Tag Archives: Advertising

Why Coke’s Super Bowl Ad Was Really Smart

By now, you’ve probably seen some of the coverage of Coke’s “controversial” Super Bowl ad. To be honest, I’m with Coke’s Ad Director on this one, “I don’t see any controversy here.” Don’t get me wrong, I can understand where some of the detractors are coming from, but I tend to side with the Ad Director. In case you haven’t yet seen the ad, take a look:

In a word, I thought the ad was beautiful. Maybe it’s because I was born and raised in Canada and I am used to (and appreciate) multiculturalism a bit more than the average American, who knows. Knowing that the Super Bowl has become an event that transcends the borders of the USA, maybe Coke was, surreptitiously, also trying to reach potential customers beyond its borders. Now, that hypothesis seems kind of silly given that the song that’s being sung in many languages is “America the Beautiful,” so let’s revise it and say that maybe Coke is trying to reach current (or potential) immigrants to the US.

Regardless of it’s initial aim, the controversy has stirred up so much discussion that the ad is being shared across the internet many times over. The last time I checked, the video had been viewed almost 8,000,000 times in 3+ days. I can’t think of many companies that don’t wish they made a video like this that’s been viewed this many times on social media (not to mention all the discussion that’s happened in print, TV, and online).

Then, there’s also the copycat-esque videos that extend (or poke fun) at the ad. I came across this one the other day and couldn’t help, but chuckle:

I haven’t seen anyone from Coke comment on it, but I’m sure that, at least off the record, they’d probably laugh at it, too.

Circling back to the original ad, I wanted to draw attention to the internationalist flavour to it. It’s still a few years off now, but folks are projecting that in the next 25-30 years, the majority of people living in the USA won’t be the same as it is today. Instead, there will be a majority of minorities. Meaning, adding up the population of all the minorities will mean that there are more people who identify as a minority than identify as white.

Tying this to the advertisement by Coke and I can’t help but think about how strategic it was for Coke to try and, if this was their strategy, attract younger immigrants to the brand.

The Problem With Facebook: Young People Really Are Social Networking Elsewhere

Remember yesterday when I was talking about Facebook’s “young person” problem? It turns out, there’s actually data to back this up. It turns out, there was actually an article in TIME that I didn’t realize had data when I was writing my post yesterday:

According to iStrategy, Facebook has 4,292,080 fewer high-school aged users and 6,948,848 college-aged users than it did in 2011.

That amounts to more than 11 million users gone in the past 3 years. While Facebook has more than 1 billion people, so 11 million might not seem like much, but is it a trend? That is, should this be something that the folks over at Facebook should be worried about. Well, there’s a handy graphic that can also be found in the TIME article, (but it comes from iStrategy):

Two of the cells I want to draw your attention to are already conveniently highlighted in red: the ages 13-17 and 18-24. If you’ll notice, both of these age groups are experiencing negative growth. Of particular noteworthiness is the 13-17 age group, which is down 25% over the last 3 years. Again, as I said earlier, Facebook’s user base is rather large right now, so it might not have that big of an effect anytime soon, but it is something to watch out for.

In the article, the author also points out that part of the reason people advertise with Facebook isn’t necessarily for the volume of its users, but because of all the information that it has on its users making microtargeting that much more effective. Maybe this information is enough to overcome the decline in new users, who knows. As I said yesterday, if I were part of Facebook’s team, I would be worried about the continued decline in my user base — especially because it’s the younger folks who are leaving. Why?

Pretty soon, these young folks are going to be reaching those prime marketing age groups (18-34) and if they’re already not using Facebook, that could be bad news. In fact, if they’re not using Facebook, they’re probably using some other social network to communicate and that is where the marketing dollars are going to go. I suppose only time will tell.

It’s More Than Just Body Image, It’s How We Relate to the World

A couple of weeks ago, someone passed along an excellent video of a woman describing her experience with the pressures of body image. It’s an important video and I hope you take the time to watch it (whether you’re a female or a male). As I’ve talked about before, it’s important to understand just how the media is unintentionally reinforcing certain beliefs about the way we think, act, and feel, as a society.

There is one particular piece that’s not explicitly stated in the video that I wanted to highlight: the way of being in the world. Lily Myers talks about this sense that men were taught to “grow out” and women were taught to “grow in.” In a sense, it was okay for men to take up space and not okay for women to take up space. This is important and we should consider this in more contexts than body image. For instance, we often hear about how men are more likely to get promoted quicker or have better salaries. There are myriad reasons for this, but what if wrinkle to those debates are because women are taught to, from a very young age, that taking up space is ‘not okay.’

Of course, I’m not saying that women are actively being taught that their existence isn’t warranted, (though that’s the case in some parts of the world). It’s the subtleties that Myers speaks about in her video. This idea that she is watching her mother and understanding that ‘this is how I should behave, too.’

When I watch a video like this and hear the powerful message, I can’t help but hope that many people will see it. That many people will take this opinion in and consider that this is actually how someone else feels in the world. That this experience could be shared by many. If after watching this video, you’re wondering just how Lily Myers and our society came to be this way, I’d encourage you to check out Miss Representation, which came out a couple of years ago and, in February of 2014, The Mask You Live In

Here’s the text from the poem:

Across from me at the kitchen table, my mother smiles over red wine that she drinks out of a measuring glass.
She says she doesn’t deprive herself,
but I’ve learned to find nuance in every movement of her fork.
In every crinkle in her brow as she offers me the uneaten pieces on her plate.
I’ve realized she only eats dinner when I suggest it.
I wonder what she does when I’m not there to do so.

Maybe this is why my house feels bigger each time I return; it’s proportional.
As she shrinks the space around her seems increasingly vast.
She wanes while my father waxes. His stomach has grown round with wine, late nights, oysters, poetry. A new girlfriend who was overweight as a teenager, but my dad reports that now she’s “crazy about fruit.”

It was the same with his parents;
as my grandmother became frail and angular her husband swelled to red round cheeks, rotund stomach
and I wonder if my lineage is one of women shrinking
making space for the entrance of men into their lives
not knowing how to fill it back up once they leave.

I have been taught accommodation.
My brother never thinks before he speaks.
I have been taught to filter.
“How can anyone have a relationship to food?” He asks, laughing, as I eat the black bean soup I chose for its lack of carbs.
I want to tell say: we come from difference, Jonas,
you have been taught to grow out
I have been taught to grow in
you learned from our father how to emit, how to produce, to roll each thought off your tongue with confidence, you used to lose your voice every other week from shouting so much
I learned to absorb
I took lessons from our mother in creating space around myself
I learned to read the knots in her forehead while the guys went out for oysters
and I never meant to replicate her, but
spend enough time sitting across from someone and you pick up their habits

that’s why women in my family have been shrinking for decades.
We all learned it from each other, the way each generation taught the next how to knit
weaving silence in between the threads
which I can still feel as I walk through this ever-growing house,
skin itching,
picking up all the habits my mother has unwittingly dropped like bits of crumpled paper from her pocket on her countless trips from bedroom to kitchen to bedroom again,
Nights I hear her creep down to eat plain yogurt in the dark, a fugitive stealing calories to which she does not feel entitled.
Deciding how many bites is too many
How much space she deserves to occupy.

Watching the struggle I either mimic or hate her,
And I don’t want to do either anymore
but the burden of this house has followed me across the country
I asked five questions in genetics class today and all of them started with the word “sorry”.
I don’t know the requirements for the sociology major because I spent the entire meeting deciding whether or not I could have another piece of pizza
a circular obsession I never wanted but

inheritance is accidental
still staring at me with wine-stained lips from across the kitchen table.

 

What Was Your Last Original Thought: Choices and Illusions, Part 2

In yesterday’s post, we looked at the first 6 chapters of Eldon Taylor’s book, Choices and Illusions. There were some great stories about how our thoughts can have a tangible effect on our bodies. In today’s post, we’ll take a closer look at the next 6 chapters.

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Chapter 7 picks up right where the last three chapters leave off: marketing. In particular, Taylor asks one of his favourite questions: “What was your last original thought?” In continuing down this line of thinking, Taylor emphasizes how a great deal of planning and money has been spent on trying to get you to, in a sense, manipulate your thoughts. Now, I don’t want you think that Taylor’s talking about ‘mind control’ or something like that. In fact, if you think about it, you can probably come to the same conclusions that Taylor has. When you’re hungry, what’s the first thought that comes to mind? For many, that will be fast food. When you’re thirsty, what’s the first thought that comes to mind? Pop (or soda, or coke, depending on what part of the country/world you live in). How are those your first thoughts with these biological instincts?

Taylor also continues on subliminal thinking in Chapter 8. There are a couple of good stories, one about the 2000 election and the subliminal messaging used by the Bush campaign. There’s also a discussion of dichotic listening, which brought me back to my class in cognitive psychology from several years ago. Similarly, if you’ve never taken the Stroop Test, I suggest checking it out.

Chapter 9 has a two-part story that I thought you’d enjoy. Here’s part 1:

 It is about a Zen master who made it a habit at noontime to meditate while he walked in the gardens. On this particular day, he became so engrossed in his meditation that he wandered far into the jungle, where he met a hungry tiger. Well, our Zen master did what any Zen master would do, which is to attend to the urgency of the moment. He fled as fast as he could with the hungry tiger in pursuit. Soon he came to the edge of a sheer cliff, but with a hungry tiger about to eat him, he jumped over the edge. On the way down he grabbed the only thing jutting out from the cliff, a small tree. There he hung on as he heard a roar from below. Now, there was a hungry tiger above and a hungry tiger below. Just then the small tree began to pull out of the ground. He looked to his right. Nothing. He looked below. Nothing. He looked to his left. A beautiful strawberry. He picked the strawberry, and it was the best fruit he’d eaten in his life.

Taylor uses this story to emphasize the now: “The moral of the story is, be mindful — you will find the strawberries.” The second part of the story is just as good:

 After I told this story to an audience in Malaysia, a fellow approached me during a break and asked if I knew the entire story.

“I thought that was the entire story.”

“No,” he said. “Would you like to know it?”

We sat down and had coffee while he related the story that he said comes from Paramahansa Yogananda. It seems that the Zen master, when confronted with the tigers, was actually hanging from a small apple tree while mice were digging away the light soil that the tree was rooted in. The story cuts away to a picture of the event hanging in a gallery. There spectators are viewing the art, when one speaks up, “Look at that stupid fellow. He’s selfishly indulging his senses while blind to his circumstances.” The story then returns to the Zen master. Another tiger runs onto the scene, and now there are two tigers above. The Zen master enjoys his apple, and pretty soon he sees vultures circling overhead. The two tigers have fought and killed each other. The mice see the shadow of the birds and flee. Below a herd of deer comes down to drink from the brook, and the tiger below sets off in pursuit of them. In short, what seemed like dire circumstances fixed themselves or were fixed by some power above.

Of course, some folks may balk at the idea that every situation will fix itself, but I’d argue that lots of people forget that when they are trying to decide the best course of action, ‘wait and see’ is overlooked more often than it should be. In tomorrow’s post, we’ll look at the last 6 chapters of the book.

(Disclosure: I was given a free copy of the book.)

They Limped in and Danced Out: Choices and Illusions, Part 1

A few of my posts recently have been about the importance that our thoughts and beliefs can have on how we function. Coincidentally, I was asked to write a review of a book that is right in line with this thinking. The book: Choices and Illusions: How Did I Get Where I Am, and How Do I Get Where I Want to Be? by Eldon Taylor. I enjoyed reading it and if you’re unfamiliar with the idea that our thoughts can have a tangible impact on us, this book is certainly a great introduction. Over the next few days, I’ll take a closer look at some of the sections of the book. In today’s post, I’ll look at the first 6 chapters.

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Chapter 1 was a great introduction to this idea that our thoughts can have a tangible effect on our lives. Taylor tells a clever story about an eagle that was raised as a chicken. The eagle, all its life, assumes it’s a chicken, even when an eagle comes to tell it that it’s an eagle. This chapter reminds me of many of the posts I’ve written about perspective. If you don’t know what other possibilities there are out there, it’s hard to choose something different.

In chapter 2, I was surprised to hear about someone who can draw fractals freehand! I remember a few years ago being really enthralled by fractals. In fact, there were times when I’d just watch YouTube videos of fractals for in 15-30 minute increments. If you’re interested, Jason Padgett is the fellow who can draw fractals freehand. He’s quite good! And if you don’t believe me that fractals can be encapsulating, watch this: Fractal Zoom Mandelbrot Corner.

Chapter 3 had a really fun story about a high school reunion. There were a number of people who had reached the age where they weren’t as mobile as they used to be. The DJ, not accounting for this in creating the playlist, became worried when people weren’t moving so well on the way into the event. Figuring that there wasn’t enough time to change the playlist, the DJ played it as it was. The DJ later told Taylor: “Eldon, they limped in and danced out!” How is this possible? Well, as Taylor emphasizes, our thoughts can have a powerful effect on our abilities. Many of these people were transported to their youthful days upon hearing the popular music during the time they were in high school.

Chapters 4 through 6 reminded me of the importance of the documentary Miss Representation (and it’s soon to be released companion: The Mask You Live In). The media can have such a powerful impact on the way we think about ourselves and it can often be overlooked. In particular, chapter 6 reminds us that advertising is not always the most ethical profession. With that being said, it’s important to say that not all advertisers behave in this way.

In tomorrow’s post, we’ll look at chapters 7 through 12.

(Disclosure: I was given a free copy of the book.)

Chapter 5 – The Commercialization of Everything: What Money Can[’t] Buy, Part 5

About a week ago, I got back to the series I was doing about the chapters in Michael Sandel‘s book, What Money Can’t Buy. In the first chapter, we looked at things like when it’s okay to jump the line. In the second chapter, we looked at the difference between fines and fees. In the third chapter, we looked at fairness and inequality. In last week’s post, the fourth chapter, we looked at corporate-owned life insurance and placebos. In today’s post, the fifth and final chapter, we’ll look at the commercialization of everything.

I wasn’t expecting to come across sports in this book, so I was pleasantly surprised when the first few pages were about stadiums being renamed by corporate sponsors. I didn’t realize that this was a fairly new thing. In 1988 only three sports stadiums had been renamed by corporate sponsors. Sixteen years later, in 2004, there were sixty-six. The amount of money went up significantly, too. In 1988, the deals totaled $25 million, while in 2004, the amount came to a whopping $3.6 billion! In 2010, over 100 stadiums in the United States were named for corporate sponsors. So, in the span of less than 25 years, we went from 3 corporate-sponsored stadiums to more than 100.

Having grown up in Toronto, I still find myself referring to Rogers Centre as Skydome. 

This chapter also discussed the idea of athletes selling their autograph. In the old days, this wasn’t even something to be considered. Many athletes willingly signed cards and sports equipment (i.e. baseball, hockey pucks, etc.) for fans. Near the same time that stadiums were being renamed, some athletes were beginning to sell their autographs rather than giving them away. This may seem greedy at first, but consider that athletes from before the 80s weren’t necessarily making lucrative contracts. In fact, athletes back then were not only often paid much worse than athletes today, but they were more on par with what you’d be paid to be an employee at a “normal job.”

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The chapter then moves into a discussion of — in my words — the commercialization of everything.We’re now seeing advertisements and commercials in places we wouldn’t have ever imagined. For instance, when you pump gas, there’s a TV above the pump feeding you advertisements. Or how about when you’re driving down the highway. It’s kind of hard to ignore some of those catchy billboards, isn’t it? Then, there’s the always in vogue idea of product placement. Some of the places you find product placement was a bit surprising. I didn’t know that police stations were in talks to have cars with advertisements on them nor did I realize that in some state parks around the US are there advertisements for things like North Face.

I was surprised to read about some of the commercialization in the US, especially when I know that in some states, there’s a ban on billboards (Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, and Vermont). Moving outside of the US, I know that some countries (or maybe the citizens of those countries) have a real aversion to commercials seeping into unwanted places. For instance, São Paulo in Brazil hasn’t allowed public advertising since 2006. I also know that TV commercials in Germany aren’t nearly as frequent as they are in the US. On most German TV stations, there can’t be more than 20 minutes of commercials (before 8pm).

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The last part of the chapter ends the book almost exactly the way I would have [Emphasis added]:

Once we see that markets and commerce change the character of the goods they touch, we have to ask where markets belong — and where they don’t. And we can’t answer this question without deliberating about the meaning and purpose of goods, and the values that should govern them.

Such deliberations touch, unavoidably, on competing conceptions of the good life. This is terrain on which we sometimes fear to tread. For fear of disagreement, we hesitate to bring our moral and spiritual convictions into the public square. But shrinking from these questions does not leave them undecided. It simply means that markets will decide them for us. This is the lesson of the last three decades. The era of market triumphalism has coincided with a time when public discourse has been largely empty of moral and spiritual substance. Our only hope of keeping markets in their place is to deliberate openly and publicly about the meaning of the goods and social practices we prize.

In addition to debating the meaning of this good or that good, we also need to ask a bigger question, about the kind of society in which we wish to live…

At a time of rising inequality, the marketization of everything means that people of affluence and people of modest means lead increasingly separate lives. We live and work and shop and play in different places. Our children go to different schools. You might call it the skyboxification of American life. It’s not good for democracy, nor is it a satisfying way to live.

Democracy does not require perfect equality, but it does require that citizens share a common life. What matters is that people of different backgrounds and social positions encounter one another, and bump up against one another, in the course of everyday life. For this is how we learn to negotiate and abide by our differences, and how we come to care for the common good.

So, if you prefer not to get too deep into a discussion of inequality that focuses on wealth, then I’d encourage you to think about the ideas that Prof. Sandel is talking about here at the end of the book. He’s just spent the last 200 pages explaining how markets (in some places), to some people, are corroding the value of these goods. Regardless of which side of the fence you fall down on, maybe it’s time we start talking about this. Maybe it’s time to have a dialogue in the public square of more moral and spiritual substance. Of course, this might not be as easy as it sounds, as he says, the last three decades have been void of this.

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If you liked this paper/series, you might want to check out some of the other papers/series I’ve posted.

 

My Internet Is Advertisement-Free Since 2009

I often hear people complain about the advertisements they see on the Internet. They opine at having these horrific ads on the sides of articles they read that have nothing to do with things they want to see. Some people just want to read the article that they’ve clicked on, not see a huge box telling them to buy this product or that product. Whenever someone tells me about this, I have to stop and remember that most people haven’t thought to figure out a way to fix this.

Almost six years ago, the most popular internet browser today was born — Google Chrome. Actually, its ‘birthday’ is only 2 days away (September 2nd). I remember when it first came out and I downloaded it to begin using as my primary internet browser. It was so faster than Internet Explorer and Firefox. This was nothing against those two browsers, but Google Chrome was like a stripped down version of both of them. I remember that it seemed the norm that you’d have these toolbars that would ceaselessly need to be uninstalled. There were also these menus that took up a lot of screen real estate. I simply wanted to “surf the net” with as much screen space as possible.

So, when Chrome came out, it was like perfect.

A little over a year after Chrome came out, they launched something called Extensions. I don’t really remember what was being said about it at the time, but I do remember that there was this ‘golden’ extensions called “AdBlock.” This particular extension did exactly what it sounds like it does — blocked advertisements. Of course, certain types of ads would still make their way through the AdBlock, but that was because they were still working out the kinks. Over time, the number of ads that would make it through dwindled.

It’s been almost 5 years and it has to be one of my most favorite features of Chrome. The ability to limit the barrage of advertisements makes my internet experience much more enjoyable. So, if you weren’t using Chrome, I strongly recommend you use Chrome. Some folks might feel an aversion to using AdBlock (many sites make their money from the advertisements), so I won’t necessarily give a full-throated endorsement of AdBlock. However, I’d at least recommend trying it out and seeing if you like that experience.

If for some reason you don’t want to give up your Firefox experience, there is a version of AdBlock for Firefox, too.