Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Trojan and Colangelo pull off a great condom ad

Trojan just released an ad that could serve as a textbook example of an ad directed at young people that also works incredibly well on Baby Boomers.


At first glance you could mistake this for an ad that has Baby Boomers like this dad as a primary target, but you'd be wrong. This ad is aimed at the son and daughter giving him dating advice. Here's the strategic context...
  • Trojan's own data and years of independent research confirm that the biggest condom buyers* are teenagers. According to Trojan, "Levels... of condom use are higher among younger teens and decline steadily as teens grow older." According to the Center for Sexual Health Promotion in Indiana University's School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation, "[A]dults over the age of 40 have the lowest rates of condom use."
  • TV networks have consistently prevented the brand from advertising in prime time, and Trojan would never, ever get network approval on any ad that suggested, even obliquely, that teenagers should enjoy sex (however responsibly.)


Yet with a stroke of creative genius, Trojan's agency (Colangelo, based in Darien CT) reversed the roles of the kids and the dad. Teenagers watching the ad get the message: condom use will keep you out of trouble. The role reversal helps the ad to break through, and be memorable. ("Hah! Imagine me giving advice to dad.") That's an old copywriter's trick pulled from the same playbook that yielded E-Trade's talking baby. But Colangelo's genius was in realizing that by suggesting it was the fifty-something dad who was going to go out and have sex, they could make the first Trojan ad deemed safe for prime time.

The people this ad is talking to are the dad's kids; the ones giving him dating advice. But the reasons we here at BrandROI love this ad are...

  • While adults over 40 represent a small share of condom buyers, the number they buy is still significant.
  • Colangelo's creatives have pulled off something almost none of the agencies working on ED drugs have managed: Along with director Gavin O'Connor, they've made the idea of 50-something sex seem charming, natural and (OK, it's subtle) even sexy.
  • This dad would be proud to have raised kids as responsible, and with such an open, loving relationship.


This is a perfect example of an ad that, while focused on a younger market, will pay dividends with an older one.

*Note that I don't mean, the buyers of the biggest condoms. That's a different demo.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Paramount gets a mark of "Eh!" plus for flaunting 'Nebraska' actors' ages


Paramount's winter release of the film Nebraska neatly mirrors the characters, and actors, who are all in the winter of their lives. But as Deadline Hollywood recently pointed out, Paramount's ad for the film is the first time any studio has openly trumpeted the advanced age of the film's stars. Bruce Dern, it seems, has finally got the role of his career (and serious Best Actor Oscar buzz) at 77. And he's young compared to his co-star June Squibb, who's 86.


The interesting thing about this spot is this; while it seems like a commercial aimed at the mature movie goer, its running primarily in L.A. and New York, where the studio hopes to influence Academy Awards voters. This commercial is the last step in a very carefully orchestrated release—beginning with a premiere at Cannes—calculated to influence Academy voters. (It's hard to believe that studios would take out television ads when the real target audience is so small and easily reached by direct marketing methods, but it is what it is. Studios do send screener copies of films to potential awards voters, organize invitation only viewings, etc., but TV ads catch voters where they live, and influence voters friends, too.)

Why does focusing on the actors' ages play well with that specialized, narrow audience? Because the median age of voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is 62. Only 14% of voting members are under 50.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Miss Daisy will drive herself, thanks

My mom, who’s well into her 80s, still drives. The only concession she makes to Calgary weather is, she no longer drives when the streets are covered in snow or ice. The consensus is that as we Baby Boomers age, we’ll put in even more miles than our parents.

We’ll drive more because we need to; boomers are blurring what used to be a bright line between ‘working years’ and ‘retirement’, so our lives as commuters won’t necessarily change when we hit 65. Boomers want to live independently, and for most North Americans that means living in neighborhoods designed around cars. We’ll also drive more for emotional reasons; cars represent freedom and independence, and we’re unwilling to let change be forced upon us as we age.

Luckily, the car industry is rapidly developing technology that will make it easier for seniors to drive longer. 


This ad for the Nissan Pathfinder (which ran last year) highlights Nissan’s Around View Monitor feature that provides the driver with a bird’s eye view of his vehicle that makes parking easier. That’s nothing compared to some new Fords, that offer completely automated parallel parking. 

New Audis are available that steer themselves to stay in their traffic lane and cars equipped with adaptive cruise control—another new option—will automatically adjust speed to maintain a safe following distance in traffic.

Of course, the holy grail of automated driving is a fully automated car that will drive itself to a programmed destination. That would have sounded preposterous just a few years ago, but Google has made huge strides on that project. It has fully self-driving prototypes in testing right now. (Nissan has promised that it will offer reasonably priced autonomous vehicles for sale by 2020, and the auto industry analysts at IHS have said that by the time the first Baby Boomers reach my mom's age, nearly 10% of the cars on the road will be self-driving.)

So far, the automotive industry has advertised these ‘driver aids’ in commercials featuring Gen X and Gen Y actors. But at re: we know that it’s aging drivers who will benefit most from new car technology. 

The first car brand that intelligently markets these aids to aging boomers and positions itself as the company that understands and appreciates older drivers will be setting itself up for decades of, dare we say, booming sales to older drivers.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Athleta's generation gap: Older models need not apply


About five years ago, Gap bought Athleta, an online yoga-clothing retailer, and began rapidly opening brick-and-mortar stores—usually within a mile of a Lululemon outlet. 

Although Athleta only accounts for a small share of Gap/Old Navy sales, the chain is a darling of Gap management, and they’re undoubtedly trying to capitalize on Lululemon’s recent marketing stumbles.

My wife is a 40-something professional dancer and yogini, co-owner of Freebox Movement Arts here in Kansas City. She represents Athleta's core customer target. Mary recently dropped into our local Athleta store on what she described as a ‘power shop’ with one of her friends—a stylish film/TV/web producer of about 60. 

She came home with a copy of Athleta’s catalog. Since I’ve got my own (distant) connection to Lululemon’s founder Chip Wilson, I keep an eye on that sector. At first glance, I was pretty impressed by the catalog, entitled “Power to the She”. (That was a campaign originally developed by Peterson Milla Hooks, an Advertising Age ‘A list’ agency out of Minneapolis, that does project work for Athleta; the brand also maintains an in-house creative department.) 

Mary told me, "Sure the clothes look great
in their catalog but I didn't buy anything 
because I have no idea how they'd look 
on a woman with hips."


On my second look, something bugged me. The only two Athleta shoppers I actually knew—Mary and her friend—had a combined age of well over 100. But there didn’t seem to be a single woman over 30 in the catalog. A perusal of Athleta’s web site confirms that the brand’s got a policy of hiring what appear to be teen-to-20-something models, pretty much exclusively.


What gives with that, Gap?

Although the company doesn’t release demographic info, I can guarantee you that the median age of Athleta customers is at least double the median age of Athleta’s models.

I don’t need access to Gap’s proprietary shopper demographics to know I’m right, because Tess Roering, Athleta’s VP of Marketing & Creative told me herself, when she informed Advertising Age that the brand had, “dug in deep with... what media [our consumer] is spending time with.” 

So presumably armed with detailed demographic research, Athleta bought ads in... 
  • In Style (38)
  • Sports Illustrated (39)
  • Runner’s World (40)
  • Fitness (40)
  • Shape (41)
  • Real Simple (46)
  • Yoga Journal (47)
In case you haven’t guessed, the numbers in parentheses are the median ages of those magazines’ female readers, per the magazines’ own media kits. (If you’re in the ad business, you also know that if anything, those numbers are skewed young.)

So, here’s the question: Does anyone at PMH or Athleta really think that casting one or two gorgeous, fit, mature women would have hurt the Athleta brand? 

I don’t think so. My guess—based in part on a perusal of PMH’s own web site—is that it simply never occurred to them to cast a model who is actually representative of Athleta’s customers. 

The agency and/or client might argue, “Sales are booming; how can you say that the absence of a few mature models is hurting us?” 

My response:
  • You don’t know if adding mature models would improve sales, because you haven’t tried it. I’ve got $20 that says one or two mature models would help more than they hurt in the short run.
  • There’s a big difference between not alienating a market, and positively attracting it.
  • Diversifying the age of your models makes long-term strategic sense. Either Athleta can establish its bona fides with mature consumers, or someone else will look at those Yoga Journal demographics, and realize that there’s an opportunity to pitch a brand specifically to women with hips. (60% of yoga practitioners are over 35, and nearly 20% of them are over 55. As the Baby Boomers age, it’s inevitable that the number of older yoginis will increase.)

The most important reason to do so, however, has to do with building deep brand strength. That’s something Lululemon never really did, and it’s now suffering the consequences. 

Sure, Lulu was stylish; yes, the clothes really did make its customers look fabulous. And yes, for a while those funky bags covered with trite sayings doubled as lunch bags and book bags—providing additional free advertising. But when Chip Wilson showed yogi-like flexibility by getting his foot into his mouth, and consumers became aware of the brand’s sneering elitism, women’s attitudes towards Lulu changed. Right now, there are lots of women who are vaguely embarrassed to be seen in Lulu.

Brands with deep strength avoid those pitfalls, and when they do have problems, they recover faster. Deep brand strength comes from connecting with customers on more than a “How do I look in this?”, “Will my friends think I’m cool?”, or “Wow, 50% off!” level. Deep strength comes from sharing customers’ values. To demonstrate that—especially with a clothing brand—you need to occasionally use models your customers can relate to.


Friday, December 27, 2013

Why the USPS should make older customers a priority


When UPS found itself overwhelmed by packages on Christmas Eve—resulting in many parcels not being delivered in time—I was reminded of the original package delivery service... the United States Post Office. (The USPS was in the news at Christmas too; a ‘temporary’ rate increase was approved on Dec. 24.)

The USPS recently got a new agency-of-record, McCann Erickson. (Full disclosure: I was Creative Director at an affiliated agency, MacLaren-McCann, in Calgary, Canada.) McCann’s first work was a TV spot promoting package delivery services, built around the theme of Priority: You. You probably caught it running last summer.

According to Leslie Sims, McCann’s executive creative director, the inspiration for the campaign was the notion that the USPS’ priority is the American people, while its competitors in the package delivery category, UPS and FedEx, are really interested in serving their shareholders.

That probably went over well when they pitched the spot to Nagisa Manabe, the USPS’ CMO, but the truth is, the USPS’ priority right now is that it’s in an existential battle for it’s very survival. It’s losing $25 million a day, which is the result of email replacing letters, spam replacing junk mail, e-commerce replacing things like printed utility bills, and of course UPS and FedEx taking the lion’s share of package delivery. 

The spot, which features real postal workers as actors, is well written and beautifully produced. And, for a moment, it will make you think, yeah, I really should use the post office instead of UPS. But it’s not working to solve the postal service’s real problem, which is that millions and millions of Americans are finding it easier and easier to imagine an America without a postal service at all.

What does this have to do with older consumers? The short answer is that the postal service should focus its next ad on baby boomers and their parents. Here's why:

Although older consumers are increasingly heavy web users, they are still far more likely than younger consumers to send and receive real letters. They’re more likely to rely on bills arriving in the mail, and checks being sent out. They still send real Christmas cards. Their response rates are higher on direct mail. But far more important than that, older people living independently are the people who most appreciate the daily visit from their letter carrier. 

Many older consumers are lonely, and a few words from the letter carrier brighten their lives. The letter carrier is one person they can count on for a daily visit, who might notice something amiss at the house.  

Imagine the power of an ad campaign that tells true stories about all the things that letter carriers do besides carrying the mail—because those are the things that truly emphasize the difference between the USPS and private carriers.

There are over 250,000 letter carriers, so there must be millions of heart warming stories such a USPS campaign could draw from. In the campaign I imagine, real customers and real letter carriers would recall the carriers’ small—and occasionally large—daily acts of kindness and heroism. Mailmen returning lost dogs. And kids. “When my mom had her stroke, it was Skip that called 911...” You get the idea.

Customers—and unlike UPS or FedEx, by ‘customers’ I mean all of us—could nominate their carrier, giving the campaign a natural social media extension. Does the USPS really want to ensure that there’d be huge political fallout for gutting the service? Then it needs to subtly spread the message that if it wasn’t for the mailman keeping an eye on the baby boomers’ aging parents, baby boomers themselves would have to do so. And, they can subtly remind aging boomers that they’ll be able to count on their kids even less. 

The campaign we here @BrandROI imagine would not exclusively feature (or focus on) older consumers, but it would skew older. That’s an audience that makes heavier use of the USPS, and has the political clout the USPS is sure to need, if it’s to emerge unscathed from this decade.

Nagisa Manabe: We should talk. My number’s 816.416.9235.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

JWT does an excellent job for Xarelto


I'd no sooner finished writing my relatively damning review of that Symbicort ad than I noticed an ad that serves as a perfect counterexample. Everything that Evologue--Symbicort's ad agency--got wrong, JWT* got right in this ad for Xarelto.

The two briefs were pretty similar, resulting in two ads that are structurally identical: Symbicort's a drug for COPD, and Evologue's creatives expressed the benefit as, "you'll be able to go fishing with your grandson". Xarelto is a blood thinner used in the treatment of arrhythmia (amongst other things) so the target demographic's similar. JWT’s creatives expressed the benefit as, "you'll be able to go car-camping with your wife".  So, both ads feature old guys, doing old-guy stuff.

Watch this spot for Xarelto and I'll tell you why it's so much better** than the Symbicort spot.


The website iSpot.tv archives and tracks thousands of commercials. The visitors to that site agree with me: 86% of them gave the Xarelto spot a thumbs-up rating, while only 46% of them gave thumbs-up to Symbicort.

Here’s why: As you may remember, the actor in the Symbicort spot was cast and dressed to be a caricature of an old man; that's a predictable mistake, easily made by young creatives who tend to typecast old people anyway. But the creative director and director of the Xarelto spot cast and dressed their lead actor in a way that tells viewers, "Cardiac arrhythmia be damned, you can still be cool." 

For those who know about such things, the "fisherman" in the previous spot doesn't have a clue about fly fishing. But the hero of this spot has great taste in campers; that vintage Airstream is bitchin'. Little things like that make all the difference; the first guy's vaguely embarrassing, but this dude's aspirational. 

That’s why here at BrandROI, we’re giving this ad a grade of “be”, which is to say, we would not be embarrassed at all to have been involved. If you want further proof that this is a decent commercial that works on the target demographic, check out these comments that were left on iSpot.tv


I can guarantee you that no one’s leaving comments like "this guy is a total heart-throb" about the guy in the Symbicort spot. In fact—further proof that it’s a ‘meh’ ad—no one’s left any comments on that spot at all.

*Xarelto is a drug developed by Bayer, licensed by Johnson & Johnson, and sold through J&J’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals division. I think I’m giving credit where it’s due, to JWT. Heartbeat Ideas also works on the Xarelto brand.

**For the record, I’m well aware that Symbicort is considered a commercial success. It doesn’t matter what you’re selling in any B2C category, the ad is only part of the total effort. You can make a great ad and, if the consumer’s direct experience of the brand is negative, it will fail. You can make a mediocre ad, like the Symbicort ad below, and still succeed. Evidently, Evologue and the rest of the Symbicort marketing team did most things right.




Tuesday, December 10, 2013

How Symbicort could've raised its grade from 'meh' to 'meh+'


Symbicort is a drug used in the treatment of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder). It's been promoted in heavy rotation and represents about 10% of the revenues of drug giant AstraZeneca, which is why I'm a little dismayed that this ad's such a 'meh'.

My first criticism of the spot is not specifically tied to @BrandROI's older-consumer focus. I'm just bugged that this spot is an example of the creative department "handing the brief back" in the form of a script.

What I mean by that is, somewhere in ad-land a planner wrote a sentence in a brief that went, "These people want to control their COPD so that they can do things like go fishing with their grandchildren." 

Either because the creative team couldn't come up with anything more original, or because the suits on the account fixated on that simple image, they ended up settling for a cliched script in which — surprise — the guy goes fishing with his grandchildren. 

Meh. But watch the ad and then I'll tell you how they could have got it to 'Meh+'.

Why did the stylists and wardrobe people feel they had to make their actor a caricature of the fishing grandpa? Compare the Symbicort guy...


...to this actual fishing guide I found in a Simms fishing equipment catalog. 

I'll leave it to others to point out that the agency and producers of the spot obviously didn't bother asking anyone who actually knows how to fly-fish to come along when they were shooting the spot. The two men are about the same age and even look similar, but Simms' model somehow seems cool. He's the one the kid would want to fish with; he's also the character actual COPD patients probably aspire to be.

The kids working in the agency  and the young, hip crew who produced the spot, dressed and styled the actor to conform to a very particular archetype, although they themselves aren't old enough to know where that archetype originated.


Ironically, anyone old enough to actually need Symbicort for COPD almost certainly does recognize the wardrobe: They've dressed him as a live-action version of Mr. Wilson, Dennis the Menace's grumpy old neighbor.

So there are two demographically specific things that bug me about this spot: 

First, anyone who grew up reading Hank Ketcham's classic comic strip relates to Dennis the Menace, not Mr. Wilson. Our 'inner Dennis' would rather go to the skateboard park with our grandson, even if it meant we just watched while he did tricks. It would be even better if, together, we then lied to Mrs. Wilson and told her we'd been fishing at the end of the spot, because she didn't approve of skateboarding.

And second, who, at Evologue (the B2C division of Ogilvy's Commonhealth ad agency network) thought that making the central character a caricature instead of cool would somehow sell more Symbicort? Does anyone in the agency really think that there is a consumer, anywhere, who would look at my cool model and think, "Oh, I guess this drug treatment is only for more badass dudes than me. I'll keep watching TV until I see an ad for Advair, aimed at goofy old farts"?

The truth is, for COPD patients, just going fishing — doing almost anything out of the Lazyboy — is aspirational. But there was nothing to lose by dressing and styling the actor in a manner that sent the message that yes, you've got COPD but you're still Dennis inside.