The Only Fashion Show You’ll Find in Prime Time

So many events are merely PR stunts in disguise. And while we’re on the down swing from award season, one of winter’s most scantily clad, yet mainstream events pops up, the Victoria Secret Fashion show. This year was no different. Over thirty six-foot beauties graced the runway in Swavorski-encrusted bras and panties representing themes from under-the-sea to superheros and the antebellum era. It’s amazing the ways you can dress up a thong.

The entire show was more of a beauty pageant than a runway show. Each of the women displayed her personality through her runway walk, the famous Vicki S kiss blow and behind the scenes footage that showed the model’s true selves. They showed the models during interviews and showing off pictures of their childhood including their “awkward” stages, which of course didn’t exist.

These moments changed the tone of the show. It wasn’t about showing off their bodies, but about showing off their personalities. They are a brand and although un-commonly gorgeous with figures not found in nature, they represent every woman. They were sexy, fierce and above all adorable. The feeling I came away with was fun.

That is the power of branding. Victoria Secret has always promoted itself as a lingerie store that made its customers feel comfortable. It’s not creepy to find a man wandering around inside, for a twelve year-old its common place and for a forty-something it doesn’t raise a question. The Vicki S Fashion Show tops off that message, by creating a sense of inclusion. With this behind the scenes view we feel like we know the Angels. We know in order feel as fierce, sexy and confident as they do we need that Vicki S special something. I mean, what woman doesn’t want to be an Angel?


Events are Advertisements Too

There are several events out there that were originally created as a publicity stunt to garner attention for some organization or industry. Some have been padded with so much tradition and grandieur that we have forgotten that they are just one big advertisement. One of the most famous being the Academy Awards, one enormously-publicized 3-hour celebration of the motion picture industry that has becoming a jumping off point for everyone from high-fashion designers to vodkas to audio equipment.

The ensuing spin-offs and replicas have had their own successes and failures. The MTV Video Music Awards, Soul Train Awards and the Latin Grammys, just to name a few were created not as a way to recognize and honor the year’s greats, but to promote their own name. Let us not forget that now, Grammy isn’t a person, but actually the Grammy Association that has its own goals, services and products to promote.

Samsung Exposes Apple Cult

Samsung’s new campaign shows Apple’s branding to Think Different. has ironically created a cult of blind followers.

Remember this ad?… well perhaps not as it’s circa 1983. At this point Apple’s branding was revolutionary as companies such as IBM and Microsoft dominated the personal computer space. Apple was different and innovative and called consumers not to be submissive to marketplace trends, but turn away from these ideas and think for themselves. The commercial, loosely-based on George Orwell’s novel Nighteen Eighty-Four that comments on a futuristic dystopian society, the commercial shows the human race reduced to a  crowd marching drones lead by the evil one, arguably IBM. Then like a beam of light a rescuer comes to set humans free and give them back their individuality.

Ironically, Apple has now become the IBM and created a group of conforming consumers who purchase anything Apple. They pay more, waiting in long lines to use and show off what they believe to be the best of the best. In 2011, Motorolla was first to reprise this ironic theme on the 25th anniversary of the famed Apple ad.

Samsung has done it again, pointing out that Apple has really become a behemoth and there are other, arguably better options available. It directly attacks the Apple brand, its product characteristics by stripping away the perception that they inspire creativity, individuality and innovation. It reduces all of us Apple users to into an army of marching minions.



Samsung commercial


Insurance commercials, in recent years have entered a tighter rat race than even the wireless carriers. Through that race have emerged a cast of characters with followings that even the advertisers didn’t predict.

Although there are several past and present- the Aflac duck, the Geico money stack  and the Geico cavemen who were so popular they earned their own TV spin-off- there are two characters that are so popular and recognizable that they are celebrities in their own right.


Allstate Mayhem

These Mayhem commercials are without a doubt hilarious. Dean Winters can personify anything from a deer in your headlights to an emotionally-unstable teenage girl with ease in a manner keeps us entertained but focused on the “mayhem.” It is what these personifications do to your car or property, which is important. The scare factor creates a sting in the back of your mind that makes you doubt whether your car is covered if a tree falls on it. Do I have enough coverage? Did I go with the right insurance company? Why did I name my own price?

The agency could have used this same concept, but rotated out the mayhem. They could have used an actual raccoon, a real satellite dish or a supermodel out jogging. But they didn’t, with minimal costuming and often none, Mayhem is able to transform into your blind spot, a snow storm or a quarter back. Mayhem is the consistency in the message. In a disheveled black suit, a bruised face and a single white bandage, we know the eminent, destructive power of his presence. He is the villain, the evil doer from which Allstate must provide protection.

At which point enters the second Allstate character, the white knight. Looking directly into the screen with calm reassurance and deep booming voice, Dennis Haysbert tells us that we will be in good hands with Allstate. He is the knowledgeable protector with information about how to get the best coverage while still staying on budget. He defends us from the unpredictable mayhem that threatens our cars and property.

The choice of actors wasn’t just because the two were the best to audition. Instead the good and evil elements of their characters has been well-established through their acting resume. Dean Winters has played the bad guy in his roles in “30 Rock,” “Oz,” and “Rescue Me.” While Dennis Haysbert has represented the trustworthy, respectable, authority with roles like the U.S. president in “24,” and the Sergeant Major in “The Unit.” Having preconceived ideas about these characters is a wonderful thing because consumers will transfer their opinions about these actors into their Allstate roles. Who thought sponsors could be typecast?

The two work flawlessly together as good and bad. Although they are never seen together in the same commercial, their relationship is clear. The Mayhem spots never end on a destructive note, but are saved with Dennis Haysbert voiceover that tells us how we can protect ourselves when mayhem comes to call.

Allstate guy
Allstate mayhem

J.Lo + Fiat = An Awkward AMA Performance

Fiat’s promotional roll out is a lot like the little engine that could. It keeps trucking up that hill and into various media venues making such a  it large commotion that I must address it again. Fiat seem to have entrapped JLo in a rather unfortunate contract, which apparently required her to incorporate the car into her AMA performance. When I say forced, sponsorship or blatant unabashed product placement this is what I mean.  See  below.

(JLo AMA Performance 2011)

It’s not awful, it just doesn’t make sense. The car appears, she hops in,it spins and then she’s out and moves on. There is little rhyme or reason to why the car appears in the performance other than the fact that the performance mirrors the ad, choreography, location, song and all.

Fiat achieved its goal in reaching several million captivated 18-34 year-old Americans. As far as catching a large number of eyeballs, the Fiat USA Chief Marketing Officer can sit back and have a scotch, celebrating a job well done.

But as we know, putting in ad out there doesn’t mean it worked. Ads flop everyday, products are pulled from shelves and advertisers have to forfeit multi-million dollar buys to get an ad off the air and out of publication. People don’t like feeling like they are being advertised to. Unabashed product placement gets a big eyeroll from lots of Americans, because we don’t like to be made like we are dumb, consumer machines who will buy anything just because we saw it on television. We especially don’t like it when it encroaches into our entertainment without the warning, “we will return, after a message from our sponsors.”

This is why this placement misses the mark. It’s just to obvious.




Let’s Get Ethical: Advertising to Children


Videos like the one below calls into question the roll that advertisers have in the lives of American children.



This little number, called the Fast Food song is available on a CD and MP3 for children to sing along to with the appropriate hand gestures. However children learned this song, it is probably safe to say that they knew about these fast food institutions prior to hearing the melody.

This following clip from the documentary Super Size Me shows how easily children recognize the fast food character Ronald McDonald, but are stumped when trying to identify figures such as George Washington and Jesus.



We can only guess how many times children have to have seen Ronald McDonald in order for them to recognize him instantly and be able to recall what company he is associated with as well as certain aspects of his personality. It may be that children naturally are more interested and therefore pay more attention to what they see on television and inside their McDonalds happy meals than what they learn in school. But regardless, this makes a very interesting and sobering point.

With problems such as the children’s obesity epidemic, fast food companies and advertisers are made out to be the bad guy. Whether fast food companies and their advertisers are making children fat, isn’t the main problem, but more so the influence advertisers have on children as consumers. The main problem is that children do not have the same mental capacity as adults and developmentally do not have the ability to decipher advertisers messages and understand that they do not always represent reality. Because of these deficiencies, educational programs have begun to pop up with the mission to make kids media smart buy teaching them how to read and decipher advertisers’ messages.

PBS Kids has a portion of its site directed solely to this purpose called, Don’t Buy It, where it teaches children the tricks that advertisers use to get them to purchase their products. Here, children can learn how to recognize an ad whether it’s a sponsorship, product placement spot or a building’s naming rights. With this education, children can protect themselves from being victims of marketing strategies and instead become smart consumers early on.


PBS Don't Buy It


So what do you think? Are these programs like, Don’t Buy It, needed?


Breaking Through the Clutter Award

Home improvement commercials in recent years, have done less to inspire us to better our lives through home renovation, but have switched their strategies to prove that they have the lowest of the lowest price. Big box stores quickly switched gears to comply with the budget restrictions of Recession-conscious America and above else have promoted themselves as extremely wallet-friendly stores with everyday low prices. The home improvement stores have jumped on this bandwagon as well and much of what we have seen air on our televisions has looked a lot like this.

But Lowe’s has brought us back to the idea of why home improvement isn’t a chore, and instead an enjoyable family tradition that happens on the weekends with Dad and continues throughout our lives. Yes, we improve, but then we improve on the improved and renovate the renovated and scrap the old to bring in the new to keep up with our changing lives, growing families and new perspectives. In your home change is good, it’s exciting and it happens through out our lives. So never stop improving.

Congrats to Lowe’s for receiving this week’s Breaking Through the Clutter award for putting out a commercial that speaks to us and gives us a reason to come to the store. The commercial digs deeper than the battle of the lowest prices to play on our emotions and make us want to improve our homes for ourselves, our partners and our growing families.

Which commercial do you think is worthy of next week’s BTC Award?

Let’s Get Ethical

I write a lot about the power of advertising and how wonderful and inspirational ads can be. I know that advertisements don’t make everyone’s skirt fly up as they do mine and I agree that ads can be awful and annoying and at times I feel over-sold and fed up with all of the ad noise. I do believe there should be limits to advertisements and laws regulating where advertisements can be placed and who advertisers are able to target. I would like to start a new segment that brings forth issues and ethical dilemmas within the advertising industry that are of concern to us all.

And although these are very serious issues, I will include this video because it’s so funny and I love The Office. 🙂

Breaking Through the Clutter

This phrase is used all the time in ad agencies. Advertiserss have to “break through the clutter,” of all of the other messages out there that are working to get consumers to buy their products, donate to their cause or tune into their programs.When I say ad-crazed I mean it, we are over-saturated, over-sold, over-promoted and over-pitched. But with all of the advertising excess, there are a select few who manage to cut through all of that noise with a strategy that goes against all others.

These are the companies we remember, the ones we like and most importantly these are the companies whose products we purchase. I always give a bit of an applause to any company who is able to successfully cut through the clutter in an innovative way. Which is why each week I will recognize one campaign for successfully breaking through the clutter.

Project Runway & L’Oreal, a Seamless Match

Logical yet minimal product sponsorship is a beautiful thing. I know I wasn’t too favorable about Pepsi latching onto Simon Cowell‘s balls in its X Factor sponsorship, but product sponsorship can be done well. It doesn’t really make “sense” in the strictest definition of the word that Pepsi is on The X Factor. As a singing competition show, Pepsi really has no relevance. However, I think they’ve done a pretty good job of positioning themselves in a way that makes them relevant.

But, this is often difficult to do, which is why there are all of those official beverage/car/airline sponsors of big sporting and entertainment events. Usually the sponsors aren’t integrated into the programming and if they are its done rather forcefully. Considering, Pepsi has done a rather respectable job of integrating itself into The X Factor messaging and persona.

Project Runway does such a wonderful job of acquiring and integrating sponsors in a way that makes sense. Let’s walk through them, shall we?

L’Oreal Paris

Yes, the L’Oreal Paris make-up room. The styling of the contestant’s models is without a doubt important. The make-up sets the framework for who the girl they are dressing is and where she is going. Wesee the designers going into the make-up room for consultations and the make-up artists often spend a few seconds explaining the products they are using.

Garnier Hair Salon

Unbeknownst to me, L’Oreal actually owns Garnier, so this partnership makes even more sense. Like with make-up the hairstyling is another critical element to the entire look coming together. On the day of the runway, we see the stylists give a brief demonstration about how to achieve a particular look using Garnier’s various styling products.

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