28 April, 2008

The Unique Selling Proposition of the Restroom

Today, I want to speak to you about your Unique Selling Proposition (USP), that is, what differentiates your product or business from the rest of the marketplace.

Those living in the Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina triangle are probably familiar with the convenience store/gas station chain known as Sheetz. It’s a step up from your 7-11, because it has made-to-order sandwiches, burgers and pretzels, plus ridiculously good prepackaged baked goods, but it’s not quite Wawa, which is local to the smaller Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia triangle.

Anyway, on a recent trip to West Virginia I drove past a Sheetz, and the first thing below the large red and yellow Sheetz sign was not “UNL 87 $3.49,” “Open 24 hours,” “Fresh Food Made to Order,” or even “Major Credit Cards Accepted.” It was one word, “Restrooms.” Restrooms, I thought. This placed has gas, drink, hot food, an ATM, possibly beer and wine, and snacks, and they’re advertising restrooms? Did someone miss the point?

Or did someone get the point all too clearly?

Let’s think. You’re heading to West Virginia for skiing, hunting, camping, etc. You left the plentiful lanes and comforting concrete barriers of I-68 almost an hour ago. Now you’re in an unfamiliar place. You’ve been driving for hours, and you’ll be driving for a couple more. You haven’t even seen a McDonald’s for over an hour. Do you A) need food? Maybe. B) Need gas? Maybe. C) Need a drink? Later. D) Need a bathroom? Absolutely. Now, I’m not sure what the bathroom situation would be like in the Wing Shack (which looks more like a converted body shop) or Sopranos Pizza (“Eat pizza or else”), but I do know civilization faded away an hour ago, and that big red and yellow sign confirms that if we pull in to Sheetz, I know I’ll be able to…rest.

Then you stop to use the bathroom and think, I am kind of hungry. And now I’ll need something to wash that sandwich down. I might as well get gas, so we don’t have to stop again. And let’s pick up a 6-pack in case the liquor store is closed when we get where we’re going. I’m sure it doesn’t work that way for every customer. Many people probably flush and go, but how much does keeping a couple of bathrooms open really cost Sheetz versus how much money they make per flush?

If you’re the first stop on the line or one of the last, will people be thinking they need to buy beer, peanuts and gum? Or will they be thinking it might be a long time before we see another clean bathroom?

And our little agency blog is another example of not knowing exactly what your USP might be. We think we’re pretty smart here at the Ad Agency Confessional. We feel we give out lots of great advice accompanied by unique and entertaining points of view. So why do most people come to our blog?

Poetry and maple syrup.

Yup, what started years ago as a Friday afternoon game at Renegade—the Friday Haiku—has become a staple for our blog and has merited repeat visitors (or offenders, depending on your point of view) and links from several other big bloggers. And a blog in November ’07 about the childhood trauma caused by the incongruity of Mrs. Butterworth’s talking bottle advertising and the far less animated supermarket version garnered our Agency Confessional more than 400 hits over the past month, thanks to countless people asking, “What happened to Mrs. Butterworth?” and of course, Geico. Woulda thunk it?

The lesson learned. Bad poetry. Clean toilets. You never know what your own Unique Selling Proposition might be.

Next week: How Aunt Jemima Saved My Life.

Maybe I'll write a sonnet.

--Captain Awesome, Project Specialist

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25 April, 2008

Friday Ad Haiku: Award Shows

First, some disclosure: a) I've never actually made it to an awards program. I've been to the pre-awards receptions for the free booze, but I always skip out when folks begin filing in to the auditorium because b) I haven't won an award to accept because c) I've never entered anything because d) I'm lazy and/or a hack depending on whom you ask.

But, I've heard the tone and aura of most shows fall somewhere between garish orgies of ego-worship and an elementary school stage production of Caligula. I can't speak to that, but I highly recommend making friends with the bartender at the reception.

Nice trophy, homey.
Got one just like it when our
softball team took 3rd.

Previously in the Friday 5-7-5: The Agency Bathroom

M.M.McDermott, ACD/Copywriter/Hater

Friday Ad Haiku: Award ShowsSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

23 April, 2008

Life In Advertising: RCA Victor vs. Funnel Pitbull

A new feature on this little blog, inspired by the fact that I'm well into my fifth nip of bourbon and looking for a diversion from take-home work. First, backstory: our pit bull is the Faberge egg of all dogs. The docs operated on her legs to repair the tendons she’s torn asunder by being big and stupid and unwieldy like a fat guy stumbling around the bakery on the verge of a diabetic coma. Post surgery, the vet placed her in a funnel collar to keep her from biting her staples out.

Fast forward to Recent: I walk into the foyer, and she’s staring at our revamped Victrola because, you know, dogs like to look at stuff. A Verizon camera phone snapshot later, and here you have it.

First, the original, RCA Victor's timeless piece:

Now, Life in Advertising:

Captured an unintentional recreation of ad on the fly? Shamelessly choreographed one in a sad advertising fanboy stunt? Send them to us @ mmcdermott@getrenegade.com. We'll mail you a packet of authentic dog leg staples!

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19 April, 2008

In Memorium: Copyranter, 2005-2008

"Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising."

Mark Twain

And many an ad blog has been made large by being included in the Copyranter Link Haze. A fond ado to the harshest, wittiest, sonuvabitchiest ad blog author to hit the scene since copy guys first supressed their egos long enough to write anonymously. Jetpacks has already eulogized him with the insight and gusto of a true insider and friend--I won't turn that same screw. I didn't know the guy. I will however share some of my favorite "correspondences", most of which consist of perfunctory dismissals of tips I'd offer. For a young pup such as myself, getting a message back from the big dog was a big deal, and despite how crappy my tips usually were, he'd always write back (usually to tell me how crappy my tips were):
-----Original Message-----
From: mark copyranter [mailto:copyranter@hotmail.com]
Sent: Friday, December 21, 2007 5:06 PM
To: Matt McDermottSubject:
RE: Lawyer Ad et al.
> thanks for the kind words. "urinated upon" is classic. I'll post it either next week, or after the 1st...haven't decided if I'm taking all next week off yet.

-----Original Message-----
From: mark copyranter [mailto:copyranter@hotmail.com]
Sent: Wednesday, January 16, 2008 2:31 PM
To: Matt McDermottSubject:
RE: Another slimy lawyer ad
> \
yeah, I saw that one first time around. but thanks.

-----Original Message-----
From: mark copyranter [mailto:copyranter@hotmail.com]
Sent: Friday, January 11, 2008 10:25 PM
To: Matt McDermottSubject:
RE: Whopper Freakout Spoof

yeah, I saw it thanks Matt.Mark

-----Original Message-----
From: mark copyranter [mailto:copyranter@hotmail.com]
Sent: Tuesday, February 05, 2008 9:12 AM
To: Matt McDermottSubject:
RE: Paulie Freakin' Walnuts...
> yeah I saw it, thanks.

-----Original Message-----
From: mark copyranter [mailto:copyranter@hotmail.com]
Sent: Thursday, March 13, 2008 11:44 AM
To: Matt McDermott
Subject: RE: OK, Tip.
> thanks, but I despise parodies/improv/etc.

So, in your busy schedule, in between deadlines and storyboards and VO sessions and client meetings and awards shows, lift a Guinness--or whatever gets you there--to Mark. Good night, and good luck.

Update: Sike.

In Memorium: Copyranter, 2005-2008SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

18 April, 2008

Friday Ad Haiku: The Agency Men's Room

I'd like to extend a cross-room fist bump (the hep kids are still doing that, right?) to the Cap'n for picking up the slack for me over the last few weeks during my campaign bender into the seedy underworld of funerals, commercial shoots and phone book-sized government marketing proposals. It was like a Hunter S. Thompson vignette, only it made a lot more sense and there were a lot fewer methamphetamines.

Now, the last installment in our (mercifully) short-lived series of facility-inspired posey:

Behind the stall door
my best ad ideas are fueled
by coffee and bran

(click to enlarge at your own risk)

Previously in the Friday 5-7-5: The Agency Kitchen

Friday Ad Haiku: The Agency Men's RoomSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

17 April, 2008

Demotivational Posters

A quick one today. Most people are familiar with motivational posters like these:

But Despair, Inc. specializes in demotivational posters like these:


Captain Awesome, Project Specialist

Editor's note: The Cap'n assures me this post has something to do with advertising. He just hasn't figured out what it is yet.

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15 April, 2008

Mailbag: Why Do You Promote Lameness?

I wanted to follow up on a post made in response to what I wrote about Trucks.

"I agreed with your last post that the first version of the ad was pretty lame. Then, people decided to make their own lame versions. Then, you wrote a blog propping up those lame versions?"--2nd Lt. Anonymous

1) Apparently, we've never met. 2) I actually didn't think the ad was lame at all. I thought it was fun and excitedly enjoyed it for 90 seconds. What it didn't do is make me want to buy chocolate, which is why I felt it was entertaining, but not a successful "advertisement." In contrast, Gorilla not only didn't make me want to buy chocolate, it made me wish I could take back my 90 seconds of life from the person who made it.

But a huge difference between Trucks and Gorilla is that, yes, Trucks is very fun, but Gorilla is unique. Have you ever seen a man dressed in a gorilla suit drumming along to Phil Collin's In the Air Tonight to advertise chocolate? More than two million people wanted to see. And the uniqueness factor is where Trucks falls short. I've seen car commercials. I've seen wacky commercials featuring commercials. Here's a great commercial for the Pontiac G8 based on the 1980s arcade game Spy Hunter.

Kudos to Leo Burnett for creating a spot that will grab the attention of every male age 25-45 (a notoriously difficult-to-reach market) who stepped into an arcade at some point in the 1980s. Burnett also has two more ads for the G8 out right now, a :30 TV spot and a :78 viral. The :30 plays into a similar hot wheels vibe, but just doesn't nail it like the Spy Hunter spot. The viral is supposed to be cool and edgy, but really it's just annoying and nothing I haven't seen before. However, they do go right after BMW. Fellow blogger Matt said he liked the viral. And it has received more than 125,000 views on Youtube since it was posted last month. In the advertising world, taste will always be subjective. In the end, sales will be what matters to both Cadbury and Pontiac.

Oh, and the original Trucks clip posted to Youtube March 29, has now received more than 40,000 hits. The Spy Hunter ad posted a month ago had received more than 60,000 hits. Only time will tell which is the most succesful. Now I'm just waiting for someone to use Q*Bert or Burgertime in spot. I'm looking at you Nestle!

--Captain Awesome

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11 April, 2008

Friday Haiku: The Agency Kitchen

It's the place at the office where we congregate on breaks, where we step away from our cubicles and relax, and where we bask in aromas that make us jealous they are not ours for the taking. No, not the men's room.

I'm talking about the office kitchen. It's the home of four-month old cream cheese, the birthday cake no one at home ate, and the pot someone left an eye-dropper full of coffee in so they wouldn't have to make another.
This week, for your Friday Haiku enjoyment:

The Agency Kitchen

I've killed for popcorn.
Your creamer ate my sandwich.
That fire wasn't me.

--Captain Awesome, Project Specialist

Last Week in the Friday 5-7-5: Marketing Plans

Next Week: The Men's Room

Friday Haiku: The Agency KitchenSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

10 April, 2008

Trucks Follow-Up

Trucks has been on the web for barely a week, and after receiving nearly 30,000 hits (well short of Gorilla’s current 2.2 million) there are already multiple parodies featuring Europe (the band, not the country), The James Bond theme, a BBC news report voiceover, two with tags for British Airways, Bon Jovi, Huey Lewis and the News, one with no audio at all, a Vandals cover of Don't Stop Me Now, and of course, Phil Collins back in his Genesis days. I guess some people out there just can’t enjoy their Cadbury Dairy Milk without the man who replaced Peter Gabriel. Anyway, enjoy.

Livin’ on a Prayer—Bon Jovi (Lower res, but the song totally works.)

Land of Confusion—Genesis (Genesis=Good. Phil Collins=yawn.)

The Power of Love—Huey Lewis and the News (I don’t know why, but this is my favorite. I guess it feels more fun than the rest.)

--Captain Awesome, Project Specialist

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08 April, 2008

From the People Who Brought You A Gorilla Playing the Drums for Chocolate

This is the newest spot for Cadbury from A Glass and a Half Full Productions, the same people who brought you "Balls" and "Gorilla." Now I personally never loved Gorilla. I thought it was unique, but like many people, I watched wondering What the heck is this for? I arrived at the end thinking, A gorrilla playing the drums. I wasted 90 seconds of my life to watch a gorilla hammer out the most overplayed Phil Collins song ever. I don't want to listen to it on the radio, let alone watch some simian with a better sense of rhythm than me bang it out on the skins.

Some attributed a 2007 Cadbury sales increase of 9% over the same period in 2006 to the Gorilla campaign, which also consisted of billboards, ads and events among other executions. However, back in 2006, Cadbury was reeling from bad press due to a recall brought about by salmonella fears. Was Gorilla the reason for their success, or were they just bouncing back from a prior year that had been dragged down by consumer backlash?

Personally, this sort of advertising doesn't work for me. Was this spot more entertaining than Gorilla? Absolutely. It was fun and they actually chose a good song, Queen's Don't Stop Me Now. However, I go back to the same problem I had with Gorilla. In no way does this make me want to buy a Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate bar. Now maybe this is because I wasn't subjected to the entire ad campaign, and hand-dipped in a desire for the sweet nectar that is Cadbury. Or maybe I'm too much of a linear thinker. A+B=Buy Chocolate.

Now I know I always want to do something more creative, cool, slick or funny, to push the client and do something no one's ever seen before. Then coworkers and clients reply, How does this sell Brand X? And when I don't have an answer, the idea ends up on the pile with one of my many post-apocalyptic or "too creepy" ideas.

As advertisers, yes, we need to push our clients. More interesting advertising gets the viewer's attention and makes us excited about our work. However, do you ever get the feeling that some agencies just know how to smooth-talk clients so they'll pay them to do something "different"?

However, if you loved Gorilla or Trucks, I have this creepy, post-apocalyptic ad for a spot you're gonna think is hysterical.

And special thanks to Scampblog, our friends from across the pond, who beat us to the punch on this one.

--Captain Awesome

From the People Who Brought You A Gorilla Playing the Drums for ChocolateSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

04 April, 2008

Friday Haiku: Marketing Plans

You may have the best product in the world, but if you don't have some sort of concept on how to get the product to your market and how to make sure the world sees how brilliant it is, it'll remain on the shelf with such other failed inventions like Nuclear Fusion. (Whatever Princeton, keep flouting your Tokamak*, but until I see one in the back of every Delorean in the country, it's just another one of your other pie in the sky ideas the public never bought into. Will anyone get both of those references? I don't care. I do it for the love, not for the fans.) Anyway, for your reading pleasure

The Friday Haiku: Marketing Plans

We've got a plan to solve everything.
Listen to us and your product will sing.
The people will buy.
You won't even have to try.
Wait, this was a limerick. Good thing I'm not in marketing.

Previously in the Friday 5-7-5: Bumper Stickers

--Captain Awesome, Project Specialist
*The Ad Agency Confessional does not consider Wikipedia to be reputable reference source, however, we still do consider it to be pretty awesome.

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02 April, 2008

Missed Opportunities

We are crazy busy today at the Renegade, but here's a quick one a friend sent me. For some reason it's in the style of a motivational poster, but it makes me wonder:

How did this cross-promotion never happen!

Oh well, I guess Arby's will just have to wait until the 600 comes out.

-Captain Awesome, Project Specialist

Missed OpportunitiesSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Sonic, Why Dost Thou Torture Me?

Okay, I found something new to hate—Sonic, you know the Oklahoma-based fast-food chain know as “America’s Drive-In,” home to hand-made onion rings and a variety of fresh fruit limeades. Why do I loathe this fast food chain with simple, humorous marketing and 168,894 potential drink combinations? Well, despite frequently observing commercials for their “Happy Hour” or Java Chillers, I can’t actually sample any of their delectable burgers or refreshing “Famous Slushes,” because, according to Mapquest, the nearest Sonic to my house in Baltimore, Md, is 90.23 miles away—in LANCASTER, PA.

(I should note that although I am a fan of Mapquest and use it all the time, they actually take no responsibility for the inaccuracy of any of their maps. So a Sonic could actually be around the corner and I might not even know it, like the Arby’s that’s been around the corner from my office for who knows how long. But check out the fine print at the bottom of the page I used to locate my "neighborhood" Sonic.)

So why in the blue blazes am I being advertised to by a fast food chain that it would take me longer to drive back and forth to than to make a 12 pound ham! (According to the fine people at Smithfield, a spiral cut glazed ham should be cooked for approximately 15 minutes per pound.) (Also, 12 pound hams are not available at Sonic…America’s Drive-In.)

This brings me back to a Baltimore car dealership we consulted with last year. They were spending a million dollars a year in broadcast advertising, hitting people more than 70 miles away, while people in their own neighborhood didn’t even know they were there.

Now, maybe this works in rural areas where new car dealerships might be few and far between, but in a major Metropolitan area where the nearest car dealership is probably only 10 minutes from your home, the only way you’d get me to drive 70 miles to go car shopping is if you were giving away a free car with my car. The same way I’m not gonna drive an hour to get fast food no matter how much cheese, chili or crispy bacon I can put on my SuperSONIC® Double Meat, Double Cheese SONIC® Burger…with bacon…and chili. Did I say cheese already?

Now I often talk about knowing who you’re advertising to, but it’s also important to think about where you’re advertising.

Media Buying: Broadcast vs. Cable Cross-Channel.

Broadcast works. You know an audience is there. Even at 4 a.m. in the morning, SOMEONE is watching a rerun of CSI: Miami, or Beneath the Planet of the Apes on the CW. But broadcast advertising is expensive, and you pay a lot of money to cast a very wide net. If you’re a big company, say Kraft Foods Inc., makers of delicious Country Time Lemonade, you’re advertising to a large market, and you can afford an expensive media buy. But say you’re a neighborhood lemonade stand, rubbing your nickels together to produce the finest fresh-squeezed lemonade on all of Maplewood Dr. Now you could spend thousands to drop your flyers on all of sunny Pleasantville, New Jersey. Or you COULD print a few dozen and leave them on your neighbors’ front steps, because they are the only people who are going to bother to stop by your lemonade stand…right now. (I’ve seen your business model, and in 20 years, you’ll be giving those Kraft goons what for.)

Broadcasting advertising is effective, and when you begin to grow beyond your local footprint, you’ll need broadcast to get your message further. But at times, broadcast can be like throwing an enormous net into water where fish just aren’t that hungry. Cross-channel advertising may not necessarily have such a wide net, but it does have tasty little hooks you can specifically aim at the fish much closer to your boat—and a lot of those hooks (that’s a metaphor for frequency, meaning you get more actual commercials for your dollar than with broadcast).

When you think about where you’re going to advertise, think about 1) your budget, and 2) where is your audience. Do you need to spend millions of dollars on your media buy, shooting for the far corners of the state? Or could you save a lot of money, taking closer aim at the people in your county, city or town.

I think my message here is pretty clear. Sonic, please send my free SuperSonic® Cheeseburger with hot chili and crispy bacon to:

co: Captain Awesome
10950 Gilroy Rd. Suite J
Hunt Valley, MD 21031

And thank you.

-Captain Awesome, Project Specialist

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