Comparison advertising. It’s been around for a long time. In days of old, it was the way to go. Choosy Mom’s choose Jif, the Pepsi Challenge, We’re number 2, so we try harder, the demos showing how Bounty was the “quicker picker upper.”
During the boom years, comparison advertising became passe among market leaders- why give credit to your competition.
Typically, it was a way to leverage a smaller brand against the leader.
Audi challenges BMW and loses
It’s a dangerous proposition. Look at the smackdown Audi gets from BMW in their billboards in Santa Monica on the right. Those who don’t study their craft are doomed to get hit twice. Honda fired Chiat/Day from their motorcycle account. Their new agency came up with “Follow the leader” to which Chiat/Day came back- now working for Yamaha with “Don’t follow anyone.”
When the economy goes bad- all bets are off. It’s time to go into the cage for a brand on brand death match.
While scrapping for every dollar might not be an option as consumers cut back, the damage it can do to a brand is real. Do you really want to be the cheapest, lowest price product when the money starts flowing again.
Chuck Porter once said at the Cincinnati Ad Club “Anyone can do a better price and product ad, all they have to do is have a lower price” so it sort of shocks me when Crispin Porter + Bogusky starts running ads for Microsoft based on price.
Where “Laptop hunters” Lisa and Jackson go to buy a laptop for under $1,500 and do a comparison between Apple and a PC.
After the drilling Apple has given Microsoft with their “Get a Mac” campaign, which has won an Effie, and has been credited for doubling market share, Apple had to see it coming.
But, this is the kind of attention Microsoft wanted when they hired the best ad agency in the country to try to breath life back into their bankrupt Windows/Vista brand.
Crispin Porter + Bogusky is again proving that edgy, strategic advertising can get people talking about a brand differently, quickly, by pushing buttons.
[The reality is: both Apple and Microsoft will be in trouble if some 17 year old does for Linux what Blake Ross did for the Mozilla code base to create Firefox.]
Realize that Microsoft isn’t even comparing their product to Apple in the ads- they are comparing their partners hardware- people aren’t validating Microsoft in the buying ads- but Sony, HP, Dell etc.
How many companies would spend their marketing dollars on promoting their marketing partners?
When times get tough, consumers do spend more time evaluating major purchases. However, it’s not price that they look at as much as value. Giving consumers reason to talk about your brand value is only a good idea if it is really there. Look at the response to a Business Week story on the subject of the Microsoft challenge- compared to a holy war.
Maybe the best advice still comes from that old Chiat/Day ad: “Don’t follow anyone” and don’t compare. Leadership has its privileges.
It’s a long listen, and without the slides- if you aren’t a bit familiar with the B Cycle project, the later part will get a little slow.
And while the B Cycle is sexy and intriguing- the beginning of the podcast has some insight that hint at what makes Crispin Porter + Bogusky the hot agency: hint, it’s not about being an agency.
Alex claims to hate advertising and that he reads AdBusters- and not Ad Age. They don’t hire people for jobs, they hire smart people and let them figure out what to do- he calls CP+B a “Holding company for smart people.”
They don’t worry about deliverables- but more about “Business momentum”- and if you understand that business runs on cash flow- the idea of momentum makes perfect sense. Now that the agency numbers 900 people and has 1.5B in billings, things are a lot different from when he worked at what he considered the “third best agency in Miami” and was employee number 16.
For one thing, they no longer feel limited to doing “advertising” and claims that anything good that he’s been a part of, comes from sticking his nose where they don’t belong. This includes doing things like telling Mini that putting mileage restrictions on the sub-compact, while encouraging people to “Let’s Motor” didn’t make sense. This is marketing thinking, practiced at the highest level.
Just as accountants originally were part of assessing and evaluating business processes for profitability- instead of just how to account for taxes(and how to avoid them)- advertising is just one subset of the marketing process- not the end all and be all.
If your agency isn’t giving you insight on the complete customer connection experience, you don’t really have an agency- just an ad vendor.
In it’s early ads, Apple claimed the personal computer was the “bicycle for your mind”- and now, we have great minds rethinking bicycles. Spend some time with both the podcast- and thinking about the B Cycle concept- and how an ad agency can be a thought leader on solving the worlds problems, instead of being blamed for creating so many of them.
Sure, Burger King has seen 20 consecutive quarters of same-store-sales-growth since it finally hired an ad agency that “gets it” (Crispin Porter + Bogusky) and then let them do their thing.
Of course for that to happen, you also need a Chief Marketing Officer who “gets it” and it seems Russ Klein has some pretty good insight on what to green light:
Mr. Klein: “Whopper Freakout” was a great example of tension and the way deprivation affects the way someone who is a loyal Whopper fan. We try to make all of our briefs hinge on some sort of social or anthropological insight that’s charged up with tension. It’s not like we’re trying to set our hair on fire to get tension.
The line that we put in bold italics should be on a big sign above any marketers desk. It’s much easier to get an emotional response to something that’s already got emotions attached.
No one cares about your nifty new twist on your features, advantages or benefits- no, they want to know what’s in it for them- in a way that makes them lust for your product and trust your company.
Interestingly enough, the article on the other side of the spread was “Why emotional messages beat rational ones.” This quote sums it up nicely:
What the data show us is that emotional campaigns are almost twice as likely to generate large profit gains than rational ones, with campaigns that use facts as well as emotions in equal measure fall somewhere between the two.
It turns out that emotional campaigns in general generate a wider range of desirable business effects, each of which plays its part in improving profitability. But they excel in one noteworthy area: reducing price sensitivity, and hence strengthening the ability of brands to secure a premium in the marketplace (or, in the current economic climate, to hold firm on pricing).
To create messages with meaning, start looking at what decisions a buyer has to make to choose your product, and think of how it fits into the rest of their life- then find what makes them uncomfortable and make it engaging or funny- be it the complexity of a car- broken down into the parts that go together like the Honda Cog ad they point to in the second article or the “Whopper Freakout” campaign. Either way- you’ll get more interest, which should translate into more sales.
I thought about writing this post in 140 character Haiku- but that would be tough and time consuming. Twitter is fast and instant. The simple answer to “What are you doing” can be the ultimate test bed for concepts to our attention deficit audiences. Want to find out what people think: test it on your followers.
Leading tweetheads can make hits magically appear on a site in minutes with a 140 character or less tweet with a link. Launching a new product? Want to test a headline? Tweet the variations to different audiences and see what hits show up. A whole new practice of market research will appear- with the ability to get almost instant feedback.
Soon PR and ad agencies will be evaluated by their social network juice. How many people can you connect to who will work as brand evangelists? Crispin Porter & Bogusky launched Subservient Chicken for Burger King when the agency was 150 staffers- by just emailing their friends about the site. Quickly, the site ended up on top of the viral site hall of fame list. Now the agency is at 600+ employees.
While Twitter is still only reaching a small subset of the population at large, it’s reaching the all critical early-adopter, influencer crowd. So along with client lists and credentials, maybe hiring an agency should also involve checking out their social networks. Friends, followers and connections are the new currency of media power- and a great 140 character (or less) headline will be critical.
At what lengths will an agency go to spend a clients hard earned money. If you are Crispin Porter + Bogusky, to Greenland, Thailand and other far away places to make a spot called “Whopper Virgins.” The concept is brilliant- do the ultimate blind taste test, find people who’ve never eaten a hamburger, and may not even know the difference between McDonalds and Burger King.
So far so good. But then after a very expensive shoot, and a brilliant, entertaining short documentary, you fail to let the world find the site online as discussed in Ad Age:
…Whopper Virgins, its latest endeavor, may be the best yet… if you can find it.
The Whopper Virgins experience begins with a TV commercial with a brief teaser that directs you to WhopperVirgins.com. … it’s running heavily during weekend football games. Go to the site and you’re treated to a video of Burger King running a Whopper vs. Big Mac taste test with people in Romania, Thailand and Greenland who have never eaten a hamburger before. It’s poignant and amusing, if you can tolerate the implicit ethnocentrism.
What if you don’t remember the exact Web address and Google it? You still better remember the domain name. While whopperVirgins.com ranks first in Google for “whopper virgins,” it’s invisible when you omit the plural.
There are three areas of neglect here:
* The domain: WhopperVirgin.com is a parked domain filled with ads for Burger King store listings, Virgin Mobile gifts, Virgin Atlantic flights, Virgin Islands vacations and Virgin Mary checks.
* Search engine optimization: The microsite doesn’t appear on the first three pages of Google results for “whopper virgin” searches.
* Paid search: While reviewing Google’s listings over several days, there hasn’t been a search ad running on “whopper virgin” queries.
This is a major missed opportunity. Google Trends shows that recently, the volume of searches for the singular and plural versions have been nearly equal. “Whopper virgin” searchers must either go to an intermediary site or refine their search. Why can’t consumers ‘have it their way’ and get to Burger King’s site even if they’re off by a letter? This multimillion-dollar branding campaign could have covered all its bases with a $10,000 search marketing investment. As it stands now, Burger King risks frustrating consumers instead of serving up one whopper of a video.
We’ve been preaching the same thing, ever since Crispin did the expensive “Manthem” spot. In fact, most ad agency sites are just as oblivious to both search and accessibility. Both of which should be critical to any client and their budget.
Before you approve a large web budget, you should first, try to google your agency. Go to www.google.com and type in: site:youragencyurl.tld like site:thenextwave.biz
If they don’t have more total results than we do, start wondering (especially if there are more than 2 commas in your budget). We’re happy to evaluate digital strategy for any one who is about to spend a gazillion dollars on an online based campaign like Whopper Virgins.
It only takes 3x longer than an Apple ad to say absolutely nothing about why you should buy Vista- or believe Microsoft is anything different than the company that has ignored it’s customers for, well, since day one.
Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates meet in a mall at “Shoe Circus” and do exactly what Seinfeld is best known for- talk about nothing. As they walk out of the mall, after Bill has flashed his Shoe Circus Clown Club membership card, Seinfeld asks for a sign about the amazing future those geniuses at Microsoft have been dreaming up- just to get Bill to wiggle his ass on camera.
That shot is probably the most honest part of the whole spot: since Microsoft has been showing us their ass for as long as we’ve used their operating system and software. Software that crashes, software that attracts viruses like shit seduces flies, and a user interface that has never been intuitive- making the complex - harder. For the life of me, why does an end user need to know about a “registry?”
The Mojave Experiment was an attempt to do a “Pepsi Challenge” for Vista- only it was Vista in both cups. The website can’t be watched on a Mac- so forget about getting those customers back- and, it showcases one of the key problems Microsoft refuses to face: computing standards make for a better computing experience. From the earliest days of Mac vs PC it’s been the fundamental unique selling proposition that makes Mac’s the brand that can charge a premium and generate loyalty- once you learned how to do something in one program, it worked for all of them. Microsoft keeps thinking that the reasons users don’t like their software is because users are stupid- instead of realizing it was never about the software- it was about what you as a user, could accomplish with the software.
CP+B may have finally met a challenge that great ads can’t solve. This was only the first salvo. However, if Apple decides to release their OS X operating system to run on all Intel based PC’s for $249 (about double what they charge to run it on a Mac) Microsoft’s stock will fall faster than GM’s when gas hits $5 a gallon (as if it could fall much more).
In the end, we still come down to the old adage: “It’s not creative if it doesn’t sell.”
“Hi, I’m a Mac” from Chiat/Day has doubled market share for Apple in the last 2 years, while Apple is still charging a premium on their hardware. Go look at the comments on the YouTube spot above- and repeat after me: “I’m a PC and I’m leaving the building.”
Part II: a 4.5 minute showing Bill and Jerry trying to hang out with the “little people”- now Bill is doing the robot. Smacks of desperation.