Archive for October, 2009|Monthly archive page

Slices of life: Cascade cleans up, Febreeze doesn’t wash.

In Ad Creative on October 31, 2009 at 7:27 pm

They’re not as sexy to talk about as beer and cars, but that doesn’t mean household product commercials should get a free pass! Two recent spots for such products caught my attention. They are both in the “slice of life” mold, which in my opinion succeeds or fails based on how well the situation resonates with the audience. In this case, I think we have one of each. Let’s start with the positive.images

Cascade Dishwashing Detergent successfully captures a warm and recognizable little moment and clearly reinforces the product benefit in the process. A dad is having fun with his son as they try to load a “record” number of dishes into the dishwasher. The interplay between the two is fun, and leads to mom celebrating the product benefit: Cascade gets dishes clean even when the machine is fully loaded. Fun, convincing, and a little bit memorable – not bad for a low-interest category.

Febreeze, however, isn’t so lucky. More like “yucky.” In this spot, Mom notes her son’s smelly room as friends are on the way over.  Now, spraying a little Febreeze probably isn’t a bad idea. But the spot ventures into give-me-a-break territory when mom suggests (no doubt reading the words straight from the lame creative brief) that they “wash it” with Febreeze.

It may have sounded good in the strategy meeting, but in reality, it’s a heavy-handed attempt that creates mild disgust the first time you hear it, then continues to occupy your mind with an “ew” reaction for the rest of the spot. I don’t care what they might be able to claim about how the product performs scientifically speaking, but to the vast majority of us, spraying something on something else doesn’t wash it, it merely covers it.

It doesn’t help when the stinky son mouths more gag-worthy dialogue to his young female friends: “I like to keep things fresh.” Makes me want to Febreeze his mouth out with soap.


New Bud spots set the bar a little higher.

In Ad Creative on October 21, 2009 at 11:06 am

When I heard about a new Budweiser campaign going back to “its roots” I was skeptical. While I don’t love the typically sophomoric humor in most of today’s “in a bar wit da guys” beer spots, I really don’t get much at all from commercials that obsess on the brewing process, slo-mo beer pours, etc. But surprise — I was wrong. The new spots are here, and  I like ’em!

The spots feature recognizable “moments” in beer drinking – like the way guys greet one another, tease one another, and bring back multiple beers on trips to the concession stand. And they subtly reinforce that Budweiser is almost always a comfortable part of those little pieces of camaraderie. They aren’t perfect; music choices are odd, in some cases. But there’s a lot more right than wrong with them.

I think what draws me to these spots is that they are both fun and real. I don’t have a ‘posse’ and I don’t endlessly ogle scantily-clad women in bars. And I don’t engage in silly drinking competitions that leave someone drunk or injured. But these new Bud commercials capture the small truths that all beer drinkers can enjoy and identify with – and without the embarrassment! You won’t spit your beer out laughing, and time will tell if the usual “guys in the baseball caps” will like them.

But they made me smile and think fondly of both beer drinking and Budweiser. I respectfully submit that in today’s marketplace,  that’s saying something. Way to go, Bud and DDB. This Bud’s for me!

Keep your customers happy: SEAL the deal!

In Uncategorized on October 7, 2009 at 1:10 pm

Just read an excellent post over at the Customer Think blog. It quotes an article in Inc. Magazine in which the author references a Navy SEALS training tactic. At the completion of an all-out four-mile run, the distance is suddenly extended to ten miles. It’s easy to understand why the SEALS would do this; in that line of work, your life (and many others) could suddenly depend upon your ability to stretch far beyond any level of exertion you might have envisioned before. running102

In the post, Nick Wassenberg draws the parallel to winning – and retaining – your customer’s interest and business. I’ve written about this subject before, but human nature being what it is, we all need the periodic reminder. Simply put, laurels don’t last long. And there are competitors out there that are likely much more motivated and energized to “get in to see” your clients than you are to make sure those clients are satisfied with you. Not “in general” or ‘overall” but right now, today.

Clients’ needs change over time, and become more complicated. Whether they say so or not, they expect that you will stay on top of those needs, and use your trusted position to help them more and more. DO it, or someone else will get the chance. My favorite business philosophy calls for treating every client meeting as a new business pitch. That’s the level of engagement you should demonstrate before and at every meeting. Think Navy SEALs here.

Yes, to borrow one cliche’, client satisfaction is a marathon. But thinking of it that way is dangerous. Because in reality, that marathon is made up of an endless series of sprints. And you’ve got to win each one – or else your marathon is going to end on Heartbreak Hill.

Dear GM: don’t circle the wagons – sell the product.

In Ad Creative on October 2, 2009 at 1:16 pm

GM, we need you to succeed. So please start making better ad decisions.

You promised product-centric ads that sold differentiating features. (I even defended you in advance for that position in a post months ago.)  But now, as a recent Ad Age article notes,  you are using a family template gm-chevy-100109bigand tag line that locks each model into a corporate shell instead of freeing them to be what they need to be to their own audiences. (Then you even run them back to back in the same magazine, which probably doesn’t make much targeting sense unless it is, in fact, that corporate effect you’re after.)

Here’s what I consider the bottom line: people don’t need constant reminders of the parent company’s battle for its life. They’re buying cars, not making charity donations. I believe that reminders of the GM “situation” are counterproductive, at

But as a copywriter, my big problem is with the tone of the ads themselves. Take the  Malibu ad.  “By definition, an Accord is a compromise.”  Sorry, but NO ONE — not even someone predisposed to buy American — is going to take that one seriously. (And the copy doesn’t even attempt to explain the point.) The Malibu may have plenty to offer. But you don’t “settle” for an Accord — and some junior writer’s oh-so-clever idea of looking up “accord” in the dictionary doesn’t lead to insight –  just word play.

Frankly, it carries the same tone as the pallid beach weakling calling after the bronze bully who has just taken his girl. “Oh yeah, well you’re gonna get skin cancer some day!”  Obviously his girlfriend compromised.

The Cadillac “version” of the ad is Read the rest of this entry »