How to Ruin an Ad – Part 2

Welcome to the latest edition of our current weekly blog series, How to Ruin an Ad. As is most obvious from the title of this series, each week we’ll be identifying a key element of an ad that, when missing, is sure to reduce its effectiveness.

Last week’s ad was ruined by a missing phone number.

Today’s ad is ruined by: Making people feel dumb

One of the main reasons to advertise to someone is because they have a problem you can solve, or a need you can fill. So you advertise to them, and in the ad you show them how you can solve their problem or fill their need.

Sometimes, ads need to show people the problem or the need, however, because you’re solving a problem or filling a need they didn’t know they had. This can be quite difficult. And for some companies, in their attempt to illustrate the problem, they end up talking down to their customers.

For example, there is currently a major wireless carrier running a series of commercials featuring a celebrity spokesman making fun of people for using the “wrong phone”. The commercial aims at humor, illustrating the “problem” with getting locked into a two year contract. But in their attempts at humor, they alienate potential customers by making them feel stupid.

You don’t want consumers to associate your brand or product with making them feel dumb, or bad about themselves in some way. They should come away from your ads feeling a positive connection to your brand. Because you want them to choose you over your competition. And people do business with companies they like.

So the next time you prepare an ad, be sure to examine it from the customers’ perspective. How will they feel when they see or hear it?

Did you enjoy this post? Do you have a surefire way to ruin an ad you think we should cover in an upcoming post? Share it with us in the comments or by email.

Market Yourself like Flo and Jan


Toyota has Jan. Progressive has Flo. These are two companies that are creating characters to represent their companies in the public eye.

The success of Flo likely spawned Jan, but I can’t say that for sure. But what is clear is that this is becoming more common among companies trying to connect with their customer base.

This is a great example of branding done right. You are associating that character with your company so that when a customer thinks about one, they naturally think about the other.

So how can you follow suit?

  1. Create a character to represent your company
  2. Make that character very likable, relatable, and knowledgeable
  3. Show customers like me interacting with that character in a positive way
  4. Use that character in all marketing

A New Twist on TV Commercials

Ready to have your sense of privacy shot down yet again?

New cable boxes include software that allows companies to track what you watch. That should not be a huge shock to the system. But how they use that data might be.

Software can tell who is watching what, when. Meaning, they will create an individual television viewer identity for each person in a household. And they use that data to deliver commercials to specific targets.

As an example, two people in the same house but in different rooms could be watching the exact same show at the same time, and see different commercials because one is identified as a young male who is into video games and the other is identified as an adult female who purchases luxury items. Maybe they show people in your house commercials for Ford, because they know that in the past you’ve always purchased Chevy’s.


Using Music as a Branding Tool

Music can be an important part of advertising. A popular trend these days in commercials is to use one song in the background of all of your commercials, or to introduce new songs with each new commercial.

A good example of the first is Chase, who have been using a song by Tim Myers called “Under Control” in all of their recent ads. Here is a sample:

A good example of the second is the Apple iPod series, which take advantage of their product’s association to music to introduce new artists to the world through their commercials. Here is an older one that helped launch Feist into the pop music spectrum:

In today’s world, where attention can be harder to get from any consumer, companies are searching for new ways to grab it. Music is a great tool for just that. You can tap into a part of the consumer’s brain that is always open. An ad can be made “watchable” just based on the accompanying music, elevating a commercial to an art form.

And in Chase’s case, they have used the song as a branding tool. People here that song, and they associate it with Chase because they have heard it so many times before. You can even download the song from their website at

In days past, a catchy jingle could make or break a marketing campaign. Today, music is playing a bigger role than ever before in capturing the attention and the interest of potential customers.

Google Commercials: What does it Mean?

Recently, you may have noticed that Google is running ads on television. Here’s a sample for those of you who have not happened to catch one yourself:

The first one that I can remember aired during the Super Bowl this past year. In their rise to search engine superpower, they rarely relied on anything more than word of mouth. When you build a great product, sometimes that’s all it takes.

Now, Google is a fully mature company. They have competition, legal battles, overseas growth, etc. They are a corporation, and no longer a startup. They have to worry about investors, law suits, governments, etc. And at the end of the day, they have to make sure that the consumers still use their products.

And so we get to 2011, and we get Google commercials. Well designed, true life stories from people who used Google in one way or another to accomplish something. But what are they really for?

One theory is that these commercials are for investors, a sign of strength. Another is that these commercials are for consumers who may have lost a little trust in Google because of various claims about privacy made by competitors and special interest groups. And still another is that the commercials are aimed at other companies, showing them whose boss or who they should look to partner with if they want to succeed.

Regardless of who they are for, it means one thing. Google is now past the “hot tech company that everyone loves and can do no wrong” phase. And it’s costing them money.