an Ad a Day

A look at the marketing that surrounds us.

Posts Tagged ‘website’

Mars Chocolate: Healthy Living

Posted by Rosepixie on June 17, 2010

This is a banner ad for a new initiative from Mars Chocolate, the makers of brands like M&Ms, Snickers and Dove Chocolate.

Doesn’t this ad look friendly and well meaning?  Like something you’d see in an educational pamphlet about eating right or at a doctor’s office or something?

Except that the center of the cute Earth-like image at the bottom is a big round piece of chocolate, which isn’t usually the featured food in health-food pamphlets.  And when you go to the website, it’s all about health, how to make sure you’re eating right and exercising.  Oh, and chocolate.  It talks about the history of chocolate and extols the virtues of the chocolate sold by Mars.

The website does a great job of actually not being full of mixed messages, despite being run by a chocolate company.  It’s very up-front about their products and their marketing, actually.  The problem is the banner ad, which isn’t so up-front.  When I first saw it I wasn’t even sure what it was for.  I thought “Mars, the chocolate company?” and “is that chocolate in the middle?” and generally thought it was weird.  Honestly, if it weren’t for this blog, I doubt I would have followed the link to see what it was pointing to.  I was kind of put off by it.

While I appreciate the efforts Mars seems to be going to in order to encourage healthy eating and everything, I can’t help but feeling like this banner ad doesn’t convey their message that well.  It feels almost deceptive, and that’s not something that I would think they’d want, given how the whole campaign is about how they’re trying to go out of their way to be open about the health information on their products!  I just think that there has to be a better way for Mars to advertise this initiative beyond the website.


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

Levi’s Friends Store: Find Out What Your Friends Wear

Posted by Rosepixie on June 15, 2010

Facebook has opened up all sorts of marketing opportunities for companies and many are taking advantage of these opportunities.  Some are finding creative ways of incorporating Facebook’s tools and capabilities into their marketing while others are just trying to make the best of the tools as they are presented.  One company that has incorporated Facebook’s “like” button into their own website in a rather intense way is Levi’s.  They’ve set up two special Facebook stores – one an “Everyone” section in the “Friends Store” store (apparently everyone is your friend, they’re just friends you don’t know):

This part of the store shows you everything anyone has recently “liked” from their catalog (apparently they’ve put “like” buttons on everything).  This is, apparently, where to look to simply find out what the most popular styles are in general, since it’s probably going to show you entirely the opinions of a bunch of strangers.  And if you “like” something from Levi’s, it’s where your opinion will be shown to a bunch of strangers.

But if you want to know what just your friends like, you can click on the “Friends” part of the “Friends Store”:

So, I didn’t log in to find out if my friends had any opinions about Levi’s (although I’m doubting that they did, since my friends aren’t really the type to go through an online catalog and “like” the styles they like).  Presumably, though, this is the page where I get to see what I should be wearing to be more like, or more likable, by my friends.

If you doubt my interpretation that this is marketing that’s trying to get people to all dress the same as their friends, check out the marketing for the marketing campaign:

The text reads:

Like-minded shopping starts here.

Because they don’t want you to be thinking about dressing individually, they want you dressing in their most popular style and then peer pressuring your friends into all dressing in it too.  Which is incredibly creepy.

And this is part of why I don’t like the idea of Facebook knowing everything I buy online.  I don’t want companies using what I buy to try and pressure my friends into buying it too.  I think that my life is more interesting because my friends aren’t me.  I know me.  I am me.  I already have a me in my life.  Why would I want more mes?  That would be colossally boring!  My friends are each their own person with their own likes, dislikes and styles and I like it that way.

So, Levi’s, I get what you’re doing with this campaign, but clones are boring.  Besides, doesn’t this completely conflict with their whole individuality message from the “Go Forth” campaign?

Posted in Fashion | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

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 »

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 »

American Apparel: Best Butt Contest

Posted by Rosepixie on April 6, 2010

American Apparel recently held a contest to find “the best bottom in the world”.  Anyone could enter, but they had to submit photographs of their butts wearing American Apparel clothing to be posted on the website and voted on and commented on by users.  Anyone could then vote and comment on any photograph they wanted.  The winners were chosen by the company, but the winners of the popular vote got prizes too.

Of course, when you went to the website, the first page you saw was the women’s category.

Notice the poses and the choices of clothing in the featured pictures.  The large picture at the top cycled through different images.

Here’s the guy’s page, which you had to choose to go to via a tiny link in the top corner of the screen that I completely missed until I went looking for it, wondering if this was a women’s only contest or if I was missing something (you can see the link in the image).

See how very different this page feels than the women’s page?  There’s a few sexualized poses, but not nearly as many and none of the men are exposing nearly as much skin as pretty much all of the women are.  Hell, one of them isn’t even a picture of someone’s butt!

Not surprisingly, I have quite a few problems with this particular marketing gimmick.  First of all, the presentation is awful.  Asking people to send in pictures of their butts is one thing, but posting them online and encouraging others to vote and comment on them is quite another.  Much of the site is basically soft-core porn images and the comments are horrid and demeaning, as the images are being treated as porn.  This is just about the worst kind of objectification and even worse than the passive objectification that is usually fed to us in advertisements, this promotion actually invites us to participate in objectifying people, judging them and commenting on their body parts.

Second, this promotion specifically restricts what contestants can wear when entering.  All entries must portray contestants wearing American Apparel garments from specified categories (panties (women), bodysuits (women) or briefs(men)).  Since all of the products available for men to wear are less revealing than the products allowed for women to wear, they already have a major advantage in the objectification department in this case.  There are numerous styles available for women, but they are almost universally smaller garments than those available to the men and there are several thong and string options, which there are none of in the men’s category.  This makes the contest even more heavily forced into the soft-core porn territory it likely would have fallen into anyway (given the topic).  It also restricts the entrants to only previous customers of American Apparel.

Now, American Apparel is known for it’s objectifying and sexist ads, so this really shouldn’t be a surprise.  It just sort of hit a new low, in my opinion.  This is the company getting free advertising images from customers that they can use on their website with little cost to themselves (effectively none if they rig the contest so that they choose someone they wanted to model for them in the first place).  It’s pretty revolting.  I knew there was a reason I’d never bought anything from them.

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

Teeth Whitening Trick: Discovered by THIS MOM!

Posted by Rosepixie on March 17, 2010

There’s a good chance you’ve seen an ad for this strange teeth whitening system (I’m pretty sure it’s a scam, but I’m more interested in the ads, which are everywhere, than investigating the “offer” itself, so I don’t have any proof of that).  Some of the ads show a close-up of teeth biting a sugar cube or something else while others show a person.  Nearly all of them mention how the “trick” was discovered by a mom.  Here’s a few sample ads pulled from Facebook for it:

Obviously, sometimes it’s called Ultra White and sometimes no name is ascribed to this miracle system of teeth whitening.  But each ad is worded nearly identically and claims that this is the mom who discovered it.  Notice in the first image how the woman is standing in front of one of those sponsored backdrops they take pictures of celebrities in front of at events?  I don’t personally recognize her, but I’m sure she’s someone at least marginally famous and not some random suburban mom.  The third image looks to me like Jane Seymour with Photoshopped hair.  Regardless, they are most definitely not all the same woman!

Out of curiosity, I decided to click on the link a few times and see where it took me.  I didn’t get the same page each time, but I always got a static website that looked like a dynamic one for the same “offer”.  Here are some examples:

This time our mystery mom gets a name. Two different names, actually.  We’ve got Kelly, the smiling blond on the first website, and Cathy, the brunette in the image that is actually labeled “Stock Photograph” on the second website.  And the websites are pretty much word-for-word identical (there is the occasional change, but those are rare).  The ad along the side of the first website is for one of the two products the offer tells you to buy, so it’s very much tied in.

These ads are everywhere, so whoever is behind this campaign must be spending some money on getting them out there.  What I can’t figure out is, why didn’t they spend any on making them?  The many different and obviously fake photographs are really what caught my attention, but there is a lot about this ad campaign that suggests that you shouldn’t buy the products.  It’s not that hard to put together a cheap campaign that doesn’t look skeezy like this (if they had just taken a photograph of a woman they knew in front of a tree or something and used it consistently I probably wouldn’t have even noticed the bizarre inaccuracies of the campaign and investigated further, since that would have given them more of an air of credibility than using celebrity and stock photos).

The lesson here is: spend some money on the ads, not just on placing them!

Posted in Beauty | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

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).

Posted in Services | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Bing: The Decider

Posted by Rosepixie on February 11, 2010

This is a banner ad for the search engine Bing.  There are many designs with the same text.

So, what is a decision engine and how is it different from a search engine?  See, it doesn’t sound like something I’d want, since I don’t generally want other people deciding what I want for me and that’s the only thing I can imagine this means.  And if it doesn’t mean that my free will when browsing the internet isn’t taken away from me, then what does it mean?  Am I only going to be given one result for a search query because Bing “decided” that was the best one?  Is Bing going to “decide” if I’m looking to get information about ponies or to buy one when I search for “ponies”, regardless of what I might have actually wanted?  Or is it something else?

And the fact that I’m so uncertain about it and currently pretty sure that whatever a “decision engine” is, I don’t want one, says that this is probably not a very good advertising campaign.  Clarity is important.  And it’s important not to suggest you’re going to take away what people are getting already, because if you are, why would they want to switch to your product?

Posted in Electronics | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Sea Kittens: Because Nobody Hurts Kittens?

Posted by Rosepixie on January 2, 2010

So I could probably just fill this blog entirely with PETA ads, but I’ve mostly avoided them because it’s kind of a bottomless pit of bad advertising and for the most part doesn’t require much comment.  They do have a recent campaign, however, that I felt deserved to be posted.

Historically, renaming things to improve their appeal is pretty common.  Usually they are being renamed to get people to be more interested in eating them, though, not… cuddling them?  To be honest, I’m not entirely certain what PETA hopes to gain from this campaign.

The “Sea Kittens” website says this about the whole thing:

People don’t seem to like fish. They’re slithery and slimy, and they have eyes on either side of their pointy little heads—which is weird, to say the least. Plus, the small ones nibble at your feet when you’re swimming, and the big ones—well, the big ones will bite your face off if Jaws is anything to go by.

Of course, if you look at it another way, what all this really means is that fish need to fire their PR guy—stat. Whoever was in charge of creating a positive image for fish needs to go right back to working on the Britney Spears account and leave our scaly little friends alone. You’ve done enough damage, buddy. We’ve got it from here. And we’re going to start by retiring the old name for good. When your name can also be used as a verb that means driving a hook through your head, it’s time for a serious image makeover. And who could possibly want to put a hook through a sea kitten?

Point number one: I think the problem is actually that people do like fish – they taste good.  There are whole restaurants designed around serving them as fancy food.  If people didn’t like to eat them, PETA would have less of a problem with the whole fish thing.

Point number two: The “sea kitten” thing is weird on multiple levels.  First of all, fish dressed as cats (and elephants and whatnot, which is even weirder and makes even less sense here) is a little strange and I’m not sure how it’s supposed to make me sympathize with them any more.  And are these just baby fish?  Are there sea cats?  Or are all fish babies (kittens = baby cats)?  Because that’s confusing.  Especially since those don’t look like any baby fish I’ve ever seen.  Seriously, if you wanted a “save the fish” theme, talk to Pixar and hire Nemo as your spokesperson.  I’d run screaming from a “sea kitten”, but I would never hurt Nemo.

Point number three: Who thought bringing up Jaws was a good idea?  Fire that guy.

I think I liked fish better before I visited this website.  But it did make me hungry.  Strangely, many PETA ads and websites have that effect on me.  Since they usually make me hungry for whatever they’re telling me not to eat (in this case, I’m sort of craving salmon in a buttery sauce), they might want to work on their techniques.

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


Posted by Rosepixie on December 9, 2009

This is an ad for Dentyne that some friends of mine saw in an airport.

The text reads:


Make Face time.

The Original Instant Message.

Friend Request Accepted.

The Original Voicemail.

I think that this is an extremely interesting ad.  It’s linking it’s brand to social media, but also pushing that social media isn’t as good as real, physical contact (which is, of course, facilitated by the brand).

Interestingly, this campaign goes beyond this billboard, too.  Their website’s entry page explains that you have exactly three minutes there, and then it will kick you off because “face time” is way better than being on the internet, and so their website is devoted to helping people make such face time.  Of course, the timer thoughtfully stops running on any page related to their product.  And when the timer does run out, you can request to see one of their pages again, so it doesn’t actually mean much.  Still, it’s a cute idea and shows that the campaign extends beyond just posters and commercials (there’s some cute commercials in this vein too).

I’m not sure that I’m convinced that gum will actually have any kind of real impact on socialization, but I really like this campaign.  It’s cute, well integrated and attention grabbing.  It’s message (beyond the “chew our gum” part) is more positive than that of many other campaigns.  I also liked that it, interestingly, doesn’t even have the person with the gum chewing it in all the ads – sometimes they’re making “friend requests” by offering it to people – so it doesn’t even alienate people who don’t chew gum!

Oh, and they get points for the inspired movie of horrible emoticon deaths on their website.

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