Saturday, October 16, 2004

:: adgruntie :: Viral ads, product stories & product placement

+ John Hegarty talks about the trouble with viral campaigns.
Interesting, isn't it, that as we see the growing influence of globalisation and "world citizens", we also see the rise of regional languages that reconnect people to their roots. Even the stuff we eat is based on this fundamental fact. Italian, Indian, Chinese and even fusion is influenced by context. I've yet to hear someone say, "I'm eating virtual tonight".

Yet this is what the viral world is in danger of missing. Will we have to develop a different set of communication skills to cope with a lack of context? Almost certainly. If, however, as a medium it just relies on shock to get its "click through", we soon find, as that poor cat did, that it will fall out of sympathy. Brand building is not just about recognition and notoriety, it is about building empathy and respect. I'm not sure you can just shock somebody into that point of view.
Definitely poorly planned and conceived viral marketing is in danger of missing out on that. But, good viral marketing doesn't miss out on context- it embraces it and uses it to its advantage. Of course, there is a mix of shock in even the best viral marketing, because you need to give the viewer a reason to want to watch/play/read it. There has to be a reason for them to want to participate. And if that requires shock, it's not a bad thing. But it must be more than that.

The Ford Ka cat ad which he mentions in the beginning was a poor concept- even if some ad agency came up with it- the fact that Ford marketing folk would have let it through the channels shows a misunderstanding of how to do viral campaigns. What does an evil automobile do for the brand? How does it connect to a consumer? Why the hell would it make you choose that car over another? Sure, it could be funny to some. But just being funny for the sake of being funny- that's just bad advertising/marketing. And that's something that we sometimes forget it seems. Subservient Chicken by CP+B and the Barbarian Group was funny- but it played of a key brand element for Burger King- have it your way. The humor was tied into the branding statement...and actually falls out of the branding statement/tagline. Which makes it work for the brand, connect to the consumer, and gives a reason for choosing BK over other fast food establishments. And, that is the reason why it got so much high praise from the ad community- at least those who understand how advertising and marketing really works.

+ Fuse fights stereotypes from ad trenches.
"There's only been one company that's consistently been able to do that, and that's Nike. Nike has never run a separate national ethnic campaign. They've always spoken to the passion for the sport, whatever that sport is.
Because things are still put in buckets of general and ethnic market, you have companies that totally miss the mark because they're still looking at advertising as separate buckets. And the only way to not do that is to have a truly diverse group at the table." Cliff Franklin also goes on to state, "Many times, it's a diversity budget or an ethnic budget that's really focused on corporate relations and not truly related to building a brand. Everything in branding is about understanding your audience. But when it comes to ethnic marketing, there's a lack of emphasis on understanding the audience."
Some good points. It's interesting to see that by separating your efforts you can create a rift for the brand. Why do you have to segment your advertising based on ethnicity? If someone fits the target that likes beer, sports, or whatever, then they should fit into the target audience of your strategy based upon that. Not because of their ethnic background.

+ Every product tells a story- or at least aims to.
"What storytelling brings to the table is a power that is ancient, primal and wickedly potent. Perhaps the ultimate human expression, stories are highly effective learning tools because, as art forms, they unite ideas with feelings. "As soon as you are telling a story, you are activating the listener's imagination and engaging their emotions," says Jim Wortley, a Toronto-based advertising and marketing creative director. "It's like music -- it goes in somewhere deeper and very personal."
Which is the aim of good advertising. Create an interesting story that relates to the brand. Thing is- not enough ads tell interesting stories or relate to the brand at all. Which is one reason there's a lot of crappy ads out there.

+ Product placement on TV shows takes center stage. It used to be that product placements would be in the background of shows- people drinking Brand X cola, a bag of Brand Y fast food on a counter. But now the products are being woven into the show as key players.
The plot of Friday's episode of What I Like About You, the WB show popular with young women, has two characters competing for acting work in a new Herbal Essences ad. The actual ad then airs for the first time in a commercial break shortly after that scene.
"This is the first time we are doing something as integrated as this," says Ann Sempowski Ward, brand manager for Herbal Essences, North America. "We're looking for a breakthrough way to reach young women."
The appearance is just one example of how marketers are using scripted content to get their brands noticed and making it harder to tell what's a show and what's an ad." And only time will tell if that will be a turn off to viewers. "The risk is that viewers eventually get turned off by the commercial clutter in shows."
As the last line in the article states, "It's a very fine line between doing something that works and something that could turn off viewers," warns ad buyer Donchin."

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