An Ad Agency advertises? Great Scott!

See what I just did there? So you probably already saw that Strawberry Frog put an ad in Fortune (you can read about it on Scott’s blog).
Strawberry Frog
Anyways: through the medium of bulletpoints (because I am kind of tired)…
1. Novel to see an Ad Agency putting its money where its mouth is … and creating advertising. (Yes, SF do indeed call themselves an “Agency” … and refer to the “Advertising” scene on their website)
2. Interesting that Scott refers to the new ad “for” Fortune rather than “in” Fortune. Said magazine is a Strawberry Frog client, so one assumes this ad was bartered, free, part of the remuneration package or maybe part of a Frog strategy involving Frog ads “for” Fortune. Desired consumer behavior and success metric unclear(!) So maybe point 1 is somewhat negated…
3. I agree with the sentiment of the ad, sorry “advert” (although I don’t think it is the first time I have heard the sentiment expressed).
4. It is good to read the words that “every brand has the opportunity to do more than just advertise”. (But see again point 1…)
5. I’d love to see what StrawberryFrog themselves are doing to “impact culture in a positive way”.
6. I liked this ad a lot better than the last ad I saw from them after the unsuccessful Hyundai pitch …

If you drink Bottled Water – you must love Chavez…

OK just kidding. Although there is some (minimal) logic to the above assertion: carting bottled water around the world releases many tons of carbon caused by burning oil-based fuel. The US buys a large amount of its oil from Venezuela; thus through a leaky and disputable conduit pipe of causation, drinking bottled water puts money in Hugo’s pocket. And as we know Chavez has touted oil as a “geopolitical weapon”.

Hugo Chavez

Let’s also remember that tapwater in the US has been proved to be “as good” as bottled water … infact, many bottled water purveyors get their water from the tap.

Bottled water manufacturers are under attack from many quarters and are now – in a way disappointingly – pinning their hopes on recycling. This means they don’t have to alter packaging or distribution (although I have been reading about “better” plastic bottles … Pepsi says it has trimmed the amount of plastic in its half-liter Aquafina water bottles by nearly 40%), rather we are asked to dispose of said landfill more responsibly. “Our vision is to no longer have our packaging viewed as waste but as a resource for future use,” says Scott Vitters, Coke’s director of sustainable packaging. OK… Let’s hope it works, as in the U.S., just 23% of recyclable PET bottles and jars are actually recycled, down from 40% a decade ago (National Association for PET Container Resources).

bottled water
Image from Chris Jordan‘s Running The Numbers.

Bottled water is one of the many sectors that must face the fact that the US may have reached an environmentally concerned tipping point.

By the way, in a depressing post scriptum, we also learned this week that eating meat is worse for the environment, inter alia, than driving a car, and that even the mere act of shopping has unexpected consequences …

I am hoping Leo DiCaprio’s new film will give us a few answers(!)

UPDATE: I read that Coke is now “pouring” (not my pun) “$44million into its first U.S. plastic-bottle-recycling plant as part of a larger $60 million effort to give the company a “greener” environmental image. “It’s important to consumers, it’s important to our system and our employees, and it’s the right thing to do,” says Sandy Douglas, president of Coca-Cola North America.

John Faucher, beverage analyst at JPMorgan, pointed out that “In the scheme of things, (Coke’s plan) is not a huge investment, but Coke and Pepsi are continuing to fight a public-relations battle on recycling”.

Greenwashing?

iMac, iPod, iPhone … iCar?

OK so Steve Jobs is making an iCar. Course he is … inevitable really.

i-Car

Well, not quite. It was announced from Berlin that Apple and Volkswagen are discussing the possibility of building an “iCar” which would feature products from Apple. Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Volkswagen’s chief Martin Winterkorn apparently met in California. They evidently came up with “scores of ideas,” but few concrete plans. Riiight.

So its not quite a Virgin-esque brand extension (I wonder what Nissan would have thought if it were!). Its more like glomming on a few Apple bits and pieces to a Volkswagen. That said I was impressed with the Apple+Nike hookup (although some thought it heralded brand dilution) and will withhold judgment until I know more about the i-Car.

German financial magazine CapitaMarket opines that a compact car upgraded with Apple products would be of most “substantial interest to young target groups”. Apple actually already works with VW and BMW to offer an integrated in-car hookup for iPods. Electronics and other necessities like endless cup holders, are increasingly a selling point for carmakers.

In a somehow less cool-sounding move, Microsoft are also integrating their Sync system in to Fords. This I.C.E. system will cost $395 as an option. Sync allows drivers, using either voice recognition or steering wheel controls, to listen to their digital music players and have text messages on their cellphones read aloud.

Anyways personally I am still waiting for one of these

Hulu.

Well, the long awaited day is upon us. After months of speculation and hype, the new News Corp/ NBC video portal finally has a name.

hulu

The site will be called Hulu.com, which executives say they chose because it “sounded fun and rhymed with itself”. (I have been through a naming process myself and know how hard it is … but that doesn’t sound too scientific … or creative).

Hulu will be stocked with movies, TV episodes and more from the two media companies and their partners. The site is an effort to regain control of the online video world from consumers. It’s also an easy way to monetize content through advertising.

Sites such as YouTube are usurping the place of big content providers, which wreaks havoc with media companies’ revenue models, not least because consumers have wrested the content — and the chance to sell it to advertisers — away from the companies that produced it in the first place.

At the same time, ad dollars spent on online video are expected to soar over time. By 2011, U.S. online-video advertising will increase to $4.3 billion from $410 million in 2006, according to eMarketer.

Despite finally earning a name, Hulu is not expected to appear in any public form until September. The inquisitive may request beta access, which may begin in October.

UPDATE: I now learn “Hulu” basically means “Cease and Desist” in Swahili. Oh dear! What was I saying about the naming process earlier??
Hulu in swahili

The Power of Gen (DI)Y

You may have read that some Gen Y twerp just made $25mill by hacking an iPhone. I confess I had a genuine “WTF?” (as we say over here) moment when I read this. According to the Globe & Mail, 17 year old New Jersey student George Hotz sold a hacked iPhone on eBay for $25mill? “I started working on it the day it came out,” he told The Globe and Mail Friday after posting a complex step-by-step guide to unlocking the device. Any comments relating to “he needs to get out more” have been effectively silenced! Ah well, good luck to him.
George Hotz
UPDATE: I now learn that he actually received a Nissan 350Z as barter … just hope he didn’t flunk Driver’s Ed …

Important NPD News …

Fried Pepsi

Well I am hoping that this blog will become somewhere that people come to for some insight on the key issues facing marketers today … just kidding. To that end I would like to kick off the doubtless sporadic Linkfest with an important NPD Story: Fried Pepsi. I kid you not folks, if your blood has been positively flying around your arteries of late, you might want to mosey over to the Colorado State Fair and slow it down a little. I was hoping for a “Caramilk Secret” style “how did they encase Pepsi in batter” scenario, but alas they just mix the Pepsi syrup in. Denied! Not sure if this has anything to to with Colorado locals CP+B(!) This important story also puts me in mind of another gone-but-not-forgotten fried food innovation: the “Ketchip”. Genius!
don’t smoke fags and drink

Branding affects tastebuds …

I don’t know whether to be proud of the marketing industry (marketing is clearly working in this example!) or ashamed. A recent study found that branding (in this case McDonald’s) actually makes food products taste better.

mcdonalds packaging

Study author Dr. Tom Robinson said the kids’ perception of taste was “physically altered by the branding.” The Stanford University researcher said it was remarkable how children so young were already so influenced by advertising. Even carrots, milk and apple juice tasted better to the kids when they were wrapped in the familiar packaging of the Golden Arches.

The study had 63 “poor” youngsters aged 3-5 sample identical McDonald’s foods in name-brand and unmarked wrappers. The unmarked foods always lost the taste test. Robinson believes the results would be similar for children from wealthier families.

Here are a few statistical, er, “highlights”

- Just two of the 63 children studied said they’d never eaten at McDonald’s, and about one-third ate there at least weekly.

- Almost 77% said McDonald’s-labeled fries tasted better; only 13% preferred the fries in generic packaging.

- 54% preferred McDonald’s-wrapped carrots, versus 23% pointing to the plain-wrapped sample.

- Only in the case of hamburgers were the results not clear-cut: 29 kids chose McDonald’s-wrapped burgers; 22 chose unmarked ones.

- Fewer than one-fourth said both samples of all foods tasted the same.

supersize me

Obviously I think a lot of account planners will be pretty pleased about this, being as their expertise is partly shaping and engineering brands and turning commodities into meaningful, differentiated and (hopefully) top-selling products … now we learn with the power to affect the perception of taste.

Secondly, the study likely will stir more debate over the movement to restrict ads targeted to kids. It comes less than a month after 11 major food and drink companies, including McDonald’s, announced new curbs on marketing to children under 12. This has been a particularly hot topic in the UK, with a proposed ban on all junk food advertising to kids…

McDonald’s says the only Happy Meals it will promote to young children will contain fruit and have fewer calories (er, not a particularly challenging benchmark) and less fat. “The fact is, parents make the decisions for their children and our research confirms that we’ve earned their trust as a responsible marketer based on decades of delivering the safest food,” spokesman Walt Riker said.

There is no doubt that children are, and always have been particularly susceptible to marketing … I mean, which one of us wasn’t desperate for KerPlunk or Sea Monkeys? Or am I alone in that!

We should take solace that the situation used to be more extreme … who knew that in the 1950s, the Winston cigarette’s pitchman was none other than Bedrock resident Barney Rubble …

Packaging is the new Broadcast?

No, really! There was a good article in the New York Times today… The article talks about how consumer packaged goods companies, which once saw their packages largely as containers for shipping their products, are now using them more as 3-D ads to grab shoppers’ attention. [I didn't realize that was a revelation ... but ... whatever ...]

Three main themes emerge:

1. As media fragments (yawn) packaging is emerging as one of the last “broadcast” channels.

2. Packaging is incredibly effective at prompting purchase at shelf. (Not new news either, although there seems to be a new interest in unconventional packaging abroad).

3. The power of packaging is now being leveraged to reinforce, change or build beliefs and associations about brands. (Something advertising has historically been tasked with doing.

Mountain dew’s new packaging

I’d also add the thought that there is a move to turn the mundane into decor (new Kleenex tissue boxes, Evian’s “Palace Bottle”), potentially a move to reduce the cost of packaging (although this isn’t evident in the “3D Shelf Communication” trend so much) and also functionality – like the new Coors beer bottle that turns blue at the right temperature.

AAAA Smartbrief also wrote about this and headlined its article “Packaging as ad vehicles”. I am probably splitting hairs (moi?), but I think its more about communication than advertising. The power of packaging (and display) is huge, especially in the impulse category, but its not necessarily right to define this as advertising.

Pepsi’s new packaging

The New York Times article proposes that the shift is mostly because of the “rise of the Internet and hundreds of television channels, which mean marketers can no longer count on people seeing their commercials. So they are using their bottles, cans, boxes and plastic packs to improve sales by attracting the eyes of consumers, who often make most of their shopping decisions at the last minute while standing in front of store shelves”.

“The media is fragmented, and we can’t find people — we can’t get them to sit down and listen to our argument on a television spot,” said Jerry Kathman, chief executive of LPK, a brand agency based in Cincinnati. “The package can convey that argument.”

It is now a truism to say that the traditional way of advertising is increasingly ineffective. I think the key is to remember what behavior the communication vehicle (for want of a better term) is designed to affect. Packaging is unarguably crucial to prompting purchase at the moment of impulse (deciding between sodas in the chiller, for example), and can be a powerful manifestation of the brand. Let’s not forget that if its good-looking it also sits around people’s houses in plain view…

That said, it still can’t dramatize the brand in a way that advertising or other branded experiences can.

As my old mentor Carl Johnson used to say, let’s get beyond the “Tyranny of Or”. It is now a truism to say that media is fragmenting (though some people fought the notion) but the key is still to focus on creating the right communications mix.

Parenthetically, there was a nice piece on Adverlab a while ago on “Smelly Packaging” and “Talking Packaging” and their potential role in prompting impulse purchase.