homeaboutarchives + tagsshopmembership!
aboutarchivesshopmembership!
aboutarchivesmembers!

kottke.org posts about advertising

70s cocaine paraphernalia advertising

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 29, 2015

Before the Reagans cranked up the War on Drugs in the early 80s due to the massive influx of cocaine from Latin America, advertisements offering all kinds of coke paraphernalia could be found in magazines. The World’s Best Ever collected a bunch of ads offering spoons, mirrors, straws, knives, and the like for America’s coke sniffers.

Cocaine ads

Cocaine ads

I am an episode and a half into Narcos on Netflix. Pretty good (but not great) so far.1 (via adfreak)

  1. They should have found a way to do it without the voiceover. Too much telling and not enough showing. (I have a thing about voiceovers. My first exposure to Blade Runner was Ridley Scott’s Director’s Cut, which omitted Deckard’s voiceover, and when I started watching the original version on TV a few months ago, I nearly threw the remote through the screen…so grating and entirely unnecessary.)

Steve Jobs movie trailer

posted by Jason Kottke   May 18, 2015

I have been doing a poor job keeping up with my Steve Jobs-related media. I haven’t had a chance to pick up the new Becoming Steve Jobs book yet. And I had no idea that the Aaron Sorkin-penned biopic was still in the works, much less that Michael Fassbender is playing Jobs and Danny Boyle is directing. Here’s the trailer:

The trailer debuted during last night’s series finale of Mad Men, which was possibly the most appropriate venue for it. [Slight spoilers…] Draper always had a Jobs-esque sheen to him, although the final scene showed us that, yes, Don Draper actually would like to sell sugar water for the rest of his life.

Update: A proper trailer has dropped. I don’t know how much we’ll learn about the actual Steve Jobs from the movie, but it looks like it might be good.

Update: Another trailer. This is looking like a strong film.

Asking “who’s the customer?”

posted by Jason Kottke   May 07, 2015

If you’ve bought a ticket to an event in the past, oh, 15-20 years, chances are you got it from Ticketmaster. Chances are also pretty good that you think Ticketmaster completely sucks, mostly because of the unavoidable and exorbitant convenience fee they charge. And that probably has you wondering: if everyone who uses the service hates Ticketmaster so much, how are they still in business? Because ticket buyers are not Ticketmaster’s customers. Artists and venues are Ticketmaster’s real customers and they provide plenty of value to them.

Ticketmaster sells more tickets than anybody else and they’re the biggest company in the ticket selling game. That gives them certain financial resources that smaller companies don’t have. TM has used this to their advantage by moving the industry toward very aggressive ticketing deals between ticketing companies and their venue clients. This comes in the form of giving more of the service charge per ticket back to the venue (rebates), and in cash to the venue in the form of a signing bonus or advance against future rebates. Venues are businesses too and, thus, they like “free” money in general (signing bonuses), as well as money now (advances) versus the same money later (rebates).

Read that whole Quora answer again…there’s nothing in there about TM being helpful for ticket buyers. It turns out asking “who’s the customer?” is a great way of thinking about when certain companies or industries do things that aren’t aligned with good customer service or user experience.1

Take Apple and Google for instance. Apple sells software and hardware directly to people; that’s where the majority of their revenue comes from. Apple’s customers are the people who use Apple products. Google gets most of their revenue from putting advertising into the products & services they provide. The people who use Google’s products and services are not Google’s customers, the advertisers are Google’s customers. Google does a better job than Ticketmaster at providing a good user experience, but the dissonance that results between who’s paying and who’s using gets the company in trouble sometimes. See also Facebook and Twitter, among many others.

Newspapers, magazines, and television networks have dealt with this same issue for decades now.2 They derive large portions of their revenue from advertisers and, in the case of the TV networks, from the cable companies who pay to carry their channels. That results in all sorts of user hostile behavior, from hiding a magazine’s table of contents in 20 pages of ads to shrieking online advertising to commercials that are louder than the shows to clunky product placement to trimming scenes from syndicated shows to cram in more commercials. From ABC to Vogue to the New York Times, you’re not the customer and it shows.

This might be off-topic (or else the best example of all), but “who’s the customer?” got me thinking about who the customers of large public corporations really are: shareholders and potential shareholders. The accepted wisdom of maximizing shareholder value has become an almost moral imperative for large corporations. The needs of their customers, employees, the environment, and the communities in which they’re located often take a backseat to keeping happy the big investment banks, mutual funds, and hedge funds who buy their stock. When providing good customer service and experience is viewed by companies as opposite to maximizing shareholder value, that’s a big problem for consumers.

Update: I somehow neglected to include the pithy business saying “if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product”, which originated in a slightly different phrasing on MetaFilter.

Update: One example of how maximizing shareholder value can work against good customer service comes from a paper by a trio of economists. In it, they argue that co-ownership of two or more airlines by the same investor results in higher prices.

In a new paper, Azar and co-authors Martin C. Schmalz and Isabel Tecu have uncovered a smoking gun. To test the hypothesis that institutional investors gain market power that results in higher prices, they examine airline routes. Although we think of airlines as independent companies, they are actually mostly owned by a small group of institutional investors. For example, United’s top five shareholders — all institutional investors — own 49.5 percent of the firm. Most of United’s largest shareholders also are the largest shareholders of Southwest, Delta, and other airlines. The authors show that airline prices are 3 percent to 11 percent higher than they would be if common ownership did not exist. That is money that goes from the pockets of consumers to the pockets of investors.

How exactly might this work? It may be that managers of institutional investors put pressure on the managers of the companies that they own, demanding that they don’t try to undercut the prices of their competitors. If a mutual fund owns shares of United and Delta, and United and Delta are the only competitors on certain routes, then the mutual fund benefits if United and Delta refrain from price competition. The managers of United and Delta have no reason to resist such demands, as they, too, as shareholders of their own companies, benefit from the higher profits from price-squeezed passengers. Indeed, it is possible that managers of corporations don’t need to be told explicitly to overcharge passengers because they already know that it’s in their bosses’ interest, and hence their own. Institutional investors can also get the outcomes they want by structuring the compensation of managers in subtle ways. For example, they can reward managers based on the stock price of their own firms — rather than benchmarking pay against how well they perform compared with industry rivals — which discourages managers from competing with the rivals.

(via @krylon)

  1. BTW, asking who the customer is doesn’t help in every situation where bad service and contempt for the customer rears its ugly head. See cable companies, mobile carriers, and airlines. Companies also have other conflicts of interest that interfere with good customer experience. Apple, for instance, does all kinds of things that aren’t necessarily in the best interest of the people buying their products. And as the Ticketmaster example shows, determining a company’s true customer isn’t just a matter of where the revenue comes from. It’s never simple.

  2. This is a potential problem with kottke.org as well. Almost all of my revenue comes from advertising. My high regard for the reader keeps me pretty honest (I hope!), but it’s difficult sometimes.

The Real Don Draper

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 27, 2015

Vice did a nice little feature on George Lois, the kind of 1960s big-egoed ad man on which Mad Men’s Don Draper was based.

Lois created a number of iconic ad campaigns as well as dozens of fantastic Esquire covers. Or at least he says he did. ;) (via devour)

Update: Here’s the transcript for the episode of This American Life in which Sarah Koenig interviews her father Julian Koenig about George Lois taking credit for some of his best ideas.

In my instance, the greatest predator of my work was my one-time partner George Lois, who is a most heralded and talented art director/designer, and his talent is only exceeded by his omnivorous ego. So where it once would’ve been accepted that the word would be “we” did it, regardless of who originated the work, the word “we” evaporated from George’s vocabulary and it became “my.”

Of course, Koenig also claims to have invented thumb wrestling and to have popularized shrimp in America, so… (via @kevinmeyers)

Football and Peace

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 23, 2014

For a Visa commercial, Errol Morris gathers a number of Nobel Peace Prize winners and nominees (including Lech Walesa) to talk about how important it is for their countries to beat the crap out of the other countries in the World Cup.

Two quotes in the video caught my ear:

Sport is a continuation of war by other means.

Look, football isn’t life or death. It’s much more important than that.

The first is a riff on Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz’s aphorism “War is the continuation of Politik by other means”. Clausewitz also devised the concept of “the fog of war”, which Morris used for the title of a film. The second is a paraphrase of a quote by legendary football coach Bill Shankly:

Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.

Taco Bell’s new spokesman: Ronald McDonald

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 27, 2014

Errol Morris has directed a new series of Taco Bell commercials where a bunch of ordinary men named Ronald McDonald review Taco Bell’s new breakfast menu. Here’s one of the spots:

Macintosh ad with Hunter S. Thompson

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 12, 2014

What the what?! Hunter S. Thompson was in an Apple Macintosh commercial? Check it out:

)

(via @brillhart)

“It’s toasted”

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 22, 2014

Looks like Don Draper may have contributed to Lucky Strike’s recent sales increase.

While the claim that Mad Men could have driven a nearly 50% (representing an additional 10 billion cigarettes) increase in Lucky Strike sounds like typical advertising puffery, it’s hard to pin down another driver. Lucky Strike did launch new flavors, update packaging and launch “capsule” cigarettes in the five years since Mad Men premiered, but so too did its competitors. The only new country the brand entered was Turkey — and that wasn’t until 2011. Even if one excluded all capsule (2010- ) and “All Natural” (2011-) cigarette sales (which would have been predominantly cannibalized, rather than net new), Lucky Strike would still have grown 12% between 2007 and 2012, five times faster than the industry overall and eight times British American Tobacco (the owner of Lucky Strike). Could it really have been Don Draper?

Sales of Canadian Club whiskey have turned around since Mad Men started as well. (via nextdraft)

The Broker Bodega

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 30, 2013

Tumblr of the day: ads for bodega items if they were written by NYC real estate brokers.

Broker Bodega

*~TOTAL GUT RENOVATION~* (via @akuban)

Ship your pants

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 12, 2013

If you’re compiling a list of the least cool brands, Kmart deserves serious consideration. But you’ve got to give them props for this daring ad touting free home shipping of out-of-stock merchandise.

I almost shipped my pants laughing at this. (via ★interesting)

Advertising from the Mad Men era

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 19, 2013

If the advertising parts of Mad Men are your favorite bits of the show, might I recommend Taschen’s two-volume Mid-Century Ads (on Amazon).

VW Think Small

It’s a beautiful set of books, tons of ads from the 50s and 60s presented in large format.

Dr. Seuss, ad man, Mad Man

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 15, 2012

Before Dr. Seuss became famous for his children’s books, he made advertisements for the likes of GE, Ford, and Standard Oil.

Dr Seuss Ad

Long before Sam went to extraordinary lengths to peddle discolored breakfast foods to obstinate citizens, Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss, if you please) made his living as an advertising illustrator—and in retrospect, his work is unmistakable.

Seuss became the father of the modern day children’s stories not solely through his inventive lexicon molded into clever syntax and anapestic meter, but also through vivid imaginary worlds and the charming characters within them. Take one look at his early creations for brands including GE, Ford, and NBC, and there’s no denying the framework of his style that would later turn into the denizens of Whoville, Cat in the Hat and Fox in Socks. And, according to the keepers of the Seuss collection at the UC San Diego Library, the enduring brilliance that is Seuss’ legacy can be traced back to a very unlikely source: bug spray.

(via co.create)

Wes Anderson’s best commercials

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 03, 2012

Adweek has a list of some of the best commercials Wes Anderson has made. It’s tough to beat his two-minute spot for American Express.

“Can I get my snack?”

“You’re eating it.”

Behind the scenes at a McDonald’s food photo shoot

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 19, 2012

Why does McDonald’s food look so much better in the ads than at the restaurant? Watch as the director of marketing for McDonald’s Canada buys a Quarter Pounder at McDonald’s and compares that to a burger prepared by a food stylist and retouched in post by an image editor.

Short answer: the burger at the restaurant is optimized for eating and the photo burger is optimized for looking delicious. (via ★interesting)

The real Google Glasses

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 06, 2012

Since Google released the video for their augmented reality glasses the other day, people have been busy making videos that show a more realistic (or cynical) portrayal of how the glasses might work. Here are a couple of the better ones. First a version of the glasses with Google ads:

And this one gives new meaning to the phrase “banner blindness”:

While not specifically about Google Glasses, this concept video by Keiichi Matsuda is also worth a look:

I will also direct your attention to the second episode of Black Mirror, a UK drama series by Charlie Brooker.

A satire on entertainment shows and our insatiable thirst for distraction set in a sarcastic version of a future reality. In this world, everyone must cycle on exercise bikes, arranged in cells, in order to power their surroundings and generate currency for themselves called Merits. Everyone is dressed in a grey tracksuit and has a “doppel”, a virtual avatar inspired by Miis and Xbox 360 Avatars that people can customise with clothes, for a fee of merits. Everyday activities are constantly interrupted by advertisements that cannot be skipped or ignored without financial penalty.

(via jake & stellar)

Wes Anderson’s Hyundai commercials

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 29, 2012

Wes Anderson recently directed a pair of television advertisements for Hyundai Motor Group. They are typically Wes Andersonian.

The reluctant sex lube salesman

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 27, 2012

Nick Bergus recently posted a link on Facebook to a 55-gallon drum of personal lubricant sold by Amazon — it’s only $1500! Then the post got sponsored and his family and friends started seeing it when they used Facebook, turning Bergus into a pitchman of sorts for an absurd amount of sex lube.

A week later, a friend posts a screen capture and tells me that my post has been showing up next to his news feed as a sponsored story, meaning Amazon is paying Facebook to highlight my link to a giant tub of personal lubricant.

Other people start reporting that they’re seeing it, too. A fellow roller derby referee. A former employee of a magazine I still write for. My co-worker’s wife. They’re not seeing just once, but regularly. Said one friend: “It has shown up as one on mine every single time I log in.”

Get used to this…promoted word of mouth is how a lot of advertising will work in the future.

BTW, as with many unusual products on Amazon, the “Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed” listing (horse head mask?) and the reviews are worth checking out.

As a Fertility Specialist for Pachyderms, this was exactly what we needed to help rebuild elephant populations all over sub-saharan africa. It’s not all just Medications and IVF treatments. Some times you need a loudspeaker, a Barry White CD and a 55 Gallon drum of Lube.

David Ogilvy offers copywriting advice

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 25, 2012

Letters of Note ran a 1955 letter from advertising legend David Ogilvy that details his process for writing advertising copy.

I have never written an advertisement in the office. Too many interruptions. I do all my writing at home.

Have you ever tried to sell a diamond?

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 30, 2011

From the Feb 1982 issue of Atlantic Monthly, an article by Edward Jay Epstein on how diamonds became so popular and so valuable.

By 1941, The advertising agency reported to [De Beers] that it had already achieved impressive results in its campaign. The sale of diamonds had increased by 55 percent in the United States since 1938, reversing the previous downward trend in retail sales. N. W. Ayer noted also that its campaign had required “the conception of a new form of advertising which has been widely imitated ever since. There was no direct sale to be made. There was no brand name to be impressed on the public mind. There was simply an idea — the eternal emotional value surrounding the diamond.” It further claimed that “a new type of art was devised … and a new color, diamond blue, was created and used in these campaigns…. “

In its 1947 strategy plan, the advertising agency strongly emphasized a psychological approach. “We are dealing with a problem in mass psychology. We seek to … strengthen the tradition of the diamond engagement ring — to make it a psychological necessity capable of competing successfully at the retail level with utility goods and services….” It defined as its target audience “some 70 million people 15 years and over whose opinion we hope to influence in support of our objectives.” N. W. Ayer outlined a subtle program that included arranging for lecturers to visit high schools across the country. “All of these lectures revolve around the diamond engagement ring, and are reaching thousands of girls in their assemblies, classes and informal meetings in our leading educational institutions,” the agency explained in a memorandum to De Beers. The agency had organized, in 1946, a weekly service called “Hollywood Personalities,” which provided 125 leading newspapers with descriptions of the diamonds worn by movie stars. And it continued its efforts to encourage news coverage of celebrities displaying diamond rings as symbols of romantic involvement. In 1947, the agency commissioned a series of portraits of “engaged socialites.” The idea was to create prestigious “role models” for the poorer middle-class wage-earners. The advertising agency explained, in its 1948 strategy paper, “We spread the word of diamonds worn by stars of screen and stage, by wives and daughters of political leaders, by any woman who can make the grocer’s wife and the mechanic’s sweetheart say ‘I wish I had what she has.’”

It’s fascinating to watch the advertising beast change its tactics as the diamond monopoly’s needs shift with new supply, new markets, and unexpected success.

2001 ads for HAL and Pan Am

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 10, 2011

HAL-9000 Ad

Love these. Prints are available.

A Disneyland of child labor

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 13, 2011

The Morning News has a piece today on KidZania, a theme park for kids where they work and buy stuff just like grown-ups.

But at the heart of the concept and the business of KidZania is corporate consumerism, re-staged for children whose parents pay for them to act the role of the mature consumer and employee. The rights to brand and help create activities at each franchise are sold off to real corporations, while KidZania’s own marketing emphasizes the arguable educational benefits of the park.

Kidzania

Each child receives a bank account, an ATM card, a wallet, and a check for 50 KidZos (the park’s currency). At the park’s bank, which is staffed by adult tellers, kids can withdraw or deposit money they’ve earned through completing activities — and the account remains even when they go home at the end of the day. A lot of effort goes into making the children repeat visitors of this Lilliputian city-state.

A US outpost of KidZania is coming sometime in 2013.

Michael Jordan advises LeBron James

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 29, 2010

Cleveland’s response to LeBron James’ boner of a Nike commercial has more heart, but this mash-up of the LeBron commercial with a previous Michael Jordan Nike commercial is an absolute masterpiece.

Cleveland to LeBron: you should shove it

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 08, 2010

Nike made a rare misstep with LeBron’s recent “What should I do?” commercial, but Cleveland’s video response is fantastic.

Chipotle: no more ad agencies

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 08, 2010

Chipotle has ditched their ad agency.

Last November, Chipotle made the decision to go it alone and bring advertising in-house. After spending at least six months selecting Butler Shine from a group of 27 agencies, Mr. Crumpacker said it didn’t make sense to take the time to pick another agency. “By the time we picked one and got them up to speed it would have been a year,” he said. “The only reasonable thing to do was to do it ourselves.”

The chain is shifting away from traditional advertising anyway, Mr. Crumpacker added, noting that advertising, generally, is becoming less important to Chipotle. Not to mention that Chipotle’s co-CEO, Steve Ells, isn’t exactly supportive of advertising. “For Chipotle, I guess I’d say [advertising] is not less important to our CEO, because he never thought it was that important,” Mr. Crumpacker said. “He’s asked me [whether] should we do advertising at all.”

Facebook soon bigger than Google?

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 05, 2010

In a piece at the normally unlinkable TechCrunch, Adam Rifkin argues that Facebook could be bigger than Google (revenue-wise) in five years. Rifkin makes a compelling argument.

Facebook Advertising does not directly compete with the text advertisements of Google’s AdWords and AdSense. Instead Facebook is siphoning from Madison Avenue TV ad spend dollars. Television advertising represented $60 billion in 2009, or roughly one out of every two dollars spent on advertising in the U.S.; the main challenge marketers have with the Internet till recently has been that there aren’t too many places where they can reach almost everybody with one single ad spend. Facebook fixes that problem.

CAPTCHA advertising

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 21, 2010

People need to pay attention to CAPTCHAs to complete all sorts of tasks on the web…so why not make the CAPTCHA an advertisement?

“Ads are just getting bigger and louder as attention online is getting so scarce,” said Solve Media CEO and founder, Ari Jacoby. “So we’re fishing where the fish are,” he said, referring to this untapped space where users are forced to spend time.

That’s brilliant. Evil brilliant, but still. (via @sippey)

Think Different

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 03, 2010

One of the first things that Steve Jobs did after taking over as Apple’s interim CEO in 1997 is to get Apple back on track with their branding. In this short presentation from ‘97, Jobs talks about branding & Apple’s core values and introduces the Think Different campaign.

That might be one of the best five minute explanations of good branding out there. The campaign was very successful in rehabilitating Apple’s image with the press and public.

What’s interesting is how the iPad and iPhone advertisements focus almost entirely on the product. Apple no longer has to imply that their products are the best by showing you pictures of Albert Einstein and Amelia Earhart…they just show you the products and you know. But I don’t see Jobs doing a “fake it ‘til you make it” branding presentation anytime soon. :)

Parkour with ladders

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 28, 2010

No idea if this is an actual thing outside of advertising New Zealand energy drinks; this article indicates that a few circus folk dreamt it up (hello, red flag). Welcome to 2010, when you can’t sort the ads from everything else. (thx, wade)

The best TV commercial ever

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 29, 2010

Or so says Errol Morris. It’s certainly the most honest advertising I’ve ever seen.

A bouncer in Birmingham hit me in the face with a crescent wrench five times and my wife’s boyfriend broke my jaw with a fence post. So if you don’t buy a trailer from me, it ain’t gonna hurt my feelings. So come on down to Cullman Liquidation and get yourself a home. Or don’t. I don’t care.

(via fimoculous)

The fake problems in infomercials

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 22, 2010

We love these in our household. My wife was howling with laughter at the Shoe Dini commercial just last night…the “problem” was that if you bent over to put on your shoes, your shirt would get wrinkled. Oh, the humanity. (thx, mark)