30 March, 2011

Apparently Our Customers Like Our "Crappy" Commercials--Yours, 5-Hour Energy

There’s no shortage of tired people in America. According to Science Daily, the average person drinks about three cups of coffee on weekdays, with little difference between teenagers and seniors. Along with coffee, something else many Americans can't get enough of is convenience. So in 2004, Living Essentials seized this opportunity to deliver both caffeine and convenience and create an entirely new market segment, with 5-hour ENERGY.

The product itself is two ounces and comes in five flavors, with no sugar, four calories, B-Vitamins, and an energy blend that does include caffeine (ConsumerLabs.com found the amount to be 207 mg or about 2 cups of generic coffee). There are Extra Strength and Decaf versions too. This is actually Living Essentials second product as they released Chaser Plus, a homeopathic hangover remedy, in 2000.

Now many people, including myself, find the commercials are hokey and annoying, which 5-hour ENERGY even calls attention to on their website. However, straight- forward messaging that consumers can understand is the stated goal of the commercials, and must resonate with those seeking a convenient and purportedly "healthy" pick-me-up. According to the commercials, over seven million units are sold every week. And 5-hour ENERGY shined in 2009, as they controlled about 70% of the energy shot market, had more than $300 million in sales, and were listed as one of “America’s Hottest Brands” by Ad Age. I did make a trial purchase out of curiosity with unsatisfying results. Unfortunately, I don’t remember if I saw the commercial prior to the purchase or if I bought it solely because of the name.

Most of the commercials feature working adults in various settings, often featuring women, as the company believes they are under-served in the energy market. The approach is vastly different than other energy drink campaigns, which often feature action shots or hip lifestyles for their younger demographic.

While this type of advertising has been uber-successful for energy drinks such as Red Bull and Monster, you can’t take away anything from Living Essentials’ success. The company understands their consumers and, even with low-production value commercials, they get the message across clearly and (if sales numbers are any indication) effectively. Their theory is that consumers shouldn’t watch a commercial and be totally lost as to what the underlying message of it is. The clearer, and in this case cheesier, the message, the better chance you have at reaching your audience.

If you have doubts about this type of advertising, just look at local personal injury attorney commercials. Their commercials may look cheap, but I've been watching some of these guys on TV for a decade or more. Need further proof? Then how about one of the most successful multinational corporations of the last 150 years: Proctor & Gamble. Secret Deodorant has been around since 1956. Carl Sperber, creative director of Living Essentials, formatted the commercials around P&G's old-fashioned advertising. Even as technology changes the advertising landscape at blazing speeds, apparently what worked 60 years ago can still be effective today.

Advertisers may look at 5-hour ENERGY commercials and be unimpressed by their lack of computer graphics or expensive talent, but the average consumer obviously isn't. Personally, I still want to see something that "looks good" on screen, but there's a valuable lesson to be learned here. Sometimes, simple, cheap and direct wins the race. It also probably helps to win races when you're loaded up on enough caffeine to explode a rhinoceros heart. So, there's that too.

--Stephen Telljohann, Relatively Chilled-Out Intern...Seriously

Last Heard from in the Intern Sweatshop: The Rise and Fail of Advertising

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29 March, 2011

Visigoths Hate Nerds Too

Kudos to Capital One (and their agency DDB Chicago I'm pretty sure) for revisiting the NCAA adaptation of their “Pillagers” Campaign, following last year’s “Ivan Brothers” commercials and Web shorts. There’s a good chance you’ve seen the “Visigoth Sports Net” spots, but you’ve probably only come across their Web content while streaming games this past March. Here’s a taste:

The humor is right up there with so many of ESPN’s classic SportsCenter spots. Of course they’re silly, but the campaign also completely plays up the attitudes and often misplaced intensity we get from sports highlights shows. And any basketball or SportsCenter fan would be totally in on the joke. In my opinion, these short doses are the perfect amount, palatable, but never so long that they become tiresome. (Something I realized after trying to watch 22 minutes of it on The Onion Sportsdome. That’s why SportsCenter has the actual sports. So you don’t realize just how ridiculous some of it all is. And believe me, I love SportsCenter.)

But the other reason I wanted to call out this campaign was to appease the part of my brain that can’t help but recognize actors I have no business whatsoever remembering. So maybe that part of your brain took a double-take at the bearded Visigoth behind the desk. And rightly so, because that weasel pelt pelt clad barbarian is none other than Donald Gibb. Yes, he was in Hancock, Bloodsport and had a recurring role on Step by Step, but you’d probably recall him most from this role:

He’s actually appeared in several “Pillager” spots, for which I’ve delighted in picking him out more with each one. So if you were wondering whatever happened to Ogre (as I’m sure almost one of you probably has), now you know.

Now I don’t think these specific spots will make people switch to Capital One, but they aren’t trying to. However, I do think this is a smart tie-in that will help more people recognize the Pillager/What’s In Your Wallet Capital One branding. And after a couple years I still enjoy this campaign on the whole, something that is becoming more and more difficult for companies to do (re: Coors Light Press Conference, e-Trade Baby).

And finally, apologies to any fellow nerds I gave flashbacks to. I hope we’ve all grown to accept our lot in lives: We’re the poorly adjusted, smartish people who make other people lots of money…and steal office supplies.

–George C. Convery, Copywriter

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23 March, 2011

Intern Sweatshop: The Rise and Fail of Advertising

Have you seen the Volkswagen commercial with the Darth Vader kid? What about the Doritos commercials with the pug bursting down the door? Companies are constantly pumping out new commercials aiming to boost the popularity of their brand/product but are they truly working? Are you becoming more annoyed instead of more interested with seeing the same commercials over and over? Do you think you’ll remember the Beiber vs. Ozzy Best Buy commercial six months down the road? The main question we have to ask ourselves is: Do commercials these days have any depth?

Within the context of advertising, depth applies to ads that make the viewer think past what the ad is straight-forwardly about and look deeper as to what's going on.

Brands seem to be adhering to the "next big thing” concept with their ads; so much so as I want to label these kind of spots as “pop commercials.” These are the commercials that have been pumped out with the main purpose being to generate a shock value or to be the Diddy of advertising. Companies want their spots to be the talk of the town for a day, a week, or a month…Cough Rebecca Black Cough. But sometimes that doesn’t happen because they lack depth. Commercials that have some depth to them will be the ones you will always remember, the ones you save on your YouTube account or the ones you and all your friends talk about.

A great example of a running pop commercial campaign would be the E*Trade baby. The first couple commercials we thought were great and everyone enjoyed watching them. They were commercials about stocks, but we all watched them for the shock value of that talking baby. The ones that I could watch over and over are the one where one baby sings “Broken Wings” while the other baby talks or the two that where about using the iPad and a Smartphone while he is in “solitary confinement.”

After a while, you gotta stop and ask yourself: how many times will this be funny?

I will watch new E*Trade baby commercials just to see what they do next, but if it isn’t the ones I love, I usually end up changing the channel because I’ve already seen it and It was only funny the first 2 times (if that).

Let’s talk about a commercial with some depth now. Old Spice commercials are by far my favorite spots to watch. They are the type of commercials that make you ask yourself, “What the hell did I just watch?” I have seen all of them and I think they are all genius. Old spice commercials make no sense and yet they still deliver the message of their brand and what they're promoting. Every time Old Spice puts out a commercial I feel like I am taking an adventure to Narnia. They are usually funny, so of course I want to share them with my friends or save them on my YouTube account so I will have quick access to them. These commercials are all over the place, making you want to watch them again and again because you weren’t exactly sure what you just watched the first time around; that shows you that the commercial did its job, it grabbed your attention and got you thinking about it well after it’s over.

A campaign that lives in the realm of between pop and depth are Corona ads. Corona commercials are simple and don’t have a lot going on. It’s usually two people on a beach looking at the ocean and then something comical happens; for instance A guy looks at a bunch of hot girl in bikinis playing in the water and then he ends up squirting his lime in his own face because he knows his wife was planning on doing it to him for looking. The most recent one involves two girls sitting on the beach and a bunch of footballs are thrown in front of them. This isn’t hilarious but I chuckled a little because it was still comical and a new twist on the formula. They haven’t changed the formula too much which means that it has been somewhat successful for them. Either way, I know that I will watch a new one at least once.

With companies trying to gain the attention of the people, they seem to be firing out advertisements that are for shock value the majority of the time. They want to be the “Rebecca Black” of the advertising world. Right now, she is everywhere but in a month or two (I’m hoping) everyone will have forgotten about her and her horrible, horrible song.

However, given brands track records, they’ll probably replace her with someone new and even more annoying thus furthering the never ending cycle of pop ads that fit so nicely into this disposable economy.

Last time on the Intern Sweatshop, Fired-Up Over Social Media.

Josh Pelc, Account Executive Intern/A Man Alone With His Thoughts….And A Smartphone #WINNING

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14 March, 2011

Intern Sweatshop: Fired- Up Over Social Media

Everything that you do promotes the brand “You” whether or not that you are aware of it.

How you dress, the language you use, the ways in which you behave online and the things you post on social media sites all play a part in this self-branding. People today are very quick to post their most intimate feelings, rants, and gripes on Facebook and Twitter.

To me it is just common sense that you shouldn’t put everything out there, because it then becomes available for anyone to read. This of course includes employers.

You’ve probably heard some kind of story of this sort by now: Employee posts something on their Facebook page complaining about their boss or company, and then they get fired. Not the smartest thing to do, right? This issue remains up for debate after a recent federal court case.

Recently, Dawnmarie Souza, who worked at a Connecticut ambulance company, believed she was let go due to her critical comments about her boss that she posted on Facebook. Although, American Medical Response of Connecticut, Inc., claimed they fired her because of grievances about work.

She should have been more aware of how she is perceived via her Facebook page, and familiar with who was reading her posts. Employers might actually need to teach social media awareness because of the ever-fading line of our personal and professional lives.

Feeling she was unjustly fired, Souza contacted the National Labor Relations Board who filed a lawsuit her on the grounds that her comments were protected speech under federal labor laws.

When the dust settled and the unsavory Facebook updates surfaced, the matter was settled for an undisclosed amount. The Connecticut Company’s Internet and blogging policy restricted its workers from making comments about their managers or work, which was changed under the settlement with the labor board.

This case is poised to test new grounds in labor laws and companies setting legal limits on their employee’s social media usage. What exactly should be allowed? How far can free speech protect?

Freedom is speech is a powerful tool, but it can’t save you from everything.

Employers now check social media sites before hiring any employees. People judge others all of the time and a good way to get judged is to have obscene drunk pphotos, complaints, and uncouth comments on your social media site. A person could be a great employee, but still have terrible social media content. People need to get educated about social media usage.

Since this is still such a grey area, I think employers should get their staff to sign a code of conduct, instead of trying to restrict actual postings on social media sites. This case doesn’t give free-reign to writing whatever you wish on social media sites, because there can still be consequences.

If you’re not trying to get fired or go to court over your posts, then you better play it safe and stay away from referring to your boss as “Mr. Myfacesucks” unless that’s his name of course.

The bottom line is millions of people use Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. There aren’t strict laws yet about what content is allowed on these sites about our places of employment, but this is a step in that direction.

Awareness about how you are perceived is something that is very important to examine in the workplace. Get educated about social media usage, and use some common sense.

Last time at the Intern Sweatshop, Josh Just Checked In At...

Rob Devereux, Account Services Intern/Avoiding Getting Trumped

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10 March, 2011

Our Viral Blog Post

I'm going to keep this short and sweet.

Viral videos are a force of Internet nature that you can rarely predict or promise. So when a brand or a company thinks they're being cute or quirky and release a video featuring ingredients commonly found in other REAL viral video, it grinds my gears.

Brands, just because you hire the guy that lip syncs pop songs, feature a "double rainbow" or have a former Friends cast member kick a random dude in the groin, doesn't mean that it's a viral video.

Why don't you let your target audience or consumers determine if it's worth the viral treatment before sending out an e-blast entitled Check out our COOL, VIRAL Video?

We've been hit hard with these this week, the Smartwater one I referenced above, and just yesterday I was sent one from Arby's.

In case you're looking for some key takeaways here, I want to point out two common sense issues at play here:

1. A video you place on the web is not called a "viral video" but a "Web video." If it happens to get 600,000 hits in a day or so then yes, by all means, put on the viral crown and do yourself a dance; you have a viral video.

But in every and all situations where this doesn't happen, you have a "Web video" which is just as cool in it's own right, don't knock it.

2. There are reasons why certain videos go viral. They may contain weird, astounding, entertaining, educational, or any other adjective really. You can't bottle it, you can't coach it, it just happens.


A company releasing what they believe to be a "viral video" is proving to me that they really don't get the concept of what a "viral video" truly is.

And, in the case of the Smartwater ad, if you go down a check list and throw content into a spot because it appears in another viral spot, that's not funny, that's pandering!

If a spot is truly viral, it will go viral but don't cheapen the movement by forcing a brand sponsored spot into the world and calling it "viral" just because it has those goats that lose control of their body when freightened.

Speaking of which, have you seen that viral video? Classic.

Also, if your video is about Meningitis, HIV or Influenza, then yes, technically you do have a viral video...

Sean Sutherland, Associate Account Executive/Viral Watchdog

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07 March, 2011

Billboard Campaign Helps Catch Criminal At Large for Over a Decade

My fiancee and I noticed this billboard on I-95, on the east side of Baltimore this past President's Day. So she hopped on the website, eastcoastrapist.com, the moment we got home and visited the site several times over the next few days. This billboard was one of many posted from Connecticut to Virginia, targeting the criminal who'd been dubbed "The East Coast Rapist," and the site had received more than 71,000 hits by Friday night. Well, mission accomplished. Because according to this article (and subsequent follow-up articles) I read on The Sun this past Saturday morning, the suspect, Aaron Thomas, who had been at large for more than a decade, was arrested in less than a week.

How'd they do it? Simply. Law enforcement officials combined a very wide billboard campaign with an informative, but simple website and apprehended a criminal they'd be trying to catch since the 90s. Now granted, this was one particular case that involved an incredibly heinous series of crimes, so people would have a much stronger compulsion to give any information they might have, compared to a campaign for say Arby's or Canada Dry. But the combination of coverage, simplicity and timing yielded exactly what they were looking for--an arrest. Which makes me think you're going to see a lot more of this tactic in years come.

So quickly, why should advertisers be paying attention? (After all, that is what this blog is about.) In this day of digital media and integrated campaigns the multi-tiered approach is by far the most effective way to reach almost any target audience. But most importantly, you need to deliver one simple message, and if possible a message that reaches your audience on a deeper level. Again, "Made with real ginger" and "Big Beef 'N Cheddar" probably aren't going to evoke an emotional response from people (okay, most people, because as you well know the BBNC is awesome), but you can neatly and effectively use outdoor and print to drive your audience to the Web, where you have much more real estate. And being that the consumer has already taken the time to go to your Web site, they're obviously willing to spend a little more time with your product. So that's where you give them the stronger sell. But still don't fall into the trap of making the enormous "Why You Should Buy Our Crap" list. Keep your copy straight-forward, simple and palatable to reader.

And finally, timing. This was an investigation that had been going on since Friends was still on TV. I'm assuming investigators weren't sitting around one day when one said, Hey what about billboards and a Web site? There was a well thought-out strategy behind this, and the result speaks for itself. Any campaign you're going to invest your money in should have an intelligent strategy behind it as well. Otherwise, you're just blindly throwing money at a problem simply because you'd already bought the ad space.

But back to what's most important. Congratulations to the fine people at the FBI. I know many, many people, my fiancee included, will sleep better at night.

--George C. Convery, Copywriter

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02 March, 2011

Intern Sweatshop: Josh Just Checked-in at...

My friend told me a story the other day of why he deleted his Foursquare from his iPhone and decided he would never use it again. His story made me rethink my own usage of one of the more fun social network games out there and look at the larger issue at play.

My friend had innocently checked in at about a dozen or so places as he had a bunch of stuff to do that day and wanted to see if he could grab any coveted mayoralships. Everything was going fine until he checked-in at lunch for a business meeting and on Foursquare.

Before he finished his meal, about thirty minutes after he checked-in, someone showed up at the restaurant JUST to ask him a question. Confused and slightly worried, he asked, “How did you know I was here?”

The person shrugged and responded with “I checked your Foursquare.” Creepy!

It seems this person was following my friend around all day by using Foursquare to track him down. This person was always one step behind my friend and had driven to each spot my friend checked-in at in hopes of tracking him down and asking him this million dollar question. Super Creepy!

Worse yet, this person had his number and didn’t even try calling him first. At least in Scream the killer would call before he killed you. Was it really that important that you had to stalk him instead of calling him?!?!

This whole ordeal begs the question, is where you are really the smartest thing to advertise on your social networking sites?

We share ourselves all over the Internet with Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, and all the other social media outlets that are at our disposal and now we have a couple outlets that let people know where we are at all times; the two top outlets being Facebook Places and Foursquare. These applications were explicitly created to allow you to tell your friends where you are, at what time, and who you’re with.

You can check in at bars, restaurants, department stores, highways, etc (Yes, I said highways). With these outlets people can even create check-ins for their homes with their address on it.

Personally, I do not want someone knowing where I live or when I am not at home. I feel like this could lead to some serious stalking or burglary. With these apps you are telling someone “This is where I live and I am not home. So if you want to rob me, go for it.”Or “I am here and I may be here for the next couple hours.”

Ironically, Please Rob Me exists to do just that.

This site was created as a campaign to bring this serious issue and threat to everyone’s attention. They have done a great job spreading awareness of how serious this issue is. But will people really heed their warning? Does the thrill of the hunt of badges and the prospect of gaining 10% off at a yogurt stand through a mayoral incentive outweigh the possible risks?

I used to check-in a lot; to gain “badges”, “mayorship” and the coupons you get with being “the mayor of OMG THIS IS MY FAVORITE BAR” but after hearing this story I’ve definitely made the conscious decision to cut back on my check-ins. I think my safety is more important than digital badges and free food.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe Facebook Places and Foursquare are great ways to expand social media but the people using these new outlets need to be educated more on the dangers that come with using these outlets.

So who is responsible?

Is it the responsibility of these companies to teach users how to use these outlets properly? Should parents, who have no knowledge or understanding of these social networking sites, be the ones to teach their kids? Or should the responsibility fall solely on the person crazy enough to post private information for the world to see?
Some things are private for a reason but if you put your life all over the Internet be prepared to deal with the consequences.

On a related note, these so-called “badges” hold no real value but my shiny Charizard Pokemon card is worth more than all these “badges” combined.

Josh Pelc Account Executive Intern/ Not Justin Beiber (so please stop following me everywhere I go!!!)

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