Category: Business & Advertising

Tasteless Facebook Ad: Crosshairs on US Military Personnel

I was looking at an event one of my friends created for his birthday when one of the Facebook ads on the upper right caught my eye.  Normally, I don’t pay any attention to Facebook ads because they are usually for stupid things like dating sites, Facebook games and all sorts of services that I would never use, but this one was different.  I was pretty shocked by what I saw.

tasteless facebook ad

Most ads for arcade shooters have cartoony characters in them, but this was different.  The soldiers clearly look like US soldiers in desert camouflage, being viewed through a sniper scope.  They could be soldiers who were deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.  A quick Google search for American soldiers reveals plenty of photos that look very much like the one used in this advertisement.  Even if they are not American soldiers, I still think it is wrong.

The text in the ad really puts it over the top:

RAW Shooter. No story, no tactics, no costs.  Just aim and shoot.  Addicting.  Click here to PLAY!

I have no problem with shoot ’em up games, but to use real soldiers being targeted via sniper rifle in an ad is in poor taste and offensive.  Many soldiers have died as a result of sniper attack in Iraq and Afghanistan and to make it into a game is really crossing the line.  Whether you agree with the war or not, these soldiers serve our country.  They do not deserve to be targeted in a Facebook ad to promote some dumb game.  This ad is disgusting.

I clicked on the ad and was taken to, a site that allows you to play a whole bunch of arcade style games.  At first I thought that the ad was created by a freelance search marketing company that gets paid for driving traffic to the company, but could not find an affiliate program.  The site may use another type of affiliate marketing, but I could not find it easily.  There are three possible conclusions.  First, created this ad promote their shoot ’em up game.  Second, a freelance marketer without a connection to created the ad.  Third, there is a chance the soldiers approved their images in this ad, but I highly doubt it.  Gamevance should make sure that this ad is not shown again.

Which brings me to my next question: how did this ad get approved by Facebook?  They usually take at least a day to approve ads when I have used them for different businesses and have some pretty stringent rules for companies to follow before ads are approved.  How did the Facebook Ad approval process allow an ad like this to get through?  Someone at Facebook has some explaining to do.

I also wonder how other Facebook advertisers feel about this ad.  When I saw the RAW Shooter ad, there was a large banner for Freshetta pizza below it.  I wonder how they like being featured on the same page as an ad targeting US military personnel through a sniper scope.  Facebook has advertisers like Freshetta, AT&T and many others.

What do you think?  Is this advertisement offensive?  How do you think it got past Facebook’s approval process?  Do you think other advertisers will be annoyed by this?

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Black Friday: Advertising Thoughts

It’s been awhile since I wrote about advertising, so seeing as it’s Black Friday and millions of Americans woke up early (or stayed up all night) to go shopping at ungodly hours, I thought I’d write a little about some of the current campaigns that motivated Americans to shop.  First, the bad.

AT&T has been in a battle with Verizon for mobile phone dominance for the past few years.  Verizon still has more subscribers and a bigger network, although AT&T has closed the gap and even taken the lead in some areas.  AT&T’s launch of the iPhone has been a huge boost for AT&T, but lately Verizon has been hitting back.  They launched a commercial that shows two maps of the US, one showing Verizon’s 3G coverage and the other showing AT&T’s 3G coverage.

ATT&T wrote an open letter trying to explain the situation, but they also created their own commercial to show that they too offer service in most of America.  It sounds like a good idea, but for me, the commercial fails.  It opens with Luke Wilson standing on a map of America saying that he got postcards from people all over the US who are able to use AT&T’s network.  Wilson reads off tons of cities and tosses the postcards where the cities are on the map.  Pretty soon, the entire map is covered in postcards.  It might be a cool idea, but they picked Luke Wilson.  As the viewer, I immediately think, “why couldn’t you get Owen Wilson?”  Is AT&T really the second most famous Wilson brother and Verizon is Owen, the big movie star?  It’s almost too perfect since AT&T is playing second fiddle to Verizon and had enough of an inferiority complex to respond to Verizon’s national 3G coverage map with an open letter to consumers.  At least they didn’t pick Andrew Wilson to be their spokespan.  Then people would think they were US Cellular.

Sears has always had fairly tame advertisements around the holidays an this year isn’t any different.  Their ads are actually fairly good until the end, when they show their 2009 Christmas slogan.  Their slogan is “More Values, More Christmas.”  It hardly seems right to equate buying more things with more Christmas.  Wal-Mart does the same thing with their slogan “Christmas Costs Less at Wal-Mart.”  It seems wrong to me to equate being able to buy more things with “more Christmas.”  I’m not even going at this from religious perspective, simply a materialistic one.  Both stores are equating buying more things with being happier.  It’s a good message for the stores’ bottom line, but not for everyone else.

Finally, the last of the bad.  Kopps Custard, a local institution in the Milwaukee area used to have a billboard on I43 that showed the flavor of the day.  It let you know if you should take a right turn when you got off the highway or continue to your destination.  If it was a good flavor, you got off and got custard.  If it was bad, you continued on.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve stopped because the billboard showed Tiramisu, Chocolate Peanut Butter Chocolate or Grasshopper Fudge.  It was a great ad because it motivated people to change behavior and buy.  You can now follow Kopps on Twitter, but it’s just not the same.

Now, onto the good.  This year, Best Buy sent out their Black Friday circular in newspapers around the country, just like they did in other years.  The only difference was that in heavily Muslim areas, they included a bubble at the top that said “Happy Eid Al Ahda.” Eid Al Ahda is a holiday celebrated by Muslims that runs from Friday until Sunday.  Predictably, Best Buy’s decision has drawn criticism from some right wing Christians, including some who want to boycott the store.  I think this is yet another manufactured issue and commend Best Buy for using some innovative marketing to try to tap into an underrepresented market.  As an aside, I also laugh at companies that refuse to mention Christmas in their holiday ads.

Happy Thanksgiving and if you are shopping today, good luck finding those deals.  Remember, door busters don’t mean that you should literally bust the door down.

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Newspapers’ New Business Model

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel recently ran a 5 part series called The Preacher’s Mob: The Rise and Fall of a Milwaukee Crime Boss, detailing Michael Lock’s criminal escapades over a 10 year period.

The series is fantastic.  It provides an in depth view into Lock’s rise, his criminal exploits (including murder, drug dealing mortgage fraud and prostitution) and the investigation that ultimately led to his conviction and sentencing to life in prison.  As a huge fan of HBO’s series The Wire, I love hearing the real life versions of the show.  For fans of The Wire, Lock’s rise and fall is similar to Season 1 and 2’s Avon Barksdale and Stringer Bell.

This series is a perfect example of how newspapers must change if they want to survive.  Currently, the only news source that I pay money for is The Economist.  Otherwise, I get my information from free online newspapers, blogs and videos.  The Journal-Sentinel’s series on Michael Lock is news that I would be willing to pay for.  Long term, local, investigative reporting is the niche where newspapers can not only survive, but thrive.

Newspapers have to realize that people are not going to read them for breaking news.  We have the internet and tv to tell us about stock quotes, sports scores, who won an election and who was shot the night before.  Newspapers that report this information are simply rehashing what people already know from real time internet and tv sources.  The old business model will no longer work.

Newspapers should focus on investigative reports that take more than a day to research.  They should provide analysis of the situations, but with limited or no political bias.  In depth stories about gangs, schools, political corruption, environmental lapses and corporate greed will sell newspapers.  Positive stories about people and causes will increase paying readership.  Newspapers could cover these types of stories with decreased staff and decreased stories that are already duplicated in other sources.

Even if this solution does not work, it would be better than sitting around waiting for the papers to go bankrupt and would be more interesting to see than the current information that is in newspapers.

Mozy: Branding Gone Right

In my last post, I talked about the state of Wisconsin and its branding gone wrong.  I wanted to use this post to show an example of a company with excellent branding and customer relations:

Mozy is an online data backup company that stores and protects files on your hard drive.  Here’s how it works.  You sign up for an unlimited storage plan for $4.95 per month and install the Mozy client onto your computer.  You tell Mozy what you want to back up and then the application does the rest.  The client runs in the background when you start up and shut down your computer, saving any files that have been modified in the interim.  If you computer dies, is stolen or somehow gets damaged, you can load the Mozy client onto your new machine and have your data back in as little as three hours.

There are a myriad of online backup companies, but I think Mozy has the best branding and advertising (I use Mozy to backup my computer).  Check out their homepage and see if you agree.  

I wanted to focus on an email they sent to their customers last week.  Its simply brilliant.  Here is the email:

Monthly Newsletter – April 2009

Flight 1549



Flight 1549Paul Jorgensen had just come from a meeting at Goldman Sachs when he boarded US Airways Flight 1549. He sat down in seat 1A next to the window, pulled out his notebook to capture of few thoughts, then put it away and prepared for takeoff.

Seated one row behind Jorgensen was Bill Wiley, also traveling for business with a computer onboard the plane. In fact, he brought a couple of notebooks with him. But he, like Jorgensen and all passengers, abandoned his personal belongings and focused on saving his life when the plane crash-landed into the Hudson River.

Both men had been backing up regularly. The difference is Jorgenson backed up online with Mozy, and Wiley backed up his two computers to thumb drives. Jorgensen retrieved his data back from Mozy, but Wiley lost 250 GB of his employer’s information. The stories were detailed in USA Today and ComputerWorld.

In moments of disaster, those who use Mozy are able to focus on other things than backup without the fear of losing their data. At Mozy, we’re grateful that all passengers on Flight 1549 were in the hands of such an skillful crew and were able to return to their loved ones without any loss of life or significant injury. 

Be safe,
Devin Knighton


This story is the perfect example of a sticky message.  Most Americans know about the crash landing in the Hudson.  Everyone can picture what they would do if they were in a similar situation and everyone can picture what they would feel like if they did not have Mozy to protect their data.  This email is another piece of brilliant marketing from Mozy.