Least effective TV ads?

Ideally advertising is done competently enough to make you want to item
advertised. What happens when the ad is so bad that it makes you want the
item LESS?

I’ll nominate a few:

  1. The Geico Gecko: Endless rambling on and on about nothing to particular, in a
    faux-Australian accent. How is this supposed to make you want to buy the
    insurance when you cannot discern one single solitary point the bugger is supposedly

  2. Red Bull Energy Drink: These had mercifully vanished off the airwaves I had
    thought, but lately they have made a comeback. You’d think whoever is writing
    the ad copy for these ads would understand, that to be funny, you need a) some
    funny lines, and b) good comic timing. These have absolutely none of either (and
    again more accents, this time British-guess it makes them sound more intelligent-
    note that appears to be the ads’ attitude, not mine).

  3. Burger King. Yeah sure my kids will immediately want to go buy a burger from
    them the instant a mascot with a creepy fiberglass head sits down next to them
    on the bus (“Mommy! The weird man is scaring me!”).

How the heck do these things get made anyway?

I like the Geico Gecko.
I don’t actually have cable but from what I remember my most annoying commercials were car dealer commercials. You know, the ones where some guy comes on screen, saying how he has HUGE deals or whatever? Or talk really fast or something stupid? I hate those.

You remember enough of them to talk about them in detail. And you got the brand name correct in each case.

Sounds like the ads were extremely effective.

Exapno Mapcase, that is the theory, but it doesn’t always work. Quiznos ran this ad where a guy was suckling at a wolf’s teats for a little while. You better believe I will always remember Quiznos, now – as the place that it makes me sick to my stomach to even think about patronizing. No matter how good they try to make the sandwiches look, I will always have that image superimposed over them, and I will never be able to bring myself to try them.

That ad vanished pretty quickly, though, and that’s the thing…the Gecko, all that stuff, if it’s still around, you can believe it is effective, however annoying.

I agree with Exapno.

It’s been years since the point of TV ads was to get you to buy the product – advertisers know it doesn’t work that way. What they want you to do is remember the product. If you remember, then the ad has worked. That’s true even if you hate the ad – you’ll remember the brand name and, for every person who resolves not to buy based on a stupid ad, there will be dozens who will remember the name well enough to buy).

For example, maybe the Gekko is annoying, but if you go to their website and are really able to save $200 on your car insurance, are you going to say, “No, I’d rather pay the extr $200 to a company that doesn’t run annoying ads?” There may be a few people like that, but not many.

The best example of an ineffective ad was the recent Pepsi commercial with Jackie Chan with the “stunt can” of Coke. Everyone who sees the ad remembers the Coke can. So Pepsi paid all that money to remind people of Coke.

No ad in the history of time has made every single viewer rush out and buy the product.

All an advertiser can do is try to made the ad memorable and hope that some percent of people in the target audience will consciously or unconsciously try the product at some point.

It doesn’t really matter in the least if you hate the ad, hate the product, hate the company, and hate to ever be associated with anything remotely related to the product. You’re probably not in the target audience for that ad, or maybe not even for that product or product category.

Most people don’t have the tiniest conception of what ads are supposed to do, what they try to accomplish, or what makes them work or not work. This makes it hard for them to critique advertising.

Of course it’s true that many ads aren’t good. There are dozens of reasons for this, and usually the number one reason is that the people at the company don’t give the admakers enough info about the purpose of the ad to be able to properly design an ad to meet a very specific outcome. For the rest, well, do some reading on advertising history and the creative process behind making an ad or an ad campaign. It’s enormously harder than it looks. Not only is it hard to do once, but it’s harder to do over time. Hot ad firms dry up and new ones come in regularly.

Edward Jay Epstein is the author of The Big Picture: The New Logic of Money and Power in Hollywood. I think that pretty much everything in that book is either obvious or wrong, but he provides one really eye-opening insight. His contention is that you can’t look at movie marketing today to understand the business. He says that the entire cost and product of a first-run motion picture should be thought of nothing more than advertising for the future revenue streams - foreign sales, DVD and video sales and rentals, cable sales, soundtracks, tie-in merchandise, and many other etcs - where the real profits are made. So it’s doesn’t matter that M:I:III did less box office in the U.S. than expected. Everybody in the world heard about the movie and for years - decades - to come people will be checking it out and adding little hunks of change to the studio’s profit sheets. Even all the people who claim to hate Tom Cruise and everything about him, know all about Tom Cruise and everything about him. And at some point that will translate into eyeballs. And eyeballs translate into money.

That’s what advertising is all about. That separates effective advertising from non-effective advertising. Liking an ad is about the least meaningful thing one can say about it.

Doesn’t the advertising industry do, well, actual scientific studies to determine whether one ad is more effective than another?

Exactly who are you lecturing?

They check their sales numbers. If the sales go up, then an ad is effective. Simple enough – and really the only thing they are concerned about.

Well let’s see…I got my car insurance with Allstate, I refuse to drink Red Bull, and
I haven’t been to a Burger King in about 6 months, so I’d say all 3 campaigns were
dismal failures as far as I’m concerned. Just because some naked streaking idiot
wearing a lampshade on his head gets my attention doesn’t necessarily mean he
will get my approval, or ensure I will buy his product (if any)…

[Yes I left myself open on that last bit :wink: ]

So a “bad” ad will be just as effective as a “good” ad, if they both have equal
exposure? Somehow I doubt that… :rolleyes:

All that said, I would like to see some research…

I’m presuming the makers of Lamasil don’t have any competition, so why the world’s most disgusting commercial (Digger the Dermatophyte)? It’s not like they need you to remember their name over any other’s.

Personally, I miss the spong-monkeys.

Everybody who doesn’t already know the proper answer. C’mon, we are supposed to be fighting ignorance, after all. :slight_smile:

It just seems to me that advertising is one of the most complained about and least understood topics in the world. (Along with taxes, religion, capitalism, sex… make up your own list.)

And exposure is just one of many aspects of what makes advertising work. It’s necessary, but not sufficient. Advertising has to be memorable, has to promote the brand, has to reach the target audience, has to put the product in context, has to differentiate the product from its competitors, has to do a million things in a very tight space.

Trying to study the effects of advertising has baffled more people for more years than anything else (except for taxes, religion, capitalism, sex…). How do you measure the results? How do you isolate the particular ad? How do you account for long-term persuasion? How do you subtract other cultural traits?

Advertisers do everything they can think of, and lots of Ph.D.'s have put lots of hours into thinking up stuff they can get paid for, I mean, scientific studies. But no one has ever solved the problem. Too many variables. Too hard to come up with control groups. Too many types of ads and media. Too short times before new campaigns come along.

If scientific studies worked, then they’d be used and ads would work. Right now nobody knows. It’s like self-help books. If they did anything more than make people feel good for having read a self-help book, they’d stop selling. Or all but one would stop selling.

About all that anyone can say is that any one company that stops advertising suffers a loss in market share compared to the companies that continue advertising. Most of the time. In most industries. Except for cash cow products, old favorites with a set market share and audience that don’t need any more push. So in that sense, advertising does objectively work. Or maybe marketing the brand does. Or something. But what works, and which ads work and which don’t, and why those ads work, and what media to put those ads in, and how many of them to buy, and when too much exposure is no good, and fifty other questions continue to cause execs to get ulcers and go bald and those other Madison Avenue clichés. Nobody knows anything except that they have to keep on doing something or die.

What a way to make a living.

Sorry, I just feel like lecturing today.

Fair enough. It is an interesting topic.

I would like to see a collection of failed ads. Like I said, I don’t think most people ever see the real failures, or see them often, because it doesn’t take long to figure out whether it’s working. Does anyone know where to find ads that were pulled before their intended time?

“Who wouldn’t want free pie with chips? It’s free pie. With chips.”

But, that would be unscientific. You have to control for all variables but that under study. A given product’s sales figures might have gone up, or down, in a given period for some reason unrelated to the commercial.

Does this explain why the gecko went from having an Australian accent to a Cockney one?

:confused: Those are just two names for the same thing, right? You know, like Holland and the Netherlands, or China and Japan.

There’s also advertisements that are so good people forget the company and only remember the ad.

Like one I’ve mentioned before - it’s for some sort of fincial investment group, or something:

There’s this person being wheeled through an emergency room on a gurney, legs propped up as if giving birth. His condition? He’s got money coming out the wazoo. (The eventual point of the commercial being that unless this is your problem, you should consult with the firm listed at the end of the ad.)

So yeah, quite memorable even though I most likely didn’t see it more than once, but for the life of me I have no idea who the ad was for.

I remember an d for, I think, an internet company, that involved firing hamsters out of a small cannon in an effort to shoot them through the “O” in the company’s name. Most of them missed. The idea was that they wanted you to write angry letters to them so you’d remember their name.

I can’t remember their name, but, damn, that was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen on TV.