Annoying ads that Work

By Chris Blair

Remember the ad campaign for the product HeadOn? It’s probably the most annoying ad of all time.

It’s not even clear what the product is for and if you visit their website, the product description sounds like science fiction. Yet the product has been so successful, they’ve spun off other topical products like ActivOn, which claims to help arthritis pain!

Just so you know, independent chemical analysis of their roll-on products has shown the ingredients are almost entirely wax, and while most sane people realize it’s just modern-day snake oil, obviously many others think it works.

According to Wikipedia, chemical analysis has shown the three active ingredients are iris versicolor 12× (a flower), white bryony 12× (a type of vine), and potassium dichromate 6× (a highly toxic chemical used in some pain and wound treatments among other things). The “×” notation indicates that the three chemicals have been diluted to 1 part per trillion, 1 part per trillion, and 1 part per million respectively. This amount of dilution is so great that the product has been described as a placebo; with well-known scam-buster James Randi calling it a “major medical swindle.” The formula for the Extra Strength version of the product is the same as the Migraine except that it excludes the iris versicolor, so I guess you could say it’s “less flowery!”

Seymour Diamond, director of the Diamond Headache Clinic in Chicago has stated, “I see nothing in this product that has any validity whatsoever.” Consumer Reports states that no clinical-trial data involving HeadOn have been presented, and that “any apparent efficacy may be the result of the placebo effect.” If you don’t know what the placebo effect is, it’s the phenomenon related to the perceptions and expectations a patient has. If a substance is viewed as helpful, it can heal, if it is viewed as harmful, it can cause negative effects. It doesn’t matter what substances are in the product, the expectations of the patient causes the results they expect.

So despite the obvious fact that this product has nothing in it that can remotely heal anything…the advertising for it convinces people to buy the darn stuff! Obviously if a company came to us with a dubious product like this, it would put us in a difficult position. The folks that make Head On don’t make claims about the healing benefits of their product, so it’s tough to call them out for it. In other ads, they use testimonials from users to tout the product, so the company is never directly making statements about the product. But at the same time, it’s difficult to see how any company could produce a product so devoid of any substance (literally) and pawn it off on people seeking pain relief.

Ultimately, if you’re dumb enough to believe you can cure your headache by rolling a product onto your head like deoderant, then you probably deserve to have them take your money.

How Important is Creativity in Advertising?

By Chris Blair

Creativity is one of those things that’s hard to define, especially in advertising. Many ad agencies consider it the measuring stick for their work. So much so that they call the work leading up to production, “the creative.” But just how important is creativity in advertising and what exactly constitutes a creative ad?

This is a tough question and there are probably dozens of viable answers. But advertising history makes it clear you cannot judge an advertisement based solely on creativity. The reasons? Creativity is highly subjective and award-winning ads are not automatically effective ads.

A famous (or is it infamous) case in point is the 1996 Nissan ad campaign called “Enjoy the Ride. The ad that launched the campaign was an epic commercial titled “Dream Garage,” which first aired during the closing ceremonies of the 1996 Olympics and later during the 1997 Super Bowl. It opened on a group of kids playing baseball, one of whom was magically transported to a “dream garage” filled with vintage Nissans. The garage was helmed by a wise old Japanese character dubbed “Mr. K,” who along with his Jack Russell Terrier, became the face of the entire campaign. You can see the ad below: Continue reading

Sometimes the “Funny” Overshadows the Product

By Chris Blair

Just the other day my brother-in-law was visiting from Alabama. He’s a Baptist minister who’s well-published and highly regarded for the stories he spins in his sermons. He mentioned a television ad he liked and he recounted the concept, which was “what can we count on 10 years from now?”

He described the ad, which shows a grizzled Brett Farve accepting an MVP trophy 10 years in the future. Farve has some very funny lines and the trophy has an animated hologram of him on top of it…a BRILLIANT visual touch if I do say so myself! Notice he also has a pair of bifocals hanging from the collar of his t-shirt.

We both laughed about how creative and funny it is. Problem is, neither of us could remember what was being promoted or what the product was.

I saw the ad a few days later and made a point to look for both. It promotes the Hyundai Sonata along with the 10 year warranty offered on Hyundai automobiles. So is this ad creative and funny? Sure. Is it effective? I’m not sure. It certainly wasn’t if you consider me and my brother-in-law to be the measuring sticks.

Perhaps if you’re in the market for a car and warranties are a big issue for you, this ad would be effective. But with almost every major car manufacturer offering generous warranty programs these days, my guess is it’s probably not. Of course, Hyundai has a whole slew of top-notch ads that run all over the place, so as one part of a broad campaign, it probably works.

Most people love funny commercials. But producing truly funny advertising is difficult and it can sometimes overshadow what you’re selling. So be cautious about how much your ads focus on the fun and how much they focus on selling. It’s certainly worthwhile to get your viewers attention with an ad, but you also have to deliver a compelling sales message in the process.

What’s Your Story?

By Chris Blair

Almost all human interaction involves the use of stories. It’s been that way for centuries. Prehistoric cave dwellers used drawings to tell stories. The world’s best-selling book, The Bible, is a book of stories.

Without stories, most of us would have no reason to communicate; no reason to interact. How difficult would it be for us to learn about ourselves, document history, or entertain without them? Watch a major television network for a couple of hours and count how many programs or commercials use stories.

Why are they so effective? Because people identify with events that are in tune with their experiences. And stories provide structure. They introduce characters and settings, grab our attention by introducing conflict, then satisfy our curiosity by providing a resolution.

Without stories, videos and commercials usually become a jumble of facts and claims that attempt to tell the viewer what to think. Other videos are nothing more than moving, talking wall hangings. Great to look at, but pointless. Stories offer an account of events that let readers or viewers interpret the meaning.

Using stories is really pretty easy. If you’re producing a video about OSHA rules and regulations, at first blush it may seem difficult to make the subject matter compelling. But what if employees don’t comply with OSHA rules? Bingo! You’ve got a storyline. The set-up: a manager ignores OSHA rules. The conflict: employees are torn between obeying their supervisor or obeying OSHA rules. Then an accident occurs. The resolution: the accident makes employees understand it’s everyone’s responsibility to follow OSHA rules.

The best lawyers use stories to convince juries. The best ministers use stories to inspire. The best educators use stories to motivate and teach. The best producers use stories to educate, entertain and sell. Use them in your video projects. People respond to stories.

What’s our Vector Victor?

By Chris Blair

Ok…so I stole the headline from the classic comedy film, Airplane, but I couldn’t resist. It’s the only quote I know that uses the word vector….as in vector graphics. I know, I know…they meant the aeronautic usage, but cut me some slack here.

There are basically two broad categories of graphic files used in design, vector graphics and bitmap graphics. Simple enough it seems. Yet I think many graphic artists were absent the day this was taught in college. Or worse, maybe they DON’T teach this in college. We repeatedly receive graphic files from other folks that are created or saved in the wrong format for their intended use.

So let’s clear the confusion up right now with a quick definition of the two primary types of graphic file formats. Continue reading