The Advertising Apprentice

December 23, 2009

Coming to a CBC Radio One Station Near You…

Filed under: Advertising — adamlauzon @ 11:17 PM
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Merry early Christmas everyone!

For all you loyal readers of the Advertising Apprentice, Santa Adam has quite the gift for you; based on the overwhelming success of the two-part interview I did with Terry O’Reilly in November, I’ve invited him back to discuss the upcoming fourth season of The Age of Persuasion which premieres January 2nd on CBC Radio One. (Part One of that interview can be viewed here; while Part Two can be seen here.)

(Terry took a big risk by providing the content for this week’s entry. When I contacted him a couple days ago to pitch the idea about doing a sneak-peek entry, I immediately received an email saying he was on vacation until January 4th and that he would not be answering emails or returning phone calls, as per his wife’s instructions!)

First to get your whistles wet, listen to the following two clips:

AOP #1 Marketing the Unpleasant PROMO CLIP #1

AOP #1 Marketing the Unpleasant PROMO CLIP #2

I asked Terry to provide some content that could form the basis of this sneak-peek entry and did he ever respond. In addition to the two MP3 files above, he also provided promo sheets for the first three episodes.

The first episode entitled Marketing the Unpleasant, airs on Saturday, January 2nd at 10 am. Terry leads off the fourth season with a behind-the-scenes, insider’s look at what marketers face when creating ads for unpleasant products such as anything for the funeral industry, laxatives, incontinence pads, and of course feminine hygiene products. If just reading some of those words makes you feel uneasy, just imagine the “pain” the copywriters who have to write ads for the products feel!

Unlike episode one, episode two, Buzz, likely won’t leave you feeling queasy! It will delve further in explaining how positive buzz for a brand can launch that brand high into the sky, while negative buzz will sink the brand faster than a melting ice cap. Do you know what the “shill” is? Well tune-in on Saturday, January 9th at 10 am to find out!

Pitchmen, the third episode, will… you guessed it, uncover the qualities that makes a great pitchman. (Other than an addiction to Red Bull!) You’ll find out what the difference is between natural-born pitchmen like the late Billy Mays and yes, even Vince Shlomi, and celebrity spokespersons like William Shatner. Don’t miss it! Episode three airs at 10:00 am on Saturday, January 16th.

Unlike the two-part interview in which I posed O’Reilly thirteen thought-provoking questions about The Age of Persuasion How Marketing Ate Our Culture, this time I asked one very simple question; What can listeners expect from the fourth season of The Age of Persuasion?

Essentially, the fourth season will drill down even deeper into the relationship between the general public and the advertising that swirls around them. We’ll be watching for timely issues, and, as always, try to connect the dots between what’s new, pop culture and the long-standing history of the advertising industry.

And have fun doing it.

Be sure to tune in to CBC Radio One on Saturday, January 2nd at 10:00 am to hear episode one of The Age of Persuasion hosted by Terry O’Reilly and produced by Mike Tennant.

This will be my last entry until the New Year at which time I’ll return with an entry on the addictive Internet time-killer that is YouTube. In the meantime have a very happy and safe holiday season! And thanks for tuning in these past six months. It’s been a real pleasure writing these entries and I look forward to more of the same in 2010.

Adam Lauzon


December 15, 2009

Presumed Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Filed under: Advertising — adamlauzon @ 1:13 PM
Tags: , , ,

First off let me start by saying that this entry will not discuss Tiger Woods’ alleged cheating with the women that have made such allegations against him. Rather the purpose of today’s entry is to talk about the impact these allegations will have on the Tiger Woods brand and whether the recent events will affect his endorsement deals with companies like Nike and Gatorade.

To properly grasp the potential impact of these allegations, check out this link from Sports Illustrated and consider the following numbers:

  • In 2008 Tiger Woods made a total of $99,737,626.
  • Of this nearly $100 million, $92 million came from endorsements.
  • This means that just 7.76% of the money he earned was from tournament winnings and salary.

Woods has often been criticized in the media for controlling the information that is revealed about him and for living a very personal life off the golf course. Now the cynics would argue that the allegations of all these mistresses would explain why Tiger’s kept his life so private. But let me ask you this, when more than 90% of your yearly compensation is tied to endorsements and when it matters what the public perception is of you, wouldn’t you too want to set boundaries and do what you can to restrict elements from your private life getting out?

(For a really good story on Tiger Woods’ private life, you have to read this article. It was written by hands-down my favourite writer, and the reason I continue my subscription with Esquire, Chris Jones.)

Despite what’s happened over the last few weeks I think Woods’ past behaviour of keeping things private has everything to do with protecting the “Tiger Woods brand”. People whose livelihoods depend on their image do the same thing all the time. It pains me to make this reference, but Paris Hilton is one of those individuals.

(Let’s remember that what Woods is going through at the core is in no way different than what thousands of couples experience every year when one partner allegedly steps out and breaks the vow to remain true to their spouse. Just given that Tiger is seen as a public figure everyone believes that it’s fair-game for public discourse as he is the face of so many companies.)

Right now the roughly dozen companies that sponsor Woods are probably deciding whether or not in the face of these allegations if they want Tiger to continue to represent their companies.

According to Woods’ website, the following are his “official” sponsors:

Of this list Gillette has announced that they’ll be phasing Woods out of future marketing campaigns and Accenture has plans to do the same. With Tiger’s plans to take a break from golf for an indefinite period you have to think that it may be hard for some of these other sponsors to support him for much longer. (Though EA Sports must be happy with this ordeal, as I’m sure they’ve seen a huge spike in video game sales of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10!)

There is no right answer for what these companies should do. Wrigley didn’t take long to suspend a commercial they had starring Chris Brown shortly after news of his assault on Rihanna came out. Yet some sponsors, including Subway, chose to keep their arrangements with Michael Phelps after that infamous picture of him taking a bong hit surfaced.

This has no doubt put the companies that pay Tiger Woods A LOT of money in a difficult position. They have to decide if it’s viable for them to stick this out with Woods and hope that it blows over sometime soon (which I believe it will) or do they sever ties to prevent the allegations and the new light that’s been shed on Tiger Woods’ private life from affecting the way their products are positioned in consumers’ minds.

It seems that the court of public opinion usually demands a quick/swift reaction from “the powers that be” when public figures such as Woods, Brown, or Phelps make mistakes. (Don’t forget as humans we are prone to make mistakes.) And in most cases the companies that have hired these athletes/celebrities to endorse their products will act accordingly so as to not let their actions not tarnish their product image. And this is usually done in haste without giving the athlete/celebrity a chance give their side to the story. That is not to say I agree with the transgressions of the public figures, but rather I don’t agree with making assumptions based on fragmented details. I much more prefer to hear all the sides of the story before forming an opinion on a subject. However the court of public opinion is unjust in this regard and as such “you are presumed guilty until proven innocent”.

Stayed tuned as in my next entry I will be discussing the widespread impact of YouTube in its nearly 5 years of existence.

December 4, 2009

Do you Know Who James Vicary Was?

Filed under: Advertising — adamlauzon @ 2:30 PM
Tags: ,

One of the cool features of WordPress is that I can see the search terms used by people who visit my blog. Recently I’ve noticed a rather large spike in the number of people searching information on subliminal advertising. So it’s a topic I thought I’d discuss this week. (Following the format from previous entries, I had hoped to lead with a YouTube video on this topic, but despite searching for about a half hour I was unable to find anything “credible” enough.)

I have a bookcase full of advertising books and practically all of them take the opportunity to address the misconception about the existence of subliminal advertising.

Further, all of these texts give credit to one man for creating the myth about subliminal advertising: James Vicary.

In 1957 Vicary published a study in which he claimed subliminal advertising exists. He “proved” this by explaining how in an experiment moviegoers were repeatedly exposed to 0.003-second advertisements for Coca-Cola and popcorn. These exposures he argued resulted in a significant increase in sales for those products. This led to a report on subliminal advertising being released by the CIA and the Federal Communications Commission banning subliminal advertising. Vicary later admitted in 1962 in an interview with Advertising Age that his original study was a scheme and that the amount of research collected was too small of a sample to be considered representative. This essay from the Advertising & Society Review provides a really good, in-depth description of James Vicary’s stunt and the impact it had, and still has today on the advertising industry.

Arens et al. in Essentials of Contemporary Advertising define subliminal advertising as “advertisements with messages (often sexual) supposedly embedded in illustrations just below the threshold of perception.”

Arens and his co-authors further go on to explain it under a heading appropriately called “The Subliminal Advertising Myth” by saying “to date no study has proved that such embedding exists or that it would have any effect if it did exist.”

Gerard J. Tellis in Effective Advertising: Understanding When, How, and Why Advertising Works offers up the following take on the subject: “the current thinking among professional psychologists and advertisers is that subliminal advertising is not effective for three reasons:”

  1. Many attempts were made to replicate Vicary’s study. Most failed to find any significant support for subliminal advertising.
  2. The original study itself did not have any strong control groups. Some researchers think the original study is seriously flawed if not actually fabricated.
  3. The major argument against subliminal advertising is that it is difficult for something to be effective if it is not even perceived by human senses.

(All three of these points come from page 122 of the above-cited Tellis’ text.)

Terry O’Reilly and Mike Tennant authors of The Age of Persuasion How Marketing Ate Our Culture chime in on the topic saying: “Advertising is completely transparent. It is completely upfront in its desire, and the assault is head on.” To further their argument that the notion of subliminal advertising is completely false, t “behavioural studies before and since (Vicary’s experiment in the late ’70s) have confirmed the principle that ‘zero perception’ equals ‘zero response,’ meaning subliminal messages have no known effect on human behaviour.”

The great David Ogilvy even addressed the idea of subliminal advertising in Ogilvy on Advertising. He stated, “The odds are against your being manipulated by advertising are now very long indeed. Even if I wanted to manipulate you, I wouldn’t know how to circumvent the legal regulations”.

Considering the thoughts of these experts, I have to agree that subliminal advertising is a figment of people’s imaginations. It is hard enough to for advertisers to incite action when the consumer is aware that they’re being advertised to. The process of creating action is exponentially harder if attempted when the consumer is NOT aware of the messages aimed at them.

In my next entry I will offer my two-cents on the unfolding Tiger Woods saga. Yet the focus will be specifically on the impact of these recent events on his image in the minds of marketers and how it may affect his endorsement deals.

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