My mother is alternately the prime target of advertisers and their worst nightmare. She loves ads. Having had a DVR for multiple years and using Hulu Plus for the majority of my TV watching, I’ve managed to go a good while without watching TV ads, which somehow she has yet to figure out, even though I remind her of this every time she asks, “Did you see that commercial?”
Unfortunately for the advertisers that spend their millions to spread a message of peace, love and chocolate based insanity . . .
. . . my mom, who watches these ads closer than she watches the shows that bracket them, usually can never remember what the ad was for. Ads to her are just small bursts of entertainment, what I shall now and forever dub, “Microtainment.” (Copyright pending.)
Advertisers must just be in love with the Interwebs. Back in the day, if we saw an ad that we liked, there was always the chance that we would never again see it, or might not even realize what it was for. I can remember having discussions with my brother about Wendy;s “Ranch Tooth” ad because there was something fascinating about it, and people insisted on not believing us when we mentioned it.
(Interesting fact: Neither of us ever tried the sandwich.)
Now a days, when we like an ad, or just get suckered into watching one, we can pass it on, which, assuming we remember what the ad is about, must be a gold mine for advertisers. My first ever blog post, back in the halcyon days of MySpace (Remember MySpace?), was entirely about advertising, because there was one ad that when ever it came on, I would rewind the DVR and watch.
(The World is just Awesome!)
So advertisement as viral media is a given. They’re short (Microtainment!!), tell a quick story, and usually are a topic that the person passing along finds interesting. Of course, there are some draw backs. There is no question that people like me find The Mark of the Spider-Man interesting enough to find out more about it, I once Googled (should that be capitalized?) the phrase “Who Is John Galt?” because I saw it on a shirt. (It made me sad.) The ones who aren’t interested enough to look it up, but will still go see the movie, aren’t really missing out on much, but that advertising is still missing them; to them it is nothing but graffiti. The Darth Vadar Volkswagen commercial suffers from a different fault, the revelation of the person beneath the mask. Before that the ad had a stronger impact with me, because it was gender neutral, which meant it could be me making my daughter’s dreams come true through a kind of magic. They took that away when they took off the mask. Granted that might just be me.
The Old Spice Guy is a different sort of troubling. I find his ads interesting and am fascinated by how they are made. I love the parodies of it. (Yes I am going to put the Grover one in here, how did you know?)
The problem is that I don’t like Old Spice because in my high school days, Old Spice was mocked as harshly as Brut. It wasn’t just for the old people, which it was, it was a poor person’s cologne. To me, the scent reminded me of my grandfather, who was the greatest man I ever knew, so it made me sad that I couldn’t use it, because I already had issues with how poor we were, and being young, things like that mattered to me. Built in prejudices are hard for a company to overcome. Re-branding is tricky, and usually they screw it up.
Still, the biggest problem I see is still the most basic one. I never ate at Wendy’s, I don’t use Old Spice, and I didn’t buy a Volkswagen. Simply put, the ads did not work on me. The popularity of an ad has never really shown an increase in sales: sometimes the exact opposite. There is also the problem that people occasionally just don’t remember what product the ad was for, and if the don’t remember, they certainly can’t buy it. (After all, do you remember which insurance company “Mayhem” is for?). Much like viral media, porn, and facts, advertising is a tricky thing. We can’t always define it or figure out why orhow it wors, but we sure know it when we see it.
(Because it always comes back to Nazis.)