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.