Advertising is increasingly about creating outrageous or otherwise ‘memorable’ spots or ‘experiences’. For better or for worse, we — each and every one of us — is equally guilty of buying in to this wave of desparation that has piqued in recent years as marketers react to the shifting media landscape, and as major corporations (media included, just take a look at what’s going on at NBC) react to the omnipresent individual reporter.
Some corporations (Time Warner, for example) are taking the ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ approach, and now regularly solicit ‘iReports’ via their CNN.com vehicle. Likewise, YouTube.com features prominently as a ‘news source’ on most CNN programs.
Other corporations are integrating technology differently — and some (like ABC) aren’t even going there (yet.)
The points to remember:
1. Things are changing, and nothing is a given. Time-tested metrics (Neilsen Ratings, Gallup Polls, Market Share) mean very little in today’s market, because everything can change with the click of a mouse (just Google: George Allen, Senate Race, Racial Slur, and you’ll see what I’m talking about).
2. If we buy, we buy in. Every time we make a purchase (whether it’s gas from ExxonMobil, or a Snickers from the vending machine), we’re voting. These votes — ultimately, and over the long run — have a much more pronounced affect on the quality of our lives than the votes we cast every 4 years or so in the political ballot box. Think about the number of times you vote at the cash register each day. The number of options you have is staggering. And if, the flap of the wings of a butterfly can cause a blizzard in Buffalo, think about the ripple effect of purchasing your daily cup of coffee from Starbucks (if you buy a cup a day, you buy about 90 gallons of coffee each year from Starbucks).
3. Speak up. If you don’t like it, don’t buy it, and stick to it.
So all that brings me around to Snickers, and the stupid controversy surrounding the stupid commercial that aired during the stupid football game.
My blogger friend, John has posted a fine chronology at his site, americablog.com.
He’s dead right — and from a totally rational perspective, the campaign was distrurbing, irresponsible, thoughtless, and stupid.
However, TBWA\Chiat\Day New York (the advertising company behind the commercial) isn’t dumb. TBWA did 3 ‘buys’ during the Super Bowl — the deal was the commercial would air for 1 minute, and then later on in the Super Bowl, ‘follow up’ ads would air, 2 separate spots at :30 seconds each. That’s a total of 2:00 minutes total.
Not shockingly, the ‘offensive Snickers commercial’ has had a hell of a lot more than 2:00 minutes of media time (yesterday, the 1:00 minute spot aired on The Situation Room, Paula Zahn Now, and Anderson Cooper 360 on CNN, on MSNBC, and on Fox News, as well as on NBC’s Today Show, and to top it off, it was discussed on ABC’s ‘The View’. Again, today, it aired on Paula Zahn Now on CNN — for a total fo about 22:00 minutes of airtime — significantly more than the 2:00 minute buy originally made by TBWA. To put it directly, a whole lot of bang for TBWA’s buck, and a carefully engineered bang at that.
My sources inside TBWA indicate that this had been part of the marketing plan from the very early ‘concept’ meetings. TBWA released the spot in a ‘Sneak Peek” (Read that story here.). One senior account executive noted that the plan was to “leak the video to sites like YouTube with the hope that it would be picked up on sites like MySpace.”
So where does that leave us?
Remember those 3 rules?
1. The landscape is changing. Recognize that, and don’t buy in to the media hype about it. The quicker it dies down, the less effective the ad will be over time.
2. Opt out. If you’re not buying, you’re not in. Stop buying Snickers, and stop buying all Masterfoods brands. If you want to be crazy radical, stop buying stuff from all companies represented by TBWA\Chiat\Day.
3. Speak Up. Tell your friends, and most importantly, tell TBWA and Masterfoods what you’re doing, and why.
Or, if this doesn’t affect you, do nothing. Sit back, eat your Snickers, and well, wait until something comes along that pisses you off enough to incite some action on your part, like maybe preempting the Super Bowl next year, and instead featuring marathon C-SPAN coverage of the highlights of Prime Minister’s Question Hour. The choice is yours.