Thursday, February 2, 2017

In the Market to Buy Something Daunting, Big, and/or Awkward? These Gals Got You Covered.

The female spokesperson is back!

Ok, maybe she never left. At least we can say in confidence that a new archetype is upon us!

No longer just resigned to demoing household products in the strictest, most well-worn gender roles, but provided R-A-N-G-E! Room to form a persona all their own (NOT product-related); to go off on comedic tangents, and blend the hardline task of selling a product with an almost sitcom-like quality of arbitrary storytelling.

What started as a gamble turned trend, then full-blown craze!

Note: this post is long overdue.
Our subjects have been hardworking, brand ambassadors for YEARS now. Still, a trend in advertising that shows no sign of slowing down and deserves acknowledgement.  

First came Flo

Did you know Flo has been working in Progressive’s “Superstore” since 2008? Nearly a decade now – hellbent on making the dry, mundane task of insurance shopping not only tangible but light hearted and dare I say, fun?

Played by Stephanie Courtney, the commercial break’s now iconic sweetheart has performed in more than 100 spots. And Flo’s presence extends FAR beyond the small screen. Courtney’s character can be seen on web banners, traditional print, turnpike toll booth wrappers, …so iconic, she just needs a bump of hair on billboards for pull through!

Toyota’s Jan

At the dealer reception desk for almost three years now, Jan (played by Laurel Coppock) serves to alleviate some of the stress and intimidation typically associated with buying a car. Who wouldn’t be at ease if Coppock’s character were the first person that greeted them in the showroom?

AT&T’s Lily

After cars comes phones. Growing equally as high in sales pressure (and creeping closer in price, amirite!?) is finding yourself an unwilling participant in the ongoing mobile phone wars. Never fear, Lily is here! Played by Milana Vayntrub, AT&T’s wholesome soldier of the store salesfloor. So, approachable and sweet, you’ll wanna come back for your iPhone 8, 9, and 10!  

British Invasion!

But wait, there’s a whole subset of comediennes we’d be remiss to exclude in this post!
A cadre of cross-the-pond confidants, commissioned to make the buying of all those blush-worthy, unmentionables easier. Why seek help from the UK? Something about that English accent – thought “uppity” by Americans since the days of Hamilton, when placed in dichotomy with awkward subject matter, grabs attention. Consider:

Orbit Gum

Ok, so there’s nothing awkward about gum. But when Orbit called upon the talents of Vanessa Branch to help launch lemon-lime and crystal mint back in ’06, they weren’t just talking gum but taking on bad breath – and that *is* uncouth! ‘Dirty mouths’ everywhere rejoiced and the character has stuck (pun intended) for over a decade, Orbit swapping Branch out for Farris Patton in 2010.

The PooPourri Girl

A product demo of sorts, although REEKING (again, pun intended) of hyperbole for extra impact.
Played by Bethany Woodruff, a gal after this blogger’s own heart, with her constant alliteration and sing-song rhyme schemes. We’d love to see more! Although, how much more explaining is there left to do? Don’t hold your breath (sorry, couldn’t help myself) for a product line extension.

Cottonelle’s ‘Go Commando’ Girl

She’s out to two-ply pamphlet your neighborhood with all the bum-based benefits you stand to bear with Cottonelle. Played by Cherry Healey, Kleenex’s TP is elevated out of the commodity lines with cheeky before-and-after product testimonials.
Does it work?

Let me start by saying as I googled each of our subjects, in EVERY case, [brand] + the word ‘woman’ or ‘girl’ was within the TOP THREE suggestions, often beating out actual product.

If there’s true chemistry, brand + ambassador, it’s a match made in (advertising ROI) heaven.

It works at face value, because we’re all looking for things to soften our anxiety around those daunting, big, and/or awkward purchases.

Equally important: link fantasy with reality.

These spots can’t just be red herrings, dreamt up by siloed marketing departments, but the result of big picture business plans. The execution of strategy also can’t conclude at the end of the 30 second spot; you must tether down to the real world. Now I know commercials are supposed to be idyllic exaggerations on real life. But if Flo won’t be the one answering our call – someone like Flo should be. The in-person experience should capture the spirit and achieve the same vain as the commercial spots – Toyota showrooms should feel approachable and bright. AT&T stores should feel friendly and no-pressure. Otherwise, the whole thing breaks down at the finish line; all your hard work goes to waste.

Make sure art imitates life, or at least life imitates art.

The order doesn’t matter so long as the two are fused.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

There is no ‘I’ in ‘News’ …or is there?

There shouldn’t be. But the term ‘news’ and ‘news organization’ have been bent and/or stretched (however you prefer to make tangible the concept) a great deal recently.

We’re living in bubbles of same-mindedness. We seek shelter and prop up our own opinions among the like-company we keep, thereby shielding ourselves from the reality of mounting differences of opinion.

And now, there are a lot of ‘I’s’ in the ‘news’. …And ‘we’ and ‘us’ and ‘our’. 
‘News’ wants to fit in, so, it’s adopted our lingo and stakes out a view on EVERYTHING.

Like much of what we love/hate lately, we have social media to thank.

More specifically, the norms of communication and expression that have evolved online over time.

We used to Surf the Web. Now, we scroll our Feed.

‘The’ to ‘our’. An important distinction. We used to be a site 'visitor'. Now it’s OUR wall, MY post. Our ‘likes’ add to an algorithm to show us more of the same as we ‘unfollow’ that which we don’t agree.

But what’s Social Media got to do with News Media?

We stopped coming to them, so they came to us.

The number of followers and engagement on social media opened new avenues for monetization and suddenly, every story was a chance to attract eyeballs and add dollars. Organizations had to get crafty; their headlines and taglines had to fit the pithy, conversation-style of the platform.

Click Bait, disguised as Opinion, parading as News.

That’s what we’re left with. Cases in point:

Stop it.

Inanimate publications taking (and LEADING with) specific opinions... No story, no headline, just conversational-style, common language click bait. I know these are just fluff pieces, but that’s what I have a beef with.

They think if they use enough of the latest buzzwords and catchphrases, they can ‘blend in’ and have their voice heard among the scroll of conversation! 
Posts can be enticing without reeking of such desperation. Consider:

“GALLERY: The Obama Family: their Years in the White House”
Possible teasers: How many do you remember? -OR- Which are your favorites?

“INAUGURAL PLAYLIST: A Compilation of Music from the Artists Confirmed to Perform”

Possible teasers: How many names do you know? -OR- A veritable who’s-who of who?!s

Still punchy click bait, but at *least* they don’t appear to take a stance.

research and adjust, posting on the TOPICS your audience cares most about. (You are a business, after all).

structure posts in quick, easily-in/easy-out, digestible sound bites suited for the hyper-short attention spans of the internet era.

DON’T Do the Readers’ Job

Leave the OPINIONS to US. It will give us something new to add on the re-share. (That’s more clicks, more eyeballs on your story, you know). Help us help YOU.