Proctor & Gamble Thanks Moms with Olympics Spot

Once again Proctor & Gamble thanks moms by with a heartwarming 2014 Winter Olympics spot.

Their newest spot, “Pick Them Back Up” glows with winter warmth while recounting the youthful lessons of four athletes as they develop. More importantly, it displays the mothers who supported them throughout the way.

Conceived by the minds at Wieden+Kennedy, the sport includes little details often glossed over in advertisements. Think heavy diapers, crying toddlers, and even broken limbs. Proctor & Gamble are very clear: They get it. In addition, by getting it, they get what moms need.

the images’ message further, Proctor & Gamble are courtside to mothers. Kitchen sink realism stops there though. The narrative is about Olympians, after all, and the excellent soundtrack plays up the fantastical ala Chariots of Fire.

The overwhelming conclusion of these two intersecting themes  is interesting: Motherhood is an Olympian endeavor. In fact, Proctor & Gamble implies they are privy to Mom’s upsets just as Mom is privy to her child’s or children’s. In addition, just like Mom, they provide the solutions.  Right down to the commercial’s title, everything resonates more through such equivalency.

Does the message lambast us with said observation? Nope, and the video triumphs because said conclusions do not just hit us in the heart, but the head. Proctor & Gamble are not just displaying customer respect: They are respecting customer intelligence.

Do not just take my word though. Try the 7.5 million + YouTubers who have checked it out, no doubt sating their anticipation for the Winter Olympics’ upcoming drama and of course, commercial breaks.


Cheetos Rolls Out App with TP

Talk about playing to your audience, Cheetos seems to be lasering in on the junior high boys who love the cheese-flavored snack with its latest app.  Just in time for Halloween, Project TP allows you to virtually toilet paper your domicile or most every other public venue available using Google Earth and Google Streetview (Cheetos wisely chooses not to include 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC, perhaps out of fear of getting a call from the Department of Homeland Security).


In their promo video, a wisecracking English-accent-like cheetah leads a toilet paper strafing run to the tune of “The Ride of the Valkyries.”  While the video copiously says one should not try this at home, you know damn well that millions of pimply-faced kids on October 31st will be donning shades and talking low like the spokesanimal as they lob Charmin at the houses of school officials.  (One wonders if the Cheetos campaign can be held liable for the distress of having to clean up TP hung up in a tree after a rainstorm.)

Cheetos is declaring victory with its toilet paper campaign, claiming that 300,000 feet of virtual paper have been let loose in cyberspace.  I guess it’s good to have ad campaigns that try and spice up Halloween.  It is a time for tricks, as well as treats, after all, and we’ve been getting entirely too mild about a holiday dedicated to chasing away our demons in a night of debauchery.

posted by Howard Davidson




McDonald’s Healthier Happy Meal Side Options

McDonald’s has just announced plans to offer healthier side options on its value meals, and healthier beverage choices for its classic kids staple, the Happy Meal.

For the first time ever, the global fast food chain will be eliminating sodas from its Happy Meal menu, and instead will  promote healthier alternatives like low fat milk, juice, or water. Fruit slices and salads will also now be featured as options alongside fries on the value menu.

While often criticized for peddling fatty foods to small children, McDonald’s has shown a steady, if gradual, willingness to introduce healthier items onto its menu. CEO Don Thompson called this latest change “an important step in our journey” to promote healthier options on their menu. In a move to quell the inevitable skepticism of consumer-health advocates, McDonald’s states that it will use its marketing muscle to “generate excitement” for the healthier menu options. Furthermore, they’re pledging that “100% of all advertising directed at children” will focus on promoting a fun, pro-health message.


McDonald’s announced the changes alongside the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a project founded by the Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association to combat childhood obesity. Coca-Cola – which has been McDonald’s top soda supplier since 1955 – doesn’t seem to be fighting this potential cut to their bottom line. They recently announced their own global initiatives towards combating obesity, which include a refusal to market their sodas to children under 12.

McDonald’s has been making modest forays into healthier menu options in the past few years, but this is by far their most concerted effort yet. The food chain predicts that 30-50% of its major markets will implement the menu changes in three years, with 100% of the markets adopting them by 2020.






Gap Goes ‘Back to Blue’ on TV

After a four-year absence, Gap is finally making a return to television – and it’s enlisted some superstar offspring for its new spots. Gap’s new “Back to Blue” campaign features appearances by Dhani Harrison (son of George) and Alexa Ray Joel (daughter of Billy), both performing hits made famous by their fathers.

Though they’re returning to a more classic medium, Gap is totally hitting up social media for #BacktoBlue. The most recent ads were only released after Gap called for and received 1,000 “call-to-action” retweets on Twitter. As more ads are released, they’ll be accompanied by interviews, short films, and quotes about the artists that will be released on various digital platforms.

When it comes to social media dominance, Gap isn’t taking any chances. Last month, they took over all of Tumblr’s mobile ads for a day to promote their new campaign. By using the children of two iconic musicians from the ‘60s and ‘70s, Gap is hoping to appeal not just to trendy teenagers, but also to the nostalgia-prone baby boomers that often control the dough.

Gap used to be all about its denim, but with department stores and discount-chic retailers like Forever 21 and H&M selling affordable jeans, they’ve had to plot a broader strategy in order to remain relevant. So far, things are going good: Gap is currently the highest performing apparel retailer in the S&P 500, and has seen six straight quarters of rising sales.




Affinnova Opens Vodka Brand War

A new study from the marketing and branding folks at Affinnova proclaims that a vodka brand’s success is hugely tied to its bottle design.  Newer and edgier vodka brands, like Belvedere and Pinnacle, are edging out the old guards, like Absolut, for shelf space because of new bottle designs with bolder color choices.  And advertising doesn’t help, the study concludes, because it’s too difficult to reach all the demographics in a fractured media landscape.


The study, which analyzed 500 vodka brands and talked to many vodka-loving customers, found that taste satisfaction could be influenced by bottle design.  Worse yet for traditional marketers, poor bottle design can even bring down a positive perception of a brand created by hard-won advertising dollars.  Survey respondents generally found Absolut to be a pretty sexy brand until they look at the bottle.  This all seems reminiscent to mounting reports that even high-paid wine taste-testers can’t consistently tell the difference between good wine and bad wine in blind taste tests.

Cut the advertising budget and put swill in the fancy bottles?  It could happen.  It’s just another reminder that we might be creatures of all style and little substance.

Here’s a video reminder why you shouldn’t fight after drinking too much.  I will bet you $500 that vodka was involved in this Russian confrontation.  I wonder if it came in a fancy bottle.


Volkswagen is Going Back to 1985, sans Michael J. Fox

German automaker Volkswagen’s engineers decided to go back to das drawing board and bring new – corporate – life to the 1985 video that made A-ha’s “Take On Me” famous.  So I don’t know about Michael J. Fox, but Doc is definitely behind this campaign.

A-ha’s video took six of MTV’s VMA awards that year primarily because of the amazing way it merged animated pencil drawing and real-actor filming into one surreal reality. The story centered on a bored woman in some boring diner being invited into a comic book by a Patrick Swayze lookalike (those were the 80s). Long story short, there is romance, a mirror, and bad guys chasing the couple through the pencil-drawn world.

Whereas in the original video the protagonist motorcycle racer gets killed by wrench wielding competitors (Mercedes, BMW?), the hero of VW’s version drives a… drum roll… Volkswagen and leaves the bikers in the dust (and leaves us wondering if those were BMW motorcycles). For the perfection-obsessed VW (of the iconic Lemon ad), running away from wrenches is an unusual twist (perhaps VW engineers use gentler tools or sing their cars’ bolts into loosening up).

The “Drive on Me” ad gets even better- the entire race is a dream of some happy VW owner bored in an office meeting (a dream within a dream within… Inception!). Why is he happy – well, because of Volkswagen’s free oil changes. Das what? Has the power of German engineering and the pursuit of perfection given way to the great marketing tool of servicing freebies? What’s next, Maserati advertising free windshield scrubbing?

There’s a lot of ad nonsense garnering attention these days. If Kia’s hamsters are taking over the red carpet, sure the makers of the Volkswaven GTI – ranked #1 Upscale Small Car by USNews – can compete on oil changes.

In the meantime, let’s reimagine other classic music videos as modern ads. How about Thriller, where Michael Jackson is replaced by Geico’s gecko (and squirrels, and cavemen, and – scariest of all – piles of cash)?   But don’t get me started about Geico’s gecko or green animals in general.


Subway Makes a Stop at New York Fashion Week

Subway has launched a new marketing campaign right in the heart of a place where sandwiches seldom go: New York Fashion Week. The Project Subway campaign, aimed to publicize its “$5 ANY regular footlong” promotion throughout the month of “SUBtember,” took place on September 11th at Chelsea Piers’ Pier 59 Studios.

Fashion Project SUBWAY

For those wondering how Subway managed to link its products to the famous fashion frenzy in Manhattan, it’s quite simple: they featured a number of designs made entirely from items found at Subway restaurants, such as sandwich wrappers and napkins. Subway reports that its designers used 1,500 sandwich wrappers, 1,100 plastic sandwich bags, 500 gift cards, 200 straws, 100 salad bowls, 75 pizza boxes, and 400 cookie bags for the designs. Subway also went out of its way to stress that all of the materials are eco-friendly, in order to highlight the sandwich chain’s sustainability efforts. That should draw a nod of approval from NY Mayor Mike Bloomberg (so long as they didn’t utilize any 32 ounce soda cups, of course).

The panel judging the designs will feature gold medalist Nastia Liukin, “Project Runway” veteran Althea Harper, “City Girl Diaries” star Raina Seitel, 2013’s Mrs. Connecticut, and – unsurprisingly – the legendary Jared “Subway Guy” Fogle.

Lest anyone see this attempt as coming out of left field, Subway executives have stressed that their sandwiches – much like high fashion – are all about individual customization and creativity. Just don’t expect Yves Saint-Laurent to be rolling out blouses made of onions and sandwich wrappers on the catwalk anytime soon.


Gatorade Campaign Stakes Out “Points of Sweat”

Lately, it seems that Gatorade has been trying to match the relentless intensity of the athletes it sponsors. The company has deployed its militaristically-named G-Force teams to 13 markets throughout the American Midwest and South in order to expose a new line of products to athletes in high schools, colleges, gyms, and any other facility where pumping iron is a way of life. Their ultimate goal? To seize a larger chunk of the notoriously finicky – yet highly profitable – athletic supplement market.  The new Gatorade campaigns stake Out “Points of Sweat” in U.S. schools.


G-Force has been distributing its specialized lineup of drinks, chews, shakes, and nutritional supplements into a number of locations, with a particular focus on schools with highly competitive athletic programs. They’ve even gone so far as to install specialized, temperature-regulated dispensing machines that keep their drinks ice cold and their chews at room temperature.

The aggression of the push might surprise some – after all, Gatorade commanded a whopping 70% share of the total sports-drink market last year – but in a highly saturated market, Gatorade feels it has no choice but to dominate even more turf. They are also banking on the notion that winning brand allegiance with athletes while they’re young will give Gatorade more legitimacy among hardcore fitness heads in the years to come.

Paradoxically, some of the resistance they face is a byproduct of their own success: Gatorade has such universal brand recognition among the general population that many hardcore athletes don’t take it seriously as a producer of top-notch fitness supplements. To that end, Gatorade is sending field teams of sports nutritionists to the selected locations to preach the Gospel of “Gatorology,” as they call it. It’s an expensive and time-consuming push, but executives say that parent company PepsiCo is committed to the program for the long haul.


Japanese KFC Offers Deep-Fried Soup

First it was Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Quantitative Easing on Steroids. Now, Japan seems to be aping another cornerstone of modern American excess: deep-fried everything. That’s right: KFC Japan has just announced that it will start serving deep-fried corn potage fritters (for the layman, fried corn soup balls). Starting September 5th, Japanese KFC will be offering deep-fried soup!

While this news may come as a surprise to many Americans, it turns out that not only is deep-fried potage scientifically possible, but it’s quite the rage in Japan these days. Corn Potage fever has taken over the famously slim island nation, with upscale restaurants and 7-11s alike selling corn potage-infused potato chips, appetizers, and puffs. It seems that deep-frying the thick, goopy soup was the last frontier, and the legendary greasemongers at KFC were more than happy to push that envelope right into the bubbling fryer.

Japanese KFC Outdoes America With Deep-Fried Soup Howard Davidson Arlington MA

It’s not everyday that we see another country outdo us in terms of fat-infused delicacies, and it may just bring forth a spate of insecurities in our (admittedly clogged) American hearts. For starters, is Japan finally having their McRib moment? Is this an omen that American county fairs are losing their edge? And the most troubling thought of all: now that we’ve conquered soup, twinkies, beer, and ice cream, what’s left for us to deep-fry?




Famed Kia Hamsters Live For The Applause

Ever since Kia’s fashion-forward hamsters made their debut in 2009, they’ve managed to capture that elusive “so-unnecessarily-bizarre-that-you-can’t-look-away” appeal that is usually reserved for breakout reality TV stars of the Honey Boo Boo variety. Thus, it’s no surprise that Kia recently decided to double down on their favorite spokesrodents for a new primetime ad campaign.  The famed Kia hamsters live for applause.

The new spot by David & Goliath features the infamous rodents embarking on an intense exercise regimen, resulting in the red carpet debut of three buffed and toned new hamsters, all set to Lady Gaga’s new single “Applause.” I suppose that this is meant to serve as a metaphor for the slimmed
down, redesigned Kia Soul, but there’s little use groping for logic in a narrative about upwardly mobile, man-sized hamsters.
This commercial premiered early during the broadcast of MTV’s Video Music Awards (which coincidentally opened with Gaga’s live debut of “Applause”), suggesting that Kia is banking on the meme-esque appeal of the hamsters to younger demographics. Given that the video has already gone quasi-viral across the web, it’s safe to say that abstraction and absurdity, once the province of modern art snobs and Lady Gaga’s costume designers, have reached a level of mass appeal. If you think I’m crazy, I’ve got an Old Spice-wearing centaur who’d like a word with you.