Thursday, October 17, 2013

Less Delighting, More Prodding

The best-loved advertisements of my lifetime, the "I can't believe I ate the whole thing" commercials for...wait, was it Pepto Bismol? Rolaids? Ah, here, I found it: Alka Seltzer!

I just proved the point I was about to make: the commercials flopped. I understand they did nothing to increase sales.

Great ads, though! Before that, commercials were inane and mind-numbing. After that, they became relentlessly ABC - i.e. they'd always be closing:

You know those subscription card inserts in magazines that fall out and annoy the bejesus out of you? Publishers hate to annoy the bejesus out of you, but the problem is that those cards work really really well. Better than just about anything.

Advertising and marketing are rewarded not for pleasing us, but for successfully manipulating us. In an ideal world, the two would be one and the same. But they, alas, are not.


Seth Godin said...

Speaking of Alka Seltzer, the single most effective pharma ad of all time was, "plop plop fizz fizz" by Mary Lawrence.


Because before the ad, people only took ONE. She doubled their sales by teaching people how to use it.

James Leff said...

Would "plop plop plop fizz fizz fizz" be over the tradeoff line?

Dave said...

I agree with most of what you said, but have to disagree about the inanity of pre-early 70s commercials. Take a look at this Stan Freberg ad from 10 years before the Alka-Seltzer commercial. Except for the pacing, it could be on the air now: It announces what the marketing strategy of the ad is, while making fun of this strategy, making fun of commercials in general, and of what we would now call reality television:

Freberg specialized in making spectacular ads for awful food products: Great American Soups, Jeno's Pizza Rolls, Chun King, etc.

James Leff said...

Well, of course that's the problem with generalizations. There are always exceptions. And I agree - Freberg was the bomb.

If I was writing for academia, I'd meticulously hedge every generalization. But that makes for cumbersome reading!

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