an Ad a Day

A look at the marketing that surrounds us.

Archive for May, 2010

Movie Monday: Waking Sleeping Beauty

Posted by Rosepixie on May 31, 2010

This is a trailer for a documentary that is out now about the Disney animated movie making team from the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s.  It’s called Waking Sleeping Beauty.

I think that this trailer does a great job.  It starts out with one of the most famous scenes from one of Disney’s most famous movies (and the movie that really started their revival at the point in time this movie focuses on), which gets their audience engaged and interested right off the bat.  Then the trailer shows some of the most recognizable and famous of the people who worked there at the time (John Lasseter, Tim Burton, etc.) and shows the team having fun and working on some of the movies we tend to remember best.

This trailer really plays on Disney nostalgia, but it also doesn’t shy away from the fact that they were in real trouble at the time and that their movies were seriously flopping (the line about how they lost to the Care Bears movie was especially good).  The footage isn’t fantastic, but supposedly a lot of the documentary is like that because that’s what they had to work with – home video quality footage.

Most of the documentary trailers I watch are either too boring to promise too much (I’m sorry, but it’s unlikely that watching a documentary about the lifespan of whales is going to be a revelation of some kind for most people, even if it’s an amazing documentary on the topic).  This one is engaging and honest about its topic.  I think that they did a great job with it.  They made me want to watch the movie both to learn more about how they did manage to go from making movies that tanked to blockbusters that are still ranked among favorites constantly and to see just what it was like to work there and make movies for Disney.  This isn’t something I thought I’d be especially interested in, but the trailer managed to pique my interest in a way that most documentary trailers don’t.  I wish that more were able to do that.


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Hard Rock Cafe: Anyone Can Be Cool

Posted by Rosepixie on May 30, 2010

This is a magazine ad for Hard Rock Cafe.

This is one of those ads that really took me by surprise.  I’m so used to Hard Rock Cafe cultivating the image of being for real rockers – the stereotypical real rockers with colored streaks in their hair and customized guitars and crazy rock star clothes – that I wasn’t expecting to find an ad that actually speaks directly to the people who seem to actually frequent the restaurants most often.  Because although I’ve been to several Hard Rock Cafes, I’ve never seen anyone that looks like that stereotypical rocker there in real life, they’re just in the pictures on the walls.  The patrons were all more like me and my family – middle class suburban families with parents waxing nostalgic about how they used to gush over Elvis and kids marveling at the cool memorabilia on the walls.

But when you get down to it, I’ll be a large number of those parents have some rebellion in their past (isn’t that what most famous rock stars and bands are in their heyday, after all, rebellion of some kind?).  And they remember it.  People don’t just grow up and stop being who they were, they’re just older and have more experience and more responsibilities.  You may spend your afternoons singing along to the Wiggles, but Nirvana will still be your favorite band of all time.  And that’s what this ad is appealing to – those youthful rebellions and secret musical preferences that adults learn to sort of put aside when they grow up because it gives the wrong impression or because it would wake the baby or because their mother-in-laws don’t like it or any number of other reasons.

I think that this is a brilliant ad for Hard Rock Cafe.  It doesn’t let go of the image they want to project, but it reaches out the customers they actually attract, rather than the ones they want to give the impression of attracting.

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Old Navy: Be a Mannequin

Posted by Rosepixie on May 29, 2010

Old Navy has been using mannequins as their spokespeople for a while now.  They even created relationships, personalities and backstories for them.  It’s all a bit weird and I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what to say about it on this blog for a while now.  Unfortunately, as bad as I thought the “supermodelquins” were by themselves, they’ve taken the whole thing one step further – now they’re actually asking fans to be mannequins themselves.  They’ve created a reality TV style series of ads portraying a contest with real women trying to be mannequins and fans get to go online and vote for which woman should win.  The ads are pretty brutal.  Here’s just a sampling.

So, to be a “supermodelquin”, you have to not move (even your hair) and have the right poses.  Because those things are really important.  And the prize is being molded into a mannequin.

At first, I thought maybe that wasn’t so bad.  The “supermodelquins” are incredibly unrealistically proportioned for most of the population.  They’re well named – they appear to be proportioned like ideal supermodels.  I kind of wonder how the clothing fits them (I assume that they make special versions to fit the mannequins or use clips to fit them like most stores do).  So molding a mannequin from a real person with regular proportions would be a nice change of pace and introduce some believability to the mix.

But I was wrong.  They aren’t molding the new mannequin to actually be the size and shape of the winner – they’re just using the same proportions as the mannequins they already have and creating a head to look like the winner.  Check out these two images from the official website.  The first is the contestants as real humans (albeit, probably somewhat Photoshopped because marketers can’t seem to resist their editing tools) and the second is a composite shot I made of the mannequin versions they turn into if you hover over them with your mouse.

Quite a difference, isn’t there?  And those are three beautiful women!  They didn’t really need scary long necks or twig-thin legs.  But that’s how the “supermodelquins” look, so I guess that’s what they get.

My problem here is that it really reinforces this weird idea of what Old Navy wants its customers to look like and it’s not a good image.  I don’t really want to shop somewhere that thinks I should be a supermodel.  Nor do I want to be told I should be one.  Mannequins standing in stores are bad enough, do we really need them holding contests to reinforce their standards of beauty too?

Not to mention that they’re just kind of creepy.  Don’t believe me?  Check out one of their ads from before the contest.

Posted in Fashion | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Vintage Friday: World’s Fairs in the 1930s

Posted by Rosepixie on May 28, 2010

World’s Fairs used to be a big deal.  They were the place to go to see the latest and greatest inventions, discoveries, art, music and more.  They were huge undertakings that drew enormous crowds.  Even though they generally existed in their own mini-villages of fantastic buildings, they tended to be hosted by major cities who used the worlds fairs to draw tourism to the rest of their attractions as well.  Today I have two posters advertising two different world’s fairs only a few years apart.

The Chicago World’s Fair – 1934

The New York World’s Fair – 1939

What struck me most about these posters was how very different they are.  Each represents something about the flavor and attitude of the host city.

The Chicago poster is bright and busy and the first thing I thought of when I looked at it was music – the visual cues suggest music in a variety of ways (lines on sheet music, radio microphones, etc.).  Music is such a cornerstone of the Chicago cultural identity that this makes sense.  The poster even has “hear” listed as something you can do when you visit the fair.

The New York poster is simpler, but evokes the iconic Lady Liberty, who is one of New York City’s most famous attractions.  It also gives the impression that New York is a city of the world, with the globe and people moving across the surface of that image to the fair and towards where New York is located.  This idea is one that is pretty central to New York thinking (even if the rest of the world doesn’t always agree with it).

I like both of these posters, even though neither tells you what’s actually at a world’s fair.  They’re colorful and eye-catching and both carry a lot of the flavor of the place where the attraction is located, which is a big plus for travel ads.

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Barbie: Trying to Claim a Song

Posted by Rosepixie on May 27, 2010

In 1997 Aqua came out with the song “Barbie Girl”, which has become incredibly popular and nearly instantly recognizable over the years since.  That same year Mattel sued the group for copyright and trademark infringement over the song, claiming that it slandered Barbie and turned her into a “blonde bimbo” and a sex object.  They lost their lawsuit and their appeal.  Recently, however, they appear to be trying to claim the song as their own and have used clips of it with altered lyrics in commercials and just this year released a “music video” starring the doll herself singing her version of the song.  Here’s Barbie’s music video version of (a very altered) “Barbie Girl”.

I think it’s more than a little hypocritical of Mattel to sue over this song and then use it in their own marketing.  They must be licencing it from Aqua, which means they’re paying for the right to use it.  This means that they’re now paying for the right to use (and alter) a song that they were previously very much against.  The fact that they’ve changed the lyrics quite a bit suggests that they’re still not terribly fond of the song, either.  And since Mattel never mentions that the lyrics have been changed, I have to wonder if they hope people will learn their version instead of the original.

Looking at just the music video itself, without any of the politics around it, I’m not that impressed.  I still get the impression that Barbie isn’t that brilliant or deep.  And the problem isn’t actually the doll herself.  I think if they’d stuck to all dolls in the video, they might have been fine.  The problem is that the outfits Barbie and her friends can get away with just fine look really trashy on the real people in the ad.  The real people doing the choreography in the doll-like outfits does evoke “bimbos” and sex objects, not “an inspiration” or “a star” while the dolls look perfectly fine!

I think this was a pretty big misstep for Mattel.  I can understand wanting to use a song that evokes their doll and is already so popular.  The problem is that they’ve got so much history with that song that isn’t pretty (and was only a decade ago, so not as forgotten as I’m sure they’d like it to be, either) and then their execution of the song actually seems to evoke more of the negative qualities that they were originally fighting against than the original did, despite their changes to the lyrics!  While it might have been possible for Mattel to use this song to good effect, this was definitely not it.  Hopefully they’ll do better next time.

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Chanel Coco Mademoiselle: Not so Elegant

Posted by Rosepixie on May 26, 2010

This is a magazine ad for Chanel Coco Mademoiselle, a perfume.

Chanel is a very famous French fashion line started by a very famous designer named Coco Chanel, so it makes sense for them to name one of their fragrances after their famous designer.  What I don’t understand is the image paired with the fragrance here.  Coco Chanel was famous for her simple elegance, which was something of a revelation to the fashion world.  She basically invented the “little black dress” and her suits were classic (updated versions of her suit designs are still staples of the fashion house’s offerings even today).  She’s legendary even beyond the fashion world (how many fashion designers have picture book biographies written of them?).

And no company is in a better position to evoke her memory than Chanel itself.  They could have put a model in one of their signature suits, so like the ones she wore but with a slight modern twist.  Or dressed one in a little black dress with strands of pearls.  Elegance and simplicity – modern and classic all in one perfectly tailored and accessorized package.

But they inexplicably chose to pair the fragrance named for this legendary designer with a nude model posing with a mens’ shirt draped across her lap and a mens’ hat clutched to her chest (oh, and jewels, because she’s clearly a high class girl).  I can’t figure it out.  It’s just about the last thing I would have chosen to evoke Coco.  Maybe a tree or a vampire bat would have been lower on the list, but this would be pretty far down.

The only explanation I can come up with is that they wanted to covey the idea of sex appeal and for some unknown reason the only way advertisers seem to know how to do that these days is through having naked (or mostly naked) girls in their ads.  And sometimes that works for the product, but part of advertising is matching the ads to the product and in that respect I think this particular ad fails spectacularly.  Sorry, Chanel, but this is not a perfume I’d buy based on this ad.  I’d love to feel like I have a little piece of Coco’s elegance, but if this is what that perfume evokes, it’s not going to help me with that goal.

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

Nokia: Building a Green Brand

Posted by Rosepixie on May 25, 2010

This is a commercial focused on Nokia as a brand, rather than one specific product of theirs, and stresses the company’s efforts to be environmentally responsible.

This commercial visually used a lot of the “green” shorthands – crumpled up paper, a hand-drawn appearance, leaves everywhere, and (of course) the color green.  That said, it’s fairly well designed from a visual standpoint.

The flow is pretty good too – it takes you through the process of designing, building, packaging and shipping products, stressing the environmental focus at each step.  It’s problem is that this takes a long time and gets a little bit boring at points.  But overall, the visuals keep things moving pretty well.

In terms of branding, I think this does a pretty good job.  Am I convinced that Nokia phones are super awesome for the environment?  Not really.  They’re still phones.  But I am likely to remember this and it might be the thing that tips my decision in Nokia’s favor when I’m next debating between two phones from different companies.

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Movie Monday: Splice

Posted by Rosepixie on May 24, 2010

This is a poster for the upcoming movie Splice.

I honestly wouldn’t have batted an eye at this poster if it weren’t for the fact that I just recently saw the preview for the same movie.  The preview was pretty unremarkable (generic technology/science-turned-monster movie trailer), but it did seem to go to remarkable lengths to not really show us the clone creature herself, as if seeing what she looked like was one of the reasons to see the movie.

But apparently it isn’t, since here she is on the poster.  And there’s a foreign poster (German, I think, but I’m not positive of that) that just has a full-length shot of her naked.

So all I can think here is that either the department making the trailer and the department making the posters aren’t communicating (which is a giant marketing failure, since a coherent campaign is generally a good thing) or the fact that you don’t get to see her in the trailer was more by accident than anything.  And when your movie focuses on a unique creature, you’d better be sure to pay attention to how and when the creature is revealed in your marketing, since it’s going to make a difference.

As it is, I think they are both fine (if unremarkable) pieces of movie marketing.  They just don’t work together at all.

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

Hyundai: Because Kids are Dumb

Posted by Rosepixie on May 23, 2010

Hyundai recently came out with a couple of commercials for their cars (the Tuscon and Sonata are the ones mentioned) with a common theme.

Both of these ads mock teenagers and play on the common adult prejudices against them.  They give statistics about how many new teen drivers will “join you on the road” this year and encourage you to get a car with better safety features.  Because obviously, all of those teenagers are a major threat and are more likely to kill you than not, right?

What the ads don’t show is anything actually relating to teenagers driving.  They show teenagers doing other things (playing a videogame that is all about not driving sanely and something completely random with a giant slingshot), but we never see a teen in a car or hear any information about how many of those teens will get into accidents or what kinds of accidents or anything useful like that.  It’s entirely a scare tactic.

And that’s really why I don’t like these commercials.  I hate ads that use scare tactics.  They’re incredibly disrespectful to their customers.  Not to mention that this one seems to ignore the idea the perhaps if these cars have such great safety features maybe the very people they should be marketing them to is those teen drivers and their parents, who are much more likely to need the safety features than just some random person who’s irrationally afraid of teenagers.

There’s a great post about these ads over at FiveThirtyEight that points out that elderly drivers are the other major group disproportionately involved in a large number of accidents on the road, but they would never be the targets of such ads like teenagers are here because they have political representation in a way that kids and teenagers don’t.  It’s a great post and well worth reading.

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Banned Books Week: Be Your Own Robot

Posted by Rosepixie on May 22, 2010

The American Library Association creates promotional materials for the various campaigns that libraries across the country run and one of the big ones is Banned Books Week.  It happens every year and is designed to promote awareness of the issue and encourage people to read banned books and fight against censorship.  Each year the campaign has a theme that carries through the promotional materials.  This is the poster for the most recent one.

The text reads:

Think for yourself and let others do the same.

Banned Books Week

I love this poster.  It features three robots who are of essentially identical design, but the one in the middle has removed the plug from his head and has a different eye color and a smile instead of a serious frown.  He’s reading a book.  The other two stand at attention, but the reader looks casual and comfortable, enjoying his book.  I have to wonder what he’s reading (my first inclination is that it’s something like Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? but that seems too obvious).

Besides being cute, this poster does a good job of conveying the position of the library’s campaign through an image.  They worry that the people trying to deny access for everyone to anything they see as objectionable are doing so because they want everyone to think and act the same way – to be identical, programmed robots who never question or think outside the box.  This is a simplification, of course, but it does get to the root of the issue.

I think this is actually one of the most effective posters for Banned Books Week I’ve seen.  It’s image is clear, the message is uncomplicated and easily understood.  It’s also one of the riskiest, one of the most daring.  It directly shows what opponents of censorship fear the ultimate goal for censors is, and that’s a more political and almost belligerent things to do than simply list books that have been banned or encourage people to read them.  It’s more interesting, engaging and effective than many of their previous campaigns, despite its simplicity.  And that may be why it’s my favorite of the ones I’ve seen.

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