The Other Super Bowl Winner…

In the category of product or service the gold medal goes to Google.

Telling the tale of a relationship through Google searches was a beautiful little piece of storytelling. Google could certainly have spent oodles of money on amazing special effects like a fiddling beaver, or gone for cheap laughs like people getting hit in the crotch –but instead they engaged you (no pun intended) about their product with their product.

Simple? You bet. That they managed to summon up emotion while showing nothing more than text typing on their ubiquitous home page is good stuff. It’s not a new spot, though, but part of their Search Stories campaign that’s been running purely on YouTube.

A lot of spots focused more on entertainment than the product –but Bud Light did a good job doing both with their Asteroid and Stranded commercials. The message: people really love Bud Light. That’s sort of a lie, but hell, it’s advertising.

By the way, I can’t believe GoDaddy got away with this dialog in their stupid commercial:

Danica Patrick: “I really need this…”

Masseuse: “Yeah… you’re so tight.”

Best Super Bowl Commercial Ever

I didn’t say the funniest Super Bowl spot, or the best known, or the one everybody was talking about. I said the best Super Bowl spot.

In 1998 FedEx poked some fun at Super Bowl advertisers (itself included) with a dead on commercial that had everything to do with their brand and never showed their logo for even a split second.

It may also have been the all-time cheapest to produce.

Our Pizza Stinks

The new Domino’s campaign is hilarious. That’s the one where we see the pizza giant respond to customers who hate their product.

Some people will say this is brilliant. “Look at Domino’s being responsive to the customers! See! They’re listening to the public and taking action. Wow! Domino’s is awesome!”

Or you can look at it the way I do: Domino’s is so incredibly clueless and indifferent that they had NO IDEA people thought their pizza was awful. Either that or they didn’t care. And now? They are desperate.

The best part is their Pizza Turnaround blog, where Domino’s allows mostly unmoderated comments on their posts and a live Twitter feed. I have never seen the word “sucks” appear so many times on one page. And many of the people who comment are customers who say they liked the old recipe and can’t stand the improved pizza. A few of the 1000+ opinions:

I just ordered two boxes to try the new recipe, can you say refund. This new stuff taste “disgusting”.

Ordered the new pizza a week ago, cheese was sliding of box was saturated with grease and the herbs were way to overpowering. Honestly tasted like something i would get from a gas station quick stop.

I loved your “old” pizza. After weeks of seeing you new add, I convinced my husband to give it a try. It sucked! The crust was gooey, it was the worst pizza we ever had. We each had 2 pieces and threw the rest out.

So what now, Domino’s?

Back at SUNY Plattsburgh we didn’t have the internet, so students had to be creative in expressing their distaste for Domino’s. They’d wait for the delivery man to to pull up in front of a dorm in his little Datsun pickup truck –and when he went inside with his pizza, a gang of people would run out and turn the truck over on its side. Now that’s a comment.


nbcThere was a time when NBC was trying to get its affiliates to hitch their wagon to the Peacock. And why not? The network was soaring in the ratings and regarded as the apex of quality television.

They invited local stations to rechristen themselves as NBC 5, NBC 11, or in this market, NBC 13.

I sat in a lot of meetings where we talked about this and I’ve gotta admit, the idea sounded pretty good. NBC 13 would be bold and simple branding that tied the station with a successful and respected product. Plus NBC 13 had a nice ring to it and would have been made for a clean and elegant logo.

What could possibly go wrong?

A lot of stations went along with this plan, but here in Albany my boss applied the brakes. What if the time came when the NBC Peacock was no longer proud, but a symbol of failure and ineptitude?

Impossible —but he was smarter than us (and he signed the paychecks), so end of conversation. Today nobody would argue that he wasn’t right.

There’s no shortage of analysis of what happened at NBC —heck, even Maureen Dowd got in on the act— but this single paragraph from Tim Arango sums it up perfectly:

Today the network is in shambles, brought down not just by the challenges facing broadcast television — fragmenting audiences, an advertising downturn — but also by a series of executive missteps that have made its prime-time lineup a perennial loser.

No, not the sort of thing you want to be associated with.

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

You hear a lot of people talking about how they long for a simpler Christmas. A time when we were not so materialistic. A time when we understood the true meaning of the holiday. A time when you could hand out cigarettes as gifts.

I once watched my wife’s dad give his son-in-law (not me!) a carton of cigarettes on Christmas Day. I was astounded —but the truth is that everybody used to give cigarettes on Christmas. Just look at the magazine ads.

Cigarettes were the sort of useful gift that these days would be like giving a bottle of wine or a Starbucks card. And a carton of cigarettes would fit perfectly in a Christmas stocking.

Big tobacco used to embrace the season and deck the cartons in festive holiday graphics. Imagine what would happen if cigarette makers did that today?

In 1961, the year that Barack Obama and I were born, a gallon of gas was $.31, a loaf of bread went for $.21, and a carton of cigarettes was $2.50.

This year giving a carton of cigarettes would mark you as a big spender. Just remember that it might not go over so well with the non-smokers in the crowd on Christmas morning.

Local Advertising 101

Imagine for a minute that you’re taking the car in for a brake job. Would you stand in the service bay and tell the mechanic how to do the work?  Alright, an electrician comes to the house. You go in the basement while he’s rewiring the circuit breakers and give him some pointers, right? Ok, how about this: you go out to dinner and join the chef in the kitchen and explain how to cook your meal.

No. Not unless you want him to spit in it while you’re not looking.

You would never do any of those things —so why is it that clients have no problem telling experienced producers and writers how to create advertising?

Most local TV spots are bad because the customers think they know more than the professionals who are there to help them. Then, once the Larry Tate Effect kicks in, what you get is some very bad advertising.

You know the spots. There are big sweeping pans of the store/restaurant/office, shots showing the front of the building or the sign, and people shaking hands (car dealers, insurance, real estate). Worst of all they are cluttered with too many ideas.

Don’t blame the people at the TV stations. All they usually get for being honest with a client is yelled at by some account executive or manager. They don’t make enough money to put up with that.

So here’s some advertising advice: if you hire someone to make a commercial, explain to them what makes your business special, accept that the spot should only be about one thing, and get out of the way.

I promise that you’ll get something more effective.

I Mock Your Tiny Doppler

OK, so it’s not cool to make fun of the size of somebody’s Doppler. I did this spot back in 2000 when WRGB erected their own Doppler radar outside their studio in Niskayuna. They went on the air claiming Doppler superiority —and we wanted to let folks know that their radar was more like a toy than a mighty tool for deeply probing the weather.

WRGB had just started airing a spot with meteorologist Steve LaPointe actually scaling the steel tower and then rappelling down. It was a meaningless but memorable stunt that demanded a firm response. Here it is:


It never aired. Management was leery of pointing and laughing at WRGB’s little radar —and since the consultants in Iowa agreed it was killed. That’s probably best. I don’t think anyone wanted to hear Channel 6 explaining that it’s not the size of your Doppler that matters, but how you use it. Even the weather war has rules of engagement.

I Married a Celebrity

If you have not seen this commercial then that makes you the only person in a 100 mile radius who missed it. What makes this spot so special is that my wife, Ann, is prominently featured starring as The Woman Who Bought a Grill at Price Chopper. Have a look:

You might figure that people she knows are coming up and fussing over her new-found fame, but complete strangers? I’ve even had people at my new job upon meeting me ask, “Is that your wife in the Price Chopper commercial?”

Sure, I’ve been on TV a few times but compared to her role as a Chopper Shopper I’m a complete C-lister. That’s OK. I’m good with keeping my mouth shut and smiling, assuming the role of arm candy. After all, that’s what I’ve been doing for 22 wonderful years.