Has it Really Come to This?

I simply couldn’t believe the commercial I had just witnessed was for a real product.  I described it to my husband but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t manage to paint a picture that fully conveyed its weirdness.  After months of keeping my eyes and ears alert every time there was a television on in the house, I had almost convinced myself that it had existed only in my twisted imagination.

But a couple of weeks ago, Taylor finally got the iPad she had long been saving for.  Eight months of assembling community newspapers and delivering them in all manners of inclement weather, combined with birthday and Christmas requests for Future Shop gift cards finally culminated in her becoming the first kid in her class to own the newest iPad.   And it has led her to re-discover YouTube.

Yesterday she came thumping down the stairs to share her latest find….   the commercial I remembered from so many months ago…  it wasn’t just in my head…. it was REAL!

Here it is.

Isn’t it every married person’s nightmare that at some point their spouse starts wearing stuff like this?  I used to think that wearing track pants to the mall was a sure sign that someone had ‘given up’ but the Forever Lazy sets and entirely new standard.

I don’t buy for a minute that anyone would wear the Forever Lazy outside.  This is a product for the self imposed shut-in.

The phone rings: “Hey Joe, a bunch of us are playing darts at the bar next door.  We were just saying we haven’t seen you in a while.  Want to join us?”

“Gosh, I don’t know if I can,” Joe replies, stroking the soft plush of his Forever Lazy.  The thought of wriggling out of his fleece zipper suit and squeezing into a pair of jeans and a t-shirt seems like a lot of work.  He isn’t even sure his jeans still fit.  “I’ve got a few things to do around here.  I’ll maybe catch you next week.”

As I have learned from my Lululemon yoga pants, it’s a slippery slope when you make a habit of wearing stretch fabrics on a daily basis.  But at least Lululemon hints at athleticism of some sort.  The Forever Lazy screams slovenly.

I can’t even think about that butt trap door without giving myself the shivers.

But there’s a market there.  Judging if only from the parody videos I found on YouTube, people are buying them.  I got a particular giggle from this girl’s ‘product review’ video.  She says she doesn’t own a Snuggie because she thinks it’s like wearing your bathrobe backwards, which of course is true, but she did buy a Forever Lazy… four of them, in fact!

News flash — the Forever Lazy sucks.


Long Live the Creative Torture Test

At the moment my favourite TV commercials are for Febreze.  They’re the ones where blindfolded subjects are led into rooms full of disgusting objects that have been odour neutralized with Febreze and are asked to describe the smell.  I bust a gut every time someone nestles their face into sink full of greasy dishes or a filthy throw cushion and declares that is smells like the beach!

So why do I think this campaign is so brilliant?  It’s not just because it’s funny, which it clearly is.  It’s because it’s a fantastic demonstration of the product benefit done in such an engaging way.  And sadly, it’s something that we don’t see much of anymore.

In marketing lingo we call this type of ad the torture test.  You’re never really going to use Febreze as an alternative to taking rotting garbage out of your house, or as a means to avoid ever having to wash your son’s sweat socks, but these extreme rooms of stink are meant to demonstrate that there really isn’t anything in your home that is too stinky for Febreze to de-stink-ify.

In the annals of advertising history there have been a few great ads following this model.  Anyone with a formal education in marketing will likely have studied the Acapulco cliff diver ad for Timex as part of  Advertising 101.  “It takes a licking, and keeps on ticking.”

Does anyone remember the American Tourister commercial from the 1970’s where a gorilla abuses the crap out of a suitcase?  Airline baggage handlers aren’t really a bunch of savage apes but the ad clearly demonstrated that American Tourister luggage could handle the toss and smash that can only be expected when you have a workforce earning minimum wage spending eight hour shifts in a dank terminal unloading the luggage of rich vacationers.  If there’s one miss in this ad, it’s the branding.  When I originally searched for it, I searched Samsonite.  Oooops!

Luggage is one thing, but what about a fragile computer?  Toshiba illustrated the durability of their Notebook computer a number of years ago with a great ad featuring a hapless businessman who mistakenly checked it with his baggage.  “I checked my Notebook?!”  At one point we see him using the in flight oxygen mask to keep from passing out.  “I checked…. my Notebook.”  Who hasn’t experienced second thoughts about checking something fragile in their baggage?  I clearly recall the warm rush of relief I felt many years ago, opening my suitcase and finding the bottle of red wine I had packed in haste on a trip home from Germany still intact, amongst my favourite clothes.  Similarly, the Toshiba guy gushes when he retrieves his computer from the luggage belt and it powers up without incident.  “It’s alive!”

Done well, the torture test is an advertising device like no other.  But the key is to infuse it with real drama and genuine human emotion that makes it impossible for the viewer not to watch it through to the end.  And perhaps that’s the tricky part.


Can Carrots Ever Hope To Be Doritos?

For the longest time I resisted Twitter.  What could anyone possibly have to say in a mere 140 characters that would be of any interest to me?  Well as it turns out, quite a bit!  While I’m too long-winded to tweet myself, I’m enjoying being a Twitter voyeur.  And a week or so ago, it paid off with the idea for this blog.

The tweet was from @NameFlash and it included a link to an article about the efforts of Bolthouse Farms to market packs of baby carrots as a cool snack food to the skater-dude crowd.  Their strategy entailed modeling their marketing tactics after popular teen snack brands like Doritos to increase the cool quotient of carrots.

What a brilliant marketing idea, I thought!

Never mind that Bolthouse is best known in Canada for the botulism scare of 2006.  This could actually work to their advantage in attracting danger-seeking, teens eager to live on the edge.

Dairy Farmers of Ontario followed a similar strategy years ago when they launched their Milk Rap.  Maybe it’s the catchy tune, or maybe it’s those sexy Sudbury dinner jackets, but I love this ad!

Looking back, it’s probably an example of an adult’s idea of what kids will like, but in the years since this ad was first aired the Dairy Farmers of Canada have been working to slowly reposition milk from a plain, boring beverage that your Mom makes you drink, to something that teens will select by choice.  The other day I spotted a high school student in my favourite Esso station drinking strawberry milk from a shapely bottles with bold graphics, while his friends waited in line at the Tim Horton’s kiosk.  I hate to imply that kids are shallow but I have to think he would have been less likely to choose it over the Gatorade merchandised nearby if milk was still sold in old style, so-square cartons.

I’ll admit that while I admire the marketing genius, I find the current onslaught of 5 second milk ads really annoying, which is a sure sign that they will resonate with teens.

There are HUNDREDS of these ads!  The agency has got to be making a fortune.

In addition to the ads, milk is hooking up with existing teen culture by partnering with the Much Music Video Awards (MMVA) and has launched a fascinating website called www.getaloadofmilk.ca .  Before I started digging into milk marketing for this blog I had never heard of this campaign, which tells me just how tightly focused they’ve been in reaching the teen target.

Check out this cool ‘Crowd Periscope’ handed out to fans during events leading up to the MMVA!

I wish I could tell you that this campaign is resulting in a huge lift in milk consumption but unfortunately, according to the government of Canada figures from 2009, it’s been pretty flat (-2% since 2005).  Canada sits at a steady 81.3 litres per captia, just slightly above the U.S. at 79.4, and far behind Ireland where the figure is a whopping 135.9.  The best I could find in terms of results was a quote in Marketing Magazine from Karen
Howe, senior vice-president, creative director for the Dairy Farmers’ agency, Due North Communications:

“One of the toughest things in the world is to keep teens drinking milk, but the overall trend for the past several years has been solid,” said Howe. “Teens get to a certain age
and the consumption drops right off, but what we’ve seen with the campaign over the past several years is that it has made milk cool for kids.”

Hmmm.  She doesn’t say teens are drinking more milk; just that milk is now cool.  Still, that’s got to be a step in the right direction and maybe consumption will turn around in the 2010/11 figures.

Getting my kids to eat healthy food isn’t an issue.  I’m grateful that they love milk, eat broccoli and don’t turn their noses up at the occasional vegetarian dinner.  But I could use some repositioning work on household chores.  Maybe I should come up with a ‘Make your bed!’ rap?  A little ditty, à la Black Eyed Peas perhaps?

 Put your hands in… To the sheets, yeah… Pull it ti-dy… To the beat, yeah

 Then again, maybe not.


Here’s the article that inspired this blog.  Thanks @NameFlash! www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/bolthouse-farms-sells-baby-carrots-junk-food-136029


Subaru Canada Responds!

I thought I had dealt with my sour feelings over the Sumo Wrestler campaign for our beloved Subaru. As the dedicated member of a family well practiced at stuffing down unpleasant feelings and pretending that things never happened, I thought I could forget and move on.  But on our last camping trip of the season it all came flooding back to the surface.

I had picked up the campground orientation booklet for the purpose of briefing Taylor and Jack on the telltale characteristics of poison ivy, when the ad on the back cover caught my eye.

Click Here to see the Subaru ad

Oh dear.  That sumo wrestler has followed me into the wilderness.  A regular reader of the blog had warned me to watch out for him hiding in my backseat, and I had laughed at the thought.  But look.  There he was.

When I wrote the original post in early August, I took the liberty of sending a link along to Subaru Canada just to see what kind of response I might get.  Maybe the marketing gurus there would recognize my marketing genius and see the error of their ways.  Maybe they would be so impressed with my insight that they would offer me a consulting gig on the spot!  Perhaps they would beg for our continued loyalty and offer us a deep discount on a new Tribeca to accomodate our growing space requirements.  Hope springs eternal in my daydreams.

I didn’t have much time to dream about what might happen.  Their response came in less than an hour:

Sent: August-02-11 1:32 PM

To: Diane Williams

Subject: ROU – Forester Ad

Ms. Williams,

Thank you for taking the time to voice your opinion on our recent advertising campaign.  We sincerely apologize if you found the ad to be in some way objectionable. It was
certainly not our intent to upset or offend anyone. At Subaru Canada, we always try to create advertising that gets noticed and sets us apart from our competitors. In our most recent campaign, we wanted to showcase the redesigned features of the new 2011 Forester in the most impactful and entertaining way possible. As a Japanese automobile manufacturer, we pride ourselves on building safe, reliable vehicles, with the highest quality standard.  The idea behind the new advertising is to leverage our Japanese heritage while showcasing the new features of the 2011 Forester SUV in a fun, surprising way.

The Forester campaign concept with the sumo wrestlers and the tagline “Sexy Comes Standard”, was researched with consumers during campaign development and before it was aired. The advertising’s tongue-in-cheek humour is meant to generate a smile and not to be taken too seriously.  We believe the ads are respectful to the athletes and their sport.  The authentic professional sumo wrestlers that appear in the advertising are the top in their field and are widely admired for their athletic capabilities. Given sumo wrestling’s deep tradition and respected place in Japanese culture, we felt that this was a great way to bring attention to the Japanese-engineered, Subaru Foresters unique style and performance capabilities.

Subaru Canada values the opinions of our customers and potential customers, and we appreciate that you took the time to contact us.


Richard Ouellette | Bilingual Consumer Support
Representative, Customer Care/Service à la clientèle

I remember dating someone in high school.  I loved him dearly and thought he loved me
too.  I thought we would be together forever.  But then one day, he sent a clear message that showed he did not care for me as deeply as I cared for him.  To him I was just a good friend.  And he had lots of friends.

I’m tempted to write back to Subaru pointing out that they’ve left the apostrophe out of “Forester’s” in the last paragraph of their form letter.  But then they might think I care about them.  And I’m so over my love affair with Subaru.

Next week, we’re planning to take the Honda Odyssey for a test drive.

You Are What You Drive

My high school parking lot was filled with cars the adults in our small town no longer wanted.  There were Ford Pintos and Gremlins, rusty Buicks and bondo patched Oldsmobiles.  I even had a girlfriend who drove a 1960-something Dodge Dart.  Once, when her sister was behind the wheel, the driver’s seat back suddenly came loose and
fell into the backseat, resulting in hysterical laughter from of all of us riding in the car with her.  True, there was the occasional rich kid who drove an elaborately painted Firebird, but he was the rare exception.  Regardless of the condition of the vehicle, we all drove our cars with pride.  Our cars became extensions of ourselves and we outfitted them with personal touches like a zebra print cover on the driver seat and party souvenirs hung from the rear view mirror.

As a proudly practical person, I continued to purchase used cars even after I had a good job.  My first brand new car didn’t come until I was well into my thirties.  The president of the company I was working for at the time grinned as he slid an offer letter across the table outlining the details of my new job.

“It comes with a company car,” he said, raising his eyebrows.

I stood up, raised my arms in the air and shouted: “Yippee!”

My husband and I spent weeks exploring all of the automotive options available within my cap cost.  In the end it came down to a Nissan Maxima with all the bells and whistles versus a base model BMW 320i with only a couple of add ons.  Clearly, there was more value in the Nissan.  But I just couldn’t get that BMW logo out of my head.  Never in my wildest dreams had I imagined that one day I would be behind the wheel of a BMW.  This was my chance.  Who knew if I would ever have this opportunity again?  But I was torn.

My practical side kept whispering Maxima.  It asked: “Are you really so shallow that you need a car with a fancy logo to make you feel better about yourself?”

And at that time, the answer was wholeheartedly YES!

I loved that car.  When I drove it I felt like somebody, and I couldn’t help smiling at the BMW logo in the centre of the steering wheel.  Whenever I visited my hometown, I prayed that one of the ‘cool kids’ who teased me in high school would be working at the gas station when I went to fill it up.  Never happened.

But those days are gone.  I now realize that the people I really care about don’t give a crap what kind of car I drive and I’m done with trying to impress people I don’t know.  But I’d be lying if I said the car I drive doesn’t matter to me.  While my values may have evolved, I still do see my car as a reflection of them.

We bought our first Subaru Forester in 2003 at a time when Lance Armstrong was the front man and the tagline was “Driven by what’s inside.”  We knew all about Subaru’s
rally car heritage and my husband Craig understood how this factored into the engineering of our new Forester.  It was a practical buy.  It offered plentiful trunk space,
good fuel economy and was super safe for our little ones.   Plus, Subaru was a name that we felt good about.  Craig and I were the kind of twenty-somethings that drank Black Label long before the ads made it cool to do so and brought Labatt 50 to parties to differentiate our BYOB from everyone else’s.  We liked the fact that Subaru was a brand that wasn’t in many driveways.

During the years when I drove my entirely impractical BMW, the Forester was our reliable snow bus.  Even with high quality snow tires the rear wheel drive of my Bimmer resulted in frequent fishtailing, but the Forester’s all wheel drive ground through knee
high snow drifts like they were nothing.

The fantastic performance of the vehicle and great service department experience drew us back in 2007 when we replaced it with a new one.  This time we could afford little
extras like seat heaters, a huge moon-roof and the turbo charged engine of Craig’s dreams.  And we loved it.

Sadly, the sumo wrestler ads that have been on air for the last couple of years have made us love it a little less.  Have a look:

We are a family that prides ourselves in being athletic and outdoorsy.  We take our Subaru on camping trips, to the baseball diamond and soccer fields.  Places where a sumo wrestler does not belong.  Seeing him squished in the back seat between two uncomfortable looking kids, and sprawled across the hood makes me cringe.

As a marketer, I worry that the sales increase Subaru has attributed to this award winning campaign may be a short term gain at the expense of the long term health of the brand.  How many loyal Subaru owners like us are beginning to think that this is
not a brand for them?  With the long purchase cycle on new vehicles, Subaru won’t feel the pinch of us turning away until years from now.  And by then we may have fallen in love with a new brand.

I am a fiercely patriotic Canadian and so I hate to admit it, but the U.S. advertising speaks to me much more strongly.   This is a much more accurate reflection of the life that we lead with our Subaru Forester:

And this is why we would have been Subaru owners long into the future:

Unfortunately for Subaru, if this sumo wrestler thing keeps up, I’m no longer sure what our automotive future holds.

Advertising Jingles — and the winner is ….

LittleLori, for her spot on recollection of this fantastic jingle that I’m sure sold boatloads of this rather yucky canned pasta.  Sure kids love the taste, but there are many, many different varieties to choose from, all of the same ilk.  This ad made Zoodles stand apart so kids would ask for it by name, and I love the fact that Lori is still buying it for her kids today!  Here’s the ad for all to enjoy:


Lori, your Tims card is on its way!  Congratulations.

Honourable mention goes to Lauren and Peter who both recalled the Carling Red Cap ad from so long ago.  Certainly living proof of the lasting power of the jingle, even if the product is no longer around.

Ane a huge thanks to everyone for playing along.  Such great memories!  I now have a whole collection of tunes that will keep me singing in the shower for weeks to come.

All the best for a great long weekend!

Advertising’s Great Lost Art

I will admit my bias right up front.  I LOVE music… all music… but especially music that I can sing along with.   Yes, I am the woman by herself in the car next to you belting out off key renditions of whatever is on the radio, seemlingly oblivious to the fact that although her windows shut tight, they are in fact transparent.

My husband Craig cringes every time our eleven year old daughter Taylor asks us to turn the station to 99.9 Virgin Radio.  While pop music grates on his nerves like a yappy dog, I can appreciate the simple melodies and repetitive lyrics.  Video of Lady Ga Ga may give me the shivers but her music is damn fun to sing along with.  Perhaps this is why it bugs Craig so much.  Whether you like it or not, this kind of music really sticks in your head.

And so I wonder, in an age when competition for consumer dollars has never been more fierce, why the advertising jingle seems to be a lost art.

My childhood memories are littered with fantastic jingles.   Who could forget the Big Mac song?  “Two all beef patties, special sauce pickles onions lettuce ketchup on a sesame seed bun!”   After thirty years, the melody is still crystal clear in my head.  Didn’t they sing the whole menu at one point?  If I’m not mistaken, fries was cleverly rhymed with pies.  Kids who could recite the entire song without missing a beat, attained star status on the playground.  Those were the days when trick or treaters flocked to the house in the neighbourhood that was handing out free McDonald’s fries coupons.  The cool kids got to order a jug of that orange drink for their backyard birthday party and the local McDonald’s parking lot was the undisputed hub of teenage social networking.

Years later, after more than a decade of pestering, my parents finally gave in and permitted me to adopt a kitten.  As she had feared would be the case, my mother took care of collecting all the necessary supplies for my pet.  And at the time there was one, particularly memorable, ad on air.

“I love chi-cken, I love li-ver, I love tu-na, please de-li-ver.”

We fed that cat nothing but Meow Mix until the day he died at the ripe old age of 19.

But for heartwarming-ness, you just can’t beat the old Coca Cola ads.  “I’d like to teach the world to sing, in perfect har-mon-y; I’d like to buy the world a Coke, and keep them
company.”  OK, maybe the words are a bit fuzzy in my memory but the sentiment is there.

Today, my kids cling desperately to the few jingles on air.  In the schoolyard they roar with laughter singing: “Sleep Country Cana-da; Why buy a mat-tress when you have a couch.”  I don’t really get the joke, but we did somehow find ourselves drawn to Sleep Country to buy our new mattress last year.

Taylor and Jack both, repeatedly hum the few jingles they have heard.

“Only a dolla’; All summa’!”

“Al-arm force…. two thou-sand and one!”

“Five.  Five dolla’.  Five dolla’ foot loooooooong!”

Have our quick pay lifestyles come down to this?   Are crappy one-liner’s all the ad folks
think we are capable of remembering?  How about a whole verse with the product benefit mentioned?  For heaven’s sake, if they can’t bring themselves to go all the way to establishing an emotional connection, at least give us a couple of product features to hang on to!

Well, I’d like to start a movement to get those jingle guys back to work.  Without these catchy tunes to stick in our brains for years to come, I fear that we will have lost an important source of pop culture.  Plus, I desperately need some new material to sing in the shower.

What is your favourite jingle????   Press the comment bubble next to the title in this blog and tell me about the best one that you can remember!   I can’t wait to hear them all and will award a $20 Tim Horton’s gift card to whoever brings the biggest smile to my face.  Extra points for making me laugh out loud.