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December 2009

Wendy's says its value meals are a lot better than dollhouse food

Posted on Wed Dec 23 2009

Wendy's has reverted back to the old attack-your-competitor-in-15-seconds tactic. The fast feeder began running this ad as part of its "You know when it's real" series from The Kaplan Thaler Group, which conveys that Wendy's burgers use real meat and other ingredients, unlike those offered by rivals. This shorter version of the ad shows one man eating a Wendy's meal and another eating a tiny meal (which looks like it was intended for a Barbie doll, not a human). The man with the miniature version proclaims that his meal cost $2.99, only to find out that the other guy got his from Wendy's for the same price. Unlike past ads, the new spot features no flying toupees or fake backgrounds to get the point across. Instead, Wendy's uses the 15 seconds to relay its value message. Why the men are eating in what appears to be a library, I don't know. But one thing is clear in this ad: Wendy's knows you're cash-strapped and wants you to think of this ad when you have $3 to spare.

—Posted by Elena Malykhina

A commercial with a threesome? It's almost expected nowadays

Posted on Tue Dec 22 2009

As the decade comes to a close, it's worth reflecting on whether we would have seen an ad like Dolce & Gabbana's "Threesome" back in 1999. For those of you who don't watch MTV, the ad features a nattily dressed woman and man who are soon met by another spiffy-looking man and begin cavorting on the couch as a trio. The fun is interrupted by a woman clad in a black dress out of Little House on the Prairie, who then screams. Fade to black. D&G is no stranger to controversy, of course. The Italian fashion brand got flak in 2007 for a print ad that seemed to be promoting gang rape. But maybe the brand isn't just being outrageous for its own sake this time, and is instead in tune with the zeitgeist. PopEater has declared 2009 to be "The Year of the Threesome" and cited Hilary Duff's tryst on Gossip Girl and Britney Spears's song "3" as proof. In advertising, D&G didn't even get there first: Calvin Klein did with a billboard that even got the attention of Manhattanites. So, what can we expect in December 2019? Perhaps by then, D&G will go the Marilyn Manson route and go door to door trying to shock people.  

—Posted by Todd Wasserman

'Tis apparently the season to be Christmas caroling in TV spots

Posted on Mon Dec 21 2009

Watch a bit of TV this holiday season, and you may be struck by two very similar ad campaigns from Marshalls/TJ Maxx and Best Buy. True, there's not a ton of ways you can go creatively with the Christmas theme. I mean, how many riffs on Santa and his elves can you do? But caroling is somewhat novel (though check out this Jack in the Box ad from 1978), which makes the symmetry between the ads that much more evident. The Marshalls/TJ Maxx ad, from GSD&M Idea City, features about a dozen crooners in a mall trying to convince shoppers that they'd save money by heading over to either of those discount stores. "Get the same gifts at better prices by shopping elsewhere," they sing to the tune of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." Meanwhile, over at Best Buy, there's a chorus of geeks offering advice to a female shopper about buying for her man: "High-def TV, High-def TV in 1080p. With 120 Hz, guys are so easy," they sing, to the melody of "Jingle Bells." Like most commercials, it's amusing the first time and suicide-inducing by the twentieth or so. Thank God Christmas only comes once a year.

—Posted by Todd Wasserman

Name a star: the perfect holiday ripoff for that celestial someone

Posted on Fri Dec 18 2009


With the holiday shopping season moving into fifth gear, you may have heard those commercials offering you a chance to give "a gift that lasts a lifetime" (and in fact, a few billion years beyond that): the chance to name a star after someone.
  As a branding proposition, this idea has a lot going for it. Everybody knows what a star is, so there's no consumer education involved. A star is naturally luminescent, eco-friendly, requires no maintenance, and the inventory is excellent. Astronomers estimate there are 70 sextillion stars in the visible universe—that's 70 thousand million million million. So, just imagine: You or someone you love can have your very own 28-million-degree erupting ball of hydrogen! Just be ready to get the plastic out. The Name A Star Deluxe Package comes complete with a framed registration certificate and a celestial map that'll set you back $69.95 plus shipping (at least they let you choose what constellation you want). The "Ultimate" package from the International Star Registry arrives at your terrestrial home with a framed certificate, locator map, a letter of congratulations, and even a wallet card that identifies you as a star owner—all for only $154.95. (Wow, we'll take two!)
  But after years of listening to sentimental ads from several star-naming outfits, we had a question: Are all these star names, like, official in any way? Will "Becky the Star" show up on a NASA map at some point? We tried to contact NASA's media department, but they didn't respond. Then we tried Edward L. Wright, who teaches physics and astronomy at UCLA. Professor Wright had a very succinct answer about whether these star names you can buy are official. "No!!!" he said. Turns out the International Astronomical Union identifies stars by numbers like "BD 16d1591" or "HR 2491" When stars do go by names, they sound more like Alpha Canis Majoris, and not "Pete." Too bad, huh?
  But it's even worse for the operators of celestial observatories on public-access nights. According to Richard Rosenberg, president of the New York chapter of the Amateur Astronomers Association, "Sometimes people actually expect the person manning the scope to know where their star is located." Where? We'll tell you: It's located in the file cabinet of the marketer who cooked up this nutty star-naming idea to start with.

—Posted by Robert Klara

How five classic brand mascots have evolved (or not) over time

Posted on Fri Dec 18 2009


Times have been tough for marketers lately, so it makes sense that brand mascots have made something of a comeback. Whether it's to evoke nostalgia or to refresh a brand's image, mascots are often the answer. At least, that's what many companies think. David Altschul, president and founder of Character, a firm that creates story frameworks for brands and their characters, isn't so sure. When mascots are featured in logos, it's one thing, he says. When brands bring them to life, there's a danger there. "The characters are so visible and widely known that they become an easy tool for storytelling, but don't necessarily make a real connection with the brand," Altschul says. After the jump, check out our short list of mascots that have resurfaced in the past year or so, and how they've evolved—or haven't. If you think we left any out, please add to the list in comments.

—Posted by Elena Malykhina

Continue reading "How five classic brand mascots have evolved (or not) over time" »

Obamas enjoy eco-friendly Christmas season at the White House

Posted on Fri Dec 18 2009


This Sunday, HGTV will continue what's become a tradition as reliable as the EZ-assemble $19.99 tree at Walmart: the White House Christmas special. Ever since Jacqueline Kennedy played hostess for the now-legendary televised tour of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue back in 1962 (that show aired in February, but never mind), Americans have, er, pined for a look at how the halls are decked at America's most famous manse. But something will be different this year: Christmas with Barack and Michelle will have decidedly green touches—and we don't mean just the mistletoe. For instance, the White House's special "Wishing Tree" is made of recycled cardboard, and staffers crafted much of the decorative garland from roots plucked from the White House gardens. Hydrangea blossoms from earlier flower arrangements were saved, dried, and will appear again in the holiday regalia. Even the lights for the official tree outside (sustainably sourced!) have been swapped out for energy-efficient LEDs. (See the photo above.) Best of all, more than 800 ornaments from previous presidential administrations were sent to volunteers, who restored them and sent them back. (Did the Bushes have special trickle-down-economic icicles?) It's sure to be a heartwarming event, because after all, it always is. Never mind that Oprah got there first and aired her own White House Christmas special on ABC this past Sunday. Fortunately, the nation's house is big enough for two camera crews.

—Posted by Robert Klara

Nationwide invites iPhone users to lose themselves in Cartopia

Posted on Thu Dec 17 2009

Apple wasn't kidding with its "There's an app for that" commercials, claiming there's an app for just about anything on the iPhone. This week, it's Cartopia, an iPhone app by Nationwide Insurance that can help you choose a car based on safety, gas mileage, color and other features. To create some buzz around the app, Nationwide released this video illustrating the capabilities of Cartopia. The 90-second video is basically a tutorial on how to use the app, which goes really fast so you've got to pay attention. Of course, there's a plug for Nationwide—the app offers you car insurance from the provider when you've found "the perfect car." My favorite is the sales guy at the end, who seems really relieved that he didn't have to do any convincing. So, move over, annoying car salesmen. The iPhone is all we need to make a purchasing decision. Now, if only the iPhone could also wash and detail the car, it would truly be priceless.

—Posted by Elena Malykhina

Eight O'Clock Coffee cannot believe you're not on Facebook yet

Posted on Wed Dec 16 2009

For those of you who still don't know how Facebook works (how you've managed that, we don't know), Eight O'Clock Coffee has launched a video tutorial on how to use the social-networking site. This Facebook for dummies guide can be found on the coffee brand's homepage and also on its Facebook profile. The four-and-a-half-minute video show you how to set up a user profile, search and add friends. Point is, connecting with friends and family over the Web is like "catching up with an old friend over a cup of coffee," senior brand manager Alisa Jacoby says. (Too bad they're not serving virtual coffee, too.)

—Posted by Elaine Wong

Chris Brown manages to make people feel sympathy for Walmart

Posted on Tue Dec 15 2009


Uh-oh. Chris Brown's anger-management issues have gotten him into trouble again. Rihanna's bruiser of an ex had a Twitter meltdown over the weekend, launching into a profane series of rants after going into a Connecticut Walmart and not seeing his new CD, Graffiti, on the shelves. He raged against retailers like Walmart and the music industry for not stocking the CD. Turns out the store had sold out of the album, with Walmart saying all of its stores have carried it since its release earlier this month. Brown has since shut down his Twitter account—probably a good move for media targets given to compulsive public outbursts.

—Posted by Noreen O'Leary

Wieden's new Honda commercial is itself a marvel of engineering

Posted on Tue Dec 15 2009

In this new spot for Honda U.K., Wieden + Kennedy London details the breadth of the automaker's engineering expertise, ranging from ATVs and marine engines to motorcycles and the humanoid robot Asimo—and to cars, of course, particularly Honda's British-produced Civic model. The 60-second ad "Everything" breaks on Thursday in U.K. cinemas that are premiering James Cameron's Avatar. The agency considered doing a 3-D shoot similar to that used in the blockbuster film. But it wouldn't have worked for the spot's film technique, which is jaw-dropping even by the standards of complexity in the agency's previous Honda commercials like "Cog." (Another collaboration, "Grrr," was named Commercial of the Decade by AdweekMedia.) The fluid series of fractured visuals, music and sound design required 972 edits over 17 video layers, essentially making each section an edit in itself. The soundtrack, "Atlas" by Battles, was rearranged to fit the picture and reflect the editing style used for the ad.

—Posted by Noreen O'Leary



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