Thursday, April 30, 2009

Newspapers And "Aditorial Content"

My, my, the hand-wringing and rending of garments over the L.A. Times' recent running of an ad (thinly) disguised as news content on its front page.  As reported by the NY Times:
The ad, for the new NBC show “Southland,” was written and designed to look like a news article, chronicling the “Southland” protagonist’s patrol in Los Angeles. The promotion ran on the lower half of the paper’s left column, with the headline, “Southland’s Rookie Hero.” Forming an L, a horizontal ad for the show ran across the bottom of the page. The top of the column was labeled “Advertisement,” and included NBC’s peacock logo.

It is the first time the newspaper has run a mock news column on its front page as an ad, although the paper has been running front-page ads since 2007.
First, let's get the obvious joke out of the way:  Some would say the newspaper has been running mock news columns on its front page for years!  (Rimshot!)  But more seriously:

Maybe the real problem is that it made a little too explicit the relationship between editorial and the business community.  After all, how many stories in any given edition of a newspaper are spurred by a press release or a "pitch" from some agent or lobbyist?  You may not see them on the front page, but try the lifestyle, entertainment and other back-of-the-paper" sections.

If integrity and credibility are the issue, then I wish the newspaper people who are in a tizzy over this pretty blatant and innocuous "fake news" were as concerned about the bias too often displayed by their reporters.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Get a hold of yourself (on second thought...)

Do the people writing the headlines at the NY Times ever consult with the layout artists?  In today's edition, here's the headline for a story and the photo that ran directly underneath it:

Losing Its Cool At The Mall


(Or is it just me that sees the innuendo in this?)

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

NBC = Not Being Consistent?

Hey NBC, get your guys on the same page, would you?  

On Friday, the NY Times, ran a story on an upcoming live comedy show for their potential advertisers, featuring Jay Leno, along with other NBC late-night and prime time  stars.  

A big part of the idea is apparently to showcase Mr. Leno's comedic appeal in advance of his taking over NBC's third prime time hour each weeknight starting this fall.  The need to showcase Mr. Leno at all is in itself a bit mystifying, given that he's hosted the #1 late-night talk show for well over a decade now.  But okay, then.

What's truly curious in this article begins with this passage:
Ben Silverman, the co-chairman of NBC Entertainment, said in a telephone interview that the network has high expectations for Mr. Leno’s performance in the fall. “This is going to be a comedy show,” Mr. Silverman said, suggesting that the prime-time program will be significantly more humorous than Mr. Leno’s current work on “The Tonight Show.”
Wow.  So during all these years, from Leno's monologues to his "desk bits," to his "Jay-Walking" films-- through all that, it's NBC's position that Mr. Leno's "Tonight Show" hasn't been very funny?

No, no, no, I'm being too persnickety here.  That couldn't be NBC's official position, right?  Silverman must have meant that Leno was going to be less concerned with real interviews and just "go for the laughs."

Guess not:
A difference viewers may see, said Mike Pilot*, the president of advertising sales for NBC, will be “more newsmakers as guests” as opposed to the heavy quotient of entertainers who appear on the late-night shows.
Right, nothing says "rollickin' comedy" like interviews with politicians and other personalities from the news.  Exactly how is Mr. Leno going to have a "more humorous" show with less humorous guests?  (And if the plan is to make the guests the butt of Mr. Leno's jokes, that guest list could dry up quickly.)

Does NBC have any idea of what they're saying?  Or more to the point, does NBC have any idea of what kind of show they're putting on?

(*By the way, with a name like Mike Pilot, that guy should be in program development, not ad sales.)

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Right on, Target

Over the years, Target has received lots of attention for their stylish (and stylized) advertising, but I haven't read much about the their "Brand New Day" campaign.

To catchy, upbeat music that I wasn't initially certain was a new composition or an adaptation of some pop tune by some hip but obscure musician (it's the latter, I've since discovered), Target has found a appealing way to push "back to the basics" as well as "beyond the basics" -- by framing the money spent with them as alternative to other family budget cutbacks.  

No feeling of deprivation or the bland appeal of common-sense shopping here.  Target makes the idea of economizing actually seem like an improvement in your life and relationships.

Putting a happy face on a recession.  I don't know what its ultimate effect on sales will be, but that alone is an advertising feat worth recognizing.



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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Advertising the unmentionable

As discussed in a previous post about the Maidenform's memorable campaign, ad agencies played armchair psychologists, exploiting women's supposed "exhibitionist tendencies" with ads that featured women unabashedly displaying their foundation garments in public.

Must have been a confusing time to be taking your social cues from advertising, what with other marketers playing up the fears of ridicule for having even the slightest hint of your "unmentionables" exposed before your peers:


(This worked for men, too, by the way.)

Then again, this 1956 ad wants to have it both ways:  You may suffer an embarrassing display in public, but with the right girdle, at least you won't be displaying too much:


That ad, by the way, seems to owe at least some of its inspiration to this iconic wind-driven revelation:



(Of course, there's probably some degree of male voyeurism behind most of these images.  I don't think we need a psychological study to know that, do we?)

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Friday, April 3, 2009

The Anti-Spokesperson


Last night, I happened on the new spot for Healthy Choice frozen entrees, in which Julie Louis-Dreyfus is approached to be the new spokeswoman for the product -- which she turns down with a sneer of disgust.  You can watch the spot (plus some longer "director's cut" versions) here.

At the time, I didn't know this spot was created by director Christopher Guest, but all the hallmarks of his films (including "Waiting for Guffman" and "A Mighty Wind"): naturalistic acting, understated humor, and comedic actors who can improv with the best of them.  

Despite the inevitable hyping of the product (done about as unobtrusively as possible), when the spot ended with Julia's flat-out dismissal of the offer, I thought maybe, just maybe, someone actually came up a new spin on old "anti-spokesperson" idea.  Maybe this wasn't the first in an ongoing campaign, but a one-shot spot, that Ms. Louis-Dreyfus wouldn't be appearing again and again as she "doth protest too much" about pitching the product. 

Now that would be different.

But no.  According to the NY Times, this is just the first of a series of commercials, including this upcoming one, that falls back into the most unexpected of conclusions:
In one commercial, for example, Ms. Louis-Dreyfus is reluctant to try a meal but declares after a few bites, “This Healthy Choice stuff has changed."
Maybe Healthy Choice has changed, but it's just the same old "anti-spokesperson" spot.

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