The Advertising Apprentice

January 30, 2015

Insight from 2015 Change Makers Conference

On Tuesday I had the distinct pleasure of attending of the 2015 Change Makers Conference. The conference brings together advertisers and marketers to talk about innovative campaigns that address, predominantly social, issues such as mental health, gambling, smoking, cancer, and texting & driving, to name a few.

I found that all six of the speakers were able to effectively provide some insight for those in attendance on ways the advertising community can make change happen. The speakers were also able to highlight examples of campaigns and spots that have done it right, in that they’ve affected change in powerful ways. We heard about a Brazilian billionaire who wanted to bury his Bentley, an Amsterdam hotel that prides itself in not being a clean hotel, and the first observed instance of monkey prostitution. And no, I’m not kidding about that last part!!

The six speakers at the 2015 Change Makers Conference were:

  • Marc Stoiber, Creative Strategist, Entrepreneur and Writer
  • Phillip Haid, Co-Founder and CEO of Public Inc.
  • Terry O’Reilly, Writer & Director at Pirate Toronto
  • Karen Howe, Senior Vice President & Creative Director of One Advertising
  • Tracy Danicich, Vice President/Campaign Director at the U.S. Ad Council
  • Stephen J. Dubner, Author

I’m one of those people that when I go to a conference or lecture I’m always taking copious amounts of notes because I really don’t want to miss any of the insight and wisdom that’s shared with the audience. (If you haven’t picked up from my previous entries, I love insight and value it so incredibly much. It’s something I’ve sought to cultivate since reading Phil Dusenberry’s One Great Insight is Worth a Thousand Ideas.) The benefit of my note-taking for this entry is that I’ll highlight the insight I gained from each of the speakers and I’ll also include some of the memorable ads/campaigns they talked about.

Marc Stoiber

Have you heard of the company Smith Corona? No, they’re not the founders of Corona beer! Marc Stoiber called them the most innovative company of the 20th century. In 1989 the company was worth $500 million, but by 1995 they were bankrupt. The reason according to Stoiber is that they forgot their sense of purpose and whom they were trying to appeal to.

In his speech, Stoiber described brands as, “They’re like the bow of a ship. Build a good brand and it will pull everything else along.” I love this. While I’m not someone that’s very fond of boats, I love this metaphor because of how it conveys the importance of any given brand.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

His speech also talked about how increasingly people’s needs are rising in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. As such he provided several examples of ads that are empowering consumers to do more. Empowering is the key word in that sentence; Stoiber noted that it’s important now for brands to tap into the need to self-actualize and achieve a higher order of meaning. Two really awesome examples he brought up were Nike’s Find Your Greatness and Apple’s Here’s to the Crazy Ones:

Nike – Find Your Greatness

Phillip Haid

Phillip Haid’s speech was all about engaging consumers. He’s of the opinion that we need to give the consumer a reason (incentive) to take action. I agree with this position. I find that with the busy lifestyle I have there’s nowhere near enough hours in a day, so if an ad wants me to take some sort of action, there better be something in it for me! Haid then gave 10 tips on ways to engage customers. Tips such as, “Make it Simple” or “Make it Fun” or “Give me a reason to do it”.

For Make it Simple, Haid gave the example of Telus’ Go Pink campaign, which was launched in 2009. For every user that created “an online, shareable photo gallery of their best friends”, Telus donated $1 to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. This is a great example because it’s something very simple that people can do to show that they support the cause.

For Make it Fun, Haid talked about the Fun Theory and the example of how in 2011 a piano staircase was setup next to a Sweden subway escalator. Would people choose to have fun and make music or would they continue to take the escalator? As is noted in the video below there was a 66% in people that chose the stairs over the escalator.

Finally for Give me a Reason to do it; Haid gave the example of Movember. Ah yes, the month that has become synonymous with hairy faces in the name of raising funds and awareness for men’s health. Since 2004 the Movember movement has raised $574 million and funded 800 programs in 21 countries. Now there’s a darn good reason to grow some facial hair in November, with possibly the added benefit of upsetting your significant other!

Haid’s speech ended by saying that failure equals success and he quoted Thomas Edison, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” I like this approach of advocating for failure. It’s not to say that you should actively try to fail every time, but take a chance, go for it, see what happens. If you fail, then you’ve just found one way that doesn’t work.

Terry O’Reilly

Terry O’Reilly’s speech focused on two things: counter-intuitive thinking and execution of superb strategy. He talked about not restricting yourself by thinking within the confines of your (product) category. He said there are three elements to a great strategy, “the strategy is a battle plan. A strategy must be meaningful. A strategy is born of intuition.” Basically it’s all about creating a culture that celebrates intuition, so trust your gut. As cliché as it may be, think outside the box.

One example of social change O’Reilly mentioned came from Chicago where to combat the issue of speeding on Lake Shore Drive, in September 2006 the city painted lines on the road to give motorists the illusion they were going faster in the hopes of slowing them down. You can read more about it here.

Another example he gave of counter-intuitive thinking is the Paris Metro system. They faced the problem of low ridership. Instead of trying to affect the views of the riders, the Paris Transit Authority took the counter-intuitive approach of changing the way they viewed their riders. One change they made was instead of calling them riders they began calling them customers. That combined with some internal changes completely altered the way the Parisian commuters viewed them externally. It sounds like they did a SWOT analysis. Remember that from your first year marketing class? Internally you examine you strengths and weaknesses while looking at your external opportunities and threats.

He also talked about the Hans Brinker Budget Hotel in Amsterdam. About a decade ago when everyone was feverishly using hand-sanitizer, the Hans Brinker Budget Hotel counter-intuitively published this ad:

Hans Brinker Budget Hotel – Improve Your Immune System

As O’Reilly mentioned the hotel took the unusual step of being authentic and managing expectations. O’Reilly noted that from this campaign bookings rose 35%.

I’ve made no attempt to hide in the past that I’m a huge Terry O’Reilly fan; every interaction I’ve with him has been nothing but very pleasant. He’s a legend in Canadian advertising but always makes time to for the up-and-comers. I had a little fanboy moment when I approached him and had him sign my copy of The Age of Persuasion. It was very surreal to be chatting with someone I’ve idolized for close to a decade. If you’re reading this, thanks Terry for making my month!

Karen Howe

The central theme for Karen Howe’s speech was how creativity makes the world a better place. She wants her peersto use creativity to tackle some of the most fundamental social issues we face. She noted that one way we can do this is by personalizing the issue to make sure people can relate. To show this she played the following YouTube video from

Not only does this video offer a humorous take on climate change, it certainly personalizes the issue.

Brazilian Billionaire Buries Bentley

Howe also talked about Brazilian billionaire Count Chiquinho Scarpa who wanted to bury his $500,000 Bentley. Why would he want to do such a thing? To raise awareness for the need for organ donation. The stunt worked and as this link details, there was a 31.5% increase in organ donation in the month after Scarpa’s true intentions were revealed.

Howe offered an empowering closing message, “in order to create change you must shake it up with creativity.”

One final note on Howe’s speech; she mentioned that there is lots of creativity coming out of New Zealand, so kudos to all you kiwis!

Tracy Danicich

Tracy Danicich from the American Ad Council spoke next. She provided an overview of what Ad Council does and highlighted some of their recent television public service announcements. For example, the following spot from the American Heart Foundation:

I really like this video because it grabs your attention and is empowering for women but it also nicely frames the issue of heart disease and stroke in women.

Danicich then discussed two case-studies, Smokey the Bear and 2min2x, which is all about encouraging kids to brush their teeth for 2 minutes, twice a day.

The Smokey the Bear campaign is all about fire prevention and it’s the longest running public service announcement campaign; it was launched in 1944. Danicich talked about how the Ad Council over the decades has faced the challenge of modernizing Smokey. A couple years ago they released a spot with a modern-looking Smokey that included a bear-hug. She was quite proud of how the Ad Council has evolved the strategy surrounding Smokey the Bear and managed to keep him relevant for over 70 years.

Stephen J. Dubner

Unlike the other speakers at the conference Stephen J. Dubner didn’t have a PowerPoint presentation with him, nor did he show the audience spots of ads that are doing it right. It was just him in the center of the room speaking to 300 people without any speaking aids. And yet he was probably the most entertaining speaker of the day. His background in economics drove his speech. He talked about how the use of data is great for understanding what makes people do the things they do, and how you shouldn’t rely too much on what people say they’re going to do because they’re likely to say one thing, but do something different, which be understood by revealed preferences vs. actual preferences. For this reason, Dubner says that a sense of belonging and the herd mentality matters greatly in affecting change. People have the mindset that they should do something because everyone else is doing it.

According to Dubner, we are living in an extremely altruistic time characterized by warm-glow altruism which is what people feel after donating to a cause. To illustrate the altruism in society, Dubner spoke about the counter-intuitive approach used by charity Smile Train in their once-and-done campaign. Basically the charity sent out a direct-mail piece and donors could choose one of three boxes: donate and never hear back again, donate and hear back from Smile Train on a limited basis, or donate and hear from the charity throughout the course of the year, which amounted to about 18 times. Surprisingly fewer than a third of donors chose the once-and-done opt-out and even more shocking was that Smile Train saw a 46% increase in donations from the campaign. Dubner suggested that the reason for the success of the once-and-done campaign was that it shifted the framework from a financial one to a collaborative framework. People felt empowered in a way they’ve never felt before.

If you’re still reading it could be because you want to see what I was talking about at the start of the entry when I mentioned monkey prostitution. The conference ended on a humourous note. Dubner talked about Yale economist, Keith Chen, who was doing research that taught monkeys how to use currency. The Coles Notes story of what happened is that one day of the monkeys exchanged the currency the researchers were using, to have sex with another monkey. That monkey then used it to buy some fruit! If you want to read more about it, check out this article from ZME Science. That’s the last item discussed at the conference, monkey prostitution!

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the conference and as the post above shows, I learned so much. It was a great experience to be in the same room with so many talented people, gain some valuable insight and hear about examples of ads and campaigns that show how to make change happen. There are several other examples from the conference of great spots that have been effective in affecting change and I plan to highlight them in upcoming entries.


December 23, 2009

Coming to a CBC Radio One Station Near You…

Filed under: Advertising — adamlauzon @ 11:17 PM
Tags: , ,

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

November 24, 2009

Ask the Ad Man Part Two

Welcome back to part two of my WordPress exclusive interview with Terry O’Reilly, co-author of the recently released The Age of Persuasion How Marketing Ate Our Culture.

You’ll note that this second part is void of any You Tube videos and includes just a handful of external links. This was done intentionally because I want you to really read the insightful, information-rich answers Terry O’Reilly provides.

Its been a long five days but it’s finally here, you’ve made it to the second part of the interview! Without any further ado back to the interview:

You put a lot of emphasis on the importance of “the contract”, this concept is the focal point for chapter 2 and throughout the book you refer back to it. Is the unwritten contract your way for marketers to be taken more seriously and earn respect? (You can hear more on this topic on The Age of Persuasion’s website in an episode originally aired in October 2006.)

Actually, we think of the Unwritten Contract as a way for advertisers to respect consumers. Not the other way around. We feel all ads should give something back to the public. The least of which is to be smart and entertaining, the best scenario is if the ads underwrite the programming, or bring ticket sales down in cinemas, or pay for the editorial content in magazines and newspapers. It was a good deal back in the 1920s when it was first struck, and it’s a good deal now.

Since becoming more involved in advertising I’ve heard the term “under promise, over deliver” countless times. It’s a phrase you use in chapter 2 on page 42. It’s a concept I’m just amazed by as it makes a lot of sense. Can you elaborate a bit further on this idea for those readers that may not have previously heard this phrase?

Basically, don’t overpromise. Not delivering on a promise breeds cynicism. People lose faith in brands and companies as a result. If you make a promise, make it attractive, but then deliver way above and beyond the call. The impact of that will never be forgotten. That kind of over-service leads to brand loyalty – that ever so fleeting, but vital thing.

Focusing on your quote from chapter 2, page 45: “toning down ad creative can be like giving a speech to an audience of a thousand without a microphone”. How do you tap into that creative aspect of your brain, that is how do you get the creative juices flowing? (Would a book like Roy H. WilliamsMagical Worlds of the Wizard of Ads, be useful in getting people into that mindset?)

It’s a process, like all creative endeavors. You train your mind to be able to look at a marketing problem like a puzzle. You absorb all the research, work it, re-work it, tear it apart, turn it upside down, try coming in the back door, make odd connections, and suddenly forget all about it. Then, while mowing the lawn, the idea appears, courtesy of your subconscious. I don’t think you can teach someone to come up with ideas. It’s an inherent, intuitive skill set. It’s not magic. It’s hard work. I know very little about Roy Williams. Neither does the ad industry at large. He is a very small peripheral player with regard to the ad industry. Way, way outside it.

You describe in chapter 11 on page 251 how a lack of time in building relationships by the brand between themselves and the consumer is leading to “advertising is shallow, meaningless, and just an annoyance.” Is this a trend where if continued you see as having deleterious effects on the industry?

Yes. A true customer-advertiser relationship needs time to develop. And smart advertisers nurture that relationship over the long haul. So the less real time devoted to cultivating brand loyalty will have huge detrimental effects over the years, for advertisers specifically, and the advertising industry in general. That relationship between customer an advertiser is the most important thing in marketing. Period.

In the first paragraph of the Furthermore chapter you state:

“I’m often asked about what’s ahead – about the future of persuasion. I’m somewhat wary of taking on the challenge because so many who’ve snapped at the same bait have been hooked, played, landed, stuffed, and mounted as monuments to humankind’s inability to look forward.”

So I won’t ask you to describe for us what you think is in store for the future of advertising. Instead I’ll ask you about the list of “Things I’d like to change about advertising and marketing” found in this same Furthermore chapter. They include “no more junk mail”, “no more telemarketing” and “banish commercials from movie theatres”. What do you have against these three forms of marketing? (You can also hear more on this topic on The Age of Persuasion’s website in an episode originally aired in March 2008.)

They don’t honour the great “Unwritten Contract” we reference in Chapter Two. Mike and I feel all advertising should give something back to the public. At the very least, ads should be enjoyable. But on a greater scale, ads on radio should underwrite the great music you hear. Ads on TV should underwrite the great TV shows you watch. Ads in newspapers should underwrite the journalists salaried. Ads in magazines pay for the editorial content. But telemarketing gives nothing back. It just wants to take. Junk mail and spam are in the same category. Cinema ads should be making ticket prices come down, not sure that is happening. I think cinema advertising companies can figure out how to honour the contract. And they should. Every time the advertising industry doesn’t honour the contract, the public’s annoyance with advertising grows.

Discuss your thoughts on the challenge faced by reaching an audience that is becoming increasingly more fragmented day-by-day and that is so hard to reach on a mass level.

That problem is not going away, in fact, it’s getting worse. In the 1960s, if you advertised on Bonanza and the Ed Sullivan Show, you reached 80% of the North American public. Those days are long gone. So now we don’t rely so heavily on demographics, which tell us age and income level, and rely more on psychographics, which tell us about the state-of-mind of the target market. Once we know more about how they think, what they like to do, what TV shows they like to watch, what movies they like to see, what their values are, it gets a bit easier to create commercials that they might like. But that still doesn’t solve the media problem of trying to find them. It gets very, very expensive to advertising, because the audience is spread across so many TV shows, and magazines, and websites. Especially if you want to reach them with any frequency. I suspect the web will provide some of the answers. The greatest thing about the web is that it creates communities. So that, at least, gives advertisers an address.

Provide some tips for people looking to break into the advertising industry. What can and should they be doing from a practical standpoint to work their way to getting a job at prominent agency in Toronto?

If you’re interested in the creative end of the business, you must read and absorb the award annuals. They are the “How-To Manuals” of the business. Young creative people should be devouring them. Many of the award shows feature work from around the world. So, so important to gain that perspective. There is a great store in Toronto called the Swipe Store, and they only carry ad books. It’s fantastic, and I could spend all my money in that place. Creative people should also be working on a great spec portfolio that shows a creative director how their mind works. Remember that creative directors are looking for “idea” people, not writers or art directors. Ideas are the currency in advertising.

If you are interested in the account service side of the business, study great strategy. Find books and pour through the Cassies website (the award show that awards results) for great case studies of outstanding strategies. I always say his business has enough good creative people, what we really need are great strategists.

If you do have any of your own questions that you’d like Terry O’Reilly to answer, post them here or send me an email and I will be sure to forward them to him and when I get a response I’ll update the post.

(A sneak peek for next week’s entry: subliminal advertising, is there such a thing?)

November 19, 2009

Ask the Ad Man

It turns out being gutsy does pay-off! Let me explain; a couple entries ago I wrote about product placement and I even offered up my own tongue-and-cheek attempt at it by placing the cover of Terry O’Reilly and Mike Tennant’s new book, The Age of Persuasion How Marketing Ate Our Culture, in the entry. I had no real intentions for anything to come from this; rather I was just trying to be funny. Well turns out O’Reilly found my blog and graciously offered me an interview.

(By the way, The Age of Persuasion How Marketing Ate Our Culture is available at fine bookstores across the country and online at sites such as Chapters and Amazon!)

So this week I am proud to feature a WordPress exclusive interview with co-author of The Age of Persuasion How Marketing Ate Our Culture, host & writer of CBC Radio’s The Age of Persuasion, founding partner and creative director of Pirate Radio, Terry O’Reilly.

I hope to make this a new, regular feature of The Advertising Apprentice where every month or so, I interview a key figure in the world of advertising/marketing that is really doing some great things. I’ve already got a few people in mind, but if you guys have any suggestions of people you’d like me to interview, let me know I’ll see what I can do!

Given the length of the interview I’ve split it up into two entries. Today’s entry introduces you to the authors, their aspirations for their new book, and how social media has been beneficial in promoting the book. While the second part of the interview, which will be posted early next week, deals with specific ideas raised in the book.

You’re a founding partner of Pirate Toronto (and Pirate New York). You’re also the contact listed on the Pirate Entertainment Group’s website. You host a show on CBC Radio The Age of Persuasion (a show that’s widely respected and listened to religiously by people in and out of the advertising industry). You participate regularly in the community in giving speeches and presentations and now you and Mike Tennant have written a book, The Age of Persuasion How Marketing Ate Our Culture. Have I left anything out? Where do you find the time?

Dad, husband and martial artist. I have always been very disciplined, a gift of the martial arts. I make the best use of my time, stealing moments here and there to do most of it. Mike Tennant and I put the show together nights and weekends. Mike is able to dedicate more daylight hours to it than I. It’s a juggling act, to be sure. But the one thing this business teaches you is how to be a world-class multi-tasker. One more thing – each thing I do feeds the other. So being a busy commercial director gives me stories for the radio show, which gives me stories for the book, which gives me speech topics, etc.

Speaking of Mike Tennant (pictured below), little seems to be known about him outside of the brief bio included on The Age of Persuasion’s website and the write-up found on the inside back-cover of The Age of Persuasion How Marketing Ate Our Culture. He certainly doesn’t have anywhere near the close to 1200 Twitter followers that you do. (As of this afternoon, he had just 20 people following him.) I get the impression he likes to be behind the scenes, but what can you share with us about him and what it was like writing a book together?

After doing some research I was able to find the following video of Tennant:

Mike is one of the best radio writers in the country. That’s how he and I met originally. I was looking to hire the best freelance radio writers I could find, and I had heard a very funny spot on CHUM FM. So I called a friend there and asked who had written it. It was Mike. That has got to be almost 15+ years ago. Mike is incredibly prolific and resourceful. He is one of those people who simply gets things done, and there are very few in this world. He is also the producer of the radio show, so he is really responsible for the entire sound of the show. I always say Mike is the heart and soul of our AOP brand.

On the evening of Monday, October 26th, the eve of your book hitting the shelves of bookstores across the country, what was going through your head?

Ha. Would it be lost in the busiest book season of the year? That was first and foremost on my mind. It’s easy to get lost in a sea of celebrity books right before Christmas. But I am proud to say we hit the Best Seller List only 12 days after the launch. We couldn’t believe it. Random House is pretty excited, too.

As of this morning it had made it to eighth on the Globe & Mail’s Bestsellers List.

What do you want people to take away from the book? For instance a 35-year-old mother of three, living in Saskatoon has just finished reading The Age of Persuasion How Marketing Ate Our Culture. What are you hoping she’s feeling/thinking? Were the myths you talked about at the end of each chapter a way of eliminating any misconceptions people may have had about the industry?

We wanted to take people on a fun and wild ride through the hallways of advertising. Give them a look at what is really a fascinating business. And if they could see how decisions are made in the advertising boardrooms, how commercials are created, maybe – just maybe – they would gain a better appreciation of great advertising. And stop spending money with bad advertisers.

Yes, the Myths at the beginning of each chapter are the myths we get asked most about as admen. We thought it would be fun and interesting to tackle each one of them.

You have said that this book isn’t aimed at people within the industry but rather people outside the industry. With all of yours and Mike’s years of experience, why not write a book aimed at marketing/advertising professionals where you enlighten this group on your many years of experience and share some of your insights?

We were more interested in talking to the general public. The book is aimed at the people ads are aimed at. So is the radio show. Marketing people know how ads work, and they pretty much know the history of the business. But it’s the public that works from only one side of the coin. We wanted to be like the “special features” section of a DVD for regular people. Tell them the stories about great advertising. Tell them the stories of campaigns that didn’t work. Connect the dots for them along a history timeline.  We want people to judge advertising by the best that’s out there, not by the slowest ship in the convoy.

Talk about A) the novel idea of an advertiser writing a book on advertising and then B) the role social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, in helping you promote this book.

I think the real surprise was that the CBC took a radio show on advertising. We didn’t know if they would even consider it, but when we pitched the show as a media literacy show, brought to you by two functioning admen in the trenches, they loved it. So the notion of a book on advertising being written by admen isn’t as surprising, but I think readers will be pleasantly surprised how interesting the business is from the inside.

Our AOP Facebook page is a very popular site. It helps us talk to our fans, it gives us an opportunity to post interesting ads that don’t fit in our show themes. It lets us ask our fans for help sometimes. I said in a speech recently that AOP is advertising’s greatest focus group. It’s the unsolicited feedback that makes AOP so fascinating for Mike and I. Facebook and Twitter were also instrumental in launching the book. We were able to tell fans where we’d be, where we’d be signing books, or speaking, in what city, what location, at the precise time. Both sites let us post when the press interviews would be aired or printed. I don’t think we could have made the Best Seller Lists without social media.

Here’s a great video shot at an event where O’Reilly and a couple other authors spoke. The event was held about a week after The Age of Persuasion How Marketing Ate Our Culture was released.

Stay tuned for the second part of the interview where I ask O’Reilly about specific topics discussed in The Age of Persuasion How Marketing Ate Our Culture. These concepts include the Unwritten Contract, the meaning behind the phrase “under promise, over deliver”, and O’Reilly provides his suggestions for people who want to make a career in advertising.

October 21, 2009

Putting Product Placement in the Picture


[While watching a hockey game on TSN I saw this new Windows 7 commercial:

I have to say this seems like a relatively new concept, product placement within a commercial. Going by how obvious the placement of the Sony VAIO laptop is within several shots, you know that this wasn’t coincidental. Some sort of arrangement was definitely struck between the two companies.]

Ok so this week’s topic won’t be nearly as stimulating as my previous entry on sex in advertising; but it will be just as informative, insightful and thought provoking!

In Essentials of Contemporary Advertising, Arens et al. define product placement as paying a fee to have a product prominently displayed in a movie or TV show. I do have issue with the word prominently. If you’re paying to have your product shown you want it to be seen, but not thrown in people’s faces. When product placement is used it’s usually done so in a much more subtle than what Arens and company would lead you to believe. Not all examples of product placement are as blatant as Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle:

As an advertiser and someone with great attention to detail I love watching a TV show or movie and trying to pick up that bag of Doritos or that bottle of Coke that has been intentionally put in the shot as a subtle plug for said product. After enough exposures you should be able to pick-up on the product, i.e. the glasses of Coke on the desk for the American Idol judges.

One of the earliest examples of product placement comes to us from Steven Spielberg’s The Extra Terrestrial.  The scene was written into the movie where Elliott would lure E.T. with some candy. Initially Mars was offered the placement but they passed and producers then went to Hershey to see if they’d be interested. In exchange for Reese’s Pieces candy being used in the movie Hershey didn’t pay any money but rather had to promote the movie. This reportedly cost them $1 million. Their return on investment was significant as sales soon surged 65%.

(I bet Mars Inc.’s then Chief Marketing Officer is still kicking himself for passing on the opportunity for M&Ms to appear in a movie that has grossed close to $800 million! Though you can’t blame them for not shelling out $1 million for a then unproven advertising technique.)

Of course product placement isn’t limited to just television and movies, you can also see it in video games. In an effort to reach a specific audience, Barack Obama teamed up with Electronic Arts to place Obama ads in nine E.A. games.

(In case you’re wondering this was my not-so-subtle attempt at product placement! Other than working on my subtlety I also have to work on the getting paid from the company that owns the product part!)

All jokes aside The Age of Persuasion How Marketing Ate Our Culture written by Canadian advertising greats Terry O’Reilly and Mike Tennant, the same duo responsible for The Age of Persuasion radio show aired on CBC Radio, is being released next Tuesday on October 27th. If you have any interest in the advertising industry, which considering how you’re reading my blog I seriously hope you do, you’ll definitely want to read this book!

A few years ago I wrote an essay on product placement. In doing research for this week’s entry I revisited that essay to see if my opinions have changed now that I have a better understanding of the industry. I was taken aback as I read this essay in which I made a valiant effort at arguing “advertising in society is effective because of the strengths of product placement in the different mediums in which it appears.”

I clearly gave product placement more credence than what it deserves, but back then I was young, naive and a little too wet behind the ears! Today I’m reluctant to give product placement that much credit despite the fact that product placement spending in 2004 was close to $3.5 billion.

I think product placement is an important component to the advertising industry, but it does not make the industry. It forces creatives to get creative and come up with new and innovative ways to incorporate their clients’ products into a TV show or movie. With products like TiVo and PVRs product placement/integration is necessary for reaching the audience. As it becomes more prevalent, the audience will become immune to it and will start ignoring it just like they do with conventional 30-second commercials. And in turn product placement will become less effective.

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