I Blame Oprah

July 13th, 2011

I blame Oprah. Or at least I want to blame Oprah for an icky, funky (and not in a good way), goofy seemingly-exploding category in the ad world.

Allow me to take you back five years. It’s hard for medical shows not to use words that are, you know, normal words describing parts of the body when these words are forbidden by the standards and practices folks. And so it was in 2006: Grey’s Anatomy needed a word to use during a childbirth scene, and thus the word “vajayjay” premiered on television. [The only thing that was actually born, of course, was the stupid word, vajayjay.]

And then? Nothing, really. Even with Jimmy Kimmel, and 30 Rock, and Tyra Banks all using the word… meh. Everyone seemed to go about their business. Vajayjays stayed wherever vajayjays are supposed to be. Then Oprah I-Utter-Your-Product’s-Or-Book’s-Name-And-You-Are-Set-For-Life Winfrey used the word to describe her own vajayjay, and her friends’ vajayjays, and vajayjays in general (here a vajayjay, there a vayjayjay, everywhere a vajayjay) and that was it.

You could say it was the vajayjay heard around the world (beginning with Oprah‘s 45+ million viewers).

Since then, it just seems to me that we have more and more truly wacky advertising for sex aids, health and beauty aids, self-heating, uh, whatever – you name it. We’ve always had condom ads, then it was the ED ads (Q: When the moment is right, will YOU be ready? A: Maybe, but why are our bathtubs in the backyard?), but now? Whoa.

I was just sort of snorting through all these weird ads and getting on with my life when Fleet Lab’s new viral campaign for Summer’s Eve came along. Alas, I could be silent no more. Witness just a tiny sample of these (and other) ads for yourself:


This is not my fault.



I have all sorts of questions about this ad, but I guess the biggest one would be… is it good that a “massager” blows your hair back? Would I want said “massager” to blow my hair back? Are there settings on the thing? Slow \ Medium \ High\ Blow Your Hair Back? The mind reels.



This ad is so hilarious, it could be a Saturday Night Live spoof on condom commercials, which I’m sure was part of the planned fun. My question here is similar to the one I raised with the Triphoria: less about the crazy ad, more about product characteristics and benefits.

FIRE and ICE? Who is supposed to be enjoying something described as having been “dipped in IcyHot?” It scares me, frankly.


Such is the state of advertising today, my friends. So crazy, it’ll blow your hair back.

P.S. Check out this spoof of the Cialis “When the moment is right” ad. Hilarious.

Beyaz Weird As Possible

June 6th, 2011

Birth control ads are strange. Exhibit A: the Nuvaring ad (see HERE) where the gals take off their clothes and climb into a hot tub with their yellow bathing suits on. Each woman has a… each has a number… and… and one has a bathing cap… and then the hot tub spins like a ride at Disneyland… and then there’s a song that makes me hear Satan’s voice urging me to kill (Mommy!).

I don’t know what’s going on, other than understanding that I better use Nuvaring because remembering to take a pill every day is simply too much for me. At least I think that’s what is says.

So in a land of weird, one must rise extra high to be noticed – and I think Beyaz overshot by a mile. Check out the ad (see below or HERE):

The “it’s good to have choices” positioning is fine, but to put women in a shopping setting, where they can simply choose the men, educations, homes and discretionary incomes of their dreams off a shelf at any time – with as much thought and planning as picking a bottle of ketchup – is offensive. And what was the general idea here: that because women understand shopping the best, we can make birth control a section of a department store to help the message hit home?

Then there are the choices themselves. The home the female shopper chooses is a sweet little purple house, with a car out front that looks like it’s from the 50s. Is that where women belong, or when women were “best” – in the 50s? Have we already failed if we don’t want the picket fence?

And the stork: the only “selection” that tries to literally follow the woman once it is rejected (a stalking stork, if you will). All the women in this ad are still in their 20s: are young women supposed to have babies… or else? Note there are no “and” equations in this ad. It’s all about the “or,” as in grad school or a baby. None of the shoppers leave with more than one item.

or me, though, the most disappointing episode takes place over in the Significant Other section of the store. First of all, the store only carries men in inventory. Being homosexual is not a choice in this retail establishment. Then comes the best part: a woman standing in front of a man (under glass…), only to have another female come along with a smirk on her face and snatch the man off the shelf.

That’s nasty and cruel. And pits women against one another.

The site TresSugar.com does a great job breaking down the ad, scene by scene, object by object. Take a look if you get the chance.

Even in the fantasy world of flying snacks, sodas that never make you fat and perfect hair, I think this ad is over the top in its disdain for women.


This is an encore presentation of a blog post originally published on Stephanie Fierman: Marketing Daily.

Now more than ever, consumers want to feel good about the things they do and buy.  I’ve written a couple posts about the phenomenon on aspirational purchasing and making something groovy out of pretty much nothing and, recently, I saw the most fascinating example of turning a cruddy experience into something swanky.

Witness:  Cash4Gold.  You have to be living under a rock to not have seen their commercials, but just to be sure… Here’s the company’s weird Super Bowl ad, in which Ed McMahon and MC Hammer talk while a disembodied hand holds money (“Call toll free now!”):

And here is one of Cash4Gold’s standard ads (“Turn your unwanted or broken jewelry into cold hard cash!“)

Do these ads make you feel like a sharp cookie, or like you’re about to lose your house and have already checked the couch for loose change?  Given McMahon’s humiliating mortage disaster and Hammer’s personal woes, Cash4Gold comes across as a last resort for the truly pitiful and desperate.  Hardly something I’d be sharing over dinner with my girlfriends.

Contrast this to OutofYourLife.com.  It’s the exact same concept, but take a look at the company’s television ad:

I can identify with the woman in the ad because, unlike Ed McMahon, she’s “like me” (or like the woman I’d like to be) – attractive, secure and, of course, smart for unloading jewels from her past relationships.  And fyi, all of these ex boyfriends and their golden effluvia don’t mean she’s a loser: it means she dumped them and now has the perfect man, whom she (you), of course, deserve(s). 

Study the ad’s details:  the way the script weaves in the personal “stories” related to each piece, the sexy voiceover, the website’s design – even the box you use to ship off your jewels.  Everything about the ad is intended to reinforce that you are a sexy, beautiful, enticing, clever woman and that this is what such a person does. 

So virtually the same product, but with a message that permits the customer to create a transformational, positive story out of the fact that she’s got to hock her own jewelry to pay the rent. 

This is an unusually overt example of advertising’s ability to shape not only a message, but an entire experience… even the kind of person you are for being a customer.  ‘Love it!

What other self-worth-threatening activities could be transformed in the same manner? How about selling your car, or buying a used car? Ditto for “gently-worn” clothing. Foreclosure auction advertising?


Like many marketers – especially direct marketers who study real behavior, in addition to demos and psychographics – I have long marveled at marketers’ general disregard for older Americans.  It’s  as if you become 35 (30?) and fall off the face of the marketing earth.  Or all your mail is suddenly about the Craftmatic Adjustable Bed or characterized by calls-to-action such as “Help!  I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” 

So I have been really thrilled to see some of these attitudes change.  Dove, Vespa and Kelloggs have all done a nice job.  Companies are utilizing online advertising to reach the 60% of seniors and 80% of boomers are on the Internet.  And there are more websites reflecting the “young” older market, my favorite being the new tbd.com from Robin Wolaner.  TBD.com and others target a 40+ consumer who is physically and mentally active, likely to continue working at least part-time until they die or their health prohibits it (even with money, forget retirement – too boring) and very interested in romance, relationships and s-e-x.  Just yesterday there was an amazing article in the Wall Street Journal on how the sports medicine profession is branching out to embrace older athletes.  The article mentions that folks age 55 or older make up the fastest-growing segment of health-club members and that 10,000 competitors are expected to participate in the Huntsman World Senior Games, “an event in which anyone over 55 can compete in sports including basketball, triathlon and mountain biking .”  Triathlon??  Who, me? Right after my nap. It seemed that people were finally understanding that “psychographics are way more important than demographics” (Seth Godin) when marketing to seniors today. So I was quite discombobulated to read an article in AdAge (“How to Target Older Demos,” 9-24-07) that seemed to be pulling in the opposite direction.  An article in fact, that appeared to be pulling its readers back to the 1950s.The article is based on Project Looking Glass, a study completed by a marketing company called Varsity.  Varsity is unfamiliar to me.  Based on the physical layout of the AdAge page, my eye was naturally drawn first to the charts and bullets  – which is where I got into trouble with observations and tips such as:

·         Seniors 65+ share a Depression-era frugality

·         Problems with everyday activities are increased, such as bendig down or opening a package

·         Marketers should choose easy-to-see colors and feature young-looking people in ads

·         Companies should slow down voice prompts

·         If direct mail is employed, use thicker (easier-to-open) packaging

Now aside from the fact that I’m nowhere near my 60s and even I get creaky sometimes bending over, these details just sounded so lopsided compared to all of the current studies I’ve been reading!  The picture being painted was the classic “these are old people and bring on the Depends.”  What was going on here?

So I backtrack and actually read the article in question and discover that Project Looking Glass collected its data… during a month-long stay at a RETIREMENT COMMUNITY!!    I mean, the data may be perfectly sound based on a sample from a — repeat — RETIREMENT COMMUNITY — but it’s certainly not the representative and diverse sample that I assumed was the background for the article’s graphics.

A funny but serious example of how – when it comes to market research, as in most things – context is everything.

Not tonight, honey…

September 23rd, 2007

Blogging is new to me, and I have been highly amused at the frequency by which things occur out in the world that make me want to go back and change, or update, a post.

I did this once, after heralding LifeCourse Associates’ amazing studies that predict the next generation of kids will be more altruistic, more focused on the world and those in need, less self-involved, etc…. then seeing Angelina Jolie’s 2 year old daughter, Zahara, holding a purse that would pay for a year’s worth of my rent.

Yeah yeah, it’s not the kid’s fault, but (a) she will grow up weird, and (b) it did make for a good blog post!

Today I feel compelled to offer a humble update to my post of 9-19-07, Interview with Stephanie Fierman on ClickZ which, at some deep DNA level, does imply that the principles that make for good Internet marketing mostly reflect those established in the realm of direct marketing decades before.

But now something’s happened that I never heard about when I was managing hundreds of millions of pieces of credit card direct mail, hanging at printers eating cold pizza at all hours, or working on DRTV. And, as a recipient of such mail or a viewer of said DRTV, I can’t say that I’ve detected this same effect, either.

Maybe the Internet really *is* different