an Ad a Day

A look at the marketing that surrounds us.

Archive for the ‘Services’ Category

eBay: Because Electronics Don’t Change That Fast

Posted by Rosepixie on June 5, 2010

These are two recent magazine ads for eBay.

The text reads:

This season’s shows still look great on last season’s HD TV.

Last year’s music player at half price still plays this year’s music at full volume.

I think this is a great marketing tactic for eBay.  It’s hard to advertise a changing selection of used stuff, but they’ve managed here to point out that the products they feature regularly are still great and usually considerably cheaper than new versions.  And while many people love having the next great thing, realistically how often do most of us update our television sets?  Not yearly, anyway.  Because the ad is right – the newest shows are going to look just as good on an HD TV from last year as one from this year unless you’re buying a cutting edge TV, which most of us aren’t.

This is a nice, simple campaign that can be carried through any number of products and themes to illustrate the breadth of eBay’s selections and to tailor the ads to whatever venue they are being featured in.  It matches the service well and is memorable.  It does exactly what it’s supposed to do and it does it well.


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Vintage Friday: Bell Telephone

Posted by Rosepixie on May 21, 2010

This is a commercial from the 1960s for the Bell Telephone company.

This is a great travel commercial.  It’s a lousy telephone commercial.  It is absolutely full of information, but none of that information has anything to do with what the commercial is actually for.  In fact, the voiceover never even states what the commercial is for!  He’s too busy going on about the mountain train and its history, which is admittedly very interesting, but also entirely unrelated to what he’s trying to advertise.

At the end of this commercial I wanted to ride a train, not make a phone call.  And trains make me think of letters and postcards, not phone calls.

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Comcast: Location, Location, Location

Posted by Rosepixie on May 18, 2010

This is a billboard for Comcast that is located in San Francisco and a friend of mine was nice enough to get a picture of it for me.

The text reads:

Internet that hits 50 megs.

Game over, AT&T.


By itself, this is a pretty boring billboard.  So why am I pointing it out?  Because of it’s location.  Directly across the street from the building where this billboard is located is AT&T Park, the baseball stadium where the San Fransisco Giants play.  It’s literally right across the street from Willie Mays Plaza, where the front gates of the stadium are.  So fans see it as they walk out of the gates and pass it as they walk in and probably see it as they stand around outside before the game waiting to get inside.

Where an ad is placed can be as important as what it says or looks like, and Comcast clearly understands this because they choose a great location for their billboard and then targeted it’s message specifically to that location.

Does it work?  Well, I have no idea how effective this billboard has been for Comcast.  But I do know I would notice it more standing there because it’s specifically in dialog with the location I came to visit.  And I’d remember it more.  And I’m guessing I’m not unique in that respect.  And, as I’ve said before, sometimes just getting your name into people’s heads is the point.

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Nationwide: Don’t Buy Our Insurance?

Posted by Rosepixie on May 1, 2010

This is one of the strangest insurance ads I think I’ve ever seen.  I’ve included a transcript of the dialog after the video because it goes really fast and doesn’t make a lot of sense.


Written on Screen: “The World’s Greatest Spokesperson in the World!”

Salesman: “Nationwide Insurance.  Talk to me”

Woman Customer: “For once, I’d just like to see my insurance bill get smaller.”

Salesman (talking into phone): “Jen will switch to Nationwide Insurance if you create something that automagically scans her policy to find discounts she earns as her life changes.  And you have five seconds!”

Woman Customer: “This could save me money, right?”

Salesman: “Oh yeah.  But you can’t do anything in five seconds!  This is great!  Op!  Here we go!”  (Hangs up the phone)

Written on Screen: “Discount Finder”

Salesman: “Rednif tnoucsid.  Love it!

Woman Customer: “Discount Finder”

Salesman: “Even better!”

Woman Customer: “Oh thanks.”

Salesman: “That’s great!”

Woman Customer: “Yeah.”

Written on Screen: “Nationwide Insurance”

Ok.  So I really have to wonder about the marketing team behind this one and whatever executives gave it the go-ahead.  It makes very little sense.  I get what the commercial is trying to say, but I think it fails miserably at it in many ways.

First, we’re told that this guy is the “World’s Greatest Salesperson in the World”, which is redundant and highly unbelievable from almost the moment he starts talking.  He doesn’t give the impression of listening to the woman at all (notice he barely looks in her direction the entire commercial and never when she’s speaking) and his solution to her problem doesn’t seem to be a solution at all.  He calls the insurance company and gives them the extremely arbitrary five seconds to do what he wants.  He gleefully tells us that this won’t work, which makes me wonder why he’s doing it in the first place and how on Earth this is supposed to convince anyone to buy their insurance.

Then, with no indication that they actually met his five-second challenge, he hangs up on the company.  In fact, it seems like he hangs up because they failed.  At this point, even the actress in the commercial seems confused.  But the salesperson doesn’t even notice and cheerfully tells us what the feature was that he wanted the company to find or have that they seem to have failed to find – except that, for some entirely unknown and nonsensical reason, he says it backwards.  We know what it is because it’s written on the screen and the woman in the ad helpfully reads it forwards for us, but what was the point exactly of him saying it backwards instead of forwards?  He doesn’t appear to be Zatanna and we have no reason to believe him reading it backwards will cause it to happen, so it really just ads to the confusion of this already very confused ad.

And then he glorifies over his success while the woman seems somewhat confused and sort of half-heartedly goes along with him.  It’s pretty pathetic, actually.  I can understand her response, though.  If this strange guy was in my living room, I’d humor him too in the hopes that he’d go away faster.

And there’s the problem – I’m hoping he’ll go away.  Which is not a good impression to give.  If the commercial leaves me with the feeling of wanting your spokesperson to go away, that doesn’t give me a very good impression of your company or services, does it?  And this commercial went even beyond that.  It clearly wants viewers to believe that Nationwide has a great dynamic discount finding system that will save them money, and if they do have such a system, that is an awesome selling point.  But the ad didn’t tell us that they have that feature.  It told us that it’s a great feature people want and that nobody has it, even them (at least, not that they can find in five seconds).  And the five seconds thing is especially strange, since I’m guessing you’d be lucky to even have gotten a person in five seconds, much less be on hold for less than that time after asking a question like that!

And the commercial goes very quickly, suggesting that perhaps someone realized how nonsensical and annoying it was and hoped that by speeding it up, other people wouldn’t notice.  Nice try, but that actually doesn’t usually work.  Usually it just makes your commercials easier to forget because less of what you said was processed and retained by viewers.

So, to recap:

1. Annoying salesperson who gives the impression that the company is irritating, doesn’t listen well and really should just go away as quickly as possible.

2. They have a great idea for a feature people would love, but no one apparently has it (even them).

3. Asking any service provider of any kind to do anything in five seconds over the phone is just an exercise in futility, so that element makes you seem either less credible or more ridiculous depending on the viewer.

4. The commercial is sped up, making it more confusing and forgettable, and thus possibly negating all the previous problems, but also making it a waste of time and money since it likely won’t even manage to get the company’s name into people’s heads in a useful way.

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FreeCreditReport.Com: Background Check Your Dates

Posted by Rosepixie on April 13, 2010

This is a commercial for, a rather sketchy credit report company.

So the lesson here is that you should run a credit report on your dates before it gets too far?  Seriously?

And I have to point out that he doesn’t seem to be much help.  She’s cleaning up their totally messy place while he’s jamming with his friends about how much he wishes he hadn’t married her so he wouldn’t have to live there.  I’m sorry, but that doesn’t make me think that it was him who made the mistake in that marriage, it makes me think that maybe it was her.  I mean, look at her situation.  She’s stuck there with some guy who’s no help and who’s just whining about how she has a bad credit score.  What about his credit score?  She’s not the only one who would be applying, you know.  If his score was good, they could still potentially get a loan.  But she’s stuck with this guy who just writes songs about how much he wishes he hadn’t married her, goofing off with his friends, as she cleans up his stuff.

This does not make me think this is a good service, it makes me think they’re sexist jerks.  Sorry,, but this is a total fail.

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Postal Service: No More Stops

Posted by Rosepixie on March 27, 2010

This is the back of a postcard I received advertising for the U.S. Postal Service.

The mom looks so calm and collected, doesn’t she?  I mean, the baby looks decidedly unhappy and the mom is clearly juggling way too much stuff (a couple of bags, baby, keys and a cell phone), but she doesn’t look phased at all.  This does not look like a woman who’s fed up with errands.

That said, the baby totally looks fed up with the whole situation and ready to go home.

I really like this image.  It conveys how busy people are and how parents especially try to fit as many things in at once sometimes because going out with kids (especially really little ones) is such a hassle and can basically throw the whole day out of whack for the baby and, by extension, everyone around them.  It makes it really clear what the benefits of not having to make a special trip to the post office would be.

Usually I’ve found the Post Office’s mailings to be pretty boring, but this one was great.  It’s a well chosen image (a woman of color too!  and not used for any particular reason, it just happens to be a woman of color!  bonus points!) that conveys their message clearly.  And it’s respectful.  It both acknowledges the challenges of being a parent and shows a mom who’s not falling apart under them (or being saved by paper towels or something).  I love this picture.

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Vintage Friday: Bell Telephone System

Posted by Rosepixie on March 12, 2010

This is an ad from 1954 for Bell Telephone System.

The text reads:

“Is it for ME?”

You kind of hope it is – for good news and good times often come your way by telephone.

Maybe it’s a date for sister Sue.  Or a business call for Dad.  Or Bill asking if Jimmie can go to the movies.  Or Grandma calling Mother to find out if things are all right.  And everything is more likely to be all right when there’s a telephone in the home.

In many, many ways the telephone is a real friend of the family.  And the cost is small – just pennies a call.

Bell Telephone System

Local to serve the community.  Nationwide to serve the nation.

Well, I’m not sure how accurate the premise that “everything is more likely to be all right when there’s a telephone in the home” is, but clearly it’s advantageous to Bell to convey the impression that it’s true.

I liked that the ad gave a possible phone call for each member of the family, although I felt like Dad kind of got short changed (compare the entertainment level of his call to that of his kids’) and that Mom’s was questionably exciting, depending on how nagging her mother was and how frequently she got such calls.  I wouldn’t be looking forward to calls if mine were most likely to be business calls while I was home relaxing in the evening or if my mother called to nag and worry every night!  No wonder the Sue and Jimmie look more excited about the ringing phone than their parents do!

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WebSafe: Be a Fly

Posted by Rosepixie on March 9, 2010

This banner ad for WebSafe was sent to me by a friend.

The ad makes it sound like a service that will tell you what your kids are looking at or doing on their computers, doesn’t it?  But that doesn’t actually appear to be one of the features that the WebSafe service provides.  Their service provides you with mostly vastly trumped up facts about things you should be worrying about and then the ability to block those things from web browsers on your kids computers.

See, the “fly on the wall” metaphor implies listening in covertly.  Flies can’t actually interfere with what’s happening, they’re just not in a position to do that.  And when people say they want to be a “fly on the wall” they aren’t usually saying they want to control what’s going on, they’re saying they want to *know* what’s going on.  There’s a big difference there.  And there are very good reasons parents might have to want to know what their kids are doing online when they aren’t around, but that’s not what this service offers you.  It offers you panic and probably not very good filters (honestly, I have yet to see a filter that actually blocks everything it’s supposed to and most can pretty easily be gotten around by someone half aware of what they’re doing – which most teenagers are).

Truth in advertising is important.  For some reason, WebSafe seems to have missed that message (although, truth doesn’t seem to be one of their big things anyway).

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Droid: Um… Huh?

Posted by Rosepixie on February 27, 2010

Here is yet another ad for the Droid mobile phone.  Previously I’ve looked at ads from this campaign that claimed that history shows robots never get lost and that presented us with a great image.

This ad is rather more confusing than the previous two.  I think that it’s supposed to be telling us about how great the search engine on the Droid works, but somehow the message is a little garbled.  Let’s break it down.

Unleash digital bloodhounds.

Ok, so the phone will find things for you.  Makes sense so far.

Just say the word and your phone jumps into overdrive.  Because Droid mashes applications with streamlined ease.

What?  So, is this telling me that the search will be fast because the phone’s applications are fast, implying the browser application is fast or that I can perform searches even when running a whole bunch of applications because the phone can handle many apps at once?  Either way, that’s not a clear way of saying it at all (btw, I’m pretty sure they meant the first one, but it took me three readings to make any sense at all of it).

Including speech recognition.

Um… ok… cool.  So I can just talk to the phone and it’ll know what to do.  I have so much faith in that, since phone speak recognition technology is generally fantastic (note: that was heavily sarcastic).

And Google-fueled search that knows exactly where you are.

Wait, so we’re talking about searching for physical things?  Or web searches?  I’m confused again!

A canine-precise detection device.  So nothing eludes you.

Except the meaning of this ad.

Oh, and just as a note, this ad has some of the worst grammar I’ve seen in a very long time.  You can use punctuation other than periods, guys!  Trust me.  Try it sometime, you might find it useful.

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Verizon Wireless: Tapping Into Nostalgia

Posted by Rosepixie on February 20, 2010

This is a recent commercial for Verizon Wireless.

Recognize it?  Watch the original commercial to see just how closely they mimicked it.

This Verizon commercial is brilliant.  Not only does it tap into nostalgia, but it manages to include a surprising number of entertaining things you can do with a well-connected cell phone.  It could be pointed out that the original gum commercial was about bringing people together while the new version mostly shows people by themselves, but since arguably cell phones bring people together more than gum does, I can’t say that particular change really bothers me.  In fact, I’d have to say that the idea of gum bringing people together for kisses and stuff is kind of disgusting and the Verizon ad does not suffer from that at all!

I think that a parallel this close really works because we are able to so easily pull up the old ad it’s based on.  If we couldn’t do that, while the jingle would bring up warm fuzzy feelings of nostalgia, I’m not sure that it would be quite as effective and entertaining.  I think this ad is a good choice for Verizon.  It’s fun to watch and definitely conveys some major positives of their service.

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