Copy, Creative, Themes & Tactics That Need To Go Away PART III

“Dumb and/or insufferable man versus smart and/or above-it-all-yet-tolerant woman”

© Paul Edgewater All Rights Reserved

At the risk of offending, it would be more than refreshing to see a stupid woman with a smart man in a commercial for a change. That doesn’t happen though, does it? Whenever there needs to be diametrically opposed views in an advertisement where one view (the wrong one) needs to represent either the competitor’s product or service or general buyer apathy and the other view to represent the product or service being advertised, more often than not, the female role is the righteous one who’s already opted in/on board and the male role is that of the village idiot who’s still using the competitor’s product or service. For every male who is comfortable with his gender (which by the way, far outnumber the males who make apologies for their sex), these types of commercials make us spend our money elsewhere. It has nothing to do with male security or insecurity; it is just that these commercials insult the intelligence of men and women alike.

It’s always the same scenario; the goofy man who just can’t figure out what was completely natural for his female-better-half to embrace. She’ll just look up in the air with her eyes rolling, flashing a whimsical & dismissive “what-a-goof-ball-but-I-love-him-anyway” look then emasculate him in front of his children as they enjoy the benefits of product A, which she selected, while he struggles with product B in the background. This often involves him getting severely injured in the process as well. As an example, his wife and children are enjoying a perfectly delicious meal of easy-to-prepare pizza roles, while he’s in the back yard, trying to grill a pizza while his pants are on fire with the dog eating his cooked leg, in spite of the fact that there is a busted water main gushing 10 feet away from him that was also apparently his doing. Oh what a goof. How funny. How played out and how boring.

Thanks for your interest!

Check back for part IV soon and make sure to read parts I & II as well!

Copy, Creative, Themes & Tactics That Need To Go Away PART II “Stealing Food”

“Stealing Food” © Paul Edgewater All Rights Reserved

How many times have we seen this one? Personally, my earliest recollections of this theme were McDonald’s “Hamburger”, “Leggo my Eggo”, The Frito Bandito & fresh brats forcibly taking bowls of cereal away from both Trix the Rabbit & the Lucky Charms leprechaun respectively. In the Eggo ads, the message conveyed in the commercials was that there had better not be anyone except for you within a block of your toaster when you are making Eggo waffles, or else you won’t be the one enjoying them. In fact your own mother will turn into a hardened criminal by snatching your freshly toasted Eggo away from you before you have a chance to take it out of the toaster yourself. Apparently there was nothing the protagonist could do once their rival laid their hands on the waffle either. They always let the mooch have it even though they themselves had prepared it (cooties, perhaps?). In the real world, if person B were to grab a hold of an Eggo that person A had toiled over a toaster to prepare, person B wouldn’t get the waffle. Instead, they’d end up at the business end of a knuckle sandwich also prepared by person A. At least that’s how it would have worked in my world; rue the day you covet my Eggo for I will lay you out and stand triumphantly on your neck. Perhaps that wouldn’t have been a successful ad campaign though.

Then there was the “Frito Bandito”. That didn’t play on demeaning stereotypes of the day, did it? Oh no, not at all. Here was an overtly Mexican character with a long handle bar mustache, wearing a poncho and a sombrero who not only stole your Fritos and everything else he could get his hands on, he sang a south-of-the-border-sounding song all about it; “Aye yae yae yae, I am the Frito Bandito” (please forgive my phonetics). The message here was that you were about to enjoy a Mexican-derived snack food that if not eaten right away, would be stolen back by a Mexican who was not too keen having Gringos eating his national treasure—unless of course you beat him over the head with his guitar. I don’t even know where to begin analyzing that one. I’ll let the reader come to their own conclusion.

A lot of us remember, “Silly Rabbit, Trix are for kids”. Did those commercials stress you out or make you sad for the rabbit? They did for me. I loved Trix as a kid (note: when they were 100% artificially flavored and colored—they tasted better then; and you know they did. It’s okay to agree with me; I won’t tell anyone). I had silently vowed that if that rabbit ever came over to my house, I would happily share my Trix with him; unlike the evil kids that sequestered his wholesome puffed cereal every Saturday morning on TV. He tried so hard just to have a taste of the cereal that was after all, named after him, didn’t he? He’d hide away with a bowl and before eating any of it, always felt compelled to slowly describe the colors and corresponding flavors to his viewing audience, whose desperate screams of “They’re coming! THEY’RE COMING!!!” would land on deaf, albeit generously sized ears, before he would indulge himself. In that precious window of time, he could have at least enjoyed a few spoonfuls of lemony yellow goodness, but alas, the bandit of snot nosed punks always arrived at the penultimate moment. Indeed, he was never allowed to enjoy the fruits of his labor.  Note: I didn’t insert the word “…well…” before my pun and Madison Avenue, let alone the rest of the advertising world, didn’t implode (see part one).

Then there was the Lucky Charms leprechaun. Not only did he not get to eat his cereal, he was the one who actually made the cereal with his magical powers and then still had to endure the humiliation of not being able to eat it due to his less-than-human-status. Little did I know it then, we were being given a crash course in Marxism by General Mills: By each leprechaun’s ability to make Lucky Charms, to each child’s ability to eat it. In retrospect, those cereals were so delicious that any commercial would have worked so long as it showed the serving suggestions of those magically frosted and spinning marshmallows in Lucky Charms and the wonderful and colorful spheres of delicious chemistry that was Trix. The story line of the ads was always secondary.

One of the more wretched characters in advertising was McDonald’s “Hamburgler”. If you’re old enough to remember him, you probably still need therapy. This menacing character would always be lurking in the shadows of those bizarre talking trees, scheming to ruin whatever activities Ronald and friends had planned for the day, by stealing all the hamburgers they brought for sustenance. Note: those trees should have freaked out Ronald, Grimace, Mayor McCheese and friends, but they didn’t. Which added to the bad-trip-vibe of these spots. Either way, “Hamburgler”. usually didn’t succeed in his dastardly plans to liberate the hamburgers, but nonetheless, his criminal behavior was celebrated.

This still happens a lot in commercials. The protagonist is eating something and the antagonist steals their food. The antagonist claims to want only wants a bite or a little piece but ends up taking the whole darn casserole when the protagonist isn’t looking. Stop the presses; that wasn’t funny, whimsical or cute in the ’60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, ‘00s or now for that matter. A dozen of years into our new millennium, it’s an egregious advertising gaff. Indeed, what is the message here? If you purchase product A, it is so good that it will bring out the thief in your friends, family and perfect strangers. You will be eating your food and someone will steal it from you. As the viewer I’m thinking to myself, “Mmm mmm good. I really enjoyed staying hungry and seeing the dark side of human nature. I think I want a second helping of that. Honey, where is the A-1 Steak Sauce? The kids have shattered my illusions by playing nicely with one other. I’d like to see some petty theft being perpetrated at our dinning room table instead.” And we wonder why there are crystal meth labs everywhere. All I’m saying is that no one better lay a finger on my Butterfinger!

 Check back soon for part III

Copy, Creative, Themes & Tactics That Need To Go Away Part I

Copy, Creative, Themes & Tactics That Need To Go Away

© Paul Edgewater All Rights Reserved

I’d like to preface the following diatribe with a quote from Channing Pollack, “A critic is a legless man who teaches running.” I’m not a professional critic and I attempt to distance myself from that stripe of ne’er-do-well although I’m about to join their ranks in this blog. The reason I work in the promotions, marketing and advertising industry is because I’m passionate about it. My whole life, I’ve taken notice of the industry and its trends. I’ve internalized ad campaigns, tag lines, slogans and jingles from the last 40 years and over those years I’ve dissected them and try to figure out why sometimes they work wonderfully and why sometimes they don’t. The next few blogs are chock-a-bang-full of my personal opinions and should not be considered scientific in any way. Give it as much or little credence as you wish, just as you would with any other critic’s opinions.
What follows are some threadbare advertising tactics that really should not be used anymore. I maintain that most should never have been implemented in the first place. In these next few blogs, the reader may notice that I have fire in my belly, as this is indeed a passion of mine. When I see examples of this bottom-of-the-barrel-advertising, I get upset by the wasted opportunity to win a customer and the waste of marketing resources. Whenever a company spends money to annoy potential customers instead of winning them over (intentionally or not), it rubs me the wrong way because everyone looses. I’m certain that this doesn’t happen by design, but the in the legal world there are two words to describe this phenomena; “criminal negligence”. As we all know, ignorance of the law is not carte blanche to break it. If the good folks at advertising agencies didn’t know that they were offending or annoying consumers before, hopefully they do now (should I be so bold to assume that they may be reading these blogs). In no particular order, here now are my marketing/advertising pet peeves:

“…Well…”

Prefacing statements with the word “well” followed by an annoying pause and then finally either stating the obvious, a pun or a play on words. We’ve all seen & heard commercials with this kind of copy. They go something like this:
“If you buy the bargain brand of widget, you may get less than you—well—bargained for!”
It’s as if we, the listeners, are to believe that the voice over talent was reading the copy and right before they got to the tagline, they were perplexed that the copy writer didn’t realize that there was a pun there, or a play on words, or some sort of irony, etc. Now the voice over talent is fumbling for another way to say what needs to be said, but gives up and reads the copy as it’s written. By the talent’s expedient of saying “well,” we the listeners are now to believe that the voiceover talent is right there with us—suffering through the copy. It would be one thing if the talent acted well enough for us to buy that notion, but more often than not, the word “well” is simply read as just another part of the copy. I maintain that the suspension of disbelief in advertising is as important, if not more so than in other forms of entertainment, like movies or television shows. Why are we subjected to this in advertising? Wouldn’t it flow better by just saying:
 “If you buy the bargain brand of widget, you may get less than you bargained for.”
Or better still (and to make the message stronger):
“If you buy the bargain brand of widget instead of ours, you will get less than you bargained for. We guarantee it.”
Indeed, when did stating the obvious, plays on words or puns and their cousins become things we had to apologize for? Moreover, why must there be a preemptive apology in the form the word “well” awkwardly inserted into the copy? Why the disclaimer for a pun that wasn’t even really a pun so much as a pedestrian flourish in homonyms? This is an annoying ploy from the ‘90s that should’ve been put out to pasture back in the—well—‘90s. I hope that annoyed the reader as much as it annoyed me to write it. Why is it that in some circles, there is a knee-jerk reaction to puns in the form of moans and belly aching? Talk about a conditioned response. I’m not certain if it stems from social or intellectual retardation. Pressed to decide, I would lean toward the former, since a lot of highly educated people would like to have us think that they’re too cultured and sophisticated to be amused by such things. We want everyone’s business of course, including those who think that this “well” phenomenon is a clever and/or sardonic way of dealing with what some may consider awkward copy, but let me make a bold assertion here; their numbers are one in ten to those of us who aren’t so insecure as to laugh at a pun, or are more than okay with the occasional play on words. It is our job as advertisers, marketers and promoters to break molds and precedent. Let’s put an end to this by abolishing the practice of emasculating the pun. If a copy writer is tempted to insert the word “well” into his or her copy and the ad isn’t about drinking water, they should take pause and be honest by asking themselves:
“Am I thinking creatively, or did I hear or read that irksome ploy somewhere else, think it was clever or cool, and couldn’t wait to write my own version of it?”
I can give you the answer for the former: no. If this copywriter answered “yes” to the latter, he or she needs to get a job as a spell checker at an M&M’s factory and leave the creative business of writing copy to fearless, trail-blazing, creative people. Let me add; people with a sense of humor; like the people reading this blog!

Check back next time when we cover antagonists stealing food from protagonists in television advertisements.

Thank you for your time!

The Calf Path

“The Calf Path” ©2011 Paul Edgewater All Rights Reserved

I’d like to share one of my favorite poems with you; it’s by Sam Walter Foss (1858-1911). It was written around 1893 and the message is still as relevant today as it was then. In fact, I believe the older this work gets, the more profound it will become. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

THE CALF-PATH

By Sam Walter Foss

One day, through the primeval wood,
A calf walked home, as good calves should;
But made a trail all bent askew,
A crooked trail as all calves do.

Since then two hundred years have fled,
And, I infer, the calf is dead.
But still he left behind his trail,
And thereby hangs my moral tale.

The trail was taken up next day
By a lone dog that passed that way;
And then a wise bell-wether sheep
Pursued the trail o’er vale and steep,
And drew the flock behind him, too,
As good bell-wethers always do.

And from that day, o’er hill and glade,
Through those old woods a path was made;
And many men wound in and out,
And dodged, and turned, and bent about
And uttered words of righteous wrath
Because ‘twas such a crooked path.
But still they followed — do not laugh —
The first migrations of that calf,
And through this winding wood-way stalked,
Because he wobbled when he walked.

This forest path became a lane,
That bent, and turned, and turned again;
This crooked lane became a road,
Where many a poor horse with his load
Toiled on beneath the burning sun,
And traveled some three miles in one.
And thus a century and a half
They trod the footsteps of that calf.
The years passed on in swiftness fleet,
The road became a village street,
And this, before men were aware,
A city’s crowded thoroughfare;
And soon the central street was this
Of a renowned metropolis;
And men two centuries and a half
Trod in the footsteps of that calf.

Each day a hundred thousand rout
Followed the zigzag calf about;
And o’er his crooked journey went
The traffic of a continent.
A hundred thousand men were led
By one calf near three centuries dead.
They followed still his crooked way,
And lost one hundred years a day;
For thus such reverence is lent
To well-established precedent.

A moral lesson this might teach,
Were I ordained and called to preach;
For men are prone to go it blind
Along the calf-paths of the mind,
And work away from sun to sun
To do what other men have done.
They follow in the beaten track,
And out and in, and forth and back,
And still their devious course pursue,
To keep the path that others do.

But how the wise old wood-gods laugh,
Who saw the first primeval calf!
Ah! many things this tale might teach —
But I am not ordained to preach.

Wasn’t that great? I think the message is clear. Just because something has been done a certain way for years or generations, doesn’t mean that it should continue to be done so. Apply this thinking to your business and the current state of the economy. Sure there are a lot of reasons we’re in the fix we’re in and this blog isn’t out to place blame, but we as individuals and as entities in the form of businesses—large and small—can shake things up just by doing things differently from time to time.

Seth Grodin in his powerful book “The Purple Cow”, tells us how the television industrial complex is dead and how advertising on that medium is far from what it used to be in terms of effectiveness. He offers up a lot of great suggestions in the way of completely changing the approach we take to marketing our products and services. I highly recommend buying and reading this and all his books. He’s an excellent author and knows his stuff. He opens the door to our deep-thinking-abilities and makes us jump off the beaten (calf) path and try something new; the same way our friend Mr. Foss urged us to do 118 years ago. That Mr. Grodin’s book is about cows and Mr. Foss’ poem is about calves is strictly fortuitous.

Of course, it’s not just a valuable lesson for business. It can be applied to myriad aspects of life. Our personal or societal habits or beliefs can be other areas of attention. How many beliefs or habits hold us back from self-actualization? We’ll never know unless we step back and see how many actions we take or don’t take are blindly guided by what we take for granted. It’s almost always a good idea to shake things up a bit.

I’ll take this opportunity to offer up the services of Busy Bee Promotions. If you have never outsourced any of your marketing and promotional efforts to a company that specializes in it, you will be pleasantly surprised with the results. What type of results can you expect? A lot of attention from the marketplace is one. We’ll make your product or service stick out in the crowd like a giraffe in a field of mice and a lot of new and potential customers beating a path to your door will be the result. You may be skeptical and that’s good; just be sure to apply that same skepticism to the ways of the past. If your phone isn’t ringing off the hook and your front door isn’t always swinging open and closed with the processionary march of new paying customers, then try something new & allow me to add; don’t just try a variation on a tested theme either. Go for broke and do something that will really shake things up. For instance, you could have Busy Bee execute a publicity stunt for you that will put on the evening news and morning papers. That’s free media time & that gets you customers. You can’t make the news without doing something outrageous. Let us be that vehicle for you. Of course, that’s just one idea; browse around our site. Check out our other services on the “It’s About YOU” page. These times call for bold decisions and a break from the past. Allow Busy Bee Promotions to be your partner for the years ahead and for setting—then swiftly smashing—the precedents of the future.

http://www.busybeepromotions.com

Thank you for your interest!

Paul

The Entrepreneur part 2

entrepreneur-001

 

“The Entrepreneur” ©2006 Paul Edgewater All Rights Reserved

Part 2

I left off part one proclaiming that being an entrepreneur is actually playing it “safe” as opposed to getting a “real job”.  You may now be asking yourself,

“How can this be? Isn’t there great risk involved with being an entrepreneur?”

Yes and no. Like all great truths, this is a simple concept, but not necessarily an easy one to get your arms around. To paraphrase Earl Nightingale* who stated in his recording “Success In America”, there are so few people in this world who actually take the risk of putting it all on the line by starting a business based on an innovation or a new concept, that when you become an entrepreneur, there isn’t much competition as far as the numbers are concerned. This is absolutely true. Let me add, if you settle for an “real job” and an average life, you’ll get it and you’ll have plenty of company too.  And there is nothing wrong with this per se.  We are fortunate enough in this country to live in a socioeconomic system that allows for someone to be comfortable and well fed without extraordinary effort. That’s great. Though by choosing what initially seems to be the path of least resistance (i.e. the “real” job), you put yourself and those who depend on you, in the precarious position of having very little, if any economic safety net. When there are layoffs due to tough economic times, there is a lot of competition for these common positions with average payoffs. So this latter course of action is in fact the risky one. If however, you want to do something special, like providing a rare and valuable product or service to the market place, you’ll be in much smaller company. When you encounter the set backs (and you will), they will still be challenging, but there will be only a handful of other entrepreneurs vying to take your place in your chosen industry, not the hordes we see in the ubiquitous soup lines and job fairs during economic downturns. As long as you provide a very marketable and in-demand product or service, it’s feasible that you as an individual entrepreneur or as a company will be perpetually viable no matter what the economy is doing. So this course is indeed playing it “safe”.

Thank you for your interest!

Paul

*For more information on the “Dean Of Self-Development” Earl Nightingale, go to:

www.earlnightingale.com

The Entrepreneur Part 1

“The Entrepreneur” ©2006 Paul Edgewater All Rights Reserved Part 1 The following definition of “entrepreneur” appears on the desktop dictionary of my mac: entrepreneur / noun / a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so. That’s a nice start, but if you were a young person and at the commencement of your life in the business world, would that definition inspire you to become an entrepreneur? My guess is probably not. Taking it to heart, one might be compelled to play it “safe” and get a “real” job (more on that in part 2). Being an entrepreneur is so much more than that definition would suggest. There are tremendous highs and lows in this arena and this definition doesn’t even scratch the surface. A Fortune Small Business article from March 2006, highlighted the proliferation of entrepreneur classes being offered by our nations’ colleges. There has been ongoing debate as to whether or not being an entrepreneur is teachable skill or a viable curriculum for that matter. According to the article, the now-late Apple CEO Steve Jobs, said that it’s not a teachable skill but (former) Jetblue CEO David Neeleman asserted otherwise. My take would be that no skill is easily taught to someone without a native interest in the given subject. If for instance, you aspire to be a Physician, you can learn and retain all the data you need to know to earn the title of MD. It’s not easy, but you’ll do it. If however, you have absolutely no interest or desire to become a physician, you will not, or cannot be taught. How in the world would all that information traverse the chasm of your indifference? It wouldn’t unless the checkered career of an incompetent physician mired in litigation is what you’re after. That said, if you want to be an entrepreneur, you can be taught, if you don’t, you cannot (just make sure your teacher is actually an entrepreneur and not an inexperienced idealist who has never started (or ran) a successful business-from scratch (if someone purchases an existing business, very often they are ‘business owner,’ not ‘entrepreneurs;’ big difference). You’ll be wasting time and money. We only get one chance in this life to become what we would like to become and we won’t waste our years in the study of subjects that don’t captivate us unless it is forced upon us. Which brings me to my point. If you really don’t want to be an entrepreneur, then don’t force it. You will have very a hard life. It’s a hard life even when it’s what you strive for and you succeed at it, let alone if you experience the foundering that befall so many others. If on the other hand you yearn to be master of your fate and captain of your soul, it is indeed the path in life with the best odds for joy and success. You already know in your heart of heart if that is the life for you.  If it is, learn as much as you can in school and from us gray beards, who have been in the trenches, so as to avoid making some of the same mistakes that we have.  In the end this is playing it safe*! *More on this in part two. Thank you for your interest!

Paul