Yes, I Am Offended by GapKids’ Ad

But maybe not for the reason you think. First, here’s the controversy:

GapKids controversial ad

The current ad causing controversy

As Adweek recently reported in their article, “Gap Has Apologized for This GapKids Ad, but Did It Need To?” many people are taking issue with the smaller black child being used as a prop by the taller white child.  

Then there is this older GapKids ad, which shows a taller black child leaning on a smaller white child.

Gap Girl ad--with attitude

Older Gap Girl ad

So, why the big difference in reaction?

As someone I met on Facebook said:

Do black people have a long history of subjugating white people and treating them as objects? No?
There’s the difference.

Offensiveness is subjective, so what do you do?

Here’s the thing: Facebook person has a great point. While I agree that her statement is true, I don’t think that was the intent of the photographer with the ad. I’m actually offended for a different reason, which I’ll get to in a bit.

I have worked in marketing and advertising for many years, and I have heard complaints about ad photos that I never would have picked up on in looking at them. In fact, I wish that I still had some of those photos so I could share my favorite.

Ball with handles that kids sit on and bounceOur team created an insurance brochure that showed a kid bouncing on one of these bouncey balls that kids sit on and bounce up and down with. The way the photo was cropped, you didn’t really see the ball, but you saw a smiling kid holding the rubber handle.

A customer complained and said it was too sexual.

?????

Crazy, right?

Not necessarily. This is one of the hard parts of being a writer, designer or photographer. Before anything goes to print, our job is to figure out what kinds of reactions people will have to the advertising material. In some cases, it’s very easy to see how some people might be offended or take something the wrong way (or way not intended).

We make sure passengers in cars have seatbelts on and riders of bikes or motorcycles have helmets on because we know if we don’t, entire organizations could have problems with our material and that’s not a good thing.

Given the state of race relations in our country, all creatives and execs involved in these decisions should have their radar up for ads just like the GapKids one. Do I think it’s offensive racially? No. But my no means “not to me.”

Do other people find it offensive? Yes. And I totally get their point of view–my Facebook acquaintance summed it up pretty well. (You can also see more comments in the Adweek article I linked to above.)

You should ask yourself and your team two questions before deciding on an ad–copy and image:

  1. Could people find this offensive?
  2. How many people could be offended by it?

Honestly, sometimes it’s worth the risk, especially depending on the product. In the GapKids case, it really wasn’t worth the risk. But there’s more to this case than just race.

The real problem with the GapKids ad

It’s a horrible photo!

Both Gap ads as aboveCompare the two ads. The kids on the right, in the older ad, not only are more multicultural, but they seem to be having fun with each other. It looks like this could be a real group of friends, and the arm resting on the one girl’s head looks completely relaxed and natural, while the smaller girl is standing in a powerful looking position.

The kids on the left, in the newer ad, look like they were thrown together for this photo shoot. The only one really having fun is the one who is upside-down. There’s no connection in this image. The tall girl in the middle looks completely uncomfortable, which no doubt adds to the racial connotation. Both girls in the middle look bored. As a creative person, this is what offends me.

Why Gap chose this shot is a mystery.

They have this fantastic kids campaign focused on empowering and celebrating girls, highlighting girls with unique skills and style. Someone should have noticed that the above photo doesn’t hold the same energy.

GapKids promotion with Ellen D. Need more proof? This video tells you all you need to know about why the current, boring, controversial ad should never have been part of the campaign:

It rocks, right?

GapKids could’ve saved themselves some trouble by taking a bit more time to compare the current ad with the rest of the campaign. If that had happened, we would not be having this discussion.

Under Armour Finally Connects with #RuleYourself Campaign

Back in August 2015, Under Armour launched its #RuleYourself advertising campaign–a campaign that Business Insider said was the company’s “latest shot to topple Nike.” But that shot kind of fizzled out, and I can tell you why…that is if you haven’t figured it out yourself after viewing their latest ads.

You are the sum of all your training photo

Great concept, too literal in execution

“You are the sum of all your training.”

The #RuleYourself campaign created by Droga5 is perfect for all audiences–if you want success, you need to have discipline, you need to rule yourself. Top-tier athletes are excellent examples of that discipline. Many people have talent, but it takes dedication and hours upon hours of work to use that talent to become an elite athlete.

The problem with the first ads though is that somewhere in the concept and creation phases, they decided to go too literal and lost the connection to their audience. See for yourself:

The idea is not bad. You see what seems like an infinite number of images of each athlete practicing and then, at the end, all those images merge into one–the sum of all their training. Get it? The problem is it ends up being too robotic. There’s no emotion.

Sports is all about emotion for both athletes and fans, and the first videos in the campaign (see the Tom Brady one here) were kinda cool and rhythmic, but they weren’t very personal or emotional.

Winning by appealing to emotion

Now, here we are in 2016 and Under Armour’s new ads have gotten more personal. One featuring the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team came out at the end of February.

This one gives you that all important behind-the-scenes look at what the gymnasts go through in training. That rhythm and repetition is still there, but there’s also individuality.

The latest ad features Michael Phelps, and I think it’s the best of the bunch so far.

The pace of the music, the lyrics (“It’s the last goodbye, I swear…”), the lighting, the sounds–everything comes together to give you a personal inside view of Phelps’ training regimen as he vies for his last Olympic competition.

Does it evoke emotion? Absolutely. We can see the pain, the sweat and the effort that goes into competing at this level. We see what it takes to rule yourself. Phelps actually explains this in his interview with Adweek, saying:

It shows the raw things I’ve gone through to get to the point where I’m at. And that’s something a lot of the public hasn’t seen.”

Viewing it for the first time also brought Phelps and his fiancee to tears. (See the video UA posted on its YouTube channel.)

I just hope Under Armour and Drago5 continue to go in this direction, giving us a closer, more personal look that we can attach to and be inspired by. It’s the only way the audience will feel a connection, and keeping us connected is the only way UA has a shot at narrowing the gap between it and Nike.

 

 

LinkedIn’s TV Commercial: Brilliant Move or Desperate Moonshot?

LinkedIn sign-in page with Who Am I?

I don’t know what’s more curious–that LinkedIn is running a television ad or that the global professional network is choosing to do so during an event widely criticized for its lack of diversity.

You’re Closer than You Think, according to Nick Bartle, LinkedIn’s marketing vice president, is part of a larger campaign the company has planned to let viewers know exactly what LinkedIn is. He says (in re/code’s LinkedIn article) “There are labels that kick around. There’s ‘the Facebook for professionals.’ ‘The online Rolodex.’ ‘The place to post your resume.’ In every instance, we feel we’re not just those things, we’re so much more than that.”

Okay, I understand that reasoning, but does the commercial do the job? Watch for yourself:

The concept for this ad arose from LinkedIn’s December 14 tweet about NASA hiring an astronaut–to date, their most popular tweet ever.

Bartle explains why they transformed that tweet into a TV ad: “The astronaut is a universal symbol for the dream job. We want to show people the tools we’ve got that will enable them to take a step closer to their own personal moonshot.”

Great sentiment, but I think the commercial falls flat. Sarcastic me wants to say it’s because they based their decision on “Well, people liked the tweet,” but I’ll focus instead on the two problems that instantly pop in my mind:

  1. “3 million LinkedIn members qualify.” As soon as I saw this appear in the ad, I thought maybe it was targeting recruiters instead. But based on what Bartle said and on the beginning of the script, they’re targeting job seekers, probably trying to get more millennials to join.
  2. Why is LinkedIn reverting to their old reputation as a place to get a job? And, wait…what tools? The ad wasn’t long enough to show tools.

I hope their intention to show people the tools they have means the rest of the campaign will be more effective. Right now, the ad simply seems to be a waste of money.

That Sinking Feeling

Speaking of money, LinkedIn’s shares have been tanking lately, as examined in TechCrunch’s LinkedIn Problems Run Deeper Than Valuation. And that makes me wonder if this isn’t LinkedIn’s own desperate moonshot.

As TechCrunch reports:

…Only one-quarter of LinkedIn members use the site every month. This low level of engagement has made the product less and less useful for recruiting.

Uh-oh. Now I see why they’ve created an ad that targets job seekers (and kind of recruiters). If they lose recruiters now, they’re toast.

So, we’ve established that “desperate moonshot” is the answer here. Now, what about that time slot?

Banking on the Revenant?

In 2015, the Oscars drew 36.6 million viewers–the lowest performance among adults 18-49 since 2008 and the lowest viewership since 2009. But 36.6 million is still a good number, right?

Okay, well what about the millennials LinkedIn seems to be targeting? Millennials barely even watch traditional TV let alone the Oscars, as summed up perfectly in USA Today’s Voices from Campus article from 2015:

I feel completely irrelevant to the process,” said Ian Cashwell, a 2013 graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University. “It’s people in the film industry picking other people in the film industry. To me it feels kind of like watching another country’s elections.

LinkedIn prides itself on being a diverse, global network too, just like the Oscars…except, um, the awards show is not exactly that diverse, as you may have heard.

So, what’s up LinkedIn?

Advertising Age gives a little more insight in their February 24 article in which marketing VP Bartle says, “You’re Closer Than You Think is LinkedIn’s first-ever integrated marketing campaign and TV spot that’s inspired by LinkedIn’s vision to create economic opportunity for the global workforce.”

Bartle also explains why they chose the Oscars, saying, “We believe that everyone should pursue the biggest goals imaginable. There are moments when those accomplishments are celebrated, and we believe the Oscars is one of those moments.”

I still think the Oscars are the wrong place to draw in a new audience and the lack of diversity conflicts with LinkedIn’s global membership. But I get that the big idea is to show how LinkedIn can help people reach their potential. They haven’t executed on that idea fully yet, but we’ll see.

Of course (sarcastic me is back again), there may be another reason they chose the Oscars this year. Ever look up what “revenant” means? I imagine many of you did after wondering why Leo DiCaprio was starring in a movie of that odd name. It means “a person who has returned, especially supposedly from the dead.

With dire predictions hammering them right now, LinkedIn is definitely trying to return to its former glory. There’s a ton of potential there. I hope they do find new life, and I hope their new marketing push ends up being more effective than what it seems.

Tune in and we’ll see.

 

How do you catch a Prius?

Last night, during Super Bowl 50, advertisers had trouble keeping up with Toyota. Sure, there were some crowdpleasers–like the Doritos ads and the Hyundai “First Date” ad with Kevin Hart, but Toyota surprised us all with a commercial for their Prius 4 that was pure advertising genius.

Watch “The Longest Chase” here:

Saatchi and Saatchi brought Toyota back to the Super Bowl ad game in style after an 11-year hiatus. And after this showing, I hope they come back next year.

Stealing the show with great advertising

Anyone can be funny in an ad, and those ads do well with viewers, especially during the Super Bowl. But Toyota’s ad was creative, funny and at the same time informative–displaying all the features of this new model in an entertaining way we’ll all remember. The key to pulling all of this off is that they didn’t take themselves too seriously and were willing to make fun of themselves to drive the point home.

Check out all these features they display while you’re being entertained:

  • Roomy – “Is this a Prius? It’s very spacious.” In case you missed that they fit four adult men into the car with room to spare, one of the characters utters that line.
  • Performance – Police call in to report the chase and the dispatcher replies, “How hard is it to catch a Prius?” Police response: “This thing’s actually pretty fast.” And we watch it snake through the busy city streets and pull some pretty sweet moves in the process–something you’re more likely to expect in a sports car commercial.
  • Mileage – The Prius goes and goes wearing out the cops in pursuit.
  • Quiet running & maneuverability – As the police sleep in their cars, the Prius quietly slips between the cars and away into the night.

In addition, you see the interior of the car, including its cute little gear shift, a backup camera and even autonomous braking for emergency situations. Plus, the red sculpted exterior of the car sells the high-performance as well.

This is basically a feel-good mini-movie from start to finish in which the product is the star. Crowds along the way cheer on the Prius and halfway through viewers want to join right in.

Yes, the Hyundai “First Date” ad was rated the top Super Bowl ad, but that really had more to do with the humor and the popularity of Kevin Hart–I mean, the man is on fire right now and can make pretty much anyone laugh.

It was a good ad, but which product are you more likely to remember? I think you end up remembering Kevin Hart more than the car, whereas with the Toyota ad, you remember the Prius. That’s what advertising is supposed to do.

 

 

Why Compare a Dog Food Commercial with a Cellphone Ad?

Why am I comparing two totally unrelated ads? Because they appeared consecutively during a show I was watching, and it goes to show you that placement is everything. Well, not everything, but when you’re creating your ad, you better darn well be thinking that you can keep up with the competition—meaning the ads that run before and after yours in a segment.

In this case, the two ads that ran back to back to back were this HTC One commercial:

And this Pedigree dog food commercial:

Now, I think we can all agree that the cuteness factor of the Pedigree ad is tough to compete with, and, honestly, I don’t think I would’ve liked the HTC One ad even if it ran next to one of those local lawyer’s commercial. But let’s take a look at why Pedigree’s is so much better and where HTC One went wrong.

The Good: Pedigree

Cuteness factor aside, let’s see what makes this advertisement so darn effective.

1. It tells a compelling story. Who doesn’t love a good rescue story? We’re hit right away with the image of this emaciated little dog. And you can immediately tell from the music that this story will most likely have a happy ending.

2. Less is more. Lets the story tell itself. Pedigree’s commercial is all images and sound. They could have actually told/spoken the story, but someone smart realized presenting the story this way was much more captivating.

3. Great copywriting. No one spoke, so we, the audience, needed something to string the story together. Again, simplicity ruled here:

  • Morgan was found as a stray. (We then see and hear the ripping open of a bright yellow and blue bag of Pedigree dog food.)
  • Morgan, three weeks later. (The music picks up a little and Morgan is seen walking—a little more filled out than before.)
  • Good food can change everything. (Flips to image of the dog happily peeking out of a car window: Morgan, adopted by Arlene.)
  • Pedigree. See what good food can do.

This really isn’t just about good copywriting, the success of this ad is due to the synthesis of sounds, images and words. And note, at the end, when Morgan is adopted by Arlene, we don’t see Arlene at all. We don’t have to. And that is the brilliance of this ad—it is completely stripped of everything that is not necessary leaving all the essential parts to shine.

The Bad and the Ugly: HTC One

HTC went simple too, but they may have stripped too much from their ad. Gary Oldman is an excellent actor, but this is a classic case of a good concept gone wrong.

1. It’s not compelling at all. It’s dark, rainy and all Gary Oldman says for the first 9 seconds is “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…” By 9 seconds, the typical viewer is out of the room or engrossed in the other screen in front of them—their cellphone, tablet, or laptop.

2. Less is not enough. In a world in which Apple and Samsung rule and it’s tough for others to gain ground or break in, HTC needs to make sure we’re left with at least one reason to buy their phone. We weren’t, and we also weren’t left with enough motivation to go research the phone for ourselves.

3. Creative concept, but not a strong enough execution. The script is dead-on in one spot—no, it doesn’t matter what Oldman tells us, consumers will decide whether to buy the phone based on other factors. They got that right, but after telling us that the “All new HTC One is designed for people who form their own opinions,” Oldman then tells everyone to “Go ahead, ask the Internet.” So, if we’re asking the Internet, are we really forming our own opinions or are we making a decision based on everyone else’s opinion? Got a little muddy there. And, again, they didn’t give us a reason to go ask the Internet anyway.

4. Wrong choice of actor. Yes, Gary Oldman is an excellent actor and who doesn’t love his Commissioner Gordon? But why the hell did they choose him to sell you a phone? Old man (in advertising 56 is old). Wrong audience. What age group is HTC going after? Maybe we’re confused because they’re confused—HTC just wants someone, anyone to buy their phones.

5. Visually it’s too dark. Probably going for that tech feel, trying to draw in those who like sci-fi maybe. Or, more likely, making the scene Batman-like, trying to appeal to Commissioner Gordon fans. It all seems kind of dark, creepy and borderline depressing. Compare that with how light and bright iPhone and Galaxy ads are. Maybe HTC wants an audience who hates both companies and is looking for the complete antithesis to Apple and Samsung. The point is, the commercial ends and we really don’t know much of anything.

Cher Wang, HTC’s chairperson, said last year that marketing was its greatest challenge, saying her company’s “communication does have a problem but we are improving on that.” A statement from the company said they “put direct communications with consumers at the center of its overall business strategy.”

Maybe they forgot what their strategy was or didn’t tell Deutsch L.A., who created the ad. The HTC One M8 commercial is far from direct and goes out of its way to say “we don’t want to talk to you/figure it out for yourself.” For a company whose product relies on connectivity, it seems that internally, they’re not connected enough.

Bottom Line

Your commercial may look good when you’re watching it in a conference room with your colleagues, but that’s not your final test. So, when you’ve decided on the concept for your ad and again when you’ve completed it and think it’s a winner, watch it side by side with your favorite ad or even just a good, solid ad from a different brand. Does it hold up?

Boeing’s Unfortunate Tagline Serves as a Lesson for All

Boeing Build Something Better photo w/ airlplane

Taglines can be tricky. That’s why it’s so important to test potential taglines with different audiences within and especially outside your company. A tagline that sounds perfect at inception may not seem so great if something goes wrong.

I bet Boeing was very excited about their “Build Something Better” campaign. They were so excited about a message they thought conveyed their dedication to innovation and their commitment to “challenging the impossible” that they probably never even thought of — or ignored — what would happen if tragedy struck.

Well, watching TV early Saturday morning, about 15 minutes or so after seeing a report on the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 that disappeared into the China Sea, a commercial for Boeing ran with “Build Something Better. Boeing” at the end:

Boeing’s passion may truly be to build something better, but right now with the tragic news of the Malaysian Airlines jet and more news that cracks were found in a Boeing 787 on the production line, the tagline suddenly becomes a command. “Boeing, please, build something better.”

Never settle on a tagline that can in any way be turned against you.

And God bless the 239 souls who were on board that flight and the families they’ve left behind.

Chevy & Google Earn a Bit of Oscar Night Glory

Kudos to Chevy and Google for their filmmaking-themed commercials during last night’s broadcast of the Academy Awards!

Chevy’s ad was a winner in many ways — the first being that Chevy joined with MOFILM to give filmmakers a chance to have their creation seen by the world. What a fabulous and perfectly relevant way to include your brand in the excitement around the Oscars and gain attention for some budding filmmakers at the same time.

The “Speed Chaser” commercial we saw last night was created by Korean filmmakers Jude Chun, Eunhae Cho, and Sunyoung Hwang, the overall winners of Chevy’s Oscars Program Video Contest. The brand says that, “In the film, the Chevrolet Cruze shows you can find imagination anywhere from the Silver Screen to a playdate with friends.”

I don’t know that Chevy Cruze is responsible for all that, but the commercial is super-adorable and really hits the mark. See for yourself:

You can watch the films from all of the international winners on MOFILM’s Chevrolet Hollywood page.

We’re All Storytellers

“Storytellers” is probably one of the most overused words these days in the advertising and marketing industry. But with their “We’re All Storytellers” ad, Google proves once again that they’re truly connected to how people use their services and know how to tell a great story that resonates with their audience.

In the commercial, you see all kinds of people creating their own films–and using Google to help them learn more about technique and how to create certain parts of their films. The strong and heartfelt narration is actually part of the speech Pixar filmmaker Andrew Stanton gave in his TED Talk: The Clues to a Great Story.

Stanton says stories “can’t be artificially evoked,” and I think that’s what is so wonderful about both commercials. They’re real. The tone set in both the Chevy and Google stories is so relevant to the Oscars and the life (and childhood) of people in the film industry. At one minute a piece, they prove you don’t need a lot of time to tell a great story.

Both show kids, full of imagination and experimenting with film and friends. While Chevy’s is more fun and has a light, imaginative spirit to it, Google’s is a realistic depiction of how filmmakers often start and learn along the way. They’re both utterly terrific, and I hope you enjoyed them as much as I did.

Put Yourself in Skechers Shoes: A Minimalist Ad for a Minimalist Shoe

As a former avid runner and lifetime sneaker freak, I’m not yet a big fan of Skechers as a performance shoe. But I am a fan of their new commercial featuring marathon runner Meb Keflezighi.

Skechers is obviously trying to change its reputation and become more of a player in the performance market–re-signing Meb as a brand ambassador and signing a multi-year deal to be the shoe and apparel sponsor of the Houston Marathon (see Runner’s World article). So you’d think they’d try and mimic the other “in your face” sportswear giants like Nike, Adidas and Asics, with loud, heart pumping, endorphin boosting ads. But no, they went the smart route.

Keeping It Simple

The Skechers GOrun Ride 3 commercial is beautifully simple in story, in visuals and in words. I love it and I’ll explain why in a second, but first, check it out for yourself:

What did you think? It’s a lesson in minimalism for advertisers. This ad mostly sticks to the basics. Visually, it’s bright, sunny and oozes warmth and friendliness with it’s small town look. Even if you don’t know who Meb is, which I didn’t, you immediately sense he’s known in his sport all because of two simple words repeated as he passes through different parts of town, “Morning, Meb!” People know him, and by the scenery changes with each person he passes, you can see that he runs long distances.

Meb’s morning run is simply narrated. In just one line, with a few nicely placed pauses, we learn about the shoe’s features and who Meb is. Here’s the script:

It features a lightweight and sleek design along with plenty of cushion to go the distance, which is why it’s the shoe worn by America’s number one marathoner…Meb. 

Toward the end, we see an average man sit down in his house (the house we saw Meb run into) effectively showing that this man, like every non-professional athlete does at some time, imagines himself as Meb while he runs. There’s some cute little banter between the man and wife, and with seemingly little effort, Skechers has just appealed to two audiences with one ad — the marathoner/serious runner and the average person who’s running to stay fit.

“Put yourself in Meb’s shoes,” are the narrator’s final words. Cliche? You can argue that, but I’d call it perfect. That’s exactly what Skechers wants you to do. Sometimes cliche works.

Time to think about what’s next

Be Back Soon sign

You’ve probably noticed I haven’t posted in a couple of weeks. Well, I’m taking a little break. I know I want to create a brand new blog, and I’m not sure if I’m going to keep this one. So, I need a little more time to decide.

But, I promise, if I do continue with this marketing blog, it’ll be better than ever.

Thanks for reading and sending me your comments both online and offline. I really appreciate your support!

Coreen

Motivation Behind Marketing: What’s Your Motivation?

“It’s important in life to know what our motivation is.” –DeVon Franklin

It’s also important in marketing and advertising to know what our motivation is. And that’s what I’m going to focus on here today.

What is your motivation?

Be honest. If your motivation is to sell products, you might see some success, but you will not continue to be successful.

A Greater Motivation

Photo of Steve Jobs with quote

Let’s look at Apple. What would you say their motivation is?

You could probably argue that selling products at least factors into their motivation, but it is secondary. Bob Borchers, a former iPhone product marketing engineer, said (I’m quoting from the article “Former Apple employee recounts how Jobs motivated iPhone team”):

Steve Jobs didn’t have a specific device in mind, but instead gave the team a mission: create a phone that people would love so much that they’d never leave the house without it.

Does that sound like a man or a company whose primary motivation is to sell?

No. That’s what once made Apple unique and what other companies, especially Samsung, are now catching up with. Your motivation has to be to make great products people will love. The bonus with that is that those products then kind of market themselves.

Motivated by Money

We all know people who are motivated by money. We can see it a mile away. Their sales pitch is disconnected from customers, it’s truly all about them. And you get a sense that they will tell you anything just so they get what they want. Is that who you want to be?

I admit, there are exceptions. Some people, some companies who are motivated purely or mostly by money can be successful. But they are often successful at the cost of something greater—humanity, the environment, other people’s economies.

Look at the finance industry and all the wrongdoing that caused the U.S economic collapse. Those bankers, Wall Street traders, etc.—the ones who caused this mess—were all motivated by money. Greed.

Look at the oil industry. Sure, their advertising makes it seem like they’re interested in the environment or the earth’s future, but we all know they’re interested (at least for now) in one thing above all else—profits. And they do quite well in that category.

Eventually, I hope, that will change as consumers become more aware and demand more change. For now, it’s up to you to be the change. Ask yourself who you want to be. Which type of motivation sounds better to you?

What about You?

For me, I like Apple’s motivation—to make great products people will love. I find it authentic and more fulfilling. Imagine what would happen if every company were motivated by that—what a wonderful world we’d live in.

So, if you’re not getting the response you want on social media or in sales, maybe it’s time to rethink your motivation.

Are you just trying to sell to people? Or do you want to give them great products and services they will love?