Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Marn’s Market is Back in Business

In Uncategorized on September 6, 2017 at 9:07 pm



Just a warning – I have allowed this blog to lie dormant for far too long. You don’t care about excuses and I don’t have time to make up any good ones!  But stay tuned: in the next few weeks, I’ll be talking about some recent industry topics, and talk about several ad campaigns currently running that I think deserve to be praised or panned. Among them:

Commercials like…..

  • The grade school teacher thinking about her vacation while the class runs rampant in the background
  • The pretentious Range Rover squad of thrill seekers escaping a dust storm and winding up on speeding watercraft
  • The return of  PuppyMonkeyBaby
  • “Enjoy the go.”
  • Subaru’s would-be hobos
  • The Most Interesting FAN in the World

Topics like…

  • The new six-second commercial unit
  • Emojis
  • When does new media stop being new?
  • Storytelling (what a concept!)

As always, I’d love you to get involved. Got an ad you love or hate, and want to hold it up to public scrutiny? Add a comment. Meanwhile, know that we’re in here stocking shelves with fresh merchandise and trying to resist the takeover bid from Amazon. Marn’s Market will reopen shortly!


No Turning Back on Bon Jovi DirectTV Campaign

In Uncategorized on July 25, 2016 at 11:28 am

Okay, I was’t sure at first about the new DirectTV campaign, but now I am. The ability to go back to the start of a program via DVR  doesn’t seem like all that big a deal given today’s plethora of available technologies. But in reflecting on the creative aspects of the commercials themselves, I’ve decided they are perfect for today’s circumstances.

You’ve seen the spots, unless you’ve pawned your TV until the election is over. In them, Jon Bon Jovi magically appears in the living rooms of people who are mourning the fact that they’ve missed the beginning of a show they wanted to watch. He sings a brief song that touts DirectTV’s ability to  “turn back time” and restart the program on their schedule.


The song is actually good, and I’ve always enjoyed Bon Jovi, both from his music and his occasional TV acting appearances. The thing that gave me pause at first were some of the quirky, slightly dark examples written into song lyrics. In each spot, he proposes some other examples of what the general ability to “turn back time” would make possible.

In one spot, it is “…maybe reconsider having that second child” as we see said child scrawling on a wall with crayons – till he disappears.  Hmmm…. a touch on the nasty side. In another spot, “the guy she liked before you” pops in and gets a bit too friendly with the wife.

In still another execution, we edge slightly further in a creepy direction as he sings “a chance to say goodbye to Grampy Tim” as a senior gentlemen suddenly joins the TV-watchers in the room, waving in a slightly “from beyond the grave” manner.

My slightly younger self probably would have launched a slam at these spots as insensitive, catering to a meaner spirit and taking serious things a bit too lightly. But I think these spots are exactly where “the line” is today; maybe they make some folks a bit uncomfortable, but the majority will see nothing wrogn with them. With the good song and the likable Bon Jovi involved (including a wry smile in each that seems to say “I’m only kidding here”) I ultimately pronounce this a quite successful campaign.  I even think the song would have pretty good commercial potential, rewritten a bit.

I can’t speak to how important re-starting a program will be to most potential customers, but creatively, the campaign blends music, celebrity, and just-edgy-enough copy to be watchable without wearing out too quickly. (On that note, don’t get me started on the awful Charter spot in which we have to watch a guy – way too prominently – make sound effects with his mouth for far too long throughout a not-very-memorable jingle.) When I see that one, I wish I could turn back time to switch the channel before I had to see him again.

New BK spot hits trifecta: inane, insensitive, and ineffective.

In Uncategorized on January 2, 2016 at 11:54 am

Okay, Burger King. I’ve defended many of your antics over the years, and your “Whopper Freak-out” was brilliant in its time. I even smirk a little at the “debate” campaign you’ve been running for your chicken nugget deal. But time to get the new copywriter off your account – he or she lacks the experience or the judgment to know a non-idea (even worse, a bad idea) at the first “Hey, what if we….”

In a new spot for its “chicken burger” Burger King calls up all the archaic stereotypes for old people and wraps them into one piece of nonsense. If you have already branded me as being “politically correct” then you don’t get it. Sometimes “politically correct” is correct, period.BurgerKing

The spot is inane in that it forces ridiculous words into the actors’ mouths just to set up a joke that isn’t funny.  Sure, an overplayed senior woman would chide her husband saying “Eat it already, I’m getting old over her.”  And he would certainly answer “You got old a long time ago, believe me.” What a knee-slapper, copywriter pup.

The spot is insensitive for the obvious reasons already hinted at. It portrays senior citizens in just the way too many self-absorbed younger people (and many middle-aged adults) love to think of them: loud, argumentative, whiny and crotchety. (Oh, and the fact that they’re wearing the BK crowns intended for kids? I’m laughing so hard I can’t catch my breath.) Perhaps there’s some psychology here – the more “over the top” we make them, the further that eventual senior status seems from us.

In this spot, I’m surprised the script didn’t call for them to drive away very slowly in a car with a blinker left on.

Finally, the spot is ineffective because it gives me NO reason to try Burger King’s new sandwich. It tells me the chicken burger is new, it’s flame-grilled, and that I can get two of them for a promo price. I’ve got lots of choices for good chicken sandwiches out there. Without more explanation, the thought of a chicken “burger” doesn’t leave me with a very appetizing image.

But of course, what do I know? I’m over thirty, and still believe good advertising can and should entertain and say something meaningful. I’d be happy to stop by and show the BK copywriter how it’s done. I won’t wear a cardigan sweater, and I’ll park my walker far from your office. Or you come to my place – I promise not to tell you to get off my lawn.

“Test Drive” TV spots help Volkswagen weather a testing time.

In Ad Creative, Uncategorized on December 7, 2015 at 1:04 am

Given the recent revelations about VW’s emissions testing subterfuge, the ad industry watched with anticipation to see what sort of persona the company would take on in its post-crisis advertising. The answer? A familiar one.

And that’s a good thing for VW. It brought back a popular campaign supporting its regular “Sign Then Drive” event. The campaign features salespeople who are ‘kidnapped” by people who are test-driving a VW, and are so taken with it, the test drives continue into all manner of entertaining situations for far longer than the anticipated time.


In my favorite spot, a family has taken a VW Christmas shopping, and is unloading gifts outside a family gathering when we see, at last, that there is a VW salesman sitting in the back. His earnest, mild-mannered suggestion to return to the dealership is greeted with a genuine look of hurt feelings as the wife asks,  ‘don’t you want to meet my family?”

In other executions, we join a couple lying on the hood/roof of the vehicle, looking up at the stars, making wishes. Then we hear a mild, totally un-sarcastic voice through the sunroof from an unseen salesman inside chiming in with “I wish we could head back to the dealership now.”

I think the campaign is a particularly good choice for VW for right now, for several reasons.

  1. The message is not a very intense “product/feature” sell – a good decision when almost any specific claim would likely prompt a snarky, knee-jerk response about the claim’s truthfulness.
  2. Secondly, the real “selling idea” here isn’t delivered in the company’s voice at all, but rather through the fondness various people instantly feel and show toward the vehicles on their “test drives.” This virtual third party endorsement works much better for VW at the moment.
  3. Finally, there is a consistent likability displayed by the VW salespeople in each spot. In that “Gifts” spot, for example – despite the salesman’s eagerness to end the test drive, he doesn’t want to hurt the woman’s feelings. So of course he sighs, taps his knees, claps his hands and hops out to go meet that family.

Read the rest of this entry »

How Blocking Ads Will Make You Dumber.

In Uncategorized on September 18, 2015 at 11:03 am

Ads = Evil

That seems to be the default perspective for many consumers these days. I’d like to propose a new equation those people should think about.

Something For Nothing =  Something WORTH Nothing


I think that one of the most discouraging trends in society in the past couple of decades is the entitlement consumers feel to getting almost anything they care about for free or almost free. That can be music, TV shows, movies, wireless internet, cell service, whatever.  If we have to pay, we’ll find a way around that and “pirate” it from some other source.

It’s the same kind of thinking that brands every car dealer a “crook” if he has the gall to try to get more for the vehicle than he paid the manufacturer for it. Apparently he should work for free.

Those same consumers, of course,  scream when their employers try to get them to absorb a bit more of the healthcare costs that rise dramatically every year. And they certainly wouldn’t stand for an employer attempting to benefit from their efforts without paying them mightily for every minute of it. But somehow when they are on the other side of the table, things change.

Earlier this week I saw an Ad Age article about the “war on advertising” being waged by various ad-blocking software programs and new or soon-to-be available browsers and mobile operating systems. The focus seems to be on making it easier for consumers to avoid seeing ads.

Let me figuratively grab you by your earlobes, folks:  quality content costs money to produce, and if you aren’t willing to pay for it directly, and can’t even bear to watch advertising from sponsors who are willing to pay for it on your behalf, it will stop.

It’s that simple.

The article talks about several respected Read the rest of this entry »

“Time Spent With Media” a cloudy metric.

In Uncategorized on June 3, 2015 at 12:34 pm

I came across a research report recently that, I’m afraid, poses more questions than it answers. I don’t doubt the validity of the numbers in the report released by Publicis’ ZenithOptimedia. But if the picture it creates in your mind is one of the ever-increasing absorption of people today (especially young ones) in video games, streaming TV shows and the like, that may be missing a much bigger point.

Fact is, now that “media” includes the Internet and embraces the ever-growing emphasis on “mobile” access, the time spent on media is no longer what we first imagine. Yes, you can read a newspaper or magazine, watch a television program, etc., and you are certainly consuming that media all the while.

But in my opinion, relating that activity to today’s attention paid to tablets, cell phones, etc., is comparing apples to oranges. Consider that office co-worker on her smartphone; that college student constantly sneaking peeks throughout the class,;or the pedestrian creating sidewalk chaos by plodding along, staring at the tiny screen in his hand. They’re not watching TV shows or movies, or checking out insightful feature articles, most likely.dreamstime_s_21387548

Rather, they are doing things that, ten years ago, they would have been doing an entirely different way. They are shopping online instead of walking through a mall. They are talking with friends – having conversations traditionally held in person or over the phone. They are checking movie listings formerly found in the entertainment section of the daily paper.

Is this just a semantic difference? Perhaps. But I think that by simply quoting average daily minutes spent with the media suggests that people today are tuning out of reality and into imaginary worlds; I think not. This is simply a time shift from performing the same activities in other ways. That may, in fact, hold even more implications for those of us in advertising, marketing and public relations. Read the rest of this entry »

New Office Max/Depot work subtle but smart.

In Uncategorized on January 8, 2015 at 12:31 pm

As colleagues (and students) know, the advertising I respect most combines creativity with smart strategic insights. The new work I just came across for the newly-merged Office Depot and Office Max is a perfect example. While the new campaign isn’t exactly over the top creatively, it does build on a simple thought I predict will be very effective for them.

The campaign’s mission is to cause a simple shift in perception in the mind of the consumer. What the chain sells isn’t “supplies” any longer – it’s “gear.” And there’s a big difference. According to chief marketing officer Tim Rea, “supplies” are what people buy for things they have to do, while “gear” powers the things they want to do.

Gear up 2

The commercial introducing the “Gear up for Great” campaign attempts to convey the satisfaction that the right “gear” can help create by enabling the proud customer to do a better, more effective job. That’s something that most everyone can appreciate – including  (but not limited to) the Type A business warrior types who are probably the store’s best customers.

To me, Office Max, Office Depot (and Staples, for that matter) are stores that have always represented possibilities – beckoning me to come in to get something that will help me accomplish new things – or more old things. They are also creative resources; I’m proud to say my children looked forward to trips to those places as much as they did visits to Toys ‘R Us.

Okay, I admit this is all about a simple word change, and it’s asking a lot to think that will make a big difference to today’s distracted consumers. But it doesn’t have to be huge – it just has to be right. And I think it is. “Supplies” are the things somebody else orders to make sure we have enough of in the file cabinets, like copy paper and blank CD’s. But if it’s the paper I’m going to use for a great new project, or a CD I’m going to send out with some cool work samples to generate freelance assignments…that’s “gear.” That’s different.

Turns out Office Max/Depot isn’t selling their stuff against other people’s stuff as much as changing the shopping experience from an errand into an adventure. I like it.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugh, November edition.

In Uncategorized on November 20, 2014 at 2:41 am

Hi, time to kick off a monthly installment in which I recognize ads that are in my personal and professional opinion, either 1) especially good, 2) especially UN-good, or 3) an embarrassment to the industry.  Here are my November honorees.

The Good…

Charter Octopus Spot

A new-ish spot for Charter Spectrum and its fast internet. A young couple brings home groceries and begins to prepare a web-guided gourmet meal.  That is, until the still-alive “guest of honor” (an octopus) wraps a tentacle or two around the husband’s little finger. This quickly leads to a change of plans, and the next Google search is for “Keeping a Pet Octopus.”  Very watchable and charming; and personally, I prefer to think that such warm sentimentality lives.

The Bad….


You may not agree on this one, but I am not a fan of the current Arby’s campaign  “We have the meats.”  I recognize the marketing point of difference Arby’s is trying to claim, and it makes sense on the surface. But I don’t love the testosterone-slathered  tone and carnivore worship going on here. And what bothers me most is – James Earle Jones?  Really? What’s next, Morgan Freeman for Candy Crunch? JEJ has been Mufasa…Darth Vader…and that guy in Field of Dreams. He’s even performed the BIBLE, for, uh, God’s sake. He was fine in those Sprint commercials, where the oddity of his classic voice reading inane text message worked beautifully. Not here. At least for me.

The Ugh…


Rob Lowe for Direct TV. Sorry, to me it’s just stupid. It makes no real point on behalf of the product. All it does is confront the viewer with a steady stream of alter-Rob-Lowe-egos that you wouldn’t want to meet.  The “Awkward Rob Lowe” version is already drawing fire from people who suffer from shy bladder syndrome, since that scenario is in the spot. The characters are all unpleasant, but the most repulsive to me is ‘Crazy Hairy Rob Lowe.” Won’t bother describing it further –  you’ll see it. (And it’s hard to watch.) Strategy for this campaign? Nothing very deep, that’s for sure. Creativity? Holding non-customers up for ridicule isn’t an idea – it’s apparently what you do when you don’t have one.

New Sprint iPhone spot sets women back 300 decibels.

In Uncategorized on September 29, 2014 at 5:22 pm
Women excited at mention of Sprint iPhone plan.

Sprint spot and scene compliments of

Thank GOODNESS this spot came along. One of the classes I’m teaching involves stereotypes (including gender based) in the media. I need look no further for a great example of a Cro-Magnon depiction of women as ditzy, squealing mental lightweights who shudder with excitement over the fact that one of them is getting the new iPhone.

Forget the promotion of women to the C-suites of the world, and encouraging girls to flex their natural muscles at math, science, and other traditional male “bastions.”  Sprint has rendered all that an impossible dream, by “reminding” us all that women are simpletons, easily reduced to embarrassing cartoons in the presence of merely the promise of a “shiny thing” on the horizon for one of them.

It’s annoying, It’s insulting. And I just can’t discuss it any further. Just needed to check in here to say that I hated it, and that Sprint (and its agency) should be embarrassed.  Women are better than this. And Sprint ought to be. Now I’m going to go find a good spot to write about to cleanse my reviewing palate.

Subaru ads cover lots of terrain – from heart-tuggers to head-scratchers.

In Uncategorized on July 31, 2014 at 6:32 pm

Carmichael Lynch certainly deserves plenty of credit for moving Subaru advertising forward in recent years, but as a dedicated Subaru lover and an ad guy, I do have to wonder about what strings the creative is really trying to pluck.

The spot I remember best (probably debuted a few years ago)  is a protective dad sending his new-driver daughter off on her own; as he cautions her,  his POV arcs back and forth from the current teen version of the daughter to the little girl he still remembers her as. Touching and effective. In another, a young girl struggles, but successfully changes a tire – not in an emergency, as it turns out, but as part of a lesson from her father to build her independence, confidence, and safety.

Subaru Dog

A more recent spot features different people passing along the surprising news that “they lived” as the wreckage of an accident-totaled Subaru is processed.  Riveting and effective.   One more spot  shows the family dog, from puppy into senior canine, as a faithful companion for the growing family. (Like Subaru, of course.)  Involving and effective. I love all of ’em.

So why, why, why, CL, did you have to go and ruin the mood with several executions that seem totally OFF that strategy? In one, a Subaru is driven irresponsibly through a parking lot with a little girl in the back seat In another, a little boy is “imagined” into a day full of the driving-related hassles his dad faces.  One question: why?

For years, Volvo has been the textbook example (literally – I teach advertising, too)  of brand image – synonymous with safety.  For a while there, Subaru seized that positioning within an even more compelling warmth and family framework. But the brand seems intent on handing it right back. Or at least allowing it to become secondary to some other attitude or emotion.  The car for grownups who act like kids? The “sure, we’re safe, but we’re NOT boring” approach?  I don’t know. But that’s just the problem. I”m a customer. And once I see your spots, I should know it. Or at least feel it.