Are Consumers Dumb? Yes, and Advertisers Love It!

Dopey, copyright Walt Disney Productions

Dopey, copyright Walt Disney Productions

Companies and their marketers rely on consumers to be dumb—or at least momentarily dumb. You hear a lot about how smart consumers are, but really, that’s a bunch of bull. We still fall for the same tricks and are attracted to shiny objects. Otherwise, JCPenney’s Fair and Square campaign might have worked. (I’ll get back to that in a bit.)

First, before you think this is some sort of attack, I’ll use myself as an example. I consider myself a smart shopper. I read labels, read reviews, compare specs, etc., but I am still a sucker for endcaps and bright designs.

In case you don’t know, a store’s endcap is the product shelving at the end of a row that faces the main aisle. It’s valuable space where they put all the bright, shiny objects they want to sell most. And it works. I just bought a pack of “Dark Side” Skittles because they caught my attention and I was curious enough to throw them in my cart—even though the only “candy” in my cupboard is usually chocolate.

Watch for Red Flags

Right now, one industry trying to take advantage of these sorts of random bouts of stupidity is the auto insurance industry. I got this in the mail from Allstate:

Allstate DriveWise postcard

Allstate wants your reaction to be: “Ooh, look honey, we’re safe drivers, we can finally save more money just by putting this little doohickey in our car.”

But look closer. This is what it does (Progressive has the same thing.)

  1. Call to get your device. You’ll get a 10% discount just for signing up (red flag!).
  2. Plug it in under your car’s dashboard.
  3. Drive safely.
  4. The device collects your car’s driving data (red flag!). You can then track your data and savings online. (Distraction: Wow! We can see how much we’re saving.)

Notice the wording too. The device “collects”—a harmless-seeming verb—while you “track.” They were very careful to put the focus on what you can do, and even smarter to make it seem like they’re helping you. But yes, of course, their device is tracking you. That’s how they’ll determine pricing, by your monitored behavior.

People complain about “big brother” and the government intruding on privacy, but many companies are making much more inroads on mining private data than the government. Allstate’s DRIVEWISE device and Progressive’s Snapshot device are essentially monitoring tools.

All companies need to do is get you hooked—who doesn’t want to save 60 percent, right? (But you’re not going to save that much.) Then later, they can add more and more restrictions until you’re stuck—until we’re all stuck really, as the other types of plans fade away and become more pricey. This is how industries change (like health insurance did), all under the guise of giving consumers more control.

Don’t fall for it. Yes, we will probably always be drawn to fun or fancy designs and bright colors. But take a few moments to read the fine print.

Back to JCPenney

They began with two great ideas:

  1. Let’s do something different from our competitors.
  2. Let’s be straightforward with our pricing and save customers time and money.

Fabulous! Except, we consumers like to be tricked. We need visual reminders we’re getting a good deal. That’s why we clip coupons and shop sales (even on holidays and when we have to line up at 2 a.m.). As much as we hate haggling over the price of a car, we love it too, because ultimately when we walk away, we feel like we won.

Now we have “loyalty” cards that track all our shopping habits and now have these devices for our car that will send all data about how we drive to our car insurance company. All because we don’t want fair pricing—we want gimmicks, prices that end in “99” and sales to make us feel like we win.

Stop being the sucker advertisers want you to be. We have smart phones, smart appliances and smart TVs—isn’t it time we have smart shoppers too?

Restoring the Brand of a Fallen Superstar

You probably thought this was going to be yet another article about Lance Armstrong. No. Amidst all the hubbub over Armstrong’s interview with Oprah Winfrey and the questions of will he or won’t he be able to come back, another fallen superstar has quietly (and arguably) completed his brand restoration.

Tiger Woods is back—the old, likeable, marketable Tiger.

Nike Golf smartly paired their newly signed superstar Rory McElroy with Tiger Woods in this fun “No Cup is Safe” ad. And Tiger looks as relaxed and friendly as ever.

Nike is the “too big to fail” behemoth of the marketing world. They remain pretty much untouched by scandal by knowing when to drop an athlete and when to hold on. They dropped Lance once he admitted to doping.

With Tiger, Nike didn’t waver. They were one of the few sponsors not to drop the big-name golfer after the embarrassing sex scandal that ended his marriage and left his career as one giant question mark.

Tiger, at the time, was Nike Golf. So, you can say (and I did in my 2010 blog post) that Nike didn’t really have a choice. They had to stick with their moneymaker.

They released a creepy commercial that featured Tiger’s father speaking while we were left looking at the golfer’s grim face. It reeked of “feel sorry for me” and had people all over the Internet talking. A risky move, but one that ultimately paid off.

This latest commercial is Nike’s smartest move yet on Tiger’s brand comeback journey. Pairing Woods with one of the most likeable players out there—Rory McElroy—was a flat-out genius move.

Watch the ad, and notice the old Tiger moves—the flashy smile, the bouncing of the golf ball on the club and then launching it, the trick shots and sly “you can’t touch me” look—are back.

Even if the two top golfers weren’t actually together when filming this ad, this pairing is one we will all look forward to seeing again and again—on the course and in commercials.

Inspiration on a Wrapper? Great Idea…or Not

Inspiration…everyone could use some. Advertising can be quite good and powerful when tapping into something inspiring. Lately, we see more and more inspiring messages on product packaging.

But is there a line we should draw somewhere?

A bowl of Dove chocolates surrounded by their wrappers

Dove chocolate is known for their inspiring messages inside their wrappers on Dove Promises.

Take time to notice the color of the leaves changing.

Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.

Ignite your sense of adventure.

Take good care of yourself.

Stir your sense of pleasure.

The other day I noticed little messages on the wrapper of my Halls Breezers throat drops (Halls, by the way, has the tagline A Pep Talk in Every DropTM.)

Elicit a few “wows” today.

Be resilient.

Get back in there champ!

Nothing you can’t handle.

Go for it.

A little silly, I thought. But then, maybe if the person using the Halls is sick, peppy little messages could give a person a lift. Of course, maybe they should’ve come up with some better messages.

And then, I found the line.

Wrapped tampons on the floor spelling out "Go Girl"

Tampons. Yes, Playtex Sport tampons have messages on their wrappers.

Go for the goal.

Focus on the goal.

Keep a clear head.

Refuse to lose.

Strong bodies, strong minds.

Celebrate your efforts.

I’m sure Playtex is trying to appeal to younger women and teen girls who are participating in sports, but please. There’s a time and a place for a pep talk, and the wrapper of the tampon just isn’t it.

Not only is it the wrong place for a pep talk, it’s the wrong time too. Any woman in the room when the discussion about these tampon wrappers took place should’ve known that.

Despite what you see on most idiotic feminine care commercials, women are not full of spirit and joy every time they get their period. And when we’re doubled over in cramps is not the time to approach us with some inane, supposedly self-esteem boosting message.

For men, let me put it in words you’ll understand. Imagine if someone just kicked you in the balls, and then said, “Strong bodies, strong minds” or “Refuse to lose.” What would you do?

I think I’ve made my point.

Consider your audience, people. If you want to try and inspire your audience, great. Just make sure it’s at the right place and the right time.

Boring Features, Bad Dog, Good Volkswagen, Great Advertising

Ahh, Volkswagen, you’ve done it again. VW commercials tend to be hit or miss. And their latest “Bad Dog, Good Volkswagen” is a hit. At least I think so—see what you think:

Just looking at this dog is enough to entertain you, especially with Johnny Cash’s “Dirty Old Egg-Sucking Dog” pulling you through the story. The man in the commercial plays off the dog perfectly—his facial expressions, the way he holds the dog add to the humor of this ad.

This commercial hits the tenets of good advertising. In addition to the humor and the fitting song, above all else, it’s memorable. And that’s really what makes or breaks an ad.

Who wouldn’t remember that dog and the guy holding the dog next to his car to close all the windows. Priceless…and a great way to show the features of your car without being boring.

This commercial is so much better than the “Door Thunk” ones and ranks right up there with the Star Wars kid thinking he starts his dad’s car.

Hit or miss, Volkswagen is definitely creative when it comes to showing off its car features. I can’t think of any other car company showcasing these “boring, but nice to have” features of their car so well.

Can you?

Yes, Nike, Greatness Has Been Found…in a Gatorade Ad

Greatness has been found, and, no, not in a Nike commercial. Instead, I found it in this Gatorade commercial. Check it out:

“Greatness isn’t given. Greatness is taken—taken in the summer when no one’s looking.”

I wasn’t even watching my TV when this ad came on, but the words made me stop what I was doing and look up.

“Oh no you didn’t!” I thought, “Nike just got burned!”

Yes, I realize the Gatorade ad has been out since July, but I hadn’t seen it until recently—after the Olympics.

If you’re like me—maybe even if you’re not like me—you bristled a little at the “Greatness has been found” campaign of Nike’s I covered after the U.S. Women’s Soccer team won gold at the Olympics and donned those t-shirts.

Even not in the context of that event, the slogan seems arrogant and is missing that “Just Do It” nature that Nike commercials usually are very good at selling.

The “Find your greatness” aspect of Nike’s campaign was better, but Gatorade goes one step further with the intense workout footage and the words in their ad, starring Robert Griffin III, better known as RG3—a man who knows how to work. This man didn’t “find” the Heisman trophy, he earned it. He didn’t find his way to a top draft pick and a starting role for the Washington Redskins—he worked hard and earned it.

That’s why I think Gatorade has struck gold with this ad. You know by now that I’m a fan of great copywriting and, indeed, greatness has been found in RG3’s Gatorade commercial. It’s worth repeating.

“Greatness isn’t given. Greatness is taken…taken in the summer…when no one’s looking.”

So true. Go take yours…um, in the winter. Sorry, summer’s over.

The Power of Paralympians Perfectly Expressed

Great advertising can’t always be summed up properly in words—you know it when you see it. The Lloyds TSB-sponsored Paralympics ads are so terrific, I had to share them with you today.

Athlete in wheelchair: 400 Metres in 46 Seconds, Just With His Arms

Bold headlines and graphic manipulation of the photos give a palpable sense of motion and power.

Oscar Pistorius running, headline: Don't Look at the Legs, Look at the Records

Using the most recognizable Paralympics athlete ever is a given. Most of us knew of Oscar Pistorius before he participated in the London Olympic Games. Watching him there probably made more people realize how athletic these “disabled” athletes are. This ad campaign pushes people to realize even more the excitement and power in the Paralympic Games, hopefully drawing in more of an audience.

Woman on horse: Making a Horse dance Isn't Easy. Without Legs It's Almost Impossible

You know I’m a fan of good copywriting, and these headlines are fantastic! Not only are they intriguing and entice you to want to see these athletes compete, but they also point out what you might be missing. Did you notice the woman above on the horse had no legs?

Two judo women: You Can't See It's a Perfect Throw. She Doesn't Need To.

In the above ad, you would’ve had no way of knowing if one (or both) of the athletes is blind–and that’s kind of the point.

Wheelchair athlete playing basketball: Tilt at 46 Degrees You're a Hero. Tilt at 47, It's Game Over

How perfect is that? I hope you were as impressed by these ads as I was. They made me want to see more, and that truly is a sign of great advertising.

Has Nike Found Its Greatness? Not Yet in This Ad Campaign

I’ll admit, when the U.S. women’s soccer team put on their Nike “Greatness has been found” t-shirts immediately after winning the gold medal match at the Olympics, I didn’t like it.

I felt it was rude to the losing team (Japan), and I thought the slogan was obnoxious.

My mind hasn’t changed about the women’s soccer team putting on their shirts, but I have found an appreciation for Nike’s campaign. Maybe you have too?

If you haven’t yet seen the “chubby kid” commercial (starring regular kid Nathan Sorrell) drawing both praise and criticism all over the Web, here it is:

“Find your greatness.”

Meh. It’s kind of a dull slogan. In context, however, it’s super-positive and could be used well by Nike to help boost teen/youth self-esteem.

Bullying is such a major issue these days, and our kids need positive messages and role models to believe in. That’s why I love this ad.

Kids need to know they’re great—just by being born, they are fantastic. Heck, many adults still need to know this too.

Sorrell’s “Jogger” ad goes very well with Nike’s Mark Cavendish ad—the message within his is that despite the negative things people said, he found success. He used their words as motivation.

Kids need to know that other people’s words do not determine their future or their worth.

If anything, I think the criticism of the “Find Your Greatness” campaign should be that it doesn’t go far enough.

In their press release introducing this campaign, Nike doesn’t even seem to understand the potential for this campaign’s greatness. Greg Hoffman, Nike VP of Brand Design & Communications, said:

The idea behind ‘Find Your Greatness’ is simply to inspire and energize everyday athletes everywhere to celebrate their achievements, participate and enjoy the thrill of achieving in sport at their own level.

Nike is such a powerful company, this campaign could be so much more. They have sharing aspects in place, but the social sharing seems to be focused more on Nike tools than on social good.

And that’s fine. It’s completely their own prerogative, but I just wish they used these ads and social sharing as just a start. Team up with schools and turn part of it into a drive to:

  • Reduce obesity in kids
  • Counter bullying in schools and on playgrounds
  • Boost self-esteem in youth and teens

The possibilities here seem too good to pass up. Nike does have a history of supporting kids and communities, so hopefully, they will use “Find Your Greatness” as another way to help even more.

Or, if Nike’s not up to the challenge, maybe schools and parents can use this message to start helping kids on their own.

What about you? Any ideas on how to make this “great” campaign even better?

Olympic Advertisements: And The Medals Go To…

The Olympics are over, so it’s time to award medals for the top three Olympic-themed commercials.

Bronze Medal

My choice here will probably surprise you. I’m giving the Bronze medal to Fruit of the Loom for their series of ads. The beauty of these ads is the simplicity—“You move. It moves with you.”

It’s a lovely series highlighting the same type of body control and movement that elite athletes must have. Here are three from that series–Rings, Trampoline and Backflip:

Silver Medal

The silver medal goes to an unusual contestant in this year’s ad Olympics—a movie trailer. This Paranorman video is laugh-out-loud funny! Paired with what I think is audiotape of actual gymnastics announcing, it draws you in immediately.

I have to say, a movie I knew very little about just made me want to see it. If that same humor and creativity runs throughout the movie, it should be a hit.

Gold Medal

And the gold medal goes to AT&T with Ryan Lochte in “Warming Up.”

I’m sure many of you are shocked that I didn’t include any of Proctor & Gamble’s commercials. But, in my eyes, P&G ran the same types of ads in the previous Olympic Games.

AT&T’s ad gave me goose bumps. See for yourself.

“Luck doesn’t get you to the Olympic Games. You can’t wish your way onto the podium. You can’t buy it or hope for it. It’s not enough to dream about it. Luck didn’t get me to London. I swam here.”

One minute long and that’s all that’s said. Every line is true. Every line is important. It’s perfect in words and images. After all, what’s harder than swimming in the ocean?

I only included ads I saw, which aired in the United States. I found another winner made for Adidas in Great Britain. What a way to pump up a nation!

So, that’s it. If you disagree, feel free to mention which ads you would give medals to and why. Maybe you can change my mind.

Does This Dart Hit Its Target?

@Dodge promoted tweet announcing the new Dodge Dart

Good copywriting always catches my eye, so I decided to investigate Dodge’s promoted tweet today. “Build a car that will change everything” is a strong statement. Does this new car live up to the high expectations Dodge just set?

See for yourself. “Dodge Dart: How to Change Cars Forever” is the video that was linked to the tweet:

Gotta say, I like it. Let’s take a look and then let me know what you think.


Excellent tone and pacing in this advertisement. It’s fast enough to keep your attention, but not monotone. The pauses set in, for example, around “sleep…okay, that’s enough sleep” are perfect.


The script is fantastic, especially for a car company. There’s not too much detail thrown at you. Humor is there, but not forced or overdone. “Start with a simple idea” it begins and it continues by executing these simple ideas very well. The right words work with the video for a pace that engages and builds expectation.


Instead of a straight-through video, images shoot out at you in a fast-paced montage. Notice all the people working on the car are young–not 20-young, but young looking.

Worker man smashing laptop, concept didn't work, goes with script "hate it"

Each image leaves an impression, with some that really stand out. Like what happens when you rely on committees (per the script):

Cheap car flipping over

Target Audience

So, here’s the question–Does this Dart ad appeal to its target audience or not?

I think the answer is yes…for the most part. You can tell Dodge is going after a young, hip audience here. And to their credit, they don’t seem like a stodgy, old car company pretending they get Gen-Y likes, needs and personality.

Starting price just under $16,000 for what seems like a cool car, or cool enough anyway, is a great takeaway. It’s placed near the end so you’re more likely to remember it. Plus, they didn’t lead with price because they want you to like the car first. And I think the video does give the viewer a good impression of the car–good enough to go test drive even.

I’m not sure why they featured Tom Brady at the end as their “celebrity endorser.” The way they introduced him was cute and fitting with the vibe of the rest of their video, but does Tom Brady really appeal to Gen Y?

After viewing the Dodge Dart commercial for yourself, what do you think? Did Dodge hit the mark with this one?


Note to fellow WordPressers: Make sure when you try and embed your YouTube video that you’re not logged into Google. The link you get will then be a secure link and the video won’t embed. Get the unsecure link and all will work fine. Thanks to Jackie at WP for her quick and helpful reply.