Aetna’s new tagline “joins” the other big brand flops

You don’t join us. We join you.

Could there be a more tone deaf tagline at a time when the government (aided by Aetna and other insurance companies) is trying to make it more difficult for individuals and families to get and afford health insurance?

As one of those people in peril, here’s what I hear: You don’t join us. We decide if we want to join you.

Watch and, more importantly, listen to their first commercial in their new ad campaign:

Health is having the freedom to do what you want to do with your life. Every single day. So at Aetna, we promise to keep finding new ways to join you, so nothing gets in your way. because no matter where it is you’re going or whatever stage of life you’re in, we believe that when it comes to health you don’t join us, we join you.

Freedom means we have the freedom to decide, we have the freedom to choose which doctors we want to go to and what care to receive. Health insurance, more and more, is about restricting those freedoms in the name of preserving big profits for the health insurers. And now, they’re telling us–literally–“you don’t join us.” They have the power–“we join you.” Not what they meant, but that doesn’t matter.

We “keep finding new ways to join you”–the intent was a good one, as evidenced by this commercial below.

But they should have kept working on the wording because the one thing that trips it up is “You don’t join us.”

Readers come to your messages with their own preconceptions and apply their own tone. Don’t give them a chance to interpret it as negative.

Their concept is: Your healthcare journey can be difficult, we’ll join you.

Old man from Aetna Jump adHaving a partner in your healthcare is a good thing, like that friend who joins you for support and helps you along the way. The problem is that’s a concept, not a tagline. It seems like they got too hung up on the “we join you” part and were never quite able to articulate that concept.

Taglines aren’t easy.

Everyone has to put their ego aside and be willing to kill the ideas they want badly but that don’t work. You must think of the many ways your audience will interpret the message and consider cultural and political circumstances. Then decide which way you want to go.

Boil it down to idea you want to convey and then go from there. In this case, “We’re here for you.”

Sometimes, that simple idea can be your tagline: Aetna. We’re here for you.

And there it is.

Aetna’s tagline may not be great, but their new set of commercials emotionally resonate well and will stay with you in a good way. Check them out on Aetna’s YouTube playlist






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?

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.

Print ads showing Absolut bottle shape in a Paris Metro entrance and the insides of a Geneva timepiece

Absolut Shift from Advertising Icon to Enigma

It’s not enough anymore for brands to “just” have a TV commercial. Video can be spread much farther, so the goal is often for a brand’s commercial video to go viral.

What started me thinking about this lately was the Absolut Greyhound ad. It has this very cool, futuristic vibe to it, but it didn’t seem to really push the product.

See for yourself:

I’m not a fan of this video as an advertisement, though it does make a decent music video for the Swedish House Mafia. And you’ll see there’s even a call to action in the bottom left corner of the ad to “Shazam now” and, I guess, find the music and/or video on the mobile music site.

Maybe Absolut wanted it to seem like product placement in the video instead of an advertisement. The problem is, will you really make the association between futuristic greyhounds and Absolut vodka? I doubt it. But their previous ad, I think, did things a bit better.

Crowdsourcing the Creative

The previous ad was called “Absolut Blank.” Here it is:

Absolut Blank is described on their YouTube site as:

a global creative movement, in which ABSOLUT appears as a catalyst for contemporary leading-edge creativity. In collaboration with a new generation of artists:

Adhemas Batista
Aestethic Apparatus
Brett Amory
Dave Kinsey
David Bray
Eduardo Recife
Fernando Chamarelli
Good Wives & Warriors
Jeremy Fish
Ludovica Gioscia
Marcus Jansen
Mario Wagner
Morning Breath
Robert Mars
Sam Flores
Thomas Doyle
Zac Freeman

This is a fantastic idea—a way to get more people interested and involved. I don’t know so much about using Absolut as a catalyst for a “global creative movement,” but they do get an international audience as evidenced by the comments on YouTube being in various languages.

My personal favorite comment is one that contradicts the ad’s closing statement, “It all starts with an Absolut Blank.” The commenter’s idea was (I’m paraphrasing): Doesn’t the night usually end as an absolute blank if you’ve been drinking?

I love that the artists get credit for their work. However, these videos, both Greyhound and Blank are far from viral.


1-min ad = 5800 views

3-min offical music video = 614,000 views

1-min ad = 83,700 views

Notice it’s the music video that gets the most views. What does that say about the intent here?

A Look at Absolut’s Iconic Past

If you’re a consumer of Absolut, which I am, you will know that they named their vodkas for flavors: Absolut Citron, Absolut Mandrin, Absolut Kurant, etc.

So where do “Blank” and “Greyhound” come from?

Absolut was always known for their iconic print ads, which featured the outline of a vodka bottle seen “naturally” in different locations or items (like the Paris Metro and this watch below).

Print ads showing Absolut bottle shape in a Paris Metro entrance and the insides of a Geneva timepiece

They had to do something different to compete in today’s world, and they had to stay in brand too. I think their new ads do stay in brand but need some tweaking to get the Absolut brand back to iconic status.

I’m not confident they’ll be able to do that. Are you?

Doctor smiling and talking on phone

Why Don’t Doctors Need Super Bowl Commercials?

Doctor smiling and talking on phone

If you’re wondering why my blog post for the week is late or why I didn’t write about Super Bowl ads, the plain truth is that I have pneumonia and decided to take care of myself first. And, full disclosure, sometimes the fever associated with consumerism and Super Bowl commercial madness makes me sick too, so I didn’t watch the game or the ads this year.

This juxtaposition between all the doctors’ offices I’ve been in lately and the super-hype over the Super Bowl ads has me thinking.

How do doctors get customers without marketing and what can businesses and marketers learn from them?

Word-of-mouth advertising

Basically doctors get patients through old-fashioned word-of-mouth advertising. How did you find your doctor? Most likely, a friend or family member recommended the doctor to you.

Yes, a doctor’s practice is much different than a retail store or other business. But one concept is the same. It’s the reason doctors and small local businesses don’t need to spend $3.7 million for a spot during the Super Bowl.

What’s the reason? Why does word-of-mouth marketing work for doctors so well?


I’ve had the same primary doctor for almost 20 years. I have to drive almost 45 minutes to get to her, and I dread the day that she retires.

Why? Because we have a fantastic relationship. I trust her as a doctor and a person who has my best interest at heart. She trusts me as a patient. Her reputation—or her brand—can be summed up as smart, trustworthy, reliable and caring. Everything you’d want in a doctor.

Now think, is there a store or a business you’ve been going to and exclusively relied on for 20 years? 10 years? 5 years even?

I’m guessing most people might be able to answer “hairdresser” to that question…if you’re lucky. And if you’re really lucky, maybe one or two more businesses, most likely small, local ones.

I went shopping with a friend of mine not too long ago to Bloomingdale’s. It’s a place where I never shop, yet my friend returns there regularly. One of the things she kept saying was, “I wish Sheila was here. I wish Sheila was here.” (Okay, the name wasn’t Sheila, but I can’t remember it. Not important.)

The point is, my friend gets a consistently great shopping experience at that particular Bloomingdale’s from that one salesperson, who has come to know her likes and dislikes and makes her shopping more efficient and pleasant. And, if I decide to start shopping at Bloomingdale’s, I’m going to ask my friend what that salesperson’s name actually is and then go find her.

Why do big brands and even medium-sized brands need to spend millions on Super Bowl ads and regular TV advertising? Because they’re not good at building relationships with their customers. They just want to sell products.

And yeah, if you sell a fantastic product, that will get you good word-of-mouth advertising too. But unless you’re Apple and all your products are that good, you’ll still need to keep spending big bucks on those TV ads.

Don’t believe me? Then answer this question—how did Zappos build such a great business?

I’ll give you a hint. The word you’re looking for starts with an “R” and rhymes with “She hates her hips.” Zappos built their brand on it. You can too.

Chase Sapphire Preferred: Using a Simple Way to Deliver a Big Message

Next week, you’ll hear a lot of talk about Super Bowl ads. Many brands will go big to try and outdo everyone else. Most brands think bigger is better—super ads for the Super Bowl.

But sometimes, it’s the little things that make an ad truly effective. This is the case with the new Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card commercial.

Your attention is drawn in right away by their simple, yet smart, concept—you’ll reach an actual person every time you call Chase Preferred customer service. Or as they put it, “You’ll immediately get a person, not a prompt.”

Why does this work?

Automated voice response systems, especially in the credit card industry, were great when they first came out. If all you wanted to do was check your account balance (or something simple like that), you could do so more quickly using the automated system.

Companies then got carried away, and it became more difficult to reach a person when you needed one. In fact, for many companies, the option to speak to a person often does not appear until you run through one or more sets of menus. Frustrating!

Customers get so frustrated that by the time the poor customer service representatives answer, the customer takes out all that frustration on the unsuspecting employee.

There are even websites (like Get Human and Dial a Human) to help you navigate those dreaded personless menus and reach a human more quickly. That’s how great our frustration is!

Reaching an actual person, though, is not Chase’s only message.

The two biggest complaints most people have about customer service are that it’s so difficult to reach an actual human and that, often, the person on the other end is in a different country—you have trouble understanding him and he has trouble understanding you.

Notice at the very end of the Chase Sapphire Preferred commercial, you hear a (supposed) Chase representative answering the phone:

Chase Sapphire Preferred, this is Julie, from Springfield…

Am I wrong, or did Chase find a politically correct way to say, “our reps are Americans, too”?

This isn’t a big budget commercial. There’s nothing fancy about it. And one of their biggest messages comes in a tiny little blip at the end that makes a large impact.

Brilliant. Take that, Super Bowl ads!


Thought I’d add this disclaimer: I don’t need all the customer service reps I call to be from this country or to speak perfect English. However, if I need a complex issue fixed or explained, I do get very frustrated when the rep and I can’t understand each other. And I know many other people share that same frustration. Chase seems to realize that too. That’s what I mean by the “Americans” remark.

State of Confusion — State Farm Advertising

What is going on with State Farm? Do they understand brand?

They have a bunch of commercials out, but there seems to be no overall strategy. Okay, I admit, I think they have one, based on their “See the ways State Farm gets you to a better state” tagline. But, does it work?

Other than their tagline, there’s no obvious link to their currently airing commercials. You’d have to know each commercial’s title to even think they’re linked.

State of Chaos

First, and probably most offensive, is their blatant (and poor) ripoff of Allstate’s tight stream of Mayhem commercials. See what you think of State Farm’s State of Chaos.

State of Anonymity

This ad is an example of how you’d need to know the title to catch the link. Plus, it’s also much more different and serious in tone than all the other “State” commercials.

Their YouTube copy under this video gives a great explanation of the thinking behind the ads. Unfortunately, the ads aren’t cohesive enough to give you that same impression.

State Farm's explanation of their theory behind these commercials

There’s also State of Unrest, which has a wife catching her husband talking to their State Farm agent at 3:00 a.m. And State of Confusion may be their silliest yet, showing men walking down the street with odd items (knight’s armor, a falcon) they bought with money they saved from State Farm.

State of Imitation

And finally, there are the relatively new commercials with Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the “discount double-check.” I love Aaron Rodgers, but this one is almost as goofy as the falcon ad.

So now you’ve seen all (well, most) of the evidence. What is your verdict? Smart marketing or complete state of chaos?

Oh yeah, and don’t forget, their Magic Jingle ads are still airing too. People in trouble sing “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there,” and their agent appears, ready to help.

Maybe I’m biased—I do love Allstate’s Mayhem ads. But I just think State Farm’s strategy is all over the place right now. And I don’t think “Get to a better state” is resonating enough because of that.

World of Warcraft, Wipeout and Wit

As Christmas nears, we’re getting lots of gift ideas from commercials. I think ad agencies and brands should get ideas from some of the commercials too. In fact, I have two specific ads in mind.

World of Warcraft

First up is this brilliant commercial for World of Warcraft.

Boy, does this brand know how to target an audience—at least in this commercial. Their Chuck Norris ad was inexplicably dumb…but I digress.

I’m not a gamer, but I am a woman, which I think is why I like this ad so much. The girl in this ad has power, and that’s such an important message to get across to young girls and young women.

And no, I wasn’t offended by the obvious “motherf*cker” she mouths. You can’t hear it, but in the ad I saw on TV (not the above one) you can read her lips and see that’s what she says.

“So…my boyfriend gives me World of Warcraft for my birthday, and I’m like, ‘I said diamonds, motherf*cker.”

As a writer, I love this line because it’s so real. The “I’m like” is natural and so is the use of such a curse word. Plus, it gives us a sense of her personality. She doesn’t back down easily.

Wii Wipeout

The second commercial is for the Nintendo Wii Wipeout game.

Not only does Nintendo spectacularly use fun and humor in this commercial, but they entice you with a $50,000 prize.

I don’t watch Wipeout on TV, but I have seen plenty of clips. I do always wonder what happens to the contestants after—do they end up in the hospital? Do they end up on disability because of the way their body folded backwards when they bounced off a giant ball?

The Wii Wipeout commercial plays around with that notion very well. The former contestant, Joel, is frightened by sudden moves and noises. It’s exaggerated and just flat out funny. Plus, the demonstration of the Wii game itself, makes the game look like fun. If I had a Wii, I would probably buy that game.

And be happy I don’t because I’d try and win the $50,000 too. And I’m one hell of a competitor!

These two commercials are unique, creative, make you laugh and are just plain well done. Agencies and brands should take note. I had no trouble remembering what these ads were for after just one viewing. And I liked them so much I keep telling others about them. Truly the marks of terrific advertising.


The young women in the ad is Aubrey Plaza. I didn’t know who she was when I first saw the ad, but I’d say she is a perfect choice to represent power. Read her bio on Wikipedia and learn about how she had a stroke at age 20. Pretty inspiring.