Sunday, January 14, 2007

Ad Age - Wal-Mart Looks to Refurbish Image With Political-Style Ads

A New Ad Campaign by Wal-mart, covering the benefits it creates in the society, for the society...through jobs, savings, charity,etc. Pretty well analyzed by Adage in their Campaign Review (Click the pic to watch the Ad)

The video is also available at YouTube, but is surely worth a watch, especially for people who have been following the latest concerns on Wal-mart and its policies.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Sao Paulo (Brazil): Spread the Message… but not Outside!

Its not uncommon these days to imagine a city, which appears to be “young and hep” with an open mindset reflected in the Advertising Media, yet hosting a community grappling with high rates of maternal mortality and lack of awareness on women’s rights! When it comes to South America's largest and most prosperous country, Brazil is no exception to this.

On one hand, the city government of Sao Paulo banned any public display of Billboards or Advertisements on vehicles, stating that it was an attempt to control the spread of “Visual Pollution” in the city. On the other, it is supporting a social initiative of spreading awareness on protecting women’s health and rights through media. Is there some sort of disconnect somewhere, or am I simply connecting two totally separate politically motivated moves?

Product Promotion through Billboards is a common disturbing feature for the general residents of Sao Paulo, according to the mayor, Gilberto Kassab, who coined the term "visual pollution"!

According to Adage, Outdoor Advertising in the Brazil’s biggest city of 11 million people was shut with effect from 1st of this month, with ban on the billboards, electronic signs and even fliers.

Be it information dissemination or product awareness, outdoors do tend to be useful from a marketer’s perspective. Though television dominates the advertising media, outdoor still remains to be an integral part of the campaigns in Sao Paulo, and any decision to totally block the channel is definitely going to close a lot of shops!

Mentions a New York Times story -
"They (Advertising and business groups) say that free expression will be inhibited, jobs will be lost and consumers will have less information on which to base purchasing decisions, and even that streets will be less safe at night with the loss of illumination from outdoor advertising"

Interesting logic and valid arguments! However, when the medium is used extensively, and to an extent that it disturbs the environment, it definitely becomes a potential risk for the general public. The uninhibited nature of Sao Paulo Billboards is not a new sight for regular ad viewers.

“A remarkable number of ads feature giant images of men and women dressed only in their underwear, while the Brazilian edition of Playboy is publicised with huge posters and cut-outs of the latest centrefold models.” says a report from BBC.

Apparently, Ads in Brazil are often more daring than in other countries. Naturally, it might become “disturbing” for the susceptible men and women, by “polluting” their social environment! Adding to this is the fact that a major proportion of the billboards are illegal. Thus, both these reasons have pushed the local government to take this decision.

However, this is not where the story ends. The government has taken a step forward, and blocked other resources too. Be it restriction on the dimensions of store signs or advertising of any kind on the sides of buses and taxis, the law has probably overstepped a bit more than it legally can, so to say. Even airspace was attempted to be controlled, but due to “legal concerns”, it could not enforce the same.

Then, there is also the problem of Stereotypes in Advertising in Brazil, wherein Blacks have almost always been absent from Brazilian Advertising, primarily due to racial conflicts, and the stereotypes attached with the Black community. This would be discussed in detail in a subsequent post on “Ethnic Stereotypes and its Impact on Marketing”.

Ironically, the same country where you can find such explicit Billboards, faces roughly 1.7 million abortions every year, and teens and young women are at particularly high risk for unplanned pregnancy and unsafe abortion, with roughly 89 pregnancies per 1,000 girls aged 15–19!! Thus, there is a need and an effort taken by the Brazilian government to protect women’s health and rights. In this initiative, IPAS, an international women's health and reproductive rights organization, has been instrumental, and is spreading awareness is various countries regarding the same.
In its campaign for newspapers and posters for IPAS Brazil, done by a Sao Paulo Agency Santa Clara, a helpline for women who've been the victims of sexual abuse has been launched…

According to the Art Director of the creative, Vico Benevides (as mentioned in an AdCritic Print & Design Mailer) "Most of the time, the women don't know what to do after they've been through this horrible situation, and they need information on their medical and legal rights. We came up with the idea to show exactly what a woman feels after having been through this trauma. It's that moment when you want to scream but no one hears you. The lines try to explain that even if you look OK on the outside, you may not be OK on the inside."

Found the campaign at Sandeep’s blog (Twenty Four). Really involving and commendable creatives!

The problem is, with the outdoor media blocked and banners on vehicles or public spaced banned, the message has limited media to reach their audience. Is it justified, then, in such social causes, for the local government to stick to their rigidities, and turn a blind eye to a socially relevant message, for which the government itself is responsible? Is it logical for the government to let the thousands of women suffer at the cost of those who relish explicit and daring large sized billboards?

Maybe the government needs to be a bit more discerning in such matters, and not get blinded by their own cloud of “Visual Pollution”!!

[Source: Outdoor Pic, IPAS Campaign]
IPAS is international organization and has its
presence in India too. However, as of now, I do not have any clue on their campaigning in India. Am sure since the government has partnered for the cause, it would be in the media soon. Will post an update as and when it reaches within the readable space!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Deceptive Marketing … Marketing in 2010?

What happens when Marketers overuse their understanding of the Ps of Marketing and give importance to an altogether redefined set of Ps – Perception, Promises, Packaging and Pills?

Sometimes, when Marketers are too much focused on the topline, they tend to overpromise and underdeliver, .. That’s when the black side of Marketing, termed as “Deceptive Marketing” evolves..

And this is exactly when a regulatory mechanism is required to stop them and tell them to introspect a bit – to tell them that they have overstepped the threshold limit of “Ethics” and “Legalities” and have forgotten the marketing side of Marketing…

This is what US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has attempted to do, when it fined marketers of five weight-loss supplements - Xenadrine EFX, One A Day Weight Smart, Cortislim CortiStress and TrimSpa. The Settlements, which total $25 million in cash and assets, do not declare guilt but do include provisions prohibiting future advertising claims which are insufficiently supported and backed by scientific evidence.

The firms that have been fined present a fine picture of where marketing is heading today – instead of facts (researched facts, to be precise – since facts also come in various types now!), marketers are banking on Testimonials to build credibility and incentives to push sales – It might be a cliché, but marketers are indeed selling hope – making promises that reinforce and massage that hope to consumers and lure them into buying their brands.

Consumers, though discerning, do not bother much about facts anymore. Merely “perception of facts” is good enough, so to say. For instance, TrimSpa used Anna Nicole Smith to endorse the brand – She claimed that she lost 50 pounds in under nine months! Obviously, since it was ANNA Smith, they had to believe her. Argued FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras, “Testimonials from individuals are not a substitute for science, And that's what Americans need to understand.” [Source]

Another brand, Xenadrine EFX Advertisements claimed of rapid and substantial weight loss, and that too, achieved solely via Xenadrine EFX use, when endorsers, who were paid up to $20,000, actually engaged in rigorous diet and exercise regimens. [Source].

Similarly, CortiSlim and CortiStress were charged of false and unsubstantiated claims of weight-loss and decreased risk of various health conditions

Bayer, apart from weight control even promised increase in metabolism, which, according to FTC is not substantiated with relevant proof. Incidentally, the Bayer settlement is the biggest civil penalty ($3.2 million). Though Bayer contended the decision, justifying that its marketing was accurate, the contention, too is unsupported…

There are some obvious fallouts of such claims – the most dangerous being the confidence of consumers on these supplements. With such claims by marketers, it won’t be long when consumers would treat their dependency on pills and its medication as a panacea for all their problems, and forego diet control and exercise programs. Any medication needs to be supplemented with diet control and regular exercises also, and FTC reiterated the fact too – "You're not going to find weight loss in a bottle of pills," said Majoras, while cautioning the estimated 70 million Americans trying to lose weight, according to NineMSN

As the name suggests, the pills are dietary supplements and not diet per se, and its high time that consumers realize it too. No matter how much regulation and control the FTC exercises, no matter how much punitive judgements are passed against the Marketing companies, no matter how many celebrities are confronted with giving incomplete testimonials – the truth is that – Advertisers would continue selling hope, Advertisers would continue selling promises – until there are consumers sitting out there willing to buy them….and FTC does not figure in their dreams anywhere!!

Information to FTC was partially supplied by National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Better Business Bureau (BBB), which worked in collaboration with Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) for monitoring advertising claims for dietary supplements

Adage, National Nine news Australia, National Product Insider]

No time to Rest in the Rest Rooms…..for Marketers!

Restroom Advertising is nothing new, not even at this blog – Have talked about Restrooms (the Advertising part!) before also, be it Guerillas in Restrooms or LCD Ads and posters inside public bathrooms - Marketers do not want to miss out on this integral space of consumer’s space.

Having said that, another component of Marketing is being exercised on Restrooms now – From Advertising, Marketers have moved on to Branding of Restrooms. Have a look –

At Times Square, P&G has sponsored a Rest Room and branded it as “Charmin Restrooms”, which provides good ambience and a nice view as well!

Naturally, it is to enhance visibility of its “Charmin” Brand of toilet paper. According to an Audio Report from New York Times consumers are being cheered by employees singing and dancing with the music and telling you to go to the bathrooms!

Call it Experiential Marketing or Sensory Branding (music being played inside the restrooms), advertisers sure are moving from Billboards to branding at the Times Square – one step closer to the consumer.

Coming back to India, Public Bathrooms were always tagged as “Public Toilets” and “Restrooms” till recently. I noticed this fine piece of Branding at Cochin, Kerala, where “Comfort Station” is the name of a bathroom – in the heart of the city, next to Jew Town, an area full of tourists – this place sure has branded itself truly living by its name!
Am sure if not P&G, Dabur or HLL might soon be moving in that space as well! Will wait and watch….

Till that time, one can comfortably visit the “Comfort Station” to get some comfort….. ;)

[Charmin – via New York Times]

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Wal-mart Girls – Promoting the Promoters..

Long back, I had written a new and innovative ways of marketing music – through innovation in the distribution channel and creativity in branding. That time it was Putamayo, this time it is Miramonte Records...

If Putamayo tried playing its world music in the retail outlets and restaurants, another music company, Miramonte Records, is trying newer ways to promote country music – by creating music and promoting those who would promote that very music!

Specifically, the company, in its latest record “Destination” by Danny Griego, has produced a music video “Wal-mart Girls” and is promoting it big-time on the name – NOT because the girls the video features are from Wal-mart, NOT because the women shop regularly there, NOT because the song is dedicated to the women who visit the retail store – for that matter, the girls have NOTHING to do with WAL-mart per se. It is simply a matter of promoting the brand using the “Wal-mart” tag.

According to the Adage article “Danny Griego Marketing Blitz Isn't Sanctioned by Retailer”,
This is no Wal-Mart-sanctioned TV commercial. It's a spot paid for by a music label to promote a new single by country-music artist Danny Griego."

The promotional effort is channelized in routing traffic to the website exclusively made for the single “Wal-mart Girls” - The attempt is to build the buzz around the title for couple of months, till Feb. 14, when the album is scheduled to be released! At the same time, distribution channels need to be strengthened and visibility enhanced.

And How exactly does the company intend to do it? You can call it a unilateral co-branding effort by the producer or conscious environmental selection :), where it is an attempt to leverage the credibility of the retailer for its own production distribution. On top of that, it is going aggressively on PR by enhancing visibility in the social media (MySpace) and screening the music video in theatres. According to recent findings by Hitwise, MySpace is a strong driver to route traffic to online retail stores, which is why any presence in the networking space is crucial, if not imperative!

One significantly visible method is mollycoddling the retailer with chores of praises for the women employees…Part of the lyrics read…"They can cook, bait a hook, skin a deer or twist the top off a Mexican beer ... There ain't nothin' in the world like a Wal-Mart girl". The website relates the two – “The song itself stands on its own as Danny turns phrase after witty phrase raising the bar and setting the standard for what every good man looks for in a frills and available at your local Wal-Mart!!"

Though it might seem to be a win-win situation for the retailer as well as the record company, there could be potential issues attached to it as well. For instance, customers might start comparing the song attributes and characterization with their realistic experiences in Wal-mart; they could perceive the music video as an in-house production or PR activity for Wal-mart; some might even take the video to be a Wal-mart endorsed one!
Am sure the management would have thought of these aspects of the Marketing activity, and would act appropriately.

The song might be praising the girls of Wal-mart (nothing new though, so does Playboy!), but if this is an effort to earn some brownie points from the Retail Giant, will have to wait and watch…..who knows what is Danny Griego’s “Destination”? ;)

Welcome, 2007!

Welcome, 2007!

Its been a long wait... Finally, you have arrived!
Looking forward to an exciting time with you over the next one year...