Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Volkswagen and Advertising Law

In the United States, national advertising is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission. Section 5 of the 1914 FTC Act states, "Unfair methods of competition in or affecting commerce, and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce, are hereby declared unlawful."

Advertising may be judged unfair and/or deceptive if there is a literal or even implied representation, omission or practice that is likely to mislead consumers and if it is reasonable to conclude consumers may rely on the advertising when deciding whether to purchase the product or service in question.

The recent events concerning Volkswagen diesel automobiles illustrate the FTC's responsibilities concerning advertising claims.


In 2015, national television advertising for the Volkswagen TDI Clean Diesel products has touted at least three highly specific claims concerning the performance of the VW diesel engine: rapid acceleration with 236 foot pounds of torque, high efficiency with 44 highway miles per gallon of fuel, and convenience with 814 highway miles per tank full of fuel.


However, it has now come to light that as many as 11 million Volkswagen cars worldwide are fitted with the Volkswagen Type EA 189 engines that are showing material performance deviations between their actual road use and the advertising claims Volkswagen has been making to sell these automobiles.


This is the basis for concluding Volkswagen has been making deceptive and/or unfair advertising claims for its recent diesel automobiles. It now appears the VW cars in question may only deliver the promised performance claims because the mandated pollution control mechanisms are being subverted during the owners' everyday use of their cars.

The recent Volkswagen diesel engine advertising can been seen as deceptive in that VW has made specific claims for performance that do not reasonably accord with the normal use of the automobiles in question.

This Volkswagen advertising can also be seen as unfair in that the claims made by Volkswagen cannot be easily independently judged by the buyers themselves. Most car buyers are not automotive engineers with their own sophisticated testing facilities.  These buyers had to rely on the information supplied by Volkswagen which has subsequently been shown to have been both incorrect and the result of engineering practices that did not report everyday performance.

Advertisers know they are responsible for possessing truthful evidence for the claims they make before any advertising claim is shown to the public. That has been the law of our land for quite some time.  It should be no surprise to Volkswagen management.

Also, the Federal Trade Commission has responsibilities for ongoing monitoring and review of advertising claims. The FTC guide for mileage claims in advertising states that advertisers must clearly and conspicuously disclose any distinctions in "vehicle configuration" and other equipment affecting performance between automobiles tested in non-EPA tests and the EPA tests. Mechanisms and software to deceive EPA testing would certainly be seen as resulting in a non-EPA test.  This incident suggests the FTC might usefully ramp up its monitoring for advertising substantiation.

Indeed, these events point to questions about the appropriateness of corrective advertising so that consumers are informed of the manner and extent VW's corporate behavior. Should corporations be allowed to move forward on the basis of ill-gotten gains in the marketplace, or does marketplace fairness call for a resetting of consumer perceptions of the VW brand to accord with the full extent of the company's deceptive and unfair business practices? Is this brand "too big to fail?" or will transparency and marketplace fairness rule the day?

       Copyright © 2015 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Ad Blocking and Involuntary Attention

Much is being said about the increasing using of ad blockers by visitors to interactive media sites.

This is what happens when the advertising information burden on many media sites brings about what users perceive as unreasonable and even unfair levels of frustration and economic cost.

The moment-to-moment experience of people can be described as the continuing search for relevance. People have goals and purposes, and they voluntarily focus their attention on information content that helps them advance their goals.

In this connection, advertising is largely a distraction. Indeed, historically, advertising as been successful to the degree it brings about involuntary attention.

In simpler times, with fewer media choices and lower levels of advertising burden, media audience members largely accepted the involuntary distractions of advertising. As readers turned conventional newspaper and magazine pages they accepted the advertising because they controlled the page turning. And the advertising content they did notice sufficiently rewarded readers with useful information and entertainment. In the broadcasting and cable media, commercial breaks were paced so as to maintain audience interest.

Now, we face a new reality in the interactive media world. Advertising content is often immediately forced on the audience before users even get to the desired site. Ads are often surprisingly interjected in layers placed over the content users are actively viewing. Mobile viewers often find ads placed in such ways that their attempts to scroll content cause them to inadvertently click through to unwanted advertising content and even to other sites.

With such widespread use of advertising injecting techniques, it is understandable that many in the interactive media audience are sensing an unacceptable loss of autonomy and are seeking to block what they perceive to be unwarranted interference from advertising. Indeed, for some audience members the interference also introduces download cost burdens.

Some interactive media are responding by blocking the ad blockers.  This seems likely to be a self-limiting direction that will only escalate the current situation.


The growing use of ad blockers is a strong signal that people want more autonomy in their relationships with interactive media. Continuing practices that force feed advertising content while blocking the advertising blockers is not a path to a productive future.

Copyright © 2015 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Advertising Can Make Your Day

Creative victories come in various forms and degrees. Some assignments are struggles, while others allow creative people to reinvent what the product category advertising can be.


In that respect, this new commercial from Denmark is definitely a cut above.

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Carlsberg smartly brands this highly entertaining commercial from the very beginning. We are charmed by the turn of events and ready to accept the idea this is the best beer brand in the world.

An advertising creative person's goal should be to produce advertising that will be the most memorable item in all the media content the audience is seeing. Indeed, when it comes to attention and entertainment, this Carlsberg commercial can make your day.

Copyright © 2015 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Advertising Problem Solution

Problem-solution is perhaps the strongest narrative approach in advertising. Show a problem in a compelling manner and anyone who shares that concern will pay attention.

The audience wants to know "what's in it for me?"


But, what if the solution is already within us?

That's interesting.

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Beyond the public service appeal to drive safely, this commercial also has a selling idea. The car is presented from attractive angles of view, it is quick, it moves well, we like it's attitude. The car has a personality. It wants it's owner to be successful, to do the right thing.

Interestingly, advertising ideas are often predictive. Why shouldn't cars monitor driver behavior? Some might say the car would be over reaching, taking away their "rights." Others might be grateful, recognizing no one has the right to carelessly harm others.

This is admirable advertising.

Copyright © 2015 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Advertising and Excitation Transfer

Emotions are said to have a cognitive basis.

Whenever we notice an upwelling of sensation within ourselves, we name the feeling based on how we interpret our surroundings at that very moment. It is is our cognitive interpretation of the actions or stimuli we see before us that leads us to give a name to that felt sensation, be it joy, anger, regret, love or any other named emotion.

So, over the years, each of us learns through experience to associate events, places, people and things with feelings.


These upwellings of sensation vary in intensity and duration. Indeed, the felt sensations often continue within us after the immediate event or stimulus that triggered them.

This continuance of certain feelings over time is the basis for what psychologists call Excitation Transfer Theory. An emotional response triggered by one event or stimulus can carry over to an immediately following event or stimulus. In this way, the emotions aroused by an initial event or stimulus become associated with an immediately following event or stimulus.

Here we see this notion applied in advertising.

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So the narrative of the dog's loyalty produced an upwelling of sensations likely interpreted as a form of sympathy. We are surprised by the ending, and in this moment of realization concerning organ donation, our continuing feelings of sympathy are transferred to our intentions toward organ donation.

This is an example of excitation transfer theory. It underscores the importance of emotional response in admirable advertising.

Copyright © 2015 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

How To Sell Automobiles Today

Longer, lower, wider, more powerful... these are among history's most common selling ideas for automobiles.  Bigger and bolder was once the road to success.

The world is changing rapidly, and what we want from cars is becoming vastly different. Above all, we want security in an increasingly challenging environment. Security is obviously about safety. It is also about reliability and convenience.

Now Volvo has added health.

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Everyone who drives in polluted urban environments will appreciate this product advantage. And, on the open road, there are increasing concerns about airborne factors including even the bacteria we may breathe.

Notice the communication approach. It is all about the product feature. Indeed, the product feature has been given a brand-focused metaphorical name.


Going into the future, this is how to sell cars. No user imagery, no hype needed. As consumers, in challenging times, we know relevance when we see it.

Copyright © 2015 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, March 9, 2015

To Be Made To Think Is To Agree

When someone challenges you to take a test, you generally take them up on it. Just look at all the tests people are sharing on Facebook these days.

Let's say you are asked to watch closely to see if any street scene passers by are noticing a new model of a car parked by the sidewalk. You would mostly likely try it.


Students who have taken my Psychology of Advertising classes easily recognize this technique as an example of the Elaboration Likelihood Model of persuasion.  To persuade in a memorable manner, messages must garner attention, hold attention, and invite the audience to think. Thinking is called "elaboration" in this conceptual model, hence the theory's name. 

So now, take the test.
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The results of effective elaboration messages have been shown to be longer lasting attitude change as well as attitudes that are more resistant to competing messages. You have been thinking about the new Skoda Fabia.

Advertising scholars will remember a classic 1972 VW Beetle commercial that also used this "attention test" idea.
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Both the Skoda and VW commercials are quite admirable. Think about them.

Copyright © 2015 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Data Driven Creativity?

Daylight Savings Time begins today. It's time to think about "data driven creativity."

In this era of big data, algorithms, and automated advertising, it is important to remember that customers don't respond so much to details. They don't really care about analytics driven digital adjustments to color, size, features, and media environment driven tailoring for specific audiences. Truly, in that approach you risk "averaging your way to average."

Customers care about ideas. That is how humans think and feel.

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The great irony about ideas, is that the more they are parsed, analyzed, and rationalized, the less they become.

So, when someone proposes an analytics driven approach to your communication plan, be sure to step back. Look for the big idea, one that will capture the imagination of customers. Ideas are important. We cannot think without them, they are the very medium of thought and emotion.

Remember my advice. Ideas too heavily scrutinized can become ideas sadly vaporized.

Copyright © 2015 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Clucking Bunny

The days are getting longer. Indeed, in the United States, this coming Saturday night we "spring" our clocks ahead for daylight savings time.

Of course, springtime is a traditional time of renewal. And, eggs and rabbits are the twin folkloristic symbols of the season.


Legend has it, for those who have been on their best behavior during this season, an "Osterhase" will bring them brightly colored eggs as gifts.

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This commercial, titled "Clucking Bunny" was created in the early 1980s by the wonderful creative department at Young & Rubicam in New York.

Copyright © 2015 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Brand Archetype Assessor

The concept of brand archetype is well established as a managerial tool. It is a productive way of placing brand personalities and brand communication in a cultural context.

There are many alternative models of archetype structures that help brand planners think about alternative archetypes.

However, what is needed is a productive means of assessing brand archetypes and placing them in a competitive context.

Here is my Brand Archetype Assessor. It will help you accomplish that goal.


You see that the cardinal dimensions are rational versus emotional and active versus passive. There is a vast amount of scholarly literature supporting these as key dimensions.

Then, within the cardinal directions, you will notice the sub-dimensions of productive versus creative and mindful versus playful.

I've illustrated these major dimensions with brand exemplars. Let me know if you have questions, and I am also available to make presentations on this and other topics.

 Copyright © 2015 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Brand Personality and Success

Advertising statesman Emerson Foote said, "No one would ever use advertising if they could meet all their customers face to face."

His insight points to the fact that people look first to their personal information sources, rather than media sources.

Theory Basis

Not only do people look first to personal information sources, as social beings we draw upon our person perception skills to give meaning to the entire world around us. Dark skies are threatening, sunshine is friendly. The babbling brook bespeaks a happy attitude.

We call this phenomenon "anthropomorphism," the attribution of human characteristics, traits, and motives to entities and forces in the world around us.

Of course, brands, products, services, and organizations are commonly seen this way. Indeed, a brand without a personality is not very interesting.

Lessons from the Classics


King Arthur Flour is the oldest continuously operating company in the United States. Although founded in 1790, the company did not choose King Arthur as its brand name until 1890 when an owner attended a performance of the musical King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Although a seemingly implausible means of selecting a brand name, with no apparent connection to flour, the kingly imagery of the Arthur legend presumably lends to the brand a sense of leadership, integrity and good times in days of old. Today, the highly informative King Arthur Flour website begins with this logo prominently positioned so as to welcome your visit.


The logo is prominent on the package. Notice also the action oriented call out. It leads you to a side panel that welcomes you into the community of bakers. Integrated Marketing Communication and Content Management is nothing new to this centuries old company. Indeed, these practices are really now new, just the terminology used by people who are "relatively" new to the business.

Underwood Deviled Ham is actually the oldest continuously marketed trade marked food brand in the United States. When it comes to food preparation, deviling means seasonings play a major role giving the food a spicy taste. So, for this brand we see a clear connection between the devilish imagery and the sought after taste experience of the brand.


Indeed, this classic print ad from 1911 demonstrates some devilishly good copywriting. The visual is wonderfully in tune with the personality of the brand. Were the brand to begin reinvesting in advertising, this print ad gives productive direction concerning content and personality.


Turning to brand personality in contemporary advertising, MetLife stands out as one of the strongest brand personalities. In the early 1980's the company began searching for a new creative direction to replace the traditional problem-solution case studies that typify insurance company advertising. At Y&R in New York, senior copywriter George Watts proposed a campaign based on the Peanuts cartoon characters. Snoopy was to play the leading role, of course.


The customer insight is all about brand personality. No one wants to talk to an insurance agent. So, with Snoopy as the spokesperson the brand immediately became a friend. Snoopy is possibly the most highly effective door opener. But going beyond personality, the scenarios and cast of characters allow for charming narratives to explain otherwise complicated and boring insurance products and procedures.

This customer insight leads directly to my typology for evaluating and managing brand personality.

Eighmey's Brand Personality Success Grid

Human behavior comes down to the concepts of thinking, feeling, and doing. What we choose to do is supported by what we think and feel.

These elemental concepts provide the framework for a model or typology for evaluating the performance of brand personalities as they directly compete in the marketplace. Importantly, this allows us to evaluate brand personalities in their competitive frames.


Turning to the Brand Personality Success Grid, you can see how MetLife's brand personality relationship with customers is based on high levels of feeling and more extensive narrative content about the brand. In contrast, Geico's stance is to ask customers to concentrate on a simple fact about speed of transaction.

Now, all four of these brands are mounting successful advertising campaigns. The point is to recognize the basis of the continuing relationships with their customers when it comes to thinking and feeling. My typology suggests that to support long run relationships more of both is better.

What does my Brand Personality Success Grid look like for the brands in your product category?

  Copyright © 2015 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Candor As Advertising Message Strategy

Candor is an illuminating word. From Latin, it communicates brilliancy and purity. We are said to be candid, or speaking with candor, when acting in a forthcoming and honest matter to say what we believe.

Indeed, the highest levels of candor introduce self-criticism, even to the extent of self-depreciation, so as to lay all considerations on a question or argument open for review and scrutiny.

Candor is rarely seen in advertising. A brand generally concentrates on its unique selling proposition, clearly setting forth a relative advantage over its competitors. Successful communication of a single-minded message in mass communication is thought to be challenging enough without the added burden of introducing complexities and conditions.

Consumer research tells us this makes sense when communicating with people who already buy into an idea or message. Single-minded messages do help promote loyalty.


But, when it comes to converting people to a new idea, or inviting them to switch brands, candor may have an important role to play. Interestingly, this finding about the effectiveness of "two-sided" message arguments is one of the oldest empirically documented outcomes in the modern era of scientific research on persuasive communication. This comes from the classic Yale Attitude Change Studies of the 1940s and 50s.

The widely admired VW campaign of the 1960s and 70s was based on this customer insight. Faced with the daunting task of competing with well-entrenched Detroit brands, VW employed a message of self-depreciating humor to convert consumers to the brand.

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This 1971 Karmann Ghia commercial is a particularly effective vehicle to appreciate the fundamental customer insight underlying the entire VW campaign. While competitors focused on the excitement of an annual race involving styling, size, and horsepower, VW concentrated on smaller cars and admitted certain shortcomings.

Candor, as shown here in the form of a "two-sided" message strategy, remains an effective approach, particularly when the audience is discerning and the goal is converting them to a new viewpoint.

Beyond truth, when it comes to advertising message strategy, it is candor that counts.

  Copyright © 2015 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Kmart Wins 2015 Valentine's Day Advertising Sweepstakes

Brands aspiring to be leaders in their product categories would do well to employ storytelling to portray how they help customers lead fuller, happier, more productive lives.

Valentine's Day is near. Thoughts and tokens of love are everywhere.


Indeed, Valentine's Day is one of the most opportune times for brand storytelling.

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This commercial is a wonderful example of how brands can position themselves as playing important roles in the contemporary context of everyday life in America. Here, the brand is acting as far more than a store where you can buy a seasonal item. The brand becomes your partner helping you achieve things that really matter to you.

The commercial is well conceived and produced. It is full of nuanced detail, a true example of a "rich media" experience with layers of meaning giving rise to strong emotional responses.

Without a doubt, Kmart has won the 2015 Valentine's Day Advertising Sweepstakes and taught every retail brand a powerful lesson about how to communicate as a leader.

 Copyright © 2015 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Your Key To Successful Customer Insights

Everyone talks about needing customer insights, but how many can really define the concept? How many can find or recognize an insight? How many marketing communicators and researchers can tell a better insight from a lesser one?

There are many sources one might consult. Google search returns 747,000 items for "consumer insight" and 589,000 for the more recently popular term "customer insight."

Google Ngram search gives a bit of historical perspective on the usage of these terms. Ngram lets us find the frequencies of words or short phrases in the English language books since 1800 that have been scanned by Google Books.


Searching for the broad topic "consumer research" gives us a view of the ascent of the modern marketing era. The inset graph expands to view to show the consumer insight came into use in the 1970s with customer insight following a similar pattern a decade later.

Throughout these sources, it seems these two terms are often used casually, with the assumption everyone knows what the term means.

With extensive professional experience in marketing communication and in leading consumer and advertising research roles, I offer this precise definition of the term customer insight.

A customer insight is a factual observation about customer thoughts, feelings or actions that reveals a clear and material basis for communication.

Better customer insights are more factual, clear and material. Materiality is key, it means the insight has an important connection to decision-making by consumers. A material insight therefore provides a basis for effective communication with consumers. If a potential insight cannot be supported by a well articulated pattern of facts, it is not a material-level customer insight, rather it is merely a convenient supposition.

Indeed, you can help yourself avoid expensive mistakes by evaluating possible customer insights in with my typology that I have named the Customer Insight Success Grid.


The Customer Insight Success Grid calls attention to two essential criteria for success: The extent of the array of factual information sources in support of the insight, and the importance of the insight to the development of effective communication.

Too often supposed insights pop up out of nowhere with vague factual support. While individual expert insight and qualitative methods can surface speculative insights, truth follows from a triangulation process drawing upon a range of qualitative and quantitative resources. A supposed customer insight is only speculative observation (blue sky thinking) unless there is an array of appropriate supporting sources.

Customer insights become productive when there is both an array of supporting sources and the insight points to a perspective on the role of the life of the customer that is material to more effective communication.

So, when thinking about customer insights, remember my definition of customer insight and my Customer Insight Success Grid. A potential insight may be located anywhere on the grid. You want to seek those most productive insights on the high ground of the upper right quadrant.

  Copyright © 2015 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Super Bowl Advertising Wearing Out?

The 2015 Super Bowl ended with a surprise, that's for sure. But, when it came to the advertising ideas there were few surprises.

The USA Today Ad Meter provides analytical perspective.  The chart below contrasts the scores of the top ten rated commercials this year (the blue line) with those of 2014 (brown), 2013 (green), and 2005 (the top purple line).


Budweiser won the 2015 ratings race with a heart warming story about a lost puppy. That there was a full one point spread over the second place spot for Always (8.1 versus 7.1) offers a clue that the pre-release of the lost puppy commercial may have garnered the spot a boost from pre-game conversation. Certainly, it would appear pre-release caused no disadvantage.

What is also interesting is that the 2015 ratings for the top ten commercials averaged only 6.8 on the Ad Meter 10-point scale of favorability.  The top ten average was 7 in 2014; 7.1 in 2013 and 7.9 ten years ago in 2005. While there have been methodology changes for this survey from year to year, the mid-scale directionality for 2015 alone suggests less enthusiasm than one might expect.

Perhaps this is a signal from the Super Bowl audience that it is time for new advertising ideas.

Copyright © 2015 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Mexican Avocados Lead 2015 Super Bowl Advertising Sweepstakes

The Aztecs are said to have whipped up the first batch of guacamole. Now, it is the super food of the Super Bowl.



Indeed, annual avocado sales in the United States now total over $3 billion. 

And, since Mexican avocados have a 60 percent share of the USA avocado market, clearly their marketing group can afford $4.5 million for a Super Bowl commercial.


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This story of the first ever professional football draft appears to take place in a stadium on an ancient Aztec beach.

Following the obvious and sensible draft pick by Australia, we are left to wonder about each of the picks that follow. The choices and pacing are admirable. We are drawn into this extended joke and invited to think.

This gives Mexico the perfect set-up to explain the virtues of the the avocado from Mexico. We learn rich volcanic soil and a perfect climate make their avocados the ideal year-round snack.

There are no cheap, childish jokes to distract from the brand message. The slap-stick is clever, setting up the brand message. 

This commercial is both strategically and creatively smart. Let's see if another spot comes along this Sunday, for now this is the one to beat.

Copyright © 2015 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Marvelous Typology of Advertising Humor

In the Internet Age, attention has emerged as a commodity more valuable than gold.

With the ever-accelerating speed and pervasiveness of communication applications and devices, amplified by more people doing more things and more things that communicate, people attempt to make sense of increasingly indistinct pieces of information competing for attention.

This explains the popularity of cat-related imagery as a viral phenomenon.


When it comes to information, we value surprise and enjoyment. Thus far, in the Internet Age, cats are the meow.

That we value surprise and enjoyment, also points to the long-standing prevalence of humor in advertising. But, as with cats on the Internet, not all attempts at humor are necessarily effective.

Aristotle is said to have said, "The secret to humor is surprise." Indeed, Aristotle distinguished among causes of humor such as ambiguity, violation of laws, irrational behavior, and unexpected outcomes he called "marvelous" events.

Taking our cue from the great philosopher, here is my five-part Typology of Advertising Humor.

Altered States

Laws of nature are immutable, so breaking the rules is a guaranteed to surprise. In advertising, of course, the broken rule must point to the product benefit.



Ripping Off The Arts

Authors and artists give us the ideas through which we see and articulate our understanding of life and the world around us. Through books, poems, paintings, songs, movies, videos, and so on we come to understand our world through memes, metaphors, and messages. Surprise comes when we unexpectedly collide one idea with another. In advertising, the realization must give life to the product benefit.



Slap Shtick

Whatever the situation, we generally know the proper behavior expected of us. Broad physical humor taking everyday action to unexpected extremes is known as "Slap Stick" comedy. The situations can involve one or more people. To get an advertising kick out of it, the joke must "foot" to the product benefit.



Exaggerated Claims

Think of this approach as hyperbole on steroids. The audience recognizes the improbable outcome of a familiar event, yet there is permission of believe the product benefit will be every bit as good as one might hope.



Strained Expectations

There are ways of thinking and speaking we strongly associate with particular goods and services. The meanings of such terms and frames of reference are so clearly understood in one realm that when transported to an unexpected product category the surprise can be the basis of an important realization about the product benefit.




This coming weekend presents a "marvelous" opportunity for you to try out my Typology of Advertising Humor. It will be Super Sunday, and of course humor will play a large role in the creativity of the advertising we see.

How many examples of each of the five forms of advertising humor will you see? Which commercial do you see as most attention-getting, most enjoyable, and likely to be most effective in the marketplace? Let me know what you think.

Advertising is always fun. Enjoy the advertising and the game.

Copyright © 2015 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Alcohol Product Advertising and Public Policy

The alcoholic beverage industry is more highly regulated than many others because of long-standing concerns about vulnerable people. Both industry self-regulatory practices and government regulations are largely based on concerns about the risks of excessive consumption and the need for consumers to reach a level of physical and social maturity before becoming consumers.

When it comes to alcohol product advertising, the key restrictions involve voluntary self-regulation by industry. For example, websites for alcoholic beverages often voluntarily limit access to people who claim they are of legal drinking age. And, both the Distilled Spirits Council and the Beer Institute recommend advertising be placed "only where at least 71.6 percent of the audience is reasonably expected to be of legal purchase age." The Wine Institute similarly recommends 70 percent as their industry guideline.


That such restrictions on alcohol product advertising are necessary was particularly well demonstrated this week by a new health communication study published by JAMA Pediatrics.  The study is titled, "Cued Recall of Alcohol Advertising on Television and Underage Drinking Behavior." It was a two-year longitudinal study conducted by highly qualified researchers from Dartmouth University, Brown University, and Kiel Germany.

One key finding of this panel study is that underage viewers of television advertising are only slightly less likely than persons of legal age to have seen alcohol advertising. This points to a paradox concerning the 70 to 72 percent industry guideline. When applied to single advertisements, the voluntary guidelines may seem reasonable, yet collectively, the total amount of advertising by the alcohol product industry can be seen as overwhelming the underage audience. For example, even if the underage audience for one individual advertisement is let's say 10 percent, continuing exposure to the many other alcohol product advertisements will still result in very high media reach and frequency of exposure to the underage audience. The study shows the need to adjust the 70 to 72 percent industry guideline to a much higher level.

The television audience demographics and traditional advertising line-up for the Super Bowl underscore the concern about the voluntary guidelines. Recent Nielsen audience data for the Super Bowl show that about 30 percent of the youth ages 10 to 21 are watching the game.


This figure from a February 12, 2010 Nielsen Newswire public relations release shows that the 2010 Super Bowl was viewed by about 25 percent of youth ages 10 to 13; about 30 percent of youth ages 14 to 17 and about 33 percent of youth ages 18 to 21 (see area of the added red dotted lines). Clearly, from a media planning perspective, this annual broadcast can be seen as providing gateway access to the youth audience. Such a possibility is amplified when one recognizes that the most commonly employed narrative content of alcohol product advertising during this event involves imagery of particular interest to youth: emotive animal stories and slapstick comedy. Indeed, such advertising is traditionally among the most recalled and most liked shown during the event.


Now, much more is revealed by the new health communication study. For example, one frequently heard observation is that alcoholic beverage advertising is designed only to influence brand choice and brand loyalty and not to influence the decision to drink. Yet, this new study finds that "familiarity with and responses to images of television alcohol marketing was associated with the subsequent onset of drinking across a range of outcomes of varying severity among adolescents and young adults."

The need for "scientific fact-based" public policy is an often heard phrase these days. When it comes to the effects of alcohol product advertising, there is a substantial body of literature, and the facts seem pretty clear.

Copyright © 2015 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Sense in Super Bowl Advertising

Now that the teams are set for this year's big game, let's take a look at the reason the Super Bowl exists at all.

The single reason, simply put, is to assemble a large audience for advertising. People don't just field professional athletic teams for fun, or for the glory of sport. It is a business, and this business is largely based on advertising revenue.


Today, it is becoming increasingly difficult to assemble large audiences for advertising. When it comes to mass media, members of the public have a great many interests and an increasing plethora of what to view.

Indeed, continuing advances in information technology are amplifying this trend with an ever-increasing range of delivery systems and increasing efficiencies of operation. As a result, audiences for mass media programming are becoming increasingly fragmented.

When it comes to advertising, large businesses seek the quickest ways to inform and influence the greatest numbers of people. After all, the very purpose of advertising is to make things happen faster in the marketplaces of goods and ideas.

The pre-eminent metric for advertising audiences is the cost per thousand households. This metric is known as CPM. The "M" in this advertising industry abbreviation is for the Roman Numeral for one thousand, otherwise the concept would of course more simply be "CPT."

Today, in the United States, the average CPM for commercials placed on prime-time television network programs is about 25 dollars per 1,000 households. According to the Television Bureau of Advertising (TVB), the current average cost of a 30-second network prime-time commercial is about $112,000 and the audience consists of about 4.5 million households.

Now, if your goal is to reach a substantial proportion of the public, you quickly come to the realization that 4.5 million households is only about 4 percent of the total 115 million households in the United States.

So, to reach a greater proportion of US households, large-scale advertisers put together plans to use more media in more places to reach more people. For example, with about a $4 million budget, an advertiser could place a 30-second commercial on a selection of local television stations throughout the top 100 markets in the United States to assemble a prime time total audience of about 100 million households. The CPM for such a plan would be about 37 dollars per 1,000 households.

However, one limitation of such a so-called "spot television" schedule is the considerable range in the programming contexts for the commercial in the many markets across the nation and the varying degrees of audience attention levels.

Enter the Super Bowl. With the wide-spread public interest in sports programming, the Super Bowl provides an efficient opportunity to reach almost half of the households in the United States at the same moment of time and when they have a high degree of interest in both the sports event and the advertising.

The 2014 Super Bowl reached about 48 percent of the households in the United States, and with 115 million total viewers this amounted to the largest ever US television audience. Accordingly, with a cost of about $4.2 million for a 30-second commercial, the CPM for the 2014 game was about $80 per 1,000 households (or about $39 per 1,000 viewers).

Now, it is apparent that $80 per 1,000 households for the Super Bowl is over twice the $37 level of a comparably priced spot television plan targeted at the top 100 markets in the US. But, the Super Bowl is the most widely watched program in any given year, and the differential is a premium advertisers are willing to pay for immediate reach to such a substantial proportion of the nation.

Indeed, during the Super Bowl the audience sometimes views the advertising as more interesting than the game. And, there is all the hoopla and social media hype leading up to the game that can set the stage for highly productive marketing promotions in connection with the sponsors' commercials.

Bottom line, sports programming currently provides a productive means of assembling mass media audiences. So, when it comes to scoring big as a national advertiser, the Super Bowl means "game on."

In 2015, investing $4.5 million in a 30-second Super Bowl commercial can still make a lot of sense.

  Copyright © 2015 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Advertising and Realization

Admirable advertising should make people think.

In this new video for 2015 Black History Month, the NBA presents a remarkable message that is simple yet complex.

We hear the voice of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his words of hope for all people. Listening to his words, a realization can take place about the meaning of his message as we see individual achievements within an institution dedicated to progress.

video

This remarkable message invites us to a realization about the profound depth of the wisdom of Martin Luther King, Jr.

 Copyright © 2015 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Psychology of Advertising - Year Seven

Welcome to the 7th year of my blog on the Psychology of Advertising. My first posts were made in January, 2009. The objective remains to provide conceptual observations about current events in advertising and point out helpful sources for thinking about advertising.

I began this blog when I was teaching graduate and undergraduate courses in the Psychology of Advertising at the University of Minnesota. This course has a long tradition at the University of Minnesota.  In the 1890s , Harlow Gale, then a faculty member in the Philosophy Department at the University of Minnesota, taught a seminar he called Psychology of Advertising. Today, Gale is acknowledged as the first person to conduct scientific studies of the effects of advertising.

People everywhere like to study advertising, and so this blog is meant for anyone interested in advertising. Indeed, since January of 2009 , over 52,000 people in 135 countries have read one or more of my 210 postings.

My most widely read post concerns the "Strategic Power of the Theory of Trying." This post is now one of the most widely read resources on the Web concerning the Theory of Trying. You can easily find it by searching the Web for Theory of Trying or by looking for my post made on August 17, 2010. Please see the listing My Virtual Textbook on the right-hand column of this page for an index of all my posts.

The remaining top ten posts are:

2.  Why People Like Advertising - February 17, 2010
3. Thoughts, Feeling and Action - April 19, 2011
4. The Discipline of Account Planning - August 22, 2013
5. Advertising and American Core Values - September 1, 2013
6. Celebrate to Sell - July 1, 2013
7. Strategic Power of the Theory of Planned Behavior - March 7, 2013
8. Advertising and Energy- June 4, 2013
9. MNsure Shows Way to Effective Healthcare Advertising - August 20, 2013
10. Brand Persona as Constant Friend - December 17, 2013

In 2015, I am looking forward to continuing my posts reflecting on the latest worldwide happenings in advertising and placing them in useful conceptual perspectives.  

Welcome to Psychology of Advertising.

  Copyright © 2015 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.