Monday, February 28, 2011

Alli Talks About Weight Loss Differently

The other day, I was reading one of my favorite magazines when I flipped the page and the above ad jumped out at me. 
Now, it's time for true confessions. I love ice cream. I mean I truly love ice cream. It is one of my greatest weaknesses. So, when I read that one pint of ice cream equates to 2,500 steps, I started to feel a bit sick to my stomach.  I wondered, "Just how many steps do I have to take anyway?"

So, I read on.

The next sentence told me that if I substituted my favorite ice cream with frozen yogurt, I could cut 48 grams of fat per pint!  I thought, "Now we're talking. I think I can do that."

Then the hook. "And if you take alli with your meal you can cut even more. Because alli was designed to block 25% of the fat you eat so your healthy decisions can be even healthier."

I have to admit ... I didn't see that one coming at all. 
So, just what is alli anyway? Is it a weight loss supplement? I concluded that it must be because the ad went on to say that "for every two pounds you work to lose, alli can help you lose one more."

What an interesting and totally disarming way to broach the topic of weight loss. Talk about changing the category conversation. Even their tagline of "how healthy works" forces the consumer to think of this weight loss supplement as the healthy and right thing to do for your body.

While alli certainly deserves high marks for talking to consumers in a positive way about weight loss, unfortunately, it's not enough to get me to buy it. You see, I have a cousin that will be on oxygen for the rest of her life because she took ephedra as a weight loss supplement ... back when the makers of ephedra thought it, too, was a healthy way to lose weight.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Voices of Unborn Children Are Silenced

According to, approximately 60% of black pregnancies in New York City end in abortion. That stacks up to 40,798 abortions each year compared to 27,405 live births.

Increasingly unhappy with these statistics, a nonprofit Pro-Life group called Life Always decided to be the voices of these unborn children. They placed a large sign on the side of a three-story building in the SoHo district of New York City.

This ad was strategically placed close to Planned Parenthood who are advocates of the right to choose abortion over life, performing numerous abortions each year at that site. To add fuel to the fire, Life Always unveiled this advertising during Black History month. Its message?

"The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb."

Wow. Whether you are pro-life or pro-rights, you have to agree that is one powerful message.

Not surprisingly, the message on this building created quite a stir in New York. From the moment it went up, a battle erupted between pro-rights and pro-life supporters.

But, round one goes to the pro-rights advocates who succeeded in getting the ad taken down after only one day.

The owners of the building claim they removed the ad because of the negative effect it was having on people living and working in the area. Allegations of the wait staff at a nearby restaurant being harassed contributed to their decision.  Additionally, civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton had planned a protest for the following day claiming, "The billboard was offensive, especially during Black History Month."

With protests in my own state capital of Madison, Wisconsin regarding Governor Scott Walker's efforts to eliminate collective bargaining rights for many state workers, I must admit that it's nice to see the spotlight shifting towards New York for a change.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Tied for #1: Dog Sitter Throws Bud Light Party

Tied for the #1 spot in the USA Today Super Bowl poll is the Dog Sitter Bud Light spot.

The spot opens with last minute instructions being given to the dog sitter. "They're really smart. They'll do whatever you tell them." Then, almost as an afterthought, "Oh and there's a ton of Bud Light in the fridge."

Of course, that leads us to the inevitable.

Fast forward to a hopping party where dogs are doing whatever the dog sitter tells them to do ... because they are really smart dogs, remember? Spinning records. Tapping beer. Carrying a tray of beers around the party.

Talented dogs. Plenty of Bud Light. A party in the making. What's not to like?

Sue's Grade: A
Cute. Simple. Effective. 
Enough said.

Tied For #1: Pug Goes For Doritos

Tied for the #1 spot in the USA Today Super Bowl poll is the Doritos spot with the cute pug dog.

This was the first Super Bowl ad I remember seeing, so it was strangely quiet as everyone's Super Bowl Advertising Antenna went up. You didn't need much sound to follow the sequence of this ad.

Man taunts dog with Doritos.
Dog charges man with Doritos.
Dog knocks down door and man.
Dog snatches Doritos.

Case closed.

Sue's Grade: A
This was a good start to the Super Bowl. Little did I know at that time that few ads would be as entertaining as this one. Easy-to-follow and get: don't taunt someone with Doritos unless you are prepared for them to take them.

#3: Pint-Sized Darth Vader Uses Force on VW

Capturing the #3 spot in the USA Today Super Bowl poll is Volkswagen's Darth Vader spot.

Any commercial that starts with Star Wars music can't be all that bad. And this one doesn't disappoint.

Enter Darth Vader. The black-clothed arch-nemesis of the Jedi Knights and father to none other than Luke Skywalker. He carries the force with him as he hurriedly moves down the hall, black cape flying behind him.

He turns the corner and enters ... what? An exercise room in a house? And another surprise awaits ... he's not THE Darth Vader. This is some pint-sized Darth Vader wannabe.

He attempts to use the force on the exercise bike. On his dog. On the dryer. On a doll. On a sandwich his mom prepared. But, he has no power. The force is not within him.

He dejectedly holds his head in his hands. Then, his dog barks and he realizes that his dad has just driven in the driveway. He runs outside where dad expects a hug, but his son runs to the car instead. One last time, he tries the force on the car.

Watching from the kitchen window, dad uses his automatic engine starter to rev the car. The boy turns, shocked and in awe of his talents. At last, he has found the force within him and it worked!

Copy: "The all-new 2010 Passat. Coming soon. Starting around $20,000."

Sue's Grade: A-
This was one of my favorite Super Bowl ads. It was suspenseful, pulling you through the ad, frame by frame. It didn't hit people in the head, have dogs charging men, or bring floating goldfish back to life. It was humorous, entertaining, and interesting. The only reason for an A- is that it didn't register the brand name as well as it could have.

#4: Doritos Rise From The Ashes

Capturing the #4 spot in the USA Today Super Bowl poll is Doritos "Grandpa Rises from the Ashes" spot.

The commercial opens with a man giving last minute details to his buddy as he backs out the door, "Hey dude, feed the fish, water the plant. I'll see you next Thursday."

Of course, his housesitter is immersed in a TV show while munching away at his Doritos, barely registering the instructions he just received.

But at some point, his buddy's words float into his brain and a look of anguish descends upon him. Oh-oh.  He runs to the fish bowl only to see the dead fish laying on the bottom of the bowl. He crunches up Doritos and desperately feeds them to the fish. What? Is this possible? The fish has come back to life!

This is followed in rapid succession by feeding the dead plant Doritos and then rapidly cleaning up the remnants of Doritos that are scattered around the apartment. Just when he is looking smug and happy with himself, his elbow hits an urn on the mantle. It comes crashing down and deposits ashes - well, grandpa's ashes to be exact - all over the floor. Oh-oh.

Flash forward. His buddy comes home, opens the door, and with a shocked look on his face, utters, "Grandpa?" The spot ends with him hugging his grandpa, to a tearful commentary of, "Grandpa, I missed you." 

Sue's Grade: B-
Like all the Doritos spots, this one has its witty and charming moments. But, the enormity of the message is somewhat lost on me. Eating a handful of Doritos brings you back from the dead? I know, I know, I shouldn't be so literal. Okay, Doritos adds a little life to your life. I guess I buy that. 

But, rarely buy Doritos.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

#5: Pepsi Max Is Turned Into A Weapon

Capturing the #5 spot in the USA Today Super Bowl poll is the second of the Pepsi Max Spots, Love Is In The Air.

In this ad, Pepsi Max offers a rather in-your-face view of a wife encouraging her man to eat right. It starts with her kicking him under the restaurant table, encouraging him to order a fruit cup. As he's getting ready to dig into a cream pie, she walks by and thrusts his face right smack into the cream. Caught red-handed sneaking some junk food while hiding out in the bathtub, she replaces his gooey burger (which is already in his mouth) with a bar of soap.

In the last scene, he is sitting on a park bench opening a can of Pepsi Max when his wife sidles up alongside him. Instead of taking it from him - as she has with all the other food he's tried to eat - she cracks open her own can of Pepsi Max, smiles, and takes a deep swallow. As he sits there in disbelief, she says, "Pepsi Max. Zero Calories."

Just then, an attractive young lady jogs up and sits down on the bench right next to theirs. She gives the husband a quick once-over, offering him a cute wave and a coy little smile. He unabashedly stares back at her with appreciation. Taking in the scene, his wife throws the can of Pepsi Max at his head, only to have him duck, squarely hitting the jogger in the head. She crumbles to the ground, clearly hurt by the can.

They grab each other's hands and run from the scene of the crime.

Sue's Grade: B-
I thought this was a mildly amusing ad; however, I must admit that the violence did not sit well with me. While the point of Pepsi Max being a dieter's dream - no calories, no sacrifice - came through loudly, I kept wincing as the wife so resoundingly abused her husband time after time. 

Plus, I must ask the obvious: is it smart for Pepsi to turn the Pepsi Max can into a weapon?

Friday, February 11, 2011

#6: CareerBuilder Monkeys Around

Capturing the #6 spot in the USA Today Super Bowl poll is CareerBuilder's mischievous chimp spot.

If you were a fan of the CareerBuilder monkeys during the 2005 and 2006 Super Bowls, you are in for a treat as the monkeys come back to reek havoc on the poor "human" office worker. This time, they pin him into his car by parking uncomfortably close, proving that he works with a bunch of monkeys.

Interestingly, CareerBuilder did not seek the assistance of Cramer-Krasselt, who was the agency that created the original monkey ads. Rather, they created these ads inhouse, using the same look, feel, and  actor that C-K used when the initial spot debuted. That ploy earned a 'raised eyebrow' from this planner.

In conjunction with this campaign, CareerBuilder is also resurrecting Monk-e-mail, which previously racked up 160 million viral messages, earning the status of being one of the most buzzed campaigns of all time.

I'm sure Cramer-Krasselt has some satisfaction in knowing that the monkeys were a good idea all along. After being forced to switch gears and air a different ad - Wild Jungle - during the 2007 Super Bowl, CareerBuilder and Cramer-Krasselt parted ways when the ad fell short of the USA Today Top 10 Super Bowl list.

While I was amused with this spot, immediately drawing the parallel back to earlier advertising, I discovered something interesting in the advertising class I teach at Marquette University. Only 2 of the 50 students recalled the original spots. So, not suprisingly, this ad left them a little mystified as to what was going on. 

College students are an important emerging target for CareerBuilder. My concern is that if they are not linking the ad to the original concept of "feeling like you're working with a bunch of monkeys," then the ad doesn't deliver its message.

Instead, it's just a bunch of cute, mischievous monkeys clowning around in a parking lot.

Sue's Grade: B-

#7: Pepsi Max Takes You Inside a First Date

As an official sponsor of the NFL, we saw a lot of Pepsi Max last Sunday. In fact, they earned two of the top 10 spots in the USA Today Super Bowl poll. Capturing #7 was the first date ad.

The spot opens with a young lady and young man eating dinner in a restaurant. You can feel the tension as they nervously glance back and forth at each other. You wonder - is this a first date? Perhaps.

Soon, you become privy to their thoughts.

The young woman's mind is filled with a myriad of thoughts, "I wonder how much money he makes?" "I wonder if he loves his mother?" "I wonder if he'll lose his hair?" "I wonder if he wants kids?" "I wonder if he's the one?" Her animated face changes with each question, making you wonder what the young man is thinking as he looks at her rather poetic face.

But, alas, we don't have to wonder for long because soon we enter into the single-dimensioned mind of the male: "I want to sleep with her. I want to sleep with her. I want to sleep with her. I want to sleep with her."

In the middle of his tirade, the waiter delivers a can of Pepsi Max to the young lady.

The young man's mantra is immediately altered to "I want a Pepsi Max. I want a Pepsi Max. I want a Pepsi Max."

The woman ESPs a simple three-word thought over to this young guy, "Not a chance!"

His reply?

"Damn," followed quickly by, "Wait, which one?"

Super: Pepsi Max. Zero Calories. Maximum Pepsi Taste.

Sue's Grade: B+
- Cute and comical.
- Amazingly on-tack: single-minded male versus multitasking female.
- Great job on hiring the talent - both have really expressive faces.
- Since the dialogue was so important to the spot, I found that I missed the point of the ad on Super Bowl Sunday when there was a lot of commotion and noise. It wasn't until I watched it on YouTube the following day that I understood and appreciated the spot!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

#8: NFL Fans Are Everywhere

Capturing the #8 spot in the USA Today Super Bowl poll is NFL's spot for ... well, themselves.

The spot opens to an incredibly young Ron Howard talking to the Fonz. Fonz is sporting green and gold, standing by looking chill like he so often did in that 1970s TV show, Happy Days, set in none other than Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Interestingly, the TV is on in the background talking about Super Bowl XLV, not the Super Bowl that would have occurred at the time this episode of Happy Days aired on TV.

The commercial moves on to show that NFL fans are everywhere ... on Seinfeld, The Office, Cheers, The Golden Girls, Starsky & Hutch, The Muppets, The Brady Bunch, Alf, Glee, Modern Family, The Simpson's, and others. All the characters in these famous and once-famous TV shows are wearing their favorite NFL team's gear.

The Fonz appropriately ends the spot with, "A beautiful day for anything and everything." A nice segue to all the dreams that will be realized (and dashed) on Super Bowl Sunday.

The super appears: Best. Fans. Ever.

Sue's Grade: A
- Simple and easy-to-understand concept
- Good attention-getter, as you try to link each vignette to its TV show
- Nice brand linkage back to the NFL since everyone is sporting NFL gear
- Nice tie of the Fonz and Happy Days back to the Green Bay Packers
- But, I had to watch the spot 3 times before I found a Steelers fan

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

#9: Bridgestone Beaver Befriends

Holding the #9 position in the USA Today poll is Bridgestone's Beaver ad.

The spot opens to show a beaver who is carrying a branch across the road, clearly preparing to construct his newest dam, when, lo and behold, a car comes careening around the corner heading straight for the beaver.

The beaver shrieks! His little paws reach to the sky. His life flashes before his eyes - what is to become of me?

But, the attentive driver swerves, missing the beaver by mere inches.  When the driver glances in his rear view mirror, the beaver salutes him, as if to say, "Thanks buddy for saving my life."

Flash forward six months. Same driver. Same beaver. Same road.

A surly storm is underway. A tree crashes into the road. The driver screeches to a halt, narrowly missing the tree. As he exits his car, he sees the bridge he was just about to cross be swept away.

The camera zooms in on the beaver and the stubby trunk of the tree he just gnawed off to miraculously fall in front of the car ... saving the life of the driver.

A gesture of love passes between the beaver and the driver.

Voice-over: "It's Bridgestone ... or nothing." 

Sue's Grade: C+

- Nice storytelling, but left me wondering who this ad was for
- In fact, I thought it was for a high-performance car
- It took a few viewings to understand all the nuances of the story 
- But, the ad gets a few points for a really cute beaver

#10: Coca-Cola Shares Happiness

Holding the #10 position in the USA Today poll is Coca-Cola's border guard spot.

Two border guards, situated somewhere in a barren desert, quietly patrol their side of the dividing line.

A piece of paper floats from one side to the other. The second guard angrily spears it with his sword and sends it back where it came from ... to the other side, to the enemy's side.

After opening and drinking a bottle of refreshing Coca-Cola, guilt passes over the face of the first guard. He struggles with indecision .... should I offer a bottle of Coca-Cola to the enemy or not?

He scans both ways, searching for movement anywhere in this hot, solitary, God-forsaken desert.  After repeatedly fighting his conscience, he slides a bottle of Coke under the border line and quickly draws his sword. Oh no - what is to become of the second guard?

But, alas, he uses the sword to extend the line so that the other guard can grab the bottle ... without entering into enemy territory. The second guard gratefully drinks the Coca-Cola.

Then, it was as it was before.

Two border guards, situated somewhere in a barren desert, quietly patrol their side of the dividing line.

Open Happiness.

Open a bottle of refreshing happiness for hot and weary guards.
Open the channels of communication between enemies.
Be open to new ways of doing things.
Sue's Grade: A
- Memorable, due to the unfolding drama
- Good brand linkage back to Coca-Cola
- Able to get the point without sound, which is good at a loud party
- Comical, without slamming babies, dogs, or people into a wall or door
- Simply pays off "open happiness"

Friday, February 4, 2011

AT&T Gets Orangewashed

This commercial stopped me in my tracks. I couldn't help but wonder why all the orange flowers were blossoming ... out of sidewalks, on light poles, on the sides of buildings. It was pleasant to watch and to listen to.

It wasn't until the very end of the ad that the brand was revealed.

Coverage is a beautiful thing.
 AT&T covers 97% of all Americans.

Simple, beautiful, engaging.  AT&T has found a compelling way to help the viewer visualize the massive extent of their coverage.

I've just become a fan of orange and AT&T.

Does The USA Today Ad Meter Work?

This coming Sunday, the most important football game of the year will be played when the Green Bay Packers take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV.

But, that's not all that's happening on Sunday.

In between masterful passes, catches, sacks, tackles, interceptions, and fumbles we will remain glued to the TV set. Why? To watch the advertising, of course. We will be treated to $3 million-for-30-seconds-of-fame ads that will bring tears to our eyes, make us chortle with laughter, and occasionally disappoint or even perplex us.

Interestingly, the ads that air during the Super Bowl have become as much a superstar on game day as the athletes on the field. People will watch - and later rewatch online - the best ads, the worse ads, even the ads that were banned and never made it to the big screen.

Super Bowl ads have become big business in the United States. In fact, according to a study conducted by Grand Rapids advertising and branding agency, Hanon McKendry, 54% of people watch the big game for the advertising rather than the football. 

After the Lombardi trophy has found its way to a new home, leaving some fans elated and others totally dejected, we will turn to USA Today on Monday morning to find out which ads made the Top Ten list based on their annual Ad Meter survey; a survey that has become a legend unto itself.

So, just how does USA Today's Ad Meter work?

Each year, USA Today prerecruits 300 Americans who are representative of the U.S. population to participate in their survey. They provide each with a hand-held device that they are asked to use while watching commercials during the Super Bowl game. The device has a dial on it, which is initially set in a neutral position.  When viewers watch an ad, they are asked to turn the dial to the right during parts of each ad they like and to the left during parts they don't like. The farther they turn the dial, the more intense their feelings.

Once the game is completed, the average scores for each ad are tabulated; then the ads are ranked. The result is USA Today's Top 10 ranked Super Bowl ads.

But, the $3 million question is this: Does this score positively correlate to sales? In other words, are the most-liked ads more likely to increase sales?

Well, according to Philip Herr's commentary in Advertising Age on 1/28/11, the simple answer is no.

Millward Brown, a behemoth global research company, was commissioned by the NFL to explore the correlation between the USA Today Ad Meter results and in-market sales. The results were quite intriguing:
  1. A spot on the Super Bowl is equal to, on average, 250 spots on regular TV
  2. The more established the brand, the better the extended ROI from a Super Bowl ad
  3. A spot on the Super Bowl has a positive halo effect on related, but unadvertised, brands
  4. The quarter of the game in which a brand advertises is irrelevant
  5. There is a lot more to success then the likability of an ad
It is point 5 that brings us back to the USA Today Ad Meter.  The Millward Brown study clearly showed that while likability is necessary to be a top-rated ad, it is not enough - in and of itself - to generate sales.

So, the bottom line?

The Ad Meter is fun to look at and to comment on, but it doesn't ensure that the brand will ring up more sales.


Note: Starting Monday, February 7, I will critique the #10 ad on the USA Today list. Each day, I will comment on a new ad, wrapping up with the #1 highest rated ad on Wednesday, February 16.

Will Ken Woo Barbie Back Into His Arms?

Mattel, the world's largest toy company in the world, has launched a full-out digital marketing campaign around two of the most beloved dolls in history - Barbie & Ken.

The goal? To help Ken woo Barbie back into his arms by Valentine's Day.

Mattel is using Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Foursquare to involve all of us in their cat-and-mouse game of love. In one YouTube video, Ken goes to to set up his profile, completing it with this headline: "Pretty fly for a plastic guy." After searching the database, he finds his beloved Barbie and desperately tries to write something endearing to her. After erasing a few failed attempts, he opts instead for a "wink for free."

Ken uses Foursquare to check in at various places around town, including Saks Fifth Avenue (Barbie loves shoes), Mulholland Drive (a favorite place for Barbie and Ken to cruise with the top down), and Madison Square Garden (a great place to take in some new bands).

Both Ken and Barbie are heavy tweeters, commenting on their relationship (or lack thereof) along with comments on everyday things they experience and see in life.  

There's also a bit of traditional media involved in the Barbie-Ken courtship. Ken posted billboards in  New York and Los Angeles professing his love for Barbie.

Will Ken successfully woo Barbie back into his arms?

Well, that's up to all of you - go vote what your heart tells you on Barbie's Facebook page.

I have only one word for this campaign: BRILLIANT
  • Barbie® was born in 1959 in Willows, Wisconsin as Barbara Millicent Roberts
  • Her first outfit was the black and white striped swimsuit shown above
  • She has four sisters: Skipper® (1964), Stacie® (1992), Kelly® (1995) and Krissy® (1995)
  • Barbie’s first boyfriend, Ken®, debuted two years after Barbie® in 1961
  • Ken® was named after the son of Mattel founders Ruth and Elliot Handler 
  • Ken® was born on March 11, 1961 as Ken Carson in Willows, Wisconsin
  • Ken® is two years and two days younger than Barbie®
  • The first Ken® doll wore red swim trunks, cork sandals and had a yellow towel
  • Ken® has a younger brother, Tommy® (1997)
  • Ken’s best friend is Alan™, the husband of Midge®
  • Ken® met Barbie® on the set of their first television commercial together in 1961
  • Barbie® and Ken® broke up on Valentine’s Day in 2004
  • The first Barbie® doll sold for $3.00; the first Ken® doll sold for $3.50

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What's Your Favorite Super Bowl Ad?

This Super Bowl season, Ad Age has asked their readers to weigh in on their favorite Super Bowl ad of all time. There are some truly inspiring, hilarious, and thought-provoking ads among the 15 ads they have chosen. After viewing them all, I have selected two ... for different reasons.

My vote for the best goes to the Mean Joe Greene Coke ad which aired in 1980. I lecture about Apple's 1984 ad all the time and while I see the sheer brilliance behind the ad, it comes off as dark and foreboding. Mean Joe Greene, on the other hand, is truly a feel-good spot. And who doesn't like to walk away from an ad feeling warm and fuzzy inside. Plus, it's 31 years later (boy, I can't believe that!) and I still remember this ad. Likability + recall + persuasion is a win-win-win for me.
My second vote goes to the Budweiser Clydesdale 9/11 Tribute to America ad, which aired in 2002. This ad brought a tear to my eye. Instantly, I found myself back on 9-11-01, watching, dumbstruck, as the World Trade Towers collapsed in New York City. One wonders, how is it possible to create advertising that pays homage to the terror that Americans felt that day without coming off as a self-seeking brand that is trying to prey on your raw emotions?

The answer?  This Budweiser ad.
Which ads moved you ... to laughter, to tears, to introspective thinking?
Sue Northey - Find me on