Gladys Santiago

Morgan Spurlock’s The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

Posted in Advertising, Branding, Marketing, Media, Product Placements by Gladys Santiago on January 17, 2011

The Greatest Story
Morgan Spurlock will premiere his latest meta-documentary The Greatest Movie Ever Sold at Sundance later this month. The film, which is being touted as the first ever “docbuster,” is a documentary about branding, advertising and product placements completed financed by corporate sponsorships. The above poster was designed by Ron English whose work critiques the marketing practices of many brands, most notably McDonald’s. The poster takes some swipes at White Castle, Aunt Jemima and Kellogg’s so click here to enlarge it for a more detailed view.

Thanks to Flickr user Agent J Loves Agent A for the cool find.

 

Stay Puft Marshmallows Come to Life

Posted in Advertising, Branding, Marketing by Gladys Santiago on August 23, 2010

Stay Puft Marshmallows

The giant Michelin Man/Pillsbury Doughboy hybrid won’t be stomping through the streets of New York anytime soon, but thanks Omni Consumer Products you can relive your favorite Ghostbusters memories.  Pete Hottelet, the defictionalization mastermind behind Brawndo, Sex Panther cologne and Tru Blood, has now introduced Stay Puft marshmellows to the real world.  The fictional treat was first seen among Dana Barrett’s groceries during the scene where a carton of eggs explode on her countertop.  I’m sure every child of the 80s longed to hoover these down.  I sure did and now that I’m a grown up, I’m total using Stay Puft marshmallows to make candied sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving.  They’re also caffeinated and go well with Hi-C Ecto Cooler.

Defictionalization is a fascinating concept and Hottelet is really on to something.  Click here to read his AdFreak  interview with Rebecca Cullers.  

Click here to view Dana’s eggs going berserk, which seems very apropos given the massive egg recall.

Who to Follow

Posted in Advertising, Marketing, Media by Gladys Santiago on August 6, 2010

Twitter - Who to Follow

Today, Twitter went all passive aggressive and told me who to follow. Is that an order, Twitter?  It sure sounds like one.  Let me socially network at my own pace.  I hate that “People You May Know” feature on Facebook so stop trying to be like them, you’re better than that.  I only like “who to follow” suggestions on Fridays and I prefer those suggestions from people I already follow.  Get my drift?

Twitter, I like you for you.  I don’t want the all those bells and whistles.  Keep It Simple, Stupid.  By the way, where did all my @ replies go?

Punky Pong: Defictionalizing a Fictionalized Product Displacement

Posted in Advertising, Branding, Marketing, Media, Product Placements, Television by Gladys Santiago on June 14, 2010

Punky Pong - Bones - The Gamer in the Grease
In the “Gamer in the Grease” episode of Bones, the team investigates the death of the only player known to achieve a perfect score on the game, Punky Pong.  When I originally watched the episode, I was struck by how it portrayed fandom and exhaustively the promoted the theatrical release of Avatar. Eager fans were framed as overzealous and even called “freaks and fanatics” by one of the characters (click here for a clip).  The inclusion of the subplot that consisted of characters waiting in line for Avatar tickets reeked of a poorly conceived synergy effort that would ultimately make the episode seem dated in reruns  (click here for more of my thoughts on movie product placements).

The “Gamer in the Grease” episode included several topics that deserve further analysis including the heavily featured Punky Pong game, which is an example of fictionalized product displacement.  The arcade game Bones examines is branded with an ape holding a paddle.  Punky Pong name itself is a sort of hybrid reference to Donkey Kong and PONG.  The actual purpose of the game is exactly like PONG where a player continually hits a ball back to the opponent.  Originally, Punky Pong only existed in the Bones world, but in effort to give its viewers a seen-on-TV experience, Fox launched it on its site after the episode aired.  A friend, and apparent Bones fan, informed me that Fox aired promos inviting viewers to visit Fox.com to play the actual game during the episode’s commercial breaks.

Fox essentially defictionalized Punky Pong and created a commodity to engage Bones viewers into the crime procedural’s world.  Punky Pong also allowed fans to engage with each other by spreading the game’s link and posting their high scores.  It also stimulated viewer curiosity–here, one inquires whether the game is real in which another viewer poignantly responds, “It is now. It didn’t exist before the Bones episode (Gamer in the Grease, Season 5 Episode 9) was created.”

I receive a lot of blog and Flickr hits from people searching for information regarding Alt World 2, a fictionalized Second Life-like game that was featured in a Ghost Whisperer episode.  Alt World 2 was never developed into an actual game or even a fan forum, but I get the sense that viewers would welcome and even appreciate playing once fictional games.  I think people enjoy the possibility of playing a game that they may already be familiar with in a new context that is established by a show they watch.  I track a lot of fictionalized brands for my product displacement blog, but never see search terms regarding whether Mapple, ScienceWater or Buy More actually exist.

Perhaps because games can readily be posted online, people assume games featured on shows are real.  In the case of Grand Theft Walrus, a fictionalized version of Grand Theft Auto where a walrus kills penguins, it only existed in The Simpsons world, but was then created by fans of the show.  Had Fox released GTW with Rockstar Games, it would have given game the authenticity to be rendered defictionalized, but instead the GTW game available online is stuck in the realm of fan fiction.

Faux Censorship

Posted in Advertising, Marketing, Television by Gladys Santiago on June 12, 2010

Shit My Dad Says

I’ve recently noticed an uptick of ads where swear words have been replaced or mildly censored.  This trend was prevalent before CBS introduced the sitcom $#*! My Dad Says as part of its fall lineup.  The show, which is based on a Twitter feed, has since garnered more press over its “edgy” title than its comedic quality.  To further push the envelop, CBS will air it on Thursdays at 8:30PM, a timeslot which is traditionally considered “family hour.”  Whether the show is a hit or gets canceled before mid-season, expect to see a lot more colorfully titled shows and films, with two recent examples being Dance Your Ass Off and Kick-Ass.

The promotional materials for Dance Your Ass Off substitute stars symbols for the letter S, but the name of the reality competition program has not been censored during broadcast network coverage of it.  Ads for Kick-Ass were displayed uncensored and hardly seemed risqué.  It seems attempts a censoring the language in titles and slogans works to highlight the swear words used.  The censoring of the titles $#*! My Dad Says and Dance Your Ass Off is meant to make otherwise bland/cookie-cutter shows seem innovative.

Using censorship to make boring content seem edgy is a fairly logical marketing approach.  What doesn’t make sense to be is why Dreamworks promoted Shrek Forever After with ads featuring the tag lines, “What the Shrek just happened?” and “Where my witches at?” To my knowledge there weren’t any protest against the ads even though they’re riddled with blatant innuendo that any child growing up with contemporary media would be able to decipher.  A children’s film isn’t the ideal arena to experiment with word-play derived from foul language, but it seems Dreamworks did.

Hulu Survey for Charity

Posted in Advertising, Marketing, Media by Gladys Santiago on May 26, 2010

Hulu Survey

Hulu is going pay.  It was inevitable.  Hulu is also seeking to customize viewers’ ad experience by allowing them to vote on whether certain pre-rolls appeal to them.  If you use Hulu as much as I do, you’ve probably seen this (Look at the upper right-hand corner).  I recently encountered a survey where Hulu offers participants the opportunity to select a charity that will be featured in Hulu videos 250 times.  Basically Hulu is getting FREE consumer feedback and showing its “appreciation” by letting users select the ads other users will watch all under the guise of charity.

I hope I’m not coming off as a curmudgeon because Hulu actually features a great deal of ads for charity, which is fabulous for raising awareness (glance through my Flickr set for examples).

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Product Displacement in Time Square Billboards

Posted in Advertising, Marketing, Media, Product Placements, Television by Gladys Santiago on April 27, 2010

The above Weatherproof ad featuring Obama was greeted with controversy when it first appeared in Times Square back in January.  Shortly after the billboard was pulled for using Obama’s image without the White House’s consent, a very similar ad for AMC’s Breaking Bad appeared.  The similarities between the billboards are pretty obvious (Great Wall of China, black jacket, a smoldering, contemplative gaze) but what’s particularly interesting are the parodied elements of the original ad.  The Breaking Bad billboard wonderfully utilizes product displacement to piggyback on the hoopla surrounding the Weatherproof ad.  This strikes me as win-win situation for both AMC and Weatherproof since they both capitalize on viewers’ encoding/decoding of the billboards’ cultural relevance .

A special thank you to Brechtbug for the awesome photos!!

Lightyear: Actual Product Displacement Partnership

Posted in Advertising, Branding, Marketing, Product Placements by Gladys Santiago on December 26, 2009

Lightyear - Cars

In 2006, Goodyear teamed with Disney and Pixar to promote Cars.  In the animated film, the main character, Lightening McQueen (pictured above), dons Lightyear tires and the Lightyear blimp is visible during speedway races.  Goodyear’s director of marketing, Joey Viselli, has noted that the company allowed Disney/Pixar to have fun with the brand, but not with the actual brand itself, meaning Goodyear’s inclusion in the film stops short of traditional product placement.  Instead, the Lightyear cameos are an example of sponsored product displacement.  I’ve been tracking product displacement for a while now, and the Lightyear/Cars occurrence is the only example I’m aware of in which a brand lobbies to be parodied or fictionalized.  To promote the release of the film, Goodyear tweaked its iconic Spirit of Goodyear blimp to read “Lightyear” for 15 days and offered Cars-related giveaways.

Does ’30 Rock’ Promote or Mock Windows?

Posted in Marketing, Media, Product Placements, Television by Gladys Santiago on October 27, 2009

Microsoft Windows - 30 Rock - Into the Crevasse
In the above scene, Jack and several writers diligently work with an engineer to design a microwave that will increase GE’s revenue.  The Microsoft Windows logo is visible on the engineer’s laptop, which is unusual considering that the majority of Windows-based computers are branded with the manufacturer’s logo (i.e. Dell, HP).  Even more unusual is that 30 Rock frequently features Apple products–both Jack and Liz use Apple computers.  In the past, the show has even disclosed Apple as a promotional sponsor in its credits.  Naturally, the Windows occurrence has invited speculation as to whether or not it was a paid-for placement.

The episode in question, “Into the Crevasse,” aired on October 22nd, which is also when Microsoft’s new operating system, Windows 7, was released.  The laptop placement is not merely a coincidence as Microsoft has announced an extensive integration deal with Fox’s Family Guy.  Before pulling out of sponsoring a commercial-free airing of the raunchy animated series, Microsoft praised the “subversive and unique humor” of Family Guy.  Microsoft was obviously open to experimenting with its brand integration so it’s certainly plausible to believe that the company approached 30 Rock with a sponsorship offer. 

Even though the Microsoft-branded laptop is a fictional product, it promotes the company and serves to remind viewers of Windows 7.  In that sense, it’s a typical product placement, but I believe Tina Fey and the other geniuses over at 30 Rock cleverly included subtle commentary that portrays Windows in a negative way.  Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but the Windows laptop was used by the engineer to create a mockup of microwave that had the potential to save GE from financial ruin.  Instead, the engineer, following the suggestions of Jack and the writers, designs a Pontiac Aztek,  which has been credited as being one of General Motors’ biggest mistakes.  As the Aztek appears on the screen of the Windows laptop, I can’t help, but feel that the presentation of a notably failed product, implicitly highlights Microsoft’s shortcomings.  Ultimately Jack’s pursuit of creating an innovative microwave was a failure and that failure was executed on a Windows-based laptop.  Jack’s failure can even be associated with that Windows laptop.  The writer’s, who are normally inundated with ideas, are only able to offer Jack and the engineer half-brained suggestions.

This episode, hardly featured any Apple products — I actually, only spotted one Apple occurrence.  Apple computers, which are associated with creativity, were lacking as were innovative suggestions to solve GE problem.  Sure, I realize this whole plot point was meant to poke fun at GM, but it critiqued Microsoft as well.

Generic Cereals = Real Life Product Displacement

Posted in Advertising, Branding, Marketing, Product Placements by Gladys Santiago on October 16, 2009

Honey Nut - Modern Family - Pilot
According to The Daily Mail, Kellogg’s plans to laser its logo on individual corn flakes.  The drastic and peculiar plan is meant to emphasize the Kellogg’s brand name in a cereal market flooded with cheaper generic options, which they refer to as “fake flakes.”  

Helen Lyons, Lead Food Technologist at the company states, “We want shoppers to be under absolutely no illusion that Kellogg’s does not make cereal for anyone else.  We’re constantly looking at new ways to reaffirm this and giving our golden flakes of corn an official stamp of approval could be the answer.  We’ve established that it is possible to apply a logo or image onto food, now we need to see if there is a way of repeating it on large quantities of our cereal. We’re looking into it.”  [via: The Daily Mail]

I’ve debated whether generic brands are forms of product displacements and ultimately decided that they are since they mimic packaging and naming conventions of their brand name counterparts.  In the midst of a recession, consumers often buy generic products to save money.  As generic/store brands improved in quality, consumers realize that when they purchase brand name cereal, they are just paying for advertising.

The Kellogg’s laser idea is an attempt to give their corn flakes cereal a label of prestigiousness.  As I’ve stated many times when discussing product displacement, even if a brand is tweaked, consumers will still identify the greeked product with the brand referenced.  Based on Lyons’ statement, it seems Kellogg’s is worried that product displacement is working too well because consumers assume that all corn flakes are made by Kellogg’s.  Click here for another example of a “generic” cereal.  Can you guess the brand name cereal being reference?

Unbranded Campaigns: Leaving Something to the Imagination

Posted in Advertising, Marketing by Gladys Santiago on July 24, 2009

In July, Starbucks opened three new coffee shops in Seattle which noticeably lacked its iconic branding. One of the unbranded, remodeled stores will simply be known as 15th Ave Coffee and Tea—a strategy executives are using to capture a more community-oriented feel. Essentially, Starbucks is trying to present itself as a neighborhood coffee shop instead of a corporate conglomerate that ruins small businesses. Critics have referred to the shops as “Stealth Starbucks” and while this sort of marketing is rather subversive, we really shouldn’t be surprised that it has emerged. In an environment in which consumers are bombarded with brand messages and have developed a hyper-awareness and distain for perpetually invasive marketing, companies need to soften their approach. Displacing the familiar slogans, and visual cues that are synonymous with a brand may be a risky move, but several marketers are going this innovative route.

Recently, Coca-Cola launched its “Open Happiness” campaign which consists of a song and music video that do not mention/show the company or any of its products. The campaign seems to be a hit with consumers (mostly outside the U.S.) and according to Umut Ozaydinli, Coca-Cola’s global music marketing manager, “the lack of an in-your-face Coke message is “one of the key reasons” consumers have shown interest in the song” (via: NYT) While not entirely an example of a self-displacement and unbranding, Pepsi began a campaign in Argentina encouraging Argentineans to refer to the brand as “Pecsi.” Pepsi is essentially promoting the “bastardizing [of its] brand name” (via: Naked). The soft drink company is not taking its branding too seriously and welcomes consumer interpretations of its brand. It’s not to say that companies engaging in self-unbranding and displacement are relinquishing control of their corporate identity to consumers—I think it’s quite the opposite.

Starbucks, Coca-Cola and Pepsi are all taking proactive measures to remain relevant and competitive. These companies are catering to an audience whose persuasion knowledge is developing and is perhaps no longer easily susceptible to traditional marketing. Persuasion knowledge involves the interpretation of how people respond, interpret and react to persuasion and influence attempts (Friestad and Wright 1994). Ad messages, whether they occur as billboards, commercials, product placements or banner ads, are losing their effectiveness because of over-saturation. Marketing in general has become rather ubiquitous and invasive, which has resulted in the formation of a hyper-aware audience that sees through and ignores most campaign strategies. As audiences grow jaded and savvy, perhaps the next way for brands to successfully engage them, is by creating ads that do not look like ads. Marketing plans will need to emulate the covertness of Starbucks and Coca-Cola, but also entertain audiences on a personal level.

Works Cited

Friestad, Marian and Peter Wright.  “The Persuasion Knowledge Model: How People Cope with Persuasion Attempts.” Journal of Consumer Research.  Vol. 21, No. 1. (June 1994).

What’s in a Name? Flip Video

Posted in Marketing by Gladys Santiago on November 22, 2008

I posted the following comment on Rob Walker’s Murketing blog. 

In reference to Flip Video, I’m surprised there hasn’t been any discussion over its name. “Flip” is a derogatory term for Filipinos and I know the product’s name is in reference to how the USB device flips out, but I’m just a little surprised that there has never been any uproar over its name. Don’t get me wrong, I love the name and the camera, but I just wonder if at any point during the development process, if anyone stopped to think that it might be offensive. The name could have really backfired (think Chevy Nova).

I would like to add that what interests me most about Flip Video’s name is the lack of a backlash that could have potentially turned very ugly for Pure Digital Technologies, the company that owns Flip products.  Given all the means of broadcasting discontent on a multitude of social media outlets, I’m surprised that no one expressed any outrage or criticism.  Johnson & Johnson recently pulled a Motrin ad after one mother complained about it on Twitter.  The ad, seen here, is not overtly offensive, but it struck a nerve with several mothers leading to the pharmaceutical giant to issue apology after apology.

The ad was on the Motrin website for 45 days before receiving a storm of negative attention. Flip Video, in comparison, has been on the market since May 2007, but, as far as I know, not one discussion over its potentially controversial name has emerged. In a response to my comment, Rob Walker stated that he hadn’t come across anything about Flip’s name in regard to race and he even wrote an article about the digital camera in his Consumed column for New York Times Magazine.

I’m sure when Pure Digital Technologies was bringing Flip Video to market, it copytested Flip ads through the roof, yet the name still managed to slip by.  As I noted in my comment, I’m well aware that the name describes the built-in USB arm and is not meant to be offensive in anyway.  The term “flip” is not disparaging to a minor sub-culture, but rather, it is a hateful, derogatory word geared towards an entire race of people.  So, how is it possible that nobody has yet to express their concern?  I’m curious to know whether people have reached out directly to Pure Digital Technologies over this issue and if so, what their response was. 

 

Apple’s iPhone 3G Encourages App Store Sales

Posted in Marketing, Media, Mobile by Gladys Santiago on July 10, 2008

With the unveiling of its iPhone 3G and App Store on July 11, Apple is positioned to influence how companies provide mobile services and software to consumers.  Many web-based utilities have been available for free because of ad-supported content, but the launch of the App Store proves users are more than willing to pay for applications such as games, ringtones and GPS.  Because mobile media is so new and even the Internet’s ad-model is highly scrutinized and debated, Apple may prevent mobile marketing from ever leaving the ground.  iPhone users are extremely media savvy although they make up only 0.5% of mobile subscribers, “Their behavior is a window into the future of mobile media consumption”  (via: Nielsen).  iPhone users are heavy media consumers with considerable spending and word-of-mouth power.

Even though the use of mobile media increased tremendously in 2007 with 87 million subscribers, marketers have yet to figure out a way to profit from their ads.  Mobile marketing only generated $500 million in revenue last year and, many developers do not want to roll the dice and risk coming up craps  (via: Time).  However, in such a segmented media environment mobile remains an excellent way for brands to increase their reach and consumer engagement.  The issue that many marketers fear is the audience resentment, annoyance and backlash that resulted from pop-up ads.  In order to keep up with continuously evolving media usage, marketers have to experiment with ways to communicate with consumers.  Many people would gladly accept the inclusion of ads for mobile applications that entertain and them make life easier.

Not one to let an advertising opportunity slip away, Google is set to enter the mobile industry with Android.  The platform is supported by 30 companies many expect its features to be free and primarily ad-supported.  Google has even invited developers to create applications through the Android Developer Challenge, in which the company is offering $10 million in prizes.  The Apple approach seems more appealing to developers because creators receive 70% of the sales.  A recent Nielsen insight report states, “…leading companies have an opportunity to leverage the capabilities of the iPhone and other media-centric handsets in a way that demonstrates innovation and addresses a market of cutting edge early adopters.”

Mobile marketing presents unique challenges and difficult to measure results, however the monetization model of the landscape may soon be defined by either Apple or Google.  Both are companies that consumers hold in high regard and enjoy interacting with and will surely create dynamic applications.  By the way, where is Microsoft in all of this?

via: “1+1=3: Mobile as an Extension of Traditional Consumer Marketing” available from ARF.

Ray-Ban Project Colorize

Posted in Advertising, Branding, Fashion, Marketing by Gladys Santiago on July 2, 2008

Ray-Ban recently launched a campaign for their new line of Wayfarer sunglasses.  The Project Colorize ads and products were designed by five New York artists (Tara McPherson, Scott Alger, Queen Andrea, Ron English, and Toofly) and have been featured in Marie Claire.  The billboards, which will run in New York, are expected to 16 million impressions each month (via: Adweek).  To kick off the promotion, Ray-Ban sponsored a stunt near Herald Square in which paid actors donned their Wayfarers to stare at one of the billboards (via: Style Wise).  Click here to see a couple of pictures from the event. 

Wayfarers are back in a big way.  I just purchased a pair over the weekend.  Although, I love the Project Colorize styles and was really looking forward to getting the ones designed by Tara McPherson, I opted to get a more subtle color.  Last year, Ray-Ban introduced its Never Hide campaign, which emphasized consumer involvementthrough its online community and gave a lucky few the opportunity to feel like super-models.  If you attended the Project Colorize marketing stunt, please send me pics or tell me your thoughts.  It would be much appreciated!        

Nike Releasing Back to the Future Marty McFly Sneakers

Posted in Fashion, Marketing, Sneakers by Gladys Santiago on June 28, 2008

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AHHH!  My jaw just dropped and my heart skipped a beat.  After years and years of anticipation and campaigning from fans, Nike will release the sneakers Marty McFly wore in Back to the Fututre: Part II.  However, the sneakers look NOTHING like the pair seen in the classic film.  There has undoubtedly been a lot of hype about the shoes, but Nike really dropped the ball by making them, as PSFK‘s Dan Gould states, “…just a limited edition Hyperdunk that’s inspired by the movie version”  (via: “Nike To Finally Release Back To The Future Sneaker“).  I feel absolutely cheated. 

I wasn’t expecting the McFlys to tie themselves, after all, it’s 2008 and flying cars are nowhere in sight.  I was however, hoping that Nike would keep the authenticity of the original design.  This is really a “don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining” moment.  My Puma El Roos look more like the McFlys than that slab of leather Nike is set to drop.    

In recent months, HBO has been airing the Back to the Future films, which I’m sure not only increased demand for the sneakers, but also introduced them to an entire generation collectors.  I’m sure many people will be clamoring to get these, but I will not be one of them.  No official release date has been set, but they are expected to hit shelves sometime this Summer  (via: slashfilm.com).    

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AKQA’s Nike PhotoID Mobile Marketing Campaign

Posted in Advertising, Branding, Marketing, Mobile, Sneakers by Gladys Santiago on June 18, 2008

AKQA, London’s latest endeavor for NikeiD seeks to take mobile marketing to a new level by attempting to deepen the interaction between the consumer and brand.  NikePhotoiD, the latest service offered by NikeiD, allows users to customize Dunk high-tops on the fly by simply texting an image of their surroundings with a camera phone.  The application then selects the two dominant colors of an image and sends participants an example of a customized sneaker superimposed over the original image they took along with a link to share or purchase their creation.  NikePhotoiD will only be available in Europe, but AKQA is working on expanding the product selections and service to other regions. 

Paulo Tubito, Nike’s Director of Brand Connections, states, “Where past use of MMS in mobile marketing campaigns has typically focused on short-term, one-way interactions between brands and consumers, Nike PhotoiD opens a genuine creative dialogue between the brand and its audience” (via: Contagious).  I’ve always found most mobile marketing attempts to be rather one-dimensional despite being highly user-controlled and initiated.  Although NikePhotoiD includes a viral aspect, I doubt designs will be widely shared on a long-term basis.  Perhaps its because the NikeiD website has such boring color and material selections, but I’ve never enjoyed viewing the sneaker designs of other people.  This really seems like a neat service and when it arrives in the states, I’ll definitely try it out, but it strikes me as nothing more than a gimmick that will lose its appeal after customers satisfy their curiosity.  Ross Cidlowski makes a great point when he wonders if Europeans use cell phones differently and questions whether this campaign will have any significant impact on people’s behavior.   

I love customized sneakers and appreciate how Nike is inviting customers to capture the environments that inspire them.  The creative process, however, is severely limited by the lack of color options and ability to actively design the sneaker.  Perhaps a more effective way for Nike to strengthen its mobile communication with consumers would have been a relaunch of the NikeiD website with better navigation and palettes that allow visitors to create custom colors and patterns.        

 

Mountain Dew’s Dewmocracy In Action

Posted in Advertising, Branding, Marketing by Gladys Santiago on June 16, 2008

The polls will close at the end of June and a new soft drink will join the Mountain Dew family.  In November, PepsiCo, which owns Mountain Dew, teamed up with WhittmanHart and launched an exceedingly interactive ad campaign to revitalize the brand.  The campaign consists of several phases where players of an online game design their own Mountain Dew drink.  The user-generated beverages were then narrowed down to three flavors (Supernova, Voltage, Revolution) and are currently being sold for a limited time.  The packaging instructs customers to visit Dewmocracy.com and vote for their favorite flavor.  It goes without saying that Mountain Dew is playing off of the excitement of the national elections and even displays results from each state. 

“Dewmocracy” is the first large-scale web marketing campaign by Mountain Dew that targets teens and Millennials, who have grown up with the Internet.  In 2007, the brand ended its highly-successful “Do the Dew” and “extreme sports” approach to end being labeled as an energy drink like Red Bull.  Ending its long-time partnership with BBDO and opting to collaborate with WhittmanHart has so far demonstrated impressive results.  The agency has incorporated many opportunities for consumers to be entertained and collaborate into the media it created.  The “Dewmocracy” website in particular contains experiential features where visitors can post messages and create there own 20-second campaign commercials to share on their social-networking profiles. 

In addition to the website and multi-player game, WhittmanHart created a 4-minute short filmto provide “Dewmocracy” with a back-story.  The power to design a drink is framed as an act of defiance against evil corporations seeking to eliminate people’s freedom to make their own choices.  This sort of rhetoric that addresses cynicism toward corporations is similar to how Mountain Dew appealed to “Gen Xers” in the 90s and will likely make the campaign a success.  Although members of “Dewmocracy” may not view themselves as full-fledged counterculturalists, they look for outlets of self-expression and the site provides exactly that.  In March, WhittmanHart reported “Dewmocracy” drew 70,000 visitors that spent an average of 26-28 minutes on the site. 

To promote the three flavors, PepsiCo has been giving customers free bottles and 12-pack cans at several supermarket chains.  I’m sure the soft-drink giant is hoping to get people hooked on a particular flavor and so they will visit Dewmocracy.com and become brand ambassadors campaign supporters.  Overall, the interactivity of Mountain Dew’s new marketing strategy is top-notch and engaging.  Voting-centered ad campaigns seem to be popular and enjoyed by consumers.  In 2003 and 1995, M&Ms drew a lot of attention and participation when the company asked customers to select a new color for its candy.     

I’m so gonna illegally download your movie Sarah Marshall

Posted in Advertising, Marketing by Gladys Santiago on March 29, 2008

I must confess, I was a little amused when I spotted a subway poster that read, “You do look fat in those jeans Sarah Marshall.”  My head did turn when I saw another declaring, “My mom always hated you Sarah Marshall” further down the platform.  I’m not the least bit ashamed to admit that I logged on to ihatesarahmarshall.com as soon as I arrived at work even though much of my curiosity was diminished when I noticed the MPAA rating.  It was that moment I realized I was tricked!  These scribblings weren’t some poor sucker’s way of dealing with a bad breakup, a cheating girlfriend, an itchy STD, or all of the above.  Nope, they were the latest addition of viral campaigns sweeping the marketing industry. 

Even though the Forgetting Sarah Marshall campaign is generating a lot of buzz from ad execs and audiences alike, it misses the mark on many levels.  The website/blog for example, provides way too much information and makes me long for a case of magnesiaamnesia.  You don’t have to be the swiftest deer in the forest to figure the film’s premise or predict which way its humor will blow.  Also, compared to the simple billboards, the site comes across as overdone.  The potential interactivity of the site is negated by how visitors are bombarded with youtube clips and unable to leave comments.      

Overall, my biggest complaint about the campaign is its tranparency.  It had so much potential to hook audiences and create genuine curiosity and word-of-mouth.  Seeing these ads, I can’t help but think about the 2006 Cartoon Network billboards featuring phrases such as, “I pooted” or “My boogers itch.”  There was no hint of a URL to a gaudy website on these ads.  Instead, they were shrouded in mystery and required observers to Google the terms or wait a couple of weeks before characters and the CN logo were revealed.  There’s a lot to be said for discovery; it gives people a sense of knowledge and accomplishment that spoon-fed information fails to provide.  While web content and an online presence is quickly becoming a part of many marketing strategies, it’s important to prevent all the bells and whistles and streaming video from becoming too much too soon.  By its very nature, the Internet is already an interactive and viral medium, so perhaps the most captivating and memorable experiences are the ones people participate in creating themselves. 

Project Apollo Fails to Take Off

Posted in Marketing, Measurement, Television by Gladys Santiago on February 25, 2008

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I’m sure the above title will be overly used and isn’t that original, but I couldn’t resist.  Despite having invested $45 million in a single-source measurement attempt, Nielsen and Arbitron have decided to end their Project Apollo program.  The endeavor (another cheesy space reference) began in 2005 with a $20 million investment by Proctor & Gamble and was slated to track 50,000 households.  However after supposed “infighting, politicking, brink-teetering and corporate footdragging,” the January 2006 pilot only covered 5,000 homes.  Project Apollo was slated to be the first national research service to track media consumption both in and out of the home.  Although the information the program could have provided would please any marketer looking to create more effective campaigns, Project Apollo failed to secure enough clients. 

It goes without saying that as the media environment continues to become even more complex, cross-platform data will, as Linda Dupree (Arbitron’s Executive Vice President, Portable People Meter, New Product Development) stated, “bridge the divide of marketing strategy and media planning.”  The media industry is drastically changing and although Project Apollo was positioned to provide the marketplace with the much coveted single-source data, perhaps the concept was lightyears (sorry, another space reference) ahead of its time.  Audience measurement has turned into an extremely competative business, and with the likes of TiVo, DirecTV and Google throwing their hats into the ring, marketers may feel safer investing in the specialized data these companies offer. 

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