Holiday Car Ads

“It’s that magical time of year” says the smooth voice for Mercedes, Audi, Hyundai, Lexus and whatever. See that? No differentiation. Two weeks before Thanksgiving and they’re running those ads (I must be a target because they’re reaching me).

Happily owning a Subaru, I find myself differentiated. No snow can stop me and the car’s super-dependable — and built in Indiana.

I was so gratified to read about Subaru of America’s philanthropic promotion:

“In looking for a way to stand out during the December selling period, one of the pieces of research we see is that our customers are socially involved, very involved with supporting their communities–we see that often,” says Kevin Mayer, director of marketing communications for the company.

Wes Brown, with L.A.-based marketing lab Iceology, agrees. “They are, in general, more altruistic; they don’t like to broadcast it, but they are,” he says. “They volunteer a lot and they give a lot.”

He adds that they are also less likely to respond to overt financing deals. “The Subaru buyer, in general, tends to be more financially savvy; they are not the kind of people who are personally affected by the mortgage crisis. And because a good percentage of them would rather not make payments, there are a lot of them who will walk into dealerships and buy outright. It’s just their mindset.”

Not entirely original, but brilliant just the same.

Ad “Spectacular” on Times Square

It’s not a sign or a billboard. At 17,000 square feet and 341 feet above street level, you can get away with calling it a “spectacular” — that’s what its creators, Gilmore Group, prefers. According to Variety, they wanted to go big:

Arthur Gilmore, brother of Sundance guru Geoff Gilmore and head of design and brand consulting firm the Gilmore Group, said the breakthrough is the sign’s height. “People told me it was crazy to put video up so high,” he said. “But my feeling was that if we’re going to do this, let’s do it big. Let’s make it work from as many sight lines as we can.”

Broadcasting & Cable got into the video details behind this recession-proof outdoor advertising venue:

The 125-ton mega-billboard, which was conceived by branding firm GilmoreGroup and designed and built by video billboard specialist D3, represents a full-fledged broadcast facility in and of itself, complete with a control room located on the 9th floor of the building and 16 miles of data cable. It includes some 11,000 electronic modules, each containing 1,024 to 1600 pixels. That equates to 12 million light-emitting diodes spread over 16,000 square feet, which are controlled by 20 computers. It also includes 13 street-level plasma displays, which are synchronized to display the same image as the LEDs.

The LED displays themselves are arranged into three tiers of different resolution, with the resolution going down as the sign gets higher. D3’s specialized software dynamically scales images to the different resolutions to create a seamless picture.

“There are 29 different faces that are all synchronized together to deliver one seamless image,” says D3 managing partner Jason Barak.

D3 makes the LED modules for the Walgreen’s sign as well as the proprietary computers that render the images displayed on them. It plays uncompressed HD video, created with graphics and compositing software like Adobe After Effects, off a server. It then runs it through a system it has created which takes the high-resolution DVI output and converts it to gigabit Ethernet, allowing it to be sent over an IP-based network consisting of Cisco switches and Ethernet cables. D3 then uses 12 Vista Spyder multi-image display processor systems to control the placement of video across the displays.

In all, D3 is pumping 150 gigabytes of information to the giant billboard every 30 seconds, making for a staggering amount of data that needs to be stored and managed on four RAID disk arrays.

Very cool, but I much prefer the “Comcast Experience” in Philadelphia, located in the Comcast Center lobby, which I found very well done.

Niles Creative of New York put it together:

The Comcast Experience at Philadelphia’s Comcast Center contains a remarkable LED wall comprising 6,771 Barco NX-4 LED modules with 4 mm resolution. Situated in a 7-story high glass atrium, The Comcast Experience is a joint gift to the citizens of Philadelphia from Comcast Corporation and Liberty Property Trust, and combines sculpture, architecture and technology.

From a technology standpoint, the atrium contains what is described as the world’s largest four millimeter LED wall, which is 83.3 feet wide by 25.4 feet high (25.38 x 7.74 m), and comprises 6,771 Barco NX-4 LED modules. With 10 million pixels mounted in a seamless flat array, the wall provides an extremely high degree of photo-realism — five times the resolution of high-definition (HD) television. LED displays with HD capability installed in outdoor locations such as sports stadiums typically have much larger pixel pitch.

The Inquirer is reporting a Christmas video opens on Thursday, 27 November 2008.

Dude, I’m A Tourist

Eco-tourism has been around for some time, and the future will certainly include space tourism (eventually).  Now there’s a new kind of tourism: medical tourism. A company in Wisconsin is actually encouraging people to seek medical treatment outside the U.S. — and they’ll pay for it.  Talk about earning some miles:

Until now, however, the movement has largely been fueled by patients paying out of pocket. Health insurers and corporations have stayed on the sidelines, talking endlessly about whether to get involved and, if so, how. There’s reason to be cautious. How can the quality of care abroad be guaranteed? What if an employee has a surgical complication after coming home?

But the potential savings for employers are too large to be ignored forever, and Serigraph, which has about 1,200 employees worldwide and slightly fewer than 1,000 in the United States, is taking the plunge. The pilot program will be administered by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Wisconsin, an affiliate of WellPoint, the largest U.S. health insurer in numbers of members (and the originator of the Serigraph initiative). Employees needing the following procedures will be covered:

  • Hip replacement or resurfacing
  • Knee replacement
  • Heart bypass surgery
  • Heart valve repair or replacement
  • Spinal fusion
  • Prostate surgery

Employees will be treated at two Apollo Group hospitals, in Bangalore and New Delhi, both accredited by the Joint Commission International. An Anthem case manager will steer patients through the process, including managing medical complications should they occur.

In fact, U.S. News & World Report published a piece on the topic last month.

There’s another type of tourism getting attention lately: drug tourism. Editors were overdosing on puns — starting with the mayor of Roosendaal, Michel Marijnen — with a story sure to get our attention.

The Times had “Too many trips by drug tourists strain Dutch Tolerance”…

Faced with outrage from residents about rowdy behaviour, Roosendaal’s Mayor, Michel Marijnen, wants to close the town’s four coffee shops but is being hampered by civil rights laws.

Like many Dutch “coffee shops” the Liberty II boasts a wide range of marijuana strains, from Amnesia through K2 to Hollands Glorie, sold openly in joints and small amounts over the counter.

Even though it is tucked away in a side street in the sleepy town of Roosendaal, its location near the southern Dutch border has made it a magnet for drug tourists who arrive in their thousands every week from across northern Europe.

…and The Independent’s “Dutch plan to weed out criminals.”

The Netherlands, famed for having one of Europe’s most tolerant policies on soft drugs, allows for the possession of less than 5g of marijuana and its sale in coffee shops, but bans the cultivation and supply of the drug to these shops. The majority of Dutch mayors say this legal “back door” has spawned an illicit industry worth €2bn (£1.7bn) a year.

“It’s time that we experimented with a system of regulated plantations so we can have strict guidelines and controls on the quality and price,” Rob de Gijzel, the Mayor of Eindhoven, told the Dutch newspaper Volkskrant. “Authorities must get a grip on the supply of drugs to coffee shops.”

Control or not, the visits will continue.



David Pogue does a great job for the New York Times — he’s a real magnet for readers. There must be a great multitude of people who, like myself, race to open the paper to read his column on Thursdays.

The new Pogue-o-Matic is typically brilliant. Go on, I say.

Marketing Headache

Motrin got “Twitter Jacked” over this ad, in an attempt to appeal to “babywearing” moms supposedly looking for pain relief. The response was simply not what they had hoped, prompting an official apology:

On behalf of McNeil, I’m sorry if you found this advertisement insulting. We are are in the process of removing it from our website. Unfortunately, it will take longer for us to remove this advertisement from magazines as several are currently on newsstands and in distribution.

One bright spot is that we have learned through this process – in particular, the importance of paying close attention to the conversations that are taking place online. It has also brought home the importance of taking a broader look at what we say and how it may be interpreted

The videos are getting a fair amount of views, and the backlash has caught the folks at J&J by surprise. As their response to the Tylenol tragedy in 1982 still serves as a case study in successful crisis management the world over, we expect them to learn from this.

David Armano provides some excellent advice:

1. Design Your Website For Rapid Response
If your site has to be taken down in order to respond to a crisis, re-design it so that it can be updated quickly and easily without having to throw your organization and agencies into a panic. Worry about your response strategy, not the design of your site.

2. Think Like A Blogger, Tweeter, Community & Citizen Journalist
Look at how quickly the mommy community organized and produced an authentic video. It’s because they don’t have legal guidelines holding them back. You probably do—but of you can figure a way around them, you can fight authenticity with authenticity, which looks less like a fight and more like a conversation anyway.

3.  Have A Google Strategy In Place
Aside from perhaps smoothing things over with the offended, the real incentive for any organization to engage in situations like this is to influence the search results and digital trail so that your organization presents well on them. The best way to do this is to have people saying good things about you which means you have to give them something good to say and can’t force it. The end goal needs to be helping people. The ROI will be a much more positive long tail.

I hope this doesn’t lead to less creativity, as Catharine Taylor argues:

So what’s a client to do? Developing a thicker skin is always a good first step, but so far in the history of advertising that’s only been achieved by the bravest of marketers. Then, there’s the art of learning not to listen to every person that complains about your advertising, realizing that if the ad is moving the sales needle, certain voices don’t matter. (In this case, the firestorm surrounding this Motrin ad doesn’t seem to make that an option.). Then, there’s the decision to run increasingly conservative advertising, until fully addressable, trackable TV advertising gives marketers enough insight into their ROI to realize those kinds of ads are ineffective. Until that time, the conclusion I draw is that much advertising will go plain vanilla, and that’s too bad for all of us.

Wonder what reactions some of the old “Excedrin Headache” spots might inspire in today’s world. This one, for example, might enrage Shoeaholics:

The bottom line: keep a close watch on your brands by monitoring social media continuously and join the conversation.

Together or Separate Checks?

One of the better online features is Television Week’s “Daily Viral Video,” where they present the most viewed video clips on the most popular video sites, and an editors choice. Once you subscribe, you get distracted daily with an e-mail. Great way to keep people coming back.

As far as online videos, I like some of the old film clips, such as this one from History of the World, Part 1: the Last Supper scene:

Go Green

Yes, the Jets won and some around New York like to call them “gang green” — medically, ugly.  The better green is how you want to save the planet, by yourself. “Going Green” is an individual effort. Saving water, recycling materials or, as some marketers would prefer, buying green products and services.

In the U.S., the perception is new age hippies are those doing something about it. Think again, smarty. Jack Loechner’s “Green Piece” post on today’s Research Brief presents new evidence of a shift in consumer behavior:

Two of the segments present the biggest opportunity for advertisers, says the report… the “trendy” consumers who go green to be cool, and the “deeply committed”.  These segments buy more green products, discuss green issues often, and convince others to make the same green purchases.

  • 80% of the “deeply committed” and 69% of the “trendy” consumers have made a green purchase in the past 6 months
  • 79% of “deeply committed” and “trendy” consumers say that if they like a product they will always tell their friends
  • 70% of the “trendy” and 66% of “deeply committed” consumers who have recently purchased a green alternative product have convinced a family/friend to buy the same product

Self-selecting sample or not, this is significant.