For a change, there were very few commercials in this year’s crop that I truly hated, so it was tough to come up with a "bad" and "ugly" list. However, there were a number of commercials that I felt particularly blah about, or just thought that they really missed the mark with a big opportunity.
In more than a few cases, I was surprised that a company would spend so much money both on the commercial itself, and on the ad space, only to fall flat. And in other cases, I thought the hype about the commercial built it up to be something great, only to have the execution be less than memorable.
So without further ado, let’s take a look at the commercials that made it onto my "the bad" list:
Oikos – The Spill
I really wanted to love this ad. I really did….
I had a few problems with it – first, we were ALL excited to see the Full House boys reunite for this ad. And I thought it just fell flat. I’ve seen a few people say that "Uncle Jesse" should have thrown in a "have mercy!" The spot was a bit too short to tell a good reunion-type story, and it would have been better to have recreated the Full House set, as if the boys were still living there.
Plus, the yogurt is really almost an afterthought as it related to that part of the storyline, and the commercial is a wee bit offensive, unnecessarily. I love Oikos (they really *are* such a good yogurt that you’d be willing to kiss John Stamos – although, let’s admit it, he’s aged WELL), but this ad was a big miss for me. It seemed awkward and not memorable.
You might laugh when you hear what my issue is with this ad, but what it comes down to is where on the bottle they’re tapping. Everyone knows (and so Heinz must know) that if you want the ketchup to come out of the bottle, you have to tap the "57" on the side, and NOT the bottom. It’s a brand thing. So I see it as a HUGE miss that instead of taking that into account, they go with tapping the bottom.
Also, the part with the plastic bottle is strange – is Heinz trying to bring back just glass bottles? It would have made more sense here if they showed a competitors’ brand or even just a generic ketchup, which would give the idea that using another type of ketchup stinks. Instead, they’re just telling you not to buy their other kind of bottle, unless you like your ketchup to make fart noises (so, if you’re a child, or just immature). It’s weird that they would basically suggest that you swap out bottles of the same ketchup.
So I wanted to like this ad, and it was otherwise well-done, but I couldn’t get past the actors in the spot not tapping the 57.
SONOS – Face Off
This is another ad that I just flat out did not like. I get that they’re trying to show us visually that you fill your home with music (by using color) with SONOS, but I thought it was confusing and weird. It seemed that the music was competing (which would have made sense if you had dueling residents changing music from separate smart phones), and I don’t know that anyone would come home and set up different music in different parts of the house.
It wasn’t memorable, it wasn’t striking, and I’m not sure at the end of it what the product really is – is it the app? Is it the hardware? Do you have to have your house wired a certain way? Who knows.
Wonderful Pistachios – Steven Colbert
Since this is a two part commercial, we’ve got to look at both spots:
This is another ad that I wanted to love – I liked that it was a two-parter, and that they recognized that Wonderful Pistachios might not be a strong enough brand to stand just with a color, and not additional mentions and logos.
And they had me, right up until the end of the second ad. I hate that Steven Colbert opens his head like a pistachio. Hate.It. it’s creepy and totally unnecessary. There is a number of other ways they could have achieved a big ending to this spot, and this makes me not want to eat pistachios (because now I’ll be thinking about cracking open Steven Colbert’s head, instead of enjoying the nut).
Otherwise, it would have gotten a top spot mention from me. But I can’t get past the end.
Volkswagen – Wings
This is yet another spot I wanted to love. The idea that when a Volkswagen hits 100,000 miles, a German engineer gets his wings (and the disasterous consequences) is a funny one. It reinforces the idea that not only is the car reliable up to 100,000 miles, it’s something that Volkswagen actually aspires to. Plus, it helps with brand recognition, since it refers to the car’s German history. Plus, it gives the viewer the opportunity to see a number of different models of Volkswagen, without being obnoxious about it.
But then they lose me with the "rainbows" comment. Although the wings thing is weird, it makes sense because of It’s a Wonderful Life. Rainbows do not. Plus, we all know that she wouldn’t have said "butt," and having to use it in the ad brought focus to that – it’s a strange word to hear in an ad, especially a car ad.
Again, the ad wasn’t terrible, and I didn’t hate it, but I just felt that it slightly missed the mark and left me feeling weird about Volkswagen.
Lessons for Lawyers
So, what can lawyers learn from these bad ads?
- Know what people think about your brand: You have to know what people think about your brand, and embrace that (to some extent). Look at Morrison & Foerster – they knew people were calling them "MoFo" and rather than pretend that wasn’t the case, they embraced it. Now they’re considered memorable AND bold.
So when you’re trying to see how best to market and position the firm, don’t just rely on your opinion for the characteristics that you’ll put forward – ask your clients, ask your staff, ask your friends – what do THEY think about you and your firm? You don’t have to focus on those things necessarily, but you should understand how the market views you so that you don’t put forth an image that no one believes.
- Don’t be awkward: I’ve said it before, I love the use of humor in marketing, and law firms don’t have to be afraid of it. But you want to make sure your delivery isn’t "off." This is again a good time to rely on clients, friends and staff to review the image you’re putting out – is there uncomfortable laughter? Or are people genuinely amused. Put aside your feelings and endorsements for a moment, and make sure that the ads, collaterals, persona you’re projecting is going to convey the message you want it to. Your message is supposed to be the thing that gets the right clients to want to work with you, so you want to work hard to make sure you’re not missing the mark, or turning those clients off.
- Don’t be boring: If you’re spending time and money on putting together an image that tells your story (either through advertising, brochures, websites, collateral materials, time spent writing or developing presentations, or even time spent networking), you want to make sure that it isn’t wasted. And if you’re offering clients and potential clients the same old thing, or something that only half-heartedly tells your story, it’s a complete waste of time and money (both yours and theirs).
Know who you are, and don’t be afraid to communicate that. You don’t have to do something crazy, or even humorous, but make sure what you ARE doing is memorable. If you want to be classy and refined, make sure you are being the most classy and refined. If you want to be bold, be very bold. If you want to be funny, be funny and not crass. Again, this is a good place to bring in the people in your life who know you – find out from them what they think when you present yourself, either in a networking situation, online, through your business cards, etc. Make sure you’re doing something that people will remember you for, and associate that quality with you and your business.
Tomorrow, we’ll look at some of the ads I really hated (or mostly disliked). And, if you’re lucky, I’ll throw in a few honorable mentions on Friday!