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!


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?

Convertible VW Beetle Makes for a Fun Getaway Car in the Winter

I keep laughing every time I see the new VW Beetle ad. So I had to share it with you. If it’s not advertising perfection, it’s pretty darn close.

Here’s why it works:

1. Creative and memorable

The idea of driving a convertible car through winter is a different one. And it’s often a challenge for dealers to sell convertibles in the winter, so I love how creative the agency (Deutsch) got here. Ski masks. Perfect.

2. Excellent story sequence, direction and attention to detail

A guy goes into a store with a ski mask on. We didn’t yet see the guys driving in the topless Beetle, so we assume what the customers assume—that this guy is here to rob the place. And one of the first camera angles after he enters shows this menacing figure from the back and then we see a female customer backing away from him slowly. We know something’s up, but we’re not sure what until he goes to the register.

Even the song in the background is part of the fun, as this YouTube commenter notes:

Screenshot of YouTube comment

3. Different also equals memorable.

A guy in a ski mask doesn’t “want any trouble” and actually pays for his goods. That’s different. Then we see him running out and we’re still not 100 percent sure what’s going on until he gets in the car with his other ski-mask-wearing buddies.

4. Humor well done is always a winner.

As we hear sirens in the distance, the driver tells his friend, “You know you forgot to take your mask off, right? We should probably get out of here” and off they go…driving in their convertible VW Beetle in the winter.

Well played, VW.

What do you think? Do you have a favorite commercial right now?

A Tornado, a Goldfish and a People-Focused Company Make for Compelling Advertising

Last week, I mentioned that a trend I think we’ll see more of in 2013 is authentic storytelling—using true stories to create compelling advertising. This week, I’d like to show you another example.

Belfor is a property restoration company. In 2011, Carol Tice of CBS News called them “one of those big, successful companies you never hear much about.” (SeeHow Belfor Grew to be #1 in Disaster Recovery.”)

Recently, due to two commercials—one 30 seconds long and the other one minute long—not only do we know their name, but we know what they do and who they are as a company, as a brand.

All that is due to a very compelling story and the personal touches mentioned that give us insight into Belfor.

Here’s the 30 second ad:

We’ve all watched in horror as news reports show towns devastated by tornadoes and other natural disasters. But we don’t often get to witness the recovery. Belfor is a company that specializes in such recovery.

What makes the company memorable is its company culture. Read the CBS News article mentioned above and you’ll see. Belfor CEO Sheldon Yellen, who appears in the ads, drives a company culture that’s “intensely people focused.”

We get that impression along with the notion that they truly care through their documentary-style ads. Here’s the minute-long one:

Companies that are great know that the little things matter. Belfor, through storytelling, convinces us that they are a caring and great company. As Yellen says at the end, Belfor is “restoring more than just property”—a tagline they obviously take to heart.

Look for your company’s stories. If you don’t have any worth sharing, maybe you need to change your company’s culture. And if you do have stories, then what are you waiting for? Tell them in a compelling, people-focused way.

Army Strong: 1st Infantry Division’s Suicide Prevention Campaign Gets Personal

We’re already seeing examples of one of the biggest trends of 2013—authentic storytelling. Marketing campaigns are getting more and more personal, with real stories from real people.

You may be surprised—or not—to know that one organization leading the way is the U.S. Army. Recently, I came across a campaign from the 1st Infantry Division that aims to tackle suicide prevention among soldiers in a more effective way.

I spoke with Mollie Miller from the 1st Infantry Division who filled me in on their “I Know How It Feels” campaign. A campaign that was born and executed within this Division by their own Public Affairs team—not by an agency.  The campaign captures actual soldiers admitting things like:

“I know how it feels to choose the harder right,” talking about taking time off to treat an injury.

Poster with soldier talking about asking for help

“Soldier on.” We’ve all heard the saying, meaning tough it out and keep your mouth shut. Who’s tougher than a soldier? The 1st Infantry is trying to change the meaning of “soldier on” and show everyone that being tough means asking for help. That’s strong.

Straight Talk from the Army Chief of Staff

According to Miller:

In late 2012, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno instructed leaders at all levels the Army refocus their efforts in the realms of suicide prevention. Despite a constant “attack” on suicide, the formation seemed to be losing ground in the effort to prevent soldier/family member suicide. Gen. Odierno asked Army leaders to focus their efforts on several key areas including stigma reduction, combating isolation, and resiliency. In an effort to communicate suicide prevention, stigma reduction and resilience messages to audiences who seemed to have turned a deaf ear to the traditional leadership-driven, buzz word-rich messages, the 1st Infantry Division Public Affairs team launched the “I Know How It Feels” Campaign.

The poster-based campaign is designed to show soldiers, family members and civilians they’re not alone in their struggles. The goal is to motivate them to get help “at the first signs of trouble, rather than waiting until problems seem monumental and unfixable.”

The posters feature actual soldiers, civilians and family members discussing their own personal struggles and what they did to overcome their challenges, like this one below featuring Lt. William Milzarski.

Soldier asking for help with nightmares

Lt. Milzarski shares his story about the war he brought home and how he sought help for recurring nightmares that disrupted his life.

Talking about feelings and getting help isn’t something anyone in the military is used to. So, it’s especially nice to see real soldiers brave enough to speak out. And it’s even more gratifying to see the positive response their honesty is bringing.

“Outstanding” Response

Reaction from soldiers, families and even the public have been very positive. Miller says:

The reaction has been outstanding. The audiences that we targeted (1st Infantry Division Soldiers and family members) as well as several secondary audiences (local community members, Army veterans, extended family members) have been praising this campaign here on post and throughout Facebook. Comments like “outstanding initiative” and “I wish the Army would have done something like this a long time ago” have followed every poster’s launch on Facebook.

This is a campaign that all marketers should take note of–an example of how to target a tough audience and step into delicate territory at the same time.

Follow the 1st Infantry Division on Facebook to see more of the fantastic things they do. And stay tuned to this blog, because I’m on the lookout for more powerful examples of using real-life stories in marketing, advertising and social campaigns to share with you.