an Ad a Day

A look at the marketing that surrounds us.

Archive for April, 2010

Vintage Friday: Kellogg’s Krumbles

Posted by Rosepixie on April 30, 2010

It used to be fairly common for companies to create paper dolls to use in marketing or advertising their products.  Often these paper dolls featured mascots or modeled clothing from the company, but sometimes they were on a theme and simply used as a device to entice young customers to buy the product in order to collect the paper dolls (the same way McDonald’s encourages kids to buy multiple Happy Meals in a given time span to collect all the prizes from a particular toy line).  For whatever reason, using paper dolls for advertising went out of fashion after a while and no one really does it any more.  Still, many of these dolls are quite interesting.

This one is from Kellogg’s Krumbles (a breakfast cereal) and is of the collectible variety.

The text reads:

Around-the-World Cut-Out Dolls

Get the complete series


Portugal is the land of wine and olives.  Its children have appealing beauty.  Their costumes flash with many attractive colors.

Kellogg’s Krumbles

Why Portugal’s children have any more “appealing beauty” than children from other countries, I have no idea.  I love the costumes, though.  They are colorful and have a surprising amount of detail for paper dolls that were printed on the back of a cereal box!

Companies still use the “collect them all” strategy with marketing gimmicks (cereal still comes with prizes inside, products will come with a website code that reveals a “collectible” item or game, etc.).  There is something simple and appealing about these paper dolls, though, that is hard to find in many modern day collectible marketing items.  They were right on the box so you could choose the one you wanted before you bought the cereal and they were a complete toy that added little to the cost of production – once the paper doll was designed, it just needed to get printed onto a box that would have needed something printed onto it anyway!

I doubt you could convince a marketing company to try this technique today, but it is fun to look back at.  Marketing paper dolls were extremely creative in their hay-day and I may post more at some point.


Posted in Food, Vintage | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Cottonelle: Toilet Paper News

Posted by Rosepixie on April 29, 2010

Cottonelle recently came out with this commercial which mimics a television news story.

I found this ad odd.  It’s clearly supposed to be funny in its absurdity, but when local news channels actually do run stories this pointless (and worse) all the time, it’s hard to really just laugh at it.  It also feels a bit disjointed – because they needed to get the plug for the product in, they sort of abandoned the news story partway through, which makes it feel even more pointless.

I think that they were on the right track with the debate idea – if you ask people a question like that or start a discussion about it, people actually will think about it and start to express preferences.  And that might get them to think about their product preferences and remember your name the next time they shop.  Unfortunately, this didn’t talk much about the survey they did or how they responded to it.  They appear to have actually done something to either the product or packaging in response to this survey and that didn’t get talked about here at all!

I think this ad was a wasted opportunity and I found it annoying and disappointing.  Hopefully Cottonelle will manage to do something more interesting than this with the marketing around their new product and the results of their survey.

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Clinique: Whiten Your Teeth with Lipstick

Posted by Rosepixie on April 28, 2010

I came across this magazine ad for Clinique lipstick recently and just had to post it.

The text reads:

Clinique can’t whiten your teeth.

But we can brighten your smile.  Instantly.

Fact: on application, Clinique’s specially designed lipstick colours create a contrast that brightens your smile.  Using a dental colour guide we confirmed it: each smile was at least one shade brighter.

So here you have it: the wow of whiter teeth in pearls and buttery shades in nudes, goldens, pinks, berries.  12 shades in all.

Still not convinced?  See the before and after at  Or see it for yourself.  Stop by any Clinique Counter for a complementary try-on of any and all shades in Clinique’s Brighter Smile Collection.


Allergy tested.  100% fragrance free.

I find this claim very strange.  I have no problem believing that a lipstick and make a smile seem brighter, but I can’t see how it could make any real changes that would show up on a color guide.  Because it’s not actually changing the color of your teeth, it’s just an optical illusion.  And that can work great – I’m not saying it’s not a totally worthwhile way to make teeth appear whiter – but it’s not true shade changing.

The image of the red lipstick with the white toothbrush seems to reinforce the claim that this lipstick can make your teeth look whiter.  It’s a well put together image for the rather deceptive claim.

I just kind of have a problem with that deceptive claim.  Despite starting with the sentence “Clinique can’t whiten your teeth”, the entire block of text seems to be trying to convince the reader that they can do exactly that!  It’s annoying.  So I don’t like this ad very much, despite the fact that I actually think it’s a good angle for a lipstick line to take in their marketing and I’m a little surprised I haven’t seen anyone else using it.

Posted in Beauty | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

U by Kotex: Getting Real with Periods

Posted by Rosepixie on April 27, 2010

If you’ve ever had a period and seen an ad for period products, you probably think they are laughably ridiculous.  They are.  I have no idea who makes those ads or why they think they’re a good idea.  Seriously, people, what is wrong with the whole “feminine hygiene” industry that we can’t even SAY “vagina” or “period” or “blood” or anything else AT ALL in most of these ads?

Apparently Kotex gets it, because they have a totally new approach with their new line called U by Kotex.  Not only are they talking about it, but they’re making fun of the fact that no one else (including themselves) really does otherwise.  Check out some of their great new commercials.

They also did these great “social experiment” ads to show how clueless people are about periods and all things related to them.  They are absolutely fantastic and well worth watching.

It’s just baffling some of the things people say in these videos.  But I have to give U by Kotex major credit for doing all of this.  They have a website full of frank information and discussion, questions and answers, submitted videos and other media from fans and more.

This is an incredible marketing campaign.  It is doing what I haven’t seen a single other campaign relating to anything that goes even near a vagina and is marketed to women do.  This includes birth control methods, whose ads usually don’t even say what the product’s primary purpose is (they focus on things like it making you happy or worry-free or regulating your period or reducing PMS, but rarely actually say anything about preventing conception), yeast infection products (which rarely even say what a yeast infection is and never say where it occurs) and all kinds of period-related products.

This campaign considers women who actually have periods and what it feels like when you’re having one, how varied an experience it can be, and how incredibly ignorant most people are on the topic.  It is definitely trying to sell a product, but it’s doing it by being a little more honest and a lot more real.  How many women actually dance around in white dresses while they’re having their periods?  Not a lot.  And I’ve always wondered about that stupid blue liquid.  It’s not even a useful consistency (unless your blood is blue tinted water, but I’m betting if you pricked your finger and checked you’d find that it isn’t).

Basically, this campaign is making ads making fun of the cultural fear we have of menstruation (which is really nonsensical when you think about it) and, unlike all those ads with perfect women who are still happily doing ballet in white spandex during their periods, U by Kotex is suggesting that it’s ok not to be that way – that you’re perfectly normal if you don’t feel like twirling on the beach in a see-through sun dress when you’re having your period.

And that message of normalcy and it being ok is really important because while there are women who are happy doing those things, there are women who aren’t – and there’s nothing wrong with them.  That’s fine.  Not wanting to wear a bikini even when you have a tampon isn’t weird.  And all the white?  That gets old.  Not wanting to wear white doesn’t suggest you aren’t clean, it just means you’re practical.

But the problem is that we’re discouraged from talking about this stuff – it may be normal and natural, but it’s been deemed “icky” by society so much that it’s seen as more desirable to medically remove ever having a period even if there are problems with doing so for some people than it is to just talk about it openly and make it less scary and mysterious.  And it’s something absolutely not acceptable in mixed company.  How many women do you know who would be willing to openly discuss their periods with a guy?  Even a guy they know well.  I’m guessing not a lot.  And I’m guessing a lot of the guys would rather it stay that way!  But it would probably be healthier for everyone if it didn’t and I, for one, and thrilled that U by Kotex is making a tiny step towards changing it.

Posted in Health and Science | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Movie Monday: TiMER

Posted by Rosepixie on April 26, 2010

This is a poster that I came across recently for a movie I had not previously heard of called TiMER.

I found this an incredibly intriguing poster.  It’s simple, but a few details stand out.  The white dress and the phrase “the one” suggest this is a romantic comedy.  Interestingly, however, the guy is conspicuously not in the picture!  His hand is, but he isn’t.  This suggests that his identity is unknown.  Why?

The other detail that really stands out is on the woman’s wrist – the wrist holding the disembodied male hand.  It sort of looks like a watch, but if you look closely, it’s actually part of her or embedded into her skin, not something she’s wearing.  That really got me intrigued, since an embedded electronic device places this pretty squarely in the science fiction camp, which rarely mixes with the romantic comedy crowd due to the long-held and somewhat ridiculous idea that the two genres are incompatible (and that they are gendered oppositely, which is also pretty ridiculous, since genres don’t have genders).

So I’m hooked just from looking at a poster that is fundamentally little more than a woman with no background or context around her, just a red outline around the outside.  That’s great design work.  Whoever designed this poster did an amazing job.  This poster managed to take a movie I had never heard of and make it one I really want to see within a matter of maybe five minutes, just from having a few well placed details!

Posted in Entertainment | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Pepsi Max: It’s Still Rape, Guys

Posted by Rosepixie on April 25, 2010

This is a recent commercial for Pepsi Max.

I can’t even tell you how much this ad disgusts me or how absolutely horrified I am that it was considered a good idea by the company.  I have no idea what could have POSSIBLY told them that this commercial was ok, because it’s really, really not.

This ad portrays a group of guys setting up an elaborate ruse to deceive a woman for the express purpose of one of them having sex with her.  Compelling someone to have sex against their will is rape.  I’m not even going to argue that point (and this is one of those posts were I will carefully screen all comments, since rape is a very sensitive subject and some people just plain don’t get, especially on the internet).  We live in a rape culture – the media all around us tells us that women’s bodies are for the taking and that if a man’s not “getting any”, it’s because a woman is withholding it from him.  This encourages and gives something of a free pass to men’s attempts to coerce women into “putting out”.  And women give in because they’re told they should.

To create a commercial that shows guys tricking a woman who has explicitly said “no” like this and then dancing about their success at the end is to glorify rape.  I really can’t find any other way of reading this one.  I’ve tried.  No means no and if you then trick her into it, it just makes you an asshole.  Pepsi, you totally fail this one.  I hope it comes back to bite you.

Posted in Food | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Women of Marvel: More Pin-Up Girls than Heroes

Posted by Rosepixie on April 24, 2010

Being female around Halloween can be challenging.  Having a female child around Halloween is even more challenging.  The problem is that nearly all Halloween costumes sold commercially for women and girls are either SEXY or so over-the-top girly that they may as well be SEXY.  So if you don’t want your four-year-old dressing as either a pink puffy princess or a sexed up version of a pop star, you’re probably out of luck.  Even when we get the option to be something cool, it’s clear that the creators of the costume sort of missed the point.

Take the Women of Marvel line from Disguise, for example.  This line consists of 23 different costumes representing only four different characters (which in itself is sad – Marvel actually does have quite a few great female characters and this line does not represent them well).  The line has costumes designed for different ages, ranging from little girls up through adults.

*sigh*  Pink?  Really?  Really?  Black Cat seems a slightly odd choice for poster girl, as well.  She’s not one of Marvel’s biggest drawing female characters for female fans.  Why not use one of the amazing women from the X-Men, a book extremely popular among female comic fans?  Or Invisible Woman or Spider-Girl, the two biggest female characters really familiar to younger fans?  Or maybe Ms. Marvel who has the company name as part of her name?

But I think I’m missing the point here.  I’m expecting “Women of Marvel” to be a line of costumes representing superheroes.  Maybe I’m mistaken about that impression.

And here we see the real problem.  This isn’t a line of superheroine costumes – it’s a line of pin-up girl costumes.  If they were heroes, the ads would show them, you know, as heroes.  Instead we see them as snapshots being pulled out of Spider-Man’s wallet.  So they aren’t even people – they’re pictures owned by a guy.  Great.  Now there’s something I want to be!  “Mommy, Mommy!  I want to be a pin-up girl for Halloween!  How about that pink Spider-Girl dress?” (Seriously, there are two pink Spider-Girl costumes in the line.)

The marketing sort of explains why the line consists of two characters from an alternate future timeline and two relatively minor characters and none of the actual costumes worn by… any of them (although Emma Frost’s is close, but she’s already SEXY).  And why every single costume is a dress.  The message here is that girls aren’t superheroes, they’re girly sex objects.  Boys can be superheroes, though, with fake muscles and everything!

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Vintage Friday: Foot Saver Shoes

Posted by Rosepixie on April 23, 2010

This is an ad from 1935 and is for Foot Saver Shoes.

The text reads:

Just a Foolish Vestal Virgin!

She went to the Masquerade Ball as a Vestal Virgin.  And everything was thrilling – till he asked her to sit out a dance.  It was then that she saw him looking at her feet – her weak points, she knew, the toes twisted, the arches swollen, the heels all calloused.  She shouldn’t have worn those revealing sandals to this party.

…He left for the West several days later.  A short note from him.  Then silence.  Gossips wondered what could have nipped their budding romance.  But she knew!


Women of every age are thinking, as never before, about the appearance of their bare feet.  Swimming, stockingless ensembles, openwork sandals – all reveal feminine feet to critical eyes.  And misshapen feet are not only unlovely to look at but they indicate foot troubles which exact their penalty in “crows feet” at the eyes, jagged nerves, loss of vitality.

Foot Saver Shoes are smart.  Your first glance will tell you that.  They breathe New York – Paris – in every line.  They flatter your feet, make them appear trim – yes, even dainty!

Yet Foot Savers are also comfortable.  A slender hidden spring supports the arch, makes walking once more a pleasure.  Correctly shaped over “free walking” lasts, they grasp the foot gently, but snugly, prevent the toes from jamming down in the point of the shoe, keep the heel from sliding.  Wear them and you can retain – or regain, if need be – true beauty of foot – something to remember with summer bathing days just ahead.

This ad made me laugh when I first came across it.  The story about the guy who dumped the girl because of her ugly feet just struck me as very funny.  Why would you even want a guy who would dump you for having less than perfect feet?  And the girl in the picture has very pretty feet indeed, so either she’s the woman in the story after having fixed her feet or (more likely) they just couldn’t bring themselves to use a model with less than perfect feet.

I also find it interesting that this ad talks about pretty open sandals, but shows closed, full-coverage leather shoes.

Still, I can understand wanting shoes that are both more comfortable and better for your feet.  It’s a worthwhile thing to look for, so it makes sense to advertise a product that way.  I’m just not sure about the story!

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Reading the Message: Because Girls Don’t Need Superheroes

Posted by Rosepixie on April 22, 2010

The days of comic books being for kids are long since past, but that doesn’t mean that kids don’t like or need superheroes.  Little boys still pretend to be Spider-Man and little girls still run around as Supergirl.  To help fulfill this common desire for superhero stories in kids, the major comic publishers have kids’ lines that specifically tell stories about their major, popular heroes for kids.  Sounds great, right?  One problem.  Someone at these companies seems to have failed to notice all those girls, because the default assumption in the kids’ lines is very clearly that girls don’t need superheroes.

The team that makes up the DC Super Friends consists of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, and Aquaman.  All six work together in basically every issue of the comic to solve problems and save the day.  The above cover is from the second trade paperback, which collects several issues of this comic.  Notice anyone missing?  She’s missing from the first book cover too.  Worse, she’s not in the toy line.  Not a single female character is.  There’s probably six versions of Batman in the line as well as any number of other characters not central to the stories (Cyborg, Hawkman, etc.), but not a single woman.  And they have no intention of ever making one.

Marvel’s little kid super hero team is called (creatively enough) the Super Hero Squad.  That’s them in the picture above.  In Marvel’s team there isn’t even a female character to begin with!  If you dig through the website about them there is exactly one woman listed under “Heroes” and one under “Villains”.  The female hero is Ms. Marvel who is explicitly not a part of the Super Hero Squad, although she does work for the same organization, and is actually referred to in her bio as Ms. Crankypants.  Nice.  The female villain has a crush on Thor.  I couldn’t find either anywhere on the site except for the section listing characters.

What I noticed most about both of these superhero properties is that both have women characters, but both are explicitly marketed without them.  This is most marked in DC Super Friends, since Wonder Woman is a central character in the stories, yet is completely removed from all marketing materials for the property.  She doesn’t appear on any book covers, in any merchandise or in any of the ads that I’ve been able to find.

These are particularly notable properties because they are, for both companies, the property aimed at their youngest customers.  Marvel has “all ages” versions of several of their major characters which they market to kids, but they involve more complex stories and art, pushing them to a slightly older audience than the easily pre-school and young elementary friendly Super Hero Squad.  DC has a whole line of kids’ properties, but they too are largely aimed more at older elementary and middle school kids who are comfortable reading on their own and desiring more complex stories.  The only title they have which can easily be enjoyed by such a young audience besides DC Super Friends is Tiny Titans, which is clearly written with an audience in mind that already knows the characters at least a little bit and does not show the characters being superheroes, but rather focuses on superheroes living regular kid lives.

So the question is, why market them this way?  If you don’t want girl customers, why include the female characters at all?  What’s the point of Wonder Woman even being on the team if you only plan to pretend she isn’t there?  And if you aren’t explicitly trying to alienate female customers, why specifically leave the female characters out of all marketing and some major parts of the product lines?

The biggest problem here is that this doesn’t make financial sense – a girl pays just as much for a comic book, t-shirt, action figure or costume as a boy does, so why deliberately ignore them when they are half the market and when appealing to them at the young ages these product lines target could mean you get a customer for life?  It’s not even that getting a kid hooked on comic books young means they’ll read them forever, lots of people read comics as kids and stopped at some point just like lots of adults never read them as kids but do now.  It’s more that if you tell that customer base that you don’t want them from the start, the message sinks in deeper, so you’re deliberately turning away someone who might otherwise have been interested, and then you’ve probably lost them for life.  The messages we hear as kids mean a lot, even when we don’t think about them.  So why would you ever want to make your message “we don’t want your money, superheroes aren’t for girls”?

Posted in Entertainment | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

CoverGirl: Cool Tools

Posted by Rosepixie on April 21, 2010

This is a recent ad for CoverGirl makeup starring Drew Barrymore.

I’m pretty sure this ad is trying to say that CoverGirl makeup is inexpensive but doesn’t look like it, and thus is a good deal while the economy is bad.  Because even if you’re having to cut back on your expenses, makeup clearly isn’t something to skimp on.  The problem is that it’s not very clear about that and the incredibly 1980s-ish outfit just made me laugh.

I also felt like the marketing people behind this ad were trying to sound hip with phrases like “cool tools” and “lash blast”, but they don’t actually sound that hip.  They sound kind of silly, actually, which doesn’t really go with the “expensive makeup line that doesn’t cost a lot” message.  It sort of goes with a makeup line that’s cheap, which I’m pretty sure isn’t what they want viewers to take away from the ad.

So I think this ad really didn’t work.  The marketing people are likely right about makeup being something people spend less on when the economy isn’t so good, but I’m not sure that this was the right way to respond.  What do you think?

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