A Contact is a Terrible Thing to Waste

A few weeks ago I ordered a gift for Mother’s Day, one of the fruit bouquets you see fruit_bouquetadvertised just about everywhere. I placed my order a week in advance, arranged for delivery and thought I was done. But what I had inadvertently done was sign myself up for a barrage of attacks on my inbox. You see, when I placed my order I innocently clicked the box saying it was OK to send me special offers. What I didn’t know was they would email me twice a day, every day through Mother’s Day, reminding me it was not too late to make the purchase that I had already made.

I thought that was it, with the holiday over they would leave me alone. Oh no, Monday morning they hit me again to tell me it would be a great graduation gift. I thought maybe they would let me update my preferences to let them know I only need an email once a month or even once a week. Nope, my choice was all or nothing. I voted for nothing.

About that same time, I made another online purchase and once again the emails started coming. Today I got two from that retailer before 8:00 AM. Update preferences? Yes, I think I will. But they didn’t give me the chance to get fewer emails. No, they only gave me the chance to sign up for more emails from other companies. Unsubscribe to all was my choice.

In both case they had a chance to keep in contact with a happy customer but they abused that opportunity. In both cases they spent money on advertising in both traditional and online media to attract me as a customer. In both cases I was very happy with the product, but right now I don’t want to do business with either. They had a chance to keep in touch with a valuable contact but they squandered it, now they have nothing.  If you’ve had similar abusive email relationships with companies, please don’t email to tell me your story, my in-box is already full.

– Jim

ADwërks Intentionally Confuses The Public With Big Blue Xs

Ok, maybe the word “confuses” is not entirely accurate, but I don’t feel comfortable putting blogx3the word “titillates” in a headline. Anyway, you may have noticed a bunch of blue metal Xs lining the streets of downtown Sioux Falls. And if they left you wondering, “What the heck is with all these Xs?” then we did our job.

Jim Mathis – ADwërks President, Certified Advertologitst™ and Sweater Vest Aficionado® – is also the President of the SculptureWalk board, so ADwërks donates our services for its marketing. Jim went to bed one unseasonably cold March night, only to awake after dreaming of Xs (as in the letter, not the ex’s that George Strait sings about). His revelation was that the X is the perfect motif for the 2013 SculptureWalk season, and so the titillating campaign was born.

So, what the heck is with all these Xs? Well there are three answers to that question. First, by placing the Xs on the empty sculpture stands, they promote the 2013 sculpture lineup with the tagline “X Marks The Art,” which we included in the window posters we put up in downtown shop windows and ads in area publications. Secondly, X represents SculptureWalk’s 10th anniversary this year. And finally, the signs promote the SculptureWalk eXpo, an event this weekend in celebration of SculptureWalk’s decade milestone. It will be the single largest free indoor sculpture exhibit in the upper Midwest, featuring 250 sculptures on display and on sale along with free sculpture-making seminars.

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With this campaign we hoped to create an intriguing spectacle by placing these Xs on Phillips Avenue, Main Street and 8th Street. The enigmatic nature of the simple X is just mysterious enough to spark curiosity in passersby, motivating them to find out more, which is why we put stickers on the Xs that explain their purpose.

If you still haven’t seen the Xs, head downtown today (Phillips Avenue has the most signs) and have a gander before they’re replaced with new sculptures early tomorrow morning. And if you’re looking for something titillating to do this weekend visit the SculptureWalk eXpo at the Washington Pavilion, Saturday 12pm-10pm and Sunday 12pm-4pm, and check out the new sculptures downtown.

– Andrew

ADwërks Media Team Gets More Experty

Our team of expert media professionals has gotten even more experty with a brand new ADwërker!

Kristi Cornette, our new Pilot of the Airwaves, will work as a traditional media buyer for our 0_2013-03-14_Kristi-Cornette_018_SaraCam_Fix_Flat_Croppedlargest account CarHop, handling mostly TV and print. She’ll work alongside Monique Lupkes, our OTHER traditional buyer for CarHop, and together they’ll conquer the many CarHop markets across the country, riding the airwaves to true media glory.

Kristi has been in advertising for 22 years, and she’s been buying media for 16 years. Her agency experience is bountiful, including employment at Barkley in Kansas City, MO, where she bought for Sonic (not the hedgehog), Valentine Radford, also in Kansas City, where she bought for Pizza Hut, and closer to home, Nichols Media, where she bought for various clients in the auto industry.

When she’s not piloting the airwaves, Kristi enjoys spending time with her family, which is comprised of her husband Michael, 10-year-old son Cooper, and their dog Scout. Together they enjoy having movie nights, watching TV and just hanging out as a family. The Cornettes have recently returned to Sioux Falls after temporarily living in Missoula, MT and Kansas City, MO, but they’re glad to be back.

Although this is the first time she has worked at ADwërks, it’s not her first encounter with the Mathi. Kristi has known Jim and Kara for about 18 years, and she and her husband actually used to live five doors down from the Mathis household. Is that why you moved away Kristi? Nonetheless, we’re happy you came back.

Based on her mad media skills, good experience and great personality, we know Kristi will make an excellent addition to our team. Please feel free to help us welcome her aboard!

An Epundemic

An Epundemic Jan 14, 2013

“Believe In Your Smellf,” “Don’t Suffer The Coughiquences,” for whatever reason bad puns are everywhere in advertising lately. I guess you could say it’s an epundemic. It’s almost to the point where the terms “copywriting” and “pun-writing” are synonymous, as if there’s no other possible way to write.

This might seem pro-pun, but I just couldn’t help myself. Puns are addicting. That’s partly why they can be so evil.

Don’t get me wrong; puns can be fun, in an ironic sort of way. In fact, I’m somewhat of a punslinger myself around family and friends. I just don’t think every freakin’ brand out there should build an entire marketing campaign around one of the lowest forms of jokes, that’s all.

Among copywriters, puns are infamous for being the first ideas that come to mind when brainstorming. I know that all too well – lost in the darkness of my mind trying to think of a great idea, suddenly with a flash of light in the distance the sweet siren of puns calls my name, tempting me to come closer… It’s easy to give in, but you must push on. Nine times out of 10 you can do better.

Some hardcore copy critics out there believe you should never ever incorporate a pun into your advertising; I’m not that harsh. I think they can work, sometimes pretty well, as long as they accomplish your basic advertising objectives – inform, persuade or remind by saying something meaningful about the product or brand in a memorable way, to sum it up. And of course you must manage to do it all in a way that builds up the brand in a positive and intelligent way, which can be hard to do in the pun realm.

Oh boy…

If being silly is all an ad pun has going for it, it probably won’t accomplish anything more than that. That’s why I’ve been getting such a bad taste in my mouth with the omnipresence of these lazy puns in advertising, in national campaigns for that matter! “Smellf?” C’mon. Again, maybe it’s worth a laugh while having some beers with friends, a SHORT laugh at that, but not worth a national ad campaign. Some seem to be solely based on one copywriter’s bad joke, which totally just diminishes the product and the brand. We should aspire to write more like Hemmingway, not Gallagher.

What do you think? Are puns the unfailing heroes of advertising, or are they the hacky comedians of copy?

– Andrew

They’rrre GR-R-REATLY Boring

It’s 6:30am and my alarm goes off. By alarm, I mean my mother telling me to get up. “It’s time to get ready for school,” she says. “I laid out your favorite Zubaz pants.” (Kidding about that, kind of…) Then she’d leave my room to continue preparing breakfast, and probably hoping that I’m not going to snooze her for another 5 minutes. While lying in bed, teetering between dreams and reality, sometimes the only motivation I had for facing another day of Mrs. Hansen’s 3rd grade boot camp was the bowl of cereal waiting for me downstairs.

Cereal used to be much more of an experience than it is today, and of course much more of a sugar-infused experience as well. Whether it was puffed, frosted, looped or marshmallowed, it was all the same fuel of empty calories that prepared us kids for a long day at school. But there was more to kids cereal than just bright colors and a sugary taste, there was the enchanting “back of the box.”

I remember just getting lost in the back of the box. Oftentimes cereals would have an intricate, Where’s-Waldo-esque scene on the back, and I’d chomp away while admiring the cartoon fantasy land that I desperately wished I could visit in real life. The back of the box always coordinated with the cereal’s theme too.

In addition to your standard cereal mascots, there was a cereal for just about every lovable character in pop culture – E.T., Slimer, Gizmo, even Steve Urkel. And although it was clearly “evil” marketers just trying to get my mom to buy their brand, I didn’t care, and still don’t. I’d totally buy cereals based on some of my favorite things today – Frosted Beerios, Professor Blastoff’s Podcast Pops, Micachu and The Sugar Shapes, C3PO’s – wait, that actually existed…

Once the box started feeling light, you knew that any day a toy would pour out with the final bowl of cereal. Sometimes if you were too impatient, you might force-feed yourself just so you could get to that toy. And whether it was a little dinosaur, a toy car or one of those parachute guys you could throw out a window, a fight between my brothers and I over who gets the toy would inevitably ensue at the breakfast table, to the point where we had to take turns claiming ownership. (Josh always got the best ones, no fair…) Today it’s a lot harder to get away with throwing a toy in with food, because apparently kids will eat and choke on everything.

Walking down the cereal aisle now, there are few pop culture tie-ins, no fun fantasy lands and hardly any “FREE INSIDEs,” only “Whole Grains!,” “Zero Sugars!” and boxes with computer-generated graphics (which somehow removes the warmth), directing you to go online to join some lame cereal community or to play some mundane online game.

Of course we want our kids to eat healthy and to avoid choking-hazards, but nonetheless, cereal has lost its fun and pizazz. There is no flare, no spark, just a grocery aisle that is the result of years of regulations and consumer complaints. The cereal world that I once visited every day is long gone, and to me, it’s a tragedy.

– Andrew

Shocking Branding

Shocking Branding May 17, 2012

Consider them both shocking… people voluntarily electrocuting themselves, and brands that just get it. The first should be filed in the category of plain crazy. The second goes in the you-could-drive-yourself-crazy-trying-to-find file.

In just a matter of days, months of training (probably not enough), hours of commiserating my lack of athleticism (probably too many), and too few minutes of rational thought culminate in the challenge known as Tough Mudder in Somerset, WI. The 10-12 mile course with approximately 25 military inspired obstacles bases itself on being the toughest event on the planet.

When you consider that you run through fire, jump into ice water, climb hay bales with pitchforks and walk through electrified wires, it may be the toughest or the dumbest thing a person can do. And as I signed my death waiver in bold, bright, glittering pink pen, I realized that this brand makes even signing your life away something you smile about. It’s a brand that knows itself inside and out, reinforcing itself not just with design, style and color, but with a readily identifiable voice in all it does. It’s not just the copy on the homepage, but everything down to the to-do list for the day, which reminds you to not puke and of course, to sign that death waiver.

Either on Facebook or face-to-face, it knows its voice, bringing a mixture of irreverence, arrogance and camaraderie. Take the online quiz to see if you could muster enough to make it through a Tough Mudder; you’re asked about your workout but also the best ‘stache. This brand voice mocks marathons (boring) while remembering its mission to help raise funds for the Wounded Warrior Project. So the greater shock will be if I make it through the challenge (not a timed race, but just a matter of making it to the end). Only Saturday will tell.

– Jolene

OTA Sessions 2012 – Takeaways

In addition to an Augie tote bag, a few books and some OTA garb, there were many takeaways from the excellent speakers at this year’s 3rd annual OTA Sessions, which were held Friday, March 23. In a short, rapid-fire format, here are some of the main things we ADwërkers learned from the sessions.

Jim

  • The web is being rebuilt around people!
  • Consumers don’t experience “average” service; the curve has big peaks on both ends – very happy, and pissed.
  • Work in low-fidelity first.
  • Curiosity and luck are closely related.
  • When I grow up I want to be able to tell stories like Jay O’Callahan.

Sara

  • The most important things to people are their interests, their friends and their friends’ interests. We are not influenced by society; we are influenced by the people we are emotionally closest to. As advertisers, we can’t shout at consumers, we have to develop relationships with them over time with lightweight interactions like their friends did at the beginning of their friendships.
  • There is a lot of similar content in your inner circle of friends, but there is a vast amount of new content all around the circumference of your circle of friends. The circumference is where new content can get exposed and enter into a person’s circle. That’s where our clients can start their lightweight interactions that build into a brand that will eventually matter inside a person’s inner circle of friends.
  • Start with something you know. Then, take it to a new place. Satisfaction comes from being taken to an unfamiliar place.

Andrew

  • We need to stop attempting to apply the TV and print mediums to the web; the internet is an entirely different medium. It would be like reading a radio script in front of a camera, then broadcasting it on television.
  • If you want to move people, there is perhaps nothing more powerful than the original medium of face-to-face storytelling. That was made evident by the master storyteller Jay O’Callahan, who I think moved every single person in the audience that day with his story titled “Forged in the Stars.”
  • Ideas are like buying stock – the lower the risk, the lower the pay off, the higher the risk, the higher the payoff. Be willing to take risks with your ideas.

Mike

  • Today in marketing and advertising, the words “story” or “storytelling” have become so watered down. When Jay O’Callahan told us his story, he wasn’t trying to increase brand awareness, or he wasn’t trying to sell us something, he showed us how powerful authentic storytelling can be.
  • My hunch has always been that big creative ideas rarely come from people who have a narrow focus; they come from those that are open to learning; and it was nice to have that validated by some of the speakers.
  • My favorite form of communication is still the first form of communication – verbal.

Kara

  • It was encouraging to see so many attendees came from outside the Sioux Falls area. I saw people from Pierre and Rapid City and while I didn’t recognize anyone from the other OTA’s (ND and MN), I wouldn’t be surprised to know they were represented. The caliber of speakers was impressive and I was really amped when I walked out the door. We’re extremely fortunate to have this event held right here in “fly-over country.”

Thanks to Hugh Weber, Mike Billeter and Andrew Brynjulson for all of your efforts in putting together this event. We can’t wait for next year!

– ADwërks

Is Your Writing All Talk?

Commitment Innovations Today

People Inspiring Discovery

Soaring Achievement Excellence

Do these phrases mean anything to you? I mean, the individual words are ok. But put together, they’re ambiguous, and pretty much meaningless.

This is something I frequently notice in advertising and business communications – words that are pretty on the outside (sometimes not even that), and empty on the inside. They’re purely cosmetic. It’s just a gag played on the audience, similar to the tricks performed by this magician.

For the sake of conversation, let’s call these meaningless ad phrases “gaglines.” (Not only is the illusion that they’re saying something of value a joke, but they make me gag.)

Gaglines defeat the purpose of your advertising. They’re just pretending to say something, but really not saying anything at all.

The purpose of your advertising is most likely to fix some kind of problem; transparent gaglines don’t fix those problems. Just because you use words like “excellence” or “inspire,” doesn’t mean you’re saying something meaningful and beneficial about the brand. Ad copy needs to be real and genuine. It should focus on the message, not the words.

Every ad you put out there is an opportunity – an opportunity to be heard, to influence consumers, to boost sales for the client… Failure to say something meaningful about the brand is a missed opportunity. So take advantage of your spotlight moment. Give your words legs to walk, and say something worth listening to.

– Andrew

To All You Brands Out There

Specifically the ones that don’t take branding seriously:

Branding matters, a lot, no matter how big or small your business, even if you have 6 Likes on your Facebook page. Remember, every single time your business is represented in relation to your customers and the general public, whether it be a Tweet, a sale or an ad, it all affects your brand image. And not only can your brand image affect your sales and reputation, but it can affect the entire future of your business.

Your brand isn’t necessarily defined by you; it’s defined by consumers, and the way they perceive your business. And that perception partially comes from what you have put out into the ether. Influencing that perception occurs in a number of ways, from the content of your website, to your logo, to your advertising, especially the experiences customers have with your company. All of these things (among others) contribute to your brand’s identity.

If you own a small business, do not make the mistake of thinking this kind of neurotic concern for brand development only applies to large, global brands. It’s just as important to your business, especially if you’re in the early stages of brand development. Every “branding moment” matters, regardless of how minuscule some moments may seem to you. By “branding moment,” I mean, every opportunity your business has to influence or support your brand in the public eye. And the outcome of every moment applies a plus or minus to your branding scoreboard.

So take it seriously. After all, this is your business. A business you’ve probably made sacrifices for, a business that puts food on your table, and provides for your family… You probably put a lot of care into every aspect. Don’t leave branding out of it.

– Andrew

Click for photo source.

The Sport of Love… and Placement

A tear-jerker of a Lifetime movie of the week, maybe Bravo’s latest gathering of domesticated and disturbing housewives or some classic TLC Kate (minus John) Plus 8… I couldn’t figure out what the heck (hey, we like to be family friendly at ADwërks, so I’ll leave out the expletives) my husband, Nate, would be doing watching anything but a television channel about, with, around, named after or related to sports.

You can walk into a room and wonder a lot of things about what your significant other may be doing, but grab a glance of the screen to see a life-size teddy bear, then you bear the burden of wonder and worry. So I ask him what he’s watching.

His answer: ESPN.

ESPN! ESPN? I wait a few seconds and listen to learn more about the life-size teddy bear (which in the wrong situation, could be creepier than a crew of clowns) that the voice-over espouses would bring joy to your wife, girlfriend or FWB when she receives the gift of an over-priced, over-stuffed toy for Valentine’s Day, even serving as a stand-in when your man cannot be there. (I don’t know what it says about a guy that he can be replaced by a 54-inch polyester carnivore. He may need a gift of a gym membership.)

Seconds later, a 20-something woman kicks her footed feet up to the camera, proclaiming what every girl must dream of getting from her fella, leopard print footed pajamas, courtesy of PajamaGram. It’s then Nate waxes poetic about every type of teddy, Puritan-teddy ala PajamaGram and floral confection available for last minute ordering, and he sheepishly admits he visited each of their websites.

It made me realize, roses may be red, but the true color of Valentine’s Day must be green. For advertisers, for the love of the game means the game of placement. We talk about knowing your audience, understanding your target, comprehending your competitor, but none of it matters if it goes where no one you want to see, sees it. Somewhere along the lines, the makers of mail order teddy bears, pajamas and flowers figured this out. They also figured out it doesn’t matter if women don’t want to lounge around in pajamas with ears and tails. They just need to get to the guys with copy laced with racy double entendres. While I find the fashion of the hoodie footie jammies horrifying, Nate describes the horror movie plot line that becomes real life around Valentine’s Day shopping. A fear these companies learned to master and conquer (like a valiant hero of any host of Katherine Heigel rom-coms) with perfect placement.

Now if only the Real Housewives could show me the perfect procrastinator’s gift.

DISCLAIMER: After reading this, Nate wanted to be sure no one thought he “actually bought any of that crap.”

– Jolene