Zara in Semi-Backtrack Mode After Holocaust Imagery

Zara, a fashion company, is in semi-backtrack mode after being the next in line to supposedly unknowingly incorporate holocaust imagery into their clothes. Needless to say, Zara is completely on my nerves.

I can’t even imagine in what universe any company would think this is appropriate and I don’t buy Zara’s excuse for a second, or any other designer for that matter. I’m disgusted and annoyed. I don’t even like the company name.

Okay so, Zara released a black and white striped shirt with a large gold star on the chest and has tried to pass it off as a “Sheriff” shirt. Listen, I can’t read minds but it’s pretty difficult to give the benefit of the doubt to a company who released a handbag covered in some swastikas a few years ago. Yes we all know that the symbol is also used to represent peace in some parts of the world but let’s just keep the Nazi symbols to a minimum. Anyway, point being is that these folks at Zara have a track record of making decisions based on the axiom that no press is bad press. Well guess what? This is bad press. Again. Even if this “Sheriff” shirt excuse is true, ignorance is not innocence.

And in lieu of a proper apology that admits their gross ignorance, Zara let loose a firestorm of cut and paste tweets after pulling the shirts. They’ve also decided to now pander to the Jewish community with tank tops that read “If not now, when?” Give me a break. Zara should know better and this kind of thing should never happen, especially twice. Period.

Say goodnight, Zara.

Howard Davidson Arlington Massachusetts


The Gap Just Wants You to ‘Dress Normal’

The Gap is encouraging consumers to simply ‘Dress Normal.’ Their new ads are anything but.

‘Dress Normal.’ That’s the new slogan for The Gap, in what seems like a terribly misguided attempt to fend off the brand’s public perception of blandness. Wieden & Kennedy is responsible for the new campaign, and creative director Stuart Jennings addresses this perception by saying that ‘Dress Normal’ deals with “the issue of Gap feeling a little bland.”

Here we have the creative director of the agency that created the spots acknowledging that the Gap brand is perceived to be boring. I’m not sure ‘Dress Normal’ is the best catchphrase to fend off this perception. In fact, it seems to confirm everything I already feel about Gap: Their clothes are bland, and this slogan feels like they’re assuring me that nothing has changed.

But let’s get to the spots behind the slogan. Directed by David Fincher, one would expect the ads to be far better than they are. Each of the four ads is exceedingly bizarre, in what is assuredly some attempt at irony. ‘Dress Normal,’ says The Gap, while inviting you to view their snobby faux-artsy TV spots. Each ad has its issues, including one in which almost nothing happens. I swear, the script could have just read, “Man runs up stairs. Woman watches.”

Another makes no sense whatsoever. A soaking-wet woman is riding in a car with three completely dry people. She removes her jeans and throws them in the front seat as the words “the uniform of rebellion and conformity” grace the screen. This is one of those attempts at being trendy that ends up being needlessly obtuse. The ad makes no sense, and the slogan makes even less sense than the ad.

Here’s another reason that this campaign is on my nerves: I have never seen more yawn-inducing clothes in my life. It’s a wonder they bothered to shoot the ads in black and white, seeing as I’m not sure other colors are at play here in the first place. The people in these ads pretty much all wear white shirts and black pants. It’s like they’re living in The Matrix, but couldn’t afford a Keanu Reeves cameo.

One of the additional taglines for the campaign is “Black is a color.” How any of this fights the perception of The Gap being bland is beyond me.

Howard Davidson Arlington MA


Design an Acura on Twitter

Okay, it’s come to this. You can now design an Acura right on Twitter.

Acura now lets you design your own 2015 TLX right within Twitter. With options ranging from the engine to the exterior color, Acura puts the power of design at your fingertips.

Unfortunately, the engine and the exterior color are two of just three choices you get to make when designing your TLX. (Don’t worry, drivetrain enthusiasts, your voices will also be heard!) “That’s three more choices than Ford lets me make on Twitter,” you may be thinking to yourself. I really hope you’re not, but you might be. Let’s address it just for fun.

Regarding the ‘choices’ you get to make for your personal TLX, the first is between a 206 HP four-cylinder engine and a 290 HP V-6 engine. As if anyone is going to sit there and think, “You know, four cylinders is plenty of power for me. Save those other two for the next guy.”

Then, you get to pick your drivetrain. First up is Precision All-Wheel Steer, which I guess is Acura’s code phrase for what the rest of us call front-wheel drive. For those of you planning to drive this bad boy on ice, you might want the Super Handling All-Wheel Drive. Take that, Subaru! Your vehicles might have 4WD options too, but you can’t touch the majesty of Super Handling All-Wheel Drive!

The best part – and in this example, I mean the most unintentionally funny part – is picking the exterior color. Of course they can’t just say ‘blue’ or ‘grey’, so you’ve got Fathom Blue Pearl and Graphite Luster Metallic. But who would choose one of those when you could get your TLX in luscious Crystal Black Pearl or Black Copper Pearl? Yes, seriously. Two of the four color choices are just plain old black.

At the end of the day, Acura gives you a grand total of 12 possible customized cars, and half of those have a four-cylinder engine. So, in essence, Acura’s new campaign is asking consumers two questions: “Do you want four-wheel drive?” and “Do you like blue?”

As if that wasn’t enough, the Twitter campaign is supplemented by a TV spot which features the most offensively bad Frank Sinatra cover I’ve ever heard. Good job, Acura and ad agency Mullen LA. This will be trending in no time.

Howard Davidson Arlington MA


Penélope Cruz Does Striptease for Lingerie

Sultry Penélope Cruz does a striptease in L’Agent by Agent Provocateur’s sexy new campaign for lingerie… in the desert. Oy, the heat.

Cruz, who has co-designed the lingerie line with her sister Mónica (alongside Agent Provocateur creative director, Sarah Shotton), wrote and directed the label’s steamy autumn/winter 2014 campaign video. The hot campaign covers the vivacious sex appeal and youthful sass of the brand, and puts the actress herself front and center in the ad.

The provocative video is basically Cruz and a bunch of models going out into the desert for what’s more or less a striptease dance party. It’s provocative, kind of fun, and seems at first glance to have little point beyond being an excuse for a bunch of models to dance around in their underwear. So is that a bad thing?

With a lot of advertising, there’s an underlying point to the ad that people will hopefully associate with a product or service. Sometimes it’s pretty blatantly obvious, while other times it’s subtle or even subdued. Marketers want people to talk about their ads, regardless of whether the ads are funny, serious, or even kind of sad. An ad doesn’t have to have a deep meaning to be good, though.

There’s not much of a message there, but what you will see is people having fun. The whole ad is designed around sex appeal, which isn’t exactly uncommon for a lingerie spot, but the women involved seem to be having a good time.

A spot like this doesn’t have to be deep to make a point. In fact, sometimes it does even better if it’s not.

But does the ad make you shvitz?

Howard Davidson Arlington Massachusetts


Taco Bell Gets Even Cheaper With $1 Cravings Menu

Taco Bell is getting even cheaper by rolling out the new $1 Cravings value menu.

Apparently, the “Why Pay More” menu just wasn’t cheap enough. As prices on Taco Bell’s previous value menu skyrocketed to (gasp) more than a whole dollar, it became clear to parent company Yum Brands that decisive action was needed.

The new $1 Cravings menu is taking over, with items such as the Beefy Cheesy Burrito and Beefy Nacho Loaded Griller on tap. Does it bother anyone else that they don’t just say “Beef”? Why does it have to be “Beefy”? It makes me feel like there’s something they’re not telling me.

At this point, Taco Bell is in the throes of a full-on branding identity crisis. In addition to the $1 Cravings launch, Taco Bell is also rolling out its “Cantina Power” menu. That line is positioned to appear fresh and healthy – basically the antithesis of the rest of Taco Bell’s offerings.

The company seems to be at war with itself regarding whether it wants to market to young professionals or stoners living in mom’s basement. Now that they have breakfast, I can’t even imagine how awkward things get at 6am. Maybe they could do separate drive-thru lanes – one for people on their way to work, one for those on their way to bed after a long night of video games.

At the end of the day, Taco Bell just needs to figure out what it wants to be. Consumers who would buy their higher-priced items don’t want to eat at the same restaurant as the guy who scraped coins out of the sofa to buy one taco. In other words, you can’t have your caramel apple empanada and eat it too.

Umm, not saying I would be seen at a Taco Bell, BTW.

Howard Davidson Arlington Massachusetts


Wheaties Gives Power to the People with NEXT Challenge

Mobile promotions are running riot and Wheaties is giving people the power in their NEXT Challenge.

Wheaties has always been the athlete’s cereal, with millions of would be healthy people using the image on the box as a guiding light. But now it looks like Wheaties is putting the power in the consumer’s hands with their new way of picking an athlete on the box. Basically users of this app called MapMyFitness have to register for the Wheaties NEXT Challenge, then pick a preferred athlete and compete with other users’ athletes. How exactly do they compete? The athlete whose users log the most workouts with the MapMyFitness app gets on the box. Workouts equal votes. When only half the country makes the effort and votes for a president, it’s doubly shocking to me that this process is actually gaining some momentum. 16 million people have registered so far and over 600,000 are doing some kind of workout. Go you chicken fat, go away!

With Old Navy giving sweet summer deals via their flip flop twitter campaign, this idea of targeting mobile users is gaining steam. But with Wheaties’ newest experiment, are you willing to sweat for your favorite athlete? If you’ve been inspired to get yourself in tip top shape by the Iphone spot “Strength” that has been playing during the World Cup every five seconds, MapMyFitness could give you someone to work for. Or maybe not.

The winning sports personality will appear on a box in early 2015.

Howard Davidson Arlington MA


Dannon Teams with NFL to Make Yogurt a Game Day Tradition

Dannon has teamed up with the NFL in an attempt to make yogurt an unlikely game day tradition.

By becoming the official yogurt sponsor of the NFL, Dannon looks to capitalize on Americans’ love of violent sports and fermented milk products. Go figure.

In danger of starting their 95th consecutive season without an official yogurt, the National Football League reached a deal with new sponsor Dannon. Finally, the NFL can shake the damaging stigma of being a yogurt-free league. Meanwhile, Dannon gets to try talking football fans into trading in the buffalo wings for yogurt cups.

Following their 2014 Super Bowl ad campaign that featured a “Full House” reunion, Dannon is taking things a step further. Dare I say that they are a adding a bit more culture? No longer is the brand content to sit on the sidelines as just another TV advertiser. Now, they’re buying themselves a spot in the starting lineup of official sponsors.

The obvious question I’m posing here is whether Dannon and the NFL are an appropriate fit from a cross-promotional standpoint. When was the last time you saw a football player eating yogurt? Wouldn’t a sports drink or pasta brand make more sense?

Maybe I’m just out of the loop here. I’ve never played a game of football in my life. It’s possible that football players are all huge yogurt-heads and no one ever told me. I do have my doubts, however. When I’m hungry, it takes a bit more than one tiny portion-controlled yogurt cup to fill me up. I have a sneaking suspicion football players feel similarly.

The only way I see this sponsorship paying off for Dannon is if they’re able to really capitalize on the connection between healthy eating and general fitness. It feels more like a risky Hail Mary than a safe screen pass to me. Regardless, pass my my Activia please. I need all the probiotics I can get these days.

Howard Davidson Arlington MA


Subway Shifts the Focus to Its Veggie Selection

Subway’s shifting the focus of its ads, trying to play up its veggie selection and push sales of its meatless offerings.

This comes on top of an ongoing promotion that’s emphasizing the freshness of the company’s bread, which makes sense after the dust-up earlier in the year about the bread containing a chemical that’s also found in yoga mats and shoe rubber. Clearly, Subway’s on a roll (or at least a 12-inch loaf.)

So what’s up with the shift to bread and veggies instead of the company’s meat offerings? Well, according to Subway CMO Tony Pace, “In a very crowded and competitive marketplace, you need to do everything you can to stand out.” In this case, the company looks like it’s trying to stand out by showing off everything that its competitors aren’t.

That makes sense, I suppose. When you look at just about any restaurant’s ads, chances are there’s some sort of meat front-and-center. Sub shops tend to focus on meaty offerings like meatball subs, Philly cheesesteaks, and club sandwiches piled high with ham and turkey. Burger joints show off burgers and chicken, sit-down places show you their latest seasonal meaty entrees, and even burrito shops show off their steak and chicken offerings with featured salsas. Meat is king when it comes to the food industry.

Subway’s not necessarily trying to take that crown away, either. Even though they’re pushing fresh bread and nice fresh veggies, that’s not stopping the company from continuing its summer promotion featuring pulled-pork barbecue and barbecued steak piled high on its sandwiches. In fact, if you take a look at the current featured products on Subway’s website, there are only two items that don’t have meat… and both of those are flatbreads. One of them doesn’t even have any vegetables on it.

Part of what Subway’s really doing is probably trying to restore its reputation as a healthy dining option after people got all worked up over the conditioners in its bread. One campaign shows that Subway’s using fresh-baked bread, the next shows off how happy families are with the veggies the sub shop offers, and if you look at the website there’s a nice little quote from CNN about how Subway has showed the “most dramatic improvements” in reducing sodium in its offerings.

Is this a bad thing? Not really, no. Even if the push to focus on veggies and fresh bread seems a little reactionary, it’s still good business. Subway enjoyed years of popularity as the “healthy” choice for food on the run, thanks in large part to the ads that told about Jared Fogel’s weight loss. When the Subway Diet fell out of favor with the pop-culture consciousness, the sub chain started fading into the same “it’s always there” obscurity that a lot of well-established fast-food places share.

Like Pace said, Subway needs to do everything that it can to stand out. Does that mean grasping at the iron ring of “healthy” eating again? Sure, why not? Other competitors may try it from time to time, but Subway’s better positioned to get people believing it. At least until Subway’s veggies become old hat or someone finds tire rubber in its lettuce.

Howard Davidson Arlington MA


Instagram Ads Make it More Like Facebook

As you probably have heard, Facebook is now moving advertising to Instagram.

The main source of revenue for Facebook has always been its ads, which eerily know what hobbies and interests you have thanks to all of the personal data you have given them throughout the years.

After the recent blackout that probably cost Facebook $20,000 a minute, it’s probably a smart idea that they are looking at another source of revenue. After being acquired by Facebook two years ago, those same ads will now be popping up on Instagram.

With over 200 million users “it’s very easy for Facebook to sneeze and create a $100-million-per-quarter-revenue business with the scale of Instagram and their salesforce,” said Corey Weiner, HyprMX CEO. If only everyone’s allergies could make them that much money.

While Facebook is wiping money from its nose, over 11 million young people have left Facebook since 2011 and it’s probably a good idea for Zuckerberg to ask why. Facing a similar fate to MySpace, Facebook is looking at a slump in users due to multiple reasons including a broad overreach in collecting data from users and focusing more on advertising instead of their users.

With Instagram serving as the “next big thing” in social media, how long will its popularity last when advertisements start flooding the homepage instead of some dudette’s photos from spring break?

Howard Davidson Arlington MA