Papa John and Peyton Manning: America’s Favorite Bromance

Papa John’s is teaming up with Peyton Manning yet again, resurrecting America’s favorite advertising bromance.

Papa John and Peyton Manning just can’t stay away from each other. The restaurateur and the quarterback are chumming it up in the kitchen again, just like they do every year. This year, the ad is not remotely funny, as the only ‘joke’ revolves around Peyton misunderstanding what the word ‘superstition’ means. If there’s anyone out there who gets a laugh from this ad, that is a person I hope to never meet.

The brand is also pushing a prominent social media presence for the 2014 NFL season. Papa John’s will encourage fans to share their pizza and/or football-related experiences, in exchange for prizes and discounts. Seeing as this campaign gave away free pizzas for the last couple years – and all you had to do was sign up online – I’m not sure I see people putting any effort into earning a coupon.

Therein lies the major rub with this year’s iteration of the Papa John/Peyton Manning campaign. In previous years, it didn’t really even matter if you liked the commercials. Free pizza is free pizza. This year, the ‘deal’ they’re pushing is a large pizza for $10. Is that even a discount? I ask that as an entirely serious question. I saw an ad yesterday for Dominos that promoted a $5.99 medium pizza…and that’s the everyday price.

I know Papa John’s always claims to have better ingredients and better pizza, but are they really above the Dominos and Pizza Huts of the world, in the eyes of the consumer? I know I just lump them all together into the “fast-food pizza” category. When one company’s ‘discount offer’ is roughly equivalent to the competition’s normal pricing, that’s a problem.

Great advertising can certainly combat the handicap of being outpriced by your competitors, but great advertising this is not. This spot is so tame that ‘vanilla’ might be too exciting a term for it, and the promotion doesn’t feel like a discount. That’s not a winning combination.

Howard Davidson Arlington Massachusetts


Marshawn Lynch Fuels the Rainbow for Skittles

Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch has a sweet gig as he fuels the power of the iconic rainbow for Skittles.

Lynch does not only taste the rainbow, but now he is marketing it too. Hard-running Lynch, also known as “Beast-Mode”, is famous for his Skittles obsession. In a new online video, Lynch uses his Skittles addiction to get ready for the upcoming NFL season by lifting massive amounts of the hard candy. This is not the first time the Seahawks running back has helped Skittles push sales. He once wore Skittles cleats in a game in 2011…and was fined $10,000.

Lynch’s craving for the hard-candy started as a kid, when his mother used to give him Skittles before games, calling them “power pellets”. I found this interesting because when I eat the candy, I don’t seem to gain any more power, however they do leave my digestive system in a discolored pellet form.

I’m not a sports fan (gotta say that I can’t sit through a football game), but I do love this campaign. However, I have one personal problem with it. I have been told my entire life to stay away from the hard, chewy, food-colored, diabetes-ridden candies like Skittles for my health. This guy eats Skittles everyday, somehow lacks any sort of body fat, and is making millions of dollars as a professional football player. BUT when I eat even one bag of Skittles, I somehow gain 4 pounds and feel sick for the rest of the week. Life just isn’t fair.

So it guess it’s true.. All you need to do is eat candy like Skittles and you can be as strong and successful as Marshawn Lynch, right?

Howard Davidson Arlington Massachusetts


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


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


Jimmy Kimmel Helps Old Navy Sell Flip-Flops

Old Navy has Jimmy Kimmel selling a new collection of summer flip-flops. He’s getting help from 36 vending machines and a hashtag.

The late-night host and his team of writers created a skit during “Jimmy Kimmel Live” scored big time during the airing and on YouTube for Old Navy’s “Tweet For Your Feet” campaign.

Basically Old Navy was giving away super cheap flip flops to the first 9,000 tweeters to participate in their en masse Twitter firestorm. For all those in the lucky 9,000, one dollar flip flops could be retrieved from a glorified vending machine by using the hashtag #flipflophooray. And if one thing has always screamed quality, it’s vending machines. Jimmy Kimmel and Amy Poehler have also been flashing their mugs all over Old Navy lately, with Kimmel’s sidekick Guillermo partaking in some admittedly funny beach hijinks while wearing a stack of sandals.

With this two pronged strategy, I can only assume Old Navy is looking to appeal to the cheap hipsters while simultaneously pushing its more, uh, mature customers into the digital age. And believe it or not, but the strategy has payed off in huge dividends. Ivan Wicksteed from Old Navy is claiming that the sales figures brought in by the Twitter sale are rivaled only by black Friday numbers. This style of sale may be the big new promotional strategy, so look out for more players to try and get in on Old Navy’s action. For all you consumers though, if you can pry your eyes away from the beautiful and not so beautiful beach bodies this summer, Old Navy may have some flimsy sandals coming your way…


Nestea Takes a ‘Plunge’ Reviving TV Ad

Nestea returns to American televisions after being gone for two decades with their revived “Take the Nestea Plunge” campaign.

Originally run from the Seventies through the Nineties, Publicis Hawkeye is bringing back to life Nestea’s original campaign, which is tied to a new reformulation that has reduced the beverage’s calories and improved its taste.

The main objective of the revived campaign is to regain shares lost by Nestea in recent years and the “Nestea Plunge into Summer” sweepstakes will surely help with that. Other companies such as Arizona have been seeing growth as consumers switch from soda to iced tea, which is perceived to be healthier.

The Nestea brand suffered because Nestlé and Coca-Cola disbanded their joint venture, Beverage Partners Worldwide, within the U.S. as of 2012. The Nestea brand was “marginalized” because it “hadn’t been actively communicated in a decade,” but now under the Nestlé Waters North America brand and leadership, there is renewed focus on rebuilding its sales and share. I guess

Rick Tanner, VP of marketing for Nestlé Waters, said that research shows that the “Take the Nestea Plunge” resonates with younger consumers and that many older customers still remember the campaign. The Nestea brand still has a 95 percent awareness among American consumers as well.

The “new” campaign includes a new TV ad and social media campaign with the hashtag ‘#NesteaPlunge’ for users to post their own pictures and videos.

Howard Davidson Arlington MA


Fiat’s ‘Endless Fun’ Series Defies Description

Fiat’s new series of spots titled “Endless Fun” defy description. I swear.

Descending into the fiery depths of laziness, ridiculousness and internet trend exploitation, the new ads for Fiat are just GIFs of stupid things happening in and around the new 500s. One such sequence involves a Marilyn Monroe-esque encounter with wind and a cat chasing a car on a TV screen. Not to disparage the 500, but I’m sure Fiat’s founders might have had a different vision for the future marketing of their autos. The ads, in addition to making no real sense, seem to be rubbing that fact in our faces with a guy in a horse mask looking at the camera and the words “deal with it” flashing across the screen in reference to an online meme whose popularity has long since peaked.

Chrysler’s CMO Oliver Francois is at the helm of this push to make the pint sized Fiats more palatable to the supersize me, SUV laden U.S. Public. And Mr Francois has zeroed in on some pretty nifty buzzwords to justify their new strategy, calling it: “Crazy weird. Crazy fun.” Well, maybe just that first word. Did I mention these spots are dirt cheap to produce?

The real driving force behind the GIF commercials soon becomes clear as soon as cost is brought up.

After all, GIFs are just a fast sequence of photos. Bottom line is that these is a trendy, eye catching and cheap line of commercials, but my real question is: Are the people who are going to be in on the internet references really old enough to buy a Fiat? Or even a pack of cigarettes?

And don’t even get me started on the twerking.

Howard Davidson Arlington MA


UPS Is Changing Its Course

Spurred by the various wunderkinds of digital entrepreneurship, UPS is now changing its course.

Once known for their signature brown truck, the company’s new coat of brand paint looks more sleek and tries to be hip. And from what I can tell, the new marketing strategy isn’t even about shipping; it’s about being cool. Take the slogan: it went from “What can brown do for you?” to “We [heart] logistics”. Hotshot millenials don’t want to think about a clunky old truck slogging through the mud delivering their products at any speed. It’s all about a beautiful, seamless masterpiece of international commercial movement, or as Ad director Betsy Wilson described: “a ballet of infinite complexity played across skies, oceans and borders”. Yeah, ok.

Technology rules us all in some way, and what some are calling the “post adolescent CEOs” want to hear about how cutting edge their technology is, not just its quality.

The ‘selfie’ ridden millennial generation has even seeped its way into the visual of UPS’ ads. Check out and compare the 1992 images to today’s. The older one shows a decked out UPS truck, while the other shows YOU, a customer. This pretty radical rebranding also falls in line with a recently planned reach into Asia for UPS, which would make their ballet even more expansive and intricate.

A lot of companies look like they’re getting off their ‘you kids get off my lawn’ syndrome and starting to listen to the preferences of millennials. I guess the more money these whippersnappers get, the more brands will be made in their likeness.

You win, hipsters.

Howard Davidson Arlington MA