George Duncan

Marketing copywriter/consultant, author

Creepy Crawley

From Watch Your Ads — A media memo by George Duncan

Recently I checked out the website of a cell phone provider, just to get some information. For the next several days, every other website I visited – surprise, surprise – sported a prominent ad, complete with hotlink, for that same cell phone provider.  Gave me the creeps. Add that to the NSA spying stuff and it’s clear where we’re headed in terms of protecting privacy. Coincidentally, a marketing newsletter I get reported on virtual tags and how the use of them by marketers is growing rapidly. These “tags” are add-ons to websites that offer products or information from third party marketers. By clicking them, we give the marketer a ton of information about us, our buying habits and more. “Do you want to know who’s tracking you?” asks an item in The Week magazine (11/8). Turns out there’s an app for Firefox users from Mozilla called Lightbeam that gives the user a picture of “which third parties are operating behind the scenes on each website you visit.” It also allows you to block some (but apparently not all) such websites. Hey Mozilla, how about the rest of us?

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Attack of the Killer Squirrels

Speaking of creepy, I have to click my clicker when that Direct TV ad comes on, where the guy is attacked by a bunch of killer squirrels. What are these guys thinking? It’s a frequent problem where the creatives let their attention-getting gimmick run away with – and usually obscure – the marketing message. An ad’s first task is to get attention, otherwise, why bother? And it should be memorable enough to recall at a later time and place. OK, the squirrels get attention, and it’s probably memorable, but an ad is also supposed to deliver a marketing message, preferably a benefit. What’s the marketing message here? I realize the squirrel attack is a joke, but it’s so violent and scary, it could turn people off. I know I wouldn’t want my product associated with that. Why risk it? They probably came up with this one after lunch.

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NY Life – Risk Averse?

Another example of creative running away with the message is NY Life. A family gets on a roller coaster. Risk, get it? But dad, the provider, is shaking in fear as the car heads over the first peak. What’s the point of that? Why not show him enjoying the ride with his family – presumably protected by NY Life?

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 Fighting Words

Judging from their ads, today’s computer games seem bent on world destruction, or some variation thereof. Something called Black Flag shows a ton of shooting and encourages potential users to be “ready to fight for the freedom to do whatever you want.” Yeah. Whatever you want. Isn’t that great?

Another game is Call of Duty: Ghosts. Their ad also shows a variety scenes in which adolescent “soldiers” shoot off what looks like every type of gun ever made. The tag line? “There’s a soldier inside all of us.” And it’s all played out against a background of Frank Sinatra singing “I’m gonna live, live, live till I die…” You know, the soldier inside Frank.

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Wretched Excess

While it may tag me as a reverse snob, I have to say that opening the first page of the news section of the Sunday New York Times makes me want to puke. The ads for diamond encrusted watches, diamond encrusted diamonds, the outrageous fashions I doubt anyone buys and more is such a tsunami of excess I can’t read the pages. But I guess the 1% needs something to break the monotony.

Keep clickin’

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