Hothouse: A commercial so good I can’t watch

DIRECTV’s new commercials are so good I hate them. I’m not kidding. I can’t watch them. But I still think they’re great advertising.

Judge for yourself. Here’s their Hothouse commercial:

Disturbing, right? Of course, that is also why I love it. I am not a fan of fire. I’m not as pyrophobic as I used to be, but this ad still creeps me out.

And that’s exactly why it’s good advertising.

Hothouse hits its mark with two key components of solid advertising—audience and memorability.


DIRECTV is clearly targeting the male audience. And why not? Unlike many other household purchases and decisions, this is one area where men are often the decision makers.

Both commercials in this campaign so far are similar. Here’s the other one:

Main characters are male. Sound effects are loud and visuals are in your face. Fire dominates one ad while destructive robots star in the other. Who does this appeal to? Do I even have to ask?


The loud sounds and the graphic, intense visuals not only appeal to men, but they also make the ads memorable—a lot more memorable than anything Verizon or Comcast has going on right now.

DIRECTV needs to stand out because it lags behind the two industry behemoths. That’s why at the end of these commercials, when the screen goes black, the thing that stands out most is the price—$29.99 a month.

Extra credit

Price alone doesn’t do the trick when one of the advantages of your competitors is the bundle—Internet, phone and TV. Plus, two of the supposed drawbacks of satellite TV are clear picture and connectivity problems during a storm.

This current ad campaign highlights technology—pause TV from room to room. And the bonus of the way the visuals seem in the room with you hint at 3-D television. These commercials leave you with the impression of state-of-the-art technology.

A nice underlying message that could help get them more customers, especially in a bad economy in which DIRECTV’s competitors’ fees keep going up.


Want to see how Hothouse was made? Check out the video on YouTube

Is advertising why we buy?

Actual tweet saying advertising is fiction and blogs are experienceI saw this tweet and immediately thought, “blog topic.” Tucked it away and decided to think about it later. The author of the tweet brings up a great point.

What do you base your big-purchase decisions on?

Very little has to do with advertising, right?

Advertising might get me to think about a product, add it to my consideration list. But I don’t use it to make my decision. Do you?

I decided to take a look at items I buy and why. Here’s what I came up with. Are your buying reasons similar?

Big ticket items


I bought a Ford Escape. Why?

  • Had a great experience with a previous Ford.
  • It got a thumbs-up from my dad, who’s a mechanic and the most important opinion I trust when it comes to cars.
  • My bad back was most comfortable in the Escape and the Nissan Murano (I had a horrible experience with my last car, which was a Nissan).
  • The Escape was in my price range (and I loved the car overall).


  • I wanted something not too big and not too small.
  • The Vizio was in my price range and offered the size and features I wanted.
  • The picture looked crisp and clear.

Okay, I don’t have a lot of big-ticket items, so I started wondering if there’s a difference with lower-cost purchases.

Small ticket items


There are a ton of beer ads on TV, which is why I chose this one. In this decision, only one bullet (the first one) really counts for me, but I’ll list three that actually enter into my decision.

  • Taste
  • Price
  • Flavor I’m in the mood for

Now, if I see an ad for Samuel Adams Octoberfest beer in the fall, I might go buy it—but only because I like the beer. The ad just reminded me.

Laundry detergent:

  • Value for size and price
  • Hypoallergenic and unscented

There are many laundry detergent ads on TV too, but this is one product I buy based on my personal experience alone.

So where does advertising come in?

I have to say that it often does play a role in whether or not I consider a product. But when it comes down to it, I buy products I trust. And if I don’t know the product, reviews on Amazon and opinions of people I know are the most likely to help me make my decision.

Unlike the author of the tweet, I won’t call advertising fiction (though I won’t say she’s wrong either). But I do think advertising is more an awareness tool than a sales tool.

Advertising helps remind us of what our choices are, and each ad or each campaign leaves us with either a positive or negative impression that we carry into the buying experience.

Hey CEOs! Two things you must learn from UFC’s Dana White

Dana White proves again that he’s the best CEO in sports. No other leading man seems to understand how to make his organization succeed better than Dana.

Dana White's Twitter Page Snapshot

Why should you follow Dana White’s lead when your business is nothing like his? Because he understands two things better than you ever will—brand and audience. And in the age of social media, if you don’t understand these two things, you will soon be toast.


Dana doesn’t just know what his company’s brand is. He lives it and breathes it, and he does everything he can to make sure his fighters do the same. He loves his sport (which is the product his company sells, for you CEOs who are having trouble following along), and you know that just by watching and listening to him.

Be your brands biggest and best ambassador! 

This may sound weird, but Dana reminds me of Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. Tony and Dana both ooze passion for what they do. (If you’re unfamiliar with Zappos, read this.)

What do they have in common? They both put the customer first…really. And they also both encourage their employees to have fun interacting with their customers/fans. Both Dana and Tony lead by example, currently with 1.4 million and 1.8 million followers on Twitter, respectively.


The secret to marketing success is to keep people coming back to buy your products. How do you do this? Engage! Engage! Engage!

Can your organization fully engage with customers if you only have one to three people handling your social media?

As good a job as Dana does interacting with fans and keeping them excited about the UFC brand, he knows he can’t sustain it alone. So, while athletes in other sports are getting fined for tweeting, Dana is encouraging—actually offering bonuses—for UFC athletes who tweet and do it well.

Quote from site: Let's get this out of the way: this is a great policy. The four big sports leagues have reacted to Twitter like the out-of-touch, white-haired men that they are. The UFC has done a great job leveraging social media, even if it occasionally backfires. Putting more money in the pockets of fighters while expanding the reach of the sport? Great.

But he’s not just saying, “Go out and tweet.” He’s giving them information on how to do it. At a recent Fighter Summit in Las Vegas, fighters learned about brand, social media and more.

Other sports leagues are missing the point. The whole point of athletes and other celebrities tweeting is engagement. Engage your fans, build a larger more loyal fan base, drive merchandise and ticket sales, etc.

The same holds true for other organizations as well. Expand your reach and your ability to relate with customers, profits will come.

CEO call to action

CEOs: Stop being afraid of your employees using social media. Conquer fear with knowledge. Give your employees instruction on brand, marketing and social media. Make sure they have everything they need to represent your company well.

I’m not saying that all your employees should be tweeting like Zappos or like Dana White and the UFC, but you should at least be moving in that direction.

In a year or two, social media will stop being the new thing. Something else will be the new thing, and you’ll be stuck trying to figure out the old thing. Don’t get left behind.


Technically, Dana White is the president of the UFC. Lorenzo Fertitta is the CEO of Zuffa, of which the UFC is a subsidiary. I used a little poetic license for the blog’s sake. Hope you don’t mind. Also, the quote pasted in gray above is from

“Mom was here.” Why advertisers should care

Advertising agencies usually do a fantastic job on public service advertisements (PSAs), and the Ad Council’s Mom was Here campaign against childhood obesity is no exception. The question is, why don’t advertisers create paid advertising campaigns that are just as good? And what can they learn from PSAs, such as this one?

Here is the campaign’s “Blackout” PSA.

3 things that make this PSA great:

Appeal to audience

Everyone knows that women make the majority of purchase decisions in the household, especially when concerning food. The campaign tagline “Mom was Here” is empowering and positive—“Mom’s everywhere are finding ways to keep kids active and healthy.” Complimenting instead of criticizing.

Not only does the ad appeal to moms, but it appeals to kids as well. The opening image is of three boys playing video games and clearly having fun—a great place to start to draw kids in.


Obesity is a tricky subject when trying to capture someone’s attention. Push too hard and you seem judgmental, and no one will want to watch. Moms don’t want to be blamed, and kids don’t want to hear that they’re fat.

The Blackout ad wins with its subtlety. It never mentions the word “obesity” or any word close to it. Instead, the narrator talks about staying “active and healthy.” Smart and effective.

Creative details

The details in this commercial are terrific.

  • The beginning is active and exciting and draws people in.
  • The opening of the curtain is symbolic of positive choices, and the fact that the kid opens it empowers him to choice as well.
  • The basketball playing in the driveway shows a simple, close-to-home solution.
  • The mom doesn’t scold or nag, she simply turns off the power without the kids knowing. This is important also because the kids decide for themselves to go outside.

This ad shows how to appeal to two audiences at once. And it shows how to tackle a delicate subject with fun and creativity—without risk of offending the audience.

Marketers and big brands can learn from the entire Let’s move campaign, which this PSA falls under. With an easy to navigate website, an engaging Facebook campaign and more, this is a fantastic example for advertisers, marketers and brands to follow.


If you like reading my blog, you might also want to know that I will be blogging from time to time on the Philly Marketing Labs blog. My first post for them is up: Which Social Media Channels Should Your Business Use

Corporate responsibility and crisis

Tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis. All the recent disasters have me thinking about relationships and responsibilities—specifically, as an organization, what is your responsibility in a disaster or crisis?

Companies and other organizations would do well to follow the lead of the University of Alabama. The day after the tornadoes hit, the university kept posting updates to their website, answering questions they knew their students would have.

University of Alabama Weather Info page

I saw one at 1 pm, and the one I have here is from 4:45 pm, but they had more up earlier. In fact, they had a steady stream of important updates for students, staff and parents to get answers to their questions, before and after the tornado hit.

That next day, they had graduation rescheduled and had a plan for students and their final exams. Very impressive, especially considering the extent of the damage in the area and the number of people affected.

Even the student fraternities and sororities leapt into action, making hot meals for as many people as they could.

So why don’t more large companies and organizations follow the same practices?

We expect our customers to be loyal. But we have to be loyal AND responsible too. Individuals have far less ability to gather information and bear the burdens of disaster than large organizations do.

Every company should have a comprehensive disaster response plan in place. One that not only coordinates efforts to ensure the safety of their employees, but one that serves the community as well.

Include in your disaster plan

  • Names, contact info and assigned responsibilities of all the people who are trained to be the communicators and point people in case of emergency.
  • All communications plans—e-mail, mobile, website postings, phone calls, press releases, etc. Tell your employees and customers where to go for information before a crisis hits. And consider what you will do without electricity.
  • A list of goods or services you can readily donate if needed.
  • Community contacts or public officials that will help approve and coordinate your donations.

These are just four items on a long list of preparations all organizations should make, especially organizations people depend heavily on such as:

  • Universities
  • Public schools
  • Transportation systems
  • Banks
  • Food stores
  • Health insurance companies
  • Home improvement & supplies stores
  • Pharmacies and other medical supplies stores

The list could go on and on. The point is that companies must think about these things and be ready to respond.

Companies talk a lot these days about corporate responsibility. Too many seem to think simply donating to different organizations or announcing the hours their employees spend volunteering is enough.  It’s not.

Part of every company’s brand should be to be a (real) responsible citizen of their community. One that is quick to react in times of crisis to protect and meet the needs of their customers and their community. One that in times of crisis puts people, not profit, first.


If you want to help those affected by the recent tornadoes in the southern U.S., go to the University of Alabama’s Tornado Relief web page