad’s homemade brew in a frosted glass.

My parents and I enjoy a high quality beer, but sometimes my dad likes to buy a 12-pack of plain old brew, nothing fancy. The kind of beer that doesn’t require you to intellectually analyze what you can “detect a hint of,” a man’s brew and nothing more. I think he’s nostalgic for those summer nights in his youth when he and his friends would lean against his ’69 Mach 1 Mustang, turn on some Zeppelin and pound back a couple Schlitz or Hamm’s.

Recently when I arrived at my parents’ house after work I was offered an Octoberfest, but for some reason a Hamm’s sounded better to me. As my dad cracked open the beer and poured it into a frosted glass, he started singing “From the Land of Sky Blue Waters, Comes the beer refreshing, Hamm’s the beer refreshing….” The tune was slightly familiar; I must have recognized it from a lecture when I was an advertising student or from a “History of Advertising” program on the History Channel or something. I DO know that to my recollection, I have never seen an active Hamm’s advertisement in the media, which tells me it has probably been a long time since my dad has seen an active Hamm’s ad altogether, which means this famous Hamm’s jingle has stuck with my “not-so-musically inclined” father for a long time.

What a great example of effective and memorable advertising. The Hamm’s ads really must have hit my dad’s “sweet spot”. I tried to no avail to find the last time the Hamm’s jingle aired, so unless a wiser person can enlighten me, I’m assuming it’s been at least 20 years or so. This would mean that all this time the Hamm’s jingle has been sitting in my dad’s memory without any further reinforcement. And my dad isn’t very web savvy, so I know he hasn’t listened to it on YouTube or anything. By just pouring the Hamm’s into the glass, the song sparked up in his memory, and then he sung it with sentiment.

This is the most ideal place a product can be – moving beyond sales and transcending into parts of peoples’ lives they remember fondly. To my dad, Hamm’s isn’t just some crummy beer he used to drink. Hamm’s stands for those simple summer nights in his youth, leaning up against his Mustang on a gravel road, laughing with his friends, and enjoying a couple beers after a hard day’s work on the farm. Hamm’s is a fond memory, a part of his past, and a part of his life.

– Andrew

Don’t Buy That, Bye This!

Bye ByeI saw an interesting Ford commercial this weekend with an ending that absolutely blew my mind. And definitely not in a good way. Here’s why I think Ford made a major mistake with their latest Ford Fusion commercial.

The spot (which I’m struggling to find video of at this exact moment) features Mike Rowe—an excellent choice for a spokesperson as far as I’m concerned—convincing a young shopper to ditch her Toyota Camry in favor of the new Ford Fusion. Focusing on the Fusion’s numerous features and benefits, Rowe is very persuasive and the commercial presents a valid case for choosing the Fusion.

Then, as the commercial went into its close-out finale, my mind nearly exploded. If I’d had a drink in my mouth, I’d have done a sitcom-esque spit-take for sure.

The spot closes out with Rowe telling the female shopper something along the lines of, “There’s just one thing left to say…” and she responds by saying, “Bye Camry.”

I just stared at the TV. Do mine ears deceive me? Did that really just happen? Now if you haven’t yet seen the spot, reading the “Bye Camry” might not seem like such a terrible offense. She’s merely saying goodbye to her old car and welcoming her new Ford Fusion, right?

But if you only heard the commercial (or simply caught the last 3-5 seconds and missed the point of the entire spot), all you would hear is:

“Bye Camry”

Say that out loud. Does it sound a little like “Buy Camry” to you? Because that’s the first thing my mind went to. Honestly, I’m not sure how this managed to slip through the cracks. Assuming it cost a few hundred thousand dollars to produce the spot and several million to run it nationwide, you would thinksomebody would’ve picked up on the “Buy Camry” slip before it began airing across the country.

The bottom line? As marketers, it’s important we try to view EVERY aspect of our work with a focused eye (AND ear). Within its context, “Bye Camry” seems innocent enough. But in an era of short attention spans and advertising overload, the final message your customers hear from one of your commercials should NOT be “Buy _____ [insert your competitor here],” no matter what your intent was.

Do you agree? Or is it possible I’m just making too big a deal about this? I know it’s hard to share your opinion without seeing the actual spot, so I’ll try to embed it as soon as I find it online. For now, what do you think? Did Ford make a huge mistake or is this a simple oversight that most people won’t even pick up on? Feel free to let us know what you think in the comments below. We’d love to hear your opinion.

-Mike B.

P.S. – If the folks at Toyota are smart, they’ll figure out a creative way to jump on this. The simplest way would be to say something along the lines of “even our competitors are telling you to ‘buy Camry,’” but I’m sure the right creative team could come up with something fantastic.

Photo by Latente! Thanks!