i'm with the brand

Perfume-turned-cervical cancer commercial gives women the bait and switch
March 7, 2010, 8:08 pm
Filed under: Advertising & Branding | Tags: , , ,

cervical cancer

“Maybe it’s unfair to get your attention this way, but nothing’s fair about cervical cancer,” intones a voiceover towards the end of a new TV spot by pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline. The spot begins as a run-of-the-mill designer perfume ad–sumptuous ambience, tinkling music, beautiful woman, vapid-but-pretty discovery narrative–but quickly turns jarring, as the woman finds not an exquisite fragrance but instead deadly cervical cancer in a gleaming and innoccuous bottle. Startled, she turns away, and the voiceover reveals the spot’s PSA (-esque; obviously we understand the underlying objective is to sell more vaccines) purpose, adding the damning statistic that in the US, a woman is diagnosed with cervical cancer every 47 minutes, and urging viewers to visit helppreventcervicalcancer.com for information on vaccinations, medical tests, and lifestyle changes that can help prevent and detect this insidious disease.

The cleverest and subtlest in a series of ads run in GlaxoSmithKline’s Help Prevent Cervical Cancer campaign, this spot gets women’s attention by backing into the real issue when the viewer’s guard is down. Without being melodramatic, graphic, or preachy, the approach not only gets more attention in the first place by keeping its cause marketing identity secret until the critical moment, but also ultimately delivers a more effective message by provoking a very real and unsettling feeling of unease in those whose curiosity was piqued by the prospect of the latest luxury bauble, sophisticated spritz, or material acquisition–items whose pursuit seems particularly silly when compared to the paramount importance of securing our health and wellbeing.


Taco Bell Drive-Thru Diet presents: Lessons in Credibility
January 4, 2010, 1:22 pm
Filed under: Advertising & Branding | Tags: , ,

Drive-Thru Diet

Taco Bell’s latest effort, a Subway-aping bid for health-food status entitled the “Drive-Thru Diet,” is an exercise in total nonsense and insults the intelligence of the even the most modestly commonsensical. Siezing upon the stray story of one Jared-eat-alike Christine, who claims she lost 54 pounds eating Taco Bell (read: lost 54 pounds eating 1250 calories a day and exercising regularly for 2 years), Taco Bell seems eager to insidiously dupe the logically-lacking and detail-oblivious into believing nonstop Taco Bell-chomping specifically and not a calorically-diminished diet (regardless of content) more generally contributed to Christine’s astounding progress. 

While technically true and laden with small-print disclaimers, Taco Bell’s claims smack of intellectual dishonesty and strain credulity as mightily as their lard-laced concoctions a moderately-cinched belt. Taco Bell is not a health food, and per their own admission on the campaign site, neither is it a low-calorie food. Taco Bell is cheap, it’s fast, it’s a guilty pleasure. It’s a food of convenience, of desperation—not of strategy—and I think that’s why this is such a ludicrous campaign and absurd strategic move on the company’s part. I’m not sure if they misunderstand their brand proposition, or if they’re stretching too much in an attempt to be something new, but either way, they’re at best underestimating and at worst attempting to trick their audience, and that is quite a dangerous branding rule to break. 

For Subway it sort of made more sense to claim health benefits, and it seemed plausible that their subs would make a more sensible and sustainable fats food choice (the typo stays) for someone with a currently-abysmal diet—the bread is fresh-ish, the vegetables look real, the calorie count can’t be that bad, especially when compared to your average fried McDonald’s fare. But Taco Bell? Come on. I love it, I’m not going to lie. But at least I have some awareness that I am about to eat a burrito-shaped object some sad stooge in back whittled from a solid block of saturated fat. 

I say, know what you are and play that game well (a la 4th meal). It’s not that a brand can never change, or that it should let others determine its identity for it, but it’s pretty obvious why something this far-fetched rings false. It seems deceptive even though it’s technically not; brands should not build campaigns on technicalities.

The blow to credibility the campaign deals makes Taco Bell look foolish and desperate, and it can take a while to undo the damage of undermined trust. (“Who are they kidding?” is never a response to look forward to in audiences.) So next time, friends, think it through—who are you, who do you want to be, and how will you demonstrate this authentically, respectfully, and intelligently?

UPDATE: Incidentally, it seems AdFreak did a post on this very campaign today, aptly titled “Are they kidding me with the Taco Bell diet?” (proves my point, right?) in which they make the keen observation that Taco Bell’s concurrently-running (and more brand-aware, as I had mentioned earlier) 4th Meal campaign is totally at odds with the Drive-Thru Diet campaign, making the latter even more dubious. Good point, AdFreak. So there, Taco Bell.