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When Sex Shouldn’t Sell: Taking Corporate Responsibility in Marketing

You may have heard about (or seen) Hardee’s commercials featuring a strip-teasing teacher, Paris Hilton washing a car, or a woman putting her fist in her mouth and wondered exactly what the burger chain was selling. The company has been getting a lot of flack for its “sex sells” campaigns, and I have to agree with the critics. While, yes, as a marketer, I understand that sex is used all the time to sell products, I have to draw the line at the innuendo that a teacher being ogled by her students presents. Sure, it was a spoof. I could almost laugh at it. But for the fact that degrades women (essentially comparing them to a slab of beef) and gives young men and women a skewed idea of what marketing should be.

And come on, who really believes Paris washes her own car or eats greasy burgers? Read more

Advertising That Works: Show Us the Funny

We all hate commercials, unless they make us laugh. Then we tell everyone we know, effectively making those commercials work through word of mouth. Here are a few I think are noteworthy:

* Domino’s Dessert Pizza. It’s plain silly, but the dessert mustaches just put you at ease and make you laugh!
* McDonalds has a commercial where a young man goes off in search of something hot and spicy. He brings back a hispanic rapper. Cute.
* Or let’s go back a few years to that Pepsi commercial with the cute dimpled girl/mobster.
* Where’s the Beef? by Wendy’s

I could go on and on. Most of the commercials that stick in your mind were either funny or had a catchy tune. They were memorable. Now try to think of a local carpet retailer ad. It’s likely you can’t even remember any. While it seems the bigger advertising budget creates commercials that snag our brains, it doesn’t have to be the case.

In order to make your marketing and advertising (commercials, internet ads, direct mail, emails, anything) memorable, here are a few tips:

1. Make people laugh. Happy people buy things, and they tell their friends.
2. Surprise them. Don’t shock, just surprise pleasantly. With so many commercials, how can yours stand out?
3. Spend time on the idea. Don’t rush the creative process. You don’t have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars; good ideas are free. They just take time to develop.
4. Test your idea. Survey a test market to see what reactions would be to an ad or commercial before going to production.

Advertising That Works (or Rather, Doesn’t): Cultural Sensitivity

You may have seen this Intel ad recently. It leaves a big question mark hanging over my head. I have to assume that such a big corporation wouldn’t deliberately make a racist comment in advertising that likely cost several hundred thousand dollars. But what else are we to make of the subservient black men bowing down to the self-satisfied white man?

To say the least, Intel missed the mark. And apologized for it.

I would like to have been a fly on the wall when the marketing session was going on at Intel. I’d like to know what they were thinking. At any rate, taking cultural sensitivity into account is extremely important when getting creative on ads.

Sometimes advertisers try to be edgy by toeing the race line but don’t bother to think about the audience they’re marginalizing. Sure, this commercial is kind of funny, but what is it really saying? Black men are idolic hunks we can create out of husbands and detergent? Huh?

But race isn’t the only issue that advertisers provoke. Many ads in fashion magazines prove to be sexist. Women are put in demeaning positions or are half naked. The irony? Women are the readers. What does this say about our society? (I can go on and on about this topic. Read Jean Kilbourne’s Deadly Persuasion if you’re interested in how advertising affects women’s views of themselves).

If you’re going to invest in advertising, make sure you won’t offend anyone. It’s as simple as that.

Advertising that Works: Giveaways

My pick this week for advertising that works is McDonald’s. First, let me stress how vehemently I have detested McDonald’s for years. I just don’t like their food. I hadn’t stepped into one in probably 10 years, but I have a 2 year old who likes Shrek, so I recently broke that boycott. I say all this to show you how good this advertising campaign is: it got me to go to McDonald’s.

On my AOL Instant Messenger bar is a little box that runs ads. Typically, I ignore it. But one day there was an ad for Mickey D’s for its Chilled Out Lounge.† I liked the font, so I moused over it to see what it was about. A coupon for a free vanilla iced coffee appeared. Aside from the fact I have had vicious cravings for iced coffee as of late, I was pulled in by the giveaway of something of value. I clicked.

A website popped up that showed a loungey room filled with mod furniture and mod people looking beautiful and detached. The concept, I believe, was that you could interact  with the people by clicking on some (not all) and seeing a talk bubble pop up. I actually was turned off by this. The people didn’t say anything important, and the interactive factor somehow missed the mark. However, there was a link for my free coupon for an iced coffee! And cleverly, you could email it to a friend. One feature I did like is that if you pushed the spacebar, it would appear to your boss that you were working on an important spreadsheet. But it’s not like there was enough on the site to actually warrant hiding the 3 seconds spent there from your boss. Read more